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Only greed can save us

Written By: - Date published: 7:18 am, December 3rd, 2010 - 63 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, Environment, sustainability, uk politics - Tags: , , ,

As a society we can’t seem to bring ourselves to take action on climate change. Despite ever more cogent and apocalyptic warnings that we’re going to destroy the environment that gives us life, we aren’t going to do anything about it. The failure at Copenhagen, and the non event that is Cancun, are in the process of proving that.

It looks like only greed can save us.

Greed (as a convenient shorthand for “wanting more stuff than we need”) is what drives us. Not all of us, but collectively. Greed is destroying us. Perhaps only greed is a strong enough to save us too. I have believed this for quite some time now, but I was utterly surprised to find this view so clearly and strongly articulated by none other than Britain’s PM, David Cameron:

Use the profit motive to fight climate change

The prime minister argues that there are huge gains to be made from a green economy

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen the devastation that unchecked climate change could bring – floods in Pakistan, forest fires in Russia, mudslides in China. And yet over the same 12 months we’ve seen a growing despondency about international efforts to protect our planet. Copenhagen was a disappointment for everyone who cares about climate change. …

The second reason to take heart is that there is a compelling economic case to be made for fighting climate change that is barely out of the blocks yet. The green effort should not be downgraded or swept under the carpet because of spending cuts and austerity. On the contrary, both developed and developing countries have the potential to make massive gains from a green economy; the low carbon market is already worth up to £3.2 trillion and is forecast to grow by around 4% a year over the next five years.

I passionately believe that by recasting the argument for action on climate change away from the language of threats and punishments and into positive, profit-making terms, we can have a much wider impact.

If Cameron follows though on those fine words, if he can remake Britain’s economy so that the right incentives foster a green, sustainable future, then dammit I’d vote for the Tory git, welfare cuts and all.

But of course these ideas have been round a lot longer than Cameron. I wrote last year about a UN report: “Green Economy: A Transformation to Address Multiple Crises”. Here in New Zealand some of our smarter entrepreneurs and commentators have been saying more or less the same thing for a while. And of course the Greens, although they don’t frame it in terms of profit and incentive, have a detailed alternative vision for the economy, The Green New Deal.

So, National and Labour. Your move. Unless we make significant changes there is disaster ahead. Since we can’t motivate those changes through an appeal to reason, we must make it happen via an appeal to greed. As simple and as stark as that of Britain’s PM. Someone needs to pick up The Green New Deal, or something very close to it, and sell it in the only language that will make it work. Who is going to lead the way?

63 comments on “Only greed can save us ”

  1. A 1

    “As a society we can’t seem to bring ourselves to take action on climate change.”

    This is true, but merely changing how the problem is described is not going to solve it. In the absence of regulation, the profit motive operates to destroy the environment, and, unless transactions are heavily regulated, it will continue to do so. But, as everyone is aware, the short termism of the profit motive works to fight against increased regulation. The Green New Deal is a non-starter because nobody has explained how anyone can get into a position to bring the necessary regulations into existence.

    There appears to be no voluntary solution (market or democratic) to the climate crisis, so if there is to be a solution, then both society and the market will have to be compelled by some other power to adopt it. Short of the military threatening the rest of us into it, I can’t see what would work, and the military will probably be compelled by events to do that as things get really bad.

    Democracy and free markets cannot solve the climate crisis. “Solutions” that appeal to them are a waste of time. This is just one of those things that requires mass coercion to fix.

    • jcuknz 1.1

      A typical left wing approach, more regulation … completely misses the point that rOb is making that the way to help in a capitalistic ecconomy is not more regulation which only stifles things and irritates people but to point out the profit/benefits to be made from the green approach. Regulation is the equivalent of the stick while most people react much better to the carrot.

      • jimmy 1.1.1

        Or maybe regulation is the rules of the game that the government lays out for people and then alows for the profit motive to do its thing within the bounds of the aformentioned rules of the game.

        Think of strong labour laws giving incentives to invest in plant and machinery (Germany, Japan)rather than weak labour laws giving incentive to inefficiently allocate labour (New Zealand, Haiti).

        In the case of green business we need to reward people who contribute ecosystem services (i.e. a farmer with a hill covered in bush) and punnish those who deminish ecosystem services (a farmer who doesnt fence off a stream).

        But then again the fundamental theorem of welfare economics doesnt count externalities so theres no point in trying to fix something that doesnt exist huh?

