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Care Over Growth

In short order, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to recognize that our capitalist economic system privileges second-order priorities like wealth at the expense of first-order ones like health. The question now is whether we will seize the opportunity to rethink the economy for the era of climate change.

GUILDFORD – The sun rose resplendent over the highest town in the Alps at the beginning of last year. In a world that now seems more distant than the moon, the captains of capitalism had gathered for their annual jamboree. A cross between a beauty pageant and a religious rite, the World Economic Forum had been meeting in Davos for half a century to celebrate the “freedom” of the market.

But beneath the shiny surface lay the discernible cracks of a system in chronic disrepair. The snow above the town was thinner than at any time since the Forum’s first meeting in the early 1970s. In Australia, the fires that had burned through the long “black summer,” were raging still. It would turn out to be the warmest January on record.

Climate change was not the self-satisfied Davos crowd’s only concern. There was a growing recognition that the global economy had run into new and uncomfortable difficulties. These were variously attributed to a debt overhang, trade wars, or political populism in the hands of capricious leaders. Nobody could decide who was most at fault. But the damage was plain to see.

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