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Wed Feb 6, 2013, 10:39 PM

 

How The Rich Are Destroying the Earth

A best seller in France, and already translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Korean, Hervé Kempf's How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth now appears in its first English edition. Bringing to bear more than twenty years of experience as an environmental journalist, Kempf describes the invincibility that many of the world's wealthy feel in the face of global warming, and how their unchecked privilege is thwarting action on the single most vexing problem facing our world.

In this important primer on the link between global ecology and the global economy, Kempf makes the following observations: First, that the planet's ecological situation is growing ever worse, despite the efforts of millions of engaged citizens around the world. And second, despite environmentalists' emphasis that "we're all in the same boat," the world's economic elites--who continue to benefit by plundering the environment--have access to "lifeboats" that insulate them from the resulting catastrophes.

Societies have not been able to effectively combat the expanding ecological crisis because it is intimately linked to the social crisis in which the ruling form of capitalism has been organized to impede democratic initiatives. This link explains the failure to make progress against the greatest emergency of our time, because in this relationship the oligarchy plays an essential and destructive role. For this reason, solving the ecological crisis depends on disrupting the power of the world's elite.

We cannot understand the entwined ecological and social crises, Kempf argues, if we don't see them as the two sides of the same disaster--a disaster that comes from a system piloted by a dominant social strata that has no drive other than greed, no ideal other than conservatism, no dream other than technology. But Kempf also calls for measured optimism: "Despite the scale of the challenges that await us, solutions are emerging and--faced with the sinister prospects the oligarchs promote--the desire to remake the world is being reborn."

http://www.amazon.com/Rich-Destroying-Earth-Foreword-Palast/dp/1603580352


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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 10:52 PM

1. Too important to sink. K&R nt

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:00 PM

2. If you are not activist, you are complicit.

 

Write an e mail to our leaders. Attend a city council meeting. Go to a park or beach and pick up some trash. Buy a bike. The possibilities are endless.

This forum is a perfect testbed for the human element that can make a difference. What do you say DUers?

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Response to cbrer (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:03 PM

3. Most Americans are complicit. We are energy and resource hogs.

 

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Response to cbrer (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:13 PM

4. if you're an activist you're still complicit in exactly the same way. to live in modern america is

 

to be complicit.

the ruling class structures the way we live. the ruling class makes the rules. picking up garbage on the beach is nothing in the face of that. you can pick up garbage until you're blue in the face, but if economic life is structured to produce garbage, daily, tons of it -- well, all you get is blue in the face.

i think tropes like 'complicit' are mostly baloney, and counterproductive -- they turn people off, because most people are complicit only in living the average life structured by the shape of the world they were born into.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:19 PM

5. You are, of course,

 

Absolutely correct. I was taking a minimalist approach. But nothing less than total upheaval is going to topple the current power structure. And we don't have the military or police.

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Response to cbrer (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:35 PM

9. I'm not sure if you saw my addition, but I think 'complicit' is kind of a turn-off in getting people

 

to think about the issues, to think more deeply about the root of the problem. (Not saying this to criticize your post, btw).

I was a young adult circa late 60s-early 70s, which is when the 'save the earth' thing first started. There were two competing narratives; one was systemic, the other consumerist -- 'buy green, recycle, pick up garbage, solar power, etc'.

The one promoted by the media/ruling class was the consumerist narrative. The other has mostly disappeared. As a young person I bought it deeply; sometimes in my 50s I woke from my sleep and realized i'd been doing all this stuff for 30 years -- and what was sort of fringey when i started (e.g. being vegetarian) had now become mainstream and even upscale --

And yet, for the most part, things were *worse*. At that time, for example, I couldn't imagine large-scale destruction of ocean species. I couldn't imagine the deep backcountry being wired for communications. I couldn't imagine the privatization of national parks or fracking, or mountaintop removal.

None of those things were demanded by 'the people', though of course (some) of 'the people' will use the products of these actions if they become available, and even defend them.

But I think if you sat people down & presented the choices and the costs: "We are going to pollute your groundwater and level west virginia so that you can drive more & have bigger houses (if you have enough money), fuel our military so it can conquer the world, ship jobs overseas and ship the products back to you...etc...

This is not the future most people would have chosen. But it's the future we have, and we're forced to live in it.

Also, I think the 'we're all complicit' elides some important distictions. Resource consumption increases as you go up the economic scale -- both globally and within countries. Rich americans consume more resources than poor americans (probably significantly more). The US military is the biggest single user of oil in the world (& part of the reason that on those international comparisons of energy use, americans come out so much worse -- as though each one of us were personally using US Army oil).

I just think there's something fundamentally neoliberal about the 'recycle...pick up litter...go vegetarian...don't use plastic bags...go solar...) kind of POV. It's pretty obvious that there are other ways we could live that would be reasonably happy and comfortable, reasonably modern -- while consuming much less energy and other resources than is currently the case. But most discussion of 'the problem' takes this way of living as the given exemplar of 'modernity'.

But it's not, it doesn't have to be. but we are trained to assume all we can have is less garbage on our freeways and solar power and organic food for our military machine -- that's the limit of the neoliberal vision. It evades the fundamental causes.


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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #9)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 12:26 AM

12. Again, you're probably right.

 

So how to develop that level of awareness? Plain honest descriptions and choices are missing from the narrative, and likely will be vigorously debated (oh, you can keep your SUV...) IF they should, by some miracle, appear.

