What is the endgame of the green movement?

An Ecotopian state seems best-suited to a country that has a relatively homogeneous, wealthy population, like Finland or Norway. Green movements flourish among those who already have a high level of materialism – nice cars, homes, secure retirements – and do not require broad-based economic growth to make their lives better. Their relative wealth allows them to focus primarily on the environment, even at the expense of other people.

But this is not the reality for most of California – or the United States – where income disparities have grown in recent decades, and society has become ever more diverse. This reality may make people less enthusiastic about embracing calls by greens to lower living standards, particularly in the high-income countries.

Adviser Holdren, for example, in the past has called for “dedevelopment,” or the conscious ratcheting down of economy growth. A similar school of thought has risen in a well-organized European political drive to promote “degrowth,” which seeks to limit fossil fuels, suburban development and replace the current capitalist system with a highly regulated economy that would make up for less wealth through redistribution.

Perhaps those most cruelly treated under the neo-Malthusian regime would be developing countries, whose per capita energy use is far lower, something the greens hope to keep that way. Prince Charles, for example, embraces the “intuitive grammar” of ultradense slums such as Mumbai’s Dharavi, which, he claims, have perfected more “durable ways of living” than those in the suburbanized West.

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