Dick Smith is an entrepreneur with a difference. He is trying to give away $1,000,000 but is finding it hard to find a young person under 30 that can help raise awareness around the obsession with endless growth in the use of energy and resources.
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.
That’s why Smith established the Wilberforce Award – $1 million to go to a young person under 30 who can show leadership in communicating an alternative to our consumption growth-obsessed economy that needs ever increasing populations to support this model. “I will be looking for candidates whose actions show that they have what it takes to be among the next generation of leaders our incredible planet so badly needs.” So far he has failed to find anyone worthy of the million dollars.
Limits to Growth
Dick knows about the benefits of growth as he founded a chain of retail electronics stores in the late 1960’s of the same name (Dick Smith Electronics) which he sold in the 1980’s because the business was getting too big. He then travelled extensively for a number of years before establishing ‘Australian Geographic Magazine’ which was modelled on National Geographic magazine, which he also later sold. In his own words Dick sums it up, “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.” Apart from Dick having a knack for business he is also a passionate environmentalist that understands better than most some of the issues that face humanity.
“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.” – Dick Smith
The Wilberforce Award
Being an avid adventurer and explorer Dick holds many records for solo balloon flights and around the world adventures in his light aircraft. In his travels he has seen the impact humans have had on the planet and is trying to raise awareness about the West’s fetish with continued expansion and growth of economies and human populations which have led to the devastation of natural ecosystems. Candidates 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 cannot apply for the Wilberforce Award. Smith follows the global media 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. More information on Wilberforce Award
Smith Challenges the Murdoch Press
In his efforts to raise awareness about the Wilberforce Award, Smith challenged the Murdoch press by offering an additional $5000 for the 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’.” His food company is marketed as a fight against foreign ownership of Australian food producers. The company sells only foods produced in Australia by Australian-owned companies. All the profits he makes from his current business venture go to charities. Smith recently prepared a magazine called Forbidden Ideas to go as a paid advertising insert in 2.4 million newspapers across Australia. He was outraged when parts of the media rejected the magazine and he called on Australians to tweet Rupert Murdoch stating, “Mr Murdoch – tear down this wall. Reverse the Dick Smith censorship.”
Business Needs to Change its Paradigm
Pressure on big businesses to provide never-ending profit growth is driving our economies towards a big brick wall, he says. “Anyone with any common sense knows that perpetual growth in a finite world is not possible.” At the present time if we don’t have perpetual growth our economies will collapse. And so the situation you’re leading ourselves into is going to be a disaster. “Both economists and cancer cells believe in perpetual growth. And cancer cells quite often kill the host.” “None of this will affect me, I’ve probably got another 20 years in me. I could shut up and say nothing. But I think we should be discussing this.” His firm belief is that we can run economic systems without the need for constant, hard growth. If not, “we’re all doomed.” “You can still have growth in efficiencies and quality of life but just not in using more and more resources.”(1)
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