By George…… he finally gets it…….

7 12 2017

Everything Must Go

Economic growth will destroy everything. There’s no way of greening it – we need a new system.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 22nd November 2017

 

George-Monbiot-L

George Monbiot

Everyone wants everything – how is that going to work? The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.

But growth must go on: this is everywhere the political imperative. And we must adjust our tastes accordingly. In the name of autonomy and choice, marketing uses the latest findings in neuroscience to break down our defences. Those who seek to resist must, like the Simple Lifers in Brave New World, be silenced – in this case by the media. With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Thirty years ago, it was ridiculous to buy bottled water, where tap water is clean and abundant. Today, worldwide, we use a million plastic bottles a minute.

Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction. Among the snow saunasportable watermelon coolers and smart phones for dogs with which we are urged to fill our lives, my #extremecivilisation prize now goes to the PancakeBot: a 3-D batter printer that allows you to eat the Mona Lisa or the Taj Mahal or your dog’s bottom every morning. In practice, it will clog up your kitchen for a week until you decide you don’t have room for it. For junk like this we’re trashing the living planet, and our own prospects of survival. Everything must go.

The ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival. But a series of research papers reveal that there is no significant difference between the ecological footprints of people who care about their impacts and people who don’t. One recent article, published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, finds that those who identify themselves as conscious consumers use more energy and carbon than those who do not.

Why? Because, environmental awareness tends to be higher among wealthy people. It is not attitudes that govern our impacts on the planet, but income. The richer we are, the bigger our footprint, regardless of our good intentions. Those who see themselves as green consumers, the paper found, “mainly focus on behaviours that have relatively small benefits.”

I know people who recycle meticulously, save their plastic bags, carefully measure the water in their kettles, then take their holidays in the Caribbean, cancelling their environmental savings 100-fold. I’ve come to believe that the recycling licences their long-haul flights. It persuades people they’ve gone green, enabling them to overlook their greater impacts. [I know people like that too…]

None of this means that we should not try to reduce our impacts, but we should be aware of the limits of the exercise. Our behaviour within the system cannot change the outcomes of the system. It is the system that needs to change.

Research by Oxfam suggests that the world’s richest 1% (if your household has an income of £70,000 or more, this means you) produce around 175 times as much carbon as the poorest 10%. How, in a world in which everyone is supposed to aspire to high incomes, can we avoid turning the Earth, on which all prosperity depends, into a dust ball?

By decoupling, the economists tell us: detaching economic growth from our use of materials. So how well is this going? A paper in the journal PlosOne finds that while in some countries relative decoupling has occurred, “no country has achieved absolute decoupling during the past 50 years.” What this means is that the amount of materials and energy associated with each increment of GDP might decline, but, as growth outpaces efficiency, the total use of resources keeps rising. More importantly, the paper reveals that, in the long term, both absolute and relative decoupling from the use of essential resources is impossible, because of the physical limits of efficiency.

A global growth rate of 3% means that the size of the world economy doubles every 24 years. This is why environmental crises are accelerating at such a rate. Yet the plan is to ensure that it doubles and doubles again, and keeps doubling in perpetuity. In seeking to defend the living world from the maelstrom of destruction, we might believe we are fighting corporations and governments and the general foolishness of humankind. But they are all proxies for the real issue: perpetual growth on a planet that is not growing.

Those who justify this system insist that economic growth is essential for the relief of poverty. But a paper in the World Economic Review finds that the poorest 60% of the world’s people receive only 5% of the additional income generated by rising GDP. As a result, $111 of growth is required for every $1 reduction in poverty. This is why, on current trends, it would take 200 years to ensure that everyone receives $5 a day. By this point, average per capita income will have reached $1m a year, and the economy will be 175 times bigger than it is today. This is not a formula for poverty relief. It is a formula for the destruction of everything and everyone.

When you hear that something makes economic sense, this means it makes the opposite of common sense. Those sensible men and women who run the world’s treasuries and central banks, who see an indefinite rise in consumption as normal and necessary, are beserkers, smashing through the wonders of the living world, destroying the prosperity of future generations to sustain a set of figures that bear ever less relation to general welfare.

Green consumerism, material decoupling, sustainable growth: all are illusions, designed to justify an economic model that is driving us to catastrophe. The current system, based on private luxury and public squalor, will immiserate us all: under this model, luxury and deprivation are one beast with two heads.

