More capitalism will be mass death at some future point

Did y'all read the Maddaddam trilogy like I suggested?

The books depict a future in which more capitalism and its primary side-effect, abrupt climate change, have vastly degraded the civilization under which we currently live. In Atwood's world, commerce is all a scam, moral perversion is the norm, and the class distinctions we currently hide under American chumminess have been turned into a full-fledged apartheid system, with the rich in their Compounds and the rest of us in the Pleeblands. No doubt the infighting will be more intense as the capitalist buzzards pick the dead carcass of planet Earth clean.

The primary event governing the books is a mad scientist's attempt to wipe out the human race and replace it with a genetically-engineered version. Atwood speculates joyously about the sort of new animals which will dominate the landscape due to unrestrained genetic engineering: wolvogs, for instance, dogs with wolf genes bred to protect property, or pigoons, pigs engineered to supply human replacement body parts. I suppose capitalist for-profit technology will have to entertain us if it is to continue to advance as against a landscape of decline on all levels.

Now it is clear that capitalism sticks with its old energy supplies and merely supplements them with new ones. As Bonneuil and Fressoz remind us in their stunning volume The Shock of the Anthropocene, there has never been an "energy transition." This is most evident in China, where the fossil cars will no longer be sold but of course dominant coal is still not going away from the Chinese economy. And that great electric car solution? Cobalt might be a problem in scaling it upward too far.

There are actually two problems, depending upon which side of the situation one looks at. On the physics end, capitalist development (i.e. the primary cause of the "Great Acceleration," with "Communist" development being an imitative cause) will create climate problems that won't go away. The projected results are already obviously standard: floods, droughts, famines, plagues and so on. At some point the global population declines to that level that planetary ecosystems can support indefinitely. That development necessarily means mass death. The physics end of the problem is the end which people are familiar with.

The other end of the problem is the one that the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis called the "social imaginary," in which society operates through a collective fantasy which is continuously re-imagined to keep the social arrangements functioning. Law, politics, marriage, capitalism, money, property, and other fictions have to be continuously re-imagined for continuous public belief in their existence. The collective fantasy isn't, then, entirely a fantasy -- it influences our every action, and thus the shape of the natures we build atop the world. But at core it's a fantasy, which should give us hope for the option of a new fantasy.

Our problem, then, is that the collective fantasy which governs world-society is a capitalist collective fantasy: the ideal is to start a business, exploit "resources" and "labor," get rich, and rise above "nature" with its limitations. The ultimate end is to join the utopia of money, in which all we desire can be paid-for. A new collective fantasy, one based upon an ecological reckoning with the future of life on Earth both human and non-human, might save us from the bad end discussed in our examination of the other side of the problem. The new collective fantasy would replace the utopia of money with a utopia of sustainability.

Christian Parenti had a recent (8/29/2017) piece in Jacobin titled "If we fail," discussing the general continuance of capitalism and its expected outcome. Parenti's piece is narrowly focused upon the effects of "natural" disasters upon coastal urban environments. There are of course a broad number of other ways in which climate change will make things worse for people. Here's an opening salvo:

In the near term, perhaps starting in the 2020s or 2030s, the foremost problem will probably be a new climate-driven urban crisis of disinvestment, abandonment, and depopulation caused by rising sea levels and large inundating storms that will leave rotting urban infrastructure. As the water rises and the floods increase in severity and regularity, the once posh shoreline will be the new ghetto.

But of course climate change under capitalism doesn't stop at that point. As large portions of planet Earth become uninhabitable, much of Earth's human population becomes nomadic. With four degrees of climate change, everyone will want to migrate to Canada, Alaska, Russia, or Scandinavia. Parenti continues:

Mass migration and a racist backlash to it are already hallmarks of the early climate crisis. By the 2030s and 2040s, far more people will likely be on the move. Already, right-wing demagogues from Arizona to Cote d’Ivoire, to Myanmar, to Paris have been raging against the outsiders. Too often the demagogues successfully ride the fear and rage to power, and once there, turn state repression against immigrants and other poor people.

Thus, as drought, neoliberalism, and militarism produce crises, warfare, and waves of refugees in the Global South, in the North they produce a reactive, opportunistic, authoritarian state hardening.

Thus politics in the age of abrupt climate change becomes mired in the immigration issue, thus offering another distraction from what is really needed to avoid the coming more-capitalist mass death: a revolution in the social imaginary. As for Parenti's invocation of technical solutions to climate change, he offers no analysis of whether or not said solutions can be scaled dramatically upward without hitting resource roadblocks.

What has to happen, then, is that everyday human energy needs must be scaled down to those energies which can be produced while at the same time offering some modicum of ecological safety to the human race. This is only going to happen if a major departure from the capitalist path is made to happen. The fossil fuel industries must be phased out, and the overall energy consumption of the society as a whole must fall to meet physical (as opposed to economically imagined) need. None of this is going to happen under capitalism, a system in which the imperative of economic growth means that reigning notions of resource "need" are endlessly shifted upward to meet the ever-increasing extravagance that is continually redefined as "earning a living."

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Lookout's picture

and I fear extinction of the human species will be one of the costs.

Even if we woke up and started the energy transition, I still fear it will be too late...and we all know they will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo.

The book recommendation sounds interesting and I'll give it a read. At this point in time I feel I was wise (30 years ago) to buy a piece of remote property and work toward self-sufficiency. Here's hoping you all have a safe place to ride out the collapse.

