The Bridge at the Edge of the World Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (JG Speth)
2008年の春に出版された本で、秋に読んだ。Society & Environment っていう講義で、この本のレポートを書く課題があったから。一応一番下に僕のレポートを張っておきます。７割くらいしか点もらえなかったから、内容が違ったり文法がめちゃくちゃだったり、大切な点が抜けていると思う。あしからず。
‘how can the operating instructions for the modern world economy be changed so that economic activity both protects and restores the natural world?’ (pp7)
題名の'The Bridge at the Edge of the World'はの意味を自分なりに考えてみた。'the edge of the World'は、資本主義経済や持続可能でないイデオロギーの基で、環境問題等の深刻な問題を抱える現在の状況を表している。もう'edge'まで来ちゃってるから、今まで通りだったら、このまま崖の下に落ちゃう。んで、崖の向こう側には他の世界が広がっている。いわゆる「持続可能な世界」（この言い方個人的にはあんまり使いたくない。）。この二つの世界：現在の持続可能じゃない世界と持続可能な世界の２つ、の間には'the Bridge'があるはず。今日までのダメな世界と明日のすばらしい世界をつなぐ橋があるんですよ。これが、題名の意味するところだと勝手に思っている。
一番印象に残ったのは、６章の'Real Growth: Promoting the Well-Being of People and Nature'。GNPとかGDPがその指標に使えないのはもう誰もがしってる。下の図参照。
(source: Leiserowitz et al., ''Sustainability Values, Attitudes and Behaviors'', 2006)
The book report
The fundamental question is ‘how can the operating instructions for the modern world economy be changed so that economic activity both protects and restores the natural world?’ (pp7) . Right now we are facing big and variety of environmental issues as the book's title 'The Bridge at the Edge of the World' implies that we are standing the edge of a world that is suffering from serious issues such as environmental problems, dominated by capitalism economy and not sustainable ideologies. Since we have already reached the edge, we will fall into an abyss unless we change the behavior that has headed to the edge. We have to change the direction and head to another world that is sustainable and has other ideologies than today. Between the two worlds, there is a path, which we have to trace to avoid falling into an abyss.
In the first part, he describes current situation and reasons regarding environmental problems.
The main reason that we are suffering from environmental problems is, as Speth notes, 'economy and environment remain in collision' (pp 57). He explains the reasons, mainly economy's defects and entailing politics defects. First, economy today is almost capitalism all over the world, and within it people are obsessed with economic growth. Because of this, economy enhances other defects written below and accelerates to harm environment. Second, economic growth tends to harm environment at any levels. The Kuznets curve can be applied only to only few cases. The third reason is 'market failure' as Wallace Oatases describes (pp57). The market fails to value goods and services as much as they really are and underestimates its values. Thus, environmental degradations are not taken into account. Moreover, the market does not 'reflect the needs of future generations' (pp57). Fourth is 'the absence of adequate natural self-correcting forces within the economy'. (pp55). Economy itself does not have a system to correct its defects as written above.
Not only economy but also politics fails. The fifth reason is that governments 'exacerbate the problem by creating subsidies and other practices’ (pp54).
Sixth, degradation caused by economic activities exceed that technology 'that was created in an environmentally unaware era'(pp57) can compensate. Finally, globalization which is caused by capitalism naturally spreads these problem all over the world and make the situations worse.
Environmentalism also has troubles. Speth mentions a variety of obstacles for today’s ‘environmentalism’ such as tendency to deal with effects rather than underlying causes, and he said ‘these patterns could change’ (pp82). However, he argues four big limits that ‘environmentalism’ faces. First is a conflict with capitalism. Because of its inherent tendencies that pursue profits and growth, capitalists are trying to neglect environmental issues. One of good example is a pressure on governments from corporations ‘to relax environmental regulations’ (pp83). Second, ‘environmental issues are increasingly complex and scientifically difficult, and they are increasing chronic and often subtle, slow to unfold’ (pp83). Besides, this leads environmental politics to be weaker. Third is the ‘regulatory slippage problem’. When environmental regulations come to practice, the effects will diminish, and thus, the regulations cannot achieve its goals. Finally, ‘there are the limits that stem from the pragmatic, compromising, deal-with-the-effects approach of modern environmentalism’ (pp85). They tend to adopt more easy and practical, or more attractive approaches and fail to address the causes, and the issues are not solved. Speth sees these limits as major barriers faced by today’s ‘environmentalism’.
In second part, he argues some important features in modern capitalism that can work as actors for transformative changes.
The market in which ‘society makes designs and determine allocate resources’ can work for the environment. Although its features so called market failure have negative impact on the environment, it can lead change with valuing non-market goods and services properly.
