Wanted: One Innovation Revolution For World’s Problems

The World Business Council for Sustainability has estimated that by 2050 we will need to consume about 2.3 planets’ worth of resources to sustain the anticipated 9 billion population.

In this context the argument about whether or not man is contributing to global warming and negative climate change actually becomes completely irrelevant.

Quite simply, finite resources and a growing population means at some point the planet will face shortages, particularly in energy, food and water

So we have to reduce our consumption. We have to reduce, reuse, recycle the planet’s resources or face a potential situation where the survival of the ‘have nots’ means taking from the ‘haves’.

As an Australian I’m privileged to be one on the “haves” simply because I was lucky enough to be born here. As Australians we have abundant natural resources, low population numbers and a smart, creative population.

Three critical inputs for long term growth and prosperity, yet only the first two seem to be getting a lot of attention.

Newspaper headlines are full of news about the impact of the resource boom on our economic growth rates and job market and the discourse on whether a “big” Australia is a good or a bad thing for our prosperity.

But I think we’ve missed the point.

The problems of the world today, as well as the quality of life to which we all aspire, will be solved and sustained more by the value-added application of knowledge and less by the “dig it up and ship it” exploitation of resources.

As a country, we need to be an investor in innovation, a global source of creativity and an exporter of ideas.

In Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Classes, he notes “access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steelmaking”

So an innovation revolution is needed and human creativity is the only way to get it.

Government, academia and corporates all have a role to play in creating an environment that recognises and rewards creativity; supports education, science and research, attracts skilled labour and supports the flow of finance to new ideas.

But as an individual I can’t help but consider that I too have a role to play. I can talk proudly about Australia’s contribution to the world – everything from the bionic ear to WiFi. I can support innovation in my workplace or school. I can easily choose to purchase products that reduce their impact on the world, I can contribute to sustainability causes, buy green energy and I can lobby my government. I can even seek ethical investments and affect the money trail – even if it is just by asking my workplace superfund for information on what sort of ethical investments they make on my behalf.

It might seem small and insignificant, but too often we underestimate the ripple effect of our actions.