The stuff paradox… (Shumpeter, The Economist)
Almost 50 years before Extinction Rebellion, a British-born protest movement, exported its brand of climate activism to the world, young Americans did so on Earth Day, April 22nd 1970.
The youth then was more bell-bottomed than nowadays but felt no less “bamboozled and cheated” (as The Economist put it at the time) that their elders were bequeathing them a wrecked planet.
Their main concern was different from today’s: unbridled economic growth and consumerism would, they warned, swiftly exhaust the world’s resources. Their Malthusian concerns proved misguided. Raw materials have never come close to running out. Now the focus has turned from scarcity to excess—specifically, of carbon dioxide in the air. In the past 50 years the burning of fossil fuels has more than doubled its concentration, accelerating global warming with its potentially calamitous consequences. Andrew McAfee of the mit Sloan School of Management thinks that these fears, too, are overblown. Humankind, he posits in a new book, “More From Less”, is reaching “peak stuff”—though people consume more, businesses use fewer resources to make it. With an anti-capitalist crusade focused on a surfeit of stuff once again gathering steam among eco-socialists, it is a timely assertion. Sadly, it is an oversimplification. more…