David Trubridge advocates war on capitalism, declaring environmentalism and capitalism to face a “direct head-to-head confrontation”. He’s run out of patience with “light greens”, who he sees as “getting nowhere”.
I’m not as dark green as David. Call me medium green.
Without question, whatever is going to happen to improve living standards for those billions of people on this planet who today subsist far worse off than the poorest (or greenest) New Zealander must be environmentally sound … better still, environmentally enhancing.
The aspirations (in fact, demands) of those billions will be met – one way or the other – or the globe will face social disintegration far more rapid and violent than any ecological disaster, and as destructive.
How do those unmet needs get addressed, while those with already excessive environmental footprints begin to re-tool their lifestyles? Both need to be done, but clearly, some composting here and some low-flow shower heads there, while conscience-easing to the ‘haves’, aren’t going to solve the problem of the ‘have nots’.
So the corporate model will roll on, using market pricing and profit incentives, to produce some stuff people desperately need, and other stuff people just want. That model can produce things efficiently; however, the true costs of the resources consumed are almost never reflected in the prices we pay … as they should be.
We scarcely think twice about increasing GST to curb consumption (indiscriminately affecting our poorest), whereas the mere thought of injecting the true carbon cost of production into prices via a carbon tax is considered wildly radical. The same is true of incorporating the total lifecycle costs of products into their prices (e.g. the cost of disposing of old tyres, batteries, plastic, etc).
Proposals like these drive so-called fiscal conservatives and pro-growth politicians crazy. I would join David’s war with such ‘capitalists’. Indeed, I wish more ‘light greens’ would politicise and join the battle, and not contentedly grow worms and recycle.
But I wouldn’t denounce all capitalists. As best I can tell, David sells his products in the free market and takes a profit on each. I call that capitalist, and not dishonourable.
I also consider it honourable when businesspeople make sincere commitments to drive energy consumption, excessive packaging, disposal costs and the like out of their products. Is that as beneficial as not creating at all yet another brand of toothpaste, another version of Barbie doll, or another All Blacks tee shirt? No. But it’s beneficial.
Just as it’s beneficial when entrepreneurs launch businesses whose express purposes are to create ‘green’ benefits. I hope the guy or gal who quadruples the storage capacity of a solar battery while halving its cost gets superrich; and if she buys a yacht to celebrate, I’ll live with that.
So, for example, I applaud the recent launch of Pure Advantage by a group of New Zealand’s most successful business leaders. They believe New Zealand should seize the opportunity to be a global leader in green growth. The Green Party and Greenpeace support Pure Advantage. Sure, there’s cause for watchfulness, even cynicism, about corporate ‘greens’ and potential greenwashing. Let’s be vigilant, but also acknowledge the benefits that emerge.
Some won’t give an inch, considering ‘green growth’ an oxymoron (like ‘sustainable growth’). But given the deprivation of billions, ‘no growth’ is not an option.
So if not ‘green growth’ … what?