What creates a little bit of frustration is that there was not enough controversy in the scientific field because the book was somehow discarded by many. Not by all. Of many, it was rejected as a doomsday prophecy. And certainly we did not have success among economists at that time.
WIRED: Probably economists were not so happy about it because growth is inherent in capitalism. And Unmarked growth in reality, a kind of manic, ecologically-destructive growth at any cost built into the system.
CAP: What the system has done, as a mechanism to continue growth at all costs, is actually to burn the future. And the future is the least renewable resource. There is no way we can reuse the time we had when we started this conversation. And by building a system that is more debt-driven – where we keep consumption going, but by creating more and more debt – what we are actually doing is burning or stealing people’s time in the future. Because their time will be used to repay the debt.
WIRED: It seems obvious that we will eventually run out of limited resources. But there was even shock at that idea when the report came out. Where does that insistence come from?
CAP: The paradox is that capitalism is also based on the concept of scarcity. Our system is organized around the idea that resources are scarce, then we have to pay for them and people in the value chain will benefit from this idea of scarcity. Conventional capitalism says that although these resources may be limited, we will find others: Don’t worry, the technology will save us. So we continue the same way.
WIRED: 50 years after the original report, are we on the right track as a species?
Cap: No, if you look at reality. And no, especially if you only look at what governments and companies do, if you look at what decision makers decide and the governance systems we have, whether they are national or global. We are not better in terms of pollution because we have global warming, an existential problem. We are not better in terms of biodiversity. We are not in terms of inequality. So there are plenty of reasons to say no.
But there are also good reasons for the optimism of the will. And these reasons may be less obvious, less obvious, less in the headlines in the media and elsewhere. We certainly believe that there is an ongoing cultural change that is often hidden in ordinary view. Many are experimenting, often at the societal level, trying to find their own paths towards the balance of well-being in a healthy biosphere. One change that gives me hope is the change in the status of women, the increasing roles of women. And I would say that if you look at what is happening to the younger generations, there is also a big change.
So politically, at the corporate level, at the official level, things are pretty much going in the wrong direction. Culturally below the line, my bid is that a lot of things are happening in the right direction. The human revolution is already underway – it’s just that we do not see it. And maybe it’s good that we do not see it yet, until the moment when it makes many things change.