An Interview with Jill JägerHealth, Time Use and General Happiness
What is unique about scenario 3?
I think the uniqueness is partly this bottom-up approach – that’s why we’ve called it Civil Society Leads. It is a lot about social innovation. There’s some technological innovation as well, but basically it is a lot about how people and communities work together: sharing, reusing and reducing their resource use through collaboration and not through directives from above telling them what to do.
How are people organized?
I think there’s a lot of internet support in providing the networks that help people to share, reduce and move towards a resource efficient society. Prices also play a big role; in the description of the scenario we’ve said that taxes on environment and resources are high and taxes on labour are low, which means that people begin to realize that reducing resource use helps them save money. At the same time we can provide more jobs for people and they can support the lifestyles they want to have.
It is not about how much money the economy makes every year and if it is more than it was last year. I think that is a big difference because that means that the goal for using resources is different.
What are the main differences in comparison to the current economy?
The biggest difference is that GDP, the Gross Domestic Product, is no longer used as the measure for progress within the society. Instead of saying that we have to increase the GDP every year in order to show that we’re making progress there are other measures that are used to gauge progress. Those are: people having a better standard of living, well-being, improvement (rather than deterioration) of the environment, our health, happiness and an individual person’s rucksack. It is not about how much money the economy makes every year and if it is more than it was last year. I think that is a big difference because that means that the goal for using resources is different.
The new tools for measurement – how do they work?
GDP is replaced by measures of human well-being and the environmental progress that is made over a year. It works because if you, for example, use well-being as a guide for progress, this then includes things like time use: how much time is spent in a paid job and how much time is spent being paid by some basic income, but also using that time to help families, to help improve the environment and reduce resource use through sharing. The well-being then also has a large component of human health. If you measure the health of the community, you want it to be increasing over time. This is increasing the human capital that is available to be innovative, especially socially innovative, to work together to reduce the resource use within the society.
Health, time use and general happiness of a society are important measures. We already measure health in terms of the number of years that a person lived as a healthy person, but we don’t use that to account for how much progress is made from year to year in a country. For the environmental progress that could be made within a year, we can measure the CO2-emissions, the water pollution, the air pollution and other things like that, but those are not usually used now – except in some alternative indicators – to say how much progress a country makes each year. For time use, we can measure how many people are employed and how many hours they work, but we are currently not looking at how much unpaid time is used for people to take care of the elderly, children or the environment.
In Civil Society Leads mixtures of formal and informal employments are pretty common. Could you explain, please!
One of the things we talked about when we were developing the scenario was, that people in the informal sector right now fulfil services. For us, those services become absolutely central to the story, meaning services like recycling, repairing and reusing, instead of throwing away resources. Waste is a big issue when we want to become more resource efficient. Therefore this kind of a service becomes a central part of the economy and people who are providing it also become a central set of actors in the story that we are telling. They not only have paid jobs, but become really respected in the society. And that’s a very important part. People are going to say: “I’m not going to throw away things, I’m going to make sure that they are recycled properly. I’m not going to get a new mobile phone all the time because I’m going to upgrade instead, and I have people that I respect who are going to do that with me.”
For food, there’s a lot more emphasis on diversity rather than the path that we’ve been going on in recent years and the path that other scenarios could take, which is intensification and an elimination of diversity. The idea is to invest in maintaining diversity by having organic farming mixed with permaculture and other agro-ecological forms. Diversity is also linked very strongly with an effort to revive the rural areas and make them part of the whole society, rather than the shift of the rural areas dying out and the urban areas becoming the centre of all economic activity that we see up until recently and that continues in the other scenarios. Therefore an investment in maintaining the rural areas, in supporting small-scale agriculture in rural and urban areas as well as empowering people that they can really take advantage of food that comes locally and therefore doesn’t need transport, storage, and all of the other steps that are also using resources.
But at the same time it’s bringing employment back into the rural areas. If we go smaller scale, if we have diversified, decentralised, smaller, organic farms and so forth, we don’t get this common pressure of everybody wanting to move to the urban areas and therefore driving resource use. Today we see the seeds of that with urban farming and all the initiatives that are being taken to take back the land from being unmanaged and provide local sources of food. We’re talking about the transition from big farms to small farms. It returns to how it was before; I don’t see that there’s much reason why it shouldn’t work again.
Additionally, people have changed their diet; through education and public awareness campaigns they know that there are environmental costs and health costs for high meat consumption – therefore they’ve moved to a more vegetarian diet and more slow food. Also I think that this whole idea of local food, local supply and small scale can lead to the thought of not only changing the diet, but also thinking about food waste. Currently, there is a strong movement that in addition to moving to small scale, the demand for food could be reduced by reducing the waste. That is very much part of the scenario as well.
