Sharing things and helping other people may damage the economy,
but it's a great way to decrease our environmental footprint.
Since the earth’s resources are finite, competing to outconsume one
another is a self-destructive course of action.
This, however, is the natural outcome of capitalism, with its focus on
money at the expense of all else.
As technology has increased the impact of human activity
on our environment, concerns about environmental matters such as
pollution, climate change, resource depletion are being treated increasingly seriously.
However, the USA and some other countries still pursue economic gain above all else.
Such arrogant short-sightedness would be unthinkable from a less powerful nation,
and does at least highlight the problems of highly concentrating power.
The simple dogma of ‘do whatever makes money’ has lead to increasingly pathological
overconsumption. The ethos of competition has produced societies of
busy, stressed people often lonely and
As our economic system steadily grows in scope,
ever more aspects of life are
decreasing opportunities for unpaid, heart felt action by crowding it out through an increased
volume of commercially motivated transactions. By commodifying our
relationships - with other people, the wider community and the
natural envionment as a whole - ever more activity is brought into the
zero-sum, competitive model.
wasteful practices associated with the profit motive
are damaging our social and the natural environment.
However, our current problems may look small in years to come, as new technologies
such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology are magnifying the potential for
human impact on the environment.
Costing the Earth...
As a species, we have a decision to make about how (some would say whether) we want to develop
genetic engineering. It well illustrates the dangers of taking
a proprietary approach. One the one hand, a successful development would yield great dividends in
the form of sales, royalties from
intellectual property rights etc.
On the other a failure could cause catastrophic damage to the environment. The cost to planet earth of
disastrous environmental damage would go not only exceed the resources of any company or state to
put right, it could go beyond any financial reckoning.
Standard economics doesn’t have a lot to say
about calculations of this nature. Although alternative models are being developed,
a fundamental rethink is necessary if we are to overcome this risk, for the simple reason that
for a limited liability company the calculation becomes a lot easier -
any costs incurred over and above the value of its assets
can be safely (sic.) ignored since if a disaster were to happen the company
could be declared bankrupt and wouldn’t be liable.
Many countries have legislation to try to safeguard public health and the environment.
However, even without the very significant problem of
rent-seeking, such legislation cannot be expected to be very effective,
with technologies developing so quickly, and potential revenues so large.
The need for such ad hoc extra rules is in itself an admission of one of the more serious
problems of capitalism; the ‘free market’ is unsuitable
means to ensure people safeguard the environment
- the one resource which mankind really cannot afford to lose.
Environmental safety seems unlikely to be assured under capitalism,
which insulates people from their affect on their environment.
Altruistic economics, by contrast, encourages people to consider the impact
of their actions on others.
Warning to Humanity
Union of Concerned Scientists
Industrial Ecology - An Environmental Agenda for Industry
A not-for-profit, reader-supported, magazine and website concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces. Contains humorous, satirical and philosophical articles and runs campaigns such as TV Turnoff Week.
An Indian grassroots based environmental and social development organisation.
It has thousands of local ideas viewable, especially centered around areas such as organic farming and agricultural sustainability