TACKLING THE CAPITALIST TECHNOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE, CLIMATE CRISIS & CLASS WARFARE
- Dennis Small
"Homo Sapiens" (wise man!) proclaims our hubristic human self-image and self-definition on the evolutionary tree. We boast of our success while being a product of evolutionary forces!
"Above all, our lives are no longer totally controlled by nature. In general, we do not suffer the cycle of feast and famine brought by the vagaries of the seasons. We control Nature, with power far beyond what it can muster against us" ("The Day The Universe Changed", James Burke, BBC, 1985, p 163). But, during our current era, such hubris stands in stark contradiction to an ever-worsening environmental reality.
Today, ironically, the technological threat looms larger than ever as well. Electronic surveillance systems try to enforce political control under various regimes around the globe. "In an article on Truthdig, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges pointed to the (online) censorship of WSWS (World Socialist Web Site) and other Leftwing Websites" ("Google Intensifies Censorship Of Leftwing Websites", 19/9/17).
"The technological society thrives on homogeneity and centralisation" ("The Technological Threat", ed., Jack Douglas, Spectrum/Prentice-Hall, 1971, p4).
"Humans have always been travellers and explorers, venturing over the next horizon in search of resources, knowledge, and adventure" - "Mankind: The Story Of All Of Us", Pamela Toler, Running Press, 2012, p424). Humans have so far failed to live within a stable environment.
"We do not live in a 'Post-Truth' world. We live in a world of lies, and we always have" - Robert Fisk, 30/12/16.
"Mainstream News - keeping you in the dark for over 70 years! - Courtesy of Fox, ABC, CNN, NBC, & CBS".
"One person's misinformation is another person's fact" - Simon Bridges, Leader of the Opposition.
"Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state" (Noam Chomsky).
"Ours is a world in potentially fatal overshoot; human consumption of living resources already exceeds the regenerative capacity of the ecosphere" - William E Rees, Professor Emeritus of Human Ecology & Ecological Economics, UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, Canada, and Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute, US.
Tim Gore, the head of food policy and climate change for Oxfam, says: "The main way that most people will experience climate change is through its impact on food - what they eat, how it's grown, the price they pay for it, and the availability and choice they have" ("The Fate Of Food: What We'll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World", Amanda Little, Oneworld, 2019, p7).
"The human condition is smug myopia" (in "Possums On The Roof Of Life", Joe Bennett, Press, 30/10/19).
"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!" (Greta Thunberg, climate crisis activist extraordinaire).
For Greta: "When I was a little girl, I always longed for the grass behind our house to grow tall enough for a unicorn to be able to hide in it. At dawn, it would emerge from the half-darkness, lift its nose toward my room, sniff the air, and then wait for me to come to the window. For a brief instant we would look at each other, and it would send me a thought like I know I'm safe with you before lying down in the grass and slowly lowering its head to rest at last. It would be safe from the world, safe from being caught, and killed, and tortured. Because humans always destroy what is miraculous, and the unique makes people uncomfortable" ("The Book Of Dreams", Nina George, Scribner, 2016/19, p194).
We must act now on climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg's appeal for a sustainable, co-operative future. One of the great ironies associated with global warming for so many ecologists and environmentalists is the knowledge that humans were already destroying the planetary biosphere well before an emerging climate crisis became a trendy concern.
Evolutionary trends to self-destruction were clearly demarcated (e.g. "Philosophers Of The EARTH: Conversations With Ecologists", Anne Chisholm, The Scientific Book Club, 1972, promoted as: "The first attempt to bridge the gap between the professional ecologist and the interested layman"; "Overshoot: The Ecological Basis Of Evolutionary Change", William R Catton, Jr, University of Illinois Press, 1980). It has always seemed so stunningly obvious to some of us, at least, that, as Greta points out, the idea of endless economic growth on a finite planet is just a "fairy tale". But wait, there are true believers in this "fairy tale", and I shall elaborate on some of this stuff below.
For a relatively very brief time, early warnings and calls for action even had international impact and resonance in the late 1960s and early 70s. Active research and pressure groups/think tanks like the Club of Rome (e.g., "The Limits To Growth"), with even elitist corporate connections; the Worldwatch Institute (founded by the far-sighted Lester R Brown in 1974); and the Ecologist magazine (e.g. "The Blueprint For Survival"); along with a considerable number of outspoken independent environmental scientists, all seemed to be charting positive, alternative ways forward.
But powerful antagonistic capitalist forces moved to crush any meaningful reforms to the existing order. Those capitalists looking to foster environmentally friendly alternatives were steamrollered aside. Much of the Left, wedded to industrial progress and techno-utopia, also distanced itself from the environmental movement. Developing countries in general were suspicious and accused the rich nations of pulling up the ladder to development whenever certain "green" initiatives seemed to be gaining traction that might hamper "progress".
Beyond Denial And Vested Interests?
In general, on the hugely compressed human time-scale, the processes of environmental deterioration have been painfully slow to register for our species ("Slow Reckoning: The Ecology Of A Divided Planet", Tom Athanasiou, Vintage, 1996/98; so very ironically this book was even strongly endorsed by Rupert Murdoch's the Times - viz. "Everyone who really cares should read Slow Reckoning"). This is so even though the first big international Earth Summit on the mounting problems was held in 1972, in Stockholm, Sweden. In terms of biological time (let alone geological time!) the human experience of "civilisation" has just been an eye-blink!
Kenneth E Boulding was an ecologically aware economist ( a very rare being indeed!) and pioneer of general systems theory (Kenneth E Boulding, Wikipedia). He came up with the very wise observation in relation to our modern world that: "Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist"! We can well say the same of economic growth in general.
Yet, despite Boulding's dismissal of belief in exponential, or "infinite growth" (as his remark was adapted by Sir David Attenborough), this "fairy tale" is the modern world's ruling materialist mantra, and presides across most of the political spectrum. It has been central to Western neo-liberalism, and, indeed, the rest of globalist "development" for the most part. China, Russia, India, and other big powers are dedicated to its pursuit. Most mind-numbingly too, it is not just a routine matter of short-sighted practice, so far "proven" by experience, and driven by a whole complex of operative factors. For a number of practitioners, this belief is tantamount to an act of religious faith, for which like so many true believers they endeavour to give reasons. More on this later.
The Challenges Of Evolutionary Overshoot
Many years of environmentalist critiques, linked with the promotion of alternative pathways to more genuinely "sustainable development", have yet failed to shake this faith, whatever the reigning contradictions. Even the imminent dire threat of global warming is failing to make any real impression. Hence, the rise of youthful movements like Extinction Rebellion.
The "counter-culture", as it were, has not made any really telling and meaningful inroads into this ultimately absurd, and indeed, suicidal conception of so-called "infinite growth". To date, by far the majority of humans have shown that they care little about all the fellow species, with which they share planet Earth, and on which they ultimately depend for their own existence. Instead, they are locked into the urge and exuberance of evolutionary overshoot ("Overshoot", op. cit.).
Kenneth Boulding instead persuasively advocated "the need for the economic system to fit itself to the ecological system with its limited pools of resources", i.e., to adapt and accommodate our expectations to the realities of "Spaceship Earth" (Kenneth E. Boulding, op. cit.). Humans have to give priority to the planetary ecosystem, and adapt economic theory and practice to function sustainably within its boundaries. "But he was optimistic, believing our evolutionary journey had just begun" (ibid.). Boulding drew on his own spiritual orientation for personal sustenance (ibid.).
Reviewing The Challenges
My article reviews a range of subjects full in our face today as we wrestle with the problems and challenges of human survival further into the 21st Century. The backdrop and context for this article, as with anything I write in these times, comprises the global warming crisis, the deteriorating planetary environment, growing geopolitical confrontations, etc.
My overall aim is another effort in scrutinising and unravelling the contradictions and confusions that so permeate global capitalism, and its offshoots. The political Left needs to take the initiative in developing a broad, collectivist campaign to greater sustainability, social justice, and peace worldwide. By strenuously contesting the contradictions of global capitalism, we can help improve and better progress in this direction.
The Two-Edged Sword Of The Technological Imperative
What we can call "the technological imperative" is, in truth, the very ruling maxim of Western civilisation, underpinning the fetish of growth. The whole drive of our civilisation has been towards the dominance of the natural world (e.g., "Technology And Economic Development: A Scientific American Book", Pelican/Penguin, 1963/65; "The Conquest Of Nature: Technology And Its Consequences", RJ Forbes, Pelican/Penguin, 1968/71).
Industrialisation is the essence of this project. In our era, economic growth continues to be driven by the innovations and applications of the so-called "Fourth Industrial Revolution" with its electronic/computerised focus, along with biotechnology, etc. While global capitalism has come to be the supreme motor force of this globalist enterprise, historically both the Left and Right of the political spectrum, as indicated above, have seen technological innovation as the key to endless progress and the eventual creation of a materialist Utopia on Earth.
The Christian tradition of aspiring to Heaven was brought to Earth by the embrace of the old Greek theatrical device of the "Deus ex Machina" being wheeled on stage. Humankind would always find its salvation in some kind of "technical fix", some new tools we could use to tame Nature to our will. This toolmaking technological ingenuity, even touted as an "infinite" capacity, would save us from us from any natural fate, or even somehow any tendencies to self-immolation.
