21 July 2010

Sustainability Watchdog to be Put Down

Producing a report, as a government body, that recommended ending economic growth was always a risk. It seems that the Sustainable Development Commission just went to far, when its economics commissioner Tim Jackson did this last year. Reports suggest that the closure of the SDC is to save money, but with such an absurdly small budget this is surely just political cover.

For more than ten years now, the Sustainable Development Commission has been trying to do what I, and many other green commentators, think is impossible: persuading those who hold power in business and politics within this paradigm that they should take a path that does not threaten the planet. They did this politely, and in a measured way, backing their arguments up with clear and irrefutable evidence.

This result is that the SDC has been closed. This is surely evidence in itself, if such evidence were needed, that the existing power structures cannot be changed incrementally, from within. We need to recognise that the political system we struggle with will not allow us make the changes that the planet needs - the Westminster system of power and its corporate lobbyists are corrupt from top to bottom.

Tim Jackson's report was the latest and clearest statement of the total incompatibility of capitalism with sustainability. He may not have phrased it in those terms, but since capitalism cannot survive without growth, to challenge growth is to challenge capitalism itself. So I am not surprised that the SDC has met its doom; I only hope that those who thought that the art of persuasion could be successful will learn this lesson and have the courage to join us in building the new paradigm outside the mainstream.


  1. Bang on Molly - this is an outrage! Did you see Johann Hari's column in the Independent a week ago, 'Now David Cameron Shafts the Environment'? Look it up on his website if not; it's a wonderful demonstration of just how anti-green this government is being.

    But if Jackson and his colleagues have been so easily cast aside, what else are they and others like them supposed to do? Your post says they should join those like yourself working for change outside the system. But the Green Party are working within the system, stressing the importance of Caroline's position in parliament now. Transition groups etc aren't exactly working for change outside of the system either, and whilst winning some important concessions in certain areas they've hardly revolutionised urban living to the required extent. Places like Lammas are truly inspirational, but they're vastly limited in their scale and have little resonance with the broader population. I'm intrigued by the strategic questions your post throws up, and would love to hear more on your thoughts.

  2. "They did this politely, and in a measured way, backing their arguments up with clear and irrefutable evidence. The result is that the SDC has been closed."

    It's not quite as straightforward as that, is it? It might also have something to do with the change of government. The Lib Dems, in particular, should be ashamed of themselves.