Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
How did it all go so wrong?
Capitalism has been around since 1200s but the destruction it has wrought in the last 100 years is unparalleled. How did we reach this point?
Every year, I write one or two blogs that dive deep into a particular subject. These usually coincide with some milestone. This week I will complete 150 weeks of writing Learning by Proxy. I have been writing 2 blogs a week without fail since April 2020.
As you may have noticed climate is a theme that I often touch upon in my blogs and it is something that I have read about extensively. Reading 60 books a year has also given me more perspective on the issue.
I must warn you, at over 7000 words, this is a long post. If you have received this over email, switch to the desktop.
When you think about climate change and how we arrived here, no matter how you argue it, the ultimate criminal always is Capitalism. A communist world would not suffer climate change.
But capitalism has been around for a very long time (700 years) as you will see. It did not cause climate change for 600 of those 700 years.
How did we lose the plot so quickly?
The very first Joint Stock Holding companies were founded in China during the Tang and the Song dynasties in the 13th century. Marco Polo went to China towards the end of the 13th century and brought the idea to Europe. Europe got its first stock-holding company in France in 1350.
The advantage of a stockholding company is the separation of ownership and management. Today we call them limited companies. The main idea is that while a whole host of people can own shares in the company, they appoint a Board to manage the company which further appoints the CEO, etc.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Joint stockholding companies served the sole purpose of organised looting of others’ lands. The most famous of them being, the British East India Company. The modern writing of their history whitewashes their intentions and paints it as trade.
For instance, the Mississippi company, which was the FTX of its times, was not looking to trade with the Mississippi tribes? They were just going to appropriate lands.
The biggest benefit of the joint stockholding company was that people could appoint a psychopath at the helm and distribute the benefits drawn by the psychopathy to many.
Why should psychopaths have all the fun?
In modern times we have deified such people. Steve Jobs used to demand a lot from his workers, so much so, that their personal lives were destroyed. What a nice man! I am not a psychopath to behave that way, but I would surely invest in his company.
In summation, Capitalism has been around since the 1200s. And the European version has been around for some 700 years. For most of history, Capitalism was a tool to harm other people. You can ask the Indians, Africans or Native Americans if you manage to find any.
For 700 years, Capitalism was only bloodthirsty. Capitalism did not result in the outright destruction of entire ecosystems. So Capitalism alone is not enough to explain how we ruined the only planet that can support us. There has to be more to this than just capitalism.
Let us dive in!
The Original Sin - Robbing Capitalism of Blood - Abolition
One man’s greed for lands in the West (of America) caused a war across the Atlantic between France and Britain. He did not want to pay taxes and found a group of other bourgeois men who held the same opinions. George Washington’s unwillingness to pay taxes on lands he had appropriated resulted in the Declaration of Independence.
It would have been laughable at the time to write “All ‘White’ men are created equal”, it was implicitly understood. This fateful omission gave hope. It resulted in the Abolitionist movement which ended Slavery.
Till then capitalism was good for the environment. It exploited other humans. Capitalism sated its thirst with human blood. Capitalism is founded on the values of growth, profit and exploitation. Ending slavery left a hole in the heart of Capitalism that needed to be filled.
Before the 1800s people were exploited. As slavery came to an end, Industrial Revolution reared its head because the capitalists wanted profits but not the work that came with it. Hard work was for the poor, not for the rich.
The decline of slavery and the rise of mechanisation was no coincidence. The fact that almost all of the Industrial revolution came from places that practised slavery disproportionately is also no coincidence.
From the exploitation of people, we moved on to the exploitation of the Earth. Resources were needed to make machines. Power was needed to run them. Indiscriminate mining and the use of fossil fuels were needed to make this possible.
Thus began the modern industrial age.
If you look at the atmospheric carbon data, you would notice that from 1950, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere just took off. What happened?
In my opinion, it may have started 2 decades earlier but was prevented by an Austrian by the name of Adolf Hitler. The Second World War caused a slight lull in the increase in CO2.
Nobody could focus on the economy. Only the Americans could focus on the economy.
In the aftermath of the First World War, the economy was doing great in the US. Much like in the early 2000s banks engaged in some really shady business. Everything seemed like it was headed only one way - Up. That is until a shortage in liquidity ensured everything headed down.
