The growth sceptic mindset

In: Uncategorized

12 Dec 2008

A particularly interesting insight into the logic of growth scepticism from Philip Stephens, an associate editor of the Financial Times, in a piece in today’s newspaper entitled: “Global warming: the way not to mobilise the masses”.

He first acknowledges that anti-growth sentiment of the type favoured by protestors against Stansted airport is unlikely to win popular support”

“In this mindset saving the planet demands that people give up their foreign holidays, abandon their cars, turn down the heating and clean their teeth in the dark. Through this prism, pain is a virtue and the halting global warming metamorphoses into a much broader attack on consumerism, materialism and, at the extreme, anything that smacks of the market.

“Whatever one makes of the intent, such zealotry is doomed to failure. Self-flagellation does not sell. If keeping the planet cool is seen to be the project of affluent middle-class do-gooders the masses will mobilise all right – against it.”

The wording in the second paragraph should be carefully noted. He does not object to the intent of the protestors but simply the zealotry with which they publicise their case. Stevens favours putting the argument in a positive form:

`’The case must be framed as an opportunity rather than a burden. Technological innovation – in automobile design, energy efficiency, renewable energy and the rest – is more than a useful adjunct to an austere low carbon lifestyle. It is a vital pillar of any plan to reduce the build-up of CO2. Bluntly stated, unless we find a way to capture emissions from coal-fired power stations, the game will be lost.”

For him technological innovation – of a low horizons, low carbon kind – needs to accompany the austere low carbon lifestyle. They are not an alternative.

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