Category Archives: The Ugly Materialistic Culture

It’s a Wonderful World (isn’t it?)

“I see trees of green – Red roses too – I see em bloom – For me and for you
And I think to myself…. What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue – Clouds of white – Bright blessed days – Dark sacred nights
And I think to myself….. What a wonderful world.

The colors of a rainbow – So pretty – In the sky – Are also on the faces – Of people – Going by – I see friends shaking hands – Sayin – How do you do – They’re really sayin – I love you.

I hear babies cry – I watch them grow – They’ll learn much more – Than I’ll never know
And I think to myself – What a wonderful world…”

… and I think to myself… what have you been snorting, or sniffing?

I just finished my day’s work, and scanning through a hundred emails, you know, looking for  whatever might stir my imagination. Well, imagine my surprise to find messages about Donald Trump, anthropological climate change, Canada sending “training” troops to Iraq; Venezuela on the verge of being invaded by the US for daring to choose a national path rather than one dictated by Washington… then stuff on Brexit and more trade wars. All in all, it’s a Wonderful World, isn’t it?

“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” – yeah, heard that one a time or two. And if that’s the case, we’re about to see a lot of light coming through in the coming years.

I’m relaxing with a glass of white wine and some munchies, watching the movie, “Last Love”. The complaint about that movie was, it’s too dragged out; too slow, but I don’t find it so. Does everything have to happen in a panic? Do we always have to be speeding down that road to arrive nowhere? What’s the rush?

I’m thinking, not that it’s such a wonderful world, but that we, as a species, collectively and subconsciously, are facing a mass extinction event and perhaps, also subconsciously, because of one, huge, unavoidable and massive collective sense of guilt, just want to get it over with. Maybe we don’t want to see our grand children, and great grand children, die in horrible circumstances, in conditions that never need to have come about had we chosen not to listen to demagogues of bullshit; had we chosen not to feed our Earthian hubris, greed, sense of entitlement, opportunism, bigotry, and the standard stance I’d label as rank stupidity. So, instead of doing something really “real” to change the direction this society is tumbling in, let’s just take that fast lane to nowhere so as not to have time to think about real and serious alternatives.

It should come as no surprise if I wrote here that having a nice house, a hot tub, a barbecue, is really more important to most people than the future of their progeny. “Après moi, le déluge!” To hell with the future, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow, we die.

I’ve been observing the people who talk a good game about climate change and other possibly catastrophic developments for the planet, and guess what? Sure people talk a good game but how many seriously change their lifestyle, their expectations, to show how legitimate their concerns are? How many change the way they think about a corrupt and dying system? What I see is people desperate to hang on to the bit of pretend stability this bloody system is giving them.

How would one honestly answer those charges? An important question because ultimately, you realize, it won’t be the Trumps of this world who will make the real difference when it comes crashing down, it will be the, let’s see what could one call them, that silent uncaring majority of sheeple, of unwashed masses, of deplorables, the 99% who insist on blaming “the rich” and “the elites” for the sad state of the planet while going on emulating them in every possible little ugly way.

Let me reiterate this: if blame is to be attached to one group of people for the sad state of this world, let it be put on the shoulders of those who deserve it: all, except the leaders, elites, rich, bosses, rulers or whatever. They don’t matter; they don’t make the final decisions; they aren’t the ones condemning your grand children to poverty, famine and early death from wars and a collapsing ecosystem. They don’t fight the wars, remember? You do! They don’t even make shit and they don’t consume it, you do. They make laws and don’t live by them, you do. Pathetic, isn’t it? 99% of a population of intelligent sentience lets itself be destroyed by an ignorant, subhuman one percentile clique. Indeed, how pathetic is that?

“About here, she thought, dabbling her fingers in the water, a ship had sunk, and she murmured, dreamily, half asleep, how we perished, each alone. — Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse.”

