Welcome to the blog of Wayne Hayes, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sustainability at Ramapo College of New Jersey. I retired on July 1, 2015. My teaching web site offers lecture notes and a variety of pertinent resources: See World Sustainability and Ecology, Economics and Ethics. I expand on these themes here.
Near the start of each course, I introduced my Statement of Concern to explain my personal mission. This one-page statement, composed in 2007, has been my North Star and has not changed since 2007.
I expand here on both the dynamic tendencies within capitalism (such as slowing growth, rising inequality, and fiscal crises) and the escalating impacts of climate catastrophe. My timeline speculates on trends to 2050, recognizing that 2020-2030 will be the climax within which the fate of the human occupation of the Earth may be determined. I anticipate further debasement of civilization, ecocide including mass extinction, and destabilized climate with eroding resilience.
Muddling through will not do, rather I seek salvation through:
- Decentralized, life-supporting, democratically empowered cosmopolitan localism and regionalism expressed through communities, social capital, and enlivened citizenship;
- Strategies targeted at leverage points within political economic systems at national and international levels, such as the role of corporate behemoths;
- A yearning for a spiritual conversion recognizing the centrality of Life on Earth (Creation itself) and the dignity and potentiality of the human Soul.
Capitalism Meets Climate Change: 2050
In brief, the imperative of economic growth collides with life on Earth. I reckon that mid-21st century this metabolic rift will be calamitous for nature and for humanity. Indeed, the IPCC Special Report forecasts that climate change will hit the benchmark increase of 1.5º C by 2030, driving down productivity, diverting capital to pressing infrastructure needs, raising interest rates and public deficits. Simultaneously, monetized economic growth slows down among the richer countries, inequality increases, immigration surges, and citizens lose faith in capitalism. Consumption gets crowded out, drained off by higher interest rates, wage and productivity stagnation, and infrastructure investment. You get the drift, right?
My focus lately has been “capitalism meets climate change: 2050,” to unravel the dynamics within capitalism (stagnation, declining profit, inequality, debt, and slowing productivity) as climate change impacts become tangible: armoring regions for tidal incursion, drought, wildfires, withering crops, etc. I hope to redefine the “real economy” to include livelihood, house-holding, local commerce and sourcing, and advanced planning for the effects of climate change as an opening to participatory democracy. Reducing dependency on global capitalism could be a result.
Sure, like you, I want to be wrong, but my purpose here is to sound the alarm, to avert that collision, even now well advanced. Certainly, there are paths to a just and sustainable world, but I anticipate that such paths will be blocked, creating what Aristotle dubbed an Aporia: there is no path through it. Join me in this speculative adventure to find such a path in which humanity thrives within a verdant natural world. Time grows short. Help light the way.
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