His point is that the greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts of Britons and Americans is not measured by what we spew from our own territory. It is measured by the global impact of our consumption. Much of the pollution we blame on China is actually generated to fill our own closets.
When I was a youth, working for Ralph Nader, I helped produce a conference on environmentalism, focusing specifically on energy. Yes, even then we were talking about renewable energy. Dr. Benjamin Spock came to talk about his own solar heated house -- in 1978. Hazel Henderson spoke about the fundamental error of confusing gross national product with human well being.I was the projectionist for a very nice little film called A Place to Live, about the Shelter Institute in Maine. I'm not sure they have the right idea after all -- country living, even if it's relatively energy efficient, can't be the option for most people. But the point is, even before a lot of people were thinking about climate change, we knew damn well that the fossil-fuel powered industrial economy could not just keep on growing forever.
Well, we also had a speaker from -- I think it was the NAACP, might have been another civil rights organization -- whose sole agenda was to let us know that calling for a "no growth" economy was a luxury for wealthy people. Economic growth was the only way to lift people out of poverty, and it had to be accelerated, not restrained.
As Monbiot writes:
Unsurprisingly, hardly anyone wants to talk about this, as the only meaningful response is a reduction in the volume of stuff we consume. And this is where even the most progressive governments’ climate policies collide with everything else they represent. As Mustapha Mond points out in Brave New World, “industrial civilization is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning”.
The wheels of the current economic system – which depends on perpetual growth for its survival – certainly. The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.We have seen a reduction in the amount of fossil fuel consumed per unit of total output, but it has been overwhelmed by overall growth. The fact is that humanity as a whole is far wealthier than ever, but that wealth is more concentrated in few hands than ever before. We don't need more growth to lift people out of poverty, we need more justice. But we haven't a clue how to get there, and nobody is even talking about it. No, we can't keep on growing forever. It is a mathematical impossibility. Continued exponential growth, even at what we would now consider a fairly low rate, means that humanity will devour the solar system in a couple of hundred years. Since that won't happen, what will?