 

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After the “victory” of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the “settlement” of the civil war in El Salvador, and due to other pressing situations, our support group here in Chilliwack, B.C., Canada, called “The Central America Friendship Committee” was disbanded with a huge sigh of relief. Little did we know that the whole “settlement” thing was, as usual, a two-faced negotiation on the part of Washington and the CIA. Unless they are clearly beaten, as in Vietnam, it doesn’t end, it escalates. Nothing was “settled” and things are not only continuing, but getting worse. As you read the following, if you read the following, note the names of the American presidents who presided over the massacres, tortures and killings of children in Central America. Then in the “killing fields” of refugee seekers in the deserts north of the Mexican border. Then take a few moments to ponder why “Nut’n’Yahoo’s” Zionists can slaughter Palestinian children with such impunity. Washington has always been, remains, and will continue to be the face of racism and genocide worldwide until it is destroyed, or it collapses from its own internal corruption. Those who still believe there is a fix are sadly deluded or they haven’t taken a serious look at the latest presidential face stamped on the latest genocides.

Sha’Tara, July 10, 2018
__________________________________________________________________________________________
July 10, 2018

The Discovery of Central American Suffering

by Nick Alexandrov

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U.S. pundits and politicians just discovered, it seems, that Washington’s decisions harm Central American families. For the New York Times, “separating families…is something new and malicious,” reflecting Trump’s “heartlessness” and violating “fundamental American values.” “This, apparently, is how you turn off the idea of America,” Alex Wagner (The Atlantic) added. The Los Angeles Times thinks “the administration’s cold-hearted approach to enforcement has crossed the line into abject inhumanity,” departing– so we’re to believe– from past practice.

These are half-accurate charges: Trump’s policy is malicious, heartless, cold-hearted. But it isn’t new. Both in Central America and along its Mexican border, Washington has helped rip apart families for decades, forcing children to endure a world without their parents, mothers to cope with their children’s sickening ends. Abject inhumanity, in other words, is a U.S. foreign policy hallmark.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras– review their histories. You’ll be crushed by evidence revealing which values shape Washington’s conduct, which norms govern its behavior in a region where it enjoys immense influence. And you’ll begin to understand why many had to flee these countries. Start with Guatemala. Ríos Montt, the dictator the U.S. funded, armed, and encouraged, oversaw the Mayan genocide there. In one episode, on April 3, 1982, the Guatemalan army overran the village of Chel, slaughtering its residents and orphaning Pedro Pacheco Bop, whose great-grandfather, parents, and five siblings (aged two to 14) were all murdered, their blood draining into the Chel River where the troops hurled the dead. Tomas Chávez Brito was two years old when the army fell upon his village, Sajsibán, seven months later, torching his home with his mother, sisters, and other family members inside. In the mountains, where Tomas hid for the following year eating plants to survive, one can only imagine how the idea of orphanhood, his new reality, settled in his mind. Margarita Rivera Ceto de Guzmán’s family separation was quicker. Soldiers knifed her in the stomach, killing her unborn child.

Egla Martínez Salazar, addressing this genocide, explains that assaults on Maya households conveyed “the message that Mayas did not live in ‘real’ families, but rather in ‘living arrangements’ that constituted breeding spaces for ‘international communist indoctrination.’” Erasing these spaces required “the mass murder of children,” plus “the forced transfer of surviving Maya children to military and paramilitary families,” tactics Salvadoran forces also adopted in the 1980s. Apart from killing most of the 75,000 slain there from 1980-1992– the stretch when Carter, Reagan, and Bush I funneled $6 billion into the country– “soldiers [also] abducted children in what an international court says was a ‘systematic pattern of forced disappearances.’”

