The debate about imposing authoritarian restrictions on basic human rights in order to safeguard the survival of the planet is fuelled by doubts about whether parliamentary democracies can provide answers to questions of ecological survival. The facts suggest they can’t: the US, the foremost proponent of democracy and the market economy, is among the world’s leading polluters. The cumbersome UN won’t be able to ward off the climate catastrophe. Even Germany, a self-appointed paragon of climate protection and environmental technology, is hardly making any headway.
And yet democracy and environmental protection really ought to be a dream team. The ecology movement first got going amid the 1960s push towards democratisation. And democracies prove a whole lot more innovative in coming up with technological and social inventions. However, ever since citizens have been able to defend themselves, factories have been relocated to countries that are poorer and more defenceless. And hardly a single politician dares to confront consumers and voters with inconvenient truths.
As a matter of fact, we have been seeing tendencies toward environmental autocracy for some time now. Capitalism has also taken democracy hostage. Political and economic freedoms have been hitherto inextricably intertwined in Western thinking. The democracy we know has never been tried without resource-intensive capitalism. How is democracy to plan a future worth living if at the same time its twin sister, the unbridled economy, is ruining that very future?