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-- Introduction --

The ruler no longer says: You must think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your property, everything shall remain yours, but from this day on you are a stranger among us.” Not to conform means to be rendered powerless, economically and therefore spiritually – to be “self-employed.” (133)
from Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" (from Dialectic of Enlightenment)

One of the reasons so little of interest to the 99% actually happens in American politics anymore is the increasing skill of American capitalist society in assimilating social change tendencies to commercial enterprises, or mere campaigns for 1% candidates.  Most of what used to be Occupy, for instance, has become the Cherry-Pick Mitt Romney Movement  (if it hasn't been arrested yet or otherwise suppressed).  The most egregious of co-optations in the age of accelerating greenhouse gas emissions and incipient full-scale global warming has got to be the assimilation of environmentalism to business environmentalism.  Global warming could destroy our planetary ecosystems, but to capitalism it has become a mere excuse for "carbon trading," another mechanism for enriching those who already have too much.

The above quote from Horkheimer and Adorno is an illustration of what happens to those whose ideas cannot be incorporated into capitalism -- they become "strangers" to the system, incapable of leading movements for social change.  The authors' point is that consumers are so thoroughly integrated into the consumer society that someone who rejects that society is likely to be viewed, generally, as some sort of weirdo, writing diaries at DailyKos.com that nobody reads, rather than as an agent of social change.  If they actually do something, maybe upon occasion the heads of powerless bodies will intercede on behalf of their human rights now and then.  I suppose there are also the teachers and authors, the folks who keep free speech rights warm for the eventual advocacy of a better world.  Joel Kovel, for instance, is an advocate of ecosocialism, but also a marginal academic who used to edit a marginal academic journal called Capitalism Nature Socialism.  And in his rejection of more capitalism as a solution to the environmental crisis he's generally correct.  But is anyone listening?

In this short diary I will reflect upon "environmentalism" as an advertising jingle, as a cute privilege or a corporate sellout.  It's a curious fit -- given the dire proclamations of some environmentalists as to the consequences of not saving the Earth, it would seem that there would be more environmentalists who would embrace what I will call "authentic environmentalism," or specifically an environmentalism which prioritizes saving the Earth ahead of making a buck.  But those people appear to be uncommon within consumer society.

-- Hegemonic compromises --

Now, I believe that there is a revolutionary idea at the core of environmentalism.  I conceive of it in this way: at the core of the capitalist system is the viewpoint that all nature and society are "free gifts," and that the purpose of capitalism for the capitalists is to take these free gifts to accumulate property, and ultimately to join an elite of rich plutocrats.  Everyone else pretty much "plays along" with this process, working for wages while allowing the investor class to profit.  Nature plays along, being processed into commodities until it winds up on the global trash heap.

In this world-view, everything in the world is a commodity, typically in the form of "natural resources" or "raw materials," and the idea is to proceed with manufacturing and sales until everything is in the hands of investors and the world is a piece of trash.  Trees do not merit consideration as the Earth's respirators; rather, they are all eventually to be chopped down to provide exotic-wood furnishings for up-and-coming professional elites throughout the world.  (If you want this further dramatized, check out Derrick Jensen and George Draffan's Strangely Like War.)  When the polar icecaps melt away, the capitalist Powers That Be don't say "omg we better conserve energy so that Earth doesn't become Venus," rather it's "omg we better get that Arctic oil before the other guys do."  After all, the former option doesn't have any profit attached to it.

The authentic environmentalist would stand against this, if such a creature existed in any quantity.  The authentic environmentalist would try to put the world beyond the reach of commodification, to say to the investors "no, you cannot have this, it can't be fodder for whatever market processing you have in mind for mother Earth."  Real-life environmentalists, of course, engage in impotent letter-writing campaigns to politicians who are completely owned by big oil companies.  Please, Mr. and Ms. Politician, do something serious about BP's behavior in the Gulf of Mexico.  Obviously such behavior doesn't get to the root of things.  You can see how well the real-life environmentalists did in stopping the Deepwater Horizon spill.  Authentic environmentalists might someday bring the capitalist system to a grinding halt before it renders planet Earth uninhabitable.  However, not many people, at least in the United States right now, have the courage to voice such a conviction.   Environmentalists are even further away from the distant prospect of thinking clearly about how capitalism is to be stopped or about what is to replace capitalism once it is stopped from bringing the biosphere and its dependent civilizations to ruin.  Real-life environmentalists offer themselves the consolation prize of thinking they can stop the Keystone XL project by threatening the President with bad publicity if he approves it before this year's election.  

