The Value of a Whale – On the Illusions of Green Capitalism

Adrienne Buller
Manchester University Press, 2022
Level: beginner
Perspective: Ecological Economics
Topic: Crises, Criticism of Capitalism, Resources, Environment & Climate
page count: 368 pages
ISBN: 9781526162632

Blurb

Public understanding of, and outcry over, the dire state of the climate and environment is greater than ever before. Parties across the political spectrum claim to be climate leaders, and overt denial is on the way out. Yet when it comes to slowing the course of the climate and nature crises, despite a growing number of pledges, policies and summits, little ever seems to change. Nature is being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. We remain on course for a catastrophic 3°C of warming. What's holding us back? In this searing and insightful critique, Adrienne Buller examines the fatal biases that have shaped the response of our governing institutions to climate and environmental breakdown, and asks: are the 'solutions' being proposed really solutions? Tracing the intricate connections between financial power, economic injustice and ecological crisis, she exposes the myopic economism and market-centric thinking presently undermining a future where all life can flourish. The book examines what is wrong with mainstream climate and environmental governance, from carbon pricing and offset markets to 'green growth', the commodification of nature and the growing influence of the finance industry on environmental policy. In doing so, it exposes the self-defeating logic of a response to these challenges based on creating new opportunities for profit, and a refusal to grapple with the inequalities and injustices that have created them. Both honest and optimistic, The Value of a Whale asks us - in the face of crisis - what we really value.

This book ist part of the alternative reading list 2022 by Diversifying and Decolonising Economics (D-Econ). The editors comment has been provided by D-Econ and can also be found on the list, which was compiled by Devika Dutt, Danielle Guizzo, and Ingrid Kvangraven.

Comment from our editors:

Limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degree celsius is the defining challenge of our time. To this end, economic actors have found ways to monetise and trade “ecosystem services”. The idea is that by creating a market in biodiversity and carbon offsets can create investment to prevent the unfolding environmental and climate catastrophe. In part, these efforts show how the Overton window has shifted from outright climate denialism to grappling directly with the realities of environmental degradation. Despite unprecedented levels of public knowledge and concern, commitment from governments, technical innovation, and the staggering impact of climate change and environmental damage on our lives, why are we still so far from a “habitable future and safe present?” In this great new book, Adrienne Buller poses these important questions about green capitalism, the effort to preserve existing capitalist systems and relations and ensure new domains for accumulation in order to respond to the ecological crisis. She argues that the dominance of the approach of green capitalism is self-defeating, and needlessly confines the shape of the society we need to build. Specifically, as regards the role of neo-classical economics and market governance in shaping green capitalism, this book is a must-read.

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