Ruin from the pursuit of profit

It is easy to observe that economic concerns are at the center of our lives, from the State level to the individual’s. While historically the economic question had its importance, the nature of the question shifted from being a matter of securing subsistence to one of achieving higher profits. With basic needs easily met and a surplus of (mostly) human resources, non-essential activities -entertainment and leisure; sports, movies, tourism- could then thrive. Ideologically, the Enlightenment’s rationalism was seen as the liberator from superstition and backwardness. Parallel to its adoption, technological progress brought a general rise in the standards of living (vaccination, efficiency of food production and distribution, etc), enough to afford for most of us to work white collar jobs.

One of problems with science and its advances, is that once discovered, there is no real control of how it is applied. The most obvious example being the sophistication of war machines and their potential for destruction. In a less striking example, one of the controversies surrounding GMOs is about the unknown consequence of introducing such genetic material in the natural environment, where its spread can no longer be controlled. To show how even clear net positive innovations can also cause harm down the road, let’s consider the use of fertilizers and pesticides: having initially yielded great results in reducing famine, now causes the unsolvable problem of soil degradation [1]. Even Science has its limits, and these are starting to be hard to miss.

Bigger problems tend to invite for bigger solutions, and those solutions are not exempt from negative consequences of their own. Michael Moore, who this author does not find much in common with outside of this context, narrated in “Planet of the Humans”[2] an excellent (and now censored) exposition of the fraudulent green energy industry, where word games are employed to hide the ugly truth: any alternative source of energy is more resource intensive and damaging to the natural environment than burning fossil fuels; it is simply a marketing ploy veneer applied on the same old money-making schemes.

The documentary shows that while the desire for environmental care is genuine in most people, the same corporations behind the fossil fuel industry have simply jumped in front of the green movement to offer a false solution and neutralize these good intentions: instead of embracing the painful prospect of economic contraction -which would mean loss of profit and a fundamental rethinking of our consumption habits and needs-, the promise of infinite sustainable green growth was made. These same powerful economic interests who promoted Al Gore -whose career they financed, through media they paid for- to raise awareness and introduce their “Green energy” solution to the environmental question then arranged for the censorship of “Planet of the Humans”.

The unquestioning deference to Science as the fixer of all things sometimes veers to the satirical, as we learn that Bill Gates wants to spread chemicals in the atmosphere in order to counter global warming [3].

All of these examples do not even begin to address the different effects of Technology on an individual level, which will be eventually explored in a separate piece [4]. In short, Technology has changed the life experience of the average person such that the environment one grows up in nowadays is not the natural one we were adapted to. A couple thousands of years might be a long time in History but do not amount to a substantial period when it comes to biology. The specific extent and manner with which Technology has reshaped societies and individuals alike (from obvious to very subtle ways) will again be further explored, but the essential idea is that its growth is left unchecked, even encouraged when money is involved, although no one can predict or control its outcomes.

Similar to most other major problems we are collectively running into, the elite and media stand in the way of addressing them in a pertinent way. While these two obstacles will be addressed more in detail in upcoming expositions, the problem still needs to be address in its entirety, including the role we play in it.

Some of the important questions will follow: as Technology invariably dominates and reshapes nature according to its needs, should it not be severely limited in its implementation, which would come only after careful and long-winded testing? Can we afford to let Technology’s advances be dictated by the profit motive, in light of the aforementioned reshaping it causes (natural, but also social, and even beyond)? Are our current consumption habits (smartphones in every pocket, gadgets galore, plastic everything) not the main enabler of this problem? To what extent are we ready to scale down our consumption habits, and how does it compare to what is needed to attain actual sustainability?

The backdrop to the writing of this article is the American elections, where two old men are captivating masses across the world and pitting people against each other on relatively minor ideological differences. Almost no one questions that the sacred Big Line of the GDP must go up to please the gods of the financial markets; mainstream political parties are just the different sects debating on how to better serve the Big Line, and we believers get to decide every few years who will perform the rituals. No matter who wins, it will be four more years of worshipping the economy and sterile political discussions.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/12/third-of-earths-soil-acutely-degraded-due-to-agriculture-study

[2] https://planetofthehumans.com/

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/07/bill-gates-funded-solar-geoengineering-could-help-stop-global-warming.html

[4] For an in-depth exploration of the different problems that Technology poses, refer to https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/national/unabom-manifesto-1.html; while the author does not condone Kaczynski’s actions, the validity of his observations on the nature of the Technological problem still stands.

 

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