Asia's Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet
Americans eat an estimated 9 million birds per year. If Asians started eating the same amount, by 2050 they would be eating a mind-boggling 120 billion birds annually. At the moment, the majority of Indians and Chinese follow vegetarian diets. Even so, growing Asian populations will put a massive strain on corn production, resulting, Nair suggests, in an increased reliance on GM. China’s car manufacturing sector has finally surpassed that of the U.S and if consumption patterns continue, by 2020 it’s estimated they will own over 330 million vehicles, putting a massive strain on oil reserves. Only a decade ago, privately owned vehicles in China were virtually unheard of.
Consumptionomics argues that this blinkered view needs to be replaced by a more rational approach to the challenges of the 21st century. If Asians aspire to consumption levels taken for granted in the West the results will be environmentally catastrophic across the globe. Needless to say it will also have significant geopolitical impacts as nations scramble for diminishing resources.
Asian governments and leaders find themselves at a crossroads. They may either continue on the current, unsustainable path of Western-style consumption-led capitalism, disregarding the evidence, or they may realize that they hold the unenviable responsibility of leading the world to a more sustainable path. The solutions will entail making sensitive political choices and adopting certain forms of government to effect such a fundamental change of direction. This will all fly in the face of current ideological beliefs rooted in free market capitalism. But if Asia is willing to take on this responsibility it will help to save the planet whilst reshaping capitalism.
Chandran Nair is the founder of the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT), an independent social venture think tank dedicated to advancing an understanding of the impacts of globalisation through thought leadership and positive action to affect change. Chandran was chairman of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) in Asia Pacific until 2004, establishing the company as Asia's leading environmental consultancy. For more than a decade, Chandran has strongly advocated a more sustainable approach to development in Asia, advising governments and multi-national corporations to instill these principles into their policies and key decision-making processes. He has advised the Hong Kong government to devise a new approach that gives the public a bigger role in key policy making decisions - a first for Asia. In addition to his work with GIFT, Chandran continues to provide strategic management advice and coaching to business leaders. In this regard, he advises current and future leaders on how to meet the challenges of doing business in Asia, and of globalisation, investment geo-politics, leadership development, ethics, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility.