We can’t save the environment without changing the economy

Nathan Brown, 5th February 2020

Transition doesn’t just require personal change, we also need to look at structural changes to our society and economies. We need to do things differently. In this talk, Nathan Brown – from Co-op Culture (www.culture.coop) – presented some of the problems and solutions. Below are some notes from the talk and some reading recommendations.

The problem

  • Private and public companies exist to maximise shareholder value 
  • The existing structure and ownership of companies puts the focus on shareholder value (and profit) over any other factor (e.g. workers, neighbours, environment). As long as this is the priority, the environment is likely to suffer.
  • While estimates vary between seconds, days and months, ownership of shares on stock exchanges is typically short term, not long term. This means shareholders aren’t generally interested in a company’s environmental performance, just their financial performance.
  • There’s nothing wrong with market economics. Don’t confuse Markets with the Money Markets
  • The concentration of wealth results in millions of people being unable to make ethical/environmental purchase decisions because they are unaffordable (e.g. organic produce)
  • Another issue is constant growth capitalism. It’s not sustainable.
  • Over consumption is a problem, not necessarily over population
  • Common thought is that there are two ways: capitalism or state ownership. There is another way…

Some Solutions (from Nathan and the audience)

  • State ownership isn’t necessarily the answer. It can be unstable as governments and their policies change.
  • Consumer power – Reduced consumption or ethical consumption by consumers
  • Fix stuff (e.g. Southampton Repair Cafe)!
  • Vote with your pound – Support local co-operatives like RiceUp and October Books
  • Invest and support co-operative and community finance schemes
  • Ethex (https://www.ethex.org.uk)
  • Look out for opportunities to provide capital to start businesses: Community shares and loan stock

Further Reading – Be sure to order from October Books!

  • Naomi Klein – This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
  • Paul Mason – PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
  • Rob Hopkins – From What Is to What If –
  • Economics After Capitalism – Derek Wall
  • Michael Lewis & Pat Conaty – The Resilience Imperative
  • Kate Raworth – Doughnut Economics
  • David Fleming – Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath 
  • of the Market Economy
  • Richard Swift – SOS Alternatives To Capitalism 
  • Small is Beautiful – E.F Schumacher 
  • William Morris – News From Nowhere