Speth, A Bridge at the Edge of the World Thesis: environmental movement has failed to prevent continuing ecological deterioration. World faces a global environmental crisis that requires remaking modern civilization. It is a failure that reaches many spheres of national life—economic, social, political, and environmental. America can be said to be in crisis in each of these four areas. Deep, systemic change is needed to transition to a new economy, one where the acknowledged priority is to sustain human and natural communities.
What Crises? Economic: Great Recession brought on by Wall Street financial excesses has stripped tens of millions of middle class Americans of their jobs, homes, and retirement assets and plunged many into poverty and despair. Social: extreme and growing inequality has been unraveling America’s social fabric for several decades. A tiny minority has experienced soaring incomes and accumulated grand fortunes, while wages for working people have stagnated despite rising productivity gains and poverty has risen to a near 30-year high. Environmental: driven by excessive human consumption and waste and a spate of terrible technologies, is disrupting Earth’s climate, reducing Earth’s capacity to support life. Political: reflected in governmental paralysis and a democracy that is weak, shallow, and corrupted—”the best democracy that money can buy”.
Capitalism: Propositions Proposition 1: today’s political economy--modern capitalism, is destructive of the environment in ways that profoundly threaten the planet. People will therefore demand solutions, and current system will not be able to accommodate them, so the system will be forced to change, perhaps in the unfortunate context of some time of environmental crisis or breakdown. Proposition 2: affluent societies have reached or soon will have reached the point where, as Keynes put it, the economic problem has been solved; the long era of ceaseless striving to overcome hardship and deprivation can soon be over; there is enough to go around. Proposition 3: In more affluent societies, modern capitalism is no longer enhancing human well-being, either objective or subjective well-being, and is instead producing a stressed and ultimately unsatisfactory social reality; people are increasingly dissatisfied and looking for something more meaningful; this dissatisfaction will grow and force change.
Capitalism: Propositions Proposition 4: international social movement for change – which refers to itself as “the irresistible rise of global anti-capitalism” – is stronger than many imagine and will grow stronger; there is a coalescing of forces: peace, social justice, community, ecology, feminism – a movement of movements; meanwhile, … weakened democracy and failed environmental politics [in America and elsewhere] are themselves ripe for transformation. Proposition 5: people and groups are busily planting the seeds of change through a host of alternative arrangements, and still other attractive directions for upgrading to a new operating system have been identified; these innovations can transform the current system Proposition 6: End of the Cold War and the West’s long struggle against communism opens the door – creates the political space – for the questioning of today’s capitalism.
Solutions 1. New Consciousness: [quoting Vaclav Havel] “we must develop a new understanding of the true purpose of our existence on this Earth … new models of behaviour and a new set of values for the planet.” 1. New Politics: “environmental politics cannot succeed with only a narrowly defined environmental constituency.” Environmentalists must collaborate and connect with diverse communities and support their causes “not just to build the case for reciprocal support, and not just because the objectives are worthy, but also because environmental goals will not be realized unless these other causes succeed.” These other causes are the causes of “union members, working families, minorities and people of color, religious organizations, the women’s movement and other communities of complementary interest and shared fate.” Causes through “domestic political reforms, the liberal social agenda, human rights, international peace, consumer issues, world health and population concerns, and world poverty and underdevelopment.”
Critiques general leftist social agenda under cover of environmentalism? Blames the wrong sector—not environmentalists fault, but the political and economic institutions? Environmental problems are less severe today—than “in earlier days of contaminated water supplies, choking coal-dust laden fogs, deforestation, etc.” Is Capitalism really the problem? How we use capitalism? Guns vs. people who use them?
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