Featured image (above): Wind turbines on a boggy hillside in County Kerry, Ireland.
Bill McKibben’s book Falter (2019, Wildfire) helps us understand how the selfish, single-minded pursuit of profit, power and influence caused the global climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis and unprecedented social inequality.
Chapters 9 and 12 were particularly revealing. Under the pseudonym Ayn Rand, a Russian immigrant to the US, deeply disturbed and angered by the loss of the family business as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution, extrapolated her trauma well beyond reasonable limits into an ultra-individualist doctrine. Her books inspired generations of business people (from big oil to trendy big tech), economists and politicians, and a lot of the general public, helping create a wave of anti-government neo-liberalism and libertarianism that has washed over the globe in recent decades.
A summary of Ayn Rand’s sociopathic thinking, which is often implemented in business, economy and, ironically, even in government policies around the world:
- Only individuals count, society doesn’t exist.
- Your work is your life, nothing else matters!
- If you need/want something, either create it or pay for it.
- Be selfish, avoid altruism and solidarity at all costs.
- Those who claim to be altruistic or to practice solidarity are parasites, beware!
- Creative, hard-working, productive individuals should not be burdened with looking after the weak, lazy and unproductive.
- Natural resources are there for the taking and access to these should be unfettered.
- Government is a problem, regulations and taxes hinder profit-making.
Incredibly, only a relatively small (but very rich) minority continues to drive inequality and wreck the planet. The rest of us, a huge majority, need to make our voices heard and join together to push for the transformation of the global economy into a socially just and sustainable model, following an alternative philosophy:
- Society exists! Diversity, openness, tolerance and human rights count. Cultural, spiritual and ethnic values must be respected. People and their data are not commodities.
- Your work should render a decent income, be rewarding and meaningful, and strike a balance with the rest of your life.
- Basic needs/wants, such as housing, public transport, water, sanitation, health care and education services, should be universally affordable and reliable, leaving a disposable income for anything else.
- Generosity, altruism and solidarity are essential elements of society, and are good for our individual well-being too!
- Parasites must be exposed, for example, those who speak of peace but buy and sell weapons.
- Creative, hard-working, productive individuals can share their expertise, experience and know-how for the good of all. Not everyone is an entrepreneur and all should have opportunities to explore, discover and develop their talents.
- Natural resources are finite to which access must be regulated. Nature and wildlife should be amply protected throughout the planet. Indigenous territories must be especially respected and protected as these contain people with unique languages and culture, as well as high biodiversity. Earth’s global, regional and local ecosystem services (water sources, carbon assimilation, soil nutrients, protection from erosion, etc.) need to be valued and not taken for granted. The global economy must rapidly become carbon neutral, modernised and based on renewable, clean, efficient and innovative technology for everyone.
- Government and regulations must strive to balance individual rights and freedoms with those of society. Taxes should be used to ensure the well-being of all and the natural environment.
The new coronavirus pandemic has produced an urgent response worldwide that gives us an opportunity to look at effects of unprecedented global emissions reductions and is a chance for many to show solidarity. We need as urgent a response to the climate, biodiversity and social inequality emergencies.
Bill McKibben 2019 Falter. Has the human game begun to play itself out? Wildfire.