The problem is not just that real-life environmentalists are pathetic -- but rather also that philosophic authenticity does not amount to social existence all by itself.  Without any social traction for an authentic environmental movement (never mind the matter of having any real numbers of people behind it), unsustainable business rules the world unchallenged.

Of course, this is not to say that there isn't a school of environmentalism that tells businesses how to be "sustainable."  Schools of green management no doubt engage in hidden contracts with their business clients -- the clients pretend to listen, and the environmentalists look the other way while their plans are ignored -- at least this is what people in the green management business tell me.  The linguistics of sustainability advertising is explored in a short piece by Josee Johnston: "Who Cares About The Commons?"  "By speaking the language of sustainability, corporations and states could give lip service to the environment while actively pursuing growth, commodification, and profits."  (8-9)  

An important codification of the principle of "speaking sustainability" as such is the notion of the Triple Bottom Line.  As Norman and McDonald state, "The idea behind the 3BL paradigm is that a corporation’s ultimate success or health can and should be measured not just by the traditional financial bottom line, but also by its social/ethical and environmental performance."  Of course, the problem with all this logic is that profits are meaningfully quantifiable, whereas social/ethical and environmental performance isn't.  

"The concept of a Triple Bottom Line in fact turns out to be a “Good old-fashioned Single Bottom Line plus Vague Commitments to Social and Environmental Concerns”. And it so happens that this is exceedingly easy for almost any firm to embrace. (13)
-- Good Marginalized By Bad --

Now, of course there are also genuinely green businesses.  What I am suggesting is that, in the overall picture of capitalism, destructive business trumps caring business because the purpose of business in a competitive market is profit.  One can be like Paul Hawken and parade lists of principles for green businesses if one's purpose in business is to sell high-end garden implements to rich people in Pasadena until one sells out to an herbicide manufacturer who shuts one's business down.  Green business, then, plays a marginal role within business as a whole.

One way of viewing the marginality of green business is to think about the activity of picking up the trash in historical perspective.  The hard work of this perspective is done in Heather Rogers' book Gone Tomorrow.  Rogers argues that there isn't always a profitable business in recycling, and so since the Golden Age of Trash, the 1950s, civilization has been afflicted by an ever-increasing trash problem that has only been partially mitigated by recycling.  Businesses, then, can do good, but the good they might do as individual businesses only partially outweighs the aggregate bad they do, and the recycling business can only overstep its marginal role when business is really good.

Rogers expands upon her case against capitalism in her (2010) book Green Gone Wrong, where she takes a look at how real-life green businesses are often in fact environmentally destructive.  Generally speaking, then, capitalist green business attempts to advertise a green principle, and then in pursuing this advertising dream violates a number of other green principles.  Biodiesel, for instance, offers an alternative to petroleum-burning, but is generally bad for agriculture and food provision.  Economic decisionmaking is almost always at fault, as Rogers reports.  Organic farming is typically not all that profitable, green living is often too expensive, and false promises abound throughout ostensibly green production and consumption.  Rogers establishes through research that, under capitalism, being authentically green is at best a privilege of people who live in eco-villages.  The allure of business environmentalism is in its superior marginality.

-- Why Capitalism Just Isn't The Solution These Days --

Once upon a time, I suppose (perhaps in the decade followingRachel Carson's groundbreaking 1962 book Silent Spring), environmentalists could imagine themselves as belonging to a small-time security force, policing the worst aspects of capitalism into a new era in which technology could do so much more with so much less that it was all okay, that great profits could be made because technology would all be green and cheap and such.  This idea of environmentalism later became the hobby of solar and wind power enthusiasts when it turned out that the imagined future depicted in the cartoon series "The Jetsons" would not come to pass.  

What actually happened between the Sixties and the present day was best described by Jason W. Moore, another great author read by barely anyone.  In past historical eras, Moore explains, capitalism avoided its ecosystems Armageddon through technosocial transformation, in which the organic component of capital was reduced and new eras of cheap resources were opened for business.  That isn't what's happening today -- rather, technosocial transformation today isn't making the capitalist system more robust today, as the system moves ever-closer to exhausting its planetary substrate.  Alternative energy will substitute for oil and coal, but not more cheaply.  Genetic engineering will not result in a new era of cheap food.  There will be no new era: the capitalist way out is now a mere cul-de-sac.  Authentic environmentalism is opposed to further capitalism now.