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General U Thant (1961-71) boldly proclaimed that: "It is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is the decision that makes the resources. This is the fundamental revolutionary change - perhaps the most revolutionary mankind has ever known" (from the back-cover blurb of "The Conquest Of Nature", ibid.). Ironies go into overdrive here! A devout Burmese Buddhist embraces Western technology to the extent of denying any natural limits to economic growth. Yet U-Thant's tenure covered the period when the international environmental movement was building up to the peak of its influence, as signalled by the Earth Summit in 1972.
Progress And Prognostications
In the great curve of evolutionary overshoot, progress has been seen as an ever growing materially accumulative and beneficial process. A celebrant of this perceived inevitable progress, James Burke, proclaimed in 1985 that: "We live in the best of possible worlds. We feel, in some way, that history has been a series of purposeful events leading to this statement of Man's advance, the world of today".
"We tend to view those who lived in the past, or contemporary societies which lack the materialistic sophistication of our own, as less intelligent than ourselves. By the same token the future will, for similar reasons, be more advanced" ("The Day The Universe Changed", op. cit., p239). Such ideas are still routinely accepted, and even taken to the extreme around the world by political leaders, economists, technocrats, and the overwhelming majority of those in power. Certainly, in the capitalist West, this ideology is practically de rigueur.
In a rather bizarre document, two free market pundits, Dr Eric Crampton and Janesa Jeram of the Rightwing NZ Initiative (NZI) actually put forward an argument for limitless, even infinite growth! ("The Case For Economic Growth", The New Zealand Initiative, 13/3/15). Dr Crampton is the NZI's Chief Economist while Jeram is a Senior Fellow specialising in social issues, having been a former employee of the Rightwing Christian Maxim Institute.
The NZI is a "libertarian" think tank on public policy, with a membership of "mainly NZ companies", comprising about a quarter of the NZ economy (Wikipedia). In other words, NZI is a front group for globalist Big Business, their comprador mates, and transnational corporations (TNCs), pushing foreign control, privatisation, deregulation, and wealthy vested interests! It is very much in the American mould.
In "The Case For Economic Growth" (op. cit.), the authors bring together a raft of reasoning that economists, and in particular far Right ideologues like Herman Kahn and Julian Simon, and others in their wake, have employed over the years to dismiss environmental limits. Their report is a fundamentally flawed case to say the very least.
Time and again, when economists try to challenge the realities of Earth science and the workings of the biosphere, what stands out most is their hugely limited understanding of things beyond the confines of their own narrowly prescribed conventional discipline. After all, economics is an avowedly human devised body of theory and practice directed at extracting resources and benefits from the natural world in order to achieve the best material livelihood possible.
Economics as a discipline supposedly starts from the problem of scarcity. In the course of its development, however, this problem is relegated very much to the side lines from a long-term perspective. The working assumption is always that human ingenuity will always be able to find greater efficiencies in resource use, or find some substitute resource, or come up with some new technological innovation that will allow growth to continue. Forever!?
Economics As Faith And Fairy Tale
It was 16-year old Greta Thunberg, climate crisis activist extraordinaire, who stunned the politico-corporate world by calling out that the emperor has no clothes. At the Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019, Greta denounced world leaders for stealing the dreams and childhood of her generation. "People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"" (Transcript: "Greta Thunberg's Speech At The UN Climate Action Summit", NPR, 23/9/19).
But for neo-liberal outfits and ideologues like the NZI & co. Heaven can indeed come to Earth in cargo cult fashion. Much of the report by Crampton and Jeram is a celebration of the benefits of economic growth to date. This, of course, has nothing to do with the question of whether such growth is sustainable into the future. Evolutionary overshoot peaks for animal species and then crashes.
Various experts continue to warn about the problematic nexus of population growth and environment (e.g. "The Population Bomb", Paul Ehrlich, Ballintine/Friends of the Earth, 1968/71; "Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Survive", Jared Diamond, Penguin, 2005; & "PEOPLEQUAKE: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations, And The Coming Population Crash", Fred Pearce, Eden Project Books, 2010/11: note that such writers can differ markedly in analysis and advocacy).
In contradistinction to the environmentalist understanding of the Earth and the place of humankind within the biosphere and Earth systems, there has been a far-reaching tradition in the West of what can be called "futurism". In the sense that I am employing this term, futurists are people who make predictions about what is to come, based on economic and technological trends, and how these trends will impact society in light of probable or possible innovations and adaptations. Futurists are most often techno-utopians and have had a resurgence in the neo-liberal era, offering competing visions to those of environmentalists.
They are usually enthusiastically capitalist, Rightwing, and very technocratic in approach. They are the sort of people who promote flying cars; robotics, artificially boosted extended human longevity well over 100 years; and other such touted biotech benefits; along with space exploration and travel; etc. These days, their heartland is Silicon Valley, California, where they are prime incubators of the lauded "Fourth Industrial Revolution". Such futurism sees the technological juggernaut as something that just keeps moving inevitably forward. It is a form of progress that we have to accept, like it or not.
Economic Growth Exceeding The Limits
Neo-liberalism has run with terms like "no limits", and "limitless". It has freely disseminated the idea that the opportunities and resources for exploitation in the natural world have no boundaries. In the mainstream culture, as purveyed by the corporate media, anything is up for grabs and money-making. "Entrepreneurialism", the pseudonym for capitalism, is pushed at every avenue and opportunity. Wealth, greed, and status are assiduously promoted as integral to the society and culture of the Anglo-American axis.
One ritually routine aspect of this exultation of the ruling class takes an especially British angle in the globalist colonial offshoot of NZ. Almost every day on our TV screens we get the latest celebrity "news" about the royals, in particular Prince Harry and partner (the most popular by far), Prince William, or some other royal gossip item. All this is calculated to induce not only tribalist loyalty but due respect for hierarchy and privilege. It goes hand in hand with the pervasive American indoctrination on TV and other media for wealth and power.
Calling Out Climate Change
Mind you, Prince Harry can do some good these days. Besides highlighting the need for the urgent conservation of wildlife in Africa, and elsewhere, Harry has declared he stands with Greta Thunberg on the urgency of positive action to counter global warming. He strongly endorses Greta's astonishment about how can one deny the science ("Greta Thunberg: No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference", Penguin, 2019, p67).
Just imagine, if say the TV channels were dedicated to try and get as many people as possible to be aware of the seriousness of world problems, and be better informed and, consequently, encourage support for the many initiatives and positive moves under way to address these problems. Yet during the six weeks of the World Rugby Cup in Japan from late September to early November 2019, our TV channels regularly led their "news" bulletins with the latest competition update - i.e. until our national "All Blacks" team lost out! The crony Rightwing media even used the rugby loss to spin more negativity for our Labour-led Coalition government (e.g., "Could ABs' Loss Sink Labour?"", Luke Malpass, Press, 29/10/19).
Can We Avert Catastrophe?!
Meanwhile, 11 years now to save the planet? Yeah right! ("Only 11 Years Left To Prevent Irreversible Damage From Climate Change, Speakers Warn During General Assembly High-Level Meeting", 28/3/19; "Climate Change: 12 Years To Save The Planet? Make That 18 Months",8/10/18). Maybe out in the infinity of space somewhere there really is intelligent life.
Neo-liberal culture, until so very recently, has succeeded in pervasively choking off environmental concerns, even when articulated by top scientists and the most thorough research. In a paper endorsed by 20,000 scientists - "World Scientists' Warning To Humanity: A Second Notice" - "The authors concluded that urgent measures are necessary to avoid disaster" ("20,000 Scientists Have Now Signed 'Warning to Humanity'" EcoWatch, 9/3/18).
The scientists' statement was published in November 2017 in the journal Bioscience, but "is actually an update to the original version published 25 years ago by the Union of Concerned Scientists" (ibid.). It declares that: "Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course" and that "time is running out" (ibid.). There is strong advocacy for scientists to get involved "in shifting policy from growth to conservation economy", and "incorporating the limits of the biosphere" in societal decision-making (ibid.).
Exceptionalism For Economic Growth?
Portentously enough, the very term and image of economic growth evokes an underlying instability, and by definition, a constant process of change, production, and consumption, with all sorts of ramifying implications. Furthermore, the very idea that on a fragile Goldilocks planet like our Earth the growing human population can keep on producing and consuming indefinitely at ever higher levels might very well be dismissed as obvious nonsense. But, wait, not for the planet's politicians - from Trump to Putin, and from Modi to Xi Jinping! Hell, no, and likewise for economist gurus like Crampton and Jeram who can tell them and us how this can all be done. Let's take a closer look at their purported evidence and reasoning.
First, you see, a study by the globalist World Bank lead environmental economist Susmita Dasgutpa and co-authors has actually argued "that the most plausible long-run forecast is for improved environmental quality in both high- & low- income economies. Economic liberalisation, improved information, better technology, and more stringent cost-effective approaches to regulating pollution in developing countries have begun to slow environmental deterioration" (or "to 'flatten' the Environmental Kuznets Curve", [i.e., according to the analytical model and data used]; "The Case For Economic Growth", op. cit., p25).
We can note that it is highly significant that Susmita Dasgutpa is an enthusiastic admirer of the Chinese growth model! Moreover, the argument that the environment improves as income improves is a well-worn one that again reveals the huge misunderstandings and denial so rampant in the free market corporate sphere. While it is true that traditionally higher incomes and middle-class status have led to greater concern about economic impacts on the environment, thus facilitating domestic measures, e.g., to tackle obvious pollution problems, externalities have been freely dumped overseas for other countries to swallow. Moreover, the data used in such corporate-contrived assessments are often limited and biased in a multitude of ways.
