Bert Olivier
Bert Olivier

Beyond protecting the environment: Ensuring life support

Several recent reports on a variety of things have made me return to an important book by Thomas Princen, Treading Softly – on which I have written here before. The news items that caught my eye covered different, but related topics. Two of them focused on court cases involving big oil companies – Chevron and Shell – which had allegedly, through their operations in developing countries (Equador and Nigeria), damaged the environment so drastically that indigenous peoples could no longer depend on it for their livelihood. Another examined the phenomenon of emotion, feeling or sentiment in investment decisions, debunking the idea that involvement in such financial matters is a thoroughly rational affair. Several others were related to the growing concern, locally and internationally, about prospects of declining water resources worldwide.

It was the connection between these topics of discussion that made me pick up Princen’s book again. The renewed realisation that emotion plays a crucial role in finance and economics, the frequent indications that the oil industry’s multi-billion dollar operations usually proceed without too much attention to the prevention of environmental damage, and the warning signs about future water scarcity, all point at the world economic system. It depends crucially on “confidence” and on oil (which is probably why Big Oil seems to get away with murder every time), and without adequate clean water supplies an economy cannot operate either (people, animals and plants unavoidably need water, as do industries for production purposes).

In this beautifully written, but nevertheless alarming book, Princen talks about what he calls the “old normal”, which includes (mostly implicit, and unquestioned) claims such as the following: that endless economic growth and expansion on a finite planet is not merely possible, but desirable; that as long as there is access, cheap energy will be constantly available; that whatever risks may arise (even unforeseen ones), they can be managed; and that technological, demographic and economic growth will provide the solution to all problems (including problems of a technological, demographic or economic nature). He then continues (p. 10-11):

“These claims, built into a belief system and welded into place by theories of economic growth and technological innovation, lead people to believe, to have faith, to participate as consumers and investors, but not to question. Above all, once absorbed as normal, these claims allow no one to let on that the ‘old confidence’ is eroding – that the game, by all physical, biological, ecological, social, and economic measures, is really a confidence game … this is all taken as normal, because to do otherwise is to expose the con … The time for a new normal is, indeed, now. On the environmental front, it begins with the observation, indeed the acceptance, that contemporary trends – environmental, economic, political – lead inescapably to one profound and disturbing conclusion: the era of ‘protecting the environment’ is over, and the era of ensuring life support has begun … The point is that present patterns of consumption are consuming life-support systems, locally and globally. The point is that what we take for normal is actually excess.”

Throughout the book Princen elaborates on the issue of “life-support”. One of the anomalies he dwells on concerns his suggestion, that we should conceive of – in fact, can hardly avoid taking – the environment as “our life-support system”, for the simple reason that we cannot live without its most basic components, namely clean water and air, as well as arable soil (all of which are under threat today). And if we do get to the point where we face that sobering truth head-on, we might ask ourselves: how can we save ourselves by saving the environment (p. 106)?

This, he points out, is both the right and the wrong question, and proceeds to remind his readers that few people would want to make the economic sacrifices that saving the environment would entail – which shows it is the right question, because it forces one to conclude, after considering all the ineffectual reshuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic, including “greening the economy”, that, unavoidably, the economy must change if the environment, and us humans, are to be saved.

But it is also the wrong question precisely because, in a consumer-driven society such as ours, to suggest that changing the economy by reducing consumption is an imperative if we want to save the environment, is to come across as a madman, because the prevailing economy depends on ever-increasing consumption and “growth”, and one cannot (supposedly) be expected to sacrifice that.

Here Princen shows great insight into two different kinds of “sacrifice” – the kind that would have the chance of saving the environment (fundamentally changing the economy), and the kind that is being made all the time, but which no one notices (because it comes with the territory of the “normal” economy), such as the number of people sacrificed to the economy on roads every day, week and month, the approximately eighteen-thousand lives sacrificed every year (in America alone) for lack of market-based health insurance, and those in the military who pay with their lives for securing oil supplies. This kind of sacrifice does not seem to be thought of as such, and yet the information is there for everyone to see. But it goes further, and not without far-reaching consequences for future generations (p. 107):

“And now, as one report after another confirm the disruptive effects of global warming, we appear to be in the middle of a long-term project to sacrifice vast coastal areas, mangroves, coral reefs, and cropland, even entire nations, all to maintain a carbon-based economy. The list goes on. These are signs of a sacrificial consumer economy. Modern industrial societies are making huge sacrifices to pursue a particular vision of the good life.”

