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Musings on the Crest of the Wave

This afternoon a substantial number of people (tens of thousands from what I gathered - I didn't try counting) marched from Grosvenor Square and surrounded the Houses of Parliament in the wave. The tail was still coming through Parliament Square as the front dispersed.

A substantial number of people voicing a concern about an issue that affects all of us and far too little is being down about. It would be nice if all the things being called for including pledges to cut emissions massively were agreed to at Copenhagen. It shouldn't take tens of thousands of people to get the government to actually do something about an issue that has been on the agenda for years though.

Unfortunately, our society gives louder voices to the huge corporations. It's not in the interest of these entities to cut emissions as there's no money to be made out of it, so they will resist the necessary changes to society. The insignificance of the changes to policy since the Stern report 3 years ago, just goes to show this.

Nobody wants climate chaos, but people are slaves to the corporate entities at all levels from the shop floor workers to the most senior managers. In a society based around money we all need it to pay the rent, mortgage, bills. Without it there's no roofs over our heads and no food to eat. We are all therefore reliant on these corporate entities and go along with them to a greater or lesser extent depending on our personal circumstance. If the profits of these entities are hit then it has a direct knock-on effect on the employees of that corporation and therefore on the people.

The government therefore places the needs of the economy above those of the people. After all, as the effects of a recession are felt much more in the short term than something like climate change, it's much easier to pretend that the latter is not happening.

In a system where money confers status and power, we need to spend to show we have it to promote our place in society. Profits need to grow to allow our status to grow. Both of which naturally require growth of production, whether we actually need the resulting goods or not, and hence an increased use of resources. Efficiency only really becomes necessary when resources become scarce and therefore expensive. Otherwise it's business as normal, produce more to sell more, convincing people they need to replace perfectly functional items to upgrade to the latest features that most of them won't ever use.

A system which actively seeks to increase consumption to grow profits is pushing in exactly the wrong direction to cut carbon emissions. You can impose limits on it, but the push will still be there and they will be actively seeking to increase those limits.

Hopefully Copenhagen will result in enough measures to prevent complete disaster, but the problem will still be there and unless we cut consumerism the shadow of climate chaos will always be looming over us ready to hit as soon as we let things slip slightly out of control.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that climate change isn't solvable within a capitalist system. If we seriously want to do something about it, we need to kill consumerism and move towards equality of status for all, so we don't need trinkets to prove ourselves worthy of society, we just consume according to our needs.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
5th Dec, 2009 19:13 (UTC)
That doesn't make it something not worth trying for rather than bowing down to a system that actively promotes class segregation.
(Deleted comment)
6th Dec, 2009 08:44 (UTC)
The Soviet Union never really got away from capitalism, they just put it under state control.
(Deleted comment)
7th Dec, 2009 10:34 (UTC)
There are many small groups that people contribute to as part of their free time that work on a non-profit basis. People identify what needs doing and offer what they can to run these groups.

i.e. from each according to their ability, to each according to their need, as Marx said as a major principle behind socialism.

Point (b) is exactly the issue with the Soviet model of Communism. They imposed it on the people through revolution and as a consequence, placed the Bolsheviks as ruling class. To get socialism to work, it would need to be introduced through a majority viewpoint of the people via the democratic system we have in place.
8th Dec, 2009 02:57 (UTC)
All political economies that have economic classes depend on state control, otherwise you can't have property rights. In "actually existing" capitalism corporations and governments work hand in hand in every piece of legislation that is passed.
8th Dec, 2009 02:56 (UTC)
If we seriously want to do something about it, we need to kill consumerism

... incorporate external costs into the internal costs of a good.
9th Dec, 2009 21:32 (UTC)
But that's not in the best economic interest of the corporation producing the good, so they'll resist.

If you want to maximise profit, you will aim to keep the costs down and some of the most carbon intensive industries are huge and have a great deal of economic power to influence policy with as a result.
10th Dec, 2009 05:28 (UTC)
That's certainly correct. The rule of thumb for a great deal of industry is to pass their polluting costs to the general population and retain the profits for themselves.

As individuals we can certainly refuse to play that game. As a society we have to push for internalisation of external costs (e.g., a carbon tax).
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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