All the other parties in UK politics are wedded to an absurdity - the idea of perpetual economic growth. Even in a world without material or environmental limits, this is an absurdity. It signifies that we all aim to be infinitely rich; but what do we buy? There is only so much stuff with which most of our lives can cope, beyond is the dissatisfaction of children with too many toys. The rich buy land, privilege (exclusivity) and service. Land is finite; if we were all infinitely rich what privilege would separate us from each other; and who would serve whom?
As Donnella Meadows pointed out forty years ago in her ‘Limits to Growth’, in reality the world has boundaries. It has limits of materials, energy, water and planetary stability. While the George Osbornes and Nigel Lawsons of this world continue (without any evidence) to deny these limits, the scientific consensus strengthens year on year. A 30-year review of Meadows’ predictions (http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/limitspaper) shows how prescient they were – the world is probably already in overshoot.
The economic crash of 2007-8 may simply be one aspect of this – though politicians continue to create the illusion that that is a solved problem. The illusion is maintained by the concentration of politicians and media commentators on the absurd measure of Gross Domestic Product. Robert Kennedy pointed to the absurdity in his Kansas University speech in 1968 (see http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/24/robert-kennedy-gdp) and concluded “it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”. See also Green Thought 9
Winchester Green party organised a conference in Winchester on the subject of sustainable economics in May 2013 at which the speakers were Natalie Bennet, leader of the UK Green Party, and Miriam Kennet of the Green Economics Institute. Natalie focused on the increasing trend to underemployment and “enforced casualisation”, through reduction of rota hours and zero-hour contracts with no guarantee of work. Government does not count these people as ‘unemployed’, but, working below the living wage, they are now part of the so-called ‘Precariat’.
Natalie made the Green Party case for increasing localisation. While looking towards a more equitable world in which dwindling resources are better shared, we can see the western consensus of globalisation has brought only exploitation of the poor elsewhere. Cheap goods brought to us by the big High Street names come at the cost of sweated and dangerous labour practices.
But, even if the resentment of the world’s poor could be contained, the era of cheap food and clothing cannot last, as planetary resources dwindle, transportation costs rise and global supply chains become less secure.
Miriam’s perspective was more hopeful, seeing change coming from the grass roots. Dynamic young countries in Asia and Africa are going in for green economics because it creates the most jobs. Indonesia spends 20% of its GDP on education, while Spain, in dire straits, has a new phenomenon – Los Indignados are reclaiming the future by demanding a new fusion of ecology and equality. This is where the future lies.
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