Our Waste-Stressed World
Recently, China and other Asian countries have refused to take our waste for recycling, along with that from other so-called "developed" nations. The West systematically exploited Asia (including of course the Middle East), Africa, and Latin America in its rise to world hegemony. A key dimension of the West's exploitation in recent decades has been the dumping of the waste products of its industrialisation on these regions, so intimately interconnected with imperial history. By far the most urgently important issue relating to waste and pollution is global warming, originating with Western industrialisation, and now driven increasingly by countries wishing to emulate this material success.
These days, too, Aotearoa/NZ has to face up to distressed Pacific Islanders, who are among the multitudinous innocent victims, on their drowning homelands. Environmental scientist Anthony Milne (of the Institution of Environmental Sciences in Britain, London) warned in 1988 that "before long we shall be engulfed, quite literally, by the consequences of our greed and stupidity" from global warming ("Our Drowning World: Population, Pollution, And Future Weather", Prism Press, 1988).
Sea-level rise could prove disastrous as the "inevitable outcome of industrialisation, urbanisation, over-population, and the accompanying pollution" (ibid.). This is certainly an acutely increasing issue of concern around the Earth, including in Aotearoa/NZ. Given growing Chinese intrusions into the Pacific, "Five Eyes" intelligence club member NZ is moving to do its bit in the looming Social Darwinist struggle.
Under the auspices of our Ministry of Defence, our country is officially joining "with the Pacific and 'like-minded' nations to fight the 'complex disrupters' facing the region, which include climate change, transnational organised crime, and resource competition [my emphasis]" ("Plan Puts Meat On 'Pacific Reset' Bones", Luke Malpass, Press, 29/10/19).
Fantasy Versus Reality!
Oh boy, does the NZI and its corporate/politico growth-obsessed mates need a strong, stiff dose of reality, or what?! So, we have cited in its report a study by economists from that bastion of capitalist globalisation, the World Bank, trying to tell us that the planetary environment is really improving! We can see here again how such people are in effect on another planet altogether!!
Tony Juniper, who can be described as a "green capitalist", and well connected to the British Establishment, ponders the question as to whether "it [is] possible to run an expanding capitalist economy while keeping its impacts within safe ecological boundaries, or is the greed-driven system effectively a suicide machine that is doomed to destroy itself?" ("Capitalism V Environment: Can Greed Ever Be Green?", Guardian Sustainable Business, Guardian, 26/11/14).
Juniper is unequivocal on the current trends. "The fact that the now dominant capitalist economic system is unsustainable is not in doubt" [my emphasis] (ibid.). Somebody please inform the NZI, let alone the World Bank, what is really happening to our planet! (also see Juniper's "What's Really Happening To Our Planet? The Facts Simply Explained", Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 2016).
Tony Juniper goes on to observe that capitalist growth "has contributed to the breaching of several ecological boundaries, in relation to climate change, biodiversity loss, and nutrient enrichment (e.g., nitrate pollution in NZ caused mainly by dairy farming). At the same time as damaging the natural systems that sustain it, capitalism is also leading to increasing inequality, in turn creating social tensions that make it still more exposed" ("Capitalism V Environment", op. cit.).
At the conclusion of his article, Juniper poses the central question as he sees it: "We either create an ecologically sustainable version of capitalism, or we wait for the consequences to precipitate collapse of the old one" (ibid). In fact, capitalism in any form is diametrically opposed to ecological viability and human survival.
But Tony Juniper's own advocacy of a transition to a circular or doughnut economy is the obvious way for a transition to a far more sustainable economy ("What's Really Happening To Our Planet?", op. cit.). It is a path that we should do our best to promote with as much input as possible from a Leftwing and democratic socialist perspective.
Unless we work cooperatively together to tackle the global problems upon us, suicidal conflict stares us in the face. Extinction Rebellion well warns us we now have only 11 years left! Note there is now even expert opinion saying we have only a mere 18 months! ("Climate Change: 12 Years To Save The Planet?", op. cit.). Out of control feedback loops and tipping points might soon be running rampant. The countdown is under way in more than one form!!
Beware - Mad Marketeers On The Loose!
The NZ Initiative report writers even have the brazen temerity to quote David Attenborough about "only madmen and economists believe infinite growth is possible in a finite world" ("The Case For Economic Growth", op. cit., p28). They then pretentiously declaim that such statements as Attenborough's comment just cited reflect a basic misunderstanding of how markets operate.
We could well burst into hilarity at this point, given the glaring ignorance of ecology, and especially human ecology, that so obviously pervades the NZI report, but let us humour them for a while and consider their line of argument. At this juncture, Crampton and Jeram fall back on a thesis originally put forward by mathematical economics Professor Harold Hotelling in a style appealing to fellow economists.
According to Crampton and Jeram: "In the simple Hotelling model, the world never runs out of any resource. (Instead), the prices of all resources slowly increase over time, in line with interest rates unless technological innovation changes the costs of mining, or makes it easier to use" (ibid., pp28/9). A standard economics textbook explanation is as follows: "Equilibrium occurs in the market for a stock of a natural resource when the price of the resource is expected to rise over time, at a rate equal to the interest rate. This proposition is known as the Hotelling Principle" ("Economics", Michael Parkin, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1990, p455).
Given societal and political stability, coupled with strong property rights, entrepreneurial private interests can flourish, tapping into new technological innovations, greater efficiencies, and even creating substitutes as appropriate and necessary (ibid. "The Case For Economic Growth", op. cit.). According to the NZI and other economics/futurist pundits, endless and eternal prospects can thus open up. Let us refer to a standard economic textbook explanation again of the options for resource use. "We do not have to use oil as the fuel for cars; we can use alcohol or electric cars instead. We do not have to use gas and electric power to heat our homes; we can use solar energy instead" ("Economics", op. cit., p460).
But a big problem pops up here. Professor Michael Parkin goes on to contend that: "The natural resources we do use are the least expensive resources available. They cost us less than the best alternative would" (ibid.). This is not so with fossil fuels, the development of alternatives, and the cost of global warming. We should be leaving so much of these natural resources in the ground untapped anyway. Of course, in fact, unfortunately enough, the global competition for these resources is still very much in process.
Professor Parkin (writing in 1990) also claims that: "Everything has substitutes and at a high enough price, a substitute is used. For example, we do not have to use aluminium to make cans for soft drinks; we can use plastic instead" (ibid., p459). Oh dear, given the glaringly obvious damage that plastics are inflicting on Earth's ecosystems today, this suggestion is certainly most ironic and bitter in its import!
Market Madness, Crony Media, And Commitment To Inequality
Before we proceed any further in our examination of "infinite growth", it is worth emphasising here how this particular economic argument - so widely canvassed by the far Right/neo-liberalism - is so bizarre in all the various assumptions made. It is such a weirdly and ridiculously abstract, theoretical proposition that it defies the imagination in any practical sense at all.
It rests on a whole set of assumptions about what conditions (forever!?) would have to exist, relating both to humankind and the Earth. In real terms, it just amounts to a fanciful, wishful projection. Yet such capitalist ideologues as the NZI report authors actually so revere the god of the market, that they claim their theory as a higher reality - rather than any geological constraints say for minerals! And they put forward this type of argument to try and counter the overwhelming environmentalist case.
Indeed, in the previous Government, we had a National Minister of Energy and Resources, Gerry Brownlee (the present Shadow Leader of the House), who looked forward to the bounty of coal practically for ever. But the corporate crony media never critique in depth and detail the National Party for its multitudinous failings, whereas they constantly repeat certain negative themes about Labour, the Greens, and NZ First, the three parties forming the current Coalition government. Incidentally, it is highly ironic that Brownlee is the biggest, blustering "yahoo" windbag in Parliament!
National's failings include: negative attack "Dirty Politics"; beneficiary bashing; running down our health system infrastructure; handing out big tax cuts for the rich; climate crisis denial; racist anti-refugee/immigrant policies; trashing the environment; corrupt use of lavish Chinese money; support for US-led State terrorism, and corresponding disregard for the UN and an international rules-based world order. In effect, this is all excused, ignored, or rationalised, and even cheered on by the foreign controlled and influenced mainstream media!
Bullying Big Business
All these policies are certainly consonant with the general philosophy of the TNC-backed NZI and its Big Business approach. In particular, NZI opposes progressive taxation, charging it as a brake on the process of economic growth. The NZI instead endorses the "trickle-down" distribution of the benefits of this growth. Likewise, it attacks - in American far Right style - public health proposals to better regulate the tobacco, alcohol, sugar, etc, industries.
As a result, the NZI gives the National Party and the neo-liberal media support in their "Dirty Politics"-type crony collaboration with business/trade associations like the NZ Food and Grocery Council ("Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics Is Poisoning New Zealand's Political Environment", Nicky Hager, Craig Potton Publishing, 2014; "Merchants Of Doubt: How A Handful Of Scientists Obscured The Truth On Issues From Tobacco Smoke To Global Warming", Bloomsbury, 2010/12).
Working parallel, and in conjunction, with the NZI's anti-regulation approach, is the NZ Taxpayers' Union (NZTU), launched in October 2013 ("Dirty Politics", ibid., p102). The NZTU is a nasty neo-liberal outfit, again funded by corporate and wealthy donors. It operates as a far Right attack vehicle targeted at Government spending in order to try to discredit and reduce such spending overall. Its corporate connections instantly gave it credibility and standing with the crony media, including our commercialised State TVNZ, which has continued to promote its Rightwing messaging. And, so it goes as the rich and powerful move to defend their vested interests.
