In the discussion thread: Weekend Economists Out on an Idle Idol Idyll November 15-17, 2013 [View all]
Response to Demeter (Original post)
Sat Nov 16, 2013, 08:10 AM
bread_and_roses (5,893 posts)
22. "Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing."
On ecological collapse ... and, in a way, the virtues of idleness. Because if we are to save the world (which we're not) we have to move slower, take more time, give up things .... I love it that "This article is an excerpt from Smith's essay, "Capitalism and the destruction of life on Earth," published in the Real-World Economics Review." (bold added)
Published on Friday, November 15, 2013 by Adbusters
'Sleepwalking to Extinction': Capitalism and the Destruction of Life and Earth
by Richard Smith
Capitalism is, overwhelmingly, the main driver of planetary ecological collapse
... From climate change to natural resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible natural resources to turn them into “product,” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 to 6 billion. But in these same decades, consumption of major natural resources soared more than sixfold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly twelvefold, bauxite (aluminum ore) fifteenfold. And so on. At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that “half the world’s great forests have already been leveled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.”
Wilson, I think, is/was much too conservative. Everything is accelerating. Feedback loop on feedback loop. I think much sooner.
We all know what we have to do: suppress greenhouse gas emissions. Stop over-consuming natural resources. Stop the senseless pollution of the earth, waters, and atmosphere with toxic chemicals. Stop producing waste that can’t be recycled by nature. Stop the destruction of biological diversity and ensure the rights of other species to flourish. We don’t need any new technological breakthroughs to solve these problems. Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing. But we can’t stop because we’re all locked into an economic system in which companies have to grow to compete and reward their shareholders and because we all need the jobs.
... That’s why, if you listen to environmentalists like Bill McKibben for example, you will get the impression that global warming is mainly driven by fossi- fuel-powered electric power plants, so if we just “switch to renewables” this will solve the main problem and we can carry on with life more or less as we do now. Indeed, “green capitalism” enthusiasts like Thomas Friedman and the union-backed “green jobs” lobby look to renewable energy, electric cars and such as “the next great engine of industrial growth” — the perfect win-win solution. This is a not a solution. This is a delusion: greenhouse gasses are produced across the economy not just by power plants. Globally, fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation accounts for 17% of GHG emissions, heating accounts for 5%, miscellaneous “other” fuel combustion 8.6%, industry 14.7%, industrial processes another 4.3%, transportation 14.3%, agriculture 13.6%, land use changes (mainly deforestation) 12.2%. This means, for a start, that even if we immediately replaced every fossil-fuel-powered electric generating plant on the planet with 100% renewable solar, wind and water power, this would only reduce global GHG emissions by around 17%.
What this means is that, far from launching a new green-energy-powered “industrial growth” boom, barring some tech-fix miracle, the only way to impose “immediate and severe curbs” on fossil fuel production/consumption would be to impose an EMERGENCY CONTRACTION in the industrialized countries: drastically retrench and in some cases shut down industries, even entire sectors, across the economy and around the planet — not just fossil fuel producers but all the industries that consume them and produce GHG emissions — autos, trucking, aircraft, airlines, shipping and cruise lines, construction, chemicals, plastics, synthetic fabrics, cosmetics, synthetic fiber and fabrics, synthetic fertilizer and agribusiness CAFO operations.
... This doesn’t mean we would have to de-industrialize and go back to riding horses and living in log cabins. But it does mean that we would have to abandon the “consumer economy” — shut down all kinds of unnecessary, wasteful and polluting industries from junkfood to cruise ships, disposable Pampers to disposable H&M clothes, disposable IKEA furniture, endless new model cars, phones, electronic games, the lot. Plus all the banking, advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc. We would have completely redesign production to replace “fast junk food” with healthy, nutritious, fresh “slow food,” replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion,” bring back mending, alterations and local tailors and shoe repairmen. We would have to completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and so on to be as durable and long-lived as possible. Bring back appliance repairmen and such. We would have to abolish the throwaway disposables industries, the packaging and plastic bag industrial complex, bring back refillable bottles and the like. We would have to design and build housing to last for centuries, to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable. We would have to vastly expand public transportation to curb vehicle use but also build those we do need to last and be shareable like Zipcar or Paris’ municipally-owned “Autolib” shared electric cars.
I am not as optimistic as he. I think it might, indeed, mean going back to "riding horses" - metaphorically: horses are probably too energy consumptive given the feed, shelter etc. needs ...
However, I have a faint hope that were we to act we could, in the best case scenario, save science/medicine and communications/education. If we did, we could have bearable lives without 98% of the crap we consume ... maybe. With so many billions to feed ...? I remember the chill I felt reading, some time back, somewhere, of one of the "deep Greens" saying something to the effect of "we all know that the only really sustainable human culture is that of small Hunter-Gatherer bands ..."
I weep for my grandchildren. For all the children.
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"Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing."
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