      • A 1.1.2

        I don’t think you’ve thought through your reply. If there were was more money to be made from the green approach, then it would already be dominating. The reason it isn’t is that “bad” sources of energy like coal are the means to short term profit. The idea that businesspeople have failed to tap a source of sure and obvious profit by not investing en masse in green tech is ridiculous. All they think about is making money.

        If you don’t like sticks, then subsidise alternative energy. It makes no real difference, since we will still be imposing costs on people for using fossil fuels, and the stick will merely be applied to someone else (either the general public, or in taxes on fossil fuel consumption).

        Whichever way you look at it, a transition to a green economy is going to involve considerable sacrifices in the short term for long term benefit. Both democracies and markets are notoriously bad at doing that, and that is why neither democracies or markets left to themselves are going to solve the carbon problem.

        To put it another way: both democracies and markets, while good at dealing with all sorts of difficulties, are hopelessly weak when it comes to certain sorts of problems. In the case of markets, it is things subject to market failure. Normally, democratic control corrects for market failure (e.g pollution controls). However, the one thing that democracies cannot deal with is a slow burning catastrophe where the evidence is non obvious. The classic example is the rise of fascism. The democracies stood around holding their knobs because voters did not want to endure the short term pain of dealing with the fascists. We now know what an appalling decision that turned out to be.

        You don’t appear to me to be even close to understanding the problem, which makes your reply miss the mark.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Ensure that people have the knowledge and education to understand what’s happening around them and that they need to work collectively rather than individually and democracy can work. Of course, the RWNJ will try to prevent this from happening as their power comes from people being uninformed and atomised individuals.

      • A 1.2.1

        Won’t work.

        Ask yourself how many people continue to believe in astrology and psychics, despite having the wonders of a first world education.

        The only solution is for carbon controls to be forced on the populace by political elites. There isn’t any realistic alternative, and once the transition to a green economy is complete, nobody will care anyway.

  2. burt 2

    If Cameron follows though on those fine words, if he can remake Britain’s economy so that the right incentives foster a green, sustainable future, then dammit I’d vote for the Tory git, welfare cuts and all.

    Ha, The means always justifies then end.

  3. “Greed is destroying us. Perhaps only greed is a strong enough to save us too.”

    I agree that greed is destroying us – but it won’t save us. While greed is exhalted in our society there will be no rescue – only increased suffering and misery.

  4. Bill 4

    Here’s some green and greed for you.

    Oil companies aren’t going to give up their market share or their wealth or their power just because of climate collapse. When recovery of 1 barrel of oil gets too marginal in energy terms, oil companies will begin to augment their energy inputs from renewable sources. So green or renewable energy technology could allow for a growing number of barrels of oil equivalent energy to be expended on getting one barrel of oil. I don’t imagine we will still use oil in quite the profligate way we do at the moment by then. But we’ll still use huge quantities. In the interim, oil companies will push to have access to oil in all types of dangerous or delicate environments.

    So greed will drive the oil companies to defend their positions in the market system. And green technology will allow them to do it. .

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      You’re correct. This is why the EROEI idea is misunderstood, with some people saying that as soon as EROEI for oil gets too low, or below 1, all oil extraction will cease.

      Yes, it will probably get to the point where you get less energy out of the ground than what it cost to extract it. But as long as the energy you’re extracting is in a more useful form, eg liquid oil that is very energy dense and portable vs inconvenient and sporadic sunlight/wind energy, then extracting that liquid oil will continue. It’ll be very expensive, but until such time as a cheaper alternative is available, oil extraction will continue.

    • Jenny 4.2

      Don’t think that when the oil runs out, the oil companies will go green. The opposite is proving to be the case with the exploitation of oil shales.

      Even here in Green New Zealand, plans are afoot to mine coal for refining into petroleum products, a hugely wasteful and polluting, but highly profitable business .

      So much for Greed Saving us.

      Like most other industries the oil companies are autocratic plutocracies, they operate only in their own interest, and behave as if they are a law unto themselves, to save the planet they will have to be brought under some sort of democratic control.

      Capcha – “resources”

      • Bill 4.2.1

        Yup. We agree. The oil industry will essentially run on greenwash, but only as a last resort.

        Meanwhile, I’d have thought it more pertinent to shine a spotlight on the constructs that systemically reward behaviours such as greed rather than lend credence to the notion that we are driven by greed as though it’s a naturally pre-eminent facet of our condition. And if that spotlight lent us insight to how and why particular constructs and their reward systems result in undesirable behaviours being fostered and promoted, that we could debate changing or replacing those constructs so that other, more desirable human traits were fostered and promoted instead.