A banker by the name of John Pierpont Morgan was the largest on Wall Street and the lender of last resort. He had to bail out other bankers, one too many times. Between the financing of the Great War and the bailout of the bankers, JP Morgan had had enough. Unlike in 2008, the Central Bank did not believe in getting involved in any meaningful way.
Herbert Hoover was a Republican President he thought he was running a company called America. He was too focused on balancing the budget rather than saving the economy. Half the banks went belly up and many in New York ended up on the streets. Like that we got the Great Depression.
In the aftermath of the crisis, a Belarussian economist by the name of Simon Kuznets was tasked by congress to figure out how to avoid another Depression. In 1937, he finally published a report titled “National Income, 1929-1935” that he presented to Congress. The metric that Simon used to capture the state of the economy was Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Imagine, that shit did not exist 100 years ago.
Armed with this metric Harry Dexter White, who was later revealed to be working for the KGB, negotiated the most fateful agreement for the climate of the planet. Harry White was the architect of the Bretton Woods agreement and John Maynard Keynes’ chief antagonist.
Along with the establishment of the primacy of the US Dollar; the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were set up which took GDP as the metric of choice to evaluate policy measures. This alone has been the undoing of several economies that have been forced to undertake austerity measures and undue exploitation of their resources to show that the GDP numbers were rising.
A forest is only valuable when we cut it down, standing forests have no value to GDP. Only a country destroying itself and exploiting every resource will increase GDP.
Goodhart’s law states that “Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes”. In other words, when a metric becomes the target, the metric is no longer useful.
GDP became that metric for the world economy. Still is.
As a result, nuclear families became the norm post the Second World War in the US. The only way to increase consumption was to sell more houses, more appliances, and more stuff essentially. You sell more televisions if 4 people share one rather than 15.
A person who is taken care of at home will not increase the GDP. Nuclear families meant there was nobody at home to do the caring. An entire industry called Old Age Homes emerged. GDP increased.
Spending 1 hour meditating does not increase GDP but driving around in a car and being involved in an accident will increase GDP, first by buying fuel and then by generating income for the hospital.
The economies world over were indexed to focus on all the wrong things.
Policy devised with ONLY GDP in mind was the beginning of the end.
We created policies that incentivised chopping down forests, polluting the rivers, and separating mother from child, all the worst things that society has to offer today.
1929 - the University of Chicago and Financial Engineering
It would be hard to think that some crimes were committed by boring academicians.
If there was a financial instrument that would cause much hurt, you would expect it to come from New York or London but its origins lie in Chicago.
In the aftermath of the Great Depression of the late 1920s, there were a lot of questions being asked about the right investment principles one could follow. Researchers at the University of Chicago would deliver the answers to these questions. Their work led to many principles of valuation including the Weighted Average Cost of Capital. All of the theories that emerged out of the University of Chicago at this time resulted in the financialisation of companies. Every company would henceforth be looked at only as a sequence of numbers and ratios.
This financialisation of businesses meant they were looked at only in terms of the numbers that they produced rather than the real-world impact.
Further, the investment principles resulted in portfolio theory and eventually the Index fund. The number of crimes that have been enabled in recent times because of the Index fund is incredible.
At the time of the creation of Index funds, it was argued that there is no portfolio that serves the needs of an investor better than the index. No matter how any individual company may perform, the index always moves up in the long run.
This resulted in Index funds being sold to everyone as the smartest investment decision. While it got off to a rough start initially, very quickly consumers to companies to pension funds, everyone was investing in index funds. By the 1990s, Index funds had become a parallel economy.
Today, it is estimated that Index funds own 30% of corporate America. The problem is that when you own that much stake in that many companies you cannot oversee any of them. As a result, almost 30% of most companies’ proxy vote is in line with the rest of the board. This further concentrates power in the hands of psychopath CEOs.
The Index fund was conceived as a way of creating an instrument that would move in line with the market. Instead, it has become the tail that wags the dog.
Index Funds concentrate the power of the entire economy in the hands of a few. This has resulted in some of the greatest excesses.
Before the Bretton Woods agreement was put in place, countries were allowed to set their currency rates as they pleased. There was a lot of “manipulation” according to the Americans. This was fixed with the agreement with everyone acceding to peg themselves to the USD and the USD being the only standard against gold.
Thanks to the double bankruptcy of World War 1 and World War 2, all of Europe had to acquiesce.
The agreement to peg everything against a dollar forced an economic arms race. There was a need to trade on equal terms in order to maintain the stability of the currency. If you were not trading sufficiently your balance of trade would sink.
