Here's a scary thought - a child starting education last year will be working until 2070.
Actually that is absurdly optimistic. Given the aging population and extended life expectancies the chances that people will still be retiring at the age of 65 by then are slim to say the least. There is a good chance a child starting school this year will be working until 2080.
Here is another scary thought. If you are 30 and already have a decades experience of the workplace it will be 2045 by the time you retire, again making the optimistic assumption the retirement age stays at 65. In reality, there is a good chance it could be 2050 or even later by the time you start drawing your pension.
All being well, you will still be an important component of the workforce and an active member of society by the time we have virtually decarbonised the UK's economy, slashing greenhouse gas emissions 80 per cent by 2050. You will see during the course of your own career whether the low carbon economy succeeds or fails, while your retirement and your children will see the climate repercussions of that success or failure.
The close connection between the generations and the unerring passage of time represented two of the key points in Dame Ellen MacArthur's excellent keynote address at the Base show in London yesterday. Recounting her memories of her great grandfather, a coal miner who was born 117 years ago into a world where only five cars were in existence, MacArthur illustrated how quickly economies, societies and technologies can change.
Outlining how the first computer was only developed 71 years ago, man stood on the moon just 42 years ago, and the internet came into existence but 21 years ago, MacArthur gave hope to those business and political leaders committed to delivering a low carbon revolution over the next 50 years.
Her message was simple: it is, of course, possible to deliver a low carbon economy, changes can happen with break neck speed. But only if we begin to think a bit more like round-the-world yachtswomen and realise that every single finite resource is precious and must be recycled and reused wherever possible.
MacArthur's central thesis goes further still arguing that the pursuit of energy and resource efficiency is not enough, we should also be aspiring to the creation of a "circular economy" where nutrient flows are perpetually maintained and we create genuinely sustainable products, services and business models. This is an increasingly popular idea currently, with books such as Zac Goldsmith's Constant Economy and new thinking on how best to measure economic progress, similarly expounding the adoption of localised closed-loop economic models.
The problem is that such an approach requires entirely new ways of thinking, and judging by much of the rest of the debate at yesterday's show business leaders have a long way to go if they are to deliver this kind of genuine sustainability.
MacArthur noted how B&Q's boss had raised the prospect the company would one day stop selling things, and could instead slash its environmental impact by instead renting tools and materials. Similarly, executives at carpeting giant InterfaceFLOR outlined their plans to become zero impact by 2020 by embracing renewable energy and, more importantly, developing products and materials that could be repeatedly re-used and recycled.
But given such business models will be required to emerge within the next decade the vast majority of firms still appear to adhere to sustainability policies that pursue what Sky boss Jeremy Darroch called the "aggregation of marginal gains" (a term cribbed from Great Britain's Olympic cyclists). Many of the policies and targets adopted by firms seeking steady sustainability improvements are hugely admirable, and it is worth noting that Sky's green commitments are amongst the most ambitious and impressive around. But it appears that far too few companies are embracing the kind of comprehensive transformation programmes that will be required to deliver business models that are compatible MacArthur's "circular economy".
Perhaps this work is being done behind closed doors - after all companies that do transform their operations will have to make tough decisions and will certainly regard the changes they make as being to their competitive advantage. But I'd wager most firms still believe that setting a handful of ambitious environmental targets and ensuring they are met is enough.
Delivering marginal green gains is great and should be celebrated, but to compete in a low carbon economy that is going to change beyond all recognition over the next few decades genuinely sustainable businesses will have to go further still.
It is no longer just a case of doing things better, it is a case of doing things differently. Which, in many ways, is another scary thought.
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