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Capitalism’s Rough & Tumble Climate Affair

Photograph Source Rennett Stowe | CC BY 2.0

It’s entirely possible that capitalism and climate change are not compatible. They just cannot seem to live together, kinda like a marriage on the rocks. Assuming the planet is headed for a 2C climate event in the not so distant future, some kind of separation is probably necessary to avoid planetary dystopia and chaos.

A solution of sorts is often whispered in the hallowed halls of academia, and it is scribbled in obscure blogs, suggesting the abolishment of capitalism as the best way to help rid the planet of an existential threat of RGW (runaway global warming). But, that is kinda outrageous and silly and, well, it just doesn’t seem possible.

Still, capitalism plays too rough for the sensitive planet. In reality, Earth doesn’t stand a chance against the forces of capitalism. What to do?

In point of fact, the world order is deeply ingrained in unabashed capitalism, the pandering, plundering type that chews up and spits out any form of interference as quickly as one can say Milton ‘laissez-faire’ Friedman: Slash taxes, throw-out regulations, transfer public assets into private hands, cut welfare benefits, degrade schools, and infinite growth as the universal fixit.

But, it’s worth noting as for Friedman’s long-standing position that government should not interfere with private biz, Allen Sinai chief global economist for Decision Economics, Inc, discussing Friedman’s free-market dogma vis a vis the 2008 economic meltdown: “The free market is not geared to take care of the casualties, because there’s no profit motive.”

When things go bad, capitalism puts its tail between its legs and heads for the hills as the free market doctrine turns into a wet limp rag. FDR understood this only too well and did something about it.

Whereas the global warming challenge cannot risk dependence upon a socio-economic-politico order that shirks responsibility when the going gets tough, especially because of a simple lack of profit motive. As such, capitalism does not seem like a good candidate to help fight the global warming leviathan.

Making matters worse, as well as a more compelling argument for some kind of change of the socio-economic-political order, America, a hotbed of capitalism, shows utter disdain for the threat of global warming, rejecting the Paris agreement of 2015 and re-invigorating fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy. That kind of behavior by a country responsible for 25% of global CO2 is reason enough to call for a major change of some kind.

Along those lines, recent climate studies of significance, with powerful names involved, “allude” to the need to change the world socio-economic order to achieve a “Stabilized Earth Pathway.”

For example, suggestions are alluded to within “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 6, 2018, which suggests a deep transformation, to wit:

“The present dominant socioeconomic system, however, is based on high-carbon economic growth and exploitative resource use. Attempts to modify this system have met with some success locally but little success globally in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or building more effective stewardship of the biosphere. Incremental linear changes to the present socioeconomic system are not enough to stabilize the Earth System. Widespread, rapid, and fundamental transformations will likely be required to reduce the risk of crossing the threshold and locking in the Hot- house Earth pathway; these include changes in behavior, technology and innovation, governance, and values… We suggest that a deep transformation based on a fundamental reorientation of human values, equity, behavior, institutions, economies, and technologies is required.”

A “deep transformation” based upon a fundamental reorientation of human values, equity, behavior, institutions, economies, and technologies is brainiac talk for throw out the existing order and start over. Deep transformation doesn’t just mean passing new legislation. It means deep-sixing the body politic.

Accordingly, is it time for change? After all, the world is filling up with billionaires and millionaires aka: transnationalists so rapidly that it’s a wonder there’s enough room on the planet, buying islands, offshore ocean cities, multiple homes in order to have at least one residence in a no-tax state, gobs and gobs of offshore bank accounts to avoid federal taxes and keep regulators off balance, gas-guzzling private jets, maybe 2 or 3 and 10-car garages, and that’s only for starters.

Along the way, plutocrats don’t do anything to help the biosphere. But they do use it!
It’s no mystery and certainly no secret that rampant CO2, produced by the bucketful by transnationalists and their assorted interests blankets, and heats up, the atmosphere as an unintended consequence of capitalism’s massive infinite growth paradigm, whilst producing billionaires and millionaires like rabbits in heat as the planet turns red hot.

Similar to a final show-of-shows miserably failing, the capitalist bandwagon has turned into a freakish sideshow that only pays lip service to helping the planet. Solution: Maybe they could help via a wealth tax (no problem getting 99% approval) that plows their excesses into renewable energy and scientific studies aimed at correcting 200+ years of capitalistic blissfulness cruising alongside denigration of the only known biosphere in the universe that supports life.

Give me my planet or give me death!

Wait a moment; didn’t America’s founding fathers say something similar to that when the Revolution of the Wealthy (1775) took place in a ground war between America’s landed gentry (George Washington) and the British crown (George III). (As an aside: Patrick “give me liberty or give me death” Henry, similar to General Washington, owned big estates and slaves.)

Sloganeering worked just fine back in those revolutionary days! But, back then sloganeering had the backing of the rich landed gentry that also controlled all of the news.

Nowadays it’s unlikely that a silly slogan like “give me my planet or give me death,” which refers to a defaced planet that nobody can buy or own, will survive this polemic. Fat chance!

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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