For some, the present financial crises signals a defense against the many variables of an uncertain future. For others, it is the impetus to create the future of our imaginations. Nations with an emphasis on sustainability are about to emerge as the architects of the new global economy.

Collapse: Some nations will choose to fail, others to succeed

South Korea intends to opt out of the energy crises. Within the next few years, aggressive spending and re-prioritization will jolt the nation forward from a 5 percent energy self-sufficiency rate to 18 percent. By 2050, they intend to raise the rate to 50 percent.

In order to achieve this, the government intends to make, “all-out investments to boost the use of new and renewable energy.” The goal? “Korea (will become) a leading powerhouse in the green technology market, which is expected to amount to 3 quadrillion won by 2020”.

The President declared, “Every nook and cranny of the homeland… will be turned into a new world filled with flowers where solar, wind and tidal energy are fully utilized.” Beyond this, Korea has set it’s sights on emerging from this present crises as one of the top four nations producing green cars on the planet. I’m guess the other three won’t include the US at this rate.

People are beginning to reflect on what is actually happening during this global financial crises. Maybe it’s not just about sub-prime mortgages the financial clumsiness of swaggering bankers. Maybe it is actually a global paradigm shift. In his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed Jared Diamond suggests that the economy, the environment and society are always connected, each affecting the other for success or failure.

In a recent article for the NY Times, ‘The Inflection is Near?’, Thomas Friedman invites his readers to “step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

The choices before us are of a great magnitude and carry severe consequence – the enormity of which forestalls all timidity. Dr. Bradley Googin suggests that we are looking at a challenge akin to putting a man on the moon. “Is this not the best time to think boldly and creatively around the game changing that we have for a long time felt was necessary for a sustainable capitalism and for achieving a just and sustainable world?” he asks in his blog for the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.

It seems South Korea has decided this is exactly what’s happening. And they are unabashedly shooting for the moon.

The following is an excerpt from an address by president Lee Myung-bak on the 63rd anniversary of national liberation and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea – August 15, 2008.

Vision for Another 60 Years: Low Carbon, Green Growth

My fellow citizens,

Currently, the Korean economy is undergoing difficulties stemming from the energy crisis. The socio-economic divide and job shortages are puttingan increasing burden on ordinary citizens. There is a growing sense of crisis that we might collapse. In order to weather through this crisis and jump over the threshold to advancement, more creative ideas and dauntless resolution are needed.

Now, we are witnessing changes in civilization. The world has gone through the stages of the agricultural, industrial and information revolutions. Now, it is entering the age of an environmental revolution. Leaving behind the era of wood, coal and oil, an age of new energy is now being opened.

For the Republic that does not produce even a single drop of oil, such changes are both a crisis and an opportunity as well. In retrospect, the Republic has exhibited great capacities in turning crises into opportunities. The Republic took the first oil shock as a springboard for its inroads into the overseas construction market and advancement of local industries. The second oil shock served as a catalyst for growth while pursuing stability and opening to the outside world. Now is the time for us to turn the recent surge in oil prices into an opportunity to transform economic fundamentals and create new growth engines.

Today, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea, I want to put forward ‘Low Carbon, Green Growth’ as the core of the Republic’s new vision. Green growth refers to sustainable growth which helps reduce greenhouse gas emission and environmental pollution. It is also a new national development paradigm that creates new growth engines and jobs with green technology and clean energy. Green technology puts together information and communications technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and culture technology, and transcends them all. Green technology will create numerous decent jobs to tackle the problem of growth without job creation. The renewable energy industry will create several times more jobs than existing industries. In the information age, the gap between the haves and have-nots has widened. On the contrary, the gap will narrow down in the age of green growth.

Green growth will enable a Miracle on the Korean Peninsula to succeed the Miracle on the Han River. When the Republic first manufactured its own vehicles, the technology gap with the advanced countries amounted to at least 50 years. As far as semiconductors are concerned, it was more than 20 years behind. However, the Republic grew into a technology powerhouse, which ranks first in terms of producing semiconductors and ships, and fifth in automobiles. If we make up our minds before others and take action, we will be able to lead green growth and take the initiative in a new civilization. To do this, I will make sure that the country comes up with new green growth engines for the next generation to use for 10 to 20 years.

Read the speech in it’s entirety here.

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