True Sustainability and Degrowth in the Citizens Imaginary – The People and Planet paradigm in a truly democratic ethos unburdened by capitalism

Álvaro J. de Regil

he world is steadily going back to stages that we thought we had overcome. Democracy and its so-called democratic institutions are, for the most part, a complete mockery. In lieu of a democratic ethos, the market dictates the rules by which everyone must attempt to live, in complete contradiction with the most basic premise of democracy: to procure the welfare of every rank of society, and with special emphasis on the dispossessed. In most so-called democratic nations, their sovereigns are their citizens, the demos. Yet, governments have betrayed their democratic mandate to go in pursuit of the welfare of the citizenry, who has entrusted such a seminal responsibility on their livelihood in a cadre of elected public servants. Instead, the vast majority of public servants have become agents of the owners of the market and, in full connivance with them, work together in tandem to impose the ideal conditions to maximise the effectiveness of the wealth-extracting syphons of the institutional investors of international financial markets.

In this way, they have put together a very effective system of revolving doors that allows market agents and market owners to act both in the public and private arenas to perpetuate their wealth-extraction system on the ninety-nine percent for the very private benefit of the one percent. Consequently, we have back-pedalled to an ethos quite reminiscent of the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century and their robber barons. Through trade rules, trade pacts, climate change accords as well as carefully-designed financial, public health and geopolitical false flags, the market agents have consistently bypassed the judicial systems of nations and have placed the interests of corporations and their investors above national sovereignties, so that they can unobtrusively privatise and exploit every aspect of life, every public good and every natural resource in their benefit. From a geopolitical perspective, their propaganda machines are working unrelentingly to convince billions of people that a number of non-declared wars are justified for the sake of peace, justice, democracy and human rights. Reminiscent of the 1930s, and notwithstanding other military conflicts mostly in the Middle East and Africa, we are on the brink of another world war. In fact, this war is already ongoing. It has not been formally declared but it undoubtedly carries powerful global economic and geopolitical interests for the contending actors; interests that have nothing to do with their propaganda argumentation. Indeed, not since WWII have there been so many nations involved in one single war theatre in Syria and Iraq. Thus, we are immersed in a prolonged capitalist recession and in a number of conflicts where the robber barons in command of nations are attempting to make their global interests prevail through war. It is all about greed; namely, economic imperialism.

The big difference with the Gilded Age and with the interwar period of the 1930s, however, is that we have reached a stage where the unrelenting consumption of resources –an indispensable condition for the protraction of capitalism– has become completely unsustainable. As a consequence of the ecological footprint produced by market-based societies, thousands of species have ceased to exist in the last one-hundred years. Likewise, our predominant use of non-renewable resources to provide the energy necessary for our consumeristic living standards, has not only brought fossil fuels to a dire state of diminishing returns and scarcity, but has triggered a dramatic climate change. We are witnessing a consistent warming of the planet, of which we are only beginning to endure its hardships, without knowing with any reasonable certainty what will be its worst consequences for humanity and the rest of the living beings. Furthermore, predictions point at the very likely probability that we have already crossed the threshold where we will not be able to return to the conditions of the planet that prevailed only half a century ago, even under the unrealistic scenario that we put a drastic end today to our sheer consumeristic system and radically build new truly sustainable life systems.

Parting from this context of rapidly escalating geopolitical conflicts and the patent reaction of the planet against the unsustainable anthropocentric consumption of resources by the global marketocratic system, the premise of this work is that we must start today to radically change our life styles to put them in harmony with what Mother Earth can provide in food, water, energy and other natural resources in a truly sustainable manner for us and for all living beings. This means that we must embark on a quantum leap paradigmatic change that puts an end to marketocracy. If there is any long-term hope for humanity and the rest of living creatures, we must replace the current marketocratic ethos with a truly democratic ethos. To put it succinctly, we will not be able to build a sustainable system without replacing capitalism, because the true sustainability of people and planet –social justice and a healthy planet– are completely incompatible with the premise of capitalism. True sustainability and capitalism are an oxymoron. Consequently, replacing the capital accumulation paradigm is the only way to make realistic the construction of a new paradigm anchored on the drastic degrowth of our ecological footprint. However, given that all national and international institutions have been captured by the market, we must start by rescuing them from the market-driven agents. In other words, we must start by legally and peacefully removing from power the owners of the market and their market agents entrenched in the halls of governments. This is the quintessential sine-qua-non condition to realistically attempt to build what for now I can best describe as the Paradigm in pursuit of the welfare of People and Planet and Not the market.

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