After growth

Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen argue that we need to live with less stuff—and way less people.

Who are humans? We are consumers and entrepreneurs, and we are formed as such by our neoliberal capitalist culture, writes philosopher Todd May in Friendship in an Age of Economics. The consumer consumes, living in the eternal hedonistic present, with little thought for the past or future. The entrepreneur seeks, maximizing current investments in people, things, and experiences, always with an eye for future gains. Both figures are the result of a rampant capitalistic perspective that places our lives within the paradigm of the marketplace.

In An Inconvenient Apocalypse, Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen also ask the question, Who are we? Their answer is similar to May’s: we are consumers and seekers. But for them, we are seeking and consuming one grand, simple thing: carbon.

Our outsized consumption of carbon has brought civilization as we know it to the brink of an imminent apocalypse, the authors warn. “It is our human nature, like the nature of all life, to seek out energy-rich carbon,” Jackson and Jensen write. We have gotten “exceedingly good” at it, too good. Acquiring more carbon than we need, humans have inflicted rounds of destructive activities on the ecosphere that have only increased in number and devastation with capitalism’s global entrenchment.