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The Dispute Over Sustainability: False Solutions Versus Real Alternatives

The current debate is about the content of the term 'sustainability' and whether the solution to the environmental problems caused by the capitalist market economy is more market mechanisms. The examples are countless: multinational electricity companies that boast of producing 'green energy' while having a hugely negative socio-environmental impact, especially in the countries of the Global South; 'organic' fruit transported over thousands of kilometres and packed in lavish amounts of plastic; 'sustainable' fashion based on the same fast fashion model that violates workers' rights, uses chemicals that damage their health, pollutes territories and generates huge amounts of waste.

With the blessing of multilateral institutions and most governments, we are seeing the rise of a 'green economy' that maintains that the market can and should solve the environmental issue. Sustainability understood according to the criteria of 'green capitalism' is enabling some of the most polluting companies on the planet to receive generous funding, for example from the so-called EU Green Deal and the Next Generation EU funds.

Green economy solutions that avoid any mention of justice or rights deepen inequalities and environmental devastation, and fuel techno-optimism - the belief that technological breakthroughs will save us from disaster.

Those who are active in the social economy are often very aware of the extent to which their initiatives, however modest, are contributing to trying out new worlds, envisaging through praxis economic alternatives to a decadent system; new worlds where production, distribution and consumption are brought closer together, where awareness is restored of the human relations that underpin commercial exchanges, where ethics and justice regain their place; new worlds that can prevail over a world in which we have grown accustomed to thinking that the strongest are entitled to impose their will.

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