The Growing Militarist Market
For certain, the corporate media's main target is the Left. Our current Coalition government, comprising the Labour and NZ First parties, with the Greens in support, has already been heavily criticised by this crony media in multiple ways. Moreover, such criticism is outrageously disproportionate to the far kinder treatment dished out to the previous "Dirty Politics" National government, which was in power for almost a decade.
In the wake of the Christchurch terrorist mosque attacks on 15th March, 2019, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has even openly disparaged PM Jacinda Ardern's inspired effort (in the Christchurch Call) to get the giant "high-tech" TNCs like Facebook and Google to prevent online racist hate speech as much as possible. As well, Bridges & co. have opposed better gun control legislation. National's obvious lack of real concern for the mosque attack victims is chilling. All of this tallies with this Party's increasing shift to the far Right in certain aspects. Once more, we see the growth of the militarist market coming to the fore!
Collusive Corporate Media
A Rightwing corporate journalist, Luke Malpass, who has worked for the NZI, was recently appointed Political Editor for Stuff Ltd. The timing of his appointment is significant with our political parties pretty well in election mode, given voting is scheduled for late 2020. Stuff Ltd.is a subsidiary of the Australian company, Nine Entertainment Co.
Malpass, in similar fashion to other political editors and senior journalists working for the foreign-owned or foreign-influenced corporate media (including TVNZ), has started to line up our PM Jacinda Ardern as the prime focus for Stuff's critical attack strategy. Currently, several attack lines are being employed by the National Party and its' crony corporate media.
One line being pushed by Malpass & co. centres on the over-ambitious goals promised by the Coalition government. After nearly a decade out of office, the Labour Party has naturally found it difficult to find a firm footing in power. This includes the necessary compromises as the lead party in an MMP coalition government. Some promises like KiwiBuild and light rail have run into problems of organisation and cost.
The Struggle For The Future
NZI-oriented Luke Malpass takes the Government to task for stopping "building any new roads that were in the pipeline" [as designated by the previous road-obsessed National government] ("Speedy Rise To Top [by PM Jacinda Ardern] Proves Problematic", Sunday Star-Times (SST), 20/10/19). You see, according to Malpass: "The idea - even in a carbon-constrained world - that NZ doesn't need both new roads, tunnels and highways, as well as new public transport systems is perverse. This is a frontier economy, a new-world nation (my emphasis) at the bottom of the world, with a growing population where people want to live" (ibid.)
So, as a typical corporate journalist Malpass is effectively on another planet! He adds for good measure that if the Coalition government "doesn't like cars for climate change reasons, it should get cracking" as well on electric vehicles, along with new roads (ibid.). Malpass then goes on to mention Labour's "dismal election result" in 2014 with reference to the history of KiwiBuild, but not a word of course about National's malicious Dirty Politics. For Malpass & co., the two big failures as he sees them - lack of new roads and KiwiBuild's difficulties - overshadow any possible "political victories". This is exactly on song with National.
A Corporate Anti-Green Agenda
For Stuff and the other foreign controlled media in Aotearoa/NZ, globalist profit-making priorities come first. These capitalist interests of course dictate the nature of our laws and regulations, as facilitated by outfits like NZI and the NZ Taxpayers' Union, along with the usual business associations. Journalist Thomas Coughlan articulates Stuff's line thus: "The Government shouldn't roll over for everyone with a big chequebook, but it's too often ignorant or contemptuous of those who want to invest and employ" ("Why Government Has A Problem With Business", Press, 23/10/19).
It does not matter to the globalist corporate vested interests a la NZI, etc., for whom Malpass and Coughlan speak, that the Coalition government has achieved far more for positive, long over-due change than the previous one in just two years. In social justice and the environment, the current Government has done far more than the previous Government was ever motivated to do in its near decade in office. Class war reigns and is likely to step up as conflict over the treatment, use, and distribution of resources inevitably mounts in the near future.
Most significantly, Stuff's corporate agenda is very much at odds with its "Johnny-come-lately" conversion to concern about global warming and environmental issues more generally. To be sure, Stuff is riddled with the usual capitalist contradictions. For instance, the mainstream media have been lavish in their criticism of the Coalition government's programme to phase out fossil fuel exploration and exploitation, even though permission for existing contracts, the long-term phased time periods, etc., can be seen as very inadequate and hesitant given the climate crisis now enveloping Earth and its inhabitants.
A Menacing Creepiness!
The world desperately needs more political leaders with the vision and compassion of our PM Jacinda Ardern. However, for globalist corporate interests, as represented by National and its crony neo-liberal media, she presents a problem that they want to remove. Her opponents want to really dent her image and strong voter appeal. Another Stuff Rightwing attack reporter Andrea Vance accuses PM Jacinda Ardern of selling out by failing to bring "agriculture, the most polluting sector of the economy, into the Emissions Trading Scheme [ETS]" ("It's Time For Jacinda Ardern To Stop Compromising And Start Delivering", SST, 27/10/19).
Labour had made a number of promises like corralling farmers into the ETS before the 2017 election. Now it is constrained by the reality of MMP compromise in a Coalition government, a reality even freely acknowledged by Vance (ibid.). The neo-liberal corporate media attack line on Ardern is to criticise any positive action on the climate crisis, e.g., phasing down fossil fuel exploration and exploitation, while cynically calling her out on the inevitable accommodations made in an MMP government. Journalists like Andrea Vance thrive on this sort of strategy, gleefully pushing what Vance labels "the disillusion in her (Ardern's) leadership" (ibid.).
If Labour had succeeded in bringing agriculture into the ETS, Vance and fellow "journos" would have repeatedly paraded the gripes and complaints of farmers, boosted by National's condemnations and climate crisis scepticism. What obviously really upset the crony media was that the Coalition government had drawn the teeth of National. It had frustrated National's desire to mobilise its' farmer constituency in outraged criticism of an allegedly "bully-boy" Government. So, the duty is on us campaigning in NGOs to keep the Government more on track!
Drawing on quite a long time of watching how politics plays out in our Parliament (via Parliament TV), I have repeatedly signalled in my articles the chronic bias of the mainstream media in relaying negativity for the Left and protection for the Right on so many of the various issues debated and discussed. For sure, the Rightwing angle has got very marked over the years. Look out!
Most damningly, the poisonous and systematic practice of "Dirty Politics" under the former John Key-led National government demonstrated that we were even creeping towards a neo-fascist type authoritarian State ("Dirty Politics", op. cit. "Dirty Politics And Dirty Media", Better Public Media NZ).
There were even some very disturbing indications of the incipient use of physical intimidation by Rightwing operatives embedded with the mainstream media, especially Cameron Slater's Whale Oil (ibid.; "Whale Oil", Margie Thomson, Potton & Burton, 2019). Most disturbingly, our security institutions of Police, spy agencies, and defence forces were also giving signs of increasing Rightwing bias. This has been confirmed by a series of legal cases which our top investigative reporter Nicky Hager has won against the Police and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) spy agency.
Economics Excess Goes Overboard!
In "The Case For Economic Growth" (op. cit.), Dr Eric Crampton and Jenesa Jeram give another summary statement of their argument. "So, how can infinite growth be possible on a finite planet? All that is required is continued increases in productivity: our recipes for turning labour, materials, and machines into valuable output" (ibid., p30). This is so much simplistic rubbish, even meaningless! It is utterly risible.
They add further for good measure that: "Economic growth is measured in dollars" (ibid.). Wow! And moreover: "As economist John Hartwick explains, investment in productivity and good management of resources can sustain infinite growth in a finite universe" (ibid.). Well, these economists certainly live in a parallel universe alright - on some other planet in a galaxy far, far away! From an ecological perspective, there are a multitude of head-spinning questions. There is only space in this article for a couple of further considerations.
But first, we need a couple of clear definitions. "'Productivity' is usually measured in terms of output per man-hour ... An increase in productivity occurs when output per man-hour is raised. The main source of productivity increases is the use of more and better capital stock" ("Collins Dictionary Of Economics", 2nd Ed., Christopher Pass & Bryan Lowes, HarperCollins, 1993, p436). "Capital stock" refers to "the net accumulation of a physical stock of capital goods (buildings, plant, machinery, etc.) by a firm, industry or economy at any one point in time" (ibid., p59). Capital stock generates value. The size of capital stock influences the rate of economic growth.
The Sands Are Running Out
We can see immediately that capital stock itself depends on resources. For capitalism and industrial civilisation in general, energy resources are fundamental and ultimately the most important. I have noted how National is wedded to fossil fuels, even coal. While I shall return later for a closer examination of energy resources, I would like to briefly comment on seemingly one of the most common, mundane, and easily accessible resources of all - sand!
In fact, the sands are running out for us all in more ways than one. We have to take urgent pre-emptive action on a whole range of fronts in dealing with the climate/environmental crisis. With regard to the resource of sand, as author Vince Beiser reveals in his remarkably surprising book "The World In A Grain: The Story of Sand And How It Transformed Civilisation" (Riverhead Books, 2018), sand is becoming a scarce resource in a number of critical dimensions.
Various types of sand are constituents in a vast array of both infrastructure and capital stock. From construction concrete to "digital technology powered by silicon chips" (ibid., p5). Problems of supply are emerging. "Though the supply might seem endless, usable sand is a finite resource like any other" [my emphasis] (ibid.). Beiser's book is an absorbing in-depth exposition of this proposition.
