Capitalism is killing the planet (leaflet)
Our extinction is closer than most people realize, because they don’t understand feedback loops, tipping points, and the madness driving our rulers.
A feedback loop has consequences that are also causes. The bigger the loop gets, the faster it grows. An example: As polar ice melts, its white surface is replaced by dark soil or water. Less sunlight is reflected into space; more is absorbed by the earth as heat. Thus, still more melting. This and many other feedbacks hasten global warming. They will continue even if civilization collapses; our only hope is to stop the loops before then.
A tipping point has gradual causes and abrupt one-way consequences, like when you lean your chair back too far. There are many ways the climate may change suddenly. Here is one: Frozen under the Arctic is lots of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Warming, a little of the gas has begun burping out. Soon the rest may be released in one great belch, and the subsequent reflected heat will roast us all.
The fifth planetary mass extinction killed the dinosaurs, along with most other life on Earth at that time. Since then, the world’s temperature has oscillated a few times, but never so fast as it’s rising now. Meanwhile, we’re cutting down all the forests, and filling the oceans with plastic and the rivers with oil. Plants and animals, unable to adapt this fast, are dying off; we’re now in the sixth mass extinction. Soon our crops will fail, and the rich will discover they can’t eat money.
Science might still save the ecosystem, but it isn’t being used. The 2016 Paris Climate Agreement covered goals but not methods; nations only agreed what to wish for. Plutocrats block any reform that would reduce their short-term profits. Gilens and Page proved statistically that, regardless of elections, the rich get the public policies they want and the rest of us don’t. Our so-called “democracy” is a sham.
If we don’t share, we trade. That favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position, making him still stronger, increasing inequality, creating plutocracy — that is, rule by a small wealthy class. And power corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved.
Externalities are the unmeasured and unpaid for side effects of trade, such as ecocide, poverty, and war. The market’s “efficiency” is a lie.
And on the personal level, separate property makes separate lives, replacing empathy with alienation. Instead of caring for our neighbors, we end up using them or even shooting them.
Inequality, externalities, and alienation can’t be reformed away, because they are not just superficial corruption. They are inherent in the very notion of trade, and can only be ended by sharing. We need not just kinder hearts and smarter regulations, but an entirely different economic system. That, in turn, requires a radically awakened public. The first step is to talk about it.
2018 April 30, version 1.10. The ODT file prints on two sides of a half page.