EARTHFUTURE.COM by Guy Dauncey
Can we replace capitalism? It has such an all-encompassing grip on our world from relentless advertising to the greed that drives the oil industry, no matter what the cost.
When I was working on my book Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable
Epidemic, a potential co-author said: youll never
end cancer until you end capitalism. I wasnt at all
sympathetic since there is good evidence that legislation has made
a solid impact in reducing the flow of toxic chemicals into our
bodies and reducing the rate of cancer.
And yet, when we stand four-square to the future and observe the simultaneous incoming storms of global warming, food shortages, peak oil, mass extinctions, and a host of other crises any one of which is enough to make us cry a global ouch, how can we not notice that the culprit behind all these problems is capitalism, the system of laws and entitlements created 250 years ago?
At the time, leading Europeans were filled with the excitement of using science, travel, trade and commerce to explore new lands, invent new technologies and break new frontiers. Londons Great Exhibition in 1851 attracted six million people who walked, cycled, and took trains to marvel at the promise of a brave new world.
Today, we stand on the far side of that promised land. The mechanisms of capitalism, combined with democracy, have created most of the comforts and freedoms we now take for granted. As a means of creating economic growth, the capitalist system has been without equal.
But all species stop growing when they reach adulthood. All humans unless they are blindly selfish and spiritually barren come to a point in their lives when they seek deeper meaning and purpose.
The capitalist approach that we used when ancient forests spread from horizon to horizon and the oceans teemed with fish becomes a total disaster when the fish and forests are nearly gone and the planet is overheating from our uninhibited use of fossil fuels. Capitalism has always been ecologically blind, treating Earths ecological web not as the source of all existence, but merely as an obstacle to greater profits.
With what, then, can we replace capitalism? The answer lies with Earth Stewardship. Earth Stewardship says we must learn how to live within the ecological realities of which we are a part. The oceans, forests, atmosphere, neighbourhood creeks and our own bodies are gifts that have been handed down to us over millions of years.
In practical terms, Earth Stewardship requires that we create new laws and institutions, such as Watershed Stewardship Councils where we can craft the agreements that will protect each watershed, while allowing for the activities we need to sustain our existence.
Piece-by-piece, law-by-law, habit-by-habit, we must weave the fabric of Earth Stewardship into our lives, placing the needs of Nature above those of profit and personal gain. We must embrace sustainable energy instead of fossil fuels, organic agriculture instead of chemical agribusiness and ecological forestry instead of clear-cutting. It is a huge, ongoing project that we need to find in every home, every farm and forest and in every bank and corporation.
It must happen both locally and globally. Neighbourhood groups can persuade residents to place conservation covenants on their land, while global treaties can declare portions of the ocean off-limits to fishing.
Earth Stewardship is not anti-business or anti-free markets, which are effective systems to produce the goods and services we need. Earth Stewardship, unlike capitalism, simply says that all business and markets must respect Nature instead of ravaging and dominating it.
Only a selfish two-year old believes it can have its own way, regardless of the impact on the rest of the family. Capitalism speaks to the infant in us. Earth Stewardship speaks to the family as a whole.
It need not be a difficult transition. One day, children will hopefully study capitalism as they currently do hunter-gatherer and feudal societies. The transition is needed now, however there is not a day to lose.
Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association
(www.bcsea.org) and author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions
to Global Climate Change. www.earthfuture.com