Whilst this certainly isn’t an original insight today I’ve been pondering the ‘macro’ in the ‘micro’. For example, broader worldviews shaping views of events or particular issues. Or ideological commitments shaping policy preferences. This is a huge aspect of many environmental issues and advocacy, and I’ve been pondering how this related to, and shapes, my own thoughts – especially for my PhD research.
I’m sometimes critical of folk like Richard Slaughter who (to me) seem to have an overarching opposition to capitalism, a ‘hard’ (inflexible) ‘Neo-Malthusian’ outlook, etc., which shapes their interpretation of issues and preferred scenarios such as advocating “descent” futures. This is a common view in some environmentalist communities and when you “do the math” on greenhouse gas emissions reductions being sought this century it is an understandable viewpoint. I repeat: it’s in many ways a reasonable viewpoint, but it is not, however, one that I for the most part share. Similarly, I have some libertarian friends who are militantly anti-government, view taxation as theft, and typically don’t accept the rationale for environmental regulations or taxation – I don’t share their views either…
Something that concerns and motivates me is the view of some environmentalists that the ‘capitalist democracy’ model is a major barrier to shifts away from business-as-usual futures. From this view, it’s only hop-skip-and-a-jump to viewing an “Eco-dictatorship” as necessary for achieving change towards sustainability (and as an initial point viewing China enviously as somewhere things get done). This sort of thinking seems to be becoming much more common in environmental movements.
So, this is part of the ‘macro’ backdrop for my research. Right now, to me it seems more important, worthwhile, and urgent to try to work out how to achieve sufficient change within capitalist democracies. (Rather than, for example, seeing a social revolution as a precondition of sustainability). I tend to see the climate change issue more like Roger Pielke Jr – who argues that we shouldn’t assume that economic growth and action on climate change are incompatible, and that in any battle between policies focussed on economy growth and policies focussed on emissions reduction it is economic growth that will win every time (he calls this the ‘Iron Law’ of climate policy)… and I tend not to see the issue like Bill McKibben or Richard Slaughter. The ‘micro’ – in this case, foresighting to facilitate change towards sustainability – is partly given meaning and focus by this ‘macro’ background. It will be interesting to see how these views both shape my research and evolve during my candidature.
Australia in 2050 author Doug Cocks from CSIRO (ecosystem services division) similarly argues in his chapter that “The First World is likely to be made up of societies that are variants of the ‘capitalist democracy’ model for a good half century to come”, and he further asserts that “one of these will be Australia”. He suggests that this is a social ‘boundary condition’ within which we operate and, thus, should ask: “what are the practicable choices we have for managing our society?” Cocks chapter explores ‘Alternative Normative Scenarios for Australia 2050’. It’s worth a look.