In other words, making shit and forcing people in other countries to buy that shit became the raison d’être. If you did not do that your currency would sink making it more expensive to import stuff.
Like that we entered a world of marketing.
Marketing ~ Convincing people to buy shit that they do not need.
Soon, we started “inventing” things that nobody needed and then selling them to people who could not afford them. They were made to want it. While this game started out of the US, Bretton Woods ensured that everyone was part of this game.
Take a washing machine for example. You have 720 hours in a month. How many hours do you think you really use it in a month?
5 hours? 10 hours?
This would give you an abysmal utilisation rate of 1%. If this was a factory, you would be fired right away. Barring certain buildings in New York where each house cannot accommodate a washing machine, most houses have one. Why?
Almost every appliance that we use is needed sporadically but it is marketed to us as a must-have. How many hours a month do you drive your car? Yes, despite Bangalore traffic!
So now, since you must buy the car; and as the Japanese car is cheaper, you need to invent something that you could sell to them so that the balance of trade is maintained.
Selling things that nobody needs also happens in industry! A classic example comes from the company that gave us Agent Orange.
Agent Orange is a chemical herbicide and defoliant, one of the "tactical use" Rainbow Herbicides. It was used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It is a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to its damaging environmental effects, traces of dioxin (mainly TCDD, the most toxic of its type) found in the mixture have caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed, and their offspring.
The company that created Agent Orange - Monsanto - underwent a radical rebranding and is today known as a pioneer in agriculture.
Monsanto started dabbling in the area of Genetically Modified crops. These crops were often not great for health and were tools for indebting the farmer for life because they would not produce seeds. Monsanto created a genetically modified version of Soybean which they distributed throughout America and Mexico. In order to overcome the problem of weeds, they created a chemical herbicide called Roundup.
Roundup is the brand name of a systemic, broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicide originally produced by Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. As of 2009, sales of Roundup herbicides still represented about 10 percent of Monsanto's revenue despite competition from Chinese producers of other glyphosate-based herbicides. The overall Roundup line of products, which includes genetically modified seeds, represented about half of Monsanto's yearly revenue. The product is marketed to consumers by Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.
What roundup does can only be termed Ecocide. In any field treated with roundup, everything including bacteria dies. Everything, that is, apart from the GM Soybean produced by Monsanto. Eventually, it renders vast tracts of land uncultivable. Not to mention, it is highly carcinogenic and has resulted in a class-action lawsuit against the company. Capital always wins in America so you can venture a guess what happened.
This leads us nicely into the next section.
The Rise of the Chemical Conglomerates
The Second World War was a Petri dish of experimentation. Most of the experiments were focused on how to most efficiently kill another human being. This gave birth to a lot of chemical companies. Unfortunately, many of these companies started by total psychopaths exist even today.
The Haber Process was created to produce Nitrogen that was needed to produce explosives. This process was adopted to produce Nitrogen rich fertilisers that in turn gave us a new kind of destruction - Eutrophication.
Companies like Monsanto, Bayer and others have produced tons of agricultural chemicals that have been tremendously harmful to entire ecosystems. But, so long as crop yields go up and cancer cannot be directly traced to them, who cares?
See GDP at work?
Companies like Allied chemicals have produced industrial wastelands in the process of producing chemicals for industrial use. The Onondaga lake in Syracuse, New York, is damaged beyond repair thanks to the factory setup by Allied Chemicals. They simply threw a few million to shut the court case, rebranded themselves to a sweeter-sounding Honeywell and moved on.
Pharma companies that were founded with the purpose of ostensibly promoting human health became tablet vendors who had to sell more tablets at any cost. Thanks to our overuse of these drugs, those chemicals find their way into the sea through our sewage and now we have fishes that are high on drugs!
Oh, I almost forgot. How can we not mention Dupont and Dow Chemicals for giving millions of people Cancer? While Dow Chemicals has been busy contaminating waterways with their weedkillers. In the case of Dupont, it gave us Teflon and they continue to push the product across the world. Teflon is highly carcinogenic and we cook on it! They have such an incredible PR wing that you would struggle to find studies linking Teflon to Cancer, but just read up on PFOA.
In a reflection of the circular economy that we hope to build, the Pharma majors are extremely thankful to these organisations.
I am sorry, there is no nicer way to put it.
In the land of the killers, a sinner’s mind is a sanctum ~ Eminem.