Frederick Douglass "Power concedes nothing without a demand".

I see no demand. We're for the most part, as a society, pretty comfortable.

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Response to cbrer (Reply #12)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 12:43 AM

13. I don't know; again, it seems like everything comes down to the inequality of power -- power

 

to produce and promote a counter-narrative, for starters. Power to organize for alternatives for another.

I don't see a demand either; or rather, I see a thousand competing demands but no overarching one.

but i think we're not really comfortable; i think there are competing scenarios about the causes of our discomfort, & different degrees of discomfort and unwillingness of most people to risk losing the life preserver they're holding on to.

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Response to cbrer (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 12:23 PM

14. "The possibilities are endless"

That's the spirit. And there's so much science has to offer, even just as far as building a world where people get the same amount done with less gas. Computer science, chemistry, mechanical engineering, math, micro-biology marketing, urban planning, materials and construction science all can contribute to the solutions.

I think the number one thing our leaders can do is work on the smart grid, with free internet enhancements. Universal data and smart energy framework. A whole bunch of things can spring out of this, like smart cars, and smart driver helpers for old cars, which not only give GPS, but also guide the car to drive in a way which minimizes unnecessary stops, traffic jams and the like in concert with other cars. Plus its sexy.


edit: A few more thoughts on this.

Republicans are correct when they site the challenge in fossil fuel austerity - just imposing cuts on fossil fuel usage alone without real alternatives in place (there aren't any that can feed our current consumption) will lower fossil fuel prices for other nations, and their consumption will increase to compensate. I think the key for policy makers is to work toward an energy efficiency culture: getting more done with less energy, and not worrying where it came from. More bang for the fossil fuel buck, as solutions like the smart grid, and smart cars and so on offer. People can integrate clean local energies like solar in meaningful ways, once their energy consumption no longer requires 3 football fields of solar panels to power.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:25 PM

6. kicking and I wish I had a million recs.

PEOPLE have consequences.

All the action in the world wont do squat without there being fewer numbers of us. Overpopulation effects in all other organisms is well known for the danger it is.

But US??? Oh that's different. /sarcasm.

The best thing any individual can do for the planet is to not breed.

(Ohhh but if we don't heed the biological urge, we'd go extinct!!, the denialists would say. At this point, it's obvious that we will go extinct along with the scorched earth if we don't use our "god given" brains to acknowledge the consequences of every one of US. And ACT responsibly. )

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Response to BlancheSplanchnik (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:32 PM

8. People have consequences.

And, by the way, no, we are not at risk of going extinct.....well, not due to climate change alone, anyhow.

We really do need to get our acts together, that's for sure.

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Response to BlancheSplanchnik (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:37 PM

10. yes, people have consequences, but overpopulation isn't the root of the problem. PS: the US

 

is at ZPG and mostly has been since the 70s.

If not for immigration our population would have declined.

World fertility rate is very close to ZPG too.

Elites love the "we're overbreeding!! (or some of us are)" trope. They've been using it as far back in history as Rome.

I repeat: the OP is "The rich are destroying the earth"

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:30 PM

7. While most of us have no doubts that the wheels of progress will keep turning in our favor..........

Really, about the only real questions are, "when?", and "Will it require a significant transformation of society as we know it?".

TBH, with a realistic outlook on things, I'm inclined to think, probability-wise, that our changeover away from fossil fuels may be somewhat slowish at first, but will likely accelerate as time goes on, and as these greener technologies get cheaper.

It's also quite probable that climate change will not become much worse than scientists have predicted in various (plausible) climate change scenarios featured in various pieces of research, particularly where IPCC AR5 is concerned, regardless of which scenarios play out, especially where temperature rises are concerned(I've been convinced for a long while that we have seen quite a few coincidental outliers that just happened to come into play, such as the back to back heat waves in 2011 and last year. It's highly improbable that we will continue to see as many of these as we have in recent years, at least in the short term.), though it's not likely to be too much below predictions, either(still not optimistic in this regard, though AR5 does offer some hope.).....however, though, even with this fact in mind, that doesn't mean some truly strange things cannot occur at some point.

And, in all honesty, it may indeed come to the point where a fundamental transformation of society might be required, especially where economics are concerned.

For those of you who are open to the musings of science fiction, this article by Trekkie Matt Grinder on the possible economics of said show, might interest you:

http://vanparecon.resist.ca/StarTrekEcon/

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 11:54 PM

11. Ignorance is a hurdle that we have to overcome.

The other day at an apartment complex people had thrown out perfectly good mattresses that had bed bugs (after they had dragged them into a common area and spread them around). Instead of sterilizing them and sealing them in casements. They live in an apt complex and chances are they were not clear, so to throw away and buy another serves no purpose. But you see this all the time. A vacuum cleaner does not get unclogged, it gets thrown away. Petsmart throws stuff away all the time that they could donate to charity, but do not. Same with Target. All of their floor models get tossed into the dumpster. Lowe's donates all of their stuff to Restore here in Richmond. We need to stop all of this corporate waste as well. Do you know how much food a grocery store throws away? Perfectly good food. Not the moldy stuff either. Want decent used furniture? New clothes? Cruise through the dumpster areas of upper scale apt complexes at the end of the month. Just make sure to sterilize stuff!. If we could get grocery chains to allow old produce to go to a composter. States should have mandatory recycling.
We should start educating people that they have a responsibility to dispose of an item in an environmentally sound way. Corporations should not be able to produce an item that is not recyclable.

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