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Chandran Nair on Asia’s Global Responsibility

Why is it up to Asia to fashion a more environmentally and socially conscious brand of capitalism?

July 2, 2011

Why is it up to Asia to fashion a more environmentally and socially conscious brand of capitalism?

1. Who will have the greatest impact in moving the world away from consumption-driven capitalism?

“Paradoxically, the societies best-placed to challenge and change the consumption-driven model of capitalism are in Asia.”

2. Why is this?

“The very size of the region’s population, while apparently promising most for this model’s continuation, in reality contains the seeds of its demise.”

3. What do you mean?

“Asia, because of the scale of its populations, will run into the question of how to maintain the productivity of the natural systems that sustain our societies. Indeed, because of the rapid rate of growth of China and India, it will occur far faster than almost anyone has yet recognized, driven by the adoption of consumption-driven capitalism.”

4. Is consumption-driven capitalism a viable model for the world?

“The biggest lie of all is that consumption-driven capitalism can deliver wealth to all.”

5. Does it hold promise for Asia?

“In Asia, it can only deliver short-term wealth to a minority. In the long term, it can only deliver misery to all. This is the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the model the West has peddled to Asia.”

6. Is it time for Asia to step up to the plate?

“Yes. However, this is not to suggest that Asia has all the answers. But it is to say that Asia has a central responsibility for determining the world’s fate.”

7. How so?

“The countries of the region can help to find solutions to resource-constraints issues by rejecting the consumption-led growth model, which thrives on under-pricing externalities like climate change.”

8. What if they fail to do so?

“They would quite possibly ensure the world endures at best a deeply unpleasant future, and at worst the demise predicted in the grimmer forecasts of a far hotter planet made by scientists such as James Lovelock or James Hansen.”

9. How can Asia make a difference?

“In the wake of the global financial crisis, Asia’s leaders have an opportunity and obligation to send out a different message — that measures to halt global warming and other pressing ecological concerns, far from being