economic growth -- while at the same time miraculously reducing our burdens on the planetaryenvironment. It is business as usual, but with greater efficiency and greater accounting of environmental costs. No fundamental changes in social or property relations -- in the structure of production and consumption -- are required. This is the magical world view advanced by such diversefigures as Al Gore, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, Paul Hawken, and Jonathon Porritt -- if not ThomasFriedman, Newt Gingrich, and the Breakthrough Institute, as well. From a policy perspective, this normally divides into two streams, one state-centered and the other market-centered. Green Keynesians like to think that we can ameliorate our environmental problems(and our economic problems too) by having the state promote economic growth through the creation of green jobs. Green Schumpeterians, like Friedman, Gingrich, and the Breakthrough Institute, offer as asolution green technological innovations, supposedly a natural outgrowth of the market -- but usuallyseen as requiring additional subsidies to corporations to harness its full strength. Here too the promiseis one of heightened economic growth on greener terms, equated simply with greater energy efficiency. The main problem, which all of this denies, is the nature and logic of capitalism itself. Capitalism, as itsname suggests, is quite simply, the system of capital. Its sole purpose is the accumulation of capitalthrough the exploitation of human labor. It is a grow-or-die system dominated by the 1% (the capitalistclass) and giant corporations. It is prone to periodic economic crises, and constant -- and todaydeepening -- unemployment. Capital accumulation and economic expansion occur by means of grossinequality and monopolistic competition, generating a war of all against all and a world of waste. Thewider public/social/natural sphere is an object of theft -- a realm in which to dump "externalities" or impose unpaid social costs, which then fall on nature and humanity in general. Endless capitalism requires unlimited economic growth. Economists generally consider a 3 percentaverage rate of economic growth over the long run as absolutely essential for the stability of thecapitalist system. Yet, if we were to have a continual 3 percent rate of economic growth, world outputwould expand exponentially by around sixteen times in a century, 250 times in two centuries, and 4000times in three centuries. Already we are overshooting planetary limits -- consuming resources as if wehad multiple planets at our disposal, undermining the very basis of our existence.
What then is the alternative? The answer is a cultural-power shift -- opening up the world to thecreative efforts of hundreds of millions, even billions of people, and unleashing a process of sustainablehuman development. Today the world Occupy movement is showing the way. It is time, as NoamChomsky contends, not simply to Occupy Wall Street but to go on to "Occupy the Future."
As the99%, we need to take direct action with respect to the environment: locking up the three-quarters of theproven, economically available oil, natural gas, and coal (remembering always that the poorestcountries have to be allowed to develop while the richer countries need disproportionately to pay thecost); blocking the Canadian-U.S. tar sands pipeline; and imposing a carbon fee at the point of production (i.e. at the oil well, mine shaft, and point of entry) -- the funds from which would be returnedimmediately to the population on a per capita basis, so that those with the largest carbon footprints,predominantly the corporate rich, would be the ones that paid. (This is the proposal of U.S.
See Al Gore,
(New York: Rodale, 2009), 346; Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins,
(Boston: Little Brown, 1999); L. Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen,
(New York: Hill and Wang, 2011); Jonathon Porritt,
Capitalism: As If the World Mattered
(London: Earthscan, 2007); Thomas Friedman,
Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a GreenRevolution
(New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008); Newt Gingrich,
A Contract With the Earth
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007); and Michael Shellenberger and Ted
Nordhaus, Break Through
(New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007).
Charles Morse, "Environment, Economics and Socialism,"
Monthly Review 30
, no. 11 (April 1979): 15.
Noam Chomsky, "Occupy the Future," November 2, 2011, NationOfChange.org.