Where environment, society and economy collide

The Beatty Memorial lecture provide the university and community with highly interesting and important issue seminar each year. This year, it was given by James Gustave Speth, professor of Yales university. A firm alarmist activist that ask for the younger one to get active as well. His lecture was presented to a multi-genarational crowd, faculty members of McGill university, students, and citizens as well. The composition of the crowd probably affected his speach as humor was used to carry out his message.

As Shorty already pointed out, there is a problem in our current economical system. It is draining both of our social and environemental strengh. Dr Speth believe that growth is the main problem of our capitalist system. The growing economy is a monster consuming the ressources, leaving no chance for regeneration. Solution were proposed but to get them working, three things are needed. There is a need for a crisis, more violent than any human kind as faced in the recent years. I personnaly believe that climatic changes could be that needed crisis. After the crisis, we need a public mobilisation. People with the knowledge must transfer that knowledge. The last step needed is an enlightened governement, receptive to the problem and ready to act.

Going against capitalism is going to be an hard journey. But Dr Speth presented the situation as follow. There are two roads human kind can follow. The first and easy one will bring us to an early end. The other one, far more difficult to travel, will eventually bring us to a new state were economy, environment and sociaty will be valued to their just level. The crossroad is now and we need to make our turn.

I think this situation is far from being unknowed to us. However, some people out there still believe that this as nothing to do with them. As I got out of the seminar, a passed a man of an advanced age. He turned at me and pointing at the conference room he told me «stupid idiota». My spanish is not perfect but i is good enough for me to understand that the man did not respect nor did he accept the ideas carried by Dr Speth. We had a discussion in class about being activist or not. I’m starting to believe that we carry a responsability, to defend those ideas if we want things to change.

4 Responses to “Where environment, society and economy collide”

  1. thecynicaloptimist says:

    Thank you for sharing your passion about doing the right thing supernova.

    If I may challenge one idea you shared… 🙂

    You said: “Going against capitalism is going to be a hard journey.”

    Is that the journey we are on? Let me use an analogy to elaborate:

    If a train is on a track that leads off of a cliff, does that mean we should be against trains? Or does that mean we should build a new track?


  2. patagonia says:

    I attended this lecture as well and really enjoy the way you raised the issue of how different people (with differnent backgourns, experiences, ages) will react to Speth’s ideas very differently. Just one thing extra; when Speth spoke of a the spark that will initiate real fundamental change of the current economic system, he said it was a cris or eminent crisis that was needed. I think this is an important difference, reaction to an eminent crisis means that Speth believes that it is possible for humans to avoid some catastrophic, most likely environmental and climatic disaster. But when will we decide that ‘yes, we are convinced that environmental collapse is eminent if we stay the course.’ For me and many people I have chosen to surround myself with in life, this idea was accepted as truth long ago. But what will it take for that disapproving man at Speth’s lecture, or stock traders on wallstreet, or families living in poverty that have little time or resources to worry about environment, or governments worldwide to come around to the idea?

  3. guesswho says:

    I didn’t attempt this seminary, so I would like to have your point of view on a little question. Accordind to your post, it seems that Speth is hoping for a revolution of capitalism’s values, or at least that he is expecting for a major change in society’s behaviour. Do you feel he was adressing his message to the right crowd ?

  4. shorty says:

    In response to CO’s analogy I think it still would be hard to go against capitalism. If the train represents capitalism and the track is the path we are headed on, we might argue that the capitalism train is only suited to one type of track. If we had a limited extent to which we could build track we would need to rip up that original rail and start near the beginning to prevent it from careening off that cliff. But if the train’s been going for a while and has passed by a considerable amount of that track its too late to rebuild what its already passed by. Capitalism is bounded by its own ideology and would have a limited amount of overlap with other ideologies. The effects capitalism has already had cannot be reversed so we would need to change the ideologies ahead of it in order for it to change course. And we might argue that capitalism has been a major western view, running for a very long time.

    I would however encourage you to correct me if I have mistaken your analogy.