We worship an unending list of assholes just from the last century. I would have to write a book to cover them all, let alone from all of recorded history. Nevertheless, there are those who deserve special mention.
In no particular order.
Winston Churchill - The man was a turd. This man has more blood on his hands than Hitler. Apart from the Millions he starved to death in India during the Bengal Famines, the man is the greatest war criminal to have walked away scot-free. He killed his own men on the battlefield during the second world war! He is worshipped by the British even today. Churchill was the reason Oil found such supremacy as a fuel. He started the modernisation of the English Navy, while still an Admiral, to ships powered by oil. He got England bidding for oil from the Sinai to Iran.
John D Rockefeller - The evil that was Rockefeller is only surpassed by Bill Gates. His contributions to making oil and coal eminently important in the US cannot be understated. His conduct was so egregious that the US, the land of free-market capitalism, had to invent Anti-trust laws. After he retired, he gave the greatest gift of all, an investment trust masquerading as philanthropy - The Rockefeller Foundation. A template for every future billionaire to escape paying taxes.
Ayn Rand - Through all of her writing she promoted selfishness which was the bedrock of capitalism and the economy we live in. Not like those books were good, but they found ideological promoters and ruined the way we think about an individual’s role in the world. She advocated for the free market and no restriction on capitalists.
John Watson and his theories on how babies should not be mollycoddled and should only be given a pat on their head when they behave well. The reason legions of westerners would put their child in a separate room right from birth and create psychopaths.
John Hopkins a drug addict who could not sleep and ruined the lives of every surgeon to follow by creating a program that expected surgeons to work 23 hours a day.
Bill Gates - The number of wrongs done by Bill Gates is endless. What he did to Netscape was nothing! In the guise of funding to solve the problems of the developing world, he has been pushing his agenda onto the developing nations. His solution to every problem in the world is one of his investments. Degrowth will not solve the world’s problems because it will hurt his wealth. In his attempt to save the world, he just bought a private jet services company. What will we do without this saint?
If you really want to engage in philanthropy, you need not combat malaria; feed people who have nothing to eat.
He ostensibly runs a philanthropy which employs 1602 people. You don’t need that many people to give away money. But you need that many people to make and oversee investments. His foundation is a fund, not a philanthropy.
Elon Musk - The only thing he is really good at is making bad investments and then manipulating the hell out of everyone to make them believe he is doing what he is to save the world. Like burning kerosene in the upper atmosphere with SpaceX. Or producing millions of cars made of steel to save the environment. His venture Neuralink has already killed 1600 animals in the name of science. Most recently he purchased the rage machine, that is, Twitter. Saving speech apparently.
Idiot American Presidents
Why should there be a section on American presidents alone? Well - Bretton Woods. Since they became the de-facto currency manipulators, the policies that they made had a global impact most of the time. They weaponise the financial system that they have pushed to their entire world. Most recently demonstrated against Russia. Also, they have weaponised their donation programs such as USAID and thrust their thinking down the throats of those they donate to.
When Donald Trump was president, the clinics set up by USAID in Africa were forbidden from providing abortions! Some aid that is.
John Kennedy may have been assassinated but before he went, he authorised the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The “herbicide” was tremendously harmful to man, animals and the environment which is felt even today.
Ronald Reagan - This man said trees cause more pollution than automobiles. Enough said.
George W Bush Sr. - This idiot ascended to the presidency at a momentous time in history. A time when something could have actually been done about climate change. It was Bush who refused to commit America to the Kyoto Protocol which has become the template for American climate negations now. He effectively rendered the Kyoto protocol useless. No president since has agreed to engage in any meaningful agreement for America to truly reduce its greenhouse footprint, including the Democrats. He did everything in his power to undermine action on climate change. Also, set the oil fields in Iraq on fire. Hands down, the worst president ever from the point of view of the impact that he had on climate.
Even worse were Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Neither of them did anything positive to impact climate change, they continued to pursue the policies of their predecessors on the global stage while providing lip service throughout their 8 years in office. They pretended to care but really did not. All they cared about was holding on to power.
All international multi-lateral authorities
The Second World War was the crucible in which almost every multi-lateral organisation in the world was founded. The World Bank, the IMF, the UN, the WTO and the G7.
The trouble is that all of them are merely rubber-stamp authorities. None of them has any real power or capability to regulate the west. They are all dependent on Western alms to remain operational. As a result, they just cannot oppose the west on any decisions that they take.