Discounting Ecosystem Resources
Again, for anyone versed in the actualities of industrial environmental impacts, arguments for endless economic growth as put forward by Crampton and Jeram amount to so much empty nonsense. It just ignores ecosystems altogether! (see e.g., "Dying Of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: The Environment Crisis Requires Overhauling Our Corporate Industrial Civilisation", Share The World Resources (STWR), 17/8/18; "Climate Change: 'We've Created A Civilisation Hell Bent On Destroying Itself - I'm Terrified', Writes Earth Scientist", Conversation, 5, 24/5/19; "How To Avoid Population Overshoot And Collapse", Psychology Today New Zealand, 2/11/11; note that there are plenty of such scientifically grounded assessments of the global environmental crisis readily accessible online but, of course, the political Right are mostly in denial).
Professor Hotelling was a mathematical economist, who had a range of achievements to his credit but his thesis on the "economics of exhaustible resources" (articulated in the 1930s) as interpreted by the NZI, etc., is fatally flawed for a host of reasons grounded in Earth Systems and human ecology. There are, however, evidently even some deep problems for the market enthusiasts in Hotelling's Principle, when extended to eternity! Some other far Right economists actually see Hotelling's theory as problematic rather than liberating!
From Here To Eternity?
Drawing here for my purposes on another Rightwing market-oriented article, elaborating on Hotelling's thesis like the NZI report, we can consider the example of the challenge of America's energy crisis back in the 1970s and the argument this was just a temporary phase when properly assessed in market terms ("Resourceship: Expanding 'Depletable' Resources", Econlib, 7/5/212).
Ironically, given the case made by Crampton and Jeram, Robert L Bradley, who is an American energy specialist with impeccable "free market" credentials, instead sees Hotelling's theory as too limited and short-sighted! (ibid.). Bradley critically cites one of Hotelling's evaluations, which runs as follows: "(Economic theory is) plainly inadequate for an industry in which the indefinite maintenance of a steady rate of production is a physical impossibility, and which is therefore bound to decline" (ibid., quoting from the same 1931 article that the NZI report cites). Hotelling's example was the petroleum or oil industry.
As a consequence, economist Robert Bradley asserts that "Hotelling's static, formalistic framework has some real-world explaining to do"! (ibid.). He goes on to claim that "petroleum, the inspiration for Hotelling's analysis" has proved to be a constantly expanding resource, rather than a depleting resource. For instance, in the most recent era new technologies like fracking and deep-sea mining, have extended the availability and estimates of the oil that humans can access and use.
The ultimate key for everlasting progress is human ingenuity coupled with conducive institutional arrangements. American worries in the 1970s of severe oil constraints have proved to be unfounded. Bradley contends, furthermore, that despite the belief "the easy stuff has been found", the initially higher costs of exploration and extraction become "lower cost" over time.
So, in Bradley's interpretation, Professor Harold Hotelling was mistaken in seeing minerals as restricted by natural geological supply. But, in the final analysis, Bradley's own version of infinite exploitation appeals in essence to the same sort of political and socio-economics prescription as the NZI writers (for further elaboration on Bradley's position see: "Are Resources Exhaustible?", Econlib 7/5/12).
Geology, Geography, Geopolitics, And Economics In The Real World
As already indicated then, there are many intractable problematic issues inherent in this weird economic belief in the endless utopian possibilities of human ingenuity. As I have also observed, there is only space in this article to mention some. For example, Robert Bradley himself acknowledges the ways that geopolitical competition or conflict can overturn and disrupt such expectations. His grossly self-serving spin in this regard is basically that the nasty nationalist State keeps unfortunately interfering with market forces! ("Resourceship", op.cit.). If only the market were left to do its thing. Oh yeah, right!
In this connection, we could cover a host of matters relating to the political economy of Western capitalism, geopolitics, and global capitalism in general. Take again, for instance, the case of petroleum. American history in international terms is permeated with the operations of its oil TNCs, working hand in glove with statist strategic objectives (see e.g., "Blood And Oil: The Dangers And Consequences Of America's Growing Dependency On Imported Petroleum", [American Empire Project], Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co., 2004/5; "The New Great Game: Blood And Oil In Central Asia", Lutz Kleveman, Atlantic Books, 2003/4).
Militarist market machinations infuse the relations of the West with the rest of the world. For sure, the international relations literature is rife with Rightwing treatises that the NZI and the likes of Robert Bradley just cavalierly and outrageously ignore for the purposes of their so narrowly construed and artificially contrived conceptions of the "free market" and "free trade".
There are certainly numerous Social Darwinist and militarist market ideologues, whatever their varying interpretations and recommendations (e.g., "Winner Take All: China's Race For Resources And What It Means For The World", Dambisa Moyo, Perseus/Basic Books, 2012; "The Pentagon's New Map: War And Peace In The Twenty-First Century", Thomas PM Barnett, Berkeley Books, 2004; & see also my book review: "Brave New World Of The Endless Resource War: 'Fighting For The Future: Will America Triumph?'" by Ralph Peters, Peace Researcher [PR] 28, December 2003).
Political Economy And Power Projections
or many years now, PR and Watchdog have traced globalist trends and the import of unfolding events. The pursuit of petroleum is so much at the core of what is happening. As Watchdog & PR Editor Murray Horton observes: "Oil is the heroin of capitalism (much more important than money), so control of the world's oil is a must for those wishing to both run and profit from the American Empire" (check out his excellent "The Terrorist 'War On Terror'", PR 26, October 2002; see also Murray's: "Stop Thief! Sadly It's A Common Story - A Desperate Addict Turns To A Life Of Crime", Watchdog 102, May 2003).
At bottom, the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was about grabbing or at least securing Iraq's oil (ibid.; "Western Oil Firms Remain As US Exits Iraq", Al Jazeera, 7/1/12). It has been argued that in this particular resource war, the evidence indicates that the US's primary aim was to buoy up its economy on the waves of continued globalisation by sustaining international oil flows and moderate oil prices ("Iraq Invasion Was About Oil", Nafeez Ahmed, Guardian, 20/3/14).
Energy security was the priority, preventing another 1970s-type crisis. General control of as much of the planet's oil as possible guarantees global hegemony as enjoined by Henry Kissinger. Meanwhile, there is still plenty of disinformation and propaganda pushed by American, or American-oriented, agents about how oil (in any sense) was not the prime motivation for the 2003 invasion. Such self-serving rationales are fundamentally integral to the structure and functioning of the empire.
Denial and camouflage of one's base geopolitical goals is always an automatic reflex. Incidentally, the true story of US Vice President Dick Cheney in the film "Vice" most tellingly points up the rotten neo-con record and the real meaning of American "democratic capitalism" for humankind (see also: "The VICE File: Dick Cheney Declassified", 22/2/19).
George Orwell's prophetic novel "1984" (published in 1949) has surely been flourishing for decades now in its de facto portrayal, suitably adapted, of real-life Anglo-American perfidy and propaganda. As Orwell so chillingly showed, the matter-of-fact use of words is so crucial in purveying "un-truths" and the grossest bias. The mainstream Western media are rife with such techniques in a a myriad of ways. But take particular note of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and its evil influence. Murdoch's hands are awash with blood from many years of vicious warmongering and malicious lies (see: "Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation Of Political Power", David McKnight, Allen & Unwin, 2012). On both the foreign policy and domestic fronts, his record is horrible.
As well: "More than any other global corporate giant, Murdoch has supported and participated in conservative think tanks in the US, Britain, and Australia" (ibid., p39). For example: "In 1988-89, he took a seat on the Board of the Hoover Institution, during the high tide of Reaganism..." (ibid.). Such American think tanks have long set the agenda and style for outfits like NZI.
Crushing The "Greens" And Denying Climate Change
"In 1997, Murdoch joined the Board of the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank set up by the owner of one of the largest private companies in the US oil industry. At that time, the Institute was running an active campaign of climate change denial, as were oil companies such as ExxonMobil" (ibid.). The founder of the Cato Institute in 1974 was Charles Koch, one of the two far Rightist billionaire Koch brothers (the other being David Koch, now deceased).
Owners of Koch Industries, the second biggest private company in the US, the Koch brothers have long been very active in a carefully calculated and largely covertly orchestrated programme to subvert American democracy [such as it is] ("DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS: The Deep History Of The Radical Right's Stealth Plan For America", Nancy MacLean, Scribe, 2017; "How The Far Right Subverted American Democracy (And How To Stop Them)", Diana Wichtel, Listener, 25/8/18).
" . . . Koch-funded libertarian think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Independent Institute", along with "a circle of less-known Koch-funded libertarian think tanks", drove systematic misinformation and "junk pseudoscience" public programmes on environmental issues, and in particular global warming ("DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS", ibid., p216). They cultivated climate change scepticism and denial in the most cynical, self-serving fashion.
Dr Robert Bradley functions very much as part of the Koch network. A former Enron executive, Bradley founded the Institute for Energy Research, a climate change denial group, in partnership with Charles Koch (Institute for Energy Research (IER) & American Energy Alliance (AEA), Greenpeace USA, 2017).
"For decades, the Kochs' 'dark money' as the New Yorker's Jane Mayer called it, has financed a campaign of disinformation designed to convince the public and politicians that climate change is nothing to worry about" ("'Their Own Media Megaphone': What Do The Koch Brothers Want From Time?", 27/11/17).
