What Is The Earth Worth?

SUBHEAD: Asking this question again, some years later. Not enough has changed.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 22 April 2014 for the Automatic Earth -

Image above: Aerial view of Fukushima Daini (#2) Nuclear Plant less than 10 miles from Fukushima Daiichi (#1). It looks like a clone of the older plant. Daini has four GE Boiling Water Reactors similar to Daichi, but they are a few meters higher above the ocean. Daini survived and is waiting to be put on line again by Prime Minister Senzo Abe. Are we going to relive the Fukushima catastrophe? Yes! If money has its way. From (http://psyandr.narod.ru/Earth/HQ-sat-photos-1.htm). Click to embiggen.

Once more for everyone who’s got even the lightest slightest shade of green in their thoughts and dreams and fingers, I’ll try and address the issue of why going or being green is a futile undertaking as long as it isn’t accompanied by a drive for a radical upheaval of the economic system we live in.

Thinking we can be green – that is to say, achieve anything real when it comes to restoring our habitat to a healthy state – without that upheaval, is a delusion. And delusions, as we all know all too well, can be dangerous.

It’s not possible to “save the planet” while maintaining the economic system we currently have, because that system is based on and around perpetual growth. It’s really as simple as that, and perhaps it’s that very simplicity which fools people into thinking that can’t be all there is to it.

Switching to different fuels, alternative energy forms, is useless in such a system, because there will be a moment when the growth catches up with all preservation measures; it’s not a winnable race.

There will come a time when a choice between preservation and growth must be made, and the latter will always win (as long as the system prevails). It would be very helpful if the environmental movement catches up on the economics aspect, because it’s not going anywhere right now. It’s a feel-good ploy that comforts parts of our guilty minds but won’t bring about what’s needed to eradicate that guilt.

If you’re serious about preserving the world and restoring it to the state your ancestors found it in, it’s going to take a lot more than different lightbulbs or fuels or yearly donations to a “good” cause. That, too, is very simple. You won’t be able to keep living the way you do, and preserve the place you have in your society, your job, your home, your car. That is a heavy price to pay perhaps in your view, but there is no other way. Whether you make that choice is another story altogether. Just don’t think you’re going to come off easy.

What makes it harder is the question whether we, as a species, are capable of pulling this off in the first place. Still, if we can’t even get it right as individuals… But trying to answer what it would all take, in reality, is still preferable than telling ourselves, and each other, and your children, a bunch of fiction-based lies on a daily basis. At least, that’s my take. Either we make an honest attempt or we say “after us the flood”. Trying to find a snug and comfy but cheating place somewhere in between is an insult to ourselves, our ancestors and our progeny.

I read a number of things this morning that, in typical fashion, all sort of touch on all this, as so many do all the time, but still fall short of the logical conclusion. For many, that’s because perpetual growth is a hard to grasp concept, and an economic system based on it is even more difficult, but it’s a terrible shame that it leads to all those well-meaning people producing what is in the end really little more than gibberish. Jeremy Brecher gets it partly right for the Nation,

‘Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie
While concrete, on-the-ground solutions are essential for knitting together labor and environmental concerns, our movements also need to evolve toward a common program and a common vision. We can present such initiatives as exemplars of a broad public agenda for creating full employment by converting to a climate-safe economy. There are historical precedents for such programs. Just as the New Deal in the Great Depression of the 1930s put millions of unemployed people to work doing the jobs America’s communities needed, so today we need a “Green New Deal” to rebuild our energy, transportation, building, and other systems to drastically reduce the climate-destroying greenhouse gas pollution they pour into the air.

Such a shared program would end the “jobs versus environment” conflict because environmental protection would produce millions of new jobs and expansion of jobs would protect the environment. Such a program provides common ground on which both labor and environmentalists can stand. Such a program can also be the centerpiece of a larger shared vision of a new economy. After all, just expanding the kind of economy we have will just expand the problems of inequality and environmental catastrophe our current economy is already creating. The ultimate solution to the “jobs vs. environment” dilemma is to build a new economy where we all have secure livelihoods based on work that creates the kind of sustainable world we all need.
… but the notion that expansion, any kind of expansion, would protect the environment is dangerous. Expansion is part of the other side’s vocabulary. And using their vocabulary is not a good thing. George Monbiot quotes George Lakoff to make that exact point:

Can You Put A Price On The Beauty Of The Natural World?
George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist who has done so much to explain why progressive parties keep losing elections they should win, explained that attempts to monetise nature are a classic example of people trying to do the right thing without understanding frames: the mental structures that shape the way we perceive the world. As Lakoff points out, you cannot win an argument unless you expound your own values and re-frame the issue around them.

If you adopt the language and values of your opponents “you lose because you are reinforcing their frame”. Costing nature tells us that it possesses no inherent value; that it is worthy of protection only when it performs services for us; that it is replaceable. You demoralise and alienate those who love the natural world while reinforcing the values of those who don’t.
And the rest of Monbiot’s piece is sort of alright, but his from the rooftops support for more nuclear (in Britain) shows that he, like so many others, only gets part of the story.
… the financial case for new roads in the United Kingdom, shaky at the best of times, falls apart if you attach almost any value to the rise in greenhouse gases they cause. Case closed? No: the government now insists [..] that climate change cannot be taken into account when deciding whether or not a road is built. Do you believe that people prepared to cheat to this extent would stop a scheme because one of the government’s committees has attached a voodoo value to a piece of woodland?

It’s more likely that the accounting exercise would be used as a weapon by the developers. The woods are worth £x, but by pure chance the road turns out to be worth £x +1. Beauty, tranquillity, history, place, particularity? Sorry, they’ve already been costed and incorporated into x – end of discussion. The strongest arguments that opponents can deploy – arguments based on values – cannot be heard.
This line of thinking should be applied not just to nature, but to all basic human necessities as well, food, water, shelter, and yes, even the energy that keeps us warm. I have often said that if you allow money into your political system, money will inevitably end up owning that system. And that is true for all resources too: in an economic perpetual growth model, money, if allowed to, will concentrate in just a few institutions and families and eventually own everything. Didn’t Marx, too, say something like that a while back?

And I could go on, but I already wrote it all several times, for instance on May 27 2008, and nothing has changed since. At least not for the good. And so here goes. I wrote this in reaction to an otherwise great article in Der Spiegel entitled: The Price of Survival: What Would It Cost to Save Nature?.

I still really like that Spiegel article, except that it’s wrong on many counts. Here’s from 6 years ago on 5/27/2008 What Is The Earth Worth?  (and yes, I know there are things in it I have mentioned more recently as well).


No comments :

Post a Comment