What is different in the pricing system?
I see two things: the first is that there is this discussion about an ecological tax reform which changes the balance between taxes on resources and taxes on labour; I think this is really central. It means that the prices are actually telling the truth; they’re telling you: “This is expensive because it uses a lot of the planet’s rare resources or it pollutes in some large way.” Therefore meat and things that have rare metals in them would be more expensive.
On the other hand labour costs would be reduced, which would encourage employers to take on more people because they don’t have to pay such high labour costs for them. Therefore we can increase employment and encourage small enterprises that we need for a recycling and reusing economy. A small company today will think twice about adding more people because of the high labour costs. But if the labour taxes are reduced, they can then start thinking: “Ah, I can add more people, maybe not full time, but they could help us with some activity in repairing bicycles etc.”
There is a big shift in the education design, away from a system that emphasizes learning facts to education in which people learn the skills that they need to live in a resource efficient economy.
Are there other drivers in Civil Society Leads?
The other thing that I think is really important in this scenario, from a policy point of view, is education policy. There is a big shift in the education design, away from a system that emphasizes learning facts to education in which people learn the skills that they need to live in a resource efficient economy. In a society where sharing is very important, not everybody needs a lawnmower, a washing machine etc. Therefore the skill to share is important, but we have tended to lose this recently, rather than building it up. I think that the skill to collaborate and network will be really important as well – so that you know how to share mobility and how to accommodate with other people. I also think that if we’re moving towards a society that is reusing, recycling and repairing there are practical skills that we would need to have and that would become part of normal education as the scenario unfolds.
In scenario 2 innovations and technology play a major role – in scenario 3 as well?
I think technology plays some role; that we, for example, also talk about a high speed rail network here because we see rail as an important aspect of joining up all of Europe; but at the same time, we emphasize that we don’t invest in motorways and airports. By 2050 all of the major cities are essentially car free. Public transportation is optimized and through the use of the internet and good information people are encouraged to use public transportation because it’s easy; it’s easy to hop from the bus onto the tram to go to the train station to take the train to the next town. At the same time a lot of things like sharing, car-sharing if you’re going out of town, or sharing trips, clearly would be supported by online platforms where you can find out who is going where, so that you can join in. We have that already, but this has to be up-scaled, made more convenient and more useful for everybody to be able to use it.
So mobility in a city includes more walking, more cycling and using free public transportation. What I really liked about the discussions we had, was the importance of bringing in spatial planning as an important contributor to this discussion about how we design those urban areas that are car free: people can live closer to where they work, or maybe work at home a lot of the time and use the internet to work with the office that they are attached to. I think it is a lot about soft policies to nudge people in the direction of car free cities, and a high speed rail network rather than flying and driving everywhere.
Nowadays there are many people who love driving cars – can they still do that in Civil Society Leads?
Yes, but they can drive their car if they pay the real environmental and social cost of driving it. If we have the tax reform in a way that those environmental and social costs really are reflected in the price, then driving a car will become less attractive but not forbidden. The assumption in the model that was used was that even in this scenario in the year 2050 we would still have 25% of the modal space, so 25% would be in a car or plane, 35% would be public transport and 40% would be walking or biking. So we didn’t eliminate cars altogether. I think there probably also is a lot of peer pressure in community activities which will play a role. I can also imagine people driving cars, but taking others with them when necessary.
A lot of soft policy basically comes down to public awareness and support for getting the right information. You might also say that for example a public transportation ticket that is valid for the whole of Austria or another European country would also be a soft measure once it’s introduced; it’s something that people will hear about and start using. We’re not going to impose it top down and say everybody has to buy this ticket but it’s a measure that if you introduced it would quickly encourage people because they can see that it is very easy as they only need one ticket to use public transportation in Austria for the whole year.
We are talking about a non-growth scenario – what does that mean in practical terms?
We designed the scenario and discussed all the different aspects of it – how people live, how people work, how people move around. We have had a team within the project which has used big computer models of the economy to actually calculate some of the impacts of our assumptions. For Civil Society Leads, a scenario that is very bottom up, we assumed a 20% reduction of working hours together with the fact that the GDP is not so important anymore as a measure of how much progress is being made in a country. The combination of a zero growth of GDP plus the reduction of working hours and a reduction of consumption – we assumed it was about 20% overall, through reducing waste and recycling and so forth – creates 17 million jobs in the European economy. This was a little surprising for us at the beginning when we first saw how big the number was; it turns out that none of the other scenarios create jobs at that magnitude.
Can Europe compete with the other regions in the world?
