Interview with James Cameron

Published on April 19, 2013 in 2013 Conference Reports, Video

After his talk at the conference, James Cameron was interivewed by RSPB’s Mark Robins.

James, you started your talk today talking about the coming twenty years and the intense competition there is going to be over resources, water and energy and so on. Could you just say a word or two about that?
“The next few decades will reveal huge competition over basic fundamental resources for life of which energy, water and food are the stand-out examples and they’re all interconnected they’re all related.
So how we organise our markets, our governance systems, our incentives around how to bring about greater resource efficiency, greater resource productivity well I think it’ll be a paramount challenge for our society in the coming decades.”

Then you moved onto how we might approach these questions. I think you mentioned a sales job, how do we find some optimism in what feels like a terribly complex set of equations?
“If you don’t watch it you become inert, neolistic, overwhelmed by the scale of problems and it’s essential for transformation to take place on the back of optimism. You have to think that the future will be better once I’ve solved these problems otherwise you disable yourself from achieving what you need to do.”

From where you are James, can you feel that sense of possibility now in terms of those big challenges a new view of competitiveness for this
part of the of the west of Britain?

“Perhaps surprisingly having spent over twenty years working on environment and development issues I retain optimism that it’s possible for a shift of consciousness to take place, for enterprises to grow around resource productivity and for regions to find new development paths that are genuinely sustainable where where economy and environment are not in conflict where the natural resource base is properly valued. And where human scale developments could take where there’s a greater harmony between how people live and the way in which resources are consumed; so yes, I think there’s opportunity here.”

In the west of Britain on a scale which matches anything else in Britain that’s my proposition, do you have a view on that?
“If you look at the resource base that they are discussing here, the Severn Estuary, it’s an incredibly rich natural resource, it has a great cultural history, it has a great economic history, there is brainpower available for transformations to take place. It has always been, at least in the economic history of the United Kingdom connected to the world at large there is an outward looking perspective here; so whatever these pioneers developed turned into some kind of rich economic base here in the Severn Estuary, you can imagine being learned from and applied and distributed and exported to the rest of the world.”

I hear that as very exciting, a very exciting prospect and just to finish, you said, lets start from the ecology and work upwards. In terms of setting some objectives for this exciting prospect?
“If you start with ecology you you get a better understanding of your resource base.
Now we haven’t done nearly enough to properly value those resources, we don’t know enough about the true value of soil quality, hydrology, diverse natural systems.
We’re still experimenting we’re still learning; and our legal system and our economic models have not properly valued them. But we’re curious we’re open-minded about that possibility and we have to have examples, we have to have some leaders to follow, why not use this particular rich ecology as a base and then learn how we might experiment with our social organisation with our enterprise structures so that we hook those to the delivery of outcomes that are sustainable, that we reward the delivery of a resource efficient sustainable economy.”

I heard that ‘reward’ word. You use that several times over. So, that’s a reward back to the communities of interest?
“Exactly, to those that are participants in that system. So we may well have reached the limit of what we can expect a private corporation to do to deliver the public good.
Private corporations are all shareholder owned they are profit orientated, they can behave responsibly of course but they can’t ever be solely responsible for delivering the public goods and these are public goods problems. An ecosystem collapses, a public goods problem.
Governments on the other hand which we have charged with representing our public interest have deficiencies when it comes to implementation, the way its administrations work, the way our bureaucracies work are not sufficiently rewarded for the delivery of outcome.”

You made the point that this is about long-term as well.
“In many respects both the corporation and the government our on too short run cycles and they are not designed to fit with the kind of development that would honour a generation to come.
Whereas we have that, we think those things, we have that psychology, we do understand the need to connect what we do now with those that follow us, that’s really deep rooted in our philosophy.
But we haven’t got the right vehicles for it. We haven’t built the right delivery mechanisms for that wish for our actions to benefit the future rather than to punish it.”