        I’m disappointed that an undesirable trait that is clearly fostered and promoted through the impact of certain orthodoxies ( yawn – the market) is taken as being inevitable and then further promoted as a solution rather than a problem to be solved.

        • Colonial Viper 4.2.1.1

          So lets not run society on greed any more. Lets run it on honesty, compassion and principle.

          Frak may be I’m thinking of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. (Not that round table).

          • Bill 4.2.1.1.1

            It’s not society that is run on greed. Our economy rewards it. And the economy shapes and dominates society. If we develop economic strategies that don’t reward greed and selfishness or that even renders them a liability in economic matters while nurturing and promoting other more desirable aspects of our natures…economic structures that are predicated on substantive democratic control could do that.

            • M 4.2.1.1.1.1

              ‘Our economy rewards it.’

              Bill, yes but the prevailing opinions of the well to do/successful as well. I’m so tired of hearing the at phrase ‘the politics of envy’ or ‘tall poppy syndrome’ which are just used to blindside any calls for people to be less selfish or to moderate their behaviour, a prime example being the obscene salaries paid to executives while they screw down the pay of their lowliest workers,.

              Only when greed and selfish behaviours are viewed as fundamentally flawed and those that promote them are made pariahs will anything change.

              This Greenpeace ad does it for me re greed and selfishness:

              Anti spam: small – yes, beautiful – if anything is to be big, make it your conscience

  5. randal 5

    people are adventitous to the system not vice versa.
    when germany suffered inflation in the 1920’s they turned it off just as suddenly as they turned it on.
    now the problem is of a higher order and magnitude altogether but the solution is still in our hands or is it?
    when the chinese government is still pandering to stupid old men that they can obtain virility by slaughtering the remains of african megafauna then there is not much hope about anything.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      when the chinese government is still pandering to stupid old men that they can obtain virility by slaughtering the remains of african megafauna then there is not much hope about anything.

      I do believe that those “stupid old men” have led China for two decades with an average 9.3% economic growth rate per annum, have given the country a treasure chest of US$2.5T in foreign currency reserves, put a man in orbit, monopolised the world’s accessible stores of rare earth elements, positioned the country to be the global leader in green technology – so much so that US officials are publicly voicing their fear at falling behind irrecoverably. And of course designed a protective shield that the US cannot penetrate. Not a military one, but an economic one which relies on a sure factor: the greed and political influence of US corporates.

      But yeah I guess you might be right and they are “stupid”.

  6. john 6

    I think I’ll join ACT, Climate Change is unproven and doesn’t exist because it can’t be privatized and money can’t be got from it,no worries Wodney mate!

    • BLiP 6.1

      Lets not be so hasty. I can see ACT running on a “Privatise the Sun” policy. Just like water meters, we could all have sun meters fitted to our roofs. The more heat we receive, the more tax we pay. Then, just like the radio spectrum, we chunk it up into regions and then sell them. I mean, we all need light and sunshine, don’t we, especially those pesky home gardeners and the like. I can see BP, Mobil and the rest of the “energy” companies lining up with their chequebooks open in their hands outside the minster’s office in a flash. All we need is for the government to claim ownership of the sun – no belligerent indigenous inhabitants to be worried about – sell it to the highest bidder, and we’re away!

    • john 6.2

      An amazing satellite photo of the UK carpeted in snow from Scotland to the Channel!
      Speculation is that climate change has interfered with the warmer winds coming off the Gulf Stream allowing Arctic cold to come south!? I wonder what the Gnome of Epsom would say about this?

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1335216/Britain-blanketed-snow-end-sight-fury-grows-gritting.html

      [lprent: And that comment is on climate. Well done… (but you’re actually wrong, it is still weather) ]

      • Jenny 6.2.1

        These photos remind me of the computer generated images used in the speculative (and overly dramatised) movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. Based on the worse case scenario of the Gulf Stream failing completely due to Global Warming.

        The movie depicted (through computer trickery) the Northern Hemisphere, (including England), coated in ice and snow as seen from the International Space Station.

        The Gulf Stream is reputed to bring as much heat energy from the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere in Winter as this area receives directly from the Northern winter sunlight.