-- Conclusion --

So I think that in light of this general silence about the Big C, my topic of conversation for today should be the allure of selling out.  What is it about "capitalist environmentalism" that appeals to people?  How did environmentalism become a business plan or a career, instead of being an actual means of "saving the Earth"?  One can accept as given, as Johnathon Porritt does in Capitalism as if the World Matters, that "capitalism, in one form or another, is likely to provide the all-encompassing ideological framework for the foreseeable future" (84), but that would be to render preservation irrelevant in its battles against capitalist encroachment.  The capitalists simply rent out the services of government officials, and have the legislation changed so that "preserved" resources can be harvested.  No preaching about values will blunt the force of capitalist business as it is authorized to change the world, and not for the better.

The allure of selling out extends all the way to Bill McKibben, whose recent piece in Rolling Stone attracted some attention here.  Here is the passage in McKibben's essay to which I object:

If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming.
The problem with this concept is that markets are never going to fight global warming.  McKibben seems to be arguing that he can wave a magic wand, and reduce the world's oil and coal reserves to a commodity value of zero.  Here's what he says earlier in the essay:
If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet.
Or they'd put all that oil on the black market.  Which capitalist government is going to stop Exxon?  Who is going to oblige Exxon to hold the economy hostage?  Unless you can get an agreement that nobody is going to buy that oil and coal, the oil and coal are going to be sold.  The market for harmful fossil fuels, in short, must be consciously abandoned, and this means empowering people to abandon market dependencies in general.  McKibben is really too open-minded to be playing this game.  He recognizes that we have to keep the grease in the ground, something I told him in a DKos livechat some time ago.  

Perhaps the sense of capitalism being the only game in town and of careers being the only thing to do with one's life after college graduation has sufficed so far to establish the allure of selling out.  In a world without hope, not having money is even worse.  But does anyone still think that a government completely beholden to big business is going to restrain big business sufficiently to deal with global warming or overfishing or deforestation in some convincing, proactive way?  It seems to me that the core effort of authentic environmentalism in this era ought to be to bring some social plausibility to the notion of not selling out.  The world will change once we do that.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

    by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:00:07 AM PDT

  •  it kind of starts with that there "God" fella, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Pissed Off Liberal

    giving "dominion" over the earth to Adam.

    In other words,  Adam "owns" the Earth, rather than Adam was grown by the Earth.  All else follows from that basic premise.

    Hard to run a 21st Century civilization on an archaic philosophical system.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:20:12 AM PDT

  •  Good morning, Cass (3+ / 0-)

    I added this to the Blog Posts of Interest in today's What's Happenin' diary.


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:33:57 AM PDT

  •  When hope is lost dying with toys looks good. (6+ / 0-)

    China, the USSR, North Korea and a number of other large states that haven't exactly followed the western capitalist model have also tended to exploit and trash the environment. It's not merely a problem of western style end-days capitalism.

    Large scale state systems of all kinds tend to hand out goodies to maintain public acceptance. Often those goodies are stolen from the long-term health of the ecological systems that support human existence.

    I get why unregulated capitalism is the Bain of our existence, but I don't see that anyone has successfully maintained a large scale modern government that doesn't damage the environment. I understand why putting profits first is not consistent with human survival, but I struggle to find a way out of the box our systems of governance have put us into.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:09:42 AM PDT

    •  Contender regimes with command economies (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FishOutofWater, Bob Guyer

      might as well be capitalist.  Tony Cliff called it "state capitalism."

      "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

      by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:18:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK. Large scale governance is a problem (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus, cynndara

        to convert to sustainability.

        The tragedy of the commons has been avoided by a number of different groups of people on smaller scales, but so far we have not avoided it at the nation and planet level.

        I'm not sure what you are proposing and how we can get there.

        Right now most of us environmentalists are trying to put the control rods back into the reactor.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:36:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Look at the historical trajectory. (4+ / 0-)

          This is why I recommended the reading of Jason W. Moore.  Capitalism is a historically expanding system.  It doesn't exist, and never existed, in pristine isolation from the rest of history, nor for that matter did any other system of political economy such as feudalism or imperial provision.  All human societies are connected by, and integrated with, historical development.  They can't be "looked at separately."

          The Soviet version of political economy existed in the historical context of capitalist development, from the age of the robber barons in which it developed, through the golden age of capitalism in which it consolidated its power, to the neoliberal era in which it disintegrated.  While capitalism was in the interim period of the 1920s and 1930s the Soviet version of political economy was in what Wallerstein called "mercantilistic semi-retreat from the world system," building furiously with Five-Year Plans with the aid of American engineers so as to create a competitive consumer society.  I can't honestly see the Soviet system as a fundamental break with capitalism.