In an imaginary conversation (p. 135) between two people on different sides regarding the environmental question – one arguing that humans will never run out of resources, and one arguing that they will, unless something drastic is done – Princen compares nature as a life-support system to a spaceship (a metaphor used before by others to represent the earth). Conceived in this way, as something vulnerable “out there in space” (which our planet is), nobody would doubt that its resources have to be carefully managed, and not abused, if it is to survive.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that the vast majority of people on earth don’t seem at all concerned that the planet’s resources are NOT being carefully managed at present, even if the economy is receiving abundant attention in an effort to manage it in the interest of “economic security”. What is of more fundamental importance? A well-managed economy, or careful management of ecological resources, without which there would not be an economy anyway?

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    • Maria

      Bert, future generations, if there are any for a significant time to come, will probably refer to our era as one of ecological blindness, induced by economic and financial greed.

    • Judith

      Thank you for the insights into this book’s questions, I am also extremely concerned that there is a disturbing lack of awareness of the situation we are in. This is particularly true in SA, where, already most of our rivers are toxic, our air is unbreathable (hence TB and other lung diseases) and our land is contaminated, yet we continue to want to make the situation worse by opening more mines, building coal fired and nuclear power stations and refusing to remediate the acid mine water because “it’s too expensive”.

      The burden this pollution places on the public health service is enormous. Children are succumbing to illnesses before they reach 5 years of age. Whole communities are suffering from water borne diseases, lung problems and slow poisoning.

      Yet we do not look at how to maintain our water works (waste and potable), repair the infrastructure, train more people in the required skills and turn around the situation by the proper regulation of polluters using our extremely good legal framework.

      SA’s situation is reflected around the world, with all African countries being the worst affected.

      The human race is committing suicide slowly and painfully, although in some countries, including ours, it is genocide imposed on poor communities by the wealthy corporations and their directors and shareholders.

    • http://www.necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      I agree wholeheartedly that the economy must change if we want to save the planet and the human race. Currently, spaceship earth has far too many passengers and far too few who are crew. This is largely a result of our socio-economic situation whereby it’s OK to demand that certain rights get respected, with the nature of those rights merely assumed as an initial point (eg. the ‘right not to live in poverty’ – there is no such right).

      The truth is that the mixed economy Neoliberal model has been too successful: On one end, you have people who are earning more to burn more fossil fuels, while on the other end, you have people who don’t earn anything at all while they still get their share of fossil fuels. Again, assuming the initial point that we need fossil fuels and that we cannot get by without them. This is why companies like Shell and Chevron, who are part of the global oil cartel, get to get away with murder. Their business is so entrenched with politics and governments. By the same token, this is also the model that enables life support for those who do not wish to drink the Kool-Aid and recline on the deckchairs all day because it is their ‘right’ to do so, as long as they remain voting fodder.

      I’ve linked to it before, but this is a very sobering look at fossil fuels and our reliance on them:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY

      How do we know that we have a well-managed ecosystem?

    • HD

      What Princen calls the “old-normal” might very well need to change (and will change!), but we also have good reason to believe that we can continue along many aspects of this “old-normal”. After all human history is one of overcoming odds and managing risks through technological innovations and political, economic and cultural innovation. Despite all the doom prophecies throughout the centuries, we are undoubtedly living better lives and are more aware of our impact on the environment.

      Princen’s lament over a “consumer driven economy” conflates economic measurement for good economic theory. An economy doesn’t grow by spending (consuming), but through investment and savings. Economic productivity is producing more with less. Consumption figures and economic growth figures are the outputs of an economic system and seen by themselves can be misleading. (as the American economy and mortgage crisis illustrated).

      It is rather frustrating seeing all these old folk economic arguments being rehashed and popping up time after time. These arguments have been debunked 100 years ago already! In fact from Galbraith to the modern laments against “consumerism” we find the same straw men and fundamental misunderstandings of economic theory.

      Pricen’s list of “sacrifices” are by no means tied to a consumer driven economy, but rather to a political worldviews / systems that doesn’t allow for free voluntary exchange and relies on coercive state backed economic…

    • http://www.cindynel.co.za peter

      You are right and the vast majority are certainly not concerned. The key is to get rid of the perpetrators of all the crises that have been created on this planet. That can only be achieved by revolution since mindset change is tantamount to hoping that the moon is actually made of cheese. To face up to the mess we have made and seriously consider rectifying the chaos is extremely inconvenient and better postponed for our later attention as we are too busy growing our wealth right now. The truth is that we have already run out of time and perhaps it is now up to the planet herself to restore sanity and rid herself of those ( us ) who parade as civilized humans whilst exhibiting all the attributes of unadulterated savages.