The only thing that these organisations can effectively do is bully poor countries.
George Bush Jr and his absolutely unnecessary war in Iraq is a classic example. It has been comprehensively proven that he had no evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction to back an invasion. The entire war was a crime. They got away with not so much as a rap on the wrist.
Every one of the organisations listed above is essentially subservient to the US. Anything that the US will say will be ratified in moments. Given that idiot presidents ascend to power often in America, these organisations only provide legitimacy to stupid decisions.
They have often impeded climate action in the guise of protecting the freedom to trade. Imposed harsh terms on countries forcing them to exploit their natural resources under the guise of helping them save their economies. In many cases, these countries have been forced to sign off their natural resources for exploitation by western private organisations.
Rise of Democracy
The Cold War was a battle of ideologies. The Russians promoted Communism and the Americans promoted Democracy. Unfortunately, Democracy won out.
When a group of people, say 300, oppose a gas pipeline through their land, in a country of 300,000 who don’t live on that land, what do you think democracy does?
Democracy is a psychopath’s dream. Lazy people will not go down to verify facts. The media can feed them whatever version the media likes.
Democracy works when every single person involved in the democracy works and is keenly aware of all of the facts regarding issues that the democracy is helping decide.
The capitalistic treadmill combined with marketing delivers us a reality where we don’t have any time left after working every minute of every day to buy shit that we just do not need.
All democracies follow capitalism.
As a result, most people in all democracies are clueless about what they are voting for. This is the perfect foil for aggregating power in the hands of a few. This is even more effective when you ensure that the rest are insanely poor. This is a pre-requisite for those in power in democracies.
The bigger the gap between the rich and the poor, the easier it is for those in power to remain in power.
Also, if you have an order of magnitude more money and power over the media, you can very easily manufacture truth. This is the nature of power that America and the CIA have been wielding over so many poor democracies across the world.
This is also the reason, America hates dictatorships or communist nations. They are near impossible to manipulate into a coup. When people rise up against a democratically elected leader, it is easy to push those in power out and move others in. The system is designed to be a conveyor belt.
When people rise up against a dictator, there is a Me Vs Them dynamic. The consequences are not pre-destined. They killed Saddam Hussain and left a power vacuum, there was no conveyor belt of people waiting to move in. In Afghanistan, they received an ass-whooping of a lifetime. ‘The people want change’ story does not work in non-democracies.
Prior to 1920, you could have counted off all the democracies in the world on your fingers. This changed after the First World War. And with that came the exploitation of every nation on the planet in the service of the American economy.
There is a reason they are the richest in the world. It takes robbery at a global scale.
To make matters worse, since people are often elected from within a small coterie, they tend to have spent all of their younger years rising in this corrupt system and only old men with one foot in the grave seem to hold power and drive the system. I do not mean the “President” or “Prime Minister” alone but the entire system around them that makes decisions.
Consequentially all of the decisions in a democracy are made by men who have fewer than a couple of decades to live. They have no concern about the long-term consequences of their actions. Somebody else would have to deal with those problems.
First World War and the Wilsonian murder of the monarchy
The Democracy project started during the First World War. In the midst of the war, Woodrow Wilson stated that the only way to establish peace in the world was to ensure that there was “Peace without Victory”. When a side won, it imposed harsh sanctions on the other side. This perpetuated war. The loser eventually grew tired of paying reparations and started another war.
The only way to ensure future wars did not erupt was by ensuring the side that lost was treated with dignity. The only way to ensure this was be ensuring peace without victory.
The only way that peace could be achieved without victory would be by vanquishing the monarchy at the same time. If monarchy continued to exist, the monarch would obviously feel the need to exact revenge even if they had the slightest upper hand. Democracy could be cajoled and negotiated with. One’s interest could be played against that of the other to arrive at a settlement.
Woodrow Wilson was not against Germany. It was just that Germany was the only strong monarchy left in Europe. Finishing Germany would only leave declining monarchies across Europe. This is what caused him to side with Britain and France.
The First World War brought the entire European Continent into the Democracy project. With democracy, they all ushered in capitalism in its American form.
The beginning of the end.
Say 100 people live in an area. They grow the food they need, and they make the things that are needed to grow the food. Take from the land what they want and give back to the land what they must.
