We Can’t Save the Planet and Be Capitalist

The founder of Patagonia thinks saving the planet is hopeless. So what keeps him going, and how does capitalism fit into the solution?

Photo by Stijn Dijkstra from Pexels

The Crisis of the Past

In 1979– surprisingly, 4 decades ago — President Jimmy Carter gave his “Crisis of Confidence” speech to a tumultuous nation. He boldly proclaimed the nation was at a turning point, with two distinct paths to choose from.

Dangerous Consumption

We have been encouraged to recognize tremendous growth as a major sign of a healthy economy. But like stars that shine brightest before burning themselves out, rapid expansion isn’t as wholesome as it sounds.

“It’s all growth, growth, growth — and that’s what’s destroying the planet.” Yvon Chouinard

The problem is the expectation of innovative products to be the solution to saving the planet — when it was consumption which got us into the mess.

Amending Capitalism

Rather than linger in hopelessness, we can take action. We can use Yvon’s words as motivation to storm that “never-ending summit” of sustainability.

Learning from the 1%

Instead of chasing growth for growth’s sake, Patagonia shows us that corporations of today can be morally good, and still perform well in the long run. In return for acting within the interests of the workers, the business, and the environment — the market will reward their genuine action. Yvon believes this what the consumer expects of their companies, anyway.

As Chouinard says, “the solution to depression is action.”

We have the power to choose to act sustainably every day. Whether following the urgings of Jimmy Carter and conserving whenever possible or spreading the word about the benefits of pursuing sustainability. And with each new generation, a new hope of more leaders ready to answer the call to action.

DaRon is a New Orleans based writer and recent graduate focusing on cultural, social and political issues.

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