Dangerous ideas

The developing countries state that the developed countries have to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions, saying that the industrialized world is responsible for the current situation. In my opinion they’re right.

However, the foundation of this statement is that every human being should have the same right to use the natural resources and that the industrialized countries are already over their quota. If, however, every human has the same right to use natural resources, this has certain implications for the justification of national states and so on. Obviously resources are not limited to our atmosphere or the oceans, but also include the raw materials in the Earth’s shell. Now, if every human being has the same right to these resources, this automatically questions the established nations, because some have scarce resources while they exist in abundance in other countries. One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand that any objection implies ultimately very dangerous ideas regarding the status quo.

Capitalism is based on growth – and on exploitation of natural resources to achieve this growth. Since the natural resources are limited, so is the growth. Nevertheless Western politicians preach “growth” as the way out of “the crisis”. No need to be Einstein to understand that infinite growth is impossible, so a breakdown of the system is inherent to the capitalistic system. No need to be Marx or Lenin, communist, fascist, capitalist or libertarian, or in other words particular to any ideology, to simply comprehend this fact.

If natural resources are limited, this should mean that they are precious in some way. But they aren’t, are they? Natural resources don’t have a price tag – at least most don’t. Crude oil, metals and minerals – sure – but air and fresh water? However, if there is a price tag attached, it is the price of the work it took to pump up, dig out or refine the raw material plus some margin as profit.

Let’s take a gold mining company, for example. The company has to pay a more or less arbitrary amount to the country in which it is located in order to be granted the right to mine the gold. So you would think that the company has paid all the involved costs, right? Wrong! No one has put a price tag on the water the company is going to pollute during Gold cyanidation, so the company doesn’t pay for it. So who pays for it? Well you and me, or more specifically the people living nearby the river that got polluted and so on. Either they pay for the means to purify the water and undo the damage (if at all possible), which means that the purification costs are being socialized, or they pay with their health. In either case the company owner who may be located in another country isn’t directly affected, yet he gains disproportionately more from the “deal” than the inhabitants of the affected area. As we can see, not only is the use of resources disproportionate but also the gain from them.

Adding price tags – the emission certificates are a feeble attempt to implement something like that – makes sense and provides a different angle when people tell you: “well, solar energy costs a lot more despite the subsidies”. Oh really? But has the calculation for the nuclear power-plant considered the costs that will arise from having to safeguard the depleted fuel elements for the next hundred thousand years? If you dig deeper you will see that it hasn’t. The same holds for the fossil energy creation. The loan is always on the following generations.

It’s time to calculate the costs more consequently. But most of all it is time to put a cost on the pollution of air, the pollution of water and pollution and/or exploitation of all natural resources. Capitalists like to calculate their figures in amounts of money … let them!

In my opinion just like Communism has to fail unless implemented globally1. No surprises there, I guess. But Capitalism has to fail as well, because there can’t be infinite growth nor can it be sustainable if its principles aren’t applied to every facet of life. Put a price tag on everything and you still can’t grow infinitely. The closest we could get would be to become war-mongering species that conquers other planets in order to exploit their resources … in Hollywood movies those are usually the bad guys, though 😉

// Oliver

  1. Please don’t let yourself be fooled by some people stating that it has already failed. No one on Earth has even tried Communism the way it was thought by Marx and Engels. The closest (and cruelest) implementation yet was Lenin’s “War Communism” in the 1920s. []
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