Jan. 25, 2020

Exploitation of the commons and the fantasy of unlimited growth

Klaus Schwab has made climate the principle focus of the World Economic Forum this year. The climate crisis was in focus as activists and critics collided at the World Economic Forum in the snowy Alpine ski resort of Davos, Switzerland. The event comes after a 12-month period which saw the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans, the second-hottest year for global average temperatures and wildfires from the U.S. to the Amazon to Australia. Because climate change was the theme of this year’s event, Al Gore and Greta Thunberg attended Davos 2020. And so did POTUS.  “The president’s speech was a total outlier this week in Davos,” Barry Johnston, co-founder of the socially minded consultancy Purpose Union, told Today’s WorldView. “Elsewhere, businesses, governments and civil society have been having practical, urgent discussions about the climate crisis. Trump looks stuck in the last decade as everyone else looks to the next.”
Christine Lagarde the European Central Bank president called for greater efforts to think about investment in green technology alongside taxes and regulations to “push companies in the direction of anticipating the transition [to a reduced carbon emissions]”. Steven Mnuchin disagreed saying you can’t have economic growth without cheap energy. The thing is, fossil fuel energy is really not cheap if you factor in the risk and consequences to the environment. Destruction of the commons is rarely factored in. (The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that communities manage for individual and collective benefit. The common wealth is the totality of the material riches of the world, such as the air, the water, the soil and the seed, all nature's bounty regarded as the inheritance of humanity as a whole, to be shared together.) Corporations profit from the commons while the mess is left behind for communities to deal with. Taking over the commons is how capitalism works. Take possession of what the earth gives freely (clean air, water, soils and seed) and charge people for these necessities. I remember years ago my grandmother laughing at me one day when I walked in her house with a plastic bottle of water, “I would have given you a drink of water for free,” she smirked.

In addition, the idea of unlimited economic growth in a closed system such as our planet is a fantasy. One of the reasons nations fail to address climate change is the belief that we can have infinite economic growth independent of ecosystem sustainability.

The idea that economic growth can continue forever on a finite planet is the unifying faith of industrial civilization. That it is nonsensical in the extreme, a deluded fantasy, doesn't appear to bother us. We hear the holy truth in the decrees of elected officials, in the laments of economists about flagging GDP, in the authoritative pages of opinion, in the whirligig of advertising, at the World Bank and on Wall Street, in the prospectuses of globe-spanning corporations and in the halls of the smallest small-town chambers of commerce. Growth is sacrosanct. Growth will bring jobs and income, which allow us entry into the state of grace known as affluence, which permits us to consume more, providing more jobs for more people producing more goods and services so that the all-mighty economy can continue to grow. https://psmag.com/magazine/fallacy-of-endless-growth

 “You say you understand the science, but I don’t believe you. Because if you did and then you continue to act as you do, that would mean you’re evil. And I don’t believe that.” Greta