Many look around at today’s crises – climate change spinning out of control, inequality driving political instability and our oceans filling with plastic – and despair at the prospects for serious change. Most then try to apportion blame or at least seek to understand why. Business blames consumers. NGOs blame business. Everyone blames politicians.
Almost everyone who is engaged and thoughtful on this, even inside companies, at some level blame capitalism, markets and big business. This is well justified given, after all, it has been the delivery vehicle for all these crises.
But where does that leave us? As a campaigner who has spent 40+ years on these issues, I’m not satisfied with just a problem diagnosis, I need a way forward, a credible path to success. When talking about risks to the future of civilisation, accepting failure is not really a strategic option.
I don’t disagree that capitalism has been the problem. I emphasise capitalism rather than Western free markets – just take a look at China where capitalism took hold and delivered an epidemic of pollution that nearly overwhelmed the country – and still may.
But problem accepted, we have to find a way forward and I would argue that some form of the market system, if guided or constrained by policy, is our best and probably only hope of moving fast enough.
I do not argue this from a love of markets or an inherent belief in the philosophies espoused by many of that system’s advocates. I approach this as a person who lives and breathes the fear of global collapse and I can’t see another viable way forward.
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