What creates a bit of frustration is that in the scientific field there was not enough controversy, because somehow the book was rejected by many. Not by everyone. By many it was dismissed as an apocalyptic prophecy. And that’s for sure, we didn’t have any success with the economists of the time.
WIRED: Presumably the economists didn’t like it too much because growth is inherent in capitalism. And unchecked growth really, a sort of maniacal, ecologically destructive growth at all costs that is built into the system.
CAP: What the system has done, as a mechanism to pursue growth at any cost, is actually burn the future. And the future is the least renewable resource. There’s no way to reuse the time we had when we started this conversation. And by building a system that’s more debt-driven – where we’re maintaining consumption, but creating more and more debt – what we’re really doing is burning or stealing people’s time in the future . Because their time will be spent paying off the debt.
WIRED: It seems obvious that we will eventually run out of limited resources. But that idea was even pushed back when the report came out. Where does this insistence come from?
CAP: The paradox is that capitalism is also based on the notion of scarcity. Our system is organized around the idea that resources are scarce, so we have to pay for them, and people in the value chain will take advantage of this idea of scarcity. Conventional capitalism says that while these resources may be limited, we will find others: Don’t worry, technology will save us. As we continue in the same way.
WIRED: 50 years after the original report, are we on the right track as a species?
CAP: No, if you look at reality. And no, in particular, if you only look at what governments and companies do, if you look at what decision makers decide, and the systems of governance that we have, whether national or global. We are no better off in terms of pollution, because we have global warming, an existential issue. We are no better in terms of biodiversity. We are not in terms of inequality. So there are plenty of reasons to say no.
But there are also good reasons for Optimism of the will. And those reasons are perhaps less obvious, less obvious, less in media headlines and elsewhere. We truly believe there is a cultural shift taking place often hidden in plain sight. Many are experimenting, often at the community level, trying to find their own paths to this balance of well-being within a healthy biosphere. One change that gives me hope is the change in the status of women, the increasing roles of women. And I would say that if you look at what is happening with the younger generations, there is also a big change.
So politically, at the corporate level, at the official level, things are pretty much going in the wrong direction. Culturally, below the line, my bet is that a lot is going in the right direction. The human revolution is already underway, we just don’t see it. And maybe it’s good that we don’t see it yet, until the very moment when it makes a lot of things happen.