Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sustainability Salon

Gosh darn, I was on the road and missed my local, monthly, ideas salon last night.

The topic was sustainability and the limits to growth. I hear that, in my absence, the session's instigator, ring master and sage leader read a statement of mine, as follows:

Since capitalism (especially multi-national corporate capitalism) seems to be the most "growth-oriented" of all economic systems, how can we reconcile capitalism with the obvious limits to growth? And what about the personal freedoms on which capitalism depends, such as the private ownership of multiple houses, multiple cars, multiple children, the accumulation of piles of stuff, and the private ownership of increasingly fragile and valuable crop land and water resources?

Won't we, at some point, have to legislate the END of this free reign? Whether we like it or not, won't we have to set limits on private ownership and consumption to stave off ever more burdensome and dangerous catastrophes?

I hear that the reading of my questions and concerns raised the hackles of some in attendance, especially, it would seem, the free-marketeers, even to the point of heated debate. (In the salon, as here and elsewhere, I see my role to be that of rabble rouser, as we need more "out of the box" risk-takers in our dithering diatribes.) What? Do Americans cherish the freedom not only to make fools of themselves but to lead the way in wrecking a planet more than they cherish communal virtues and our responsibilities for each other? (OK, don't answer that!)

Perhaps my Big Q's were out of the box -- but not out of line. Good lord, what a bunch of political pussyfooters! Even liberals are closet conservatives in this country! My concerns are in line with those of Paul Hawken in his book Natural Capitalism, with those of Herman E. Daly in his book Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development, and with those of Bill McKibben in his new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.


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