- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Some environmental stats (n'th restatement)

Posted by: Farinata ( L'inferno ) on September 16, 1999 at 02:38:58:

In Reply to: an anarchist that sounds like a socialist...? posted by Frenchy on September 15, 1999 at 22:55:59:

: : :
: : : Darcy, you don't understand. Your dealing here with socialists who insist that real socialism has yet to be implemented. Castro's brand of socialism was flawed, so was Mao's, so was Stalin's, so was Ortega's, ad infinitum.

: : Frenchy, you could say exactly the same about capitalism.

: : "...well, OK, there's a million under-fives dying every month from poverty-related malnutrition, the environment is fucked, the gap between rich and poor has never been wider and this society is untenable in the long term, but...it's not real capitalism..."

: Uhh, if you want to be a tad more specific it would help a lot.

: What countries are you speaking of?

The mortality figures were given as a worldwide total; of course, the maximum casualties are in the developing world; for example, there were only 2,000 infant deaths directly attributable to poverty in the UK last year (1998) (also UN HDR; '98)

: What does "the environment is fucked" mean?

Take a soil sample; examine the concentrations of organophosphates, halogenated aromatics, heavy metals, nitrate-based fertilizers, pollutant gases.

Alternatively, go kill a Beluga off Newfoundland; but be careful, since Beluga whales are now officially classed as toxic waste due to the concentrations of pollutants their systems hold.

The same goes for any bottom-feeding fish or crustaceans from the Northeastern US seaboard or Newfoundland.

Eat a hamburger; you've just ingested 40 times the FDA's maximum recommended daily dose of dioxins (as of the 1994 reassessment).

75% of the US's topsoil has been lost to human usage in the last 100 years, thanks to the US's unhealthy diet.

Examine the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere; even if the U.S. were to achieve the promise it made at the Kyoto summit (currently looking unlikely), the amount of atmospheric CO2 is set to rise, since the CO2 emitted persists in the atmosphere for 100 years or more. If the whole world sticks to Kyoto targets, levels of atmospheric CO2 will continue to increase for the next 80 years. To achieve any real reduction in atmospheric CO2 levels (and not just the rate of *emission*), the world needs to reduce CO2 production by 80% ASAP.

Take a drink of New York rainwater; it currently contains insecticide to kill the mozzies carrying St. Louis encephalitis. This spread of vector-borne disease is entirely in keeping with climate models of the greenhouse effect, like those issued by the Hadley Research Centre (part of the UK Meteorological Office). There's a certain rich irony that the US is noticing this before anyone else; the US produces one quarter of the world's CO2 emissions.

(Though, to be fair, Luxembourg has recently reported its first ever cases of native malaria).

Last year, Florida spent $100 million on fighting malaria; a hundredfold increase on ten years ago and likely to increase, as is the spending of many other Southern states.

New Orleans is losing the battle against Formosan termites; the change in climate over the last 30 years is aiding the termites; where the termites used only to swarm at dusk and occasionally at dawn, the increase in temperature and average humidity due to climate change means that the termites now swarm continuously during the summer months.

Another effect of worldwide global warming is the increased incidence of "natural disasters"; the prediction is for more frequent occurrences of "extreme weather"; the Red Cross noted that 1998 saw more "natural disasters" than any other year on record. As we speak, one of the most severe hurricanes the US Meteorological Survey has ever seen is approaching Charleston; try going here (if it hasn't been put out of action yet).

Which bit of "the environment is fucked" didn't you understand? It seems a pretty conclusive statement to me...

: Bill Gates has more money then me, so what? Are you envious?

Couldn't give a toss if Bill Gates has enough money to wipe his arse with the stuff. I don't require vast amounts of money; enough to eat, enough to have a place to sleep. I find the fact that the world's richest 243 men have more money than the world's poorest 2 billion to be gross; the inequality of this setup is causing undeserved suffering and slavery to millions.

: Could you tell me how you know that this society is not tenable in the long run???

The UK Government's geological panel (of geologists, of course) recently concluded that the world has consumed half the world's total mineral resources over the last 50 years. The UN is predicting major wars over drinking water within the next 40. You do the sums...

: : (All the above remarks are rephrasings of UN conclusions, by the way; the statistic is from the 1997 Human Developmment Report, the gap statement is one of the major findings of the 1999 Human Development Report.)

: Well, now I'm really impressed. The UN! By Doggie!

Well, the UN has considerably more data and research at its disposal than you do; therefore, it is rational to believe them over you. Unless you'd care to cite equally illustrious sources?

: : : On the other hand present day socialists, especially those who are scholars, do have the solution to bring the worlds miseries to an end.

