9 December 2005
It’s depressing to think on how many otherwise right-thinking people have bought into the ‘Peak Oil’ nonsense. We read for example, that of the over 60 known reserves in Iraq, only 17 have actually been exploited and it’s been calculated that the reserves far outstrip the currently exploited fields.
I’ve dealt with the issue in at least five other articles here, trying to put the record straight on the rip-off being perpetrated by the big oilcos but it seems that the pre-conceptions, especially in the West about resources are still stuck in the 18th century and it’s for sure mainly down to the role of racism (again) ie too many (black) people, else why the sudden concern about the people of China and India and elsewhere in the developing world who, after decades of forcing them into adopting ‘market’ economies, now threaten to make the rich minority of the world face the reality of our rape of the planet by getting the developing countries to shoulder the further cost of ‘saving energy’ and saving the planet. It’s damn outrageous!
This doesn’t mean that we should not be concerned about the conspicuous consumption of oil in the West, far from it, and if it comes to consumption, just about every other raw material used to churn out an endless stream of useless products that have people locked into the infinite consumption addiction of Western capitalism. Raw materials that largely come from the developing world. Nor does it mean that the issue of climate change is one that the entire planet should not be concerned about, but the question comes down as to how to try and save our battered home.
But it seems that some in the corporate media are now showing signs of shitting in their ‘free market’ pants over the reality of the climate disaster, judging by some of the headlines, a process probably already too late to stop. But what kinds of solutions are they proposing?
Reversing global warming?
Perhaps the best analogy I can come up with is how long it takes to stop one of those giant, 200,000 ton oil supertankers; you can’t just put the brakes on and expect it to stop, there’s so much kinetic energy involved. We’ve been pumping so much energy into the biosphere for the past 200 years that once set in motion, once past a ‘tipping point’, trying to right it will require an even greater amount of effort (that’s assuming it’s possible, given the sheer complexity of a system that has taken billions of years to evolve and about which we actually have little detailed knowledge concerning the complexities of interactions). I’m convinced that it’s past the point where it’s simply a question of cutting the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to put it to rights. We are, as they say, on a slippery slope.
I’m no scientist but it strikes me that a system as complex as Gaia which has been a couple billion years in the making; a complex network of chemical, biological and geophysical processes that have worked in total harmony to achieve what is called homeostasis, once buggered by industrial capitalism, it’s going to take more than people shutting their lights off or cycling to work to reverse the process.
If there was ever an argument for abolishing capitalism and its dog-eat-dog’ mentality it’s the issue of the climate, so while the arseholes who rule us talk shit in Montreal and try and dump on the developing countries to ‘take up the slack’, the real issue of the economics of capitalism are conveniently forgotten.
It’s argued that if China and India follow the course of the West in the production of consumer goods we’re going to ‘run out of oil’, accelerate global warming and so on, but who is the major consumer of these products? It’s us for Christ’s sake!
Who should pay?
Some facts are worth bearing in mind at this point; the US, whilst only accounting for 4 per cent of the world’s population, produces 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases. And, as it accuses China for producing 25 percent as well, China has over 20 per cent of the planet’s population, so go figure the per capita output of greenhouse gases produced by China.
The vastly expanding industrial output of China is made possible by the insatiable appetites of the West who have exported most of their industrial production to China and India where labour is cheap and plentiful. I’ve no figures to hand but it would be interesting to know what percentage of the growth in output of China is down to the West moving its production there and the same goes for the other target of the West’s attempts at shifting blame, India. These are after all, the countries that for decades the West has been demanding that they transform their economies to so-called free markets, in other words, unrestrained consumer-oriented production and completely open to penetration by Western capital.
The media and climate change
The myopia of the West is evident in the media’s coverage of the issue. The London Independent on 3/12/05 had a front page devoted to the issue as well as a vapid editorial on the looming environmental disaster, one that reveals a very frightened ruling elite but one that for obvious reasons refuses to confront the fundamental issue that if we are to even begin tackling the issue before we lose the ability to do so, it means a fundamental shift away from a ‘market economy’ to one that seeks to re-establish harmony with the planet’s eco-system – with Gaia, the system that gave birth to us in the first place.
The Independent’s editorial says in part “The free market will never do it on its own”, though it fails to offer any thoughts on what other kind of system will, nor does it have anything to say about the ‘free market’ being the cause of the problem in the first place. And what does it mean by “do it on its own”? Is the vehicle of corporate power advocating state intervention and if so, what of its much lauded ‘free market’?
And anyway there’s nothing free about a market dominated by a handful giant transnationals supported by a handful of governments that have over the past 30 years forced the ‘free market’ on much of the planet.
And without a hint of the irony involved in the comment, the editorial goes on to say “We all face this looming era of climactic [sic] unpredictability together.” And again, predictably, goes on to tell us that “If more of us turned off electrical devices when not in use and recycled our waste properly, our societies would be hugely less energy inefficient. If populations became greener, it would send a potent message to our political representatives.” So all of a sudden, we are all in this together are we?
Though how this squares with an economic system based on endless ‘growth’ is not explained. There is no mention at all of the seemingly endless production of just plain stupid products such as electrically powered ‘air fresheners’, dumb-ass electric toothbrushes and all manner of utterly useless consumer goods that flood onto the market in an endless stream, all the result of an economic system that must continually create new markets as existing ones reach saturation point. For not only do these products up the demand on electricity even as we’re told to curb consumption, most are made of petroleum-based raw materials and made in China, Vietnam, India and other places South.
The editorial also mentions transport but again fails to address the central issue, the damn motor car. Instead it says”
“Action must be taken to curtail emissions from transport. That means extensive investment in alternative fuels and taxation of air flights.”
Yet we have a government that is spending billions on extending the motorway system, failing to make investment in public transport even as it guarantees profits to a privatised railway network. The editorial makes no mention of the incestuous relationship between big oil and the government and the importance of the auto industry to capitalism. Instead, it wants to eat its cake and keep it with mention of ‘alternative fuels’.
Without confronting the centrality of an economic system that is at its core, completely irrational, there can be no hope whatsoever of a solution to the environmental crisis that confronts us. But like the Worm Ouroboros that ate its own tail, the state and its servant, the media, talks of the urgency of the situation but won’t recognise that the system it defends devours its own.