Monday, February 25, 2008

Why sticking to old ways of thinking is stupid

I just read an article which tried to critique the Clive Hamilton view of affluenza, "Why Downsizing Won't Work" by Akshay Shanker. It's a relatively immature effort to defend the economic fetish with growth while paying lip service to environmentalism/conservation.

His basic premise was that affluence (eg. in post-Industrial Britain) could create the awareness and general social conditions that gave rise to the conservation movement and stimulated action to combat climate change and so therefore more affluence would mean more conservation and action to combat climate change. In other words, we keep our growth-focused economic policies in place and, voila, climate change mess begone!
...the view that modern capitalist society is too affluent is incorrect - and dangerous. Modern capitalism is poor. The key to a more sustainable future lies in more growth and more affluence, not de-development...
It's a nice thought experiment, but I don't think it's a very smart or accurate prediction. I just don't think it makes sense to extrapolate this much older trend and suggest greater affluence could somehow magically solve environmental problems. It's as stupid as "well one woman can make a baby in nine months so let's get nine women working together to create one in just a month". Sometimes a little consideration of the deeper logic makes you realise how unintuitive an idea really is.

A reader named Stephen Kennedy commented after me and said "Can anyone spell 'paradigm shift'? We are not spending our way out of this one," and I really agree.

What do you think?

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