It’s not just American paychecks that can no longer support or sustain unmitigated consumerism – it’s also the planet. When David Brooks or Fed chief Ben Bernanke or even “progressive economists” talk about “consumer spending” as key to “getting the economy back on track,” they fail to take into consideration the finite nature of that living, breathing organism we call Earth, without which we all perish.
Author and environmentalist Richard Heinberg drives home this point in his book, “The End of Growth,” making a compelling — and I would argue readily apparent – case that that the world and everyone in it is subject to environmental limits. And unless we are willing to recognize and come to terms with the fatal flaw of conventional economics and its primary article of faith — that these limits don’t exist and that anything can be replaced for the right price – it’s game over.
The current “financial crisis,” is only a symptom of a much deeper disease – one whose manifestations are being experienced (and are in full evidence) all over the world: Our lives and livelihoods are being wrecked, not just by debt, but by resource depletion, accelerating climate change and environmental devastation.
Those lives and livelihoods won’t be “saved” unless and until we reconcile this deeper dilemma.
There just isn’t time to confront the corporate purveyors of the wreckage we see all around us in an inch-by-inch, piece-by-piece fashion. That may have worked (to a limited extent) in the past. But it’s the 21st century, and the stakes are far too high now for incremental approaches. The models — from community gardens to solar rooftops to small banks that serve the interests of the community – are there. We need to draw from those models NOW – then pursue them with a vengeance.
Disabling the corporate plutocracy means never forgetting who it is that keeps the plutocrats on top and enables them to condemn the rest of us to a life of “consumer servitude.” It means remembering that it is we, and we alone, who have the power to change the course of history. If we refuse to fight, there can be no war; if we refuse to work in jobs that destroy our planet, our future and our souls, we can transform the workplace.
It has never been more clear than now, in the 21st century, that dissent is the essence of democracy.