We need a different system, rooted not in economic abstractions but in physical realities, that establish the parameters by which we judge its health. We need to build a world in which growth is unnecessary, a world of private sufficiency and public luxury. And we must do it before catastrophe forces our hand.

http://www.monbiot.com

Economic growth will destroy everything. There’s no way of greening it – we need a new system.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 22nd November 2017

YES George……  we need a revolution.

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29 responses

7 12 2017
Idiocracy

Wow, go Capt. Obvious! So a different “system” you say. And how do you propose we go about achieving this Georgie boy? The ballot box I bet… or maybe we could “riot for austerity” as he’s previously suggested. Yeah that’ll work… typical progressivist/neo-liberal/eco-fascist dribble.

Don’t you think it’s about time you got your politic in order George? Maybe then we can talk.

http://struggle.ws/anarchism/writers/anarcho/monbiotmuppet.html

8 12 2017
Brandon Young

That link gives interesting insights into the “thinking” of anarchists. It seems to me that an anarchist is simply someone who doesn’t know that hierarchical systems of power are created by self organising forces.

If you take away the state, you don’t have freedom, you have exploitation by the systems that can accumulate the most tyranny. Violence inevitably becomes the only currency.

The conclusion of that article seemed to be heading in the right direction with:

“… as the neoliberal era shows, relying on politicians to do it for you is doomed to failure. Only pressure from the streets and workplaces can countermand the power of capital on the state”

But then it went off the rails with:

“… and, ultimately, get rid of both once and for all.”

Now that is just dumb.

8 12 2017
Idiocracy

“Now that is just dumb.” – thats some top shelf “thinking” there Brandon!

It seems to me that you might need to consider getting your own politic in order?

9 12 2017
Brandon Young

My political views don’t matter. Your political views don’t matter either, and anarchism was always a foolish dream, a sort of relic from a past we never had.

If you were to see your utopian anarchist dreams come true, and nation states were abolished, the power vacuum would quickly be filled by the financial-corporate system accumulating tyranny from the top down, and local warlords rising up from the criminal underworld, with everything else just collateral damage in the war for control. Some dream.

George Monbiot is right. We have a choice between fixing the system and continuing to sleepwalk into catastrophic collapse. For what it’s worth, I choose the former, but that is only ever going to mean something if a whole lot of other people start waking up.

You probably have no idea just how concentrated real power over the financial-corporate system has become. The data underlying this brilliant analysis could use a refresh, and that would reveal that the autonomous super-entity with the lion’s share of control over the world has only continued amassing unprecedented wealth and power:

The Network of Global Corporate Control
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0025995

That is the real enemy of the people, and they need to demand their nation states resist it and impose sustainability as the highest priority. Until they do, politics won’t matter at all.

10 12 2017
Idiocracy

So “your”/”my” (to mean the electorate/non-ruling class) politics don’t matter, but… politics is our only way out (“fixing the system” “demand nation states”). You seem confused, which is it?

And anarchism – a foolish utopian dream, where all states are abolished (that sounds rather authoritarian) in the blink of an eye, to be replaced by new and exciting bosses of all kinds!!! Hmm hmm… excuse me Sir, your lack of knowledge about anarchism is showing. 😯

The Iroquois, Mapuche, Exarchia, Rojava (I could go on) and countless other groups around the world are living perfectly autonomously – without “Warlords” (shock horror!). It has been bigger in the past too (The Makhnovia, Spanish Anarchists, et al) but counter-revolution undid all that. Not to mention the pre-history of Homo (2 Million odd years?) was anachronistic – the past 6 maybe 10 thousand years of hierarchy/authoritarian rule (including Liberal Democracies) if anything is a relic of the present, politically we will return to our roots… it’s inevitable… the only question is whats left of the planet?

And George is not right… “we” (the world? – as noted above plenty are already living as freely as they can) have many more options then these two weak ass choices. You “choosing” the former is a cop out… you sit back, maybe recycle a little, turn the lights off at night, and wait for others to wake up? And you say I’m dreaming? My dream is at least a reality in parts of the world. Yours is a fairy-tale – the system cannot be fixed, there is no such thing as “reform”, only concessions necessary to maintain order – surely thats obvious by now (how many COP’s have we had?)

RE: “You probably have no idea” – why would you suppose that? It’s capitalism 101, wealth accumulates! I don’t need a fuckin journal to tell me that. I have played Monopoly you know… 😛

And in the end you prove my point about fools like George – we just need to “riot for austerity”?! You don’t even realise what you’re saying, you’re begging for fascism… with organic unbleached zero carbon Brown Shirts. An Ecological National Socialism, Blood & Soil and all that… sounding farmiliar? What makes you think you’ll be considered part of the Volk and spared from the soylent camps?

