The economic system we live in is driven by the compulsion to take what you can in the shortest time possible without giving anything back. In that spirit, accumulating wealth is supposed to bring well-being, stability and tranquillity that you can pass on to your descendants to ensure that they do not have to start from scratch, as you or your parents did. Deep down, you work hard all your life to give your children a head start in the long and arduous race for survival. “Having more is better”, and accumulate is a sign of health and prosperity.
Under this relentless logic, who is willing to give up their place in the fight for resources that seem scarce? Those who have more, those who have less, or those who have almost nothing? Where is the reduction in consumption -that we need to stop the crazed wheel of progress based on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions that are killing us- going to come from? Not from the poor, of course, because their family depends on that scrap they manage to reach and because they rarely achieve more than what is necessary to survive (if you think I’m exaggerating, please honestly ask yourself if you could live on the minimum wage). It is tragicomic, but many of the poor countries of the Global South are not even in a climate crisis because they do not have the necessary resources to produce emissions. However, they will be the most affected by the consequences of climate change. Even more, they urgently need to produce more emissions to feed, clothe and educate their impoverished population.
But, on the other hand, the rich countries are not willing to give in, but for a very different reason. The excessive economic growth of these societies has produced the vast majority of the greenhouse gases that have us in the current climate crisis.
Since they started polluting earlier, they have accumulated the gains of progress. So they will stay in the prosperous places they are, seeking to entertain themselves and wait until the party is over. Isn’t that what the Pandora Papers show?
The scientific, artistic, and social progress that the developed world countries are proud of has been produced at the cost of global pollution and theft. Therefore, we should keep it in mind when queuing and paying to enter the magnificent and expensive European museums.
The idea that economic growth is the primary duty of the economy and that society must adapt or submit to this principle has been taught to us as common sense. None of the 20th-century ideologies has been as powerful and effective in their indoctrination as capitalism. This fact led the philosopher Frederic Jameson to say years ago: “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism”. Chan!
From Azerbaijan to Paris, passing through Bolivia, Zambia and Rotterdam, the ideas that well-being comes from material progress and that the exploitation of nature is the only way to ensure the material progress of society have been imposed through creating environmental depredation. But paradoxically, the progress, wealth and well-being achieved by countries at the cost of mortgaging their future have not been equally distributed within affluent and developing countries. A test? Every Paris has its Bangladesh, and every Bangladesh has its opulent Paris.
We have quite a few tools to imagine the end of the world; among the newest, we have the latest IPCC report, Save de Children, or the Oxfam reports. But, unfortunately, to imagine the end of capitalism, we have nothing. So if you think you can imagine it, go ahead and tell me what would the day after the world revolution look like?
Photo: Sebastián Silva: https://la-periferia-interior.tumblr.com/