Note — Sep 02, 2018

Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise

Seen in → No.47

Source →

Finnish biophysicists delivered a report to the UN, basically confirming what anyone paying close attention knows; that we are living at an unsustainable pace, that we need to account for “externalities,” that the extreme flavour of capitalism we are organized around is destroying everything and ill-equipped to address the changes we need to make.

Case in point, just this week, the French minister of the ecological and solidarity transition, Nicolas Hulot, quit the job without warning, saying he couldn’t lie to himself and the public anymore [fr], and that he didn’t want the small steps and his presence to make us think that France is making significant progress. Even though they are doing more than most, it is still insufficient. The gist of his argument (I’m heavily paraphrasing) is that a minister can’t do it alone, every department as well as civil society needs to collaborate and get behind the massive transition we need. Instead, he saw a government adjusting buttons and levers in the right direction, but we actually have to make much more radical changes. I’m a bit haunted by that interview to be honest, it’s not a very hopeful outlook.

Key areas to achieve this include transport, food, and construction. City planning needs to adapt to the promotion of walking and biking, a shift toward public transport, as well as the electrification of transport. Homes and workplaces will become more connected and localised. Meanwhile, international freight transport and aviation cannot continue to grow at current rates.

As with transport, the global food system will need to be overhauled. Climate change and oil-intensive agriculture have unearthed the dangers of countries becoming dependent on food imports from a few main production areas. A shift toward food self-sufficiency across both poorer and richer countries will be essential. And ultimately, dairy and meat should make way for largely plant-based diets.