          So where are we going?  Capitalism was aligned with "progress" so long as its expansion across the world could be accompanied by the beneficial association between national societies and "progress" in living standards.  In that sense global "scale" is fine.  What's not fine is that the system appears at this point to be headed toward terminal crisis, and that it appears to be taking out a great portion of the biosphere with it.  In a previous era capitalism might have transformed itself -- but the technosocial transformation now going on is not conducive to more and better capitalism.  

          The priority, then, is that we take care of fundamental human needs and fundamental ecological stability first, as a priority above and beyond the preservation of the profits system which dictates so much of human motivation at this time.  Small scale is better for this because people can more easily see what they're doing if they're not integrated into huge human machines.  What we'll get will largely be conditioned by historical outcomes.

          "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

          by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:55:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Long time reader, first time caller... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lily O Lady, Cassiodorus

    Good diary. Thought provoking. The selling out thing can also be applied to a host of other issues on the left. But when the choice is possibly get rich on the one hand, and face scorn, a difficult life, and possibly death or prison, on the other, we can see why many sell out even if they really cared in the first place. (And some do not merely sell out as stake out the left most position that they see as viable without facing exile. That is kind of separate but related issue.)

    And while a clear path, or even several clear paths, exists to selling out, generally falling under the idea of placating the existing power structure, there is no clear path towards "saving the environment" or "ending capitalism".

    You criticize McKibben, perhaps rightly, I don't know, for his particular tack in trying to save the environment. Perhaps he would criticize your way. And then further, perhaps the author of Collapse would criticize both of you. When the whole world is bound and determined to ruin the world, I am not sure a handful of people, who do not agree on tactics, can do a damn thing to stop them. It becomes an efficacy question, even if one is fully committed to the ideas.

    Humanity is a cancer on the planet's surface. The bigger we are, the more of a problem we are. There will be no "harmony". There was only harmony earlier, or the illusion of it, because of the smallness of the population or in isolated cases. And yet, cancer though we are and aware of it, we still want to exist and want others to exist, thrive even.  

    I think the problem is deeper than a governmental or economic system. I have no doubt that most tribes of human animals, no matter how small and how long ago, were run "bad men" or even "bad women", probably the power hungry sociopaths amongst them. And I have little doubt that those subject to those rule bowed down to authority, if for no other reason than fear and self preservation. Those who tried and failed to rebel, were no doubt executed. The lesson being suffering quietly is preferable to a unsuccessful revolution.

    See, in my opinion (I would like to hear your thoughts on this):

    The human animal seeks to both accumulate an exploit resources, and each other.

    There is no natural limit to this accumulation and exploitation. And while we might give lip service to "good people", the most successful, in worldly terms, are the ones who do the most accumulating. And, often, the most exploiting. These are the same ones who declare a monopoly on violence and use it, and the threat of it, to cower and/or kill others.

    There is also a lesser impulse in the human animal toward altruism and a social contract. But the general idea is that the social contract is for every one else - to keep the rubes in line. The ones at the top view religion, rule of law, nationalism, media propaganda, etc. as means of social control that they are not subject to. The social contract like everything, from belief in god to fear of change, is exploited.

    This accumulation/exploitation desire - a will to power, or even simply, a will to succeed - is built in the human animal. Nothing will change that.

    Though it possibly could be controlled and mitigated by a much greater power that enforced a fair rule of law and regulations that kept man from harming himself and the world, the odds of a dictatorial regime both cutthroat enough to put the world under its thumb and put down rebellions, and yet caring enough about the brotherhood of man, the environment, and the future of the planet, are slim to none.

    •  If you try to avoid "human nature" formulations (4+ / 0-)

      and focus upon how historical development has occurred, you can then think about how to steer historical development in the right direction.

      The human animal seeks to both accumulate an exploit resources, and each other.
      This is intertwined with the history of capitalism.  See my response to FishOutofWater above.

      "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

      by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:59:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have to agree with Cassiodorus (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus, cynndara

      The argument that human beings have always behaved as they do under present social/economic circumstances is anachronistic. At any given time in human existence, the vast majority of humanity have not been dedicated to a single minded drive for unlimited personal acquisition. Subsistence, rather than endless acquisition, has been the general rule for most. Had it been otherwise, human society, an essentially cooperative venture, would not have been possible.

      Likewise, human beings would not have submitted to centuries of hierarchic, authoritarian social formation if personal aggrandizement had been the fundamental motivation of the many rather than the few.

      It is only in relatively recent times, concurrent with the rise of Capitalism, that the notion of a competitive society: the war of all against all, has become dominant.

