Greta Thunberg has something of a problem with her plans for the world. Which is that exactly what she thinks should happen is happening. It’s horrible when people actually get to see the results of a societal plan, isn’t it?
The thing being that she thinks we should have a less wealthy society. One which consumes less, travels less, in general walks more lightly upon this Earth. Well, OK, why not? Everyone’s got a vision of the good society and the entire point of this civil liberty thing is that we all get to expound what ours is.
But here’s the problem with St Greta’s:
This gets to the nub of the problem with the climate change movement. We know pretty well we could reverse the problem if we all agree to become as poor as church mice, or return to being peasants in the fields. It is the understandable resistance to such reversion which causes the problem itself. We like being able to heat our food, warm our bodies, travel and generally enjoy civilisation. That, at this current level of technological advance, means the use of fossil fuels – at the cost of changes to the climate in the future.
The question is not whether we should do something about it, but what?
The coronavirus outbreak gives us a neat experiment in what happens when humans suddenly dramatically reduce both production and consumption. And, to put it mildly, most of us are not enjoying it one bit.
The aim of this whole game of having an economy at all is that human beings end up getting more of what human beings want. What they want can be discussed of course, perhaps it is more penguins, clearer skies and chillier mornings. But we’re running that experiment right now and as it turns out that isn’t what people do want. They’d – we’d – prefer the toilet paper, flights and mounds of rare roast beef.
Which is a bit of a problem for a religious movement telling us to reject the second trio as the cost of being able to have the first, isn’t it?
St Greta’s problem – we’ve tried her world and didn’t like it.