Last summer’s youth riots, Arab spring and austerity protests showed how quickly society can break down and thus, we are now seeing wave after waving of draconian measures introduced to keep the working class, victims of the banking crisis and the youth in check.
I would argue that it’s the extreme wealth hoarders of the world who could help modern civilisation with its social and global warming problems.
In 2012, the world’s 100 wealthiest people became $241 billion richer. They are now worth $1.9 trillion: just a little less than the entire output of the United Kingdom.
Extreme wealth is very different from entrepreneurial wealth – Let me explain.
The modern economy works like an old-fashioned pinball machine with money bounced around the broader economy, but always gravitating down into the pockets of a few extremely wealthy billionaires. That money is then locked away for good.
We are not talking about the Sir Alan Sugars of the world, or the Dragons from the Den, whose entrepreneurial endeavours have amassed them a moderate wealth level, but people much higher up the pyramid scheme.
How much wealth does one man need?
Since the day the first human decided to take by force the wheat fields which his fellow villagers had worked for the benefit of the group, wealth accumulation has been the backbone of our past and present civilisations.
The problem with this type of system is when you upscale this strategy into modern times; surplus grain becomes large-scale hoarded wealth, of which has been extracted from the economy and made inaccessible to the rest of society.
The accumulated wealth of five thousand years of trade and inheritance has brought a small percentage of the population to the dizzying heights of multi-billionaire status.
When the world’s governments say there is no money, what they mean is, there is less money filtering its way through the general population. Like the pinball analogy, the wealth exists but isn’t made available by the extremely wealthy.
The funds required even to begin to reverse our damage to the planet, and the natural world will need two drastic measures which the extremely wealthy of the world hold the keys to both.
A wealth cap could allow humanity to take a severe attempt at reversing the climatic problems that even government (even without austerity), could not afford. A global effort and a global cap on extreme wealth could release the funds necessary to fast-forward the pace of a lower carbon world economy for the benefit of the wider society and not just a few.
As an example of this in action, the world’s largest oil supplier, Saudi Arabia is using its accumulated wealth to engineer the country to power its cities on alternative technologies such as solar panels. Maybe they know something we don’t, but the use of the nations wealthy elite is being put to use for the benefit of the whole country’s future.
A cap on extreme wealth can release the funds necessary to afford a real effort to decarbonise in the face of this real threat. The ability to turn the tide on global heating and generate much-needed employment too must be modern civilisations last stand against climate change and social breakdown disaster.
A perk of extreme wealth is land ownership. Most of this land is unproductive subsidised and in my eye’s sterilised countryside, compared to its original pre-agricultural state. Whole ecosystems have long since disappeared from much of this nation.
The process of returning the land to its more natural state needs to be considered, to prevent further species extinction and ecological collapse in vast areas of the world. Just like a planetary burn victim, the more surface area is destroyed and scared by humanities activities; the more strange the living planet is to survive the damage. Ecosystem breakdown is humanity’s most significant shame.
Extreme measures are now required to solve the social, environmental and energy problems of our uncertain future. Putting extreme wealth to work may just give our modern civilisation a fighting chance before the planet enters a more extreme fever state and the consequences that will occur from that.
Only the world’s hoarded wealth can make a difference now. Putting five thousand years of accumulated wealth to work for the benefit of the planet and humanity, is a noble and decent way of putting it to use.
There can only be one loser in this planetary standoff.
We need nature, but nature doesn’t require us.