“Would people have been inspired had Martin Luther King said ‘I have a nightmare?’” That was the question put forward Wednesday night at the Munk Centre, in a lecture strikingly titled “Spectacular Success, Spectacular Failure? Modern Human Society at the Crossroads.” Despite the sobering and grandiose nature of his presentation, speaker Stephen Purdey emphasized the importance of optimism in confronting several monumental problems facing humanity.

The lecture discussed nothing less than the fate of the human race and questioned the morality of the Western lifestyle when the degradation of our planet is at stake.

According to Purdey, the main obstacles of the future of the planet are overpopulation and the infinitegrowth- oriented free market economy. A constantly growing economy cannot exist in a fixed earth in other words, “We have become, quite literally, a force of nature.”

Purdey suggested a different model called “steady state economics” which aims to keep the economy at its current size. With the right balance of regulation, the gap between rich and poor could be reduced and the burden on the earth lessened, said Purdey.

He knows the lay of the land well. He once worked in the private sector himself. Before entering grad school, Purdey also worked in federal politics and with several NGOs.

For such policies to be implemented, however, a major paradigm shift would have to take place in economic and political circles. “Incremental change to the current form of governance will not do the job,” said Purdey.

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