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If I held a gun to your head and told you, "It's capitalism or your life," could you give up your way of life?

Tim Garrett just showed us the gun.

1. Thermodynamics


Recent studies indicate that even if the most ambitious pledges made by politicians at Copenhagen are kept, our globe will heat up 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit; well past the point scientists warn us about tipping points.

What makes facing the facts so hard? Why can't we face our current problems, even when they are staring us in the face? If we can't face them, how are we to overcome them?

We have difficulty with this issue because the question is just that dramatic. We are in the unenviable position of giving up our entire way of life in order to save our physical lives. Global capitalism is the only structure most of us have ever known. But capitalism, and the social structures around capitalism, are poised to kill the majority of people on the planet. Sounds like hyperbole? What if I could prove it mathematically? Tim Garrett did just that.

2. Acceleration

The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error, and one that, were it ever to prove influential, would have staggering social costs.--Larry Summers, Obama's Chief Economic Adviser

[Note to economists: This is very simplified for the average person to understand conceptually. It is not meant to be a forest level view of our economy, but more a view from space.]

Our current form of capitalism is debtor capitalism. That means that money is loaned into existence. If a bank loans you ten dollars it then charges you interest. When the bank loans you ten dollars, you have to pay them back, say eleven dollars. Where does that extra dollar in interest come from? More money must be loaned to someone else and circulate to you in order for you to pay the debt. You have to sell something of value to the other person to get that extra dollar. The amount of money in circulation must, therefore, continually increase.

This would cause run away inflation if it were not for the fact that more stuff is manufactured every year, so our national "value" increases every year. This is measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The GDP does not take into account anything bad that happens in the economy. It only looks at the amount of transactions within the economy and judges all transactions as good. So, if you make bombs and blow them up, that is good. If you divorce your spouse, and now both of you are buying stuff to run separate households, that is still good. If what you sell creates toxic waste that causes cancer, that is doubly good because you can also sell the drugs to treat the cancer. If you destroy the planet, it's still good as long as money was created in the process.

Another way to look at the GDP is that we are converting our natural resources--trees, minerals, wild lands, air, water--into "stuff", which can be sold or used as collateral for loans. There is more debt each year, so we have to convert our resources at an ever-increasing rate to stay ahead of the debt. If we are unable to do this, our economy will "contract". Contraction looks like the Great Depression or worse. Some people lose jobs, some starve, and all people (except the very rich) do without. Capitalist dogma states that contraction is bad and should be avoided at all cost.

But what happens if our resources run out? If we run out of oil, clean water or air? In a way, global warming is running out of the Earth's ability to buffer the CO2 we put in the air. What happens then?

The system grinds to a halt. We contract because there is no more "collateral" for the debt.

That is why we can't address this issue. We have given a mandate to those that govern us that we are never to contract and therefore our economy is to continue to grow indefinitely. Yet we are on a finite world. These two principles are on a collision course and we feel powerless to stop the collision.

3. E=MC2

"It turns out, money is power..."--Tim Garrett discussing his revolutionary equation linking GDP growth to global warming.

Enter Timothy Garrett, a young physicist and associate professor of atmospheric sciences at University of Utah. Being a physicist, he views the world like a machine. He theorized that a simplified model of the Earth could be achieved, if you viewed civilization like a "heat engine". Civilization consumes energy to do work in the form of economic production. This production then allows civilization to grow and become more complex, which in turn spurs it to consume more energy. All of this energy consumption results in the waste product of CO2 and other green house gases.

This view of the world is similar to our understanding of a growing child. A child consumes food (energy) which he uses to play (do work). But the calories are also used to make him grow larger (growth). This process releases heat (waste products, CO2). As he grows, he is able to consume more, which makes him grow faster and release more heat.

This model allows physicists to make predictions without looking at complicated socioeconomic issues like population growth or standard of living. We can calculate the maximum amount a child can grow based on the calories consumed. We need not count his cells or know exactly what each cell consumes to know the rate of his growth based on how many calories he consumes.

What Prof. Garrett found was that this model did indeed work. The model accurately predicted the relationship between global energy use and economic production as given by the US Dept of Energy data on global consumption and United Nations GDP. Once it was successful with this data, Garrett used it on historian's estimates of global economic production as far back as 2000 years. The calculations accurately predicted the numbers given by historians. He was able to consistently pin global GDP to CO2 levels throughout time. In fact, it was so exacting he came up with a constant--9.7 milliwatts/$. That is 9.7 milliwatts of energy go into making every 1990 inflation adjusted dollar of the world's GDP.

