I wasn’t among the fastest to realise that humankind is endangering our planet – that our greenhouse emissions have recklessly raised temperatures. I think it was the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets that finally opened my eyes – the immediacy of rising sea levels. Particularly from the young, I get the sense that there is general agreement about the harm we are causing – but far less about what to do.
Shortly, when the UK consents to new oil extraction, it will, of course, be deplorable – but my car burns 20 litres of petrol every week, and my central heating 70 litres of kerosene; my guilty dependence on both illustrates the core problem. There won’t be a politician at COP26 who doesn’t routinely promise an annual rise in GDP, so their citizens can consume more. If my carbon footprint was the global norm, it would be many times too much for our planet – so, to prevent climate change, we in the West need to urgently reduce our consumption; climate justice requires that we need to get ‘poorer’ – which political leaders are afraid to even mention.
Humankind already has most of the technology required to provide for the basic needs for everyone, without damaging our planet; but this would require that we replace market capitalism with a kinder, more co-operative system of distribution. Gatherings like Glasgow, this week, enable us to assess how close we are to placing a limit on economic growth; not close.
A coalition of over 60 charities, unions and community groups, has urged Nicola Sturgeon to explicitly condemn plans to drill an enormous new Cambo oil field off Shetland – but don’t hold your breath. I remember, many years ago, being told that the SNP’s (generous) support for the third sector was justified ‘ by your contribution to the economy’; the ‘economy’ is their central reality. But some of us joined the third sector specifically to escape the coarseness of free market capitalism; we work to ‘replace’ it with a social economy, concerned with the wellbeing of people and our planet. This is a 10 minutes TED Talk by Sturgeon (2019) on the limitations of measuring GDP; good example of blah,blah,blah.
The Great Resignation. According to a new study, almost one in four UK workers are planning a job change – which continues my theme that the pandemic has caused a major shift in work patterns. If workers have increasing confidence to move to more suitable/enjoyable jobs, it can only be a positive in our journey towards a wellbeing economy.
I remain convinced by the essential truth of E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful’; that when something goes wrong – something is too big. You can imagine the horror I experience from the unassailable arrogance of the tech giants. Two ‘digital culture’ academics discuss Facebook’s relaunch as Meta to continue to expand and dominate. Unaccountable monopolies violate democracy.
The film, Forrest Gump, made a big impression on me – I think it was his unshakeable belief that good things would happen. This is a Guardian piece about the real-life Rob Pope who, inspired by Gump, ran over 15,000 miles criss-crossing the US. I often wonder if obsessive projects enhance or restrict our journey through life.
This edition of the Conversation Weekly explores the ideas of the degrowth movement and their calls for the contraction of the world’s consumption of energy. But does this mean a return to living in caves with candles – or will more moderate measures suffice; a shift of the focus to ‘wellbeing’ with stringent measures to capture it.
“How Blair Killed the Co-ops: Reclaiming Social Enterprise from its Neoliberal Turn” is a contemporary history of co-ops and social enterprise policy across the UK since the 1970s. It’s by Les Huckfield and has an introduction by John McDonell MP; you can sign up for the launch on Thursday, 18th November 2021 (7pm) – see link above. The book explores whether social enterprise, instead of being a distinct alternative, is in danger of being simply absorbed by capitalism.
Some quotes for COP26 from Ernst F. Schumacher, from his famous 1973 book, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered
“An attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth – in short, materialism – does not fit into this
world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.”
“Already, there is overwhelming evidence that the great self-balancing system of nature is becoming increasingly unbalanced in particular respects and at specific points.”
“The real problems of our planet are not economic or technical, they are philosophical. The philosophy of unbridled materialism is being challenged by events.