(This is considered cheating I supposed, since I haven’t finish reading the book (my excuse: I started to read the 2005 edition from the library just to be given the revised 2007 edition by the module leader) when I was to write this review and submit it for marking, but here it is. Wish me luck for my exam tomorrow)
The title itself, probably due to my limited English, is intriguing, heightening my curiosity. It is, by all means, a book classified in the category of ‘environment’ and from my background knowledge I know that to a certain extent capitalism as an economic system is one of the villain when it comes to environmental issues – but the title still does not give me a clear idea on what the author, Jonathon Porritt actually wanted to put forward in his book.
But the curiosity induced by the title works well in making sure that I finish this book, maintaining the same level of excitement throughout the process as it is actually proposing a new model of capitalism, which he claims can bring about sustainability that we are all aiming for – a term he defined as the capacity for continuance into the long term future. Reluctantly everyone must admit that in working towards this destination, we are limited to work within the realms of capitalism. And here the author proposes a model, a brand new capitalism which works ‘as if the world matters’, as opposed to the current capitalism which goes on ‘as if the world does not matter’.
If there is another reason why I could not stop reading this book, it would be the incredibly smooth flow of arguments and foundation-laying. In convincing readers that remodelling capitalism is not an option anymore, Porritt starts by emphasising that climate change is already here eventually with a rock solid proof that it is more than a nightmare, and successfully convinces, at least me, that the current pace of tackling this issue is unbelievably slow.
And the sluggishness of the pace is something strange, despite so many alarming news on how climate change affect our lives – and Porritt suggests a very good reason for this. It is the technocrats, scientists, environmentalists – the learned among the society who fail to persuade the society into believing that changes are desirable rather than just something necessary, and win their hearts and minds into taking action. Desirable, is the keyword, as he says:
“If anything is going to make sustainable development genuinely desirable to very large numbers of people in such a compelling way that they come to embrace the necessity for change, it must surely be the possibility that sustainable development could change their lives by putting personal wellbeing and happiness at the very heart of its offer to citizens.”
The changes that the author put forward, the modelling of the ‘capitalism as if the world matters’ is ultimately reconciling sustainable development (SD) and capitalism – with some modifications on the economic system and SD itself, of course. As the current model is just incapable of accommodating SD, with all natural capital being liquidified at a rate like never before and the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, the challenge would be for SD to be reframed. Rather than giving the notion that moving towards sustainability is just something that will not work with the basic idea of profit-making in capitalism, Porritts stresses, it should be more about new opportunities in wealth making – serving well the self-interested nature of human but with some responsibility involved. Serious political steps will never be taken unless such changes are taken, as all countries are more concern with growth and if only SD can allow growth to occur that it will be accepted.
I have no problem accepting this whole new idea of capitalism, though earlier the basic assumption that there is no other option but to work within capitalism sounds rather pessimistic to me, but Porritt at the end goes on saying, to my agreement:
“If, as a politically active environmentalist or campaigner for social justice, one’s answer to the question is that they are, indeed, mutually exclusive (that capitalism, in whichever manifestation, is in its very essence inherently unsustainable), then one’s only morally consistent response is to devote one’s political activities to the overthrow of capitalism”.
Well, I’d say that total change is the best way, but still, this is definitely a book to be read by policy-makers, politicians, business leaders and environmental campaigners alike – for there are lessons to be learnt.
The biggest lesson I get?
To live on this planet as if I intended to go on living here forever – that is sustainable development.
In 345 pages of this book, probably you will find yours somewhere.