[p2p-research] Fwd: 20 Theses against green capitalism

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Thu Aug 6 14:54:36 CEST 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> These are important and interesting theses to reflect on. Some initial
> comments in-line
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Dante-Gabryell Monson <dante.monson at gmail.com>
> Date: Sun, Aug 2, 2009 at 10:27 PM
> Subject: 20 Theses against green capitalism
> To: sustainable_solidarity at yahoogroups.com, hc_ecology at yahoogroups.com
> *20 Theses against green capitalism
> Tadzio Mueller and Alexis Passadakis
> *http://slash.autonomedia.org/node/11656

I agree with a lot of this, but I also think is misses some key ideas.

Capitalism's need to grow is mentioned several times, but not explored. 
There are at various reasons capitalism needs continued growth (debt-based 
fiat currencies, demographic pyramid schemes, etc.), but the most important 
issue from a social justice perspective IMHO is that increasing productivity 
leads to job loss given finite demand for goods, or at least, that demand, 
once saturated, grows more slowly than productivity (since, ultimately, the 
best things in life are free or cheap). One fundamental aspect of current 
capitalism is that the right to consume comes from income earned through a 
job (unless you have a lot of capital :-) as mentioned in the "Triple 
Revolution" memorandum of 1964.

Nothing in these green themes addresses that issue of how increasing 
productivity puts pressure on the entire social system, given that free 
markets may often be great at producing wealth (ignoring externalities or 
resource depletion) but markets are also great at concentrating wealth (so, 
the free market less and less hears the demands of people at the edges). We 
might get some green jobs with a greenwashed capitalism, but we'll still 
overall lose jobs from rising productivity and people will starve unless 
they have money (or, alternatively, can produce at a subsistence level 
themselves, something that is difficult without at least some capital like 
land and equipment and raw materials and good health). So, IMHO, a basic 
income has to be part of any future approach in order for a capitalist 
system to continue to work in the situation of limited or stagnant growth. 
Some might call a basic income as a form of charitable "welfare", but IHMO a 
basic income is more the idea every human has a claim to part of the commons 
-- a commons of ideas and technologies, a commons of biodiversity, a commons 
of mineral wealth, a commons of social networking capital, and so on.

Now, if one accepts the idea of a basic income, and that a basic income 
eventually should be global, then some of the issues like global climate 
change (that those 20 theses are concerned about in various places) are not 
as problematical. The global world product is something like US$60 trillion 
per year, or about US$10,000 per person in round numbers. If, through 
taxation or other policy, every human got half that, so US$5000 per year 
(which is not that much in the USA but is a lot in much of the rest of the 
world) then things like global climate change would not be that much of a 
problem. People would have the money to relocate, or build seawalls to hold 
back rising oceans, or they would build new floating islands. The central 
problem here is that many poor people are being forced to pay for a negative 
externality of capitalism (CO2 pollution causing global climate change 
affecting their lives) without having received much of any benefits from 
global capitalism.

The fact is, no matter what people say in the media, global climate change 
is not a serious problem given our technological capacity. We have the 
technology to build new land in the oceans. We have the technology and empty 
land in places like the middle of Russia or the middle of the USA to 
relocate hundreds of millions of people and build them beautiful sustainable 
cities. We have the technology in storm tossed areas to build houses out of 
concrete that can take storms. We just lack the political will or economic 
control system to realize those technological possibilities. Something I 
wrote on that:
"Re: On Climate Change vs. the Singularity"

All human efforts produce externalities; for capitalism there have been some 
negative externalities (like pollution such as CO2 causing climate change, 
or unintentional extinction causing a loss in biodiversity), as well as 
positive externalities (the commons of technology has grown, and the globe 
is now heavily networked). Ideally, we want to get the benefits of the 
efforts and also the positive externalities, but without the negative 
externalities. But, if you can't avoid the negative externalities, then, if 
the system makes sense at all because it produces so much wealth, one has to 
talk about having those who suffer negative externalities get a share of the 
wealth to compensate them for that (and that share should be on top of what 
they have a claim on in terms of the commons, as well). In human terms, that 
would be at least a basic income (and maybe even more). But, with species 
going extinct, in Gaian terms some sort of basic income as well as claim for 
negative externalities would mean habitat preservation, genetic sampling for 
future rebirths in simulation or in new habitats, and the construction of 
space habitats for all those species to have new places to live and so be 
better off in the long run in terms of survival.

I actually like a lot of green ideas, but the Green party consistently seems 
to miss the possibilities of technology as well as some social equity 
issues, as far as trying to build on what we have in the best way possible.

--Paul Fernhout

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