The Consequences of Capitalism: Is that a Road-Train behind those lights?

Exploring the Nature of Capitalism

I was planting a couple of Silky Oak seedlings this morning, taking advantage of recent rain and the balmy early autumn climate to give them a good start before winter sets in. With a little luck, they should provide a pleasant background to my other plantings in the area (one should, they say, plan for one’s old age!)

Although I’ve had fairly frequent showers over the past few months, a dam which supported wildlife early in summer is now dry and a hole I dug for one of the seedlings was completely dry only 2-3 cm below the surface.

Knowing that, although we’ve had a couple of reasonable years, the odds are high that the next few years will be very dry, I extended the irrigation system to include them.

As I worked, my mind wandered to other things (as the minds of we elderly are wont to do!).

  • Why is it so hard for human beings to grasp the idea that their actions are affecting the planet on which they live (see The Exploited Planet)?
  • And, why is it that even if we knew how to guarantee a reasonable quality of life for all people on the planet (see Community Costs Are Production Costs), any democratically elected government which attempted to implement the necessary policies would be voted out of office?

Of course, I think I already know the answer to both questions!

First, the problem:

As a species we are unbelievably short-sighted.

Perhaps that is because we are still evolving into an intelligent species – not having got there yet, we can see problems, even devise solutions, but we can’t implement them!

Our curse (and possibly our future epitaph) is that we can see the consequences of our actions, but we can’t stop ourselves from producing those consequences.

Only a few short years ago it seemed inconceivable that Western nations would ever develop shale oil reserves, oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sand. But we are!

Only a few short years ago, it seemed inconceivable that we would question the logic and necessity for minimum wages and conditions, old age pensions, unemployment benefits, free education and health care – but we are (see The removal of social costs from production and financial activity costs in Western economies has produced its inevitable consequence)!

Have we lost sight of the consequences of the directions we are taking?

I don’t think so – I think, rather, that we are unable to stop ourselves from heading there, even as we know that result! (See Public apathy over climate change unrelated to science literacy )

We are like moths flying into a flame;

like young rabbits running into the headlights of an approaching vehicle.

The rabbit metaphor is an apt one. As the various viruses which have been released over the years to control numbers have become decreasingly effective, rabbit numbers in my neck of the woods have begun to grow. Rabbits are not mindless breeders of offspring. They think about where their burrows should be located, looking for the least obvious, most protected places to which they can retreat.

They care for their young, and try to ensure adequate food and water. They nurture their young, teaching them to be alert to danger. But they can’t help themselves. They continue to exploit their environments until life becomes barely sustainable.

How unfortunate are the limitations of rabbit brains!

In important ways, our brains have served us little better than those of rabbits!

Our one advantage is (or should be) that we know that it is a vehicle that is approaching behind those headlights. We know that if we keep moving toward them, we are going to become road-kill!

So, why don’t we get off the road?

The answer(s):

There’s plenty of time!

Why forego the pleasures of running down the middle of the road when the vehicle is still so far away?

Nobody knows for certain that the vehicle will hit us. It might veer away before it reaches us; it might slow down and stop; it might turn out that being run down is a blessing not a catastrophe. Who knows?

So down the road we run, and the lights are getting brighter. We can even hear the sound of the tires on the road, but it’s not time to change direction yet!

Humans with rabbit brains!

There isn’t plenty of time – we’ve probably already run out of it!

And why should I care?

The seedlings are planted and looking good.

I’m on high ground.

I’m planting fire resistant trees like the silky oaks around the house and out-buildings.

I’m well protected from wild storms and floods.

I still have a lot to do to insulate myself from prolonged drought, but perhaps it won’t get that bad: after all, we got through the last prolonged drought with minor problems!

Perhaps my dogs and