Time for business to join the biosphere
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Christina Williams is the editor of Sustainable Business Oregon.
One of the more thought-provoking items I've come across recently is a prediction by Joichi Ito: "One hundred years from now, the role of science and technology will be about becoming part of nature rather than trying to control it."
If you've never heard of Joi Ito, he's one of the brightest minds of the Internet age: director of the MIT Media Lab and chairman of Creative Commons among other impressive credentials.
To mark its 100th birthday, Steelcase Inc. asked 100 big thinkers to share their thoughts about what the next 100 years will bring.
Ito's vision hit home: "So much of science and technology has been about pursuing efficiency, scale and 'exponential growth' at the expense of our environment and our resources. We have rewarded those who invent technologies that control our triumph over nature in some way. This is clearly not sustainable."
Ito was talking about science and technology, but what he says rings true about business as well.
I'm often asked whether sustainability isn't just a fad, whether green business is yesterday's news. But I'm with Ito, we're just getting started on what may take 100 years.
We live in a complex, interrelated world — the technologists would call it a system — where decisions made in one corner can have impacts on resources on the other side of the globe. We're just starting to get our heads around it all. But smart, agile leading companies recognize that we are constrained by the limits of our ecosystem and we're going to have to figure out how to live within our means.
Joe Whitworth, president of Freshwater Trust, talked about this when he briefed me last week on his organization's work to develop a water quality trading market.
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