Similar violence-patterns afflicted Nicaragua and Honduras. The Contras flaunted their family-destroying talents in the former, as when some 1,000 of them, on April 3, 1984, assaulted the village of Waslala. A father there, desperate to save his wife and children, sheltered with them in a ditch. The Contras found him, hauled him out. He was “tortured by having his fingertips and then his right hand cut off, and then killed with bayonets,” and then decapitated, Reed Brody recounts. As a final gesture to their mission’s purity, the Contras, into the dead man’s back, cut intersecting gashes– the shape of the cross. Brody tells another story: in “El Achote a band of contras dragged an agrarian reform worker from his home, and in front of his wife, 11 month old son, and three year old son, cut him into pieces with their bayonets. The man’s wife was then shot, but she lived to watch them behead her 11 month old baby.”

It was Battalion 316 that targeted Honduran families. The Baltimore Sun reported that the unit, “trained and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency,” “kidnapped, tortured and killed” hundreds in the 1980s. One example: Nelson Mackay Chavarría “was 37 years old and the father of five” when the Battalion found him. When searchers later discovered his corpse, “his hands and feet were tied with rope” and “black liquid spilled from his mouth”– criolina, “rubbed on cattle to kill ticks and mites.”

In more recent decades, the U.S. government has forged the Mexican border into a family-wrecking zone. President Clinton’s Operation Gatekeeper, for instance, “only made it harder for people to cross the border at relatively safe places and forced them to cross in more dangerous places, such as the Arizona desert,” writes Carolina Bank Muñoz. She stresses that “the policy broke up families, as few families were willing to take such risks by crossing a dangerous border together.” Maggie Morgan and Deborah Anker, citing ACLU work, note that “the risk of dying while crossing in Arizona was 17 times greater in 2009 than only a decade earlier”– and that “the mortality rate almost doubled” from 2009-2012, on Obama’s watch, “with children constituting roughly 10 per cent of fatalities each year.” Todd Miller estimates these “Southwest ‘killing fields’” have taken some 21,000 lives since the early 1990s.

There’s no question Trump’s migrant policies warrant outrage. But his are only the latest from Washington rattling– if not terminating– Central American lives. If we delude ourselves, if we choose to believe his actions depart from some moral norm, we risk satisfaction with superficial policy shifts. A deeper overhaul is needed to ensure Central American suffering ceases.

More articles by:Nick Alexandrov

Nick Alexandrov lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com

Remembering is a Radical Act

Another article by George Monbiot.  Since there is no “reblog” on that website, I just copy and paste whenever an article that touches me, appears in my e-mail. This is such an article, to make anyone think, then think again.

In Memoriam – monbiot.com


In Memoriam

Posted: 02 Jul 2018 03:35 AM PDT

As our wildlife and ecosystems collapse, remembering is a radical act.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 29th June 2018

It felt as disorientating as forgetting my pin number. I stared at the caterpillar, unable to attach a name to it. I don’t think my mental powers are fading: I still possess an eerie capacity to recall facts and figures and memorise long screeds of text. This is a specific loss. As a child and young adult, I delighted in being able to identify almost any wild plant or animal. And now it has gone. This ability has shrivelled from disuse: I can no longer identify them because I can no longer find them.

Perhaps this forgetfulness is protective. I have been averting my eyes. Because I cannot bear to see what we have done to nature, I no longer see nature itself. Otherwise, the speed of loss would be unendurable. The collapse can be witnessed from one year to the next. The swift decline of the swift (down 25% in five years) is marked by the loss of the wild screams that, until very recently, filled the skies above my house. My ambition to see the seabird colonies of the Shetlands and St Kilda has been replaced by the intention never to visit those islands during the breeding season: I could not bear to see the empty cliffs, whose populations have crashed by some 90% this century.

I have lived long enough to witness the vanishing of wild mammals, butterflies, mayflies, songbirds and fish that I once feared my grandchildren would experience: it has all happened faster than even the pessimists predicted. Walking in the countryside or snorkelling in the sea is now as painful to me as an art lover would find her visits to a gallery, if on every occasion another Old Master had been cut from its frame.

The cause of this acceleration is no mystery. The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders. What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin.