Rupert Murdoch's media empire is fully in tune with the Koch network. Besides the Cato Institute, News Corp has been heavily involved with Rightwing free market outfits like Australia's Institute of Public Affairs and Britain's Institute of Economic Affairs. Indeed, News Corp is a "uniquely ideological business" ("Rupert Murdoch", op. cit.). As very much part of all this, Murdoch's media have conducted a systematic anti-environmentalist war, and indeed war on planetary ecosystems, including the avid cultivation of climate change denial.
Fanning The Flames Of The Far Right
Rupert Murdoch has also hugely promoted such sentiments and opinions in the US via Fox News and the Fox network, along with the rest of his media organs adapted in tune to their respective audiences. In these ways, Murdoch has deliberately and sedulously encouraged and facilitated the rise of the far Right, and even neo-fascism. American culture and politics have been predominantly Rightwing anyway from the days of the Founding Fathers, whatever the presiding myths of egalitarianism and democracy. Protection for the hegemony of the rich and their private property "rights" was written into the very Constitution. The Almighty Dollar rules, ok?!
It is worth noting here also that the Kochs, like Rupert Murdoch, were very instrumental in bankrolling the Tea Party movement, which helped push the US Republican Party further to the Right. Both Murdoch and the Kochs, especially the latter, have in fact played a critical role in promoting Republican extremism ("How The Koch Brothers Built The Most Powerful Rightwing Group You've Never Heard Of", 26/9/18 ; "The Rise And Rise Of Neo-Fascism: Countering A Clear And Present Danger", Watchdog 151, August 2019, Dennis Small).
The Kochs are even funding the far Right in Britain. It is worth noting, too, that the Koch network is a key part of the Rightwing free speech movement, which is intended as a cover for racism and hate speech. The Koch primary political advocacy group is Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which the brothers founded in 2004 and continues to depend on lavish Koch largesse (Americans for Prosperity, Wikipedia).
Cato's Capitalist Crap
Using the vehicle of the Cato Institute and other such groups, Murdoch and the Kochs have, to some considerable extent, worked together in targeting their opponents. "Cato views the environmental movement and the demands it places on industry as a major obstacle to its vision of small government and an unregulated economy" ("The Greenpeace Guide To Anti-Environmental Organisations", Carl Deal, Odonian Press, The Real Story Series, 1993, pp39/40). Its basic message was spelt out thus: "'The plain fact is that gloom and doom about our environment is all wrong,' Cato adjunct scholar and University of Maryland business professor (and "no limits" economic growth guru) Julian Simon told a 1992 policy conference" (ibid., p40).
Like NZI, Cato & co. peddle the absurd argument that "'natural resources are better protected by individual owners with vested interests in their property' than by the Government" (ibid.). So apparently, according to this sort of spin, the abuse and pollution of our waterways in Aotearoa/NZ by private land-owning dairy farmers is the way to go! Our Minister of Agriculture, Damien O'Connor, is at present spiritedly trying to chart a much more sustainable model of farming in general.
For certain, the whole long history, damningly documented, of capitalist destruction of the environment means nothing to such Rightwing ideologues. Again, like the later World Bank study cited by NZI above, the Cato Institute appeals to what it claims as the "proven correlation between wealthy economies and healthy environments" in a critique of "environmental treaties [which] are biased against economic growth" (ibid.).
So, the Cato Institute and similar outfits expound capitalist suicidal stupidity to the very maximum degree! It can also be seen how, in the final analysis, NZI's thesis on limitless economic growth reflects the sort of stuff long peddled by the Cato Institute and the multitudinous other such American Rightwing institutes and think tanks (ibid.; "Merchants Of Doubt", op. cit.).
Endlessly Renewable Whales?
In a remarkable and most ironic argument pitched in the NZI's Case for Economic Growth (op. cit.), this NZ think tank actually contends that: "If somebody owned the whales and could enforce property rights over them, whales could have been harvested sustainably with the price of whale oil increasing predictably over time" (p30). So much, by the way, for the touted benefits of market competition! It seems tantamount to a Freudian slip by the NZI, consonant with what its TNC often oligopolistic backers really represent.
The case against such animal cruelty aside, this NZI example of managing the commons for profit is actually an argument for a Government public service monopoly rather than a private monopoly, enriching a few. Indeed, abjuring any whaling at all, it can be taken as an argument for the collective international protection of an iconic form of the planetary commons, a key element of the marine food chain and ecosystem.
Historically, "the fierce competition between the principal countries engaged in hunting and their reluctance to implement effective restrictions", has repeatedly rendered proper conservation problematic, despite the sterling efforts of Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, and other NGOs over the years ("The Control Of The Sea-Bed: A New International Issue", Evan Luard, William Heinemann Ltd., 1974, p62). So again here, we come back to the constant challenge of geopolitics and global competition for resources. In other words, we come down to earth once more from "free market" flights of fancy!
Geopolitical Posturing And Compounding Costs
Nowadays, to be sure, the world is riven with geopolitical competition, and so much of it centres on the tormented Middle East where the "easy" petroleum and gas have been found. Worldwide, demand for these specific fossil energy resources continues, regardless of mounting climate change worries. The cost in dollars and blood expended to date has been enormous. Above all, the victims are those civilians killed, injured, made homeless, refugees, boat-people; etc., due to Western machinations and perfidy - just so much collateral damage!
There have certainly been very heavy and mounting environmental costs, as well, associated with alternatives like fracking and deep-sea mining. Global warming aside, over the years there has been a whole deleterious range of damaging ecological impacts resulting from fossil fuel pollution, along with the horrendous and continuing human cost ("Crude World: The Violent Twilight Of Oil", Peter Maass (Penguin, 2009).
From the fallout of fossil fuel exploration, mining, processing, etc., there have been disastrous oil spills, widespread water contamination, creation of wastelands, and so on. And now, according to the best scientific analysis and projections, we have to leave most of the rest of it in the ground to help counter global warming. Infinite benign economic growth as promoted by the NZI, the Cato Institute, etc., seems a long, long way off!
The Challenges Of Climate And Weather In Context
In "The Day The Universe Changed", James Burke observed that: "Throughout the entire history of Man until 1720, the number of people alive at any time in any society was ultimately dictated by the weather" (op. cit., p163). Bad weather brought crop failure, famine, and death. The agricultural revolution feeding into the Industrial Revolution, with all its continuing improvements in productivity right up to the present, has seemed to mock the dire predictions of population growth eventually outstripping food supply from analysts such as economist Thomas Malthus, agronomist Lester Brown, and biologist Paul Ehrlich. Given the reigning triumph of ever so successful innovative technology the future still seems assured for many pundits, with genetic engineering being its latest incarnation.
Yet in June,1988, (a mere three years after the publication of James Burke's celebratory book!), Dr James E Hansen, a leading National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) astrophysicist, and head of its Goddard Institute for Space Studies, gave some riveting testimony before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Hansen warned that: "Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming" (James Hansen, Wikipedia).
Hansen ominously declared that: "It is already happening now"; and added: "The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now... We (have) already reached the point where the greenhouse effect is important" (ibid.). Industrialisation, which has delivered so much seeming benefit to our species, is responsible for this process of anthropogenic global warming. Note that James Hansen's observations and predictions were made in 1988, the same year as the publication of environmental scientist Anthony Milne's prophetic book "Our Drowning World" (op. cit.).
Nowadays, as we struggle to try and keep global temperature rise within liveable conditions, wild and disruptive weather patterns in the form of storms, hurricanes, floods, wild-fires, droughts, heatwaves, etc., bite into human food supplies, along with all the other multiple and inter-related types of environmental and socio-economic damage. Records for extreme weather events are now regularly surpassed. Such then is the unfolding story of human progress as we venture further into the 21st Century!
Our ruling classes are dedicated to the project of keeping the masses as quiescent as possible. They use the time-honoured practices of the Roman Emperors - bread and circuses, with lots of infotainment thrown in! Increasingly, planetary reality is biting home. Super-typhoon Hagibis recently signalled this when it so dramatically disrupted the playing schedule of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The Myth Of The Machine
The worship of the machine is fundamental to our civilisation ("The Pentagon Of Power: The Myth Of The Machine", vol. 2, Lewis Mumford, Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd.,1970/1). The machine worship described by Mumford is expressed today in so many forms - from the personal computer to the space rocket. This over-arching myth has its dream, or rather nightmare, goal of Man becoming a machine, a bionic creature. It even aims thereby at a kind of immortality,
"For 150,000 years, humans have adapted, improvised, and invented. Today, we stand poised to explore both the far reaches of space and the most basic building blocks of life. We now have the power to transform our planet and ourselves in ways that our ancestors would never have imagined possible" ("Mankind", op. cit., p429). And, so, it goes.
Yes, indeed, we are surely transforming our planet and ourselves in drastic fashion but far for the better. The hubris and the arrogant application of technology has disconnected humankind from the natural world, putting us all in an artificially concocted bubble; and giving us some very bizarre delusions of our power for which the Earth's system, or "Gaia" is now taking revenge.
Reconnecting With The Natural World
The idea of Gaia as a self-regulating planetary ecosystem was conceived and popularised by James Lovelock, a British scientist, environmentalist, and futurist ("Gaia: A New Look At Life On Earth", Oxford University Press [OUP], 1979/1995). Whatever we may think of Lovelock's concept of Gaia, the phenomenon of global warming has certainly given it some real impact. Lovelock has been a leading scientist in the international campaign to combat global warming.
