Resetting Our Future: A Chicken Can’t Lay a Duck Egg
How Covid-19 can solve the climate crisis
Vast swathes of the current economic system have to be dismantled to secure humanity’s future. Until recently that was thought impossible. Covid-19 proves this wrong. It is possible to shut polluting businesses overnight and pay people during a transition. Because Covid-19 has done half the job for us, a sustainable future is finally within our grasp. This book explains how societies can embrace this unique chance to build a future where people live with decency, and in balance with nature.
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When passionate, well-informed people speak, we all need to listen. When dogged experts present the problems and provide the solutions, we need to take note. And when dedicated, insightful, inspired and inspiring people write a book on the most urgent crisis facing humanity, the world needs to read it and to take action – immediately and collectively. Climate activist and economist, Graeme Maxton, and former director of the Jane Goodall Institute in Singapore, Bernice Maxton-Lee, are the authors of Resetting our future: A chicken can’t lay a duck egg – How Covid-19 can solve the climate crisis. If you care about our planet, if you worry about the future of humanity – basically, whether we have a long-term future at all – then as you read this tough and challenging book, you’ll find yourself smiling, shaking your head at the insanities of the status quo, weeping or angry at the destruction, and finally encouraged to heed the authors’ call not to waste a ‘good crisis’ – the opportunity provided by Covid-19. It is precisely the enormous scope for change provided by all that the pandemic is laying bare that has brought hope and optimism to these two deeply and stubbornly committed people. All of which runs the risk of making them sound dour when the opposite is the case. Maxton and Maxton-Lee bring humour and a light touch to their thorough research and wide-ranging knowledge. Their talent – and one of the strengths of this book – is that, despite their obvious expertise, they manage to engage the reader and bring us along with them. They lead us to explore with them a spectrum of practical concrete solutions. This is very definitely a call to action but I certainly did not feel talked at or overwhelmed by the science, so deftly is it presented. The title makes clear that the authors are calling for radical change – to everything – to all our structures, since to apply the old ways to create a new sane and sustainable world is simply impossible. So we can’t expect a duck’s egg out of systems already disintegrating. The prevailing norms and myths keep us tied into an antiquated and inherently destructive model incapable of producing solutions and creating new ways. And this is where Covid-19 comes in as it exposes every crack and many crooks – mismanagement, lack of leadership, corruption, greed, complacency and ignorance. The difference between those in power and the average citizen is that multinationals, banks and big vested interests have exploited and ‘vandalized’ knowingly, actively, while ‘Joe Ordinary’ has been impotent in the face of these forces, or has tolerated or perhaps ignored the destruction. The pandemic plus lockdown should also force us to face a reality that industry and government continues to ignore: the idea of infinite economic growth within a finite system is fundamentally flawed and has a direct toxic and destructive impact on the natural world. We must surely see that current economics has created ecological havoc and the destruction of our environment has brought us Covid-19. It is the simple working out of cause and effect and our role in it. No sugar-coating Maxton and Maxton-Lee are uncompromising in their determination not to sugar-coat the facts. The news is bad and they provide ample evidence. They conclude: “The scale of the climate problem is so big that, even if hundreds of millions of people lived 100 per centsustainably, and created absolutely no greenhouse gases, it would not be enough to avoid the tipping point.” The hopeful reader might argue that green alternatives are making headway. While that may be true, “There is no market-based solution to these problems. Solar panels, Teslas, and some as-yet undefined technology will not save us.” What, then, can we do? They answer, “Only a people’s movement and structural reform will work.” The reader is encouraged to respond immediately by working together with others, to change everything in the way we live and to encourage others, and while that may seem simplistic to a cynic it is in fact the only way forward. It’s no fun reading about how humanity has screwed up, but there’s only one sane way to respond to the science. This book addresses key questions: What stops societies from changing? While Covid-19 has shown that we can make radical change overnight, the sad truth is that the fossil fuel habit is still with us. Governments sign up to treaties which give them years to take action, as if the planet has time, and we baulk at paying higher prices for clean energy, while hoping that a gradual transition will happen. “In effect, however, societies are choosing to damage the atmosphere, rather than change.... It is a mindset problem, not a technological one.” Myth busting The Maxtons are good at myth-busting. Magical thinking and wrong thinking have tied us into destructive behaviours. We believe in economic growth; we believe wealth will ‘trickle down’. By now it should be clear that it doesn’t; inequalities are wider than ever. “While millions have been lifted out of poverty in the last 30 years, most remain very poor. More than 90 per cent still live on less than $10 a day while the gap between the rich and poor world is three times greater today than in 1820.” (How was life? Global Well-being since 1820, OECD Report) Another pernicious myth, a theory which the world takes to be real and logical, is that we should leave market forces as unregulated as possible – the less red-tape, the fewer rules and regulations, the faster and better the economic growth. (Note how governments and the financial sector have worked hard to deregulate and free the markets, particularly since 2008.) The consequence of deregulation is environmental destruction with impunity – no laws, no penalties. Were we always so indifferent to others and to