We do not see these billionaires and their space/matrix dreams as flawed. No, we celebrate them. Elon Musk has 85 million followers on twitter and is seen as a ‘visionary’.
That Western (and most developed and developing) societies fully buy into this project is easily evidenced from looking at government budgets – health & education are almost always the top priority for those who vote and the OECD average spending on health is 9% of GDP (20% in the US!). In contrast total spending on environmental protection was around 0.02% of GDP in France and Germany in 2018 and 0.01% in the UK (many countries don’t even bother to compile data on environmental spending).
That there are limits to growth (was and) is still a fringe belief today. Physics is useful for enabling ‘progress’ but cannot be seen to spoil the economic growth party. So, economists are taught to believe in limitless growth, unlimited extraction and substitution of natural resources (ignoring the energy cost of doing so) and see no problem with ignoring the effects of dumping waste into the environment (CO2, methane, chemicals, plastics, contaminated waste water etc.).
When physics predicts calamity due to global warming, those warnings are first ignored, then downplayed, then actively attacked and finally ‘taken seriously’ by entering dubious pledges and meaningless commitments, which is the stage we are currently in.
The same is playing out in relation to biodiversity. The science that tells us that we have set off the sixth mass extinction event is not the science anyone in power wants to listen to. Destructive consumption is baked into our ideology about progress. That’s why planned obsolescence or fast fashion are not a problem to the majority. Ever-increasing consumption means ever-increasing growth and progress. This is the belief system we hold, and our politicians, business leaders and celebrity investors parrot it back to us constantly. All the talk about sustainability is never at the expense of more ‘growth’.
No, we believe in sustainable growth and represent this in a deeply flawed manner to make sure no one notices the inherent contradiction. The image below left shows a typical representation of ‘sustainable development’. All 3 dimensions are depicted as equal and the ‘sustainable’part is just the small, overlapping area in the middle. This commonly used diagram implies the three dimensions are independent and can also grow independently. This representation is misleading. In reality the Economic and Social are subsets of Environmental, as shown on the right. No society or economy can exist outside environmental limits, so we should make that clear when talking about sustainable development or use.