At this point, we feel like either we are digressing or we are getting lost. How do we go from dealing with the climate change problems to facing off all the political, social and economic problems of the world? We suspect that they are probably all connected but it does not help us to address the main issue on hand. Somehow we have to figure out a way to not let this mess confuse us and lose sight of the big picture.
To start over, we try a different approach. We keep hearing that the climate change problem is complicated. We conjure in our minds this image of a yarn ball unspooled in a tangled web. We figure that if we want to unwind this mess, one sensible move may be to find one of the loose ends that can hopefully lead us to the root of the problem and eventually straighten everything out.
With this method, we attempt to look for that one loose end which may help to unravel the mystery of this tangled mess. We restart with the following list of statements:
There is no meaningful climate change solution if there is no collective political will.
There is no collective political will if there is no overwhelming grassroots support.
There is no overwhelming grassroots support if there is no unharried citizenry.
There is no unharried citizenry if there is no work-life balance.
There is no work-life balance if there is no secured livelihood.
There is no secured livelihood if there is no robust economy.
There is no robust economy if there is no capitalism.
If these statements are all true, then the logical conclusion will be: There is no meaningful climate change solution if there is no capitalism. But wait a minute, we thought it is the unbridled capitalism that is causing climate change, or is it? At this point, we are downright dejected and despondent going around in a full circle and ending up right where we start.
Maybe the rest of the world is wrestling with that, too. Maybe that is why they cannot come up with a comprehensive and radical climate mitigation action plan that all the world leaders would sign on and ratify at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) in December 2015. Maybe that is why the climate scientists and activists cannot seem to be able to rally enough support for collective actions even though they have been sounding the alarm bell of calamitous climate change as loud as they can. The major resistance seems to stem from the perceived enormous economic costs or negative economic impacts that are on people’s minds more than anything else. It is definitely the ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ moment. How can we not disrupt the economic engine that keeps the world running while not letting it to bulldoze us at the same time?
If we assume that capitalism is what causes climate change, then how do we still support a robust economy without capitalism? Does it mean there will be no robust economy if there is no capitalism? Is capitalism the only way to drive our economy forward? Can we replace capitalism? Can we tweak capitalism? If we say yes to capitalism, does it mean business-as-usual and there is no stopping climate change? If we say no to capitalism, does it mean economic disaster and there will be no support and financial resources to stop climate change? Are we destined to be in a futile pursuit like a dog chasing its own tail?
These are really hard questions and they are way over our heads. But we are determined not to let it stop us from exploring for answers and options. Obviously, capitalism is the lynchpin of the whole conundrum. Capitalism is the elephant in the room. Maybe it is time to take a deeper look at capitalism. Is capitalism a prerequisite for a healthy economy?
We know that capitalism is keeping the world humming along. We know that capitalism has battled and won over communism in most democratic countries and is integral to democracy due to its free market participation concept. We know that capitalism dictates the American economic system which dictates the American way of life of her citizens and it is believed to have turned America into the richest and most powerful nation in the world. We know that we owe our current high living standard to capitalism, especially for those who are living in the Western democracies as compared to other communist states. Even communist China has to open its door to the capitalists to become the economic powerhouse presently. We know how it almost feels like a heresy to attack capitalism.
However, something is amiss here. Obviously, capitalism has its merits, which are probably responsible for our society’s progress up to this point. But what about its demerits? Even though we may have collectively accepted that its merits outweigh its demerits in the past, now comes a critical time to consider something other than business-as-usual if we are to have a future at all. Barring a miracle, we cannot practically scrap the current economic system and replace it with another system that is not tested and proven. More realistically, we should target at a capitalism makeover than a capitalism substitute. We believe if we bring the current capitalism’s flaws into the spotlight, there may be a chance to bring about a new and improved capitalist model. How about a ‘benevolent capitalism’?
Let us imagine what if…