The Sunday Magazine

We have to give up capitalism to save the planet, says George Monbiot

One of the most influential columnists at The Guardian, George Monbiot says we have to find a new economic system because our survival depends on it.
The Guardian columnist and environmental activist George Monbiot was arrested in London, England, in October for defying a city-wide police ban on Extinction Rebellion protests. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Critiques of capitalism have been around for almost as long as capitalism itself.

Capitalism's defenders will point out that there has never been a better economic system for creating wealth, spurring innovation, leading people out of poverty or improving the quality of life. 

But unchecked capitalism, among other things, had led to the disempowerment of workers; greed and corruption on a massive scale; the despoilment of the environment and natural resources; and huge gulfs between the rich and poor.

Critiques of capitalism have spawned ideologies, political movements, revolutions and a huge body of popular and academic literature. They've even fuelled the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — two of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination for next year's U.S. presidential election.

Anti-capitalist movements and critiques of capitalism have done pretty much everything except replace capitalism with a viable, lasting alternative.

What you can say about capitalism is that it's rather like coal.- George Monbiot

Capitalism looks pretty secure as the economic system of choice for most of the world. Even China — the world's most enduring and powerful redoubt of communism — embraces free market capitalism with gusto. 

But George Monbiot still dares to dream that a different economic system may be possible. In fact, he argues, the survival of our civilization depends on it.

"What you can say about capitalism is that it's rather like coal," says Monbiot. "Coal enriched a lot of people and fuelled the industrial revolution and it helped change society in many ways for the better — but we now can see that coal has outlived its usefulness."

Monbiot is one of the most influential columnists at The Guardian newspaper. His many books include Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis, Manifesto for a New World Order and The Age of Consent

He spoke to The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright from London, U.K. 

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.