    • HD

      @Bert

      I would also like to know what you consider to be an alternative?

      Arguments for scaling back economic growth (properly understood) and to a certain extent population growth (there are many caveats here), ignore many of the fundamental ingredients that are lifting thousands of people out of poverty.

      It is only because consumers want new, better and an increasing number of products and services, that people, which would otherwise be unemployed and stuck in poverty, are being employed across the world. This allows for mass specialisation, that would not be possible if we were to return back to ancient societies.

      It is no accident that medieval (or further back if you want) societies were brutal and highly unequal.

      This is not even to talk of the political, economic and social consequences of “freezing growth”. I have no doubt that we are changing towards more sustainable business practices and that there is a continued need to do so…after all it makes economic sense and more consumers are demanding it.

      I don’t see why we must sacrifice economic growth and cannot have a situation were we are greener, more sustainable and growing…

    • pongoland

      @HD
      “I don’t see why we must sacrifice economic growth and cannot have a situation were we are greener, more sustainable and growing…”

      Because of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Because you cannot continue to extract more and more resources from a finite system indefinitely. It will collapse, as the ecology is beginning to do.

      Sustainable growth is an oxymoron. This was known 100 years ago, but ridiculed by the free marketeers who think the laws of the market trump the laws of the universe.

      As for alternatives, I suggest you do some research. Try steadystate.org for starters.

      No-one concerned about our life support system is suggesting we voluntarily revert to feudal times. But if we don’t start living within the planet’s means, we’ll won’t have a choice.

      One of the candidates for the World Bank job edited a book on alternatives to growth. So there is hope.

    • pongoland

      The World Bank candidate is Dr Jim Yong Kim. He co-edited a book called Dying for Growth. The introduction states:

      “The studies in this book present evidence that the quest for growth in GDP and corporate profits has in fact worsened the lives of millions of women and men.”

    • http://www.vegansociety.org.za Aragorn Eloff

      @peter: You say, “The key is to get rid of the perpetrators of all the crises that have been created on this planet. That can only be achieved by revolution since mindset change is tantamount to hoping that the moon is actually made of cheese.”

      I agree with you; revolution is necessary and we need to get rid of the perpetrators. This includes, however, various *non-human perpetrators: systems, structures, ideologies, flows, processes and so forth. Revolution then requires both mindset change and change in material conditions, i.e., it is both revolutionary and evolutionary and operates on various scales, from the sub-individual and interpersonal to the social and so forth.

      * (One of the most useful aspects of the burgeoning speculative realism / object-oriented ontology movement in philosophy is that it gives us a number of new resources with which to think about these other scales with their unique non-human ‘actors’ or ‘objects'; we can in turn use these resources to model the life-support (eco)systems we’re part of – and which sustain us – as so many ‘assemblages': complex structures formed of various interconnected, interdependent and heterogeneous parts, each of which is susceptible to some or other kind of evolutionary / revolutionary change.)

      tl;dr: evolution and revolution need to happen on all scales and across various timespans as what needs to change is a whole range of stuff, not just an economic system, modes of production, technology, etc.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      We ARE going to have Climate Change, but displacement activity about “carbon emissions” will not solve any problems.

      The less further loss of productive farmland or important ecological areas the better.

      Which means LESS development, reclaimation of devestated areas, and reduction of population growth.

      At least 30 years ago the first Hadedas appeared in Cape Town. Look at an old Robert’s “Book of Birds” and you will see they were never South of Knysna before.

      Bird migration patterns changing is always a sign.

    • HD

      @pongoland

      What evidence do you have that we are approaching a state of finite resources? Again, this is an old argument (together with peak oil). The reality is that we are finding cheaper and new ways of delivering energy and resources.

      Economics is fundamentally about scarcity. In fact if we had free markets where prices reflected scarcity, we would be much better off in terms of conservation and sustainability. Instead we have all sort of government subsidies and taxpayer funded monopolies that provide cheap energy and sustains oil cartels.

      Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should be more greener and more sustainable, I just disagree that the culprit is capitalism or consumerism. It is a bit more complicated than that…

    • MLH

      I’m one who believes we’ve left it too late. Consider our own society…what small percentage actually understands how dire the threat is. Government, which should, seems to have no intention of restricting its own actions (Eskom, for instance) or educating the extreme poor who are likely to have the least defences.
      Of those of us who do believe that a dire ending is inevitable, there will be probably less than half who can afford to take adequate survival measures and many of those will leave planning until the last minute. Mainly because we have little idea of what actions will be necessary. Could this be why Zuma and Malema want underground bunkers? Or are they just planning to use those quarters in the event of wholesale rebellion of the people?
      It surprises me that anyone considers him-/herself safe, because it is not individual behaviour that will likely tip the scales, it will surely be group behaviour (industrial) or some natural event like an extreme earthquake or volcanic eruption.
      I am presently re-reading Neville Shute’s mid-1950s novel ‘On the Beach’ and I can relate to it: the Australians sat waiting for dire consequences although they had nothing to do with the war that began the chain of events. They had enough warning of what would become of them, but no ability to nullify the fallout.
      I would imagine some will survive, but they are likely to inherit a vastly different world than the one we presently live in. We sit here like lard bunnies!

    • http://www.sane.org.za Yaj

      Thank you Bert for an excellent thought-provoking piece and thank you to Pongoland for raising the alternative of a steady-state economy advocated by Prof. Herman Daly et al.

      @ HD, it seems that you have difficulty understanding the effect of exponential economic growth dynamics on the finite resources of our planet.If the Chinese economy grows at 10% per annum in the next 7 years it would consume more resources than it has ever had previously up to this point in time in sum total.

      What drives growth is our debt-based money system -one in which 97% of our money is borrowed into existence in the form of bank loans -created by the banks from thin air and collateralised by the promise of future economic growth -and based on the false assumption of infinite resources.Compound interest on the debt creates the scarcity of money and drives the competition within the economy.

      Hence , to slow down the rapid depletion of our finite resources we need transition to a steady-state economy through monetary reform of the financial system -ending fractional reserve banking, replacing it with full reserve banking and transforming to a social/public credit system whereby debt-free money is spent into circulation in non-inflationary quantities for essential renewable energy , public transport infrastructure, organic farming, recycling etc. etc.We have to end the monopoly of power that the private banks command over our money supply.
      We have to resolve this conundrum.

    • Andre

      A tiny minority live well. this is so in South Africa, and it is so globally. People like @HD can bleat bout capitalism being ok because all of its negaive externalities are someone else’s problem; are enacted elsewhere, in someone else’s rainforest, someone else’s water system. (Un)fortunately one of the characteristics of globalisation is that the clear borders around geographies and populations that typically make the bulk of the sacrifices for the good living of that tiny minority are becomming increasingly indistinct as the periphery comes home to the metropolis. The mythology of human history as the progressing triumph of culture over nature in a steady march towards a capitalist powered utopia is therefore becomming increasingly difficult to sustain as the bodies and ecologies that pay for it arrive on our doorsteps and in our living rooms. we are told that there is no alternative, that we have come through a chaos of idoelogical enthusiasm in the 20th century to a moment where we must accept the hard realities and accept the status quo because there is no alternative. Ironic that the same people tell us we can overcome anything nature throws our way by the power of our creative imagination, but that our creativity is powerless in the face of the “reality” that the status quo is our only option. sure it is the only option that can keep inequality conveniently stacked in our favour, we can green that inequality a little too, so of course HD likes it so much.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Yaj

      The ANC has already bankrupted all the state banks – the Post Office, Land Bank, Motor Accident Fund etc etc etc.

      Our banks were the best regulated in the world, which is why, like Canada, we escaped the worst of the sub-prime debt.

      Just put back the restrictions that Trevor Manuel removed.

    • HD

      @Yaj

      China’s growth is coming from a low base and you can question the accuracy of China’s GDP figures. In any event like the developed/industrialised world increasing living standards will lead to lower population growth and adoption of different (higher/middle class) values. I am afraid exponential modelling is almost the worst case of analysis that you can make, since it totally ignores change (agency), inter-relationships and “black swans”.

      I am all for ending central banking and the influence of the financial/political elite – but I am also not in favor of supporting centrally planned dictates (recycling, organic farming etc) no matter how good/noble the intentions.

      @Andre

      I think many of these problems relate to an absence of property rights. Here you have to look at the role of the state, property rights and at successful public / “commons” institutional arrangements. I also think you need to re-read my comments. I am not against change, but I am concerned about political, institutional and economic implications of “change”.

