(/latest/) Capitalism is killing the planet

Our extinction is closer than most people realize, because they don’t understand feedback loops, tipping points, and the insanity driving our rulers.

arrowsA feedback loop has consequences that are also causes. The bigger it 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 more melting. This and many other feedbacks are speeding up global warming. They will continue even if civilization collapses; our only hope is to stop them before then.

A tipping point has gradual causes and abrupt consequences, like when you lean your chair back too far. Global warming has many tipping points. Here is one: Frozen under the Arctic is lots of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The Arctic is slowly warming, and has begun burping methane. It may soon release the rest in one great belch, roasting us all.

dead duckThe fifth planetary mass extinction killed the dinosaurs, and most 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 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 crops and water supplies will fail, and the rich will find they can’t eat money.

arctic drillingWe’re good at technology, but we’re failing sociology. We might still save the climate if we put our minds to it, but our government is lobotomized. Oil companies protect their profits, so the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement covered goals but not methods. Nations agreed what to wish for.

vileAny market price is negotiated between buyer and seller. Other people, unconsulted, are affected. The side effects they bear are called externalized costs. The market really is terribly inefficient, for these unmeasured costs are enormous. But corporations are compelled, both by law and by competition, to maximize short-term profits for their stockholders, regardless of long-term consequences killing us all.

money in politicsEcocide, war, poverty, lies, and corruption are profitable to a few rich people. They want to be richer, so they block any reforms. Our democracy is a sham: Professors Gilens and Page proved statistically in 2014 that, regardless of elections, the rich get the public policies they want and the rest of us don’t. Trade increases inequality,better bargaining position creating a tiny plutocracy, and power – as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved – corrupts.

And on the personal level, separate housesseparate property makes separate lives. Instead of caring about each other, we end up using each other. War becomes normal, and some of us start shooting our neighbors.

To fix all this, we must stop basing our lives on profit. We need not just kinder hearts, but a very different economic system. That, in turn, requires a radically awakened public. The first step is talking about it.


2018 April 12, version 1.01. The ODT file prints on two sides of a half page. I wrote this leaflet to distribute at the “March for Climate and Science” on April 14, 2018..

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