Cowboy Economy vs Spacemen Economy
Vaclav Smil interviewed by Jonathan Watts:
+ You cite Kenneth Boulding’s distinction between the “cowboy economy” and the “spaceman economy”. The former is wide-open spaces and seemingly endless opportunities for resource consumption. The latter is a recognition that planet Earth is more like a closed spaceship on which we need to carefully manage our resources. The challenge is to shift from one way of thinking to another. But human history is thousands of years of cowboys and only a few decades of spacemen. Aren’t we hardwired?
There is a deep tradition both in the eastern and western traditions of frugality, living within your means and a contemplative life. It has always been like this. Now there is this louder voice calling for more consumption and a bigger bathroom and an SUV, but it’s increasingly apparent that cannot go on. It will be something like smoking, which was everywhere 50 years ago. But now that people realise the clear link to lung cancer, this is restricted. The same will happen when people realise where material growth is taking us. It is a matter of time I think."