Note — Jun 28, 2020

Capitalism Is Destroying ‘Safe Operating Space’ for Humanity, Warn Scientists

Overview of a “landmark study in the journal Nature Communications, ‘Scientists’ warning on affluence’.” Like the richest countries, the richest people have an outsized effect on overconsumption and environmental impact, making it impossible for humanity to remain in its “safe operating space.” (Doughnut economy klaxon!) But the article, and hopefully the paper I have yet to read, also shows that it’s not personal. I.e. it’s not these specific rich people but the broken system of incentives and privilege which enables the insane level of consumption-caused destruction. Not to excuse the current rich, but to make clear that the system is the setting and that the solutions need to be there, not doing an intervention with Jeff Bezos.

The most fundamental driver of environmental destruction is the overconsumption of the super-rich. […]

The paper notes that the richest 10 percent of people are responsible for up to 43 percent of destructive global environmental impacts. […]

Remaining within these boundaries is essential to maintain what scientists describe as a “safe operating space” for human civilization. If those key ecosystems are disrupted, that “safe operating space” will begin to erode. […]

“Not only can a sufficient decoupling of environmental and detrimental social impacts from economic growth not be achieved by technological innovation alone, but also the profit-driven mechanism of prevailing economic systems prevents the necessary reduction of impacts and resource utilisation per se.”