So what does this view of the world say? Civilization itself is in a feedback loop. Civilization consists of energy consumption (calories consumed) and incorporation of environmental matter (growth of the body). Our energy consumption, and therefore our CO2 emissions, accelerate at a constant rate based on our past economic production. In fact our past economic production is an exponential of an exponential (known as a super exponential) of future emissions. In other words, when a dollar is created, it represents work, which releases CO2, but also that dollar is put into the system to create growth that will release CO2 in the future. Dollars already in the system have already contributed to future CO2 emissions and you can't take them back! Decreasing the energy consumed now is like trying to decrease the calories an adult consumes to that of a small child. The adult eventually collapses, but not before he fights to obtain more calories. Therefore, energy conservation will not be effective in reducing global emissions.

Increasing energy efficiency (conservation) will only allow civilization to grow faster and consume more. This is known as Jevons Paradox and was discovered by William Stanley Jevons in 1865. He noted improvements in steam engine efficiency made coal prices fall and coal consumption soar. In other words, if Wal-Mart converts all its stores to energy saving lights to "save the planet", the energy saved will not just sit there untapped. They will use their savings to make and sell more stuff, either by packing existing stores with more or by creating more stores. The energy saved in efficiency today (efficient light bulbs), will actually result in more energy use in the future (more stores built).

Civilization acts like an organism. It seeks to maximize its growth and thus its energy consumption. If more energy efficiency is introduced, then civilization gets more growth for the energy it spends, and that makes it consume even more energy in the future. If green energies are introduced then both the old carbon energy and the new green energy will be consumed to increase growth.

Is Global Warming Unstoppable?Theory Also Says Energy Conservation Doesn't Help
Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?--Tim Garrett's original article in Climatic Change

4. Gravity

"Ultimately, it's not clear that policy decisions have the capacity to change the future course of civilization." --Tim Garrett

Well I must admit that I was surprised that conservation will be like throwing kerosene on our already lit bonfire, but the rest of it does not surprise me. I am glad that someone finally was able to prove what so many of us could deduce by observation.

Since population growth and standard of living are both results of past economic growth and fall out of the equation, Prof Garrett believes there are only a few ways to get out of this deadly loop. Uncouple CO2 emissions from the equation by converting all energy use to non-emitting energy sources, or economic collapse.

If we switched to energy sources that don't emit CO2 and continue on the same course of constantly accelerating energy consumption, what would happen? Prof Garrett did some calculations and discovered that it would take a rate of conversion for our energy sources of 2.1% a year just to hold our emissions steady. That is 300 gigawatts of new non-emitting power annually or the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant a day!

He also did some calculations with economic collapse. The economy would have to be zero to stabilize the carbon at 450 ppm. This would mean complete economic collapse in my lifetime and that does not even get us to the 350 ppm James Hanson says we need.

What does collapse look like? Ask Zimbabwe:

Hyperinflation took Africa's strongest economy and turned it into a country with a 94% unemployment rate and the lowest GDP in the world.

Since 1994, the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe has fallen from 57 years to 34 years for women and from 54 years to 37 years for men. Some 3,500 Zimbabweans die every week from the combined effects of HIV/AIDS, poverty, and malnutrition. Half a million Zimbabweans may have died already. --CATO

5. Entropy

Physically, there are no other options without killing the economy.--Tim Garrett

I admit, this sounds pretty dismal. So should we despair?? Is our only future economic and then societal collapse??

Yes and no.

Yes, if we are unable to think outside the box. If we must remain debtor capitalists. If we must have the same or better standard of living. If we must organize our society into winners and loser, then yes...we are doomed to economic collapse, desertification, water shortages, food shortages, population collapse and an increase in global temperature of 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

We need to drastically reduce the consumption per person globally. In capitalist lingo "reduce consumption" is the same as economic collapse. In a capitalist system, reducing consumption can be achieved by killing off some of the population or decreasing the standard of living for many. This is the road we are currently traveling.  

But there is another way. We could uncouple the economy from growth and therefore future emissions. If we turned our collective back on capitalism, and turned to an economy that could survive stagnant growth or even contracture, would that change things? Yes, we could then use conservation to lower our energy consumption. We could go below the zero growth point that Tim Garrett used as the basement of his equations. We could convert all energy consumption to wind, wave and solar, uncoupling it from CO2 emissions, but we would also need to uncouple economic stability from growth and increased efficiency.

This has been done before, but not for a very, very long time. Anthropology tells us that most human cultures started with gift economy or shared economy. In fact, humans have lived longer on the planet under gift economies than under capitalism.

It really is capitalism or your life. Well, capitalism or your children's lives, if you're as old as I am. Given that choice, can society do it? Can we give up everything we were taught? Change how we think about society? Change society? Change our values completely...in order to save our own children?

