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GREENINGS: Capitalist truths exposed (May 2020)

June 15th, 2020 · No Comments

It’s time to focus on survival

By Terri Chu

India’s population of 1.3 billion people is in a state of “lockdown” until May 3. One of the initial impacts was a massive wave of migrants, suddenly jobless, walking hundreds of kilometres to their home-communities. In the country’s most populated state, Uttar Pradesh, state officials have instructed village councillors not to allow returning labourers in. In India and around the world, Coronavirus is laying bare a capitalistic hard-truth: the poor are expendable. 

In Texas, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told Fox News that he and other grandparents would be willing to risk their health and even their lives to get the US back to work and maintain the “America that America loves.” That America would never ask those same grandparents to drive a smaller car for their grandchildren’s future.

Governor Patrick is not alone in his sentiments. There’s plenty of rumbling out there, among the corporate elites especially, that agree: saving the lives of 1-3% of the population is too high a price to pay for a shut-down in the economy.

I’d imagine these same people believe the poor should be “pulling up their bootstraps,” and advocating for “trickle down economics.” If you live on the bottom, you know how that theory works, and likely won’t be surprised to hear this same approach being described as the horse-and-sparrow theory: if you feed the horse enough oats, some will fall to the road for the sparrows. In a world dominated by such beliefs, who would ever want to be a sparrow?

The veneer of caring about the poor is thinly veiled, and a weak excuse for the global failure in the fight against climate change. How can we possibly believe this punishing and destructive economic system could possibly be upheld in the name of supporting the poorest among us? The poor are disproportionally impacted by climate change, and no increase in GDP will rescue them from hurricanes and rising sea levels.

It’s been 28 years since Kyoto was signed. It has proven to be a broken promise that we would look out for the wellbeing of future generations, as emissions have continued to trend upwards. In the name of the economy, we were either unwilling or unable to come off our oil addiction. I am hopeful that this pandemic is the jolt we needed to realize that infinite growth economics was only “working” for the 0.1% of society.  We are learning how little we actually need to survive. We don’t need to jet-set around the world every few months. We don’t need fast fashion. We don’t need to drive around pointlessly. There’s so much we have been doing that added nothing to our standards of living or mental health. This is the wake up call to remind us that the life is meaningless next to dollars in this system. This is our chance to get out of it. 

The environment cannot sustain infinite economic growth, and it turns out, neither can we. Now we know we don’t have to. The unicorn is exposed for what it is: a fairy tale. People are angry. The youth are angry. We can and should do better. Do you hear the people sing?

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy use, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths. Send questions, comments, and ideas for future columns to Terri at terri.chu@whyshouldicare.ca.

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Tags: Annex · Life