This is what has driven the quadrupling of oceanic dead zones since 1950; the “biological annihilation” represented by the astonishing collapse of vertebrate populations; the rush to carve up the last intact forests; the vanishing of coral reefs, glaciers and sea ice; the shrinkage of lakes, the drainage of wetlands. The living world is dying of consumption.

We have a fatal weakness: a failure to perceive incremental change. As natural systems shift from one state to another, we almost immediately forget what we have lost. I have to make a determined effort to remember what I saw in my youth. Could it really be true that every patch of nettles, at this time of year, was reamed with caterpillar holes? That flycatchers were so common I scarcely gave them a second glance? That the rivers, around the autumn equinox, were almost black with eels?

Others seem oblivious. When I have criticised current practice, farmers have sent me images of verdant monocultures of perennial rye grass, with the message “look at this and try telling me we don’t look after nature”. It’s green, but it’s about as ecologically rich as an airport runway. One of my readers, Michael Groves, records the shift he has seen in the field beside his house, where the grass, that used to be cut for hay, is now cut for silage. Watching the cutters being driven at great speed across the field, he realised that any remaining wildlife would be shredded. Soon afterwards, he saw a roe deer standing in the mown grass. She stayed throughout the day and the following night. When he went to investigate, he found her fawn, its legs amputated. “I felt sickened, angry and powerless … how long had it taken to die?”. That “grass-fed meat” the magazines and restaurants fetishise? This is the reality.

When our memories are wiped as clean as the land, we fail to demand its restoration. Our forgetting is a gift to industrial lobby groups and the governments that serve them. Over the past few months, I have been told repeatedly that the environment secretary, Michael Gove, gets it. I have said so myself: he genuinely seems to understand what the problems are and what needs to be done. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do it.

He cannot be blamed for all of the fiascos to which he has put his name. The 25-year plan for nature was, it seems, gutted by the Prime Minister’s office. The environmental watchdog he proposed was defanged by the Treasury (it has subsequently been lent some dentures by Parliament). Other failures are all his own work. In response to lobbying from sheep farmers, he has allowed ravens, a highly intelligent and long-lived species just beginning to recover from centuries of persecution, to be killed once more. There are 24 million sheep in this country and 7400 pairs of ravens. Why must all other species give way to the white plague?

Responding to complaints that most of our national parks are wildlife deserts, Gove set up a commission to review them. But governments choose their conclusions in advance, through the appointments they make. A more dismal, backward-looking and uninspiring panel would be hard to find: not one of its members, as far as I can tell, has expressed a desire for significant change in our national parks, and most of them, if their past statements are anything to go by, are determined to keep them in their sheepwrecked and grouse-trashed state.

Now the lobbyists demand a New Zealand settlement for farming after Brexit: deregulated, upscaled, hostile to both wildlife and the human eye. If they get their way, no landscape, however treasured, will be safe from broiler sheds and mega-dairy units, no river protected from run-off and pollution, no songbird saved from local extinction. The merger between Bayer and Monsanto brings together the manufacturer of the world’s most lethal pesticides with the manufacturer of the world’s most lethal herbicides. Already the concentrated power of these behemoths is a hazard to democracy; together they threaten both political and ecological disaster. Labour’s environment team have scarcely a word to say about any of it. Similarly, the big conservation groups, as usual, have gone missing in inaction.

We forget even our own histories. We fail to recall, for example, that the Dower report, published in 1945, envisaged wilder national parks than we now possess, and that the conservation white paper the government issued in 1947 called for the kind of large-scale protection that is considered edgy and innovative today. Remembering is a radical act.

That caterpillar, by the way, was a six spot burnet: the larva of a stunning iridescent black and pink moth that once populated my neighbourhood and my mind. I will not allow myself to forget again: I will work to recover the knowledge I have lost. For I now see that without the power of memory, we cannot hope to defend the world we love.

http://www.monbiot.com

Is Nature Man’s Enemy?

