Ultimately, the contradiction between our economic and ecological anxieties may only be resolvable by confronting the old political-economic problem of value: what is it, where does it come from, how do you get more of it? Obviously things with prices possess value—but so do bartered goods, public services, personal relationships, unremunerated collective enterprises, free time, and a livable future. It is no evil thing to want the average value of each individual life (as measured by the person living it) to increase year by year, or to want our society to grow more valuable to us over time. Growth and development are the mottos of life at large, only lately appropriated by capital. The fatal error has been to confound prices with values, and to assume that increased resource exploitation is identical with the growth of human or even economic values.
Perhaps the public spectacle of the worst crisis since the 1930s will spur, if not a revolution (ask even the fiercest Marxist and she will say, “The ideological conditions are unripe”), then a new way of thinking about ourselves, and our world. New York just enjoyed the most pleasant summer in recent memory, with temperate days and breezy nights that reminded you you were on an island; and yet that pleasantness was another confusion, a distraction, a patch of random noise within the ever clearer trend.