Seven Billion Solutions

Finding Entrepreneurial Solutions for the Global Environmental Challenges We Face
May 4, 2011 1:40 PM ET

This is the year that the global population hits seven billion, and many of our global challenges are made all the more challenging by having more and more people on this planet that we all share. The price of oil has hit new heights this year not just because of unrest in the Middle East but because the seemingly unstoppable growth of economies in Asia and elsewhere has more people using oil while there is less and less to go around. The price of food has risen dramatically this past year, and the future is likely to see growing competition even for water. 

A few years back when I wrote “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green” I predicted some of the trends that would make the future greener, including the rising price of oil, water, and other commodities. It’s not that I’m psychic. It’s easy to see in the long run that with more people using oil and other resources and with supplies shrinking, the price would inevitably rise and we’d be forced to use these resources more efficiently, creating more demand for innovative green technologies, products and services.  Anything we can do to use resources more efficiently is green, whether we do it for polar bears or to relieve the pain in our bank accounts.    One thing I didn’t know is how soon the future would come. The impact of the rising price of oil is already real and dramatic. Wal-Mart reports that more families aren’t shopping at the end of the month because they run out of money before the next pay check comes.    No with politicians clamoring for quick results to drive down the price of oil, I doubt that opening up the strategic oil reserves will have a lasting impact on oil prices. But in the long run changing how we drive and what we drive can make a difference. Just like the last time the price of oil spiked in 2008, we’re back to carpooling, ridesharing, and buying efficient cars. Innovative new cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are coming to market just in the nick of time it seems.    So it goes with all of our challenges - necessity is the mother of green innovation. As money is tight, and people are forced by economics to rethink how they live, more people are shifting away from the consumerism they can’t afford to find new ways to get the things they want and need. Instead of going to the mall they are joining the Conserver Economy by sharing, swapping, repairing, and reusing the stuff they already have to keep the stuff, our planet, and their wallets in a healthier state. They are working together in their communities and around the world to help each other, recognizing that united we stand to solve these challenges that affect us all.   So while the world’s growing population creates great challenges, it is also an opportunity. Those seven billion people each have the potential to deliver the solutions we so badly need. They each have the potential to find new sources of clean energy, healthy food, and clean water. We can be a planet full of green entrepreneurs in backyards, offices, labs, classrooms and fields joining the shift to a new global economy that will last for the long term for the benefit of us all. And you can be one of them.   The future is green – I’ll see you there.   Glenn Croston is the author of "75 Green Businesses" and "Starting Green", and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping businesses to start green and grow greener.   SUG13604

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