It’s a Capitalist world. Nothing happens unless there is profit to be made. Capitalism is inherent to modern society, and arguably always was on some level.
So how are we supposed to manage the impending collapse of modern society, such a collapse being a given, and inevitably entailing a corresponding collapse of society’s entangled capitalism, if, as a result of such collapse, there is no way to profit from it?
That, in essence, is the idea that Richard Heinberg’s essay title (link below) tries to express.
It is a problem that some of the best capitalist minds in both business and the environmental movement have been working on for decades now. Notice I didn’t mention government. Government hasn’t a clue on the subject. But you would have realised that by now, surely.
And these nouveau-capitalist minds – the old ones still mainly in denial or too heads-down and occupied in keeping their profits churning the old way – have come up with a huge array of technical ideas, all intended to rebase a re-energised society (without anybody noticing there was a collapse) on an all-fresh and all-new capitalism.
Heinberg is a well respected voice among the, how shall I describe it, ‘collapse and beyond’ or ‘resilience’ community. Yet his writings have never really grabbed me. Yes, he is well versed in the way things are and how they are going, but there is always an element of ‘don’t worry folks, we have got this covered and it will all work out for the best in the end‘. That’s not a quote, just my paraphrasing of his usual message. Seemingly to damp down any tendency to panic over issues that the world at large should quite rightly be panicking about rather than being falsely soothed into slumber. That has never sat well with me – and it still doesn’t.
Heinberg trots out all the old arguments about the problems that have led to the impending collapse, and it is kind of refreshing to see them aired once again. But he then, completely forgetting about what he is meant to be talking about (is that deliberate, or not?), proceeds to outline the efficacy of all the new ideas, eventually claiming:
“And here we are today. The opportunities for green growth have snowballed to the point where they are now seemingly endless.”
From which point he proceeds to build a whole new world of ultra-modern capitalist society, based on those new technologies. A world in which we can all live happily ever after, having never felt the downsides of collapse because of all new profit generating opportunities. The only downside of which is that the new society is slower and smaller – something that mysteriously happens as a result of our newly enlightened endeavours. What a wonderful world!
But how did this new world suddenly become slower and smaller without undergoing any meaningful collapse scenario – saved by continuing profit generation? And no growth?
He conveniently and magically vanishes away all the debt, all the polluting waste, all the burgeoning population issues of both the old and newly created world, and finishes with an unbelievably contradictive final paragraph which says”
“You see, the real downside of the green-profit narrative has been that it created the assumption in many people’s minds that the solution to climate change and other environmental dilemmas is technical, and that policy makers and industrialists will implement it for us, so that the way we live doesn’t need to change in any fundamental way. That’s never been true. The sooner we get that through our heads, the more time we will have to get used to living happily within limits—without nature imposing those limits in ways that aren’t so pleasant.” – emphasis is mine
For goodness sake, he has built his new happy world on nothing but the “green-profit narrative” and the “…solution to climate change and other environmental dilemmas is technical” – all of which is, and essentially relies on, pure profit driven capitalism. The only positively operative words in that summation are, taking them out of context, in which they don’t seem to fit anyway – “That’s never been true.“
This is real ‘green-washing’ as I have rarely seen before. A mixture of truths, half-truths, and a huge dollop of fable. But if you think that is the way it will all play out, well, there it is, all nicely laid out for you.
Don’t you see the flaws in the arguments?
Is the title merely an instrument to divert attention from the fact that the whole piece is an unabashed prospectus for capitalism?
“What If Preventing Collapse Isn’t Profitable?” – by Richard Heinberg, shared on the Titanic Lifeboat Academy, or here on Heinberg’s own blog: https://richardheinberg.com/museletter-331-what-if-preventing-collapse-isnt-profitable