      We have followed this model and now we are reaping it's consequences.    

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 12:16:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, everything was great under monarchy (0+ / 0-)

        and with the feudal systems. They should have been called the Great Ages instead of the Dark Ages. Sorry for the sarcasm, but I think your argument is weak.

        I appreciate all critiques of capitalism, it has made the underlying problems worse and, along with technical advancements and globalism, has made the exploitation more efficient and more dangerous.

        But I stand by my point that the problem lies with humanity itself, and, is therefore, largely unsolvable as long as we exist.

        As far as a chicken and egg thing, the human animal precedes any and all organizational structures it creates.

        •  But nothing you've said (0+ / 0-)

          identifies a weakness in my argument. Your sarcasm is misplaced since value judgements about hierarchical structures have nothing to do with the point I raised.

          The fact remains that the vast majority of humanity has never pursued the kind of single minded, self aggrandizing, acquisitiveness you refer to. No ruling elite, whether social, political or economic has ever been more than a small minority of the population.

          You're generalizing about the majority based on the behavior of the minority. History, viewed without parochial bias, tells a different story.

           

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 03:59:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

            "The fact remains that the vast majority of humanity has never pursued the kind of single minded, self aggrandizing, acquisitiveness you refer to."

            Have you ever been out in public? Have you ever been cut off in traffic by a soccer mom in a minivan for no particular reason than she wants to be ahead of you?

            You have never seen the majority buy lottery tickets?

            Have you ever seen hustlers, pimps, and dealers run a neighborhood? Have you seen a riot start because of footwear going on sale?

            While these incidents are anecdotal, they are are also pervasive. The fact is that the majority is not as successful as self-aggrandizement as the powerful minority, not that they don't indulge in it. The majority is often unable to harness technology and capital in a way that allows them to profit. Fear and mechanisms of control used by the elites also keep the people in control somewhat and that has nothing to do with altruism. Insecurity in your job. The tying of 401k's to the Wall Street Casino. The creation of wage slaves with no alternative to work to survive, kinds of puts a damper on their ambitions and puts limits on their greed.

            But the credit market was not only created to make a tidy profit but also to allow people to buy what they cannot afford. TPTB creating the consumer culture and allowing for their subjects greed, stoking it even.

            But keep thinking the elites are the only ones out for themselves. Yeah. My argument is 40,000 years of modern human behavior. You have no citations to back up your argument. That equals weak.

            •  Seriously? (0+ / 0-)

              You're comparing being cut off in traffic to predatory acquisitiveness?

              If your point is that human beings are flawed and can behave selfishly I don't think anyone would dispute that. However, that isn't equivalent to saying human imperfection makes the present system inevitable and unalterable.

              Have you ever seen hustlers, pimps, and dealers run a neighborhood?
              This describes my neighborhood a few years ago. What percentage of my neighbors do you imagine were "hustlers, pimps and dealers?" 1%?, .05%?, .0005%? They certainly weren't the majority.
              You have never seen the majority buy lottery tickets?
              Actually no, for the simple reason that the majority don't line up to buy lottery tickets. Those that do usually have such poor life chances that a million to one shot sounds like good odds.
              Have you seen a riot start because of footwear going on sale?
              I heard about this too. Mainly because it was an unusual enough event to be considered newsworthy. Why you think this supports your view is hard to see. You might as well argue that bargain hunters lining up for after Thanksgiving sales are examples of self aggrandizing acquisitiveness. Of course these shoppers are usually buying gifts for others.

              I have to note that these last three examples all partake of stereotypes about the poorest and most exploited members of society. Such are usually deployed in order to blame people for their own exploitation while acquitting those who batten off their misery of all responsibility.

              The tying of 401k's to the Wall Street Casino. The creation of wage slaves with no alternative to work to survive, kinds of puts a damper on their ambitions and puts limits on their greed
              .

              So you admit that the majority do not act in a greedy fashion but explain it away by claiming they would if they could?

              But the credit market was not only created to make a tidy profit but also to allow people to buy what they cannot afford. TPTB creating the consumer culture and allowing for their subjects greed, stoking it even.    
              False equivalence at work once again. Even if we accept that consumerism is a form of greed, it is in no way the equivalent of piling up huge masses of capital as an end in itself. It certainly doesn't give the consumer the power that accrues to massive concentrations of wealth.  

              Your argument is essentially the ideological self justification of the 1%: "Those on top deserve to be on top by virtue of the fact that they are on top and everyone else is simply inferior because they would all be Donald Trump if they could manage it." Classic snake biting its tail.