      • john 6.2.2

        Hi Iprent this link better, Much less cloud cover mostly in the south east: Does appear UK all covered by snow can’t prove for S.E. as there is cloud over it.
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8447023.stm

        I certainly think on a heating planet which is showing more climate chaos, and an atmosphere able to hold up to 20% more moisture compared with prewar, this snow fall certainly indicates climate change. Also the Gulf Stream could be being slowed by melting fresh water from Greenland’s surface snow and ice,this is one of the dire scenarios feared could happen. If it did England’s climate would become like Newfoundland’s(If the GS stopped completely). I think Lovelock’s right: It’s out of our hands because of positive feedbacks ,whatever we do won’t make any difference. So, we have to adapt:getting into Robert Atack’s territory here, we must voluntarily start to humanely reduce our population and prepare for a very different World Post Peak Oil and greater variability of climate. Stop all Immigration and start learning to be self sufficient as the global trade era is now in permanent decline. I think we can cope with climate change if we can be mean and lean,but not cruel,again.

        • john 6.2.2.1

          These are some of Lovelock’s opinions they’re apocalyptic, but this respected scientist probably knows what will happen better than I.

          “Lovelock believes global warming is now irreversible, and that nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics. Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe, so instead of wasting our time on wind turbines we need to start planning how to survive. To Lovelock, the logic is clear. The sustainability brigade are insane to think we can save ourselves by going back to nature; our only chance of survival will come not from less technology, but more.

          Nuclear power, he argues, can solve our energy problem – the bigger challenge will be food. “Maybe they’ll synthesise food. I don’t know. Synthesising food is not some mad visionary idea; you can buy it in Tesco’s, in the form of Quorn. It’s not that good, but people buy it. You can live on it.” But he fears we won’t invent the necessary technologies in time, and expects “about 80%” of the world’s population to be wiped out by 2100. Prophets have been foretelling Armageddon since time began, he says. “But this is the real thing.”

          “There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that’s just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we’ll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That’s the source of my optimism.”

          What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: “Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.”

  7. The indigenous caucus formulated a statement that they presented at the opening session in Mexico

    “Market-based mitigation strategies such as the Clean Development Mechanism, and carbon offsets, including forest offsets and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) further threaten our human rights, including our right to free prior and informed consent among many others. Our land and territories, food sovereignty, bio-diversity, cultural practices and traditional life ways are being placed in further jeopardy, and we reject these false solutions.”

    http://mother-earth-journal.com/2010/12/29-climate-summit-day-one-indigenous-peoples-stress-need-for-participation/

    • Jenny 7.1

      The fact that the struggle against global warming is being spear headed by the international indigenous movement is interesting. And has been shaping my ideas for some time now.

      That;

      The struggle to alleviate poverty

      Plus preserve the environment

      Plus the struggle for indigenous people’s rights

      Are all inter-linked.

      That you can’t achieve one of these objectives in isolation from the others, particularly in the settler countries like the US, Australia and in particular here in New Zealand.

      These three issues are like the legs of a stool, with out one the other two fall over.

      This is why I was a little disapointed in ‘Climate Justice’ who seems to have developed a blind spot to indigenous issues.

      Not even bothering to forward his ideas for resolving the Seabed and Foreshore issue.

      Climate Justice

  8. more_ben 8

    The very fact you live in a first world economy typing all this tells me you’re a hypocrite. As a first world consumer you are a guilty as anyone in environmental destruction.

    Hey, you’re not alone The entire environmental movement is an exercise in hypocrisy. The product of a latte sipping wealthy elite who are quite happy to explain to everyone else why its wrong to have what they’ve already got. Al Gore is among the wealthiest people on the planet, and among its biggest consumers.

    Now all of this would be fine if the solutions offered by environmentalists actually helped solve environmental problems. But they don’t. Again and again and again policy fails, or has unintended consequences that overwhelm any environmental benefits. The main effect of environmental policy has been either to appropriate benefits that would have happened anyway (e.g. Clean Air Act) or leave millions of poor people starving (e.g. ethanol) or dying (e.g. DDT ban).

    • r0b 8.1

      The very fact you live in a first world economy typing all this tells me you’re a hypocrite. As a first world consumer you are a guilty as anyone in environmental destruction.

      You talking to me? Yes, I know and quite agree. I have cut my footprint down quite a bit over the last few years, but I have a lot further to go.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      The entire environmental movement is an exercise in hypocrisy.

      It is possible to maintain a first world standard of living while also living within environmental limits so not hypocrisy at all.

      Again and again and again policy fails,

      And the policy fails because capitalists don’t like being told the truth because it stops profits – we cannot maintain growth. We must decrease population and fossil fuel use as well as protecting and renewing the environment. This will happen one way or another but the governments are deciding the hard way rather than the rational way.