We could stop having a capitalist system. We could abandon the one system that demands ever-increasing consumption in order to remain stable. Pick another system. Pick one that is stable, just, and fair as consumption contracts.

6. Inertia

"I will give no deadly drug to anyone, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such, and especially I will not aid a woman to procure abortion." Hippocratic Oath

The biggest argument against change is that those who long for change are dreamers. They are not "realistic". The change they long for would never succeed. Because the human heart is too dark. Because people need to be controlled. Because some are too lazy, brutal, stupid to allow change to work. Because the forces that keep us here are too strong. Yet, this argument offers little proof. Just the assertion and nothing else. And so, we continue to follow the same path...even when we know that the path leads either nowhere or somewhere we don't want to go.

When we look back at history, the lessons it teaches us about change contradict this stance completely. Let's take infanticide, for example. There is something most of us can agree is amoral and should remain illegal. Yet, it was acceptable behavior for the Romans and the Greeks, the supposed inventors of democracy. Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle considered infanticide to be part of utopia. It was not that they relished a parent killing their own offspring; it was that they did not think a working society could be achieved without infanticide. They could not imagine a world without infanticide. Only Heroditus, and his student Hippocrates, disagreed.

Now, we live in a world where infanticide is universally seen as abhorrent. Slavery, even though it still exists, is universally outlawed, and self-governance, at least on the surface, is the rule rather than the exception. All these are major changes in the world and the way the world is run. And all at some time seen as impossible.

We are at a crossroads. Consider the impossible or die. No... make the impossible happen or die. Can we do it? Do we have the intestinal fortitude to change everything? Everything we think we know? Are we worthy of the challenge laid before us?

Originally posted to T. P. Alexanders on Sun May 22, 2011 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Anti-Capitalist Meetup.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's the first time I've hosted so take it easy... (14+ / 0-)

    on me!

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun May 22, 2011 at 03:09:39 PM PDT

  •  Thanks to T'Pau for tonight's excellent (10+ / 0-)

    contribution. We are still trying to get our email list compiled to keep in better touch with members/contributors of the AC meet-up. If you would like to participate more in the group and get notifications, please send an email to the group's email account (no one outside the group has access) at:

    dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun May 22, 2011 at 03:09:57 PM PDT

    •  also if you would like to join the meet-up, please (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diane Gee, lams712, RunawayRose

      send a message to the group here or to the anti-capitalist groups email address at: dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 22, 2011 at 03:11:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  But I thought it was Capitalism yesterday... (10+ / 0-)

    Capitalist today and Capitalism forever.

    Important point: Capitalism or our life (and our children's lives).

    Nice diary.

  •  Diary Scheduling: One more anti-capitalist (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cosmic debris, lams712, RunawayRose

    group message and then we will turn the diary over to T'Pau. The diaries scheduled are as follows:

    May 29th:        Just Jennifer
    June 5th:     Soothsayer99
    June 12th:
    June 19th:
    June 26th:
    July 3rd:             Justina
    July 10th:
    July 17th:
    July 24th:        Geminijen
    July 31st:
    August 7th:
    August 14th:
    August 21st:
    August 28th:

    If you would like to write a diary, please contact us here at the dkos in the anticapitalist meet-up group or at our group email: dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun May 22, 2011 at 03:32:52 PM PDT

  •  For some reason (5+ / 0-)

    this diary did not show up in my list, although I follow the anti-capitalist group.  Why is that?  Or there is another diary linking to those that did not go out this week?

    Anyway, interesting diary.

  •  Environmental issues are not generally the first (12+ / 0-)

    priority in my catalog of social movements. Too large for me, too abstract  I like issues where I can feel the people's struggles -- if I deal with the environmental stuff it is usually trying to stop the incinerator from being placed in only poor neighborhoods or stop diesel buses period.

    Doesn't mean I don't get what your saying and appreciate the reality of it.  I couldn't agree with you more.  And I am willing to do it.  Not just in some sort of  self-denial way, but because it is necessary.  Just like I think a socialist revolution is necessary to redistribute the goods in the world so everyone gets something.

    Two points as to how this relates to your very interesting if overwhelming article.

    1)Once people have discovered something, they are loath to give it up. So the people who have the most (USA)will be least likely to want to give up the comforts of energy consumption.

    2)The people who have the least energy consuming commodities, will have to give up less and are the most likely to benefit from this plan.  This should mean the poorest or least capitalist countries.  Unfortunately, these are the  countries with the least economic or mmilitary power.

    Possible exceptions where people are not as commodified are in countries such as Bolivia or India where whole segments of the popoulation have a deeper perspective toward nature and life.  