In short, the real enemy of the people is themselves… if more people knew what they wanted in life and actually organised for it, the world would be a much better place.

10 12 2017
Idiocracy

WordPress sure does know how to gobble up comments. Can you pull
comment-27357 from the ether Mike?

10 12 2017
mikestasse

Indeed….. I have been listening to a couple of podcasts in which the archdruid talked about why he shut down his old blog, and much of it had to do with the platform that kept changing/upgrading causing untold grief for people leaving comments among other things…… and I expect he had a lot more of this to deal with than I do, because he says that at the height of the archdruid report he was getting 30,000 more reads a month than this humble blog is capable of…!

10 12 2017
Brandon Young

There is a world of difference between isolated pockets of relative autonomy and the abolition of entire nation states, as advocated by your link.

My argument shouldn’t confuse you, because it is very straightforward and uncontroversial: The system itself is broken, so politics can’t be effective until a majority of political will is demanding systemic change.

You say “the system cannot be fixed.” In other words, you have decided not to think constructively. Fair enough I guess. The system certainly won’t be fixed unless a majority of people can be persuaded to abandon such a narrow-minded presumption.

10 12 2017
Idiocracy

Many have freed themselves from state rule without “abolishing” the state. Last I checked Exarchia was still part of Greece… that’s part of the beauty of it – no enclaves required nor lines need be drawn on maps.

Do I sound confused? Who says a majority is needed? I recall the average % of people on the streets in most revolutions has been only about 13%. Oh, but then again your talking about through the ballot box of course… the ONLY possible way to channel political will/effect meaningful change.

And, it’s working within the system that is the very definition of narrow-mindedness and impotence. Anyway good luck with your reforms kämrəd and I hope you enjoy waving your placard at COP24.

10 12 2017
Brandon Young

No placards here. There is nothing inherently political or ideological about systems engineering.

Just in case anyone else shares your misconceptions of my argument, you wrote: “Oh, but then again your talking about through the ballot box of course…”

Maybe, eventually, if enough of the people can be awakened, and persuaded that fundamental reform is not just critical and urgent, but has the potential to create a vastly better society.

Until then, as I have made clear, the ballot box doesn’t matter. So in the meantime the political will needs to be cultivated outside of the political system, primarily I think in online public spaces like this, with discussions amongst those who are genuinely open-minded and prepared to think and act constructively.

7 12 2017
Norman Pagett

George pulling on his own wishbone again.

But he is quite right of course—we all know the global economic system is a colossal foul up—but pontificating that ”something must be done” isn’t going to get it done. We all exist in, and are supported by, a system that must burn fuels to support itself.

We make stuff, sell it and buy it from each other, and nothing can be made without heat, and no employment can be sustained without heat input.
And every one on us wants to keep our job, if we have one—or want a job if we dont.

There is no other way to maintain our current mode of life.

But George says this must end.
yes it is going to end, and soon, but it will not be a calm orderly downturn in our existence, where we all become happy peasants.

We must face the reality that the world can support only 1 or 2 bn people in a downsized existence, which means that 5 bn people don’t have much of a future to look forward to.
Those 5bn people are not going to roll over and conveniently die, and will fight for their lives as survival-reality bites.
That is not going to be very pleasant because the vast majority expect their future to be as their past —only better.

View story at Medium.com

when the find it’s going to be infinetly worse, all hell is going to break loose.

Monbiot doesn’t seem to factor this into his thinking

7 12 2017
mikestasse

Before you can come up with strategies, you first have to admit we have to change everything…..

7 12 2017
Norman Pagett

everything will change

but it will not be ”we” who changes it—it will happen in spite of us i fear

9 12 2017
wshawngray

G’day Mike. A silly little layout question. Why does the text for this story on the Damn the Matrix (as posted) repeat word for word the Monboit article for a second quotation, immediately after the first quotation??

At your service. *W’Shawn Gray*

10 12 2017
mikestasse

Thanks for pointing that out Shawn…… I never noticed, nor do I have a clue how it happened! Fixed…….

11 12 2017
Jonathan Maddox

George has always got it, and he’s always understood how difficult it is:

“our problem is that no one ever rioted for austerity. People take to the streets because they want to consume more, not less.”