      The main effect of environmental policy has been either to appropriate benefits that would have happened anyway (e.g. Clean Air Act) or leave millions of poor people starving (e.g. ethanol) or dying (e.g. DDT ban).

      The increase in fuel efficiency and probably a few others wouldn’t have happened without the Clean Air Act. In fact we even have proof of that – cars made in the US are now the most inefficient in the world. Without the standards that other countries have they haven’t needed to push the development as hard.

      Millions of people are starving because the world is over populated and the push to use ethanol is more due to the capitalists needing the energy and wanting the subsidies. Anyone with half a brain would have realised that ethanol from corn was a bad move and not put the subsidies in place. Considering that they were put in place despite the figures showing that it was stupid we can only assume that there was pressure from somewhere (BTW the green movement actually opposed them) to put in place such subsides.

      As for the ban on DDT? If that hadn’t happened even more people would be dying. It is, after all, a poison that doesn’t break down and accumulates in the food chain.

  9. ho hum

    The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers: a demographic explosion that triggers social chaos and spreads death, nuclear delirium and the quasi-annihilation of the species… Our survival is no more than a question of 25, 50 or perhaps 100 years.

    – Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997)

    Stop dreaming it’s over. 🙂

    • john 9.1

      This brief potted history animation of our Industrial Era now in its end game created by Richard Heinberg. Refer link:
      http://www.postcarbon.org/video/175694-the-ultimate-roller-coaster-ride-a

      Of course Climate Change is a by product, an externalized cost of all that fossil fuel we’ve burned.
      We can adapt otherwise,probably too late now, we will “ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers…”

      Jacques Cousteau was horrified at the destruction of the Oceans,the overfishing, the pollution. He thought if the Oceans die,we die. The great Whales are a symbol of that precious life giving Ocean and its health,their persecution a symbol of our destructiveness of converting life into commodities useful to us without respect for their intrinsic beauty and value.We all should be vegetarians.

  10. vto 10

    Greed is just another word for..

    Let’s forget the herd..

  11. clandestino 11

    You’re right. In a free society people will act in their/families interest and that always means getting the most out of life be it material or otherwise. This is the profit motive and/or greed. It works. Has worked for a while now. We just don’t seem to like that it does. Let’s design the rules of the game to fit this fundamental law and allow human ingenuity to create a better way.

    • Bill 11.1

      That’s b/s clandestino. Here’s why. If getting the ‘most out of life’ means people ‘acting in their/families interest’, then all you get is cut throat competition and winners and losers. That’s what we have now. You say it’s indicative of greed being a successful strategy.

      But the losers…and that’s the vast majority in any given population…are worse off in all manner of ways than if greed wasn’t rewarded via market competition.

      They are worse off, not just in terms of their share of material resources, but in terms of their potential to realise their talents or dreams. To paraphrase Jimmy Reid, there are many poor people who are among the best astro-physicists, and the best doctors, artists or whatever, but they and we will never have access to their talents or gifts because of (among other systemic reasons), the narrow competitive nature of the market and the location in society they were born in to. They are discarded from the get go.

      They have no, or diminished access to educational opportunities and not enough access to the free time required to develop their talent and so on. The circumstances that are created and constantly re-asserted by the market, whereby it produces concentrations of wealth and power, dictate they wind up spending their lives in jobs that at best do nothing to encourage the realisation of their potential at at worst diminish and crush them.

      But if our economy, and by inference our behaviours, were geared towards enhancing society rather than the individual, then all the current losers (the vast majority of us) could be much better off than at present.

      But then, you reckon greed is a ‘fundamental law’ that ought to be pandered to. And that means you’ve blocked any understanding of greed as merely one undesirable aspect of our make up among many desirable and undesirable aspects of our nature. Greed needn’t be economically rewarded in such a way that it becomes an elevated trait that gets embraced for the sake of ‘getting ahead’ or avoiding penury.

      • KJT 11.1.1

        How do you explain my class of Teachers. All forgoing reasonable well paid jobs to take up teaching.
        High level graduates like my Parents who chose to do social work for a quarter of the pay.
        Professional people who volunteer for VSA.
        Business mentors.
        The old lady down the road who still delivers meals on wheels even though she can barely walk herself.
        People who do charity work for their community.
        Volunteer sports coaches.
        Writers on here who advocate a fairer society even when it will result in a reduction in their personal standard of living.
        The many people who do a good job, not because it pays well, but because they feel they are making a positive difference.

        Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffet giving away a major part of their fortunes for charity.

        Many people are not motivated by greed, a lust for power or possessions.

