Growing pains

Can we save the planet and retain capitalism? Is transition to socialism the only way to end our addiction to unsustainable growth? Breakthroughs in economic theory may be suggesting a new answer to the questions: not capitalism or socialism, but both, Richard Douglas writes.

“We can’t do it by just pissing around at the margins of the problem — we’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it.” This was the environmentalist, George Monbiot, responding in a recent video to the question: What can we do to save us from catastrophic climate change? The central problem, he said, was with the capitalist system itself. Capitalism, he said, is the “system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth”.

Trying to tackle climate change without abolishing capitalism would be a hopeless task, Monbiot explained. Any of the individual measures we could take to cut carbon emissions and restore ecosystems would just be swamped by the effects of ongoing, business-as-usual growth. Growth in product launches, growth in the sales’ effort, growth

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Richard McNeill Douglas

Richard is a PhD candidate at the Political Economy Research Centre of Goldsmiths, University of London. His PhD is funded by the UK Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. …

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