Diatribe against neoliberalism because the tennis minister is right

Pedro Luis Barco Diaz Pedro Luis Barco Diaz

Although the brokers and middlemen of big capital have rushed to mock and silence it, the theory of degrowth continues to make its way and will eventually be decisive in the commitments of governments in the face of climate change.

The 1960s and 1970s were decades of great paradoxes: on the one hand, long-haired hippies proclaimed a romantic return to nature; and ecology has gained significant importance in the face of the nuclear threat, the Cold War, population growth, the ravages of industrialization, and the destruction of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

On the other hand, the rabid short-haired boys of the Chicago School, led by the International Monetary Fund, gave the world an economic theory that consecrated an insatiable and falsely infallible beast as a god: the market.

Economic liberalism was reborn in the form of neoliberalism or wild capitalism, which advocates absolute freedom of production and consumption, curses state intervention and sponsors the transfer of public goods into private hands. In other words, the world has stepped onto the accelerator of perpetual growth, a path that inevitably leads to its own collapse.

Around the same time, the Club of Rome commissioned scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by ecologist Donella Meadows, to study the effects of economic growth on the planet. The results emerged in an enlightening and shocking report: The limits of growth. This ensures that if we continue to grow—as we have been—the world will collapse in the middle of this century. That is, you cannot grow indefinitely on a planet with limited natural resources.

Since these decades, there has been a contradiction in which science, led by ecology, collides – with less results than we would like – with the real power of large financial institutions and transnational companies, which continue with increasingly insane targets for production and growth .

At the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP26) held in Glasgow last year, it became clear that the implementation of governments’ commitments to avoid a global climate catastrophe is about to become an outright failure.

As the prevailing neoliberal economic model continues to adhere to the dogma of unlimited economic growth, which is a barrier to the concept of economic developmentwhich refers to improving living conditions and reducing inequality, a practice that implies the active involvement of the state.

The neoliberal model also represents a barrier to the application of the concepts of human development or Sustainable Developmentwho timidly try to oppose him.

Because the neoliberal economic model—and neoliberal economists—as the Chilean Manfred Max-Neef said, they don’t want to know anything about ecosystems, thermodynamics, or biodiversity. They are antediluvian reptiles who continue to choke on riches at the foot of the abyss. They remain convinced that nature is merely a subsystem of the economy.

Moreover, the neoliberal economic model, which is usually almost deaf, goes into hysterics when it hears about economic downturnwhich is not just an economic theory, but a worldwide social movement that represents the last lifeline thrown—more by science than by economics—to the dying planet.

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It is a theory that advocates the programmed and regulated reduction of production to establish a balanced relationship with nature. Far-right gossipers and enforcers scream and kick when they hear about this theory, because the religion of the predatory market beast forbids them to accept the science: they are essentially climate change deniers.

Neoliberals don’t care about consumption, what they really care about is consumerism, which is an unchecked plague that causes them to excessively buy unnecessary or dangerous trinkets and trinkets. We arrive at consumerism by creating fictitious needs through advertising, which unscrupulously promotes this practice, which is the main cause of environmental degradation.

The consumption of meat and ultra-processed foods has caused not only disease in the population, but also deforestation and an increase in methane in the atmosphere. This of clothes, cell phones, appliances and vehicles that are no longer repaired but replaced, combined with criminally programmed obsolescence, has eventually flooded the planet with garbage.

The millions upon millions of tons of manufactured plastic are now found in the land, sea, cloud ecosystems and even in our own bodies in the form of microplastics.

The planet demands a global reduction in fossil fuel consumption and extraction, as well as a more consistent push for alternative energies. Shifting the energy matrix to renewables is the great global imperative, but it is also for Colombia, as countries that get up to speed first will be better able to meet the challenges of the future.

Is a world of economic decline possible, then, where we consume less and do better?

Of course. Everything shows that cutting growth is a plausible way to approach the emissions reductions set out in the Paris Agreement. As Matsucato states, not only is greater investment in renewables needed, but “a social commitment to a new, less materialistic approach to the way we live“.

Although it is not easy because the problem is more mental than technical. It is about a different way of life with different rules of the game, where the local is over the global and the real over the artificial. Today’s young people are the ones who have best understood the problem and put into practice other, less ostentatious forms of relationships, more public transport and bicycles than private cars.

For this reason, I welcome the reflection made by the new Minister of Mines and Energy, Irene Velez Torres, at the Mining Congress in Cartagena: “Countries around the world need to have economic slack models to stop demanding this extreme extractivism“.

Although the brokers and middlemen of big capital have rushed to mock and silence it, the theory of degrowth continues to make its way and will eventually be decisive in the commitments of governments in the face of climate change. After all, the curly-haired hippies who heralded a romantic return to nature in the 1960s and 1970s weren’t as crazy as previously thought. Peace, love and sex.

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