The $5,000,000,000,000,000 Question? by William Bowles

Make Capitalism History *

Image by Wolfgang Sterneck via Flickr

by William Bowles
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Investigating Imperialism
London, England
June 30, 2019

Apparently, if we add up all the ‘values’ that make up Planet Earth, we arrive at the figure of $5 quadrillion![1] We’ve reduced the irreducible to the level of an accountant’s spreadsheet. Yet, it’s exactly this kind of thinking that’s created the disaster that, forget 10 years, it’s already with us and it’s been building to this since the start of the Industrial Revolution approximately 200 years ago.

For centuries, the West (Europe, N. America) has approached our once beautiful planet as nothing more than a source of raw materials, slaves, cheap labour and markets to fill with an endless stream of consumer products. Endless, they thought, profit and endless, they thought, Nature. After all Nature doesn’t cost us anything, it’s God’s gift to Mankind. Subdue and exploit, the Lord said.

So, let us begin by not exactly counting the real cost, but at least adding up what we’ve done to our once pristine planet. In fact, how do you count the cost, not in dollars but in what we’ve lost? What can’t actually be counted. ‘We’ve trashed our house, let’s move to a new one’, except there isn’t a new one to move to.

Air – fouled • Antibiotics in just about everything • Asthma • Autism • Bodies – fouled • Cancer • EMF, millimeter radiation (4G, 5G) • Fracking • Heart Disease • Hormonal Disruption • Land – poisoned • Nuclear radiation • Oceans – fouled • Pesticides, everywhere and in everyone and every animal • Plastic – everywhere and in everything • Thousands of untested chemicals, most likely also in everyone • Soil – fouled • Space – fouled • Water – fouled

And for what?

Well, for guns and bombs, missiles and planes and warships and surveillance systems, police and security services and the vast profits generated therefrom. The US military is the single biggest consumer of oil on the planet and one of the worst polluters on the planet.

And secondly, for the most banal of reasons; profits for the owners of the corporations that are shitting in our house, so no wonder they don’t want to talk about it.

Why not? Doesn’t the capitalist class not live on the same planet, drink the same water, eat the same food, breathe the same air, use the same pesticides, swim in the same oceans and get sick from our fouled collective nest?

We have to keep asking the question, why? Why does capitalism not acknowledge that it is the cause of planetary destruction? You would think that the instinct for self-preservation also exists amongst the 1%?

You would think that such an obvious question would be asked by just about everyone given our collective condition, yet the question is never asked. Why not?

It’s as if the cause, that relationship between planetary destruction and capitalism, is a secret never to be divulged. Which, of course, it is. It has to be a secret that capitalism caused this planetary disaster and worse, having known about it for decades, chose not to do anything about it, chose in fact, to hide it, to ignore it, to deny its existence. Even now, the ruling classes prevaricate. Are the ruling classes really that myopic? That stupid?

Or do they have a secret that us mere mortals know nothing about? A secret for their survival. Or perhaps it’s simply hyper-hubris, that somehow, they will survive. Their wealth, their power, their resources, their technology will protect them while all else perishes. I suppose it’s conceivable. Some retreat perhaps, high up in temperate climes? But all would be lost. Or perhaps it’s really that they don’t believe what the science is telling them and even if they do, they just don’t care. Do they care about the millions slaughtered by their resource wars? No, they build monuments to do that for them.

Yes, perhaps that’s it. Climate disaster is just WWIII by another name. It takes care of several perennial problems that confront capitalist society that historically have been ‘handled’ by a really big war. In one, fell swoop, ‘surplus’ populations, over-production, too much unused capital sloshing about, falling rates of profit, all taken care of. Destructive destruction. The final act.

And what of our governments? After all, aren’t they the best-placed to act? They have the means, they have resources, they have the power but of course, they’re in sway to their masters, their paymasters that is. And of course the state also becomes a haven, of a kind, within which (potential) decision-makers can hide. The state ‘anonymises’ the individual, it’s not personal. It’s just statistics. It’s just policy. It’s just…nothing really.

So obviously, we can’t leave it up to the ruling classes or their state machines, it’s simply not designed to deal with this kind of emergency. Instead, this is something that virtually every last one of us, in one way or another is going to have to get involved in and we have to start by removing the 1% and getting rid of their state apparatuses in order for us to take the vital steps needed to address the crisis. And there is no getting around this. You can hide from it the way Extinction Rebellion does by focusing on carbon dioxide to the exclusion of everything else but in its own way, it actually puts off actually recognising that real steps that deal with, not just climate change but the way we live, the way we make our living. The way we relate to our planet and its creatures and places.

We still have time.


1. See New Formula Values Earth at $5,000,000,000,000,000 and see also, Value of Earth

from the archives:

To Survive: We Need A Global Awakening Much Bigger Than A “Revolution,” Much Deeper Than Just Ending Capitalism by Eric Schechter

Chris Hedges: Unless We Bring About A Transformational Change By Overthrowing Corporate Power and Establish A Socialist System, All Efforts To Create A Green New Deal Will Be Stillborn

We Need To Overthrow The Present Political System by Eric Schechter

David Swanson: We Can’t Save the Climate Without Ending War

Chris Hedges: The Issue Before Us is Death

What Price a Livable Planet? by Paul Street

Our Way Of Life Must Die — Another World Is Possible

The End Of The Road For Capitalism Or For Us All? by William Bowles

Trashing the Planet For Profit by William Bowles

See also:

Lessons for the Climate Emergency by Judith Deutsch

25 thoughts on “The $5,000,000,000,000,000 Question? by William Bowles

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  10. We humans do not understand what makes up respect for each other and responsibility for the individual. We know the ten commandments in the old testament. None of us humans follow them. They’re common sense.

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  12. I do no such thing! You chose to take the accountants spreadsheet as the cause when the piece quite clearly states capitalism as the cause, it is after all, the basis of the essay. I think you took it literally instead of it being reflective of a mindset.

  13. Bowles blames our troubles on our “accountant’s spreadsheet” way of life. I do not favor that way, but I would like to point out that if the accounting system were COMPLETE, ACCURATE, and FAIR, it could have SAVED us. To make it that way, though,

    (1) it would have to put a price on THE COMMONS which belongs to all of us and which is being destroyed, and

    (2) it would have to include all EXTERNALITIES — they could no longer go unmeasured and unaccounted.

    Consider that the extinction of the human race renders all material possessions worthless. Thus, the continuation of human life must be valued higher than all our material possessions. Now attach a cost to everything that is destroying the ecosystem. This would make a gallon of gas extremely expensive, for instance.

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