Al Gore’s latest book, The Future, is an ultra-sobering work which anyone concerned with the prospects for planet Earth should read. Gore’s dispassionate approach to the dire consequences which face our children and grandchildren literally bowled me over. The world he describes seems bent on self-destruction but also appears to be spinning out of control.
The first 201 pages offer a stiff-upper lip recitation of what is going wrong, not only in America but also in the world. Gore’s deeply felt insights of the takeover of democracy by corporate interests in America must be taken seriously. The remaining 176 pages of text address the possible ways of dealing with the environmental calamity facing us.
Gore’s coverage of lobbyists and corporations, the growing inequality of incomes and wealth in the US, and even the counter-productive indicators of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as well as the lack of leadership and our diminished ethical concerns are all painfully commendable. As opposed to most politicians currently in high office, Gore does not advocate growth as a cure-all. Instead he devotes enormous energy to warn us about the growth of: population, mega-cities, joblessness, pensioners, migrations, robotics, technology, inequality, corporations, waste and of course of the increased pollution of both air and water. This is just a partial listing of a torrent of the compelling challenges facing us. These range from increases in obesity (he himself is overweight) to the depletion of topsoil on a global scale.
Although Gore is weak in proposing solutions and in particular in offering us alternatives, there is no sensible alternative to reading his book. Gore strongly urges from the first chapter that capitalism must become sustainable and suggests that to do this the short-term perspective of those managing corporations, banks, and investment must be altered. He writes that “the only policies that will prove to be effective in restoring human influence over the shape of our economic future will be ones that address the new global economic reality on a global basis.” (p.35) Such words of wisdom are hardly instructive.
When faced with this challenge a decade ago, I wrote Dollars or Democracy, and proposed solutions which no one at that time wanted to hear! NPR (National Public Radio) executives refused to give me/or the book air-time because they explained that its radical approach would cause Republicans to further cut the already reduced funds for National Public Radio. As future blogs will explain, my proposal for an Incentive Economy was predicated on the restructuring of all corporations into cooperatives. I also presented a plan how to replace capitalism with a less competitive, less profit motivated, less corrosive and far more collaborative socio-economic system — see: http://www.fdnearth.org/essays/capitalism-cant-be-reformed-try-the-incentive-economy/
A takeover by universal cooperatives would have major consequences: it would slow down the pace of change dramatically. (This is essential because technological advances have moved faster than either societies or individuals can safely handle- and this ranges from nuclear weapons/reactors to the introduction of robots, nanotechnology, and the computer generated age of the global internet.) The commitment of cooperatives to long-term planning as well as to the immediate surroundings of its members, would give a tremendous boost towards protecting the clearly embattled environment. Cooperatives would not put an end to growth, but would effectively reduce both output and the growth of demands. As one can observe in cooperatives like the much vaunted John Lewis Partnership in the UK, UPS in the US, or Mondragon in Spain, their members share in the profits and are protected in their jobs.
Perhaps Gore, a man now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, can afford to be generous about capitalism in the 21st Century. I am concerned that his wealth may cloud his otherwise sharp vision of how capitalism is perverting the course of humanity. As I pointed out in an earlier work, Towards the Millennium, (1996) capitalism was instrumental in taking us out of the feudalistic agricultural era and ushering us it into an industrial one. However, in the over-populating world of 2013 which is hurtling us unprepared into the new era of global communications and nanotechnology, capitalism is no longer the right economic system
I do not view the United States of America as a failed democracy as polymath Gore does. I recognize that it certainly is a struggling one. If the glaring inequalities forced on the American people by the corrupting force of corporate driven capitalism do continue then a systemic economic break-down seems inevitable. Perhaps that would be a first cataclysmic step towards a Braver New World.
Al Gore, The Future (2013)
Yorick Blumenfeld, Towards the Millennium: Optimistic Visions for Change. (1996); Dollars or Democracy (2004)
Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality, (2012)