Fleming’s Surviving the Future

Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy
David Fleming

Man what an odd little book.

In the Spring of 2020 when the NoVo foundation, led by Peter Buffet (yes, that Buffet) drastically changed much of its programing focus a flurry of articles came out about why. A number of articles discussed Buffet’s interest in hyper local philanthropy and influence this book had on his thinking. So, I picked it up.

In essence this is a book on de-growth, on focusing on developing local cultures where community and group survival are more important than profit. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, which shouldn’t be a surprise to folks who know David Fleming (he’s most famous for his claims about peak oil).

I’m generally sympathetic to de-growth arguments intellectually, though I doubt their real-world applicability. But I’m also often uncomfortable with the focus on shared culture in what is an incredibly diverse world. If you take climate change seriously, and I certainly do, then you can expect millions of climate refugees streaming, basically, north. I fear hyper local movements focused on preserving the “culture” of a place are unlikely to welcome these people, and the cultures they bring. Fleming doesn’t ignore this problem, but nor does he address it to my satisfaction.

Any serious consideration of slowing climate change needs to look head on at capitalistic growth and ask if it can continue. I think it can but arguing it cannot certainly isn’t crazy. If you want to see the de-growth movement’s policies argued well, this is worth you time, but if you’re like me you will leave unconvinced.

Recommended for the enthusiast.