nature? We have developed habits of complacency, greed, entitlement and easy consumerism, as if profligate spending is our right. Individualism and the rise of the importance attached to opinions in place of facts, science and expertise, makes finding solutions harder. A rejection of human values allows big businesses to shrug off the impact of their policies on communities, on families, on the natural world. The goal, of course, is short-term gain – regardless of human suffering or ecological damage. Our unquestioning, illogical attitudes have locked us down in a state of carelessness that Covid-19 has un-masked. The lockdown restrictions are pointing the way: “Covid-19 has taught societies how much they need to invest in the transition if they are to do what is necessary.” A crucial factor in the mix is our acceptance of current definitions of politics, of the role of politicians and of democracy – which should be rule by the people, instead of by the influence of money and powerful lobby groups. “It is people who decide what societies consider to be right and wrong. People select the indices of success and set the time horizons they consider useful. People define how they relate to one another and how societies relate to nature. What people consider to be their entitlement, or their duty, what they think of as freedom, and order, are all choices. If humanity is to release itself from its self-induced ecological burden, it first needs to understand that the dominant system of humandevelopment used in most of the world today, also known as neoliberalism, is the main cause of their problems.” Like Covid-19, A chicken can’t lay a duck egg not only exposes all our failings, it also presents cogent arguments and solutions, as well as uplifting encouragement and advice to all who care about the planet and its people. Several chapters are devoted to: laying out a blueprint for the future; a manual for the change-makers; warnings about possible obstacles to change; caveats and reminders that the collective – society – must be our priority, rather than the ‘me’ culture. What can we do as individuals? The authors have provided a handy fact sheet and a practical outline of how to change a mindset – one’s own and others’, reminding us that we need to question and rethink everything as we join with others also determined to make the needed urgent transition to new ways in every aspect of life. If you recognize yourself in that determination, then this book is for you. A chicken can’t lay a duck egg – How Covid-19 can solve the climate crisis, John Hunt Publishing, 30 October 2020, 136 pages, ISBN: 9781789047622. PS: I was able to ask Graeme Maxton for any climate-related comment he wished to make post-US presidential election. He replied that while he doesn’t share the euphoria still the election of Biden is: “good news for action on climate change. But while his intention to re- join the Paris Accord is a welcome first step, it is important to remember that what has been agreed in Paris will not avoid a catastrophe, nor delay it one second. We still need to change our elected leaders and demand much more radical emissions reductions goals.” © Share International magazine NB: This review was translated into Dutch, German, French, Slovenian and Japanese; it is also mentioned briefly on our Spanish site. Please let me know if you would like to receive any of these other language versions. ~ Share International magazine, December 2020, Book review by Felicity Eliot
Read and act on the wisdom of this book now. In another decade it will be too late. ~ Dr Susan George, President and Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Transnational Institute.
This book offers a trenchant analysis of the omni-crises that the world now faces with climate change, biodiversity loss, Covid pandemic and financial collapse. It makes compelling arguments for all of us to act now, and change all the systems that underlie human cultures and economies. A must read for every thinking person. ~ Dr Paul Shrivastava, Director, Sustainability Institute and Professor of Management, The Pennsylvania State University
This book is bold, dramatic, and visionary. It brilliantly explains the many crises facing humanity and shows why Covid-19 provides a unique opportunity to build a better future. I hope humanity is up to the challenge. ~ Jorgen Randers, Professor emeritus of climate strategy, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo. Co-author The Limits to Growth (1972) and author 2052 – A Global Forecast for the next Forty Years (2012)
This book is an important intervention at a point where we face a historic choice: either to continue an economic system that is driving us to the precipice, or to create new social structures that allow both ecosystems and human societies to survive and to thrive. ~ Mark B. Brown, Professor of Political Science, California State University, Sacramento, USA,
Humanity’s social, intellectual, religious, and cultural illness is destroying Planet Earth and depriving our children of a future. This brilliantly constructed, well-documented, no-punches-pulled argument for personal and global change entails tossing out old economic models (no more money), frankly facing the immediacy of the climate crisis, refocusing society from the individual to the community, admitting the weaknesses of unbridled capitalism, ending colonialism and other forms of exploitation, focusing on conservation, and embracing veganism. Buy ten much-needed copies, one for yourself and the rest for forward-thinking, committed, tough-minded, and effective friends who really want to save the world. ~ Yun Rou, Daoist Monk
The Ancient Greeks had a word for this – a time of chaos, change and yet also opportunity. They called it Kairos. This book is Kairos incarnate, passionate about the realities; clear about the changes we need; funny when it needs to be and pioneering in that it takes us from chaos to opportunity. Time for Kairos and this is the handbook. ~ Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), CEO of FaithInvest
Praise for 'Reinventing Prosperity: Managing Economic Growth to Reduce Unemployment, Inequality and Climate Change' - "An essential guide to those who want to change the world for the better and for certain." - ~ Ha-Joon Chang, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, author of "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism"