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business as usual: can we really buy our way to a greener future?
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Unless you’ve had your head buried in sand for the last couple of years, you won’t have escaped hearing countless politicians and business leaders talking about the threat of climate change, and what they plan to do about it. Perhaps most famously, Al Gore’s film, An Incovenient Truth, has helped spread the message around the globe.
But what other message has it helped spread? And what are politicians and business leaders really saying, when they express concern?
To answer that, let’s think a moment about why climate change is happening. OK, most of us know it’s a lot to do with CO2. But why is there so much of it around these days? Because we’re burning so much fuel.
At least part of the answer has to be because our economic system is based on growth. Basically, capitalism says we have to keep on consuming more and more...
People have known for a long time that this wasn’t a good idea. A famous green economist, E.F. Schumacher, wrote a book more than 30 years ago, arguing that our economic model was leading us to environmental
So why didn’t we scrap capitalism, and listen to people like Schumacher?
So, what should we think now that these people are finally starting to talk about climate change. Sadly, we think a little caution is needed. Because the message that’s coming from people like Al Gore is not only that climate change is happening. It’s also that the same economics, the same politics, and even the same corporations that caused climate change through their greed and disrespect are... wait for it... the ones who are going to save us from it!
We only need to look at what’s being proposed by such people, to see where their priorities really lie. Instead of demanding a massive reduction in car use and a shift of economic models, we hear about pumping up our tyres, buying more ‘green’ products, giving politicians more power, and so on.
And at the same time, governments are continuing to promote more road building, more airport expansion, more supermarket developments...more, more more. Because that’s what lies at the heart of our economic system, and politicians who support it are of course caught up promoting what’s good for the economy.
But it’s time we asked ourselves if our needs and those of the economy are compatible. There are some people who think they can be. Green capitalists argue that the market can be tamed, and made sustainable. But can we rely on ideologies and individuals that have up until now made such a mess of everything? Can we rely on an economy that promotes growth, and that demands that we cut costs whenever possible, to treat people and the planet as though they are more than commoditites? We don’t think so. And there are millions who agree. All over the world, people are thinking about – and in some cases putting into practice – alternative ways of organsing work and exchange.
And if politicians aren’t interested, maybe it’s about time we started taking care of things ourselves. It’s up to us; corruption, capitalism and climate change...or a genuinely new way of organising our lives, based on people, not profit.
We don’t trust the fox to fix the chicken fence...do you?
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