A Tale of Two Economies
By now, some of us have began to realise that our economic system is responsible for the totality of the mess our planet is in: natural destruction, accelerating mass extinction, exploitation and inequality, and deterioration of physical and mental health. In fact, all of the above are necessary ingredients of a “healthy” capitalist society that is “growing robustly”. Capitalism cannot actually exist without natural destruction, inequality, racism and exploitation. Otherwise it would be too expensive to run. It would go bankrupt by Wall Street standards. It would be a charity, not a “for-profit” system.
But an even smaller minority of us are beginning to realise that the Earth needs to be run as a charity, not as a business. The former takes good care of all of its shareholders (plants, animals, humans, the climate system) so that they can be healthy and continue to contribute to “the business”. The latter, burns them out and turns out a large profit very fast, but soon runs out of both resources and people, just as energy expenses and number of mouths to feed are going through the roof. A bust is imminent. We are in the second scenario, in case you are wondering. After ransacking the planet to the point where we don’t even know what plants or animals used to exist where we now live, we are approaching the burnout point. It doesn’t have to be this way, even as the climate breakdown accelerates.
You may have heard of the term “degrowth”. It is the idea of managing the “Human Economy” in harmony within Earth’s Economy (yes, there is one, and it is what actually feeds you), in a way that the former is not a predator of the latter. On the current trajectory we are on, Earth’s Economy is already too battered by us to exploit further. The slavemaster is running out of healthy slaves. The only way for both of them to live is if they work together, as equals.
Degrowth advocates placing people, natural resources and the 8 million other species of the planet above human profit, and doing away with the concept of “profit” and “economic expansion” in the first place, since so far this has essentially meant the embezzlement of Earth Economy funds by the Human Economy.
Degrowth advocates putting quality of life above income, as the latter doesn’t bring happiness anyway (we tried that and it hasn’t worked). By sharing resources between poor and rich, between the slave and the slave master, between the humans and the Earth, everyone wins. While at the moment it may seem that the Earth is the only big loser, (through the appropriation of habitats, water, extinction), humans will quickly follow. We are the virus that is killing the patient, completely unaware that we are about to die in our billions as soon as that patient expires. Metaphor too real for you? Tough life..
Degrowth IS possible. We’ve seen glimpses of it happening right now. Consumption has dropped. Construction, global trade and many other carbon-emitting sectors of the economy are slowing down or finding other, cheaper, more efficient ways to exist. But capitalism is fighting back. As long as the goal is profit, there is no good or bad Capitalism. It’s all bad.
We don’t need to fly in apples from New Zealand. And I don’t need all those bomber jackets in my closet. Since I’ve moved in with my mum I just wear the same fleece day in day out. Yes, it does go in the wash. Any other questions?
…to be continued (or not)
George is an author, researcher, podcaster, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books