- McLibel -

Some basic planetary economics

Posted by: Gideon Hallett ( n/a, UK ) on June 12, 1998 at 10:47:44:

In Reply to: Doomsday. posted by Darrel Phelan on June 12, 1998 at 09:54:23:

: Not dependent of business or corporations? Where did your food come from? Water? Electricity? Clothing? I thought Austrilia had the outback, not out dated.

Clothes, food and water existed long before "business" or "corporations" did - they aren't a necessary part of the equation. They arose, as I understand it, from an economy of effort - it makes more sense for you to make the town's bread and trade with others, rather than making everything you need for yourself.

However, there is a great difference between the local business and the multinational. Multinationals control so much money that they become quasi-governmental - if BP don't like local resistance to their plans in Colombia, they have the muscle to fund death squads to kill people who would oppose them. That's a level of power entirely removed from the person in the street. Add to this the fact that they are forever trying to make higher profit margins (despite a finite resource supply) and you have a recipe for a fairly unpleasant future - the corporations are forever trying to boost consumption and the planet just can't take it.

: Doomsday. Loss of resources. Guess what...run out of oil, we'll adapt. Man lived for millions of years without a car...doesn't mean the world's gonna explode.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of points you haven't thought of here (or don't appear to care about, anyway).

One. The political and social instability resulting from this resource depletion is going to result in suffering on an unprecedented level. It is quite possible we are talking about many millions of deaths and billions of sick and injured people. Do you not care about this? If you can see this, don't you feel that it is your duty as a human being to help your fellow human beings avoid this?

Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no shred of human decency?

Two. We now have weapons capable of destroying all life on the planet many times over. If the USA and China decided to annihilate each other, it is entirely possible that 90% of the Earth's landmass could be rendered uninhabitable and radioactive, not to mention the atmosphere.

Could a species previously used to CD-ROMs and hamburgers survive trying to scrape out a living on such a planet?

: Corporations exploit loopholes in laws, they don't make the laws. If you went to a store and picked up a CD that was labled with a price of $5.00; you know the price should be at least $12. Tell me you wouldn't attempt to but it at $5...even though you know it to be mislabled.

Actually, I wouldn't. Anyone who knows me as a person would confirm that. It may be stupid of me, but I try to conduct myself with honesty.

: Corporations exsist to meet a need. A need established by the population. McDonald's did start up yesterday. Ray Kroc didn't just wake up and say today I'll start McDonald's and it's worth is 17 trillion. It grew. By providing a quality service and product for which it was paid.

As it grew, it ploughed large amounts of money into persuading people that they wanted to buy its products. As such, their advertising budget runs into billions.

: Oh the chickens and such.... Can you honestly say with 100% accuracy, the corner store that provides your food, did so without abuse of animals, the rainforest, the ozone. If not, should we also shut them down?

No, true. I cannot know truthfully that my shop has not exploited people. However, I am a vegetarian, and I try to buy organic food whenever I can. This a) keeps me healthy and b) means that pollution as a by-product of food production is kept to a minimum. Of course absolutism is impossible; neither do I believe that we should go back to the Stone Age.

However, there are large industries that cause considerable pollution despite providing nothing the world needs (as distinct from wants). As such, given the resource crisis that will probably be around the corner, we need to cut down on these "junk" companies.

McD's is a prime example of a "junk" company - it provides nothing essential to life, no useful information, little nutrition and serves merely to indulge the whims of "convenience"-drugged consumers.

: I don't know, seems there a lot of more pending issues the world needs to address, other then McDonald's.
: How about world peace, famine. Exploration of space...who knows..there might be oil on the moon or Mars.

World peace? Well, our current capitalist system; the one that sells arms to dictators (and imprisons those who protest against this activity) could be one of the causes...

Famine? During the well-publicized Ethiopian famine of 1984/5, there was a net outflow of grain from Ethiopia - it was exported to the West as cattle feed and went, indirectly, into hamburgers. Except for the cows that were burnt do to having contracted BSE from the sheep brains they were fed - they were merely incinerated (after having consumed the grain).

: Personally, I wish the world whould run out of oil and copper. I belive those two substances hold back progress. Imagine cars that ran on solar power (cleaner air) or computers that processed on pure fibre optics.

What do you imagine fuels the manufacture of solar cells and computers and the fibres for fibre optics? Plastics are used extensively in all three products, not to mention the fuel burnt to produce the energy to make them. Making gallium arsenide (GaAs) solar cells requires a LOT of energy, not to mention the fact that you have to dig gallium compounds and arsenic compounds out of the ground (which requires energy) and convert them to useful compounds (which requires more energy).

As for oil on the Moon or Mars, it's unlikely. There might be small deposits of frozen hydrocarbons on the Moon (from the impact of the occasional comet), but finding any significant and usable deposits is extremely unlikely. The other factor worth pointing out here is that you cannot currently get a net energy bonus from space mining - the energy required to "get out there" for a spaceship of mass X is far greater than the energy returned from burning the mass of fuel collected (x) - which means you'd spend mega- or giga-Joules getting out there, only to get a few kJ back. It isn't practical at the moment, trust me on this.

And if we burn our fossil fuels before it is, we may well never be able to make it out to the stars. We are burning our boats as we speak.

Read up the history of Easter Island and apply it to our planet - we are constructing our own monoliths, but unless we keep them in perspective, they could very well be our gravestones. Ye cannae break the laws of Physics.


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