      These policies have serious consequences across the board and we need to carefully think about what we are proposing. All the more reason to be accurate and not alarmist when we talk about climate change and the earth’s ecology.

      I don’t doubt or impact, climate change or that we need to live greener and more sustainable. The questions is what is the most moral, political and economically appropriate way to do so?

    • http://www.necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Andre:
      And people like you can bleat on about change, while ignoring the one lesson of economics: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups”.

      The Chicken Little syndrome calls for immediate statutes – often flirting with fascism and eugenics programs to control consumption and breeding populations – while simultaneously ignoring the fact that all of these would affect all. It would also limit our problem solving ability, while creating more opportunity for waste.

      @Yaj:
      Exponential growth merely illustrates the Achilles heel of all Malthusian arguments: Assuming all things remain the same. This has never been the case, as the crude oil scenario and his own projections illustrate.

    • http://www.vegansociety.org.za Aragorn23

      @HD: You ask, “what evidence do you have that we are approaching a state of finite resources?”

      Ermm…I think the burden of proof is squarely on the shoulders of those who appeal to an utterly misconstrued cluster of precedents (retrospection disguised as prediction) – and in stark defiance of science and reason – that we are not approaching a ‘state of finite resources’ (because gee, wouldn’t that be inconvenient for free market fundamentalists 😉

      @Garg: You use the name Malthus pejoratively, as though what could be termed the neo-Malthusian perspective is simply wrong. Personally, I find those invoking the pejorative to be simply wrong, due to ideologically exuberance coupled with dogmatic denial. Yay for endless growth on a finite planet! Don’t worry, unrestrained markets will solve all problems!…Never mind those pesky basic material laws!

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      China’s growrh comes from influx control on its rural poor who are 2/3 of its population and who can’t travel without a pass, just like apartheid or like the American green card system, and from colonising minorities like in Tibet and Mongolia, and asset strippong its neigbours like Burma.

      But most of its 500 different cultures, tribes and language groups are content because they have local autonomy..

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      China’s growth is on local autonomy , influx control so that the locals can’t move and migrate to form squatter camps around the cities, AND a one child policy.

      Which of those do you want SA to adopt?

    • http://www.necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Aragorn23:
      On the contrary, I do not regard Malthusian as a pejorative. There was nothing wrong with his reasoning, only he could not anticipate what he could not anticipate.

      When there is a long supply chain from the producer to the supplier, the chain can be made less wasteful and more efficient at any point and the Malthusian projections would have to be amended considerably to be relevant.

      Crude oil is actually a good example. According to former Malthusian projections, we should have run out of oil already. Only the supply chain managed to become more efficient and we still have oil.

      I’m not arguing for the use of oil. It’s just difficult to take Malthusian arguments seriously when the premises on which they rely keep changing all the time.

    • Richard

      I think it is not possible simply to analyse this issue as a matter of normal, rational discourse. It reminds me of the hosting of the Olympic Games: every time it is a financial disaster, but each time the hosting is up for grabs, every country, from the richest to the poorest, want it desperately. Why is this? Well, I think the analogy is less obscure than you might think. The possession of money (like hosting the Olympics) taps into something more primal than rational. For this reason, it is largely impervious to change by argument. Looking back through history, the only time capitalism was ever challenged was in Russia, and that was by the use of force and terror. As soon as the social control that perpetuated that system was lessened, capitalism returned. Concern for fairness and the proletariat vanished like ice on a hot day. Why? Why did none of the authors of communism see that this would happen? It was because they did not consider the dimension of power that money and possession occupy in the human psyche. Money is the yardstick by which social position is measured. Others aspire to those positions, and money offers the fluidity of access which other possible social enablers do not. It is universally admired. Anything that threatens that fluidity actually threatens social harmony, because it sets power relationships in stone. What chance does some seemingly distant environmental threat have against enhanced reproductive possibility offered by money and goods?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Malthius was right – we will eventually run out of oil.

      What he did NOT anticipate, and nor did Marx, who based his theories on Malthius, was that business would no longer want or need labour, prefering the use of machines and technology, and that this would lead to massive unemployment.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Lyndall:
      What he also did not anticipate was the green revolution and improvements in health care. Or the silicone revolution and the kinds of jobs that were created as a result. I don’t think that we have ‘massive unemployment’, world wide, least of all in areas where people are moving towards a service-based economy from an agrarian one. The general trend is for such areas to also experience a decline in population growth, which goes hand-in-hand with an increase in efficiency. The general trend world wide is also for more people to become employed, and as a result gain the means to increase their options. They no longer have to live on whatever is on the shelf that week in Zimbabwe, they can choose where they want to shop and how many kids they’d like to raise.