        It is co-operation not greed that makes a society work.

        • Bill 11.1.1.1

          There are many decent people KJT. And you give some examples of decency. That’s not the issue here. The issue would be that , as you indicate when you say “forgoing reasonable well paid jobs to take up…”, that being decent all too often and due to systemic factors, attracts degrees of disadvantage in a market scenario.

          Do you consider it reasonable or desirable that systemic economic disadvantages get conferred on people who act reasonably…that they should accept a degree of sacrifice to ‘do the right thing’… while people who act unreasonably, often and systemically, attract increasing levels of economic advantage and reward?

          • KJT 11.1.1.1.1

            It is not desirable, as you put it that people who do things that are detrimental to a large part of society are dis-proportionately rewarded.

            That is why externalities such as social deprivation have to be factored into costs and our present economic system has to be changed so a steady state sustainable system is possible.

            • Bill 11.1.1.1.1.1

              So we agree.

              Only I’d maintain that our present economic system needs to be replaced rather than changed, if by change you mean reformed.

              • Colonial Viper

                One issue is that the mechanics and tools of a new economic system would need to be developed and refined over time. This makes it very difficult to just replace the existing system holus bolus i.e. you can’t just wipe Windows off the hard drive and install Linux or Mac OS in its place.

                The underlying mechanics of capitalist freemarkets are well developed now, everything from managing financial transactions to the workings of a stock exchange.

                My view is that any ‘new system’ to replace our present economic system is going to have to use adaptations of current day tools and technology to begin with. There will also be many points of social and economic dislocation which need to be identified and managed.

                • Bill

                  Any new economy will have to gain ascendency over time. Short term it would have to survive within an overarching market context. Then alongside a market context. Before it becomes the new context.

                  There are already examples of participatory workplaces. They embody the principles of a participatory economy in their internal structures ( democratic decision making, no vertical division of labour, mixed job complexes etc). And they are surviving and thriving in an environment that is inimical to their existence.

                  As more such workplaces come into being, further opportunities arise with regards them trading with one another using the principles of participatory economics rather than being forced to trade for resources etc with market orientated workplaces.

                  And that’s the thing about participatory economics. It builds from the ground up. It can’t be any other way is concepts of democracy are to be preserved. ( Forget about government or state action. Because unless the state is committed to distributing its economic and political power outwards and downwards…essentially nullifying itself [not many examples of that!], it leads to the undemocratic anomaly known as ‘democratic centralism’…a political dictatorship.)

                  Because participatory economics progress by way of ‘natural buy in’ as opposed to compulsion; and because it can continue to develop and mature even as the market economy persists, instances of social and economic dislocation need not necessarily arise.

                  • just saying

                    Short term it would have to survive within an overarching market context.

                    Which is why involvement in the ugly reality of present-day capitalist politics is important. An environment can foster and nurture or it can punish and destroy.

                    • Bill

                      I’m sure what you’re saying there js.

                      Are you suggesting that it’s important to be involved in parliamentary representative politics on the premise that voting in the ( as yet non-existent) party with the most sympathy for, say a participatory economy could lead to politicians tweaking the political and economic landscape in ways that would encourage participatory projects?

                      If I’ve picked you up right, then I’d caution against relying on government or state action as that top – down approach tends to create the political dictatorship of democratic centralism.

                      But if you are meaning that it’s important to get politically involved a grass roots or community/workplace level, then sure. Creating a participatory workplace (for example) is a highly political act. And without such acts, no democratic alternative to our current economy will ever eventuate.

              • KJT

                For change to work it has to be supported by the ones who are changing.
                The power that banking and finance and a few wealthy people needs to be reduced first so change is possible.
                Taking back the control of finances so they are controlled democratically for the benefit of the many and not a very wealthy few is the first step.

                In New Zealand that could start by using Government bonds for financing Kiwibank To take over the banking functions of issuing money and financing sustainable business for the future within New Zealand. Re-nationalising finance.

                We need to actually have democracy, then public control of the issue of means of exchange.

                Then it could be possible to address the present systems reliance on constant unsustainable growth, the commodification of money, and the inequality of wealth distribution towards those who contribute nothing but accumulated money capital.

                An environmentally and socially sustainable society cannot occur with a financial system which relies on exponential growth.

                • just saying

                  A belated reply to Bill 12.57pm – didn’t catch it at the time.

                  I was talking about national politics, but of course grassroots/community/workplace apply as well – I just wouldn’t necessarily refer to these as “dirty”.

