This is the fantasy: we can rebuild our entire global industrial society every generation or two forever.
“Earthrise” is one of the most influential photographs ever published. Taken on the Apollo 8 mission in late December 1968 by astronaut Bill Anders, it captures Earth’s uniqueness, isolation and modest scale: a blue and white dot on a vast sea of lifeless darkness.
The revelation that strikes me is the insanity of pursuing eternal economic growth, not as an option but as the only possible path: there is literally no alternative to extracting ever greater quantities of the planet’s resources to enable ever greater consumption by the planet’s 7.7 billion humans.
Stripped to its essence, this mad drive is about profit and power. The necessity is sold as the only path to prosperity for humanity, but it’s really about securing wealth and power for the few.
A recent article in Scientific American magazine highlights how the idealistic impulses of protecting the planet’s diverse life from the machinery of “growth” are inevitably subsumed by the necessity for profit: The Ecologists and the Mine.
Here’s what these kinds of articles never say: markets cannot price in the value of non-monetized natural assets such as diverse ecosystems. Whatever cannot be monetized right now is worthless, as markets lack any mechanism to price in what cannot be valued by market supply and demand in the moment.
There is no way to fix this fatal flaw in markets, and attempts to do so are merely excuses deployed to enable the profitable exploitation and resulting ruin.
(Recall that neoliberalism is the quasi-religious ideology of turning everything on Earth into a market, so it can be exploited and financialized by the few at the expense of the many.)
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