: : No they don't. No-one has a perfect solution. The socialist view is that utility is maximised by equality as far as is possible; especially in the division of resources.

: Well, I can agree with you that no one has a perfect solution. The solution that calls for equality of resources is what the political economy of the Soviet Union was based on though and uhh, look what happened there. And Cuba, et al. And N. Korea.

Nikhil is more informed on such issues than I; I'm a physicist.

I will say this; the USSR was not socialism; it was state-run capitalism, as SDF will happily confirm.

As to Cuba, you must concede that they must be doing something right if their life expectancy is the highest in the Carribbean despite the continued vendetta waged by the US Government.

(In 1997, the UN passed a resolution condemning the US's continued embargo on Cuba as anti-humanitarian; of the entire UN, only three countries defended the US's position; the US (big surprise!), Israel and, er, Turkmenistan. Way to go, guys...)
: : After all, there is nothing per se that makes a U.S. citizen 33 times as valuable as an Indian, or 10 times as valuable as a Chinese person; so why does the U.S. citizen consume 33 times as many of the world's resources as the average Indian? It's not fair and it's not sustainable.

: It's the result of a viable system that makes our standard of living 33 times better then an Indian's standard of living. Wouldn't it be a good idea for Indians to imitate our way of life as closely as possible, if they want what we have?

They can't; there simply aren't enough resources being produced to do this. Examine your import-export gap; the US has the largest import-export gap of any country in the world; it sucks in far more resources than it gives out goods. Which is probably one of the reasons the US is headed for such a big deficit this year.

: It worked in Japan after all following WWII. And S.Korea.

Compare the populations of Japan, South Korea, the US and India.

Truth be told, however, India is far more capable than the other three countries above; it is almost completely self-sufficient and starvation rates are much lower than in comparable countries.

(The train system is also a damn sight better than the one here in the UK; I speak from experience of both. That's because India recognizes that public transport is a useful thing and worth funding, unlike our Government, who seem to swallow the US bullshit about the car being the ultimate expression of freedom; the fallacy of which becomes obvious when you see the traffic jams you get in any UK city.)

: Capitalism/Democracy seems to get better results. At least that's what I see.

Cite one example of somewhere that can truly be called democratic and capitalist.

Then try to tell me that Bill Gates' support is worth exactly the same as Nobby J. Nobody's - capital distorts democracy, as the parties in power bend over backwards to appease the people who can fund them. Given the support of a) a guy living in a trailer park or b) a billionaire, which politician is going to offend b) and suck up to a)?

It can be seen here in the UK as well; the party formerly known as "left-wing" is now the slave of Middle England; abandoning whole areas of progressive and promising legislation in the name of keeping the middle classes sweet - at the expense of the lower classes and underclasses.

: : Fact remains; the West is living an unsustainable lifestyle, as it has been for the last 50 years. It is unlikely that such a lifestyle is sustainable over the next 50.

: Again; mere conjecture. You have no idea what scientific and technological breakthroughs will occur that may make it possible to grow wheat fields in the desert. Or do you?

Actually, to grow wheat fields in the desert, you need to seed it with photochromic polycarbonate beads which work as mini-condensors. Unfortunately, this requires oil, which is a rare and expensive commodity. It also requires machining and processing, which also consumes power. Even then, it's a hit-and-miss affair.

You in your turn have no idea whether such breakthroughs will occur; it is like throwing yourself off a cliff in the hope that there is something soft at the bottom; there might well be, but you're fucked if there isn't. I don't believe in such recklessness.

: If you've got proof that the future holds in store what you say it does, just present it. If it's convincing, I'll believe it. If it's the same old environmentalist hogwash/propaganda, I'll laugh at it. Up to you.

See the examples I gave above; it doesn't take a genius to realise that the industrial processes of humanity are affecting the environment in ways that will be adverse to humanity. This is happening now, not in the future; it's just that it is likely to get worse if we don't do something about it now.

: : (Check out the 1998 Red Cross Human Disaster Report; the #1 cause of refugees in 1998 was environmental destruction resulting from exploitation of the environment.)

: Why don't you just tell us, if you already know. Although I'm not sure what that has to do with proving that Socialism/Communism can work.

Didn't say they could. What I said was that capitalism was manifestly not working and that I regard systems built around more equitable foundations as morally superior and more sustainable than ones that depend on exploitation of people and the environment.

: : : It is no use debating with them, although you are more than welcome, because their definitions change minute by minute.

: : OK, what do you want to define?

: wages.

Things you get paid.