              But keep thinking the elites are the only ones out for themselves. Yeah. My argument is 40,000 years of modern human behavior. You have no citations to back up your argument. That equals weak.
              Of course I never argued that "only the elites are out for themselves." I just pointed out that it is folly to generalize about the majority based on the behavior of the minority. The anecdotal, contradictory and circular arguments you present don't really answer this point.

              No one cognizant with the actual historical, anthropological and archeological record would accept your assertion that the past "40,000 years of modern human behavior" supports your argument. An argument for which, along with the rest of your arguments, you yourself present no citations. You are engaged in a massive exercise in special pleading.

              BTW, odd that it took humanity some 39,700 years to come up with a system that epitomizes what you claim to be intrinsic human nature.

               

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 03:08:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  39,700 years? (0+ / 0-)

                No, I think human nature has been pretty clear all along. Exploitation and greed seem to have quite a history independent of capitalism.

                But you are deliberating misunderstanding most of I wrote, so there is really no need for me to try to make another point. My points are above.

                I'm not interested in playing rhetorical games or arguing just for the sake of arguing.

                •  I have not misunderstood you (0+ / 0-)

                  deliberately or otherwise. You refuse to follow the logic of your own arguments.

                  40,000 years of human history can  only be known through the written record, archeology and anthropology. That is, through the remaining evidence of the structures and systems by which humans have lived. Such evidence does not support your assertion.

                  That's not rhetoric. That is a question of fact. Just as it is a fact that your arguments parallel those traditional to the defenders of accumulated wealth and privilege. You may not like me for pointing it out but it remains the fact.

                  Your problem isn't my rhetoric, it's the substance of what I've said, which you are clearly unprepared to deal with.  

                   

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 05:35:54 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  What they said (smile). (0+ / 0-)

      In particular, I'd like to point out that numerous as the flaws we perceive in Christianity today, some seventeen hundred years ago it was one of the most powerful forces enabling the culture of Rome to deliberately and intentionally turn its collective back on the social ethos of greed and ambition.  I'm not familiar with any other example so striking, mostly due to informational constraints.  But between 100 and 300 CE, an entire civilization decided to pull back from the ruthless pursuit of personal pleasure and self-aggrandizement, and turn towards the pursuit of The Good as they envisioned it instead.  Certainly neither the vision nor the implementation was perfect, but it stands as a demonstration that humanity is capable of collectively choosing to embrace altruistic values in direct contradiction to a prevailing ethos of selfishness.

      Humanity both individually and collectively is as capable of good as it is of evil.  This is the truth behind the many, many old myths casting us as the combination of Earth (clay, ashes, blood of Titanic monsters) and Heaven (fire, lightning, breath, blood, or flesh of a God).

      •  Well, okay. (0+ / 0-)

        I thought it was the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest that put a restraint upon Roman ambition.  Rome did not conquer Germania for good reasons.  

        And you might want to check your dates.  If by 300 the Christians were only about 10% of the Roman Empire's population, that made them a significant minority at best.

        I am generally of the persuasion that Roman megalomania stopped itself.  The last non-Christian Roman Emperor, Julian, imagined himself to be the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, and got himself killed in battle against the Persians after only two years of sole rule.  The cult of excess can only go so far.

        "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

        by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 03:22:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  As for the human nature thing -- (0+ / 0-)

          I'm a believer in the versatility of human nature.  Since conditioning plays such a great role in behavior, we have to believe that people can go far in accommodating it.

          "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

          by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 03:36:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

        "But between 100 and 300 CE, an entire civilization decided to pull back from the ruthless pursuit of personal pleasure and self-aggrandizement, and turn towards the pursuit of The Good as they envisioned it instead."

        Well, that is just wrong and inaccurate. No religion has ever lead to widespread good behavior by its adherents or leaders. Religion, then as now, has been used as a mechanism of social control and organization. I don't even think that christianity was unified at the time you mention. When there were hundreds of Gospels, many in direct conflict, and at least dozens of sects, how could that religion be said to be responsible for anything on a large scale.

        Certainly, humanity is capable of both good and evil. No one is arguing that. The argument is that evil, or exploitation, is what is profitable. People who want to be what is traditionally identified as successful, generally kiss up to the existing power structures and seek to join it and pacify it, rather than knock it down. It is the path of least resistance. Witness the hordes here, who, though not even near the worst this country has to offer, have bought and parroted the arguments in favor of Empire, assassination, the prosecution the war on terror, etc.

