Contrary to all the assurances that our economy is compatible with protecting the environment and achieving sustainability, it is not. Modern society - our economy and lifestyles - is fundamentally non-sustainable, because so many of the values, attitudes and aspirations on which it is based are inherently non-sustainable.
This is difficult to see and face up to, on the one hand, because we are all very conservative when it comes to our own values and attitudes (their familiarity and normality makes us blind to how inappropriate many of them are), and because we are all dependent on society and the economy more-or-less as they are: our jobs, investments, way of life, etc.
Thus, all efforts at reforming our present, non-sustainable society (particularly its economy) towards sustainability, although praiseworthy in themselves, will never achieve their goal. The reforms needed are so radical (affecting the very roots of our economy and lifestyles) that the resistance of all our different (vested) interests, habits, etc. is insurmountable in the time available. If we had the next 2 or 3 centuries, we might have time enough, but all we have is the next 2 or 3 decades!
From this perspective things look pretty hopeless - which they are, unless we - or at least some of us - start changing our non-sustainable values, attitudes and aspirations for ones that are sustainable, and use these as a basis for creating a sustainable society (economy and lifestyles). The beginnings of such an economy already exist, in the form of organic farming, fair trade organisations, the cooperative company model, waste recycling, resource conservation, the use of renewable resources and sustainable production methods, initiatives for sustainable transportation etc. Although far from perfect and currently accounting for just a tiny fraction of economic activity, they are the vanguard of an alternative, sustainable society.
Thus, a sustainable economy is already in the process of arising within existing, non-sustainable society. To accelerate and direct its further development, the framework of a clear and cohesive socio-economic Philosophy of Sustainability is required, including an Ethics of Sustainability. This will also have the purpose of making it clearly recognisable and distinguishable from the non-sustainable economy, so that we know when we are, or are not, supporting it in the ways we make and spend our money, which is central to my vision of how Sustainable Society will be created, grow, and gradually replace non-sustainable society - hopefully in time to avert, or at least reduce the extent of the catastrophe towards which we are currently heading.
Central to our non-sustainable economy is the lack of transparency, which facilitates man's primitive but natural inclination to avoid taking responsibility for the way in which the goods and services he enjoys are produced and the social and environmental consequences thereof, including those for coming generations.
Central to a sustainable economy, in contrast, will be its inherent transparency and a willingness of its adherents to accept responsibility for the social and environmental consequences - short-term and long-term, local and distant - of how they make (earned and unearned income) and spend their money.
Gradually, Sustainable Society will create its own enterprises, companies and cooperatives, concerned primarily with the production of goods and services. These will be organised democratically but with influence reasonably weighted in favour of those with the greatest investment (in money, years served, etc.). They will be bound by statutes formulated in the spirit of just, humane and sustainable society. Their principle purpose will NOT be to maximise returns on investors money, but to produce valuable products or services for Sustainable Society.
If all this sounds ridiculously idealistic, it is only because we are so used to living in a world thoroughly corrupted by the age-long misuse of money. The company's finances and dealing will be open to public scrutiny. Salaries will be proportionate, with none being more than 4 times or less than half the average, no matter how large the company might become.