Natural Capitalism, as Hunter Lovins describes it, is a way of realizing greater value in people and nature than in financial profit, as is currently in play in what she calls “cheater capitalism.” She says that continuing on the course of the mainstream financial system and the degenerative process of accreting vast amounts of wealth into the hands of a few, and the incredible amount of energy it takes to do so, by some accounts, could mean the end of human life by 2050. Surely, in a system where the wealthiest 80 individuals made more money that the rest of the entire population, there is something off kilter we may want to look at.
There is a link between levels of inequality and undesirable social dysfunctions like violence, murder, suicide, mental illness, and the like, which points to the fact that supporting greater economic disparity is directly tied to the distrust, anger, jealousy, and self-loathing that perpetuate societal breakdown and all that is known as “crime,” thereby driving what we don’t want and destroying the life giving aspects of the planet. Should humankind open up to recognizing the capital life offers beyond the quantifiable monetary system, namely valuing people for the priceless assets that they are and honoring nature for the true wealth that it brings, we may just be able to avoid the Sixth Extinction, a possible reality that more and more scientists are realizing as a very serious threat. Even organizations like Goldman Sachs, one of the major players in the financial debacle, are now pointing to the fact that “sustainability pays,” and it is now more financially lucrative for a business to invest in renewable energy, improving returns by more than 18% on equity, and 67% on investments, while Harvard Business School has recently said sustainability isn’t the burden we once thought it was, but the touchstone of all innovation.
Hunter Lovins says younger people and millenials are “getting this at an almost glandular level,” perhaps our innate survival instincts kicking in as this generation realizes that habits of voracious consumption for the sake of debt-laden servitude to the very elite does not create a high quality of life for the entirety of the population. As social capital rises through the proliferation of social media networks and the sharing economy grows, it seems that a variety of opportunities are arising in order to save humankind from the demise it faces should we continue to enable the oligarchy and plutocracy that have developed under the guise of democracy. She describes what we have been serving as “bad capitalism” in that it merely focuses on the movement of money, but does not recognize the intrinsic value of human well-being and the well-being of the rest of life on the planet.
Let’s open up to the other forms of capital that help us to realize a wealthy life, our natural, human, spiritual, social, cultural, and institutional capital, to realize a more robust reality. If we are able to see the merit of thinking outside the box of “bad capitalism” and practice healthy materialism by actually appreciating materials instead of merely using things until we can turn them into garbage, we may just realize that much of the suffering humankind endures is largely undue. Opening up to greater wealth than the status quo will not only improve our quality of life in the immediate moment, but may just save our species from extinction.
Listen in to the full interview with L. Hunter Lovins below.