        I could go on and on with this, but I won't. Look, utopias are a fool's game. I'm not suggesting we go all "pragmatic" and support conservative or status quo solutions. But any realistic solution will have to account for man's essential nature.

        I have seen plenty of critics who have the current system pegged cold - Chomsky chief amongst them - but I have not seen realistic solutions put forth by anybody to end the stranglehold that capitalism has on the world or reverse, or even slow, the damage done to the environment and our addiction to oil.

        There is a reason that we are where we are, and there is a reason we will not dig ourselves out of the hole we are in. We won't be allowed to by TPTB, for one. We can imagine better. Getting there is not always possible, not when the whole world of entrenched and institutional power is against you.

  •  It may be that though we tell ourselves that (4+ / 0-)

    we are not subject to the laws of nature--that we stand apart from nature, when in fact we are just as subject to the laws of nature as any other species upon the earth.

    An acre of land can only support so many of any one organism. Each organism inhabits its ecological niche. Only so many predators can occupy an area of land before they run out of prey.

    Humans have been jiggering the rules of nature for millennia with agriculture, manufacture and the exploitation of nature herself. But it now appears that we cannot get away with this forever. Nature will have here due. If we cannot deny our own nature to act willfully, then Nature will have the last laugh as we destroy the ecosystem which gave us life and nurtured our development.

    We wouldn't be the first species to dramatically alter the environment. Earth didn't always have an oxygen atmosphere; oxygen was the byproduct of tiny organisms over millions of years. Our only claim to fame is that we are destroying our ecosystem in record time.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:36:43 AM PDT

    •  Industrial powered top predator (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lily O Lady, Cassiodorus

      Our ability to dominate our niche in the ecosystem is based first on our being a highly complex social species. It is through our amazing ability to cooperate, communicate and build a culture of knowledge that we have grown dramatically in numbers, complexity and consumption of resources.

      Since the agricultural and then industrial revolutions we have developed tools, skills and social systems that put us in a position unknown in the history of life on earth. We can now grow and consume so fast that we can not see the effects of our actions. Evolution has not prepared us for seeing as far into the future as our speed safely requires, sort of like having 20x20 vision and driving a car at 2,000 miles per hour. Added to the problem of speed the means by which we have these abilities exist outside (written knowledge, tools, social systems) our heritable genetic adaptation to our environment and thee isn't a way evolution can help directly with adapting that power to best use in our eco-niche. The result is an overshoot that is planetary in scale due to our amazing abilities.

      Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

      by Bob Guyer on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 07:04:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. We're too smart for our own good, or (0+ / 0-)

        perhaps not smart enough to see that we have overreached. So does that make us too successful or not truly successful as we destroy that which supports us.? I'm not sure.

        "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

        by Lily O Lady on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 09:37:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Most excellent Cassi. (3+ / 0-)

    As always.

    It seems to me that the core effort of authentic environmentalism in this era ought to be to bring some social plausibility to the notion of not selling out.  The world will change once we do that.
    I sure hope so brother. Thank you for your continued efforts to bring sanity and intelligence to a world that so badly needs it.

    Wear Your Love Like Heaven ~ Donovan

    by One Pissed Off Liberal on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:10:24 AM PDT

  •  The one, only way to keep the grease in the ground (0+ / 0-)

    Is to offer a cheaper alternative.

    Your answer is to crater the world economy while changing human nature so your experimental subjects think it was a good idea...

    I don't think you can change human nature (and I think you know that too... the Black Market you spoke of is the purest capitalism, and exists everywhere.)

    Alternative energy will substitute for oil and coal, but not more cheaply.  Genetic engineering will not result in a new era of cheap food.  There will be no new era: the capitalist way out is now a mere cul-de-sac.
    I'm making a film, A Most Convenient Convergence, about ARPA-E's Electrofuels Program, which is going to offer that cheaper alternative to fossil fuels. A carbon-neutral cheaper alternative to fossil fuels. Using a technology that is going result in a new era of cheap food produced with a greatly reduced carbon footprint ...after replacing the petrochemical industry with carbon-negative substitute chemicals.

    The Electrofuels Program is developing technology that uses carbon dioxide as feedstock, offering the possibility that industrial man could become a net consumer of carbon dioxide - a really big net consumer.

    •  Well that's nice. (0+ / 0-)

      I presume the megacorporations have already bought up your patents since your promise of the era of cheap resources they so anxiously desire is so obviously valid.  We'll be hearing from them soon, no doubt.

      "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

      by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:52:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Will you be disappointed? (0+ / 0-)

        If this technology helps clean up the planet, will you still be pissed off that someone made money along the way?