Here's a pretty interesting conversation about capitalism - Abby Martin sits down with Peter Joseph to talk about the contradictions and crises of capitalism and what he advocates to save the future of the planet from catastrophe.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HwFOo5rbZA (45 min)

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Meteor Man's picture

A new collective fantasy, one based upon an ecological reckoning with the future of life on Earth both human and non-human, might save us from the bad end discussed in our examination of the other side of the problem. The new collective fantasy would replace the utopia of money with a utopia of sustainability.

Back in the day mankind had a chance:

On June 20, 1979, President Carter had 32 solar thermal panels installed to generate hot water, but the panels were taken down (and not reinstalled intentionally) while the roof was being resurfaced in 1986 while Reagan was president.

Then V.P. Cheney announced that conservation was a personal ethic, not a public guvmint reponsibility. In 2011 Obama announced a White House solar panel installation and actually completed it in 2014?

The fantasy of sustainability and survival of the human race had a real possibility of success once upon a time. We may very well be 40 years too late to start trudging the sustainability road to happy destiny.

[Edit to add link] https://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/installation-solar-panels-wh...

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11 users have voted.

Cali Kush: a bowl a day keeps the doctor away.

Lookout's picture

@Meteor Man

since 1992 16 of the 32 solar panels have been on the Unity College cafeteria roof, located just 15 minutes from the often overcast coast of Maine, warming water in summer and winter.

One of the 32 solar-thermal panels that captured energy on the roof of the White House more than 30 years ago landed at a science museum in China

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/carter-white-house-solar-pane...

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8 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cassiodorus's picture

@Meteor Man if Carter ever called for a phase-out of the fossil fuel industry, which is what's really necessary.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Meteor Man's picture

@Cassiodorus
The solar panels were largely symbolic, but even a token gesture to environmental sustainability was an outrage to the fossil fuel vampires. They had to go. I'm waiting for Trump to remove The Obama Panels from the roof and ship them to our Saudi Arabian allies.

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6 users have voted.

Cali Kush: a bowl a day keeps the doctor away.

eyo's picture

@Meteor Man he said "conserve", and everyone on the TV machine was all like "We're Doomed!"

Jimmy Carter Crisis of Confidence speech 4 of 4 July 15, 1979 aka Malaise Speech

"Say something good about our country", oh man that was so "Please clap" to me back then. So Reagan happened. Then who killed the electric car in the 90s? (yells at cloud, shakes fist at sky)
---
Weeks after Aliso Canyon reopening, several gas storage wells were taken out of service

“I want to stress, Aliso Canyon is safe,” Lisa Alexander, SoCalGas vice president for customer solutions and communications, wrote in a note to the Aliso Canyon Community Advisory Council.

“Aliso Canyon will never be safe and needs to be immediately closed,” the advocacy group Food and Water Watch said in a statement.

Not that this is connected or anything: http://sempra.com/about/governance/board-of-directors.shtml
Not connected! In California it is "just politics". Sorry.

Kathleen L. Brown

Kathleen L. Brown has been a director since 2013. She is a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. Her experience includes 18 years as a senior executive in the financial sector and 16 years of service in the public sector, including a term as California’s state treasurer. Prior to joining Sempra Energy’s board, Brown worked 12 years in leadership positions at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., a global investment banking and securities firm. She is a director of Stifel Financial Corp., Five Points Communities, Renew Financial and the National Park Foundation.

Brown serves on Sempra Energy's Corporate Governance and Environmental, Health, Safety and Technology committees.

She also ran for governor once, and is the current governor's sister. Daughter of Pat Brown, governor from '59-'67. Don't say dynasty. While you're at it, don't say nepotism.

About 1 in 5 employees at a California tax department works with a relative,

Wow that makes me think the proverbial "Jake" is kind of irritated at the moment. Good job, keep going.

good luck

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On a blog.

Lily O Lady's picture

should refocus on making a living.

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"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"

WoodsDweller's picture

it's an event. Consider a world with abundant resources and waste sinks. Capitalism is a great way to rapidly turn resources into waste and create some useful goods and services along the way.
At some point resources are no longer abundant and waste sinks near safe capacity. Capitalism needs to be quickly phased out lest it become hopelessly destructive.
That was probably 50 years ago.

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12 users have voted.

The lesser evil is still evil. Vote your conscience, not your fear.

Lenzabi's picture

@WoodsDweller It is a bad situation, we should have done this back when we had 4billion people, and better regulations to squash this dependence on Fossil Fuel, I made the mistake of imagining the Big Oil guys switching to more sustainable stuff, and getting to dominate that field, then of course back in 1982, I had no idea they already knew what they were doing was bad, and decided to shelve off the report and hide it to milk all they could from Oil. The Greed Virus is endemic, and lethal.

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6 users have voted.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

WoodsDweller's picture

@Lenzabi
They were made by a company that was owned by BP. I didn't care, someone was going to make the money and I didn't really care who it was. I thought the oil companies would make an orderly transition to supplying renewable energy.
The problem with that idea is simple: renewable energy is renewable. If I sell you a barrel of oil, you burn it and next month you want to buy another one. If I sell you a solar panel you're set for 50+ years. No repeat business. Selling renewable energy gives you big cash flow up front and nothing going forward, so business wants to keep us yoked to 19th century technology so that we burn it up and keep buying more. Not just wealth, but a long term stream of wealth.

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5 users have voted.

The lesser evil is still evil. Vote your conscience, not your fear.

Lenzabi's picture

@WoodsDweller All about profits before life, the Greed Virus has ruined our society and with technology at their disposal, faster and more effectively.

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3 users have voted.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Lily O Lady's picture

@WoodsDweller

a way for TPTB to keep a revenue stream going. For them that's what life is all about.

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3 users have voted.

"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"