[thoughts from    ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

“His little fleet was indeed going into battle, against the enemy that Man would face to the end of time. As he spread across the Universe from planet to planet and sun to sun, the forces of Nature would be arrayed against him in ever new and unexpected ways. Even Earth, after all these aeons, still had many traps for the unwary, and on a world that men had known for only a lifetime, death lurked in a thousand innocent disguises.” (A Fall of Moon Dust, Arthur C. Clark)

How many times have we read quotes like this?

I will admit that we do not as easily sync with such sentiments as we did, say, even fifty years ago, but overall, has anything regarding man’s relationship to nature actually changed?

Much has been ballyhooed in recent years about anthropological climate change; about the long-term, perhaps irreversible negative effects of large scale logging of rain forests, fracking, open pit mining, deep sea drilling, pipeline building, but based on electoral results, how much of that has even made a dent in the thinking of the rank and file Earthian and its rulers who put power and riches at the top of their list of priorities?

Even as the planet is showing serious signs of stress and weakening from over-extraction, over-use and over-consumption of manufactured “goods” most of the news media remains focused on entertainment, whether from organized sports and/or global political buffoonery.

There is some seriousness being expressed, but that remains marginal at best. Some entrepreneurs who would, or could, make a difference have to play the game according to capitalism’s rules, and that “Power” is only concerned about profits, couldn’t care less about life.

What I mean to express, once again, is that for real change to happen, people have to develop not only a counter, just and peaceful system to capitalism, but a whole new nature. That’s right: nature. Up until now, man has considered nature to be his enemy, to be conquered, plundered, poisoned, that is, to be endlessly warred against. That is the foundation of the current civilization and however much that is denied, it remains a fact. This civilization has been constructed from war after war, conquest after conquest, enslavement after enslavement and the inexorable extraction of any and all natural resources that could be sold for a profit in the market place which has become a global super market.

Until now Homo Sapiens has chosen not to exhibit any sense of oneness with his natural environment. Whether that came about through fear or hubris (from bad design or faulty evolution – I’m being satirical!), it came about and we are reaping the results in exponential terms. We are facing the truth about depletion of non-renewables in a finite environment. Man’s earth struggling in the stranglehold of unchecked capitalism has developed a cancer called entropy.

What is entropy, and why should we be very seriously concerned about that?

Definition of entropy:
1 a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system’s disorder, that is a property of the system’s state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system; broadly: the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system
2 the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity, or towards death and disorder. (gleaned quotes from Merriam-Webster web dictionary)

Death and disorder. If we think wars, population displacements, refugee crises and the dangerous political trends that support a new rise of dictators, we see death and disorder. Such trends lead to global war. Can this world survive a third world war and resultant levels of entropy?

We go to war because we do not value life and couldn’t care less about nature except to provide our smart phone cameras with colorful sunsets caused by environmental pollution and cute animal antics. We are, as history will record if there is a history, the last generations of the terminally entitled. We may pay lip service to nature’s plight but our wants continue to take priority.

From complaints about weather and bugs, yes, nature remains considered as man’s number one enemy.

Why is that? Simple: man is not, never was, a product of natural evolution. Nature is not man’s enemy, man is nature’s enemy and in the end, one will win over the other. If nature wins, Homo Sapiens disappears. If Man wins, everything dies.

Third and final option, if it isn’t already much too late: a full and complete reconciliation of man and nature, with man, being the perpetrator of the evil that is being done, agreeing to abandon his anti-life predatory ways and live simply, that all may live. That requires more than a change of system or even a change of mind, it demands a change of nature, meaning that Homo Sapiens must morph into a new species entirely. There’s the challenge.

“Extremes invariably lead to disaster. Only through balance can we fully harvest the fruits of nature.” (Kevin Anderson: Sandworms of Dune)

 

On Atheism, Religion and the Human Being

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

Very recently I ‘accidentally’ stepped into a burgeoning discussion on WordPress. The question was simple and innocuous enough: is a child born with an innate sense of God, or in a broader sense, the numinous?

