We are facing planet-wide extinction, a climate emergency — and our current course is suicidal.
That is the underlying belief of author and scientist Richard Smith, who is Jeff Schechtman’s guest on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast.
Smith believes that our current model of capitalism, with virtually unlimited growth and consumption, cannot sustain a planetary population of nine billion people. He tells Schechtman that we do not need most of what we consume, and that our current behavior must stop. But Smith’s Jeremiad goes even further.
He talks about the need to stop building planes and cars, to ration air travel and fishing, to nationalize and take public control of the fossil fuel industry, to close down oil companies and many manufacturers of disposable consumer goods, and to make less stuff. He understands that this may mean putting whole industries out of business and people out of work, but he thinks it’s the only way to keep the planet habitable for humans.
As just one solution, Smith talks about the need for global agreements on everything. That nation-states should no longer make many of the decisions they do now. That we need global plebiscites, a contraction or elimination of capitalism, and more global equality. Anything short of this, he argues, will bring the collapse of civilization.
It’s a radical set of views, but powerful food for thought.
Smith is the author of Green Capitalism: The God That Failed (College Publications, 2016).