11 12 2017
mikestasse

While that may be so, austerity MUST become normal……. we just take effluence for granted these days….

12 12 2017
Norman Pagett

no one will accept austerity in the form that it is meant here.

instead it will be forced upon us, and there will be a viloent reaction against it, because we will insist that it is a political problem , not an energy problem.

eventually reality will hit home of course, but not before a lot of painful aggravation has taken place

12 12 2017
Eclipse Now

Normally I’d agree with most of what Monbiot writes, however this line is a bit cheap. “The ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival.” But the key word here is PERPETUAL growth. He needs to visit some more futurist blogs to moderate his tone. IPAT means the T can be a divider, when it is truly revolutionised! Sea of plastic? How about plastic islands with nano-tendrils that reach down and eat even the micro-plastic, but filter out all good micro-organisms. Energy? How about abundant nuclear power? Oh yeah, Monbiot already agrees with that! Food? How about abundant kelp, which does not require fresh water or nutrients and can actually stimulate the ocean’s ecosystems, and could hypothetically feed the world 40 times over just in the 2% of the oceans nutrient rich enough to grow the stuff? Meat? How about vat grown meat from the kelp? Debt? From the guy who used to write “That economics stuff just makes my eyes glaze over,” we now have an increasingly desperate Stasse looking further afield for the promised apocalypse. Especially since electric semi trailers became a thing, and breeder reactors have been recommended even by Dr James Hansen himself.
Seriously Mike, IPAT is a thing, and the T can either be a multiplier of harm, or divider. And don’t tell me you buy everything Monbiot writes, or you’d be a fan of nuclear power as well.

13 12 2017
mikestasse

The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude greater than is needed to produce it……..

13 12 2017
Eclipse Now

Yes, but IPAT is not bull! Neither is a *potential* future of abundant cheap electric car & truck transport, or nuclear-re-charged / re-fashioned / re-fuelled synfuels, Blue Crude, even de-rusted recyclable boron pellets. Neither is the fact that the world is heading towards a worldwide Demographic Transition by 2050 that will stabilise the population growth.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_transition

I haven’t even mentioned dozens of other future scenarios based on *today’s* engineering and energy systems that could see civilisation spreading out through the solar system with Quadrillions of people… but that’s too big a thought for the likes of a tired old peak oil doomer trying to justify his mid-life-crisis.

13 12 2017
mikestasse

IPAT is real…….. but the rest of this techno-utopia is beyond belief….. spreading put through the solar system…?? REALLY? GIVE ME A BREAK.

13 12 2017
mikestasse

We can’t even repair the existing infrastructure…… the US space program is finished, and the Russian one is on the verge of collapse.

Civilisational collapse has begun….. get over it. Just like I got over my mid life crisis 20 years ago…….

http://www.astronautix.com/r/russiasspacunningonempty.html

13 12 2017
Eclipse Now

>REALLY? GIVE ME A BREAK.

Why? Nuclear fission has 2 million times the energy of the chemical bonds, and uranium from seawater is ‘renewable’ in that it is topped up by continental drift + erosion. Breeder reactors = super-concentrated power (vastly more concentrated than your precious fossil fuels!) that is reliable, SAFE clean power for a high tech civilisation of 10’s of billions on earth for billions of years. One milk crate of fuel can run a city for about 4 months, and that’s without putting it back into the fuel cycle!

13 12 2017
mikestasse

Give a man more energy, and he will fuck the rest of the planet with it…….. go away Eclipse, you are CRAZY!

13 12 2017
Idiocracy

I thought you had banned this transhumanist clown Mike?

I admittedly got a good laugh out of many of his comments, but it’s just not worth the overall mental anguish.

14 12 2017
mikestasse

I thought I had also…… but WordPress has made several changes to the way owners manage their sites (including moderating messages which is thankfully a big improvement). Hopefully Dave will get my message to go away…

13 12 2017
Brandon Young

“He needs to visit some more futurist blogs …”

Can you name a couple of good ones?

13 12 2017
Eclipse Now

First there are the immediate term environmental bloggers in the EcoModernist network. James Hansen supports Eco-Modernism (sustainable eco-nuclear network, often writing about the safety and environmental benefits of nuclear-waste eating breeder reactors).

http://www.ecomodernism.org/

Their manifesto
http://www.ecomodernism.org/manifesto-english/

Similar vibe
https://thebreakthrough.org/

Then there’s NBF
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/

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