It has become obvious to me that my generation has over exploited our wonderful world – and it’s younger people who will pay the price. Like many people my age, I’ve benefited from a long period of constant economic and population growth – we are addicted to it. But sooner or later this consumption growth will have an end. We appear to be already bumping against the limits of what our planet can sustain and the evidence is everywhere to see.
Right now I believe we could be sleepwalking to catastrophe because we are failing to both acknowledge that there are limits to growth in a finite world and to prepare for a more sustainable way of organising our economy. In the 19th Century, empires were built on the labour of slaves, and it was believed economies would collapse if slavery was abolished. But brave people like William Wilberforce fought to end the slave trade – and economies still flourished. We need brave people like Wilberforce today, and I want to encourage a new generation of clear-thinking and inspiring young leaders.
So today I am announcing Dick Smith’s Wilberforce Award – $1 million to go to a young person under 30 who can impress me by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy. I will be looking for candidates whose actions over the next year show that they have what it takes to be among the next generation of leaders our incredible planet so badly needs.
Candidates will need to have a firm belief that we can have a viable and strong world economy that is no longer obsessed with growth for its own sake, but instead encourages both a stable population and sustainable consumption of energy and resources. They must be able to communicate that we cannot continue to squander the resources that will be needed by future generations, and they must also be able to communicate a plan that offers an alternative to our growth addiction.
Like the Nobel Prize, you will not apply for the Wilberforce Award. Over the next twelve months I will be following the media throughout the world to see who is the most outstanding individual in not only making a significant contribution to this important issue, but who also becomes famous through his or her contribution to the debate.
One year from now I will announce the winner of the $1 Million Wilberforce Award. The Award will go towards advancing the momentum the winner will have already achieved.
It has been decided that if no suitable young person appears within the twelve month period, the Award of $1,000,000 will be held until such a person does appear.
In the meantime, the money will accrue compound interest and will be added to the final Award amount.
Extra $5,000 reward for coverage of the Wilberforce Award in the Murdoch Press
The Murdoch press are absolutely paranoid about anyone mentioning that we can’t have constant growth in the use of material resources and energy.
What is even worse is the way our politicians appear to have been intimidated on this subject. Many politicians I speak to agree with the simple fact that we can’t always have growth and we need to move to a more stable system. However, a number of them have said to me ‘Dick, what you are saying is absolutely correct, but if I said it I would be crucified by the Murdoch press’.
I think everyone should be horrified at this. I think Rupert Murdoch himself would be horrified if he knew that free speech was being curtailed because people were frightened of his newspaper clout. My experience with Rupert is that he always wants both sides of an issue to be covered. It seems a pity that his Editors and Journalists in Australia don’t understand this.
The fact is we should be discussing all sides of the issue and acknowledging the fact that the growth we have had over the last thirty years cannot continue indefinitely. I am the first to admit that this growth has benefited people greatly, including Rupert Murdoch and myself. But it’s a simple fact that you don’t have to be a very good businessperson to be making more and more money in such a growth-fuelled environment – and we all know that one day there will be a limit to this growth.
It is very sad and also incredibly serious that we presently have a group of politicians, no matter how small, who agree with the important facts about this ‘growth reality’ but are not game to discuss it because they will be attacked.
Recently Barry O’Farrell, the Premier of New South Wales, stated that we would not have another airport in Sydney. He was attacked mercilessly by the Sydney Daily Telegraph. “How could someone doubt growth?” was basically the attitude of the Telegraph.
I have therefore decided on a special $5,000 prize for the first young person under the age of thirty who can get definitive coverage of the Wilberforce Award in the Murdoch press, including the fact that our present economic system, which requires perpetual growth in the use of resources and energy, is not sustainable.
So go for it! It must be possible. I am hoping that one day there will be a journalist working for the Murdoch press who is able to get the truth out and both sides of the argument will be fairly shown.
Remember, this is not a personal, emotive view of mine – it is a simple fact that we can’t always have perpetual growth in the use of material resources and energy in our finite world.
Update: The Wilberforce Award of $1 Million is gradually accumulating interest
To date, there has not been a candidate who has been considered eligible to receive the Wilberforce Award of $1,000,000 – I’m still waiting for that to happen.
In the meantime, I’m not spending an enormous amount of time on the growth issue because it seems to me to be a futile waste of time. All of our Universities are still teaching growth as if it can go on forever and even the Australian Broadcasting Commission spruiks growth in any way it can.
Click Here to listen to the recent interview I did with Hamish MacDonald from ABC Radio National.