To me, “sustainability,” our favorite buzzword besides “innovation,” is defined as taking logical steps for long term survival. Capitalism is a competitive system that rewards smart planning with the right to life. Therefore, capitalism and sustainability really do go hand in hand. If you want a successful business, to compete in our market, you need to have a sound long-term strategy. Overzealous growth is useless if you burn up all of your resources, you will eventually die out. And the market itself tends to spit out those that violate basic laws of man and nature.
In the present, I think our biggest problem is that we are still adjusting to the pace of growth, that we are moving so fast that we do not have time to take time to reflect on the consequences of our actions, and that we are constantly playing “catch up” rather than planning ahead. There is a growing animosity that capitalism is the cause of all evils, especially the death of the planet. But it makes no sense. Sucking up as much energy as you can, wiping out and gorging all of your local resources, spreading pollution, using dangerous chemicals; all this will do is drive people away or result in self-implosion.
I am confident that within the next decade we will get our act together. There is a growing trend towards supporting “green” business practices, to the point where it is becoming the norm. An overwhelming majority of scientists and engineers are strong believers in preventing any further climate change, and are directing their efforts towards solving these problems. Most people in our generation, slated to take over soon, also believe in protecting the environment. The market is driving down the cost of alternative energy sources, organic food, etc. The Great Recession has renewed focusing on long-term planning and stability. In a few years, people will acknowledge that we need to change in order to survive. I think this short-term burst will be an outlier in human history as we tend once more towards traditional, more sustainable growth models, and the naysayers will be shown once and for all that capitalism is meant to promote sustainability.