                  But its not about relying on state or government action, its about political action to minimise the power of the state to oppress us as and, as things get worse, prevent the sorts of fundamental changes we agree, could save us.

                  It’s about making sure as best we can, that our political and cultural landscape, especially in the next five to ten years, is as conducive to positive change as we can make it. It seems to me that the very opposite of this happening and the elites are getting ever more powerful.

                  If I’ve made myself clear, and I probably haven’t, both kinds of action are necessary now – creating and nurturing participatory workplaces and communities and political engagement to fight elite control.

                  Some people (not you I think) seem to be almost glad to see life get harsher and crueller for ordinary people because they see severe mass suffering as being the only catalyst that can change the system. I think such a revolt (of those that survive to do so), is more likely to result in a Hobbesian nightmare than a sustainable, cooperative, democratic and just new world. We need to have time and space to evolve into what we need to be IMO.

                  • Bill

                    “Dirty”?

                    I don’t think national politics or parliamentary politics are “dirty” so much as simply think that such avenues cannot logically deliver the results we desire.

                    In my mind….vote to mitigate some of the worse potentials of particular parties assuming power, but don’t expect much more than things, at best, to be slightly less worse than they might otherwise be under market dominated parliamentary rule.

                    heh – that a torturous enough sentence?

                    As for revolt. I prefer a scenario whereby there is a gentle collapsing of the old order brought about by the gradual ascendency of a new order rather than some cataclysmic jolt. Cataclysmic jolts (if history is to teach us anything) result in ‘a new boss, just the same as the old boss’ scenario; a simple transfer of power from an old elite to a new elite.

  12. john 12

    Two good links on the dire Climate Change situation:

    We’re Toast
    When people tell me the dire messages about which I write don’t resonate with other people, I struggle with a coherent response. Would you prefer continued overshoot on an overshot planet? Would you prefer we keep heating our overheated home? Would you prefer we ignore the most important issues in the history of our species? Party on, brothers and sisters, when you bother to extract your head from your asses the sand. As long as we ignore reality, it’ll all be fine.

    http://www.countercurrents.org/mcpherson031210.htm

    http://www.countercurrents.org/connor301110.htm

    ‘Crop Failures And Drought Within Our Children’s Lifetimes
    Children today are likely to reach old age in a world that is 4C warmer, where the 10,000-year certainties of the global climate can no longer be relied on, and widespread crop failures, drought, flooding and mass migration of the dispossessed become a part of everyday life.

    http://www.countercurrents.org/connor301110.htm
    ‘Crop Failures And Drought Within Our Children’s Lifetimes
    Children today are likely to reach old age in a world that is 4C warmer, where the 10,000-year certainties of the global climate can no longer be relied on, and widespread crop failures, drought, flooding and mass migration of the dispossessed become a part of everyday life.

    http://transitionvoice.com/2010/12/the-road-to-nowhere/
    Another link

    • john 12.1

      The road to nowhere
      Guy McPherson
      “When I wrote about the topic of global climate change in this space a mere two months ago, the situation was dire.

      Each of a series of assessments indicated an increasingly disturbing outcome for global average temperature. The latest of those assessments, based on more data and more sophisticated models than prior efforts, suggest we have passed tipping points that may lead to the extinction of our own species, along with many others. A global average increase of two degrees Celsius likely leads to runaway greenhouse. This means destruction of most human habitat on Earth.”

      “About six weeks after my brief review graced Transition Voice, the situation took a turn for the worse. The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook was released in early November. It contains a shocking assessment: We’re headed for a global average temperature increase of 3.5 C by 2035. If an increase of two degrees spells runaway greenhouse, you can bet the consequences of a 3.5 degree increase within 25 years is catastrophic.” This would check in with Lovelock’s estimate we have about 20 years before the proverbial hits the fan. As a scientist Lovelock says he may be wrong and hopes he is! But that’s how he sees it from the evidence.

      http://transitionvoice.com/2010/12/the-road-to-nowhere/

  13. Jenny 13

    .
    What a Greed fuelled Feeding Frenzy looks like.

    capcha – “streams” (forget about them) (unless it’s streams of money, of course).

    • Bill 13.1

      And of course, there is no mention in that article of the Commissioner for the Environment’s “Lignite and Climate Change: The High Cost of Low Grade Coal” report whose release was put back.

      So the ‘free run’ continues.

      If Brownlie and English are meeting with the Qinghua Group before Xmas and that report still isn’t out to provide context, then it will that much easier for the government to sell the whole lignite to diesel caboodle back to us as a ‘good thing’ and economically necessary given the state of NZ’s finances.

