23 May 2006
Yesterday I watched Lester R. Brown sell his brand of evangelical millenarianism upon being awarded an honorary degree at Hitotsubashi University. If we're trying to effect a grassroots change in attitudes faster than the market can take care of then shouldn't we be trying to make saving the environment more sexy? I'd raise two major doubts about the way this Plan B 2.0 thinks about what motivates us. Like Brown says, China wants the American dream. Now we've got to persuade them they can't possibly have it. Aspiration after excess is the motor of our economies - try getting people to strive for a sustainable and equitable contentment. Now bring me the moon. On a stick please. Also, reducing global poverty is laudable, but can we please stop talking as if it's possible to make poverty history; or assuming that if we were somehow hypothetically to end "poverty" this would also end terrorism. You sense that Brown is struggling against that popular US discourse of imputing negligence to the worse off on the premise of a meritocracy. The trouble is reconciling giving money to help the developing world with talk of setting up incentive structures that reinforce desired behaviours - if you frame it like this, people are just going to say let's keep all three thirds of the US military budget and lay the smackdown on anyone who won't play by our (divinely ordained) rules.