A Tale of Two Earths

“It was the best of times…”

Charles Dickens

Almost 20 years. That’s what dawned on me this week as I was thinking about my upcoming HxGN LIVE 2019 keynote. Dickens’ opening words to his novel A Tale of Two Cities popped into my mind and it’s undeniable —the privilege of leading Hexagon since 2000 has truly been the best of times.

Measure the same period economically, and it’s true for the world as well.Can you believe that the global economy has more than doubled since 2000? Global GDP has grown from $34 trillion to $80 trillion according to the 2018 estimates coming in. So, we’ve added $46 trillion and grown the global economy 135%!

Beyond economic growth, the world has seen other advances as well — amazing advances in health and medicine resulting in longer lifespans, and technologies that make life simpler and safer for a better quality of life.

This is a tale of one earth. It’s a tale of growth and prosperity. And we all expect it to continue unchecked, with the economy doubling every 20 years or so.

“… it was the worst of times…”

But it occurred to me that there was another tale that was unfolding simultaneously — one that we don’t talk about nearly enough. In fact, we tend to ignore it.

It took me a little more time than finding GDP, but eventually I did find the data I was looking for. In 2000, we humans extracted 50 billion metric tons of natural resources from the Earth. In 2018 it is estimated that we extracted around 85 billion metric tons. What is obvious in this tale is that while GDP and population grew, the Earth remained its finite self. In fact, scientists say that we are using the resources of almost two earths.

Exacerbating this problem is the fact that we’re also overwhelming Earth’s capacity to absorb all the waste and pollution our economies create, which is leading to some dire consequences according to many experts.

The logical conclusion is that the status quo is not sustainable. We need to combine data with human ingenuity to increase productivity and uncouple our economy’s heavy dependence on primary resources, and we need to be vastly more efficient so that we don’t overwhelm the planet with waste.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

For me and my colleagues at Hexagon, our entire purpose is focused on empowering our customers to put data to work to increase quality and productivity wisely, in a way that mitigates the urgent risks of depletion and waste. I’m optimistic that the solutions are there — that we have everything before us that we need to rewrite “A Tale of One Earth” that sustains humanity’s growth while we sustain the precious resources we have been given.

Ola Rollén has served as the President and CEO of Hexagon, as well as a member of its Board of Directors, since 2000. As President and CEO, Rollén is responsible for driving the company’s growth, both organically and through strategic acquisitions that continue to transform Hexagon into a leading global provider of information technologies. Prior to joining Hexagon, Rollén held the positions of President of Sandvik Materials Technology, Executive Vice President of Avesta-Sheffield and President of Kanthal. He also previously served as a board member of Vestas Wind Systems A/S. Rollén holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics.

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