I hate to break it ungently to anyone, but we need to consume less. Considering that consumerism is the lifeblood of capitalism and therefore, civilization itself, this is scary stuff. But capitalism is going to have to adjust to the needs of the earth because it simply doesn’t work the other way around. We’re all going to have to adjust, including those who have amassed so much wealth.
I’m going to have to come right out and say it. Capitalism is part of the problem that has gotten us in this mess. Maybe it’s part of the solution as well, but major reforms are necessary.
Let’s take a look at three myths of capitalism.
1) Infinite growth is necessary for a healthy economy. Do I really have to point out the obvious problem here? Only hare-brained mystical cults believe in magic substances that flow without end. Yet infinite growth must surely presume infinite resources.
2) Free markets will protect the environment. Automatically! Another stroke of magic! Well, they’re doing a heckuva job so far.
3) Nothing promotes innovation like capitalism. Of course it does–except when large corporations get a chokehold on the status quo, and want nothing more than to keep drilling, blasting, and fracking.
I’m not an economist. But Herman Daley is, and he has been challenging capitalism’s sacred cows for over forty years. He says blasphemous things like “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the reverse.” Check out his refreshingly sane prescription for the steady-state economy we need.
A recent book by Naomi Klein–This Changes Everything–is subtitled Capitalism VS the Climate. She challenges corporate capitalism’s growth-at-any-cost ethos. Her prescription? A mass movement, based on reverence for the earth and a smart emphasis on sustainability, can stop the relentless increase of greenhouse gases. Her descriptions of resistance movements around the globe suggest that it has begun already.
I’m on her side!