Yes, definitely. I’m not too sure if you can assume that the rest of the world is going to be as globalised as it is at the present time with this scenario but this is very much a story about Europe deciding to go a different way recognizing that power as well as a GDP that is growing every year, is not bringing healthy, happy people who live in an environment that is okay.
I see the challenges, but I also see a lot of possibility in doing this bottom-up process, rather than waiting for somebody to tell us what to do top down
Civil Society Leads sounds like a green dream comes true.
I think for those of us who are really concerned about the environment, who watch how the CO2-emissions are increasing every year and who see how stressed society has become in recent years, it looks really wonderful. This scenario doesn’t come without its challenges, obviously, and it depends very much on community activity, networking, and people taking action at their own level, not being told to do something. I don’t think it’s impossible. I see a lot of discussion in scientific meetings about an open knowledge society right now, where there are a lot of initiatives taken at the local level, often for different reasons, which then become networked and up-scaled, simply because there’s power in bringing groups of people who have a similar idea together and then up-scaling it. Therefore, I see the challenges, but I also see a lot of possibility in doing this bottom-up process, rather than waiting for somebody to tell us what to do top down – that’s also a challenging thing and we don’t see the leadership coming right now to do it that way.
Is Civil Society leads a realistic perspective?
I think our scenario is very much about decentralisation, not centres of power and money, and a different society in that respect. But if you look across lots of studies that developed scenarios for the future, there are usually four different kinds of scenarios and there is usually one that is like ours; that is a decentralized sustainability scenario in contrast to a markets-based scenario or a policy-based scenario. I think with this particular story we’re putting ourselves in that corner of the sustainability-type scenario and playing it out realising that of course at the present time it wouldn’t fit everybody’s picture of the world they want to be in. But it is a plausible story to tell, if you put all of the pieces together and look at the picture as a whole.
The thing that I have learned from the scenario – apart from the fun that we had actually sitting down and writing it – was that we found it was possible to achieve a very ambitious target of a resource-efficient Europe in 2050, when we then looked at the results. And 2050 is not that far away. We started with a vision of a resource-efficient Europe, developed three possible ways to achieve it and then tested them. To a large extent we find that using this particular pathway to the future, we can achieve a quite ambitious vision for Europe in 2050, without a lot of what people often need in those kinds of stories. When you set yourself a really ambitious vision and think about how you’re going to achieve it knowing what today looks like, most people find they need a catastrophe, a war, a famine – really something horrible to shake things up to get to the vision. But the story that we told and then modelled got to that end point, without a catastrophe having to take place to motivate people to get there. It’s definitely possible.
How would you describe the likeliness of the scenario?
Usually scenarios don’t have any probability attached to them; they shouldn’t have. But I think that there is a lot of discussion right now, a discontent and fear about the world we are currently living in. If we did go the way of motivating through public awareness, education, improving our human and social capital, thinking more about humans and how they live together in communities and less about financial and manufactured capital, which is what the scenario is doing, I think this is a highly plausible way forward.
No. That’s one of the interesting things: if Europe takes the story that we told of Europe developing this very sufficiency-oriented, bottom-up process of becoming resource efficient, the assumption was that the rest of the world would remain on a high or medium emission path. This means that they’re not taking the same road we’re taking – therefore, because emissions get spread globally, and even though Europe would definitely be reducing its emissions with this scenario, the rest of the world is not reducing its emissions. We are assuming that we are on a 4.5 degree path in this scenario. This could be a problem except, that we also know that societies that are decentralised and where there is a lot of cooperation within the society, are more resilient. Yes, there will be climate change happening in this scenario for sure and extreme events, droughts or floods etc. could take place as well. There will be changes that will have to be dealt with but a society with high levels of education, networks, and decentralized operations can cope better than a society that is centralised and where things have to happen top down.
What is your personal motivation?
The personal motivation is that I’ve been working in the area of climate change for many years and more recently moved to be broader in terms of sustainable development and sustainability. But I started in the climate change area and wrote my PhD thesis on it, so I’ve watched the entire process of negotiations and conventions, meetings of the parties, and so on. I just worry an enormous amount about the lack of progress that we’re making in dealing with such a big issue. I also looked at all the other environmental issues that are very complex.
Therefore my motivation comes from worrying that the way that we’ve been doing things so far for these very complex problems that are deeply rooted in society and culture as well as in our values and behaviour; that the way we’ve been going hasn’t provided solutions. We have to start thinking about other ways and that motivated me. I think it motivated the rest of the group involved in this task of scenario development. The vision that we were aiming to achieve with this story was actually developed here in the garden as well. We spent a day here with flipcharts in the garden, developed the elements of the vision, went away and wrote the core of the story that we just discuss