Capitalism Caused Climate Change (But Might Save it Too)

Crisis is the Mother of All Invention: Invention Is The Only Way We’re Getting Out Of This Mess

Light bulb portrait on black background
Pexels Rahul Light Bulb

I struggle with the modern environmental movement. White privilege is written all over it. It bugs me because I’m not white.

Hand cradling glass sculpture of Earth
These images are lame and boring

There are messages in it that reek of hypocrisy. Mainly the idea that undeveloped countries shouldn’t develop as richer ones have. It will drive further climate change. This one’s a head-scratcher because it’s probably true. But the UN development goals aim to take everyone out of poverty. And climate change is making that harder. How do you resolve this?

I was in Nigeria for a couple of weeks in 2018. A chap named Albert was driving me around. This was his day job. His real ambition was growing his egg farming business, which he pursued tenaciously. I know this because he sold me some eggs I didn’t need (they were delicious). This story is random, but it brings me to a point. Albert wasn’t concerned about climate change. He was concerned about making money.

It makes sense. Money is one of my main concerns, isn’t it one of yours?

I like listening to Naval Ravikant because he talks fast and says clever stuff like this:

The struggle with the modern environmental movement is that they identify the correct problem. Earth is all we got, don’t ruin it. But they don’t have the solution. So what they say is no growth, no growth, no growth… People are not going to give up economic growth. They’re gonna have to get rich first.

Technology is not only the thing that moves the human race forward, but it’s the only thing that ever has. Without technology, we’re just monkeys playing in the dirt.

Naval Ravikant

Painting of monkeys playing in the dirt
Me after 3 coffees

Naval has it down. The problem we’re facing, and the only solution we have. Asking people to stay poor — completely unrealistic. Forcing people to stay poor — that’s going to lead to mutiny. So what we have are our powers of invention. Fortunately, that’s one thing history tells us we’re fucking great at. Technology for the future can achieve sustainability.

Sustainability is now the key driver of business innovation. The future of tech will be clean and green. Tech can save companies money AND accelerate sustainability. It’s a no-brainer.

For example, bitcoin mining already uses more energy than Sweden. But changing the code protocol could save 99.9% of its energy use.

Sustainable inventions are the technology of the future. They are sprouting out of the woodwork just like this mushroom.

Mushroom growing out of a piece of mossy wood
Pretty but probably poisonous

Some you’ve heard of. Things like electric or hydrogen-powered transport, carbon capture or LED lightbulbs. Others you probably haven’t, like solar lighting, sea bins, solar glass, milk textiles, self-healing concrete or plastic roads. Either way, they just keep coming.

We have the tools to fix the climate change mess. But we need to do it quickly.

CAPITALISM NEEDS TO SHIFT GEAR

Capitalism and economic growth have a very, very bad name when it comes to climate change. Greedy companies have exploited natural resources in the name of profit. It’s undeniable they’ve caused most of the problem so far.

But. Through capitalism, business and entrepreneurship have been the biggest driver of technological innovation. What radical inventions came out of communist China? None. Entrepreneurship was dis-incentivised. Plenty of people would disagree with me, but gunpowder? The compass? Paper? Printing? All invented in China BEFORE Communism. (China’s current ‘capitalist communism’ is a different story).

Ancient Chinese compass
I never knew the first compass was invented in China

It’s controversial. For every article saying capitalism has to be stopped to solve climate change, another says it’s the answer. At PF_BD we believe capitalism, entrepreneurship and invention are essential. Without them we won’t solve the problem, because people will never choose to ‘not’ get rich.

But capitalism has to change. The technologies and policies to address climate change already exist. The obstacles are politics and fossil fuel interests. Capitalist interests.

Capitalism needs to be done in a new way. Sustainability has to be at the heart of good business.

Put it like this…

Triple bottom line diagram

People and the planet without profit; if you aren’t making any money, it ain’t business and you’re fucked

Profit and the planet without people; your business might be viable, but someone somewhere is getting fucked

People and profit without the planet; your business is fairer, but nature gets fucked

Any of those options, we all get fucked eventually. You have to have ALL THREE.

To achieve this at PF_BD, we’ll only use sustainable materials and technology in our products. We’ll scrutinise suppliers before we work with them. And we’re going to offset our activity — starting with planting mangroves for every sale. Yes, there’s debate about offsetting, but it’s got to make a difference. Nature can deliver a third of the emissions cuts needed to avert climate disaster. 50% of global GDP depends on high-functioning biodiversity. Investing 0.1% of global GDP in nature could avoid ecosystem breakdown. We’re going to support that investment.

Tropical mangrove forest

People have been inventing stuff as long as we’ve been people. The world is changing at an exponential rate. If that change moves in the right direction, we can solve climate change.

We’ll solve it with sustainable technology, of all shapes and sizes. Driving that forward is our mission at PF_BD .

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See you very soon

Oz

Oz Nwachukwu is a British Architect living in London and the founder of plasticfreebydesign.com. Feel free to get in contact for a chat @ hello@plasticfreebydesign.com.

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Oz Nwachukwu

Oz Nwachukwu

British Architect with a deep focus on sustainability, systems, data, design and emerging technology. I also dabble in spirituality and the esoteric.