As I’ve noted to the left, the most severe danger we face is the ultimate degradation of the fragile system upon which our survival depends. Call it the environment, call it global warming, call it the impending extinction of the human race. If we do not change the careless, cavalier manner in which we treat the earth, we will all be dead: our memory, our children, our culture, any and everything we hold dear.
- While neither party, neither candidate has made a substantial pitch on behalf of the environment, it’s clear to me that — given traditional party priorities — the Republican candidate is a worse bet in this regard.
James Speth, one of the planet’s most determinded environmentalists, says it’s too late merely to cut carbon emissions or build electric cars or recycle our plastic bottles. We need to re-think and re-structure the engine which has brought us this far: Capitalism.
His new book, The Bridge At The Edge of the World, “Speth proposes solutions large enough to make a difference. His view is a broad one that recognizes the connections between environmental issues and other issues of human welfare such as health, freedom, peace, stability, and community.”
The current issue of Orion Magazine — a treat you ought not to deny yourself — includes an interview with Speth, in which he outlines the general argument of his book. Here’s an intro.
The fundamental thing that’s happened is that our efforts to clean up the environment are being overwhelmed by the sheer increase in the size of the economy. And there’s no reason to think that won’t continue. So we have to ask, what is it about our society that puts such an extraordinary premium on growth? Is it justified? Why is that growth so destructive? And what do we do about it?
Capitalism is a growth machine. What it really cares about is earning a profit and reinvesting a large share of that and growing continually. Profits can be enhanced if the companies are not paying for the cost of their environmental destruction—so they fight [paying it] tooth and nail. The companies themselves are now quite huge, quite powerful, quite global, and no longer just the main economic actors in our society. They are the main political actors also.
And so all of these things combine to produce a type of capitalism that really doesn’t care about the environment, and doesn’t really care about people much either. What it really cares about is profits and growth, and the rest is more or less incidental. And until we change that system, my conclusion is that it will continue to be fundamentally destructive.
It’s fascinating, frightening, and irrefutable.