Earth Days are Numbered

by Design Partner, Greg Hart (April 2021)

How many Earth Days have there been? This is #51.

The theme of Earth Day 2021 is “Restore our Earth” and focuses on restoring global ecosystems through natural means, green technology and innovation.

This theme captures the problem and the opportunity succinctly.

The really big problem:

Humans are kicking the crap out of our planet. Fouling the water and air, stripping biodiversity on the land and in the water, driving the climate system towards increasing instability through global heating. This explains the emphasis on restoring global ecosystems. We are out of time. There are no Earth Days left to mark by doing anything less than what has become absolutely necessary. This isn’t really about saving the planet, it is about saving us.

The really big opportunity:

Green technology and innovation. According to the 2017 Climate and Economy report, we will spend $90 trillion in less than 15 years on green technology infrastructure. For those of us in the innovation game, that is not just the opportunity of a lifetime, it is a multi-generational opportunity. This is the signal for entrepreneurs to build ventures that will reign in the climate emergency, bolster social foundations, and create wealth-building opportunities throughout the world.

We’ve done some really cool stuff while we’ve been getting to today but it can’t continue the way it has. It is time to usher in a prolonged era of regenerative design and economics. We have been extracting for too long and it is time to shift into restoring and creating the conditions for life. And human life depends on all life.

Here’s one more number to consider. Generations we’ve been a species: 7,500.

Not that long and we - us, at this very moment - are alive at a watershed in human history where we get to act and usher in a long period of human thriving. We get that shot, a 1 in 7,500 generation shot. Make or break.

"This is our ‘use it or lose it’ moment." --- Greg Hart, Design Partner

That same Climate and Economy report summarizes our moment:

"This is our ‘use it or lose it’ moment. Investing US$90 trillion to build the right infrastructure now will deliver a new era of economic growth. Investing it wisely will help drive innovation, deliver public health benefits, create a host of new jobs and go a long way to tackling the risks of runaway climate change.

Getting it wrong, on the other hand, will lock us into a high-polluting, low productivity, and deeply unequal future.

Let’s not get it wrong. Let’s mark future Earth Days - starting with #52 - as regenerative milestones on the way to a thriving human future. Who wants to miss this opportunity? If you’re an innovator, what more could you play for?

Let’s lead it from here with optimism, humanity, and conviction.