    So who do we turn to to start this change in the USA? Who has been shut out of the commodity capitalism enough to go fo your proposal?

    If you need to keep your airconditioner off most of the time cause you can't pay the con ed maybe you'll be ripe for the necessary revolution.  

    But will people really be willing to give up mcdonald's if they have to go home and cook after a 12 hour day on a low paid job and they still have to help the kids with their homework (cause yu can't afford tutors).

    it was a proven fact that, when young upper middle class kids were working for the rights of farm workers, they frequently embraced the "simpler" life while the farmworkers were organizing to make enough money so they could buy their first refrigerator.

    If we are going to make this work (and our survival depends on it) we have to come up with practical ways to convince average people this is necessary. We have to take it out of academia.  

    To get people to stop setting off nuclear bombs (which happened for quite a while after WW II--we even stopped making new nuclear plants), people had to really dislike the bomb.  Activists found they couldn't get people to see how overwhelming the problem was -- it was just to big to seem real.  So they started talking about "dirty" bombs.  People could relate to not wanting a "dirty" bomb.

    I'm just saying... we have a lot of work to do.

    •  These are excellent points geminijen (8+ / 0-)

      and I think that you are correct, we need to find a way past all the lies and propaganda and find a way to get people to relate to the fact that it is not hyperbole to say that our future and the future of the planet depends upon reining in the excesses of the system and that this happens not only on a macrosystem level but also at an individual level of responsibility.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 22, 2011 at 04:07:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  GeminiJen-- (9+ / 0-)
      Environmental issues are not generally the first priority in my catalog of social movements. Too large for me, too abstract  I like issues where I can feel the people's struggles --

      It's all connected.  It's all one struggle really.  We only separate it into categories for our minds limited understanding.

      1)Once people have discovered something, they are loath to give it up. So the people who have the most (USA)will be least likely to want to give up the comforts of energy consumption.

      2)The people who have the least energy consuming commodities, will have to give up less and are the most likely to benefit from this plan.  This should mean the poorest or least capitalist countries.  Unfortunately, these are the  countries with the least economic or mmilitary power.

      This is the dogma in the media, and I don't blame you for saying it here.  But this is somewhat propagandized.  The numbers used to convince us that deep cuts in our lives would be necessary if we gave up oil as our primary source of oil are a little cooked.  In truth, we could live a similar life without that sort of consumption if we did things to conserve.  The problem is the conservation actually hurts the economy.  An example of this is eating locally.  Most food is actually better if it doesn't travel very far.  Yet local food consumption would mean less energy used for transportation and the collapse of the transportation industry.  It's sort of a false problem posed by media to keep you from investigating other energy too closely.  The media smear against clean energy and conservation is a little outside the scope of this blog though.

      So who do we turn to to start this change in the USA? Who has been shut out of the commodity capitalism enough to go fo your proposal?

      Have you been watching what is happening in Wisconsin?  How about California?  There are plenty of people disaffected by capitalism and its ills in the US.  We have to break through the media storm.

      But will people really be willing to give up mcdonald's if they have to go home and cook after a 12 hour day on a low paid job and they still have to help the kids with their homework (cause yu can't afford tutors).

      And there is my point.  Not only is Mc D an ill of capitalism, so is the 12 hour day and the destruction of the education system.

      What if you had to cook, but your day was 5 hours and your kids got a personal tutor at school?  Would cooking organic, locally grown food look better to you then?  Would that be worth it?

      If we are going to make this work (and our survival depends on it) we have to come up with practical ways to convince average people this is necessary. We have to take it out of academia.  

      To get people to stop setting off nuclear bombs (which happened for quite a while after WW II--we even stopped making new nuclear plants), people had to really dislike the bomb.  Activists found they couldn't get people to see how overwhelming the problem was -- it was just to big to seem real.  So they started talking about "dirty" bombs.  People could relate to not wanting a "dirty" bomb.

      I'm just saying... we have a lot of work to do.

      Could not agree with you more!

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun May 22, 2011 at 04:08:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, I don't think we disagree much -- (4+ / 0-)

        I understand this is all part of capitalist structure and /or propaganda.  Trouble is, people have to see outside the box and it isn't always as simple as making rational arguments.

        As for wisconsin, most of the teachers (I am one of them) in both Wisconsin and NYC get much of the gains from their pensions off of sweatshop labor - even when they are offered pension choices in their plans to mitigate this issue, they tend to go for maximum profit to themselves. These habits are hard to break.  that is why is it critical that we not be idealist about this stuff, but figure out how to get through to people for real.

        Glad you wrote this diary.  

