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Patanjali Sokaris

Politics

8.Degrowth – the only alternative

We are outstripping the earth's capacity to supply the current demands of even a small part of humanity, while preventing the majority from ever having the ability to consume so much.

Many see huge economic opportunities in investing in so-called green technology and industries as a way to combat climate change. The reasoning for this is essentially based on the idea that we just need to reprioritise what we invest in to allow economic growth to continue without destroying the planet.

The problem with this outlook is that we are reaching the earth's limits when pandering to the demands of only a small minority of the world's population. How are the rest of humanity – many living below the poverty line – to get to the level of those few under this scheme?

The answer is they can't. There aren't enough resources to fill that level of demand. That makes it obvious that the only way for the majority to have a better life is to curtail the level of demand of the minority. That can only be done if that minority decides to demand less. However, they have been heavily persuaded that it is alright to have such levels of demand, and that it is beneficial to society, and so it is their civic duty to do so!

There are substantial vested interests in maintaining such levels of demand in the minority, while suppressing the ability of the majority to reach such levels for themselves. While this has been directly assigned as being a product of globalism itself, it is not, as it is a direct product of the greed for wealth of a few, who persuaded a whole lot of others to go along with it.

They have used their ability to manipulate global markets to create the inequalities that allow them to produce goods for low cost but sell to richer people at higher profits. This is bad globalism, whereas good globalism would enable goods only produceable in some parts of the world to be made available to all, while ensuring that wages between countries are on a par.

Wage parity would enable all to have relatively equal access to all goods, but not at a level currently available only to a minority. The only workable balance between wage parity and resource demand is for the richer minority to curtail their expectations and demand less. So how can this be done when selfishness and indulgence are rampant?

Firstly, this is not going to happen by private enterprises doing that without some persuasive incentives. Generally, cutting production is not in their playbooks, especially with shareholders demanding increasing dividends, which noticeably drives companies to exploit more resources to build and sell more goods than required to operate profitably enough to run their own operations.

Only governments, through the will of people who can see the problems being caused by global inequality and over-exploitation of the earth's resources, have the clout to demand curtailing of production and placing limits on consumer demands. We have seen such ability in wartime, and it just needs to applied to the war we have against the planet, and where we need to fight for it, rather than our selfishness. Only governments have the persuasive resources, given enough will, to effect behavioural changes.

Of course, countries tend to see themselves as separate from others, and so have a selfishness of their own, so the will to change has to have a global focus, rather than a nationalistic one. This is why nationalistic rhetoric is being drummed up, just because it supports the currently inequitable trading schemes that engorge corporate profits by increasing the suffering of those unable to resist their domination of poorer economies.

While it is generally not good to demonise classes of people, it is the very rich that are substantially feeding the inequality and suppressing most to resist it, so they are very worthy of our condemnation. We must curtail their ability to manipulate politicians and the laws they pass in the companies' and their owner's favour.

We must see ourselves as global custodians, and so demand global solutions to global problems. Global priorities must drive global economics and not the other way round. To that end, we must sacrifice a substantial part of our selfishness and desire for excessive indulgence, so that more can partake of what can still be a very comfortable life for us.

It is to get to a sort of global minimalism, which is not to say that we go without some luxuries in life, just not well in excess of what we need to be happy and content. It is also not to say we should all exist in some sort of bland existential sameness. We do have enough to indulge each individual's quest for knowledge and experience, but not at a level that requires gross levels of inequality in ability and opportunity to do so.

We can individually make these choices, but the planet will not be prevented from the few sabotaging its ability to support us all unless we demand effort towards equity from all of our fellow human beings. The planet and our individual and collective well-being depends on it.


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