A bit of a setback is that in science, there isn’t enough controversy because somehow the book was discarded by many. Not everyone. Many consider it a doomsday prophecy. To be sure, we were not successful among economists at the time.
Wired: Presumably economists don’t like it much because growth is inherent in capitalism.and unchecked Growth is really insane, ecologically destructive growth built into the system at all costs.
CAP: What the system does, as a mechanism to keep growing at all costs, is to actually burn the future. And the future is the least renewable resource. We can’t reuse the time when we started the conversation. By building a more debt-driven system — we continue to consume, but by creating more and more debt — what we’re actually doing is wasting or stealing people’s time in the future. Because their time will be used to pay off the debt.
Wired: It’s clear that we will eventually run out of limited resources. But when the report came out, some even objected to the idea. Where does this persistence come from?
CAP: Paradoxically, capitalism is also based on the concept of scarcity. Our systems are organized around the idea of scarcity of resources, then we have to pay for them, and people in the value chain benefit from this idea of scarcity. Traditional capitalism says that while these resources may be limited, we will find others: Don’t worry, technology will save us. So we proceed in the same way.
Wired: 50 years since the original report, are we on the right path as a species?
CAP: No, if you look at reality. No, especially, if you just look at what governments and corporations do, if you look at what policymakers decide, and the governance systems we have, whether national or global. We are no better at pollution because we have a warming climate, an existing problem. We are no better at biodiversity. We are not on inequality. So there are many reasons to say no.
But there are also good reasons to be optimistic about the will. And those reasons may be less obvious, less obvious, and less obvious in the headlines in the media and elsewhere. We definitely think there is an ongoing cultural change, often hidden in plain sight. Many people are trying, often at the community level, to try to find their own way to achieve a balance of happiness within a healthy biosphere. The change that gives me hope is the change in the status of women, the increase in the role of women. I would say if you look at what’s happening with the younger generation, there’s also a big change.
So politically, at the corporate level, at the official level, things are going in the wrong direction. Culturally, below the bottom line, I bet a lot of things are going in the right direction. A human revolution is already happening – we just don’t see it. Maybe it’s a good thing we haven’t seen it until the moment it changes a lot of things.