Digested Read Digested – Equality works better for a sustainable future.
Equality does not equal sustainability, but it is much more suited to the task than our current system. Without the constant need to consume more and more as we compete for status, we use up far less of the earth’s resources.
There is a strong link between inequality and consumerism. Everything from advertising (NZ & USA spend twice as much on advertising as a percentage of GDP compared to Norway & Denmark) to working hours (there is a strong trend between average hours worked to how disparate middle and upper incomes are) reflects this. How we evaluate everything we own – and often ourselves – depends on how they compare relative to those around us. A big house ten years ago is now less than average, and lower status/worth, because so many bigger ones have now been built. A car from 10 years ago is sluggish when we compare to modern cars. A suit from 10 years ago will no longer get us the stylish job we want. So we need to constantly consume to keep up appearances, to keep up in the race.
But that is not sustainable. Even if we develop better technologies, giving us, for example, more fuel efficient cars – we’d save money, and then spend it on more goods that consume more of the planet…
To get sustainability we really need a steady-state economy, rather than one focussed on growth. But ‘Capitalism can no more be “persuaded” to limit growth than a human being can be “persuaded” to stop breathing’ (Murray Bookchin – US libertarian philosopher). So we need a better system.
One where we all pull together (as in WWII) to fight the problem of climate change. The rich must do more, not just to give the average and poor an incentive to also work towards the sustainability goal, but also because they can. As India with its 1.6 tons of CO2 per person per year needs the US with 24 tons to do more, so the rich must do much more towards slowing climate change – they’re responsible for a lot more of it.
More equal societies are already on a better path towards sustainability.
They recycle more:
and they’re more innovative, ready to develop the technologies that will be needed for our sustainable future:
The next graph I want is one showing Human Development Index versus ecological footprint per capita. Cuba is the only country with a sustainable ecological footprint that also has a high human development. This despite the US embargo meaning they miss out on many of the latest and best technologies that could significantly help their sustainability.
Sustainability is achievable with being highly developed and with no suffering to life expectancy. But highly unequal developed societies struggle to go anywhere near that goal, and there appear solid reasons behind that. A more equal society would make the necessary tasks ahead much easier.
Next Friday: A Better Future?
Right-wing trolls: r0b had a recent post with links refuting the arguments you’re about to make…