  •  Excellent analysis. (11+ / 0-)

    I'm as impressed as I am depressed.

  •  Lots to think about here (10+ / 0-)

    Very nice diary, TPau.

    Reading through all the obstacles to systemic change I am reminded of the 100th Monkey, which though discredited, still seems like a possible phenomenon to me. I think how people suddenly all seem to adopt a new technology, perhaps for shallow reasons more than profound, but it happens nonetheless. I think of how I notice so many more people locally doing as the Europeans have for years, using their own shopping bags, foregoing paper and plastic. It is becoming an acceptable custom, popular even.

    It seems this type of social change "sticks" better than those imposed by law or decree.

    Change is happening all around us. The question is whether we adapt successfully or not.

    As all the while the plane lumbers on into its postmodern manifest destiny -a bird with two right wings- LF

    by cosmic debris on Sun May 22, 2011 at 04:07:53 PM PDT

  •  Where was he when I was in biz school? (10+ / 0-)

    I tried to argue with my finance and econ professors that the presumption of perpetual growth didn't make sense and wasn't sustainable. They looked at me like I was an alien.

  •  What we have now is corporatism, not capitalism. (0+ / 0-)

    In true capitalism, the person controlling the company is also the person putting up the capital in the form of money, work and time.  This generally tends to make the capitalist work for the long term good of the company.

    In corporatism, the person controlling the corporation is not the one whose capital at risk.....that's the shareholders. The result are executives who are much more likely to make decisions that result in short-term profits that benefit them, not the shareholders or the long-term good of the company.

    In true capitalism, risk is essential. The risk of losing one's capital tends to encourage prudent business decisions.  There is no "too big to fail."

    In corporatism, risk is minimized, not by prudent decisions, but by rigging the system through corruption, favorable government regulation and, as we've seen, government bailouts.  So risk is frequently ignored.

    The final goal of true capitalism is to produce the best product at the lowest price. The goal of corporatism is to destroy any competition and acquire a virtual monopoly on supply of products.

    I'll add that  any "ism": capitalism, socialism, communism, etc. is subject to corruption by those who game the system for their own ends, from those who lie, cheat and steal to gain a monopoly on a market to commissars who live like the nobility they replaced.

    This is why there will always be a need for sensible government oversight, and regulation that curbs the excesses without smothering individual efforts.  

    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Sun May 22, 2011 at 05:18:41 PM PDT

    •  the final goal of capitalism is to make a profit (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      goinsouth, lams712, mint julep, TPau

      on the sale of goods and services produced ... she says rolling her eyes ... this has got to be one the silliest comments I have read disguised as a intelligent statement ... the system is capitalist as it depends upon the private ownership of the means of production and distribution with the surplus product controlled by the investors/owners rather than the producers.

      Corporatism has a different meaning than the one you are using.

      Do you think that your intervention here in this group is going to make us start saying the holy hosannas for the capitalist economic system? Please ...

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 22, 2011 at 05:30:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Trouble is that capitalism, according to Marx, (3+ / 0-)

      who I agree with ,leads to large scale monopoly control (i.e, corporatism is one form) by the very nature of the beast of competition.

    •  All good criticisms about capitalism... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shantysue, RunawayRose

      but not at all the subject of this post!  This post was about where the money to run the market comes from and how that drives ever increasing consumption.

      Perhaps you would like to write your own post explaining how capitalism could be saved.

      As for "isms",  socialism, as it is being used today, is capitalism with state regulations and controls.  We could try Anarchy, that doesn't have an ism in it. :)

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Mon May 23, 2011 at 12:08:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Isn't the biggest issue consumption? (5+ / 0-)

    Now, it could be argued that capitalism with a requirement of perpetual growth is really addictive-consumptionism. But regardless of how we exchange goods - gifting or buying, etc, we need to stop converting so much of the natural resources into stuff. In order to do that, we must stop consuming so much stuff. We must stop acting as though we "need" so much stuff.

    We must learn to do something besides consume.

    •  Part of the problem in the capitalist system (5+ / 0-)

      is that growth is demand driven; hence the constant need for the creation and sale of old/new products. Profitability can be maintained if the goods and services that are produced are sold at a price that is over and above the costs of production; that often requires the constant creation (as well as continued obsolescence) of goods; this constant need for growth and profitability which drives the system is one of the main problems as the system requires constant growth to keep going.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 22, 2011 at 05:35:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good point! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, RunawayRose
      •  agreed, but inherent in that is a "headset" we (4+ / 0-)

        all operate by: I "need" more.

        So, if I grow corn and I think I need "more" in my life, then I trade my corn for something which increases my ability to get more. Those who are best at convincing people to give them more - lets call them Salesmen -  for what they are trading accumulate more than those who are bad at negotiating that.

