How investments in the Earth’s future should be made by Patagonia and others | Letter

Yvon Chouinard’s bold donation of his $3bn company for the public good (Yvon Chouinard – the ‘existential dirtbag’ who founded and gifted Patagonia, 15 September) felt like oxygen to all of us working to ensure a livable planet for the future – and raised questions about which moneyed leaders might follow. But how should such investments be made in humanity’s and the planet’s future?

As I and my colleagues argued in the World Scientists’ Warnings series of papers and action framework, our planetary and societal crises are just symptoms of overshoot, with relatively simple root-cause solutions: stabilising and reducing human numbers and appetites. Climate change, road rage, water insecurity and plastics pollution aren’t independent crises – we shouldn’t be fighting them as if they are.

Capitalism may incentivise scattershot approaches, but bold, unifying steps are needed in the vanishing time available. Five unifying global actions on biodiversity and climate change should shape environmental investments:
Stringent global ecosystem protection – especially carbon-rich systems, a very rapid end to logging, and strict proforestation (mature forest protection).
Rapid global ecosystem restoration, especially in areas shifting from carbon sinks to carbon sources like forests, savannahs and wetlands.
Rapid and equitability-focused post-growth economics. Our appetites and numbers overwhelm virtually every action taken for the good of people and planet.
Focused climate restoration – accelerated nature-based technology to remove greenhouse gases from our atmosphere – can buy time to transition our economy, politics and mindsets to a post-carbon future and a habitable planet for our children.
Explicit intergenerational and fair-start rights – such as those of Wales and other wellbeing economy governments – will require future generations’ and other species’ rights to be taken into account.

Patagonia’s actions are a powerful step to kickstart the transition of our broken civilisation and economy to a wiser, kinder, more sustainable future. Literally everything that we know and love is at stake.
Prof Phoebe Barnard
CEO, Stable Planet Alliance

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