Among all the factors that could trigger a new global economic crisis, which is so feared and has been announced several times, there is one factor that I believe is underestimated: the ecological crisis. If we allow the ecological crisis to develop, it could be the triggering event or at least be the cause of a major global economic slowdown.
In particular, there are three ways:
Firstly, directly, through the impact of climate change, which has already caused, in many countries, a decline in agricultural and industrial production, as well as in tourism revenues, and an increase in insurance costs.
Secondly, because catastrophism can lead to narrow parochialism, antagonism, insecurity, reduced consumption and investment.
Third and lastly, because pro-environmental behaviour as a response to these aforementioned threats, though virtuous on the surface, would also, at least initially, have very negative effects on economic growth and employment: fewer cars would be bought; and we would replace less frequently our washing machines, computers, mobile phones and even our clothes. We would travel much less by plane; more generally, we would use less energy-intensive items, including imported products and social networks. If we do nothing else, such behaviour would lead to a recession quite quickly, creating unemployment, and triggering a global crisis as well.
All of these problems can be solved, on the condition that we understand that it is not economic growth that destroys the environment, but rather production; and that we must not consume and produce less, but rather we must consume and produce something different.
As far as private spending, instead of buying less, we will increasingly pay for services that are provided locally for personal assistance, entertainment, culture, education, and health; clothing made locally, with raw or slightly processed fabrics; goods whose components will be easy to recycle and from which all material waste will be recycled. We will exercise more. We will frequent more and during the course of our lives, classrooms, concerts, theatres and stadiums. The living economy will once again become more important than the virtual and material economy.
In particular, a higher proportion of our purchasing power will be allocated to spending on much better food; because food will finally be understood as an essential element for the health of human beings and nature. This will require eating locally-produced food as much as possible and eliminating sugar and snacks to make real meals, and taking the time to prepare it. This will lead to an increase in the standard of living of farmers who will make the effort to produce crops in a healthy way, and it will contribute to bringing more urban dwellers back to live in areas that are now neglected. For the greater benefit of the environment and social justice.
It will also require major public and private investments to reduce climate change, support related efforts, and build the equipment necessary for a more positive economy: production of new energy sources and energy saving systems, factories adapted to new needs, roads, housing, classrooms, hospitals, theatres and sports facilities, and equipment for rural areas; with new materials to be developed. It would be absurd not to take advantage of the current low interest rates and start working on it as soon as possible.
In sum, we will have to (regardless of the government in charge) allocate a much larger share of our personal income, as well as national revenues on social expenditures: research, education, health, inclusion, security and infrastructure. And to fund it, we will need a tax system that directs production and consumption toward this new economy, which is positive for all. Finally, countless regulations will have to be amended to speed up these changes, which individual behaviour will not be sufficient to achieve in time.
Because this transition must be made urgently. Extremely urgent. For the greater benefit of all, and in particular for the companies that were able to start the necessary change in time.