        When the Salesman in your town builds his bigger house because he successfully got more for his corn than the other guy, envy sets in. Everybody starts wanting to negotiate for more so that they can have a big house.

        So, capitalism is a system which institutionalizes this bully/envy cycle of addictive consumption.

        Until we can rid ourselves of the human compulsion to strut our stuff and be driven to get more stuff to strut when the other guy gets what we have, we can't get to sustainability.

        To me, when we talk about capitalism, we're talking about a sort of dark side of human nature which we have, as yet, been unwilling to contain. Look how many bullies and psychopaths are elevated as leaders in human societies.

        How do start to change the underlying headset?

        •  agree, but we have been conditioned into (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mint julep, TPau, RunawayRose

          this; in many ways it is a co-dependent relationship and we are bombarded constantly by advertisements encouraging us to consume which suits the needs of capitalists.  I do not think that this is an inherent human characteristic, it is a social one fostered by the system. I think that we can move beyond it just as we move beyond the capitalist system to one that covers the needs for all on the planet and the planet themselves.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Mon May 23, 2011 at 07:06:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agree with you totally NYB... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose

            In San Francisco there is a light bulb that has been burning continuously for over 100 years.  Is this a unique thing?  No.  Obsolescence was forced into light bulbs on purpose by a cabal of manufacturers.  Companies in the cabal were actually fined if their light bulbs burned more than 200 hours.  The result--all light bulbs in the West burn for 200 hours.

            In Soviet Russia, the opposite forces were in play.  Tungsten was hard to come by, and the state needed light bulbs for its many other functions.  It made laws requiring light bulbs to burn longer and longer.  Light bulbs in the old USSR lasted years.  

            I'm not touting communism (state capitalism), mind you.  I'm just illustrating how economies effect buying habits.  Pick an economy that does not have a growth imperative to survive, and the pressure to create things that will fail in a set period of time (like the original iPod battery) will be lifted.  The pressure to find a niche not already taken and advertise it to death will also disappear.  The basic human unhappiness that advertising creates will also dissolve.

            In truth, while we are so doused in this system, it is hard to see what a life without the constant pressure to buy and sell to survive would be.  It is hard to see that things could be better for the vast majority--even the very wealthy.

            De air is de air. What can be done?

            by TPau on Mon May 23, 2011 at 12:23:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Gift Economy (7+ / 0-)

    TPau, this is an awesome diary, and I want more.

    No one has to hold a gun to my head.  I say absolutely.  Let me do it now.  Let me assist however I can.  Allow me to learn what I need to know.  Challenge me and I'll return the favor.  I want to start now before someone holds that gun to my head and asks, "Are you williing to die to save those who come after you?"  My answer would be yes, but let me help to get things started before I'm asked that question.  That's my answer.

    This is long cuz I'm long-winded and I am sorry for that, but I really like what I'm seeing here.  Thanks to NY brit expat, who reached out to me in a different group, I feel inspired.  I want change.  I want it now.

    Could someone explain gift economy in a diary or something.  I really believe, and have for a long time, this is the only way out; however, I have only thought of this, so I also would like to know if anyone has other ideas about how to go forward because I agree with everything you have said TPau.  I understand it in my spirit, though, not mathematically.

    IMO, we have to start with the big picture (which is literally global, as it regards the planet and humanity).  Once some think tank type people figure out a way for some or many to survive, we are a step ahead and able to fight off the cruel ways that the limited-thinkers who are currently leading the world have in store for us.

    I see the basic problem that we are koyaanisqatsi, we've lost the yin to our yang.  Let me use traditional medicine as an example.  Had we gone more yin, instead of being cut open and given the latest medicine, we would have nurtured nature and used the medicinal properties on the earth, and instead of cutting down a rain forest so we could eat a McDonald's burger, we would nurture the growth.

    We have lost our way.

    But I believe it is an honor to forge a new path for those who come after us.  We helped make this mess.  We didn't know we were doing it, but I've known from at least the 70's, and with the internet, we can't possibly close our eyes to what is in front of our face, because the boogeyman is here.

    I want some ideas beyond the political and monetary mumbo jumbo that politicians and capitalists throw at us.  I want to hear more of this kind of stuff and truly organize to put a platform together and get it out on that priceless internet to get the ideas out there.

    I don't feel helpless at all.  I believe we can save this planet and in exchange, she can save us.  To me the solution is all around us.  There is so much here on this planet to help guide the way.  The planet is our gift, but we have abused it and I think it's time to give back in order to save Mother Earth and ourselves.

