Diversity and deep thoughts

We don’t normally go in much for philosophizing here, because by and large that’s something that I, at any rate, feel is best left to those with the time and inclination to think deep thoughts. However, there’s an interesting little spat brewing over in the further reaches of the blogosphere at Y Safle (which labels itself “pretentious waffle from Wales”). At issue is whether environmentalism and international development work against each other. One of the commenters seems to have got hold of completely the wrong end of the stick. I won’t attempt to summarize the arguments, which seem to hinge on exactly how one lets market forces operate, but if you’ve a moment or two, why not take a look?

3 Replies to “Diversity and deep thoughts”

  1. No deep thinking there, I am afraid, just dizzy confusion, erroneous statements and propaganda. The intuition is correct, though. If ‘environmentalism’ meant favoring policies leading to a fundamental change in the prevailing economic rationality, it would indeed be contradictory with ‘international development’ that promotes that rationality. But since environmentalism and ‘sustainable development’ have been co-opted through the policies implementing ‘market mechansims’, they really don’t represent any threat to the expansion of the capitalist global economy (called ‘development’).

    This form of environmentalism does nothing to challenge the fundamental political and economic priority which is the incessant accumulation of capital (especially by a few multinational corporations) through the ‘privatization’ of everything–the root cause of the environmental catastrophe. The so-called ‘market economy’ (a euphemism for monopoly capitalism) is not environmentally sustainable, no matter how much green paint and promises of ‘eliminating poverty’, etc., you apply.

  2. Firstly, many thanks for the link to the article on my site.

    Ron, I find a strong sympathy with your view that capitalism can never be environmentally sustainable, but I am not sure I can entirely agree. These are my reasons:

    1. Capitalism is driven by greed and consumerism. It is an illogical and wasteful system, and one that has huge problems. However, whilst the greed leads to an ant-environmental cycle if left unchecked, it is nevertheless possible to intervene to use the assumptions of capitalism for environmental benefit. An example of this might be the EU emissions trading scheme, which puts a price on emission reduction, and thus generates a trade. Whilst the scheme is not perfect, it is better than hand wringing or sticking our heads in the ground and saying there is no problem (or the problem is intractable).

    2. Capitalism is an organic system like any other. It may be a system driven to consume resources, but like any system, if the consumption is too aggressive, then there are negative feedbacks into the system that restrain it. (The problem being that the negative feedbacks perhaps kick in too late to be of any use to the people that are suffering now!)

    3. Historically capitalism has been evil, and yet has paradoxically also been a great benefit. The UK invented capitalism with our industrial revolution. It could be argued that Wedgewood invented the idea of planned obsolesence, and modern marketing. In generating a market in patterned chinaware, he essentially began the whole process, even as indutrialisation was changing our landscape.

    But here is the oddity – industrialisation created the terrible “labour market” whereby even skilled labourers would be stuck on subsistence wages, and any response to change in the labour market would take a generation to work through – which did not help those with skills no longer valued. But at the same time, the industrialised UK saw population growth – especially in industrialised towns, whilst non industrial countries saw famine and starvation that killed millions.

    So unless we have a solution that is better for people than capitalism, we have to paraphrase Churchill et al. and say “Capitalism is the worst of all systems. Except for all the others”.

    4. Finally, I am a pragmatist. The way to change the world is in small steps.

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