March 31, 2016

Semper Prosperity?

Reflections on the speech by Brian Jean, the Alberta Wild Rose Party leader on the necessity of developing the oil sands for Canada's prosperity.

Everything the politician said is 'true'... within the confines of the system that our society operates in. And what is that system? It's the capitalist, 'free-market' economic model, that has such a stranglehold on the thinking as well as economies of most of humanity. Under this system, we always seem to be presented with a devil's choice between our lives and our livelihoods. Jobs and prosperity... at the cost of the environment that sustains us!

This system is predicated on the doctrine of 'more.' More growth, based on more production, based on more consumption of 'goods.' If the economy doesn't grow, then omigod, the sky falls-- our standard of living is in danger of dropping. So, we are locked on this treadmill of unending growth. And note that 'consumption' is a synonym for destruction, annihilation. When we consume resources, we eventually transform them into trash.

Even up to 120 years ago, the planet could handle this paradigm. The global population was around one billion, and technology still in early stages. At the turn of the 21st century, though, humanity numbered around six billion, and technology runs rampant in every aspect of life. Thru-out the 20th century, human industry treated our planet with utter disdain, polluting the atmosphere and waterways with virtually unrestrained abandon. Capitalism became the new substitute religion of Western civilization, the true believers proclaiming it's marvels to all the world. Every nation on Earth was persuaded that it must embrace 'democracy'/capitalism and enjoy the benefits thereof.

However... there's one little problem with this paradigm-- a rather obvious one, after a moment's thought. You can't pursue never-ending growth based on consumption, within a limited framework; and this planet is a limited framework. We got away with it for a few hundred years; but the party can't go on forever under the doctrine of 'more.' With an increasing population, having increasing expectations, we are on a collision course with reality-- the logical outcome of our entrenched systems.

Like the captain of the Titanic refusing to reduce speed in an iceberg field, our captains of industry refuse to do anything substantial, if they even acknowledge a problem. All they give us is empty rhetoric like 'sustainable development,' that in practice changes nothing. While Brian Jean speaks 'the truth,' it's really in a very relative sense when viewed in a global, expanded frame of reference.

And so we, the passengers of spaceship Earth, are doomed to watch, mesmerized, as the inevitable approaches inexorably. We might as well go ahead and continue exploiting the oil sands and building pipelines-- it won't make much difference in the slightly longer run. A bit more 'prosperity' before the whole system collapses... as it must.

There's no point talking about alternative economic models. It's too late; the game must be played to its logical conclusion. The decision-makers will consider no other options. It's more of the same... until there's no 'more.'

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