"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
History is constructed from the building blocks of material fact, not "hope" or "change". But those blocks can be moved by the human mind and the human spirit and their triumph will be eternal.
One of the fantasies that currently dominates the debate on climate change is that of "green capitalism". The idea is essentially that we can keep the current economic system and maintain its growth rate while shifting to green technologies. Behind the smoke screen of this fantasy, the elite are effectively maneuvering to inaugurate the next great bubble. The devastation of the earth's ecology represents one of the most lucrative profit opportunities the world has ever seen. We will call this the "Enron Strategy" based on the pioneering work of Enron in California where artificial shortages were created to hike up the charges to utility companies. In one famous memo stated that "...the Kyoto treaty 'would do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative." Enron made many innovations in the art of scarcity. They regularly invented reasons to take power plants offline while California was blacked out, allowing utility rates to be hiked 9 times between 2000 and 2001. This successful strategy acts as paradigm for the coming profits from global warming which will be based on the same principle. If you wonder why in the face of catastrophe, the leaders of the world dither and bargain over trivia, the answer may well be that the opportunities for enrichment from global destruction are just too tempting to pass up.
But first, we must set the stage: Despite the propaganda that proclaims that capitalism brings wealth to everyone, the truth is that capitalism thrives on scarcity. Nothing dismays investment bankers more than the prospect of abundance for all. Waste and destruction are natural for our system of wealth concentration. The profits accrue to a tiny elite while the destruction and waste are absorbed by the many. The way in which this elite passes the costs to the public and to the natural environment while retaining the profit for itself is referred to as externalizing. The costs of environmental destruction are externalized under capitalism on nature and society as a whole.
Turning the "free gifts" of nature into private profits through the selective commodification of parts of nature is not a recent development as many liberals pretend. Since the current system's beginnings in the 15th century, it has been the foundation for capital accumulation.
The new situation brought on by climate change is in many respects seen as a golden opportunity in which to further privatize the remaining natural wealth. This will accelerate the destruction of the natural environment, while enlarging the system that weighs upon it. But the greater the destruction, the greater the profit potential. This is best illustrated by the rapid privatization of fresh water, which is now seen as a new mega-market for global accumulation. The drying up and contamination of freshwater diminishes public wealth, creating investment opportunities for capital, while profits made from selling increasingly scarce water are recorded as contributions to income and riches. It is not surprising, therefore, that the UN Commission on Sustainable Development proposed, at a 1998 conference in Paris, that governments should turn to “large multinational corporations” in addressing issues of water scarcity, establishing “open markets” in water rights. Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of the global water giant Suez, has openly pronounced: “Water is an efficient product. It is a product which normally would be free, and our job is to sell it. But it is a product which is absolutely necessary for life.” He further remarked: “Where else [other than in the monopolization of increasingly scarce water resources for private gain] can you find a business that’s totally international, where the prices and volumes, unlike steel, rarely go down?"
Huge profits are waiting for those who seize the moment. Why will Copenhagen be gutted by Obama and all the other heads of state? Because a moment like this will not come again. Let the destruction begin and let the wealth begin to flow.