(I'm not the economics expert; Nikhil or SDF are pretty hot on economics; as was Red Deathy. I'm the space scientist; so climate change is my forté.)

: : : I have a theory that the real deal is that these socialists are just envious of successful people and can't stand it.

: : Please don't ascribe the pettiness that drives you to the motives of everyone else.

: A morally superior person, I see. I had no idea. Actually I did. You guys make sterotyping an accurate science. A modern day Holy Person.

Your assumption was that all socialists were jealous because they weren't as successful as non-socialists; this is an absurd assumption, as you cannot know the motivations of anyone else; as such, your most likely reason is that you are projecting your motives onto other people.

I regard jealousy as a useless emotion, furthermore I regard any system based on exploitation of everything and everyone as inefficient and socially divisive; thus inferior.

I could have phrased it a bit better, I'll admit.

: : By your yardstick, I'm "successful". However, I don't believe success is morally sound if it achieved by grinding someone else into the ground; I do not support the First World's continuing exploitation of the Third in the name of maximised profit; neither do I support the efforts of the First World to plunder natural resources throughout the world. My ethics do not square with thoughtlessly allowing my fellow humans to suffer as a result of my actions.

: Fine. Where do you live?


: Where do you get the juice to operate your terminal?

The UK mains supply. I turn it off at the wall when I'm not using it, as I do with all other electrical appliances. I keep my place of living well insulated and the windows shut.

: Tell me about yourself. Do you eat three meals a day?

Yep. Since I'm a vegetarian, I can eat three meals without consuming more than my fair share of the planet's resources.

(To produce enough beef protein to yield one calorie of energy, 78 calories are expended in production. To produce enough soya protein to yield one calorie of energy, 2 calories are expended in production. This makes soya 39 times more efficient as a food source than beef.)

(To produce one pound of beef takes 5000 gallons of clean water. To produce one pound of soya takes 25 gallons of water.)

(Three quarters of all US topsoil has been lost to agriculture. 85% of that loss is directly attributable to livestock farming. Which means that livestock farming has made nearly 2/3rds of US arable land barren due to loss of topsoil.)

(33% of all US consumption of raw materials is used in the production of livestock.)

(See http://lonestar.utsa.edu/jchampag/extinction.html for more instant statistics.)

: Do you drive a car?

No. Decided not to learn to drive when I was 16. Have a bicycle, which I keep running happily; if I can't use the bike, I use public transport.

: Do you have insurance?

Nope. Nor any long-term savings; I do not believe there will be a financial system in place to honour any pension plans by the time I reach retirement age (2038).

: : : Success to them is everyone grows his own food and and make their own clothes.

: : Success to me would be people being assured of a basic standard of living. As per the UN Declaration of Human Rights...if that's not too radical a document for you.

: Yeah, I think it's also known by the "from each according to his skills, to each according to his needs" document. We had a discussion about a suitable venue for the UN at another forum. Most of us decided that somewhere along the northern shores of Yellow Knife Lake in the Yukon would be ideal.

: Many people in other words feel that the UN has run its course and that it is time for it to break camp and hit the trail. I would guess that you don't agree with that. Oh well....

Which country do you think "does best" out of the UN and global bodies like the IMF and WTO and World Bank?; it's the one that has the largest trade gap; the one that effectively sucks in more resources than it produces. I'm surprised you're so anti-UN.

After all, without the UN, what are the choices for the US?; either you sink into starving isolation, since you can't feed yourselves; you are not remotely self-sufficient and would have to start abandoning unsustainable areas like Texas and Arizona. Or you try to run trade without any international regulations; the only way you could do this successfully would be to use your existing muscle to act in a manner similar to a robber baron; to extort deals from countries using your existing muscle and fiscal reserves.

I really don't see why you're quite so opposed to the UN, given the fact that it keeps you as the most powerful nation in the world...

: : So, are you really in complete agreement with Pinochet, Suharto, Hitler, Mussolini, Pat Buchanan, Ronald Reagan and various other famous right-wing loonies *ahem*...thinkers?

: Yeah, yeah, yeah, what ever you say captain. I love Mussolini and Hitler.
: Happy?


: : Or will you admit that trying to describe an entire slew of political beliefs by one of the madder individuals is gross misrepresentation of an idea? - and one that bespeaks a lack of any substantial arguments...

: Not only one my friend, many. Collectivism on a large scale has to lead to disaster.

"Has to"? Is that a crystal ball you're waving around?

Besides which, whoever said anything about large scale?; I believe that the nation state is fundamentally too large and unwieldy to survive anyway; that a sustainable future lies more along the lines of demarchy than centralised government.


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