During his career addressing this crisis, the now centenarian has gone through various phases and vacillations both on what is actually happening in regard to climate change, and what we should be doing about it (James Lovelock, Wikipedia). Lovelock has been influential in many spheres. Perhaps most importantly, he has ably emphasised how phytoplankton and forests function as "the main ways in which Gaia draws down greenhouse gases, particularly C02, taking it out of the atmosphere" (ibid.).
He has well warned that "the elimination of this environmental buffering will see ... most of the Earth becoming uninhabitable for humans and other life-forms by the middle of this century, with a massive extension of tropical deserts" (ibid.). Industrialisation across the planet was bringing this fate on humankind. Technology had rebounded on us all.
The "Cultural Lag" Of Innovation
At this point, we can expand here on how the technological imperative is operative in capitalism, and more widely Western civilisation. Society is constantly in catch-up mode, having to adapt and adjust to new innovations and their resulting commercial applications. In Aotearoa/NZ, illustrations of this process at work range from drones to Lime scooters, with all the ramifying problems involved, e.g., accidents, injuries, and dangerous misuse.
In sociological terms, what is called "cultural lag" can be defined as: "A concept and theory developed by William F Ogburn (a prominent early Chicago sociologist) as part of a wider theory of technological evolutionism. It suggests that there is a gap between the technical development of society and its moral and legal institutions. The failure of the latter to keep pace with the former is said, in certain societies, to explain (at least some) social conflict and problems" ("The Concise Oxford Dictionary Of Sociology", ed. Gordon Marshall, Oxford University Press, 1994, p104).
We can see this cultural lag very much at work with the current governmental and societal concerns about the various unfolding impacts of the so-called "Fourth Industrial Revolution" of computerised robotics. NZ's Coalition government has set up a special committee to monitor and try to pre-emptively anticipate, alleviate, adapt, and adjust to the socio-economic impacts of the new technology, especially with regard to its effects on employment.
Some technological innovations are dramatic in impact, including the effects of "cultural lag". We can aptly elaborate on the example of the multiplying domestic ramifications of drones, a spinoff of military electronic hardware regularly used by the US and its mates for killing poor people labelled as "terrorists" in imperially designated war zones.
Legislative and regulatory efforts have been scrambling in Western countries, Aotearoa/NZ among them, in the slipstream of drone proliferation. Issues range from the protection of privacy from snooping drone intrusions to the control of potentially dangerous risks to aircraft. Some tourists in NZ/Aotearoa have even been causing a lot of concern by their very irresponsible use of drones. Hence, a registration system is currently being mooted for drone owners and users.
Expanding The Concept Of "Cultural Lag"
The concept of "cultural lag" can be usefully extended beyond the original idea of runaway technology creating big gaps in social control and regulation. There are indeed two huge cultural gaps that the West and the wider global society has yet to effectively confront. One has just been outlined and highlighted above, i.e. the rapidly mounting problem of global warming. Human society has so far failed to deal with this challenge, as presented by the outpouring of waste from industrialism.
Meanwhile, the other massive challenge hanging over us all like a sword of Damocles is the threat of all-out nuclear war. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has well warned about the ominous linkage of these two enormous threats to our survival ("Doomsday Clock: 'A New Abnormal'", Press, 26/1/19). Both these dangers are the result of industrialisation and the technological imperative, spearheaded by the growth of Anglo-American capitalism, and its ongoing quest for global dominance and exploitation of the Earth. The fragility underlying the success of this hegemony to date has yet been long discounted for all practical purposes as we have seen from the likes of the Cato Institute and the NZI.
"Warnings about the limits of industrial society have been sounded for decades and largely ignored. If collapse is now upon us, we need to address it and respond to it in terms of its component problems: population, resource constraints, and the ecological contradictions of " (from introduction to "Energy, Capitalism, And World Order: Towards A New Agenda In International Political Economy", ed., Tim Di Muzio & Jess Salah Ovadia, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016/Springer 2017).
Meantime, a rising and more aggressively militarist China parades its nationalist tribalism, while Putin's Russia postures belligerently against the mounting threats posed by US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the Ukraine, the Baltic, and elsewhere. It has also embarked on its own imperial forays again, e.g., most recently into Africa. Peace-making, mediation, and positive international diplomacy and cooperation are sadly lagging far behind the geopolitical gaming and warmongering. We must urgently integrate the peace movement with the rapidly expanding activism to counter global warming.
Man Into Machine: Western Civilisation's Dead End Goal!
While, ironically, James Lovelock later distanced himself to some extent from his own conclusions about the inevitable self-immolation of humankind, these predictions tally more and more with the increasingly dire warnings about the consequences of climate change. The process of global warming seems to be getting more rapid and volatile in impact - witness at present the worst drought in living memory in Australia, with a horrendous wildfire season shaping up; the current devastating fires sweeping through California; and other dire weather events around the planet.
Ironically again, Lovelock next came to think that "the time is past for sustainable development" (James Lovelock, Wikipedia, op. cit.). Instead, humans have to retreat from low-lying regions while doing our "utmost to sustain civilisation" (ibid.). He calls this "sustainable retreat", a form of survival distinguished by "a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs with lower levels and/or less environmentally harmful types of resources" (ibid.).
Being One With The World?!
In his most recent publication, Lovelock pretty well leaves the planet altogether. In his book "Novacene" (2019), he plunges into Elon Musk-type science fiction fantasy. He proposes that benevolent superintelligence may take over and save the ecosystem, and states that the machines will need to keep organic life around to keep the planet's temperature habitable for electronic life. On the other hand, if instead life becomes entirely electronic, "so be it, we played our part and newer, younger actors are already appearing on stage" (ibid.).
So, humans achieve the ideal of materialist immortality and the "Singularity"! (or mindful, or rather mindless Oneness!!). Humans are not only absorbed into the "MegaMachine", or "machine superintelligence", but are raptly hooked into the Internet of Everything. Apparently, the lucky people alive may experience a bizarre epiphany of machine mysticism suggestive of the "moksa" of Hinduism and the "nirvana" of Buddhism ("Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies", Nick Bostrom, Oxford University Press, 2014). Well, yeah ok!?
So, James Burke's myth of endless technological progress and advancement still lives on in one form or another ("The Day The Universe Changed", op. cit.). In 1979, leading cybernetics expert Professor Frank George wrote a prophetic book, titled "Man The Machine", Paladin/Granada). He grandly speculated: "Machines that behave like men can be manufactured, and can in the end set up their own machine-controlled society" (ibid.).
The myth of the machine and the transformation of human into machine may thus be ultimately fulfilled, as per the dreams of mad scientists. Humans could even become redundant to civilisation! And such scientists would no doubt dismiss Scientology as a cult! The technological imperative and the myth of the machine rules for all intents and purposes. "The idea of a coming technological Singularity has by now been widely popularised... [But]: "The term singularity, however, has been used confusedly in many disparate senses and has accreted an unholy (yet almost millenarian) aura to techno-utopian connotations" ("Superintelligence", op. cit., pp4/5).
Ironically, the academic Nick Bostrom making this observation has his own preoccupation and special use of the term "Singularity" in the form of "machine superintelligence" (ibid., p5). His book on "Superintelligence" is a study of the issues, problems, and solutions as he sees them. Even artificial intelligence (AI) "entrepreneur" billionaires like Elon Musk have warned darkly about the menace of robotic intelligence. At present, drone warfare risks getting out of control in zones of human conflict as these weapons proliferate.
Beyond The Futurist Pandora's Box?
A recent, highly visible, and ongoing set of issues relating to the introduction and application of new technology is evoked by the up-in-the-air "chitty chitty bang-bang" caroplane, the touted flying taxi of the future (see my article "From 'Big Bang' Space Race To Trashing The Planet: The Struggle Against The Global Corporates", Watchdog 148, August 2018). The NZ government is deliberately inviting high-tech TNCs to set up shop in Aotearoa/NZ. It is encouraging high-tech "start-ups" and experimental trialling here. The caroplane has been an example and symbol of this enterprise model (ibid.).
As stressed so far, technological innovation in recent centuries has been a constant and prime driver of social change in all sorts of ways, an essential component and propellant of capitalist globalisation ("The Capitalist Imperative: Territory, Technology, And Industrial Growth", Michael Storper & Richard Walker, Basil Blackwell Inc., 1989). Today, the digital online giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, etc. are leaders in the development of high-tech and exuberant consumerism, supplemented by sectors like the space exploration and touted future space travel industry. The mainstream media is pervaded by such hype.
In light of our updated ecological understanding of Earth and its biosphere, we can turn the usual interpretation of "cultural lag" on its head. The great environmental problem and challenge for humankind is that technological innovation and application have far outstripped the human capacity to foresee, and, indeed, even care about the host of diverse deleterious effects on the planetary environment, especially the longer-term outcomes. Our dominant mantra is an ad hoc focus on generating growth.
Dumb Rocket Science And The American Dream
Suicidal capitalism is epitomised most aptly by the career of "whizz kid", high-tech, exemplary "entrepreneur" Elon Musk, who warns of the risks of AI on the one hand but is at the same time fully engaged in commercialising its applications. Musk is even exuberant in his contradictions! His SpaceX is one of the private and governmental enterprises jostling in the new space race as global capitalism overshoots the limits of our small planet. But for the space race billionaires, surely the universal frontier can yield a raft of new profitable ventures?! (see "From 'Big Bang' Space Race To Trashing the Planet", op. cit.). Musk wants a space-colonising outlier of humankind to escape Earth before World War III (WWIII)!
