Book review by Hauke Benner
Over 180 pages, Graeme Maxton criticises governments, corporations and entrepreneurs, especially in rich countries, for complete failure in the face of the threat of climate collapse and calls for “a radical change” not only in economic policy.
It is a Red Alert. In view of the climate crisis, the former secretary general of the Club of Rome writes in the introduction of his book “Change!”: “It threatens our survival…. To grasp the scale of the task is hard … If humanity is to overcome its environmental problems and build a better world, it needs to question almost everything it considers normal.”. Particularly with regard to rich nations, Maxton calls for a redefinition of ‘progress’ and a rapid departure from economic growth.
If the 2° Celsius target is to be met by 2035, greenhouse gas emissions will have to be drastically reduced – and that means changing industry, mobility, and food production in the rich countries fundamentally and structurally.
Maxton has compiled a 15 point plan of how this is to be accomplished:
– Fossil is out. Fossil energy emissions must have fallen by at least 35% by 2030, and the entire fossil fuel industry must be shut down by 2040.
– Skies free of planes and car-free roads. Emissions from fossil fuels must be reduced by 80% by 2040, with far-reaching consequences for the use of cars, lorries, airplanes, ships etc. Flights under 1000 km should be banned immediately.
– Cessation of cement production and most metal works.
– Plastic must be made expensive. The manufacturers must pay this and it must cost so much, e.g. for 100 kg of plastic waste 1000 €, that it becomes unattractive to produce the stuff.
– Think locally and produce sustainably. This applies above all to agriculture. In general, the insanely increased global trade must be severely restricted.
– Sustainable local transport at zero cost. The railways will be the main means of transport.
– The polluters will be asked to pay the price, even retroactively for the last 40 years, during which the shareholders have earned a generous dividend at the expense of the environment.
In order to implement these measures in an orderly manner, “Governments will have to adopt something like a war footing. They will first need to map out the transition, to work out precisely how quickly they can cut emissions, close industries, and design new tax and welfare systems”. According to Maxton, a “free market” and economics are completely unsuitable for this, as they always iterate the mantra of unconditional growth and vehemently defend themselves against interference in the freedom of entrepreneurship. Instead, Maxton calls on governments to radically reform precisely the capitalist private property structures and, for example, to immediately close down the fossil fuel industry, which is highly damaging to the climate, even against the resistance of capital.
He calls for a comprehensive system restructuring that will make it possible to reduce the ecological footprint to such an extent that nature and the planet are not further damaged.
Growth is forbidden, Maxton favours an equilibrium economy in which other values than profit increase and consumer orientation are of paramount importance, so he does not think much of so-called green capitalism, because it still leads us into the growth trap.
Even the individual can do something: fly less, eat less meat, consume less at all, e.g. 10% less consumption in Europe would be a big help. It is crucial that humanity free itself and “…break the chains that make you a slave to materialism!”.
All in all, the 2 degree Celsius target can only be met if the rich countries start in the next 5 years to systematically shut down the climate-damaging industry and “suicidal capitalism” is terminated.
This does not have to go hand in hand with an excessive loss of income (only for the small caste of the super-rich). People would have more free time, the redundant workers would receive a wage compensation from the state (money is not the problem, as the banking crisis in 2008 showed, when within weeks trillions were made available by nations to save the banks). An adequate basic income for everyone in the world is possible.
Overall, Maxton has made an impressive appeal with “Change!”, but not free from the old weaknesses of the ‘Club of Rome’, such as the warnings of population growth accelerating climate change (not a word about the causal link between poverty and patriarchal rule) – and the reference to the continued operation of nuclear reactors until the coal and oil industries are shut down. In view of the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima, one can only shake one’s head.
Change! Why We Need a Radical Turnaround by Graeme Maxton
Published by Komplettmedia-Verlag in German
You can download a free pdf copy of the English edition here.