    Well, if this is not the proper venue to explore these ideas, let me know.  I won't take offense.  I'll just move on.  But if you would be patient with someone who hasn't been in your group, but would like to learn all I can, I'd like to join.

    Thank you again TPau, NJ brit expat and all of you great thinkers.

    •  Welcome shantysue, your enthusiaism is (4+ / 0-)

      truly infectious!  We are always happy for new participants/members.

      Agree completely that we have lost our way, the vast majority on this planet live in deliberately created poverty while a small number live off the fat of the land, control our fates and the fate of our planet all in the name of making profits. The slogan "people before profits" is an essential phrase in this context.

      I think that a diary on the idea of a gift economy would certainly create an interesting discussion. Unfortunately, I am not well versed enough in the idea to do it justice. Perhaps there are others in the group that have more knowledge than I do and will volunteer to do a diary on the subject.

      Please stay and contribute, we are very patient and really appreciate and welcome true anti-capitalists or people that are starting to move in that direction. The Anticapitalist meet-up diaries are here every sunday at 3pm pacific (6 pm eastern); in the meantime, there is the anti-capitalist chat which is published whenever someone has a topic they want to write.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 22, 2011 at 06:04:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Welcome ShantySue!... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shantysue, RunawayRose

      I'm so sorry I left at 5:30 pm yest.  Nothing appeared to be happening and my connection was just awful!

      What I am about to say may sound strange, but sometimes a work of fictions sums things up and gives a clearer picture than an essay or an article or a blog post.  The best description of a gift economy I ever saw was in Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed.  It was also the best description of Anarchy I've read.  Some works of fiction can be actually life changing.

      I am no expert on gift economy, either, but I do know some experts.  Right now I am working on a Mondragon piece and a consensus democracy piece for the Meetup.  After that, maybe I will tackle gift economy.

      The alternative is for you to write such a post!  I know that sounds bold, but many of the things I have learned over the last 5 years of blogging, I learned because I wanted to write about them.  Six months ago I had never even heard of Mondragon.  Now I am reading my eighth article on the subject and outlining an article for others to learn.

      As for a plan of attack, I see don't see very many, but I do see one peaceful way to proceed.  A Constitutional Convention.  We have the right to completely and peacefully change our government and there are attempts to do that ongoing.  Currently, I believe those attempts are too narrow.  They only want to take away corporate personhood.  That is an admirable goal, but I think there needs to be much more done.  I think we need more voices in this argument allowing us to do more with reconstructing the government.

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Mon May 23, 2011 at 12:42:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No problem - we all need breaks (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, TPau

        While you were gone, I perused your blog and the summaries you posted.  Pretty fascinating stuff.  I agree that fiction teaches by opening the mind and encouraging us to think.  Sometimes articles/blogs/diaries bring out the base in us.  I look forward to reading the book you wrote on your blog.  I've written a few novels and really enjoy critiquing work as well (not in a critical way, though).  I like Le Guin's writing style, so I'll pick up a copy of the book you recommended.

        Is your Mondragon piece and consensus democracy article to include in any way the MCC worker movement, wherein neither trade unions nor salaried workers are involved, but rather the workers are general assembly partners and there is no BOD?  If so, I have studied its success because there is a progressive city up here that's actually doing it (Bellingham).

        I haven't had a chance to look at the link you posted re const. conv., but I will.

        I am more than happy to write on gift economies and either pass the information onto you to incorporate in a larger piece or the group would be more than welcome to copy it if they felt it was appropriate.

        Thanks again for the wonderful, inspiring information you posted and I look forward to reading your piece on Mondragon and consensus democracy, as well as your book.

        •  ShantySue... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shantysue

          I would not subject you to my awful writing from several years ago.  I'm not being coy, really, the novel was terrible.  

          Since then, I have learned a great deal about writing fiction.  I actually rewrote the novel and it is far more appealing.  I plan to release it on Kindle and other ebook formats in Dec (or there abouts).  I'll give you a copy, FREE, if you stop reading the trash I posted earlier.

          The nonfiction parts of the blog are fine.  Those do have some interesting links and concepts, etc.

          It sounds like you know way more about Mondragon than I do.  Would you like to collaborate on the piece?  I'm just getting started--doing the research.  Maybe you want to write about the Bellingham group?

          I haven't done anything with gift economy.  The best source of info I know on the subject would be John Upton at Unwelcome Guests.  He is very approachable and might even collaborate on an article with you if you mentioned his podcast.

          De air is de air. What can be done?

          by TPau on Tue May 24, 2011 at 10:09:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I have to disagree with the premise. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AaronInSanDiego

    Thank your for the diary.  I wasn't aware of Tim Garrett and his ideas are interesting.

