by William Bowles
Writer, Dandelion Salad
June 30, 2019
Apparently, if we add up all the ‘values’ that make up Planet Earth, we arrive at the figure of $5 quadrillion! 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
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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.
When you say “we humans,” you are suggesting that this is human nature. I would say instead “we humans in our current culture.” I think we made a wrong turn culturally, 10,000 years ago, and it might not be too late to fix it.
Why 10,000 years ago? What happened then? Farming? Civilisation?
10,000 years ago, farming began, and people began to settle in villages and later cities. That made enormous changes possible in our culture, in our ways of relating to each other. It did not make hierarchy and property necessary, but it made them possible, and unfortunately we adopted those institutions. See attached link in section 3 of my essay.
I don’t think you could have had one, without the other. I think Fredrich Engels spelt it out pretty accurately in ‘The Dialectics of Nature’. So you would rather we stayed at the hunter/gatherer level?
I guess I need to read Engels. I have no idea what he said on this subject, and so I don’t know whether I would agree with him. But no, I am not advocating that we return to being hunter-gatherers. I just think it is necessary for us to relearn some of their traits. They lived without hierarchy or property, and I believe we can and must do that, and soon. If we don’t, I feel fairly certain that climate apocalypse will soon kill all of us (not just many of us). Earth will become as uninhabitable as Mars or Venus — I’d estimate by 2040.
Leftyprof, came across this quote from Walter Benjamin: “There is no document of civilisation which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” – ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 4: 1938-1940, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2006
I don’t know what Walter Benjamin meant by “civilization.” Different people have different meanings for that word. Derrick Jensen takes it to mean living in cities, i.e., in centers of high population density. He considers that to be inherently a terrible thing, because he says it is not ecologically sustainable and it leads to imperialism. I would disagree with him: I think we have always lived in high population densities the wrong way, but perhaps we can still figure out a right way to do it.
I assume he meant pretty much the same as you, or I mean by civilisation.
Well some of us do, in fact I hazard a guess that most of us do, maybe not consciously but I think the vast majority just want to get on with life, peacefully and fruitfully. Unfortunately, those who wield the power have only their own narrow, self interests and have lost sight of what it is to be truly human.
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PS: However, on reflection, were I to write it again, I wouldn’t use a spreadsheet as a metaphor.
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.
Dear Leftymathprof, No need to apologise. Go well
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.