If instead, there are 1,000,000 people living on the land, there is no way that enough can be grown to meet the needs of those who live off it. They are then forced to import (I do not mean from other countries but mean not locally produced) from places that produce food in excess.
This import involves goods movement and logistics which causes enormous pollution. But that is not all…
Since the people who end up consuming the resources never see how it is produced, it is impossible for them to understand what it takes to make and deliver those things.
The relentless murder of livestock would be unbearable to see if you were to see it happen at scale right next to your house. But these production centres are far removed from where we live.
The shameless mining of resources from across the world to provide us with the steady supply of goods that we need has left the entire planet destroyed and depleted the quality of countless water bodies and ecosystems across the world. Most of us will never even hear of it let alone see it.
So we feel comfortable with pushing increasing consumption without any shame.
Seeds of cities
In the 15th century, the church wanted to appropriate the lands of the rich and needed a scheme.
Their scheme was incest.
Everyone including up to the 6th cousins was forbidden from marriage. This meant people had to travel away from villages in order to find mates. This left the older generation alone in the villages and the church could appropriate their lands as part of the indulgence they sold to absolve them of their sins.
Thus we sowed the seeds for cities to grow. Those who left their villages converged to places where there was a livelihood to be found. Coastal or riverside towns which were portals for commerce began to grow in population and delivered our cities.
Cities removed the ‘kind’ in mankind. Being bombarded by stimuli all the time, we become a sea of strangers. We do not know others and do not care about their distress any longer. The same lack of care now extends to our entire ecosystem.
The number of cities across the world skyrocketed in the 20th century.
Efficiency and Productivity
In economics, the Jevons paradox (/ˈdʒɛvənz/; sometimes Jevons effect) occurs when technological progress or government policy increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (reducing the amount necessary for any one use), but the falling cost of use increases its demand, increasing, rather than reducing, resource use. The Jevons' effect is perhaps the most widely known paradox in environmental economics. However, governments and environmentalists[needs update] generally assume that efficiency gains will lower resource consumption, ignoring the possibility of the effect arising.
Improving efficiencies only result in greater use of resources, not less. The cult of efficiency began with the rise of the financialisation of capitalism. The more finance got involved in business, the more efficiency became important. The problem simply is that when you increase efficiency and make it easier for someone to use up a resource, you don’t use less, you just end up using more since that is what capitalism demands.
If your car gave you 1 km to a litre of petrol, you would probably walk or cycle to a lot of places that you drive to today. Car efficiencies improved. The average car today does 20 km to a litre and that has only resulted in more kilometres being driven and more oil being consumed. The more efficient cars become the more oil is used.
When agriculture became more efficient, the land under cultivation increased. When the efficiency of irrigation increases we run the lakes dry, when mining efficiency improves entire mountains disappear to cater to the mining.
And there are whole sections of the economy that are only employed in the service of increasing efficiency. What happens next is a search for more resources and the indiscriminate utilisation of the same.
Li-Ion batteries were not efficient enough, we did not use them as much. As their efficiencies improve we have been scaling our use of these batteries at an unprecedented rate.
The thing that people do not see because they live in cities is that the extraction of lithium has already turned several lakes and rivers in China and South America into dead zones.
I can have maple syrup in India which was not possible 30 years ago, but at what cost. A ship dumps oil in the sea and makes it impossible for ocean life to communicate so that they can ship the syrup from Canada all the way to India.
In the late 20th century, having exploited all of the markets that were within arms reach, the western nations started to look at markets further away in order to expand. This gave birth to globalisation and global brands were born. Not only did they export their goods at scale to other counties, but they also brought their unsustainable exploitation of nature to other countries.
The development of this project eventually resulted in all of the pollution-generating activities being outsourced to what the World Bank would like to call “Developing Countries”. Mostly to China. China is not an economic miracle, it is just the result of outsourcing most of America’s pollution-generating activities overseas.
When one speaks about globalisation, the example that is often cited to showcase globalisation is Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs). This often involves running call centres in other countries that are cheaper. But globalisation has also meant that almost none of the clothes that are worn by western consumers are produced in the country. They do not make their own shoes or plastics or any other thing that is intensive on the environment.
Globalisation is often painted as the knowledge industry being outsourced because of the internet. In reality, it was a lot of industrial production that was outsourced. Further, the goods that are produced are moved around the world using fleets of ships that are terrible for the environment.
Law is created by man to protect man. That is the only service of the law.
