George Monbiot today on the inherent problem of consumerism and economic growth.

Governments urge us both to consume more and to conserve more. We must extract more fossil fuel from the ground, but burn less of it. We should reduce, reuse and recycle the stuff that enters our homes, and at the same time increase, discard and replace it. How else can the consumer economy grow? We should eat less meat to protect the living planet, and eat more meat to boost the farming industry. These policies are irreconcilable. The new analyses suggest that economic growth is the problem, regardless of whether the word sustainable is bolted to the front of it.

It’s not just that we don’t address this contradiction; scarcely anyone dares even name it. It’s as if the issue is too big, too frightening to contemplate. We seem unable to face the fact that our utopia is also our dystopia; that production appears to be indistinguishable from destruction.

It’s a tricky article if you’re not into economics and you might have to hold tight through the explanation of “decoupling” but it really is worth it if you want to think further about the social value of Escapological traits like minimalism and quitting your job.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

5 Responses to “Doublespeak”

  1. Spoonman says:

    I have a feeling that we will just let the engine of capitalism (in its current form) run until it’s too late for the planet. If we ever make it off world (such as Mars and the moons of Jupiter) maybe that will take some of the environmental load off our planet. Presumably on Mars and other places there wouldn’t be a biosphere to worry about, so capitalism can run its course without that constraint. But again, by then it might be too late.

  2. Ah, we’ll never make it off-planet in any serious way. We don’t have enough time or resource. If we’re not careful, Earth will be the next Easter Island!

    Away from this blog I’ve been talking with a friend about conservation. A possible alternative is accelerationism, though I don’t fully understand it and I think it’s a risk.

  3. Nrgmiserncaz says:

    We will not be resettling on Mars or the Moon or anywhere else. Thermodynamics makes that option unreasonable from an energetic standpoint. Fossil fuels have made the consumerist project seem normal but it will be like a 200-300 year blip on the human timeline. Fossil fuels have allowed us to over-consume but their rapid use will be our ultimate loss.

    To quote the Archdruid (, “Collapse now and avoid the rush”.

  4. Inclined to agree. Possibly not though: there’s always accelerationism to think about. But yes. Inclined to agree.

  5. chris says:

    Without yet reading the article, part of the reason is this awful engine of ‘globalisation’ is convincing countries that they need to get ahead and stay ahead by increasing their GDP (output/productivity value) year on year and if they decrease growth then a spiralling recession resulting in unemployment will result which if continued into the long term will reduce demand for goods and services, supply and output will fall and ultimately lead to hits on currency and in real terms, the country will become less competitive and less important in global terms. DO i care? not really because the UK can bail out of the top table and invest in free energy and become like Denmark/Norway – what more do we need? lose the ego and use the brain, **ck USA’s obese obsession with capitalism

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