To a philosopher, such a question is a very personal one. You think about it and you answer it according to your own remembrances, memories, and experiences. Sadly the question was going to be caught, handcuffed and dragged through the streets to be tortured by one particularly strident and defensive ‘ism’.

I suppose the question was custom-made to being hijacked mostly by atheists, and I should have been a bit more wary to even try to wade on the shore of that stream. The water was acid on my bare feet.

I’ve never liked atheism. I tried it for a few years and I found it to be a dead religion, devoid of awe, beyond short-lived awareness of pretty sunsets, flowers and waterfalls, perhaps the enjoyment of sex; devoid of joy, since true joy can only be known on that spiritual plane atheists abhor and denigrate every chance they get.

Essentially, you are born to die. You can be no more than a superior intelligent animal and all accomplishments are but the results of a pointless evolution which cannot lead anywhere since there is no continuity beyond a mindless material level. There is no purpose to life beyond propagating itself, again, for no purpose. Though atheism denies “luck”, that being a spooky goddess we do not speak of in fear of losing our atheist badge, in its philosophy everything is happen-chance.

Self-professed atheism is a recent phenomenon, at least in the Western White Christian World, stemming mostly from deliberately mis-interpreted works of Charles Darwin and his speculations on species adaptation which he called natural evolution.

Here’s the contradiction. While life is pointless, evolution is of foremost importance and it is everything. Everything we can conceive of today has evolved… from? Well, we can’t say ‘from nothing’ that being too uncomforably close to ‘creation’ so we’ll just invent some beginning. But it can’t be anything that could remotely be connected to the effects of “divine” intervention. The perfect atheist world has a walled border; a zero tolerance policy to infiltration or refuge seeking from any sort of spirit, or spirit thought.

Though it is absolutely pointless, nevertheless atheism allows conditions such as love, caring, compassion, even empathy. Somehow, as curious as that seems to me, such unnatural conditions evolved from the same “Big Bang” and resultant muck and mire soup everything came from. Why such conditions settled on mankind, along with their too obvious opposites such as hate, racism, misogyny, egregious violence and spreading bigotry, evolution explains it. How? Dare I say by faith? Indeed, my own discovery is that it takes more faith to believe in atheism than in deism! That naturally explains why atheists have to propagate their belief by force of demagoguery, just like their opposites, in Christian “fuddlementalism”.

If everything stems from evolution, then religion is a natural product of evolution, therefore anything “happening” within those sacred halls of mostly nonsense is also a natural product of evolution. Can’t be any other explanation. So, why are atheists so vehemently anti-religious since everything is a product of their belief system? Could it be because atheism is not “science based” but a religion in its own right, its tenets subject to change without notice? And they have changed, for example on the subject of eugenics, for which we have Hitler to thank.

I’ve always known that atheism is a counter-religion, a reaction to the extremes of primarily Catholicism and Evangelicalism. Countering means engaging on the battle field and the battle field requires missionaries.

In that regard, Atheism lost one of its most strident mouth-pieces and missionary: Christopher Hitchens, who died of cancer in 2011. In my opinion, if that’s the best Atheism can come up with to prove its point, it may as well throw down its sword and yield to its opponents. You lost the Cup, go home quietly, don’t break any hearts or any stained glass windows on the way, and thank you very much for a century of dubious entertainment.

“The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing.” (John Gray, The Guardian)

Indeed, despite “the obvious” the world’s religious population is currently 85% of total population and that number is not only not declining, it is projected to rise in the next 40 years.

See also: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/how-religious-will-the-world-be-in-2050/

Now I need to make a point here: religion(s) are not what matters in all of this. What matters is that we allow ourselves, and our children, the innate “right” to be spiritual beings. In that respect both, organized religions and atheism, are enemies of mankind as a full-fledged spirit-mind-body human construct. Both kill spirit, hence both deny mankind access to its ultimate claim to being a member of humanity.

Price Less – monbiot.com

The following, by George Monbiot, is well worth reading and pondering as it demonstrates how another nail in civilization’s coffin is going to be driven in.