  14. john 14

    Not an exaggeration! This is mega extreme weather for so early in the Winter!

    Cancun is heating up but the next ice age is beginning in Northern Europe!

    The next Ice Age perhaps started this week, as a few scientists have warned might be coming. It might be an early call but certainly it’s an early winter. I would bet the barn that it sure is going to feel like the beginning of an Ice Age in Europe and probably the entire northern hemisphere these next months. Though this winter might be catastrophic in terms of heating costs and more dramatic rises in food prices, on top of what we are already suffering through, the real threat, that they are probably trying to hide from us, is the cold getting worse each year.

    People have no idea how vulnerable modern civilization is but I imagine we are going to get some severe lessons in this regard. Personally I already have tears in my heart and dripping down my face for those who will freeze to death and for all the children who are going to be cold and go hungry.Refer link:

    http://theintelhub.com/2010/12/03/i-keep-telling-you-it%E2%80%99s-getting-colder/

    • lprent 14.1

      Please, please, refer to it by it’s correct name. It is a glacial not a ‘ice age’.

      The world moved into an ice age more than 40 million years ago when antarticia drifted into the southern polar region. That caused an overall decrease in the earths average tempatures. We evolved during this cooler period and are still in that ice age.

      Since then various geographic regions have had significant glacials. We have been in an unusally climatic stable period for the last 10k years in a interglacial since the last northern glacial. Our civilization has evolved during this period of stability.

      There is appears to have only been a moderate level of correlation between the timing of the northern and southern hemisphere glacials, or even in some of the glacial areas in the same hemisphere. That is why ice age to refer to glacials is quite misleading. The changes in gulf stream give a relatively regional effect around the atlanic seacoasts

    • john 14.2

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1242011/DAVID-ROSE-The-mini-ice-age-starts-here.html

      The mail on line speculates Europe in for extreme cold weather for a long time to come!

  15. john 15

    Published: 04 October, 2010, 07:20
    Edited: 22 October, 2010, 17:34

    Coldest winter in 1,000 years on its way

    The change is reportedly connected with the speed of the Gulf Stream, which has shrunk in half in just the last couple of years. Polish scientists say that it means the stream will not be able to compensate for the cold from the Arctic winds. According to them, when the stream is completely stopped, a new Ice Age will begin in Europe.
    At last – it is starting to dawn on some observers – forget the scientists, they will always find duality and argue about it, a kind of intellectual masturbation. Just look at what’s happening and apply intelligence to the observations. Never mind the causes for a moment. Global warming is clearly happening. We only have to look at the retreating glaciers, the shrinking Arctic ice cap, the huge ice sheets breaking away from Antarctica, the melting of the Greenland ice cover. Never mind statistics and scientific opinions – we can see this all on our TV screens, computer screens, through satellite photography, and so on. In the northern hemisphere the catastrophic effect on the Gulf Stream is starting to be recognised – it should have been headlines years ago! As the Gulfstream declines, global warming will make Northern Europe, and the UK, much, much colder from hereon, not warmer. And this winter will be the first to really emphasize that; but there will always be many who prefer to keep their heads in the sand, or should I say the snow!

    http://rt.com/news/prime-time/coldest-winter-emergency-measures/

    • john 15.1

      Report on a scientific study on whether the Gulf Stream is slowing or not

      Alarm over dramatic weakening of Gulf Stream
      The Guardian, Thursday 1 December 2005

      The powerful ocean current that bathes Britain and northern Europe in warm waters from the tropics has weakened dramatically in recent years, a consequence of global warming that could trigger more severe winters and cooler summers across the region, scientists warn today.
      Researchers on a scientific expedition in the Atlantic Ocean measured the strength of the current between Africa and the east coast of America and found that the circulation has slowed by 30% since a previous expedition 12 years ago.
      If the current remains as weak as it is, temperatures in Britain are likely to drop by an average of 1C in the next decade, according to Harry Bryden at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton who led the study. “Models show that if it shuts down completely, 20 years later, the temperature is 4C to 6C degrees cooler over the UK and north-western Europe,” Dr Bryden said.

      Refer link

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2005/dec/01/science.climatechange

      • john 15.1.1

        Re Above startling conclusion

        Most of the cooling would be in the winter, so the biggest impact would be much colder winters,” said Tim Osborn, of the University of East Anglia climatic research unit.

    • felix 15.2

      FFS! Can someone revoke john’s mark-up privileges?

      So annoying.

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