"Mars: Race To The Red Planet" proclaimed the popular American publication National Geographic (NG) on the cover of its November 2016 issue. This lead story even had a lift-out insert on the possibility of colonising Mars (ibid.). The insert posed an introductory question: "Could humans live on Mars? One day perhaps. But establishing settlements there would be a forbidding task" (ibid.). Indeed! NG is a publication graphic over the years with American-fuelled capitalist contradictions. On the one hand, it can warn about the dangers that humans are inflicting on our planetary environment. On the other, it often exults in what it promotes as possibilities for a future free market-led techno-utopia.
Its August 2017 issue similarly celebrated a "Space Issue" and "The Next Moon Shot". This particular issue was a plug for the private space industry. It even lauded India's ambitious and "robust space programme" (ibid., p34). NG praised the Asian country, an American ally, for sending "an orbiter to Mars", and for nearly tripling "a previous world record by launching 104 satellites into orbit in a single mission ..." (ibid.).
NG talked about India's space programme "carrying the prices and hopes of a nation" (ibid.). One is sadly reminded of the tribalist image of nationalism as a cock crowing on its own dung-heap. India has the largest number of hungry people of any country, some 200 million. Its capitalist, free market, industrial style of development is generating massive environmental challenges ("India In The 21st Century: What Everyone Needs To Know", Mira Kamdar, OUP, 2018).
Here in Aotearoa/NZ, the "walking-dead" media continue to extol the American-owned militarist company Rocket Lab (e.g., "Rocket Lab Set For Moon", Press, 23/10/19). In the words of American space historian Rod Pyle: "Rocket Lab, based in both the US and NZ, is flying smaller rockets that will carry the increasingly miniaturised payloads that will soon dominate our orbital operations. Other companies in the US, Russia, and China are endeavouring to follow suit and are making great strides" ("Heroes Of The Space Age", Prometheus, 2019, p284).
But Pyle is silent on the imminently dire implications of such trends. In fact, Rocket Lab is now a leading TNC in the weaponising of space and the race towards WWIII (see Murray Horton's article on Rocket Lab elsewhere in this issue). Way back in December 1988, NG posed the central question of all on the shiny gold cover of the final issue that year, celebrating its very own centennial: "Can Man save this fragile Earth?" (and him/herself?!). NG is a conservative American magazine, which regularly exemplifies and illustrates the contradictions of American capitalist ideology, and more widely, of Western culture.
Beyond the Middle East, the American Empire is locked in combat in one way or another against so much of humankind - from Venezuela to the Philippines, and from Yemen to the Ukraine. Time and again, the world's poorest people have been the US's victims ("The Hidden Structure Of Violence: Who Benefits From Global Violence And War", Jennifer Achord Rountree & Marc Pilisuk, Monthly Review Press, 2015).
As a glaring example of Anglo-American hypocrisy at work, there is no clearer example at present than that of the hugely differing media treatments of the currently parallel crises of Hong Kong and Yemen. In the case of the former, we have the touted struggle of a democratic minority against a totalitarian State; while in the latter we have a systematic silence about the structure and functioning of US-orchestrated violence against the poorest people of the Middle East. In recent years, the UN has defined the crisis in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian disaster. Further, in both cases, Anglo-American forces and agencies are major actors in the process of cynical geopolitical gaming.
President Trump's proclaimed struggle for Western survival is currently also increasingly pitted against the environment in a host of ways. He has savagely stripped away safeguarding regulations in the US as much as possible. To be sure, Trump's aggression goes hand in hand with the denial and suppression of the mounting importance and urgency of environmental problems in general, and above all what he calls the "hoax" of anthropogenic climate change.
At an even deeper level within the dynamics of global capitalism, the problem of instability is rooted in the very heart of the beast. "In its strong sense, competition drives capitalists to revolutionise production in order to gain an edge on competitors, thereby disrupting established conditions, pushing the economy to grow and keeping it from ever settling into equilibrium" ("The Capitalist Imperative: Territory, Technology, And Industrial Growth", Michael Storper & Richard Walker, Basil Blackwell Inc., 1989, p48). Some frontiers get continually reworked and plundered again and again. For instance, the US and other Western nations are competing in Africa these days for resources and investment against China and Russia.
Growth Versus Steady State
For so many environmentalists the ideal has long been working towards a human society in equilibrium with the biosphere. The goal has been the achievement of some sort of stable society or "steady state economy" (e.g., "Steady State Economics". Herman E Daly, Island Press, 1977, & 2nd Ed., 1991; "The Stable Society", Edward Goldsmith, Wadebridge Press, 1978).
Now we are confronted with rapidly worsening climate change, which is compelling us to take, whether we like it or not, a range of adjustive and pre-emptive measures. All these measures are nowhere near enough yet to start slowing the process of global warming sufficiently to make a noticeable difference. We have heaps of work still to do! We are constantly scrambling to recover, or offset the effects of global warming, whereas we need to take far more drastic, pre-emptive action. We must make a viable habitat resilient in the face of the inevitable further shocks to come. As well, and most importantly, we must work together to reduce the force of these projected impacts.
Continually Forging New Frontiers For Endless Capitalist Growth
Having studied American history in some depth way back in the past, one lasting impression for me is to how the closing of the western frontier impacted so much on the country's culture. The drive to expand economic growth is fundamental to capitalism, and especially American capitalism with its constant search for, and creation of "new frontiers".
The decimation of indigenous peoples and the pillage of ecosystems are integral to this model of constant technological innovation and industrialisation. Indeed, exploiting frontiers as ruthlessly as possible expresses the very spirit of Western civilisation and its idea of progress ("History Of The World In Seven Cheap Things", Raj Patel & Jason W Moore, Black Inc., 2018).
It was in the late 19th Century that the US experienced the first big crisis of the "frontier". The generation between 1890 and the end of WWI stands out in sharp relief as a period of extreme crisis for the American people. In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner closed his famous lecture on "The Significance Of The Frontier In American History" with the words: "And now, four centuries from the (European) discovery of America, at the end of 100 years of life under the Constitution, the frontier has gone; and with its going has closed the first period of American history" ("The Great Experiment: An Introduction To The History Of The American People", Frank Thistlethwaite, Harper & Row, 1955, p278).
With the closing of the Western frontier, the US then embarked more fully on its expansionist imperial trajectory: in Latin America, the Pacific, and elsewhere. "The disappearance of the frontier of settlement, although it did not come about as suddenly as the census-takers of 1890 supposed, altered the whole balance of American life and its relation to the outside world" (ibid.).
Faltering Frontiers In The 21st Century
History Professor Greg Grandin has incisively signalled the current crisis of American growth. Frontiers to exploit are petering out. In a defining moment, the Trump Administration, riddled with capitalist contradictions, has now proclaimed with its border wall the limits of the "American Dream" ("The End Of The Myth" by Greg Grandin, review, "America Can No Longer Run From Its Past", Guardian, 31/7/19; see Grandin's "The End Of The Myth: From The Frontier To The Border Wall In The Mind Of America", Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co., 2019).
Despite Trump's boast to "Make America Great Again!", the model of growth so long embedded and expressed in American society is coming to be more and more at issue. Continual threats of hellfire, the imposition of economic sanctions, trade wars, or whatever other aggressive measures taken, are all failing to cower the mounting opposition. The US is struggling against a tide of constraints and challenges to its habitual modes of interaction with the rest of the world.
Whatever the propaganda garbage about "Making America Great Again", and touted new frontiers like space exploration, travel, and colonisation (after all, it's infinite!) as promoted by grossly self-serving billionaires, the US is now entrapped in its own entrepreneurial bullshit. The leading capitalist state is thus desperately floundering about and flailing out in frustration at the constraining forces and factors that are closing in upon it (ibid.).
We need a totally new vision and direction ("Globalisation And Neoliberal Policies: Are There Alternatives To Plundering The Earth, Making War And Destroying The Planet?", Global Research, Centre for Research on Globalization, 17/4/17). Terms like "sustainable development", "sustainable growth", and even "ecosystem" have been grossly misused and abused by neo-liberal ideologues.
Blindly technocratic and profit-driven futurism yet threatens to usurp good environmental management. To sum up, capitalism is usurping any chance of survival ("Consumerism And Capitalism Destroying Earth", Environmental Health News, 3/1/18; "The Earth Versus Capitalism", Al Jazeera, 22/4/17; "Capitalism Is Destroying The Earth", Guardian, 15/3/19).
We must reclaim our bonds with the natural world, as expressed by indigenous peoples around the Earth. The fight to protect and conserve the Amazon is one of many such symbol-laden and scientifically mandated struggles. Here in Aotearoa/NZ, we can draw more deeply on Maori tradition and knowledge in re-bonding with nature.
Towards Transformative Change
In my article, I have reviewed once more a complex of problematic issues at the heart of Western civilisation, and taken basic issue with its dominant manifestation of globalising capitalism. More and more, the contradictions are sheeting home. We can be certain that most rich capitalist interests everywhere, and that includes today in countries like China and Russia, will do their worst to maintain, and even grow, their privileges, status, and wealth, and, above all, their power.
But there will also be some capitalist fractions that are more enlightened, and even willing to seek positive and cooperative reforms of the existing system. Furthermore, the power of grassroots movements for really transformative action round the Earth is increasing. There is now an unprecedented international campaign for change well under way. Our ultimate goals are clear: genuine sustainability, social justice, and peace. The challenges ahead are massive but the momentum for social change is surely and steadily building.