The World Needs A Recession. Forever

You can only delay the reckoning. The fossil fuel era is running out for everyone. Fuel queues in Sri Lanka, right now. Image: AFP

Y’all say we need to reduce emissions now, but I don’t think you understand what that means. My country has, out of sheer poverty, reduced emissions dramatically. Sri Lanka simply cannot get fuel, for cooking, for transport, for electricity, for anything. That’s what reducing emissions now actually means. It’s misery.

Hence at the end of the fossil fuel era, you see countries scrambling over fossil fuels even more desperately. The United States is proudly opening up more land for drilling. They’re begging for oil from allies like Saudi and even enemies like Venezuela. Russia is seizing coal and resource rich regions of Ukraine. These great powers give a fuck about climate commitments. They’ll huff fossil fuels until they OD.

Everyone is desperately trying to preserve their economic growth, which is like trying to preserve your cancer. People don’t get it. Economic growth is precisely what’s killing us. Infinite growth against a finite planet is just cancer. That’s all it is.

For the planet and life as we know it to survive, we need to see massive degrowth, controlled GDP recession in the rich north and controlled growth of human development measures in the south. That’s the only way to rebalance our relationship with the planet, else the planet will rebalance itself forcefully.

Right now we are just measuring our greed, which is insatiable. We need to start measuring the needs of living beings, which can be done. People can have enough food, they can have shelter, they can have clothing, education, health. We can have this for billions, but not with billionaires. We have to choose one.

There are already alternate measures of development, like the Human Development Index, or the Sustainable Development Index, or what I call ZDP (Zero Domestic Poverty). But we’re not follow that, are we? People are still looking at the stock market, at electric cars, at trying to somehow keep this consumer culture in a planet that’s literally dying of consumption. Y’all don’t get it. This won’t be a light adjustment. Real change would be sacrifice. It would mean giving something up. In the Biblical sense, far more than you’d be comfortable with.

What the world needs now is a massive destruction of wealth down to sustainable levels and an equitable distribution of what we have, with most resources being shared communally. Like, you know, communism. And you have to give it to Fidel Castro. He called this decades ago.

Castro said:

Because what has capitalism resolved? It has solved no problems. It has looted the world. It has left us with all this poverty. It has created lifestyles and models of consumerism that are incompatible with reality. It has poisoned waterways, oceans. I mean rivers, lakes, seas, the atmosphere, the Earth. It has produced an incredible waste of resources.

I always cite one example. Imagine if every person in China owned a car, or aspired to own a car, every one of the 1.1 billion people in China. Or that every one of the 800 million people in India wished to own a car — this method, this lifestyle — and that Africa did the same. And that nearly 450 million Latin Americans did the same. How long would oil last? How long would natural gas last? How long would natural resources last? What would be left of the ozone layer? What would be left of oxygen on Earth? What would happen with carbon dioxide? And all these phenomena that are changing the ecology of our world, they are changing Earth, they are making life in our planet more and more difficult all the time.

What has capitalism given the world as a model to follow? An example for societies to emulate? Shouldn’t we focus on more rational things, like the education of the whole population? Nutrition, health, a respectable lodging, an elevated culture. You say capitalism, with its blind laws, its selfishness as a fundamental principle has given us something to emulate? Has it shown us a path forward? Is humanity going to travel along the course charted thus far?

Sri Lanka followed the capitalist model since the 1980s and let me tell you, it’s a dead end. We’re literally dying. We built socialist systems of healthcare and education after independence and brought our life expectancy up to American levels.

Then we got seduced by the American dream and colonized by capitalism again. We wanted cars, we wanted imported goods, we wanted what they had, and we sold ourselves out to their bankers for debt. But it was all a Ponzi scheme and we’re the ones left holding the bag. As Castro said we chased “lifestyles and models of consumerism that are incompatible with reality.” And now reality has checked us, hard.

You could say that this won’t happen to you, this only happens to poor countries, but what happens to America when their dollar dominance finally falls apart? When they start a proxy war with someone even bigger then Russia? Americans are already feeling the pinch, and they have worse debt and a more corrupt government than ours. At some point the piper will get paid, and their economy too will collapse. It’s actually already collapsed for many people. In truth America has been falling since the Twin Towers, it’s just taking a while to hit the ground.

The only people remotely putting the brakes on is China, with their idea of‘common prosperity’and a‘moderately prosperous society’. They used the engine of state capitalism to get to a certain level, and now they’re hitting the break and levelling off. And they’re the only ones withcredible plansfor climate adaptation and theindustrial capacityto pull it off.

Everybody else is fighting over the gas, and flooring it all the way down. Nobody wants to end up like Sri Lanka, scrambling for fuel and energy, but none of the colonial countries are remotely serious about a transition. America’s answer to Russian gas being evil is to ship their more expensive natural gas across the fucking ocean. But it’s all evil to the planet.

In this way they’ll meet their fate on the road they take to avoid it. Even White Empire can secure supplies of fossil fuels, the climate costs will become so great, even for them, that their economies will start to collapse anyways. They can delay it and make it worse, but the reckoning will come.

The fact is that choosing a controlled recession now and forever is the best decision for humanity, but it’s the worst thing possible for human societies right now. People will riot for their fossil fuels, governments will fall. And so the final collapse of this thing we call human civilization is contained in that old contradiction. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to have our planet and light it on fire. And we can’t do both. We can pretend for a while, but eventually reality will have it’s due.

I’m living in that future now, where reality has collected its pound of flesh, and boy does it suck. I completely understand why no society would voluntarily make the decision to reduce their living standards, it’s absolutely awful. But one way or another, this is the destination. Capitalism is a one-way street and we’re all on.

The only way out is a massive global recession to pull away from the cancer of endless growth, a process like chemo that we can only hope kills the cancer slightly faster than it kills us. But we’re not even trying. The western world is like a stage four cancer patient huffing cigarettes, because ‘fuck it, you only live once’.

Meanwhile us in the Global South are already dying and so I’m trying to raise the alarm. It’s a dead end! Turn around! Any sacrifice now is better than where you’ll end up! Y’all won’t listen any more than we did, but what else can I do? I know it’s really not your choice, but don’t say you weren’t warned.