    However, despite your note to Economists, I have to take issue with much of your explanation of how our economy works, and how GDP is defined.  What you're describing is not a view from the milky way much less a view from space of capitalism.

    First and foremost, GDP is a measure of output.  There is no good or bad in it.  Saying making bombs is good to GDP is like saying measuring 5 inches is good to a measuring tape.  It makes no sense.

    Secondly, correlation does not equal causation.  You say that Garrett has a study linking GDP to global warming throughout history.  You didn't provide a direct link to that study, however I find it hard to believe that he found a direct correlation between global warming and global GDP during the medieval warming period.  A link to the study would be greatly appreciated.

    Lastly, it is simply shortsighted to say that policy could only worsen the situation.  The fact is that policy could slow the warming that is already occurring.  But willingness to implement that policy is not there.  Fortunately, economics will eventually provide the solution whether we like it or not.

    There is only a limited supply of oil.  As the world consumes more and more at faster and faster rates, it will become more expensive.  When production of oil is so expensive that alternative, renewable sources of energy are more profitable you will see those sources of energy take over.  The question is whether or not it will be too late by then.

    I would also like to address your "debtor capitalism" assertion, but I think that would take an entire diary.

    •  Actually, I did provide the link... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose

      In DK the links are this weird orange color, but here is the link again: Climate Change.

      I also provided links to articles more readable by lay people in case you don't happen to be an atmospheric physicist.

      GDP is a measure of output.  There is no good or bad in it.

      My point exactly.  The pressure is to keep the GDP increasing.  Lay people think of that as good.  When you hear the President speak about the economy, he is never saying we are going to work to keep the GDP stable or decrease the GDP, he is always talking about increasing the GDP--"growing the economy".  My point is that the GDP grows in all sorts of bad ways as well as good ones.  There is no inherent good in "growing the economy".

      I find it hard to believe that he found a direct correlation between global warming and global GDP during the medieval warming period.

      Wasn't it a cooling period??  Doesn't matter.  You're right, he averaged and looked and linear patterns instead of concentrating on a few years of a bump in one thing or another.  Averaging takes out the day to day or year to year bumps.

      This is the old climate vs weather argument that some people use to "disprove" global warming.  Just because there is a cool year, does not mean we won't have overall global warming.

      However, he did look specifically at the bump the economic collapse of the USSR created and indeed a small dip in global CO2 is noted at that time with recovery as the USSR recovered.

      Lastly, it is simply shortsighted to say that policy could only worsen the situation.  The fact is that policy could slow the warming that is already occurring.  But willingness to implement that policy is not there.

      The question is which "policy".  Garrett's point is that conservation in a debtor capitalist system is doomed to fail due to a principle of economics proven over 100 years ago.  It's worth noting that Garrett only sees economic collapse as the outcome because he, himself, is  unable to conceive of a world in which we turn our backs on capitalism.

      Fortunately, economics will eventually provide the solution whether we like it or not.

      There is only a limited supply of oil.  As the world consumes more and more at faster and faster rates, it will become more expensive.  When production of oil is so expensive that alternative, renewable sources of energy are more profitable you will see those sources of energy take over.  The question is whether or not it will be too late by then.

      We are already in peak oil. (Exxon was unable to acquire as much oil as they had last year.)

      So what does the end game of peak oil look like?  We already know because resource depletion has happened before on a smaller scale.  It looks like Cuba, Zimbabwe, Argentina.

      The whole point of the article is that, yes, we could allow ourselves to sink into global resource wars, economic collapse and feudalism, or we could choose something else. We could choose a system that does not demand senseless increase until it collapses, that is fair and does not demand winners and losers (where the losers are likely to die).  If we do not make that choice, then yes, it will be too late!

      I would also like to address your "debtor capitalism" assertion, but I think that would take an entire diary.

      Well, why don't you?  Write your own post that explains why, in the entire history of market capitalism, the GDP is always driven higher, why constant inflation is required, why if the GDP of a nation falls that bodes ill for the people of that nation (collapse).

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Mon May 23, 2011 at 01:27:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is basically the argument I use with my... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    goinsouth, NY brit expat, mint julep, TPau

    partner. She has a hard time picturing life outside of capitalism and resists when I talk about barter and cooperatives and communal resources. But my basic argument is simple: we're not going to have another choice. Whatever system we settle on, this form of capitalism does not have many more years left in it.

  •  END:CIV (0+ / 0-)

    END:CIV, brand new documentary-type-thing arguing the same basic premise: not only is civilization threatening to destroy the planet, we would actually be better off by getting rid of it.  Available free online at link.

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