      Again, Malthus was 100% right, as in he did construct sound arguments. THey’re just not true, because the situation changed considerably. In particular, human population growth rates did not remain constant.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Garg

      The trouble is that food is not grown by supermarkets and milk still comes from cows.

      And people can’t eat gold or oil.

    • http://www.newstime.co.za/columnist/PaulWhelan/5 Paul Whelan

      Why would the burden of proof be on one side and not on the other?

      If ‘proof’ is accessible at all, it must be accessble to both – and demonstrable by both.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Lyndall:
      Precisely. Which is why I initially asked what does the author mean with ‘careful management of resources’. Oil in particular is very carefully managed by OPEC. There’s not much anyone can do about this because oil isn’t traded on a free market. Just like people in Zimbabwe have to be happy with the products on their shelves and the prices they have to pay for them due to the ‘careful management of resources’ coming from above.

    • david hurst

      Welcome to the sixth great extinction that goes well beyond the changes to the earth you mention. Population growth far outweighs consumerism as an issue. The seas, not only warming are being inarguably depleted of life and polluted to the extent that soon only primitive organisms will be alive. This is real science (that goes beyond philosophy), as observed with nearly all species, when resources are available, procreation expands until they are depleted. The issue that humankind can fix any problem that comes up has laughably been proven false as a rule, indeed solutions are often worse. Have a look at a recent article here on the Gulf of Mexico spill by BP, and realize that deep sea drilling has only begun, with unforeseen effects on the entire gulf, all life. Fracking has only begun with devastating effect on the environment. Groundwater resources for the most productive lands in the world will soon be depleted, not to mention in poor rainfall areas, such as much of Africa, for the inefficient production of green energy, alcohol. This is only scratching the surface of general consensus science. Indeed improving the behavior of soon to be ten and now recently recognized 13 billion without limit population, means elimination of all ocean food sources save jellyfish (200 million year regression), forests, water, radical changes in climate, there is no philosophical argument for what is plain biology, procreation and concern for one’s own; not sci-fi, sorry.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      More on why “the sky is falling on our heads!” misses a few points:

      http://dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2012-04-03-debunking-limits-to-growth-inanities

    • Uffa

      All this clever talk has set me wondering. I had the choice of retiring from a reasonably lucrative job as a migrant worker while my adult child held the fort, or giving that up and letting the child go out and earn a vastly inferior salary. My reasoning was that it was more cost effective to do it the first way. Now,we bind about unemployment and the need for every person to have a job in order to survive. I put it to you that all the excessive profits, corrupt business deals, wasted government funds and bank billions could be divided up and distributed to every one who demonstrated the willingness and ability to be educated so their ‘job’would be to learn better ways to live and run this world. In this day of internet communication the old inadequate chalk and talk system could be bypassed . The educational system would have to change its focus on over-qualifying people for nonexistent jobs and creating frustrated intellectual revolutionaries. Lets get practical here.

    • http://www.deirdrekohler.com Deirdre Kohler

      The world produces too much crap. Which we (all) buy. Stop the market, stop the spend.

      Should we not renegotiate the basics of earthly living and structure a new constitution based on that? Like Arab Springs, the changing of the constitution relies on the masses and an emerging intelligence.

      PS The recent tornado in Midrand, (which dropped a tree on my roof and 10cm thick ice across the garden) is speculated to caused by changes in micro climate in Gauteng. One of the reasons is due to intense tree planting. Who knows what effect things have…

    • http://www.necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Deirdre:
      How would stopping the market help? I suspect that all the people who are choosing to work in sweatshops and factories would be fired, down tools and return to subsistence agriculture. This presents a great problem to those of us who live and work in urban dwellings. Not because of who owns land, but because there isn’t enough arable land for everyone to get by on incredibly inefficient agricultural methods.

      South Africa only has about 12% arable land. Keep in mind that without a market mechanism, 50 million or so South Africans would have to both occupy this area or live within a reasonable vicinity of it, work the land, hope for the best and hope that they’d get enough crops to feed them and their families. Not to mention that this would put additional strain on the already delicate parts of the country and render a great deal of the rest of the country – which is only inhabited due to economic benefits derived from markets – inhospitable and useless.