        Your "Well that's nice" is almost as insulting as calling McKibbon a sellout, but you knew that...

        The corporations involved will not do this because they desire an era of cheap resources, they will do it because they will profitably replace the fossil fuel industry. The fact that fuel will be carbon neutral and plastics carbon-negative will be a bonus.

        No one is going to die an make you emperor so you can fix this by decree. Any solution must allow for human nature - yours does not.

        •  Not when I hear it from THEM. (0+ / 0-)

          Your promo is unconvincing, though.

          "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

          by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:14:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hear what from who (which THEM?) (0+ / 0-)

            And if you will be kind enough to point out where I have failed to be convincing, I'd like to prevail upon your kind open-mindedness to let me take another swing.

            •  I'm not really interested. (0+ / 0-)

              Anyone who really had what you claim to have would not be presenting it here.

              "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

              by Cassiodorus on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:31:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You're not interested! (0+ / 0-)

                I point out emerging technology that has the potential to render your central thesis irrelevant, and you're not interested.

                Your choice, but it makes you laughable in a conversation in which you present yourself as serious.

                We agree that leaving the grease in the ground is the priority, but you choose to ignore technology that might make doing so economically possible because capitalism might survive.

                Anyone who really had what you claim to have would not be presenting it here.
                I don't have the technology to present. What I have is filmed in-depth interviews with the Director of the Electrofuels Program and members of most of the teams funded under the program. And I'm presenting it here to raise awareness of the technology and my film.
                •  Find a bigger audience then. (0+ / 0-)

                  Only charlatans think that world-society-shaking discoveries are to be unveiled in small-time conversations in DKos diaries that didn't make the Rec List and weren't Rescued.

                  "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

                  by Cassiodorus on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 10:08:11 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Working on the bigger audience... (0+ / 0-)

                    Regarding me being a charlatan, KMA...

                    And you are evading answering any of my points. Nice. Someone adds something to the conversation that does not comfortably fit your paradigm, and your eloquent response is to insult them, and take your ball and leave.

                    Really impressive, Cass...

                    •  Only petulant, closed-minded fools... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... ignore new information that impacts their point of view.

                      •  Your posts are information-free. (0+ / 0-)

                        Please stop trolling my diary.

                        "This is probably the least important Presidential election since the 1950s." -- Matt Stoller

                        by Cassiodorus on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 11:25:40 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Information-free my ass! (0+ / 0-)

                          Trolling my ass!

                          It is not trolling to disagree with your central premise and offer alternatives. You should not post your opinion if you perceive any disagreement or challenge to your opinion as trolling. Perhaps you are too sensitive for this arena...

                          I have provided an abundance of information - you have refused to engage it. And worse, you are refusing to engage good news from science regarding what you know to be (and I agree with you) the most important issue of our time - leaving the grease in the ground.

                          You insult Bill McKibben, who has given his life to your cause, keeping the grease in the ground, for allowing that a carbon tax might help. You insult me, and I'm doing the same, for pointing out emergent technology that may create a huge for-profit market in carbon dioxide. You call us and thousands of other readers here inauthentic in our environmentalism because we would rather continue to try to avert catastrophe, while you prefer to proceed to hell in a handbasket, smug in your knowledge that capitalism caused it.

                          Your post is intellectually and factually full of holes. Defend it if you can, but don't call me a troll.

  •  I see more the difficulty of escape than (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Futurama

    the allure of selling out. The world system of production we live as a part of dominates our lives. It is as if our industrial and social systems have become dominant to the point that we no longer see the underlying natural systems. Even when an individual, any of us, sees our dependence on the underlying ecosystem the immediate evidence of our senses pushes in the opposite direction. I live by the job I do because it gets me money to buy food, shelter and mobility. Everyone else I see is exactly in the same situation. Add having children to the mix and it just heightens the effect, even though having kids tends to help you take the longer view.

    So I see the allure of selling out as the difficulty anyone has of achieving and sustaining escape velocity relative to the system that currently sustains us by destroying our future. The question then becomes how do I get far enough out of the system to effect a transition to something different. The resources that could be used to persistently escape from the current system seem to be available only from the current system. In this day and age our situation is a little like Dylan puts it in Shelter from the storm.

    Well the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
    But nothing really matters much it's doom alone that counts
    And the one-eyed undertaker he blows a futile horn
    "Come in" she said
    "I'll give you shelter from the storm".
    I don't know how we can find shelter from the storm of the modern system that provides a shelter from which the system can be transformed.

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 07:41:58 AM PDT

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