Is There a Future for Capitalism and the Consumer Economy with the Climate Crisis?

Yes, that’s a loaded question.  First of all, they both are the reason we have the climate crisis in the first place.  Second, that is how we live.  We are entrenched in this system, and there seems to be no way out.  We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Maybe you are wondering why we can’t just switch to renewable energy and go on with business as usual.  This is not only energy for our homes and cars we are talking about here.  Capitalism and the consumer economy supports all of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing plants, distribution centers, offices, and Big Box stores that sell all of the products we buy around the world . . . that we really could get along without.  Well, most of them.

Right now, massive amounts of fossil fuels are burned for energy to provide heat, electricity, and air conditioning 24/7 for those buildings, and they are not small.  Then there is the extreme extraction of resources to manufacture those products, and all the embodied energy that goes into them.  Again, embodied energy is all the energy from start to finish to produce each item.  Many products require at a minimum 8-9 manufacturing plants and processes for just that one product.  There is also the planting, harvesting, and transportation for fruits and vegetables, along with ingredients for thousands of processed food products.

So maybe you are still thinking, fine, we will just slap some solar panels on them and go on with business as usual.   Then, we will just dig more massive holes to extract the resources for those solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries needed for energy storage.  This is also a global issue so this will need to happen everywhere.  Did I mention we live on a finite planet with only so many resources to produce all of those solar panels, etc.?

Let’s also revisit the silver mine in Mexico where extracting silver produces mounds of toxic tailings.   Jason Hickel’s article in Foreign Policy, “The Limits of Clean Energy” on September 6, 2019 states this mound at this particular silver mine was 7 miles around and 50 stories high.  He says that we will need 130 of these mines to provide silver for our “clean” energy.  And, this is only one of the many resources needed for renewable energy from solar and wind.  Can we really afford to mar up the planet with any more holes? 

In our current system, people have to work to live so we have to have jobs, so we can’t just blame the corporations for the mess we are in because besides having to work, we “love” all those products spewed out of the hundreds of thousands of factories.  Hmmm.  Scientists say we have about nine more years to turn this around, and that doesn’t mean we start turning it around nine years from now.

We need to stop all this nonsense NOW.

You are right.  No one wants to hear that.  Corporations don’t want to be told to stop what they are making, and people need a paycheck to live . . . and redo the bathroom, get a new car, take that cruise, etc.

Houdini couldn’t get out of this one.

Who invented this system anyway?  How will we get out of this mess?  Let’s add that most people live in cities today, which complicates things even more.  The industrial revolution created this mass migration to the cities for manufacturing jobs where before everyone was living an agrarian lifestyle.  A reverse migration is in order to address the climate crisis.  How possible is that?

What economic system do we create now?  Do we have to have one?  Yes, Naomi Klein in her book, “This Changes Everything” points a finger at the corporation and how brutally we treat Nature through extreme extraction but in my mind she never went far enough to mention consumers and working to live.  We are again entrenched.  And, no one wants to give up their toys.

I am sorry but we can’t just switch to renewable energy and go on with business as usual manufacturing all this stuff we don’t need . . . forget the new big screen TV, fancy cars, newest fashions, jewelry, computers for everyone, the newest Smart or iPhone, vacation cruises, pet costumes, movie theaters, water parks, Halloween candy and costumes, not to mention the cereal, snack, pop, candy, TV dinner aisle . . . you get the picture.

Is anyone talking about degrowth?

Richard Smith in his article, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs Vs. Environment Dilemma, in Truthout, November 12, 2014, is the only one with any courage to really put it out there that we don’t need all this stuff.  He says we are going to have to choose which industries are worth keeping, and those would be caring industries.  The rest have to go.

There is a way out of this, and it isn’t making sure everyone has an electric car.  There are some things like the medical industry and schools that need to remain, and possibly some limited others.  As Richard Heinberg states in his book, “Peak Everything,” we need 50 million farmers or something along those lines. 

The documentary, “The Power of Community:  How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” is a good example of how to go forward.  Of course, we are tainted goods as capitalists in the US and brainwashed into we are all about freedom and having it our way.  As I like to remind people, you do want to live, right?

Cuba lost oil supplies from the Soviet Union when it fell apart in 1991, and everything stopped.  I don’t know how long it was between rations for the government and when they started growing food . . . everywhere.  It is a very positive documentary worth watching.

The “Economics of Happiness” is another very enlightening documentary by Helena Norberg-Hodge.  She sees firsthand what effect the consumer economy has on people and a village.  It happened to the Tibetan village she visited for many years.  All was fine.  Everyone had a home, food, pride in their culture, clothes, and young kids and the elderly were taken care of.  That all changed when the consumer truck came to their village.  This documentary is very worth the time to watch.  It also addresses how unnatural the 8-5 job is to make all these products, and how no one really likes their job.

People talk about a “just transition” for the workers in the fossil fuel industry.  We need a “just transition” for the millions of jobs lost from all of those products we won’t be producing any longer.  As a dear friend says, “All we need is food.  Everything else is optional.”

This is possible by letting go of the mess we have created and to return to basics; food and shelter.  And, that shelter doesn’t need to be 3,000 square feet either.  There is a growing movement of minimalists, local food, local everything, cooperatives, Tiny Houses, and Back-to-the-Landers that is growing and gaining momentum, all with a focus on financial freedom, as well.

This is about survival.  This is not all about the “me” culture the US has created.  That’s not going to work if we want a “humanity.” 

Let’s all survive together as a “we.”

Heinberg, Richard, “Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines,” New Society Publishers, July 15, 2010

Hickel, Jason, “The Limits of Clean Energy,” Foreign Policy, September 6, 2019

Klein, Naomi, “This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate,” Simon & Schuster, August 4, 2015

Morgan, Faith, Director, “The Power of Community:  How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, Community Solutions, May 14, 2006

Norberg-Hodge, Helena, “The Economics of Happiness,” Local Futures, November 13, 2010

Smith, Richard, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs Vs. Environment Dilemma, Truthout, November 12, 2014

4 thoughts on “Is There a Future for Capitalism and the Consumer Economy with the Climate Crisis?”

  1. […] and Big Box stores that sell all of the products we buy around the world . . . that we really could get along without. Well, most of them.

    We need to stop all this nonsense NOW.

    Well said.

    Good article, pulls no punches. I want to read more of what you have to say, so I’m now following you.

    I came here from Jill Dennison’s blog; in a reply to one of your comments she refers to ‘your Ted-X talk’… do you have a link to that, please?

    Oh, and on the subject of ‘links’, your ‘resources’ page could do with a few of them — just a suggestion.


    1. Thank you for visiting my site! I have never done a TED talk. I have done 6 videos on my blog and that is it. There is another site called anoffgridlife. Maybe they did a TED talk.

      Welcome! I appreciate your comments. Yes, my resource page could use more but I struggle to get a post out a week and that is difficult at times. I have other ideas for posts but there are over 100 posts on my blog and I start repeating myself. I made that comment on Jill’s site in 2019, I believe it says.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I have a habit of visiting random pages on people’s sites; there are many buried gems hidden in the blogosphere! My view is that just because something is old doesn’t mean that it necessarily lacks value. Sometimes, it’s quite the opposite 🙂 (If you’re interested in joining in the fun, please visit my page about ?Random Raiders!)


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