Devastating Rebuttal to "On Why Evironmentalists Need to Make Being Green Keynesian"

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debu's picture
debu
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Devastating Rebuttal to "On Why Evironmentalists Need to Make Being Green Keynesian"

Richard Kline commenting on a Naked Capitalism piece is brilliant once again  :

Environmentalism is first and foremost a moral postion—”Live right”—not and economic position—”Invest well.” reducing environmental decisions whether public or personal to a profit/loss calculus inherently surrenders most of the power of the approach at the get-go: it is a route guaranteed to fail. At the fist cost-spike or pinch, out go the environmental standards and programs because they have been put _on the same level_ as pennies and cashflow of the moment. ‘Green economics’ types have already sold out mentally, and are in a very poor position to advocate. It’s not that the ideas advocated in Harris’ article are bad per se; some of them are even good. As a program, it’s futile.

But it gets worse than that. The real problems with shifting to environmentally viable infrastructure and production practices are _not_ economic ones per se but political ones. Established production/provision practices have huge, self-interested, profiteering constituencies. These ‘make money and influence [powerful] people’ NOW. Such interests don’t have any new situation wired to their advantage, don’t see a profit in it for them, and don’t really care if their practices are devastating or unsustainable. These interests will still be running their nuclear power plants behind the sea levees that the powers that be will have built on the public dime at great cost to protect them. People are that dumb and selfish in the large sense. We have a colossal homebuilding industry which turns out power-seive, grid-locked, rotting cardboard boxes to live in which have a life span of 30-50 years after which they have to be replaced with more of the same. That industry has no stake in converting to, say, rammed earth, power-neutral, survivable domiciles which can last for 200 years despite equivalent construction costs NOW. All our present infrastructure, industry, and power grid are designed into an economic reality of extraordinarily cheap fuel sources which are further buffered by massive hidden tax and other subsities to both the fuel extractors and the power providers. Those huge interlocked constituencies have no stake in and a major antipathy to a transition to a true-cost power production/provision system, and have done everything possible to obstruct information and action toward that latter end.

_This_ is the real problem, the political power of the constituency attached to the waste-and-burn late industrial regime that is themselves and their profits. No ‘green economic’ argument has a violet’s chance in a furnace against that, because as soon as one surrenders to the ‘economics trump all’ the present regime can nearly always show that they are bigger, better, here now, and (with all their subsidies NOT mentioned) cheaper.

Rather than the mental submission to the Machine which is green economics, a much better position likely to be appreciated in America and elsewhere is ‘own your own usage.’ ‘Off the grid’ is the way that environmental change can and must be sold, so to speak. Energy autonomy through solar and better design. Minimal water use and maximal water capture. The idea isn’t to do it because it’s cheaper. Yes, it may be, although the start-up costs are higher without the public subsidies which should be in place. But the way to present the idea is ‘out from under Big Industry’s thumb.’ That can be advocated on the personal level. That can be advocated on the local level. That is how and why solar is steadily growing now, for instance; not because some vested interest has bought in but because many private individuals and business have seen it in their own interest and value to get out from under the present regime. Secceed: that is the the argument that succeeds.

Backing that up is the moral argument with which I began. Using less and using smarter is desirable on the individual level; it’s desirable on the level of values related to the environmental outcomes; it is desireable on the level of values in opposing a corrupt, sick, sickening, and dastardly [there's a fitting use for that word] terminal industrial politico-economic regime. Arguing against the subsidies and chronic tax avoidance of the power regime on the basis of _fairness_ noton the basis of economics is the way to go; many will support that position even when and where it is prima facie ‘less economically efficient,’ only to find that alternatives aren’t any more expensive and are desirable for their own reasons. We will NEVER be able to convert ‘the system’ because all the money and all the politico-conomic power is completely committed to keeping that system as it is until, unless, and regardless of the powerlever pullers dying at their control panels: that is their vision if they even have one beyond stacks of Franklins in their paws. But change doesn’t just come from changing the system, change comes from changing ones _engagement_ with the system, until the system isn’t cutting it economically. We need not to spend anymore time than unavoidable arguing with ‘the system’ and spend most of our time in building around/outside/alongside the system. That is my view, contra Harris.

Any quibbles with this, I wonder?  None on my part.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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No Quibbles

Very well articulated.  As conciousness slowly converts the system, by lack of participation, tne industrial beast will continue to paint it's face green while its hands are on the attack. How long before capitulation?  Who knows, but it will be unable to destroy a new way of being where the center is everywhere and the edge no where.  Hopefully the beast will be so focused on it own fragmentation and desruction, that its eyes will be turned inward more than outward.  Expect massive campaigns of misinformation, like the one that rolled back the publics belief in global climate change from above 70% to below 50%.  But since its foundations are built on sand and the environmental storms are coming it is just a matter of time.

gillbilly's picture
gillbilly
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Green economics

 

_This_ is the real problem, the political power of the constituency attached to the waste-and-burn late industrial regime that is themselves and their profits. No ‘green economic’ argument has a violet’s chance in a furnace against that, because as soon as one surrenders to the ‘economics trump all’ the present regime can nearly always show that they are bigger, better, here now, and (with all their subsidies NOT mentioned) cheaper.

I agree as well. I posted awhile back Heidegger's comment on the technological/industrial view of nature as "something that stands in reserve." Until we can collectively see nature as an embodied part of us the economics will essentially remain the same. Soon all corporations/institutions will declare themselves "green."  Problem solved? 
debu's picture
debu
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Posts: 222
Paul Kingsnorth

Paul Kingsnorth's Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist was, I thought, very good on why environmentalism needs a rethink.

Greenwashing is everywhere now and will get us nowhere fast.

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