“Capitalism as if the World Mattered” by Jonathan Porritt

ISBN 978-1-84407-193-7. Published in 2005 and updated considerably in 2007. Published by Earthscan. Full Title: “Capitalism as if the World Mattered” by Jonathan Porritt. This is a book primarily about selling sustainable development to Business Folk and the Electorate, but fails to deliver any killer vision or program. In fact you would be forgiven for thinking that it is 350 pages of waffle and navel-gazing. Porritt is a true mega-star of the green movement but he is the green answer to Tony Blair. Whilst most of his country lost faith in Blair and Brown several years ago it does seem as if Jonathan is their greatest living fan and pours nothing but praise on their work on third world debt and the environment. In truth it all sounds like a ‘deep-green’ having flown a little too close to the Sun and having fallen to earth a far lighter-green. Porritt’s proposition here is that Capitalism can be reformed to support the Planet’s Natural Capital one company at a time through some kind of super-green Corporate Responsibility packages. Porritt gives vent to all kinds of anguish over the crimes of the George Bush Jnr regime but the main agenda is set by his own “Forum for the Future”. He lambastes the traditional greens for their inability to articulate a positive vision and often returns to the idea that environmentalism is dead. It remains unclear as to what “Forum for the Future” is doing but you would expect a modern Government to be receptive to great plug-and-play answers for their environmental problems.. It makes you wonder if Porritt hasn’t just wasted the last twenty years with a bunch of civil servants when he should have been evolving something inspirational. Throughout this book Porritt delivers an analysis of everyone’s opinions through his large personal library. He wants us (especially the cynical greens) to embrace Capitalism and revolutionise it from the inside. He comes up with lots of post-modern ideas about what constitutes “Capital” and he truly believes that if you wrap the environmental message in nice green wrapping then those hedge fund managers in the City will swallow it. Only very briefly does he even touch on WHAT exactly it is that would possibly make this happen – a price per tonne for Carbon of $100. Here is a germ of an idea but it is quickly swamped by a sea of voices. We hear every shade of opinion yet never seem to reach a conclusion. We need to make sustainable development desirable? Wrong. We need to make the survival of our species a matter of economics. And we have to inspire people through their own stupid self interest. Once you have that licked then the suckers are all yours. This is a well researched book and an interesting read if you want a pleasant ramble through the world of green politics and its failures. If you want a kick in the pants and a hundred great ideas to sell sustainable development to your Board of Directors, Shareholders or your electorate… Well, we’re still clueless. Sorry Jonathan. You are a great guy and we like you. But this half baked imitation of a Business Management text book and isn’t going to work. It doesn’t matter that the “Financial Times” or “The Observer” loved it. This won’t break out of its obscure green-niche. When you talk about a Martin Luther King style “dream” then you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you then can’t deliver it. Until the loss of habitat or climate change causes pain to the people who matter (those who work in big finance, Oil, Washington and mega-Trans-National Corporations) then you are howling at the moon. Porritt knows about Peak Oil and devotes a section to it. And then conveniently forgets it for the rest of the book. Join the dots and think. Everything in Politics, Money and Power is all as joined up as the Natural Bio-system. When you stop trying to treat each individual bit in isolation and take a holistic view then you won’t find a solution to the mankind’s survival.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.

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