The ice at the North Pole is melting. The earth could be up to four degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the 21st century. The weather is acting weird, in a way that it didn´t, when we were kids. Some scientists believe we are entering the sixth period of species mass extinction.
No matter which way you look at it, the world is in bad shape. And there is no doubt that we are responsible for that. Or, to be more precise, our modern, consumist, comfortable-life-seeking lifestyle, fueled by a capitalist business model.
Now, having a comfortable life, where your basic needs are being met and you have time for some fun and self-realization as well, does not have to be a bad thing. Indeed, it could be a very good thing, as long as you live your life in an environmentally sustainable way, where you don´t take more from the planet than you give back to it.
However, as we all know, that is not the way it usually works in capitalist economies. In such economies, products may enhance the selfish life quality of humans as a race, but very often end up hurting the planet as a whole, in terms of CO2 emissions and harmful impacts on other species and their ecosystems.
Enjoying the flexibility of a car in your everyday life. Buying cheap airline tickets to Thailand for your summer holiday. Enjoying meet every day of the week. Eating fruits that come from halfway across the world. All of these things enhance your quality of life. But they have a cost to the planet that is much higher than the price you yourself paid.
Of course, in recent years and decades, there has been a heightened consumer interest in the environment and an increased market space for companies offering environmentally sustainable products. However, the speed of this process is much too slow to counter climate change.
For example, despite the growth in renewable industries, global fossil fuel generated energy consumption remains at roughly 80 to 85 %. Furthermore, renewable energy, despite the fairy tale story line told through mainstream media, is far from a perfect solution. This energy method still has undeniable environmental drawbacks, especially in terms of destruction of natural habitats and the need for rare earth minerals.
So the tough truth is that the planet cannot handle the current human lifestyle for much longer – and that technological advances won´t save us either. So, given this, we only have one significant card left to play – a reduction in our consumption, individually and globally.
Now, can we do this through capitalism? In short, no. Capitalism is a competitive, inherently selfish system, where people are forced to do things that benefit themselves, no matter the consequences to the greater good. Businesses, that need to make money, cannot learn consumers to consume less.
So how do we reduce consumption then? Well, what I believe is needed is a mental transformation, where humans see themselves and nature as part of one overarching system, and don´t just view nature as something to be exploited. That way we will start making responsible and environmentally sustainable choices, that benefits the planet as much as man.
Such a transformation can only happen by drawing people closer to nature. Spending more time in nature and with animals. To some extent growing your own food. Witnessing firsthand the adverse environmental effects of current business and energy practices. Those are some realistic ways to grow a more environmentally sustainable mindset.
Does this mean that capitalism does not have any role to play in the future? No, it does not. But it does mean that we need to develop an alternative model for the good life. And a model that can hold the capitalist activity that always will exist up to the same, environmentally sustainable standards.
Politics, sociology, philosophy, morals, ethics
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