Given a dispute between the environment and the corporation every law sides with the corporation. This has been true for centuries now. There has been some recent pushback by animal rights activists and the like but powerful lobbies still keep any real action at bay.
Having a different interpretation of the law for the rich and the poor helps the rich exploit nature the way they wish to. In the US the most recent example of such an interpretation was the Keystone pipeline. The natives to whom the land belonged were asked to stay out of the way. I wonder if the same would have been the case if Jeff Bezos owned the land.
Law has done more to exacerbate the problem of climate change than can be imagined. By proving property rights and allowance for the exploitation of lands that are protected under the tenets of the law, the greatest destruction of natural resources has been allowed.
Also, as time goes by law tends to become less amorphous and more rigid, unwilling to accept its shortcomings. This is known as Values lock-in. The US constitution underwent 11 amendments in the first 10 years of its existence. It has undergone 1 amendment in the last 50 years; an amendment which was originally proposed on 25th September 1789.
If our understanding of the world is improving, how is it finding its way into law?
Nature fights back and it has its way of appropriating revenge. For all who have lived through the COVID pandemic, it is easy to see how quickly a virus can sweep through a population and claim large numbers of people as victims. Past pandemics have wiped off 50% of the population in various parts of the world where the infection ran amok.
We have been able to prevent this from happening over the last 100 years. The AIDS epidemic could have claimed hundreds of millions of lives in the 1960s and 1970s which would have resulted in our population today being half as many or fewer. Medicine prevented this. We have survived several pandemics since; COVID being the widest spread and the most potent in recent times.
It would not have been possible without medicine. But conversely, we have been undoing nature’s attempt to instil balance. We have made it harder for nature to protect itself through the application of medicine.
Medicine is one of those unquestionably and overwhelmingly positive things created by humans that has undermined nature and increased our energy requirements and exacerbated the climate change problem.
Over the past decade, there has been a push to move towards a green economy. Green fuel, green energy, green manufacturing, green automobiles, green buildings, and the list goes on. The problem with all the green is that they are nothing more than ‘green’ branding.
All forms of green energy use metals including rare earth metals. These are not only difficult to extract but often exploitative and harm the environment in unsaid ways when you extract them. Near impossible to recycle and ultimately destructive to the ecosystem.
What we refer to as a Li-Ion battery is not a lump of Lithium. The latest long-lasting versions use Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2). Anybody who tells you that they are going to recycle this battery is probably going to take this metal compound and wash it in acid. Only a fool can believe that this would be beneficial to the environment.
All of the renewable energy plants are built through extreme extraction of the planet. Not a single wind turbine would be standing on this planet without steel and concrete. I do not need to school you on how much pollution is created in the production of Steel and Concrete. Photovoltaics use rare earth metals. Most of them have a 25 years lifespan after which they are near impossible to recycle. Hydel power plants destroy the entire ecosystem of the region where the dam is built. The US has started decommissioning dams along the Colorado river because of the amount of damage they have wrought. And trust me if the US is doing it, it has to be nuclear waste level bad because they just don’t care.
The Green economy is not meant to save the planet, it is there to save capitalism. Its sole purpose is to make the abuse of the planet look clean and allow the people engaged in it to feel good about themselves.
Man had a need for believing in belief.
As the scientific age swept around our belief in god started diminishing. With that morality started coming apart. Some of the greatest American scams go back to the 1920s including Ponzi and Rockefeller. The Rockefeller scam is still running today.
Anti-monopoly laws had to be created. It was legal in 1920 to pump and dump. A few rich men would pool their resources to pump up the value of a stock and then dump it to net some profits.
Capitalism became the new religion. It was suddenly okay to be greedy - one of the seven sins. It was not at all hard to preach. It was easier to believe.
People are going through more purposeless lives now than ever before.
They belong to no place, there is no place that they can call their own. Although connected to more and more people through the internet, we have fewer and fewer people who we can really ask for help. They do not know who they are; if you asked people who they are, 99/100 people would tell you their profession. Most of their entire life is about accumulating this human-made token called money. Even if that involves doing things that make them miserable, they will continue to do it so long as it allows them to accumulate this token.
We live in gamified societies where the purpose of every life is to collect Money. It does not matter what cost it comes at - to self and to nature.
And that is how we have ended up in this place where we have destroyed the planet to collect some numbers in our account that gives us status in society.
How bankrupt is a society where the only thing that attributes value to a person is a set of numbers in a bank account?