Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Let's try to land on the moon
There is much comment at the moment about the state of the economy: take a look at the financial crisis emerging from the sub-prime mortgage fiasco (and, let us not forget, a massively liberalised, securitised, debt-crazed decade or two’s momentum behind it…); the oil price; and global food prices. Some serious shit is afoot.
The environmental ‘movement’ – that is, a loose assembly of institutions and individuals that place particular importance on the environmental dimension to human affairs – is wondering whether this combination of circumstances is a threat (because everyone – the general public, business and the politicians – will stop all this environmental nonsense now that there’s some serious inflation/unemployment/recession to worry about) or an opportunity (because now is the time to show how a low-carbon economy can be forged from the wreckage).
Among the latter optimists – of whom I am one – there seem to be two camps. (At least, that’s what I deduce having attended an interesting event the other day organised by Green Alliance.) One group believes that the way forward is to mobilise the many millions of people that belong to an environmental group – Friends of the Earth, RSPB, the National Trust – and who, through that membership, dwarf the mainstream political parties, to make it clear to the body politic how important it is that the environment takes centre stage in tackling and then recovering from our present economic woes.
The second perspective – promoted, in that meeting at least, by figures such as Colin Hines and Tom Burke, as well as myself – is that the ambition should be to make an economic argument at the heart of the economic establishment, for it is there that the key decisions will be made. Hines, working with Caroline Lucas, is calling for a ‘New Deal’, harking back not to the New Labour manoeuvres on employment of the late nineties, but the economic reconstruction by Roosevelt back in the 1930s.
I’m hoping, of course, that ‘the economics of enough’ makes some sort of contribution here, but I’m wondering whether the Roosevelt approach is sufficient. I find myself thinking about Kennedy, and the moon-landings, and whether a grand statement, a big and thrilling plan is what is needed. How would it be, do you think, if we had a politician big enough to stand up and say: OK, enough with all this nonsense, we are capable of building a genuine low-carbon world, and we’re going to do it here, starting now, and we’re going to get it done by 2020, lock stock and full smoking barrel.
Would we join in?
Next time, I’ll turn to what the Government has been saying recently about how to make a low carbon economy. Sadly, it’s not very encouraging.