People have sought economic growth. The ‘economic problem’ is lack of enough economic wealth among a society and comes from aspiration for economic growth. It is supposed to be solved by now because of the rapid economic growth and could lead ‘changes in the code of morals’ (pp108), but it does not seem to have been solved. Besides, ‘economic growth and industrial economics may have already exceeded their optimal or sustainable scale’ (p9). Thus, ‘it is time to question the priority of endless limitless economic growth’ (pp108), and other important growth other than economic growth are growth of production, in the economy’s biophysical throughput and in human welfare.
He, then, argues what well-being of people, a society, and nature is. A popular way to measure a society’s well-being has been GDP measuring economic welfare. GDP, however, cannot measure a society’s well-being properly. As he discusses, the correlation between economic welfare and life satisfaction is not necessarily high, especially ‘once a country achieves a moderate level of income’ (pp130). For example, ‘the Miringffs’ Index of Social Health shows somewhat deteriorating social conditions despite huge growth in GDP per capita (pp142). Well-being is not only determined by economic wealth, but also other factors such as ‘pleasure, engagement, and meaning’ (pp129) as Diener and Seligaman note. Moreover GDP itself cannot measure a society’s economic wealth due to its drawbacks. For example, GDP includes something that adds to human well-being but ‘GDP fail to count the costs and benefits that occur outside the market.’ (pp138)
Another dilemma to measure a society’s well-being comes from a fact that social positioning and habituation can affect people’s well-being. This is why richer people tend to be happier in a society although people in richer courtiers are not necessarily happier.
Taking these into consideration, ‘aggregate economic growth is no longer making us better off’ and even ‘making us worse off’ (pp144). Thus, we have to rethink and reorder our priorities.
Consumption as ‘a pillar of modern capitalism’ has potential to make changes. Main possible changes are seeking ‘sustainable consumption’ and reducing consumption. ‘Dematerializing’ the economy means reducing dependant or consumption of material that we consume as a whole society. This is accomplished though ‘more efficient use of resources’ (p149).
Corporations as ‘the principal actors on capitalism’s stage’ (pp165) also have an influence. Speth argues three key arenas of change in transforming the corporation; though ‘voluntary corporate initiatives’, though ‘regulation and other governmental controls at both national and international levels’, and through change of the ‘nature of the corporation itself’ (pp173). First, corporations produce environmental friendly goods and service voluntarily. Second, regulations can cause good impact on companies in terms of producing environmental friendly goods and services. In this way, a step that companies are not willing to take can be taken such as something causes loss on companies. Finally, ‘’new capitalists’’ can lead change. More and more variety of funds own many stock and they can affect corporations’ behaviors and even change the nature of the corporation.
He argues about capitalism in the future. ‘The possibility of change arising from the growing strength of social and resistance movements around the world’ (pp186). However he also mentions that capitalism does not have its alternatives and it would be ‘diversity of economic systems both within capitalism and socialism’ (pp188).
In Part 3, he considers ‘two potential drivers of transformative change’ (pp10); a new consciousness and a new politics.
Since ‘today’s problems cannot be solved with today’s mind’ (p204), we need to change our consciousness to solve environmental issues. Not only a new consciousness but also a new politics are needed. Advocates for localization of politics and those for globalization of politics are required for effective solutions. Besides, the new environmental politics should not exclude other issues, but ‘embrace a program to address America’s social problems’. (pp226).
Overall, his proposed solutions do not seem realistic from today’s point of view. They are far-reaching such as alternative for capitalism or a new consciousness. He mentioned more practical solutions such as ‘green consumers’. Most of his solutions are conceptual and not practical. Besides, what he is proposing sometimes seems what people already know but cannot change. Thus, these vagueness and difficulty are inherent with these solutions.
I strongly believe that this book is optimistic. First of all, although he mentions difficulty, he does not forget to say positive or hopeful facts or statement such as ‘Seeds of Change’ (pp191) and ‘I no believe there is more hope and more opportunity in a broad-gauged citizens’ movement’ (pp229). Second, though reading this, I as a reader was inspired and strongly feel that we should do something. Besides I come to be exited with imaging what the world would be and the system changes. Especially chapter 6 ‘Real Growth’ makes me realize that we need to change our ideologies and direction of aspirations.
One disappointing thing is that he seldom argues about the issue in terms of developing world. People on the earth are mostly living in developing countries. Thus, when he argues about a new consciousness or new system, it sounds somewhat hollow because of its lack of consideration for those people.
Speth. The Bridge at the Edge of the World Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability. New Haven and London. Yale University Press.2008