Photo by George Jonathan.

The official Earth Day 2012 T-shirt for the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, where I’m working on a master’s degree, portrays a giant Pac-Man monster about to swallow the planet. The caption reads, “Don’t Tell Us the Odds.”

It’s a joke, but it’s not funny. It illustrates the deep cynicism about the future of our planet shared by some of the most environmentally knowledgeable members of my generation. Anyone who takes mainstream, data-driven planetary projections seriously should have major misgivings about the most rationally apparent outcomes of our current economic paradigm.

But if our economic system is leading us on a destructive path to a dismal future, why should we accept this system? The simple answer is, we shouldn’t: It’s our economy. A wide array of people, from Harvard students to anarchists and from Occupy Wall Street protesters to prime ministers, are all saying the same thing: We need to fundamentally transform our economy to make it work for us and for those who come after us.