I wrote about the economic downturn in these pages long before it happened and it’s now very interesting to watch the fallout, as it were, from the future. Newsnight commentators, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, a year on from the Lehman bank collapse, agreed in this fascinating debate, that we were probably in for a long period of little or no economic growth, and that this would be a good thing. And they also agreed that they did't know what might replace capitalism as a more viable culture or ideology.
The environmental imperative is that economic growth that is based on consumption is brought to a halt and then even reversed. You can have a growth in services, in value added, and so on, however, and that’s what the new social entrepreneurs are going to be taking up in the future. But continuing to over-consume trees, metals, fossil fuels (especially by travel and transport) water and topsoil (thanks to supermarket-fuelled agriculture) is taking us to the brink of existence.
My personal view is that the change will take many forms – emotional, practical, spiritual - and is in the form of a wave. For many of us early-adopters, we’re already focused on building our own resilience, localizing, downsizing and changing the way we work, shop and spend our time. We’re aware of the paradigm shift and in some ways, say, through the Transition Movement, spending our new-found spare time helping precipitate it in a 100-monkeys kind of way. This isn’t a smug, middle-class indulgence. It’s more about cutting edge survival: learning to live realistically within the limits of our planet. And, as a writer commented in a piece about the ethics of climate change, it’s about becoming the kind of person I want to be.