I failed to meet Greta Thunberg in London whilst we XR activists were there. As with Kate Raworth, I believe I can add a missing catalyst to Greta’s powerful message. It would take 5 minutes to give her my narrative, honed in innumerable conversations with other XR rebels during my 5 days of deliberate disruption:
There are two reasons for 47 years of failure to deal with the threat to the ecosphere revealed by the1972 MIT Limits to Growth report.
One is that humans are hard wired against short term loss. No elected politician dare suggest anything other than growth. Secondly, although capitalists are to blame, if one capitalist individually stops trashing the ecosphere, all they do is lose market share.
This was the case when I joined the Green Party in 1973, and went doorstepping with what is now the XR message. (incidentally I did it alone, like Greta’s first school strike).
Even in 1973 one in ten were disturbed by the MIT report, but my message needed a lubricant. A universal, unconditional basic (citizens’) income (UBI) will allow a mind set change from growth to protection of the ecosphere as the norm. People can only contemplate downsizing if they feel secure.
But another crucial function of a UBI is that governments can ensure that everything costs its true eco-footprint.
Some say that the first priority is to defeat capitalists. Capitalists are as trapped by the logic of the Tragedy of the Commons as the rest of us. And they will remain too powerful to defeat until it is too late (assuming we are not there yet). The only way to defeat capitalists is to buy less from them.
That was my spiel to other XR rebels in London. It was generally well received, but some told me that we must focus on the problem. The UBI may be a part of the solution, but at this stage it can only be a distraction. I am warned that Greta is extremely single minded.
BUT even if she is not swayed by the need for a catalyst (if not 45 years ago, when??), the UBI – which I advocate passionately – is dangerous. Many UBI advocates think it could boost economic growth. Frighteningly, it could, if not tied firmly to ecological footprints. That is the opposite of what XR, Greta and I are all about.
Incidentally I will take no criticism for deliberately causing disruption – I have been reasonable since 1973 in the Green Party.
My improbable hope was that I might get the opportunity to run this narrative past Greta. But how to reach her? But Caroline Lucas was able to invite Greta to London. Would it be too much to ask Caroline to actually recommend to Greta that she should read this weblog post, as important to her narrative now?
I am not confident that Caroline will do this. She has a normal mind, excellent at what she does, able to grasp all kinds of details, but she has never seemed to accept my insistence that something which guarantees security is needed as a game changer.
The alternatives are not a catastrophe, and some sort of normality if only governments do something. The actual choice is between the catastrophe, and a period of austerity, possibly severe, and possibly extended. The 47 year inaction has a perfectly obvious explanation. Started 45 years ago, when I first suggested the UBI strategy to the Green Party, there would have been time to plan for the smooth economic landing recommended by Kate Raworth in her book Doughnut Economics. Some remind me of the rapid response in 1940 to an external threat. Hmm. Possibly, but the 1940 starting point was not neoliberal consumerism. The risk need not have been taken, but that is now spilt milk.
Obviously I hope this will be the beginning of a dialogue with Greta, not just 5 minutes. Like Greta, I do not fly. I am willing to spend 2 days travelling to Stockholm by train. But will Caroline advise Greta to take me seriously? Unlike Caroline’s normal mind, Greta regards being Asperger’s as a gift. Asperger’s was unknown when I was a teenager, but I knew then that my mind worked differently from most. A gift? Possibly, if Greta hears me.
Asked what governments should do, Greta says “Listen to the scientists.” But they only know what must be done. Answers will be philosophical – a ‘mind set’ change – rather than scientific – or technological.
If necessary I shall sit outside the Swedish parliament alone until someone takes my photograph.