A couple of days ago I wrote a post in which I said, and quote:

“In order to continue legitimizing a system that no longer makes any sense, the Powers that rule man’s world and mind have exponentially increased their oppression of all life on earth. Everything has been given a monetary value and put on the auction block. Every drop of water, every ounce of mineral, every blade of grass and every sentient life-form has been graded and categorized as either valuable to the System or expendable.

What has value is being squeezed like a lemon until the very pips squeak. What is expendable is being systematically hunted down, collected, burned, poisoned, slaughtered. This is how a civilization ends and make no mistake, this civilization is ending.”

Examples of such surround us to the point of embarrassment, that is, if we still possessed the sense to be embarrassed about stupidity, folly and gargantuan avarice. Sadly, we no longer have that. We left it in a throw away paper cup at the stadium or on the floor at Burger King.

While thinking on these things, one could also watch this feature length documentary on our eating habits, and the consequences:

H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters
H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters
If you want to change the world, look no further than your dinner plate. According to the stirring feature-length documentary “H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters”, that’s where the potential for meaningful transformation lies within reach for all of us. The film tackles…
Watch now →

Price Less – monbiot.com


Price Less

Posted: 17 May 2018 10:49 PM PDT

The “natural capital” agenda is morally wrong, intellectually vacuous, and most of all counter-productive

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th May 2018

Never mind that the new environmental watchdog will have no teeth. Never mind that the government plans to remove protection from local wildlife sites. Never mind that its 25-year environment plan is all talk and no action. We don’t need rules any more. We have a pouch of magic powder we can sprinkle on any problem to make it disappear.

This powder is the monetary valuation of the natural world. Through the magic of the markets, we can avoid conflict and hard choices, laws and policies, by replacing political decisions with economic calculations.

Almost all official documents on environmental issues are now peppered with references to “natural capital” and to the Natural Capital Committee, the Laputian body the government has created to price the living world and develop a set of “national natural capital accounts”. The government admits that “at present we cannot robustly value everything we wish to in economic terms; wildlife being a particular challenge.” Hopefully, such gaps can soon be filled, so we’ll know exactly how much a primrose is worth.

The government argues that without a price, the living world is accorded no value, so irrational decisions are made. By costing nature, you ensure that it commands the investment and protection that other forms of capital attract.

This thinking is based on a series of extraordinary misconceptions. Even the name reveals a confusion: natural capital is a contradiction in terms. Capital is properly understood as the human-made segment of wealth that is deployed in production to create further financial returns. Concepts such as natural capital, human capital or social capital can be used as metaphors or analogies, though even these are misleading. But the 25-year plan defines natural capital as “the air, water, soil and ecosystems that support all forms of life”. In other words, nature is capital. In reality, natural wealth and human-made capital are neither comparable nor interchangeable. If the soil is washed off the land, we cannot grow crops on a bed of derivatives.

A similar fallacy applies to price. Unless something is redeemable for money, a pound or dollar sign placed in front of it is senseless: price represents an expectation of payment, in accordance with market rates. In pricing a river, a landscape or an ecosystem, either you are lining it up for sale, in which case the exercise is sinister, or you are not, in which case it is meaningless.

Still more deluded is the expectation that we can defend the living world through the mindset that’s destroying it. The notions that nature exists to serve us; that its value consists of the instrumental benefits we can extract; that this value can be measured in cash terms; and that what can’t be measured does not matter have proved lethal to the rest of life on Earth. The way we name things and think about them – in other words the mental frames we use – helps determine the way we treat them.

As the cognitive linguist George Lakoff points out, when you use the frames and language of your opponents, you don’t persuade them to adopt your point of view. Instead you adopt theirs, while strengthening their resistance to your objectives. Lakoff argues that the key to political success is to promote your own values, rather than appease the mindset you contest.

The natural capital agenda reinforces the notion that nature has no value unless you can extract cash from it. Dieter Helm, who chairs the government’s preposterous committee, makes this point explicit: the idea that nature has intrinsic value, independent of what humans can take from it, he says, is “dangerous”. But this dangerous idea has been the motivating force of all successful environmental campaigns.

The commonest response to the case I’m making is that we can use both intrinsic and extrinsic arguments for protecting nature. The natural capital agenda, its defenders say, is “an additional weapon in the fight to protect the countryside”. But it does not add, it subtracts. As the philosopher Michael Sandel argues in What Money Can’t Buy, market values crowd out non-market values. Markets change the meaning of the things we discuss, replacing moral obligations with commercial relationships. This process corrupts and degrades our intrinsic values and empties public life of moral argument.

It is also, his examples show, counterproductive: financial incentives undermine our motivation to act for the public good. “Altruism, generosity, solidarity and civic spirit are … like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise. One of the defects of the market-driven society is it lets these virtues languish.”

So who will resist this parched, destructive mindset? Not, it seems, the big conservation groups. In this month’s BBC Wildlife magazine, Tony Juniper – who in other respects is an admirable defender of the living world – reveals that he will use his new post as head of campaigns at WWF to promote the natural capital agenda.

Perhaps he is unaware that in 2014 WWF commissioned research to test this approach. It showed that when people were reminded of the intrinsic value of nature, they were more likely to defend the living planet and support WWF than when they were exposed to instrumental and financial arguments. It also discovered that using both arguments together produced the same result as using the financial argument alone: the natural capital agenda, in other words, undermined people’s intrinsic motivation.

Has this been forgotten? Sometimes I wonder whether anything is learnt in conservation, or whether the big NGOs are forever destined to follow a circular track, endlessly repeating their mistakes. Rather than contributing to the alienation and disenchantment the commercial mindset fosters, they should help to enrich our relationship with the living world.

The natural capital agenda is the definitive expression of our disengagement from the living world. First we lose our wildlife and natural wonders. Then we lose our connections with what remains of life on Earth. Then we lose the words that described what we once knew. Then we call it capital and give it a price. This approach is morally wrong, intellectually vacuous, emotionally alienating and self-defeating.

Those of us who are motivated by love for the living planet should not hesitate to say so. Never underestimate the power of intrinsic values. They inspire every struggle for a better world.

http://www.monbiot.com

The Machine Eaters

I don’t know how this is going to work; I forgot to add a comment and reason for reblogging Aishwariya Ramachandran’s latest post. Says it all and says it well. The post may be a bit long for some but if one is looking for quality and depth of thought, look no further.

Quoting the beginning of the post:

The Machine Eaters

by Aishwariya Ramachandran

Magpies burble outside frosty windows. Autumn sidles into view. I dreamed many things. Awakening is sharp on the spirit.

All the old heroes are dead and buried and pushing up wilting flowers, soot-covered, frayed at the edges, desperate for a clean breath in the sickly yellow-glow of the industry.

Red-faced oligarchs loot the coffers of citizenry taking human capital and freedoms of movement, speech, and association, running them through the great profit calculator prophet machine, the machine which conjures the specter of the invisible hand.

Too much Too soon

Magpies burble outside frosty windows. Autumn sidles into view. I dreamed many things. Awakening is sharp on the spirit.

All the old heroes are dead and buried and pushing up wilting flowers, soot-covered, frayed at the edges, desperate for a clean breath in the sickly yellow-glow of the industry.

Red-faced oligarchs loot the coffers of citizenry taking human capital and freedoms of movement, speech, and association, running them through the great profit calculator prophet machine, the machine which conjures the specter of the invisible hand.

Acolytes of its imperceptible body gather round shadows on the wall and cry sweet objectivities while the fire creeps closer, the wavering images growing longer, blacker and deeper; they cost the waking dreamer, screamer of sanity’s alarm for speaking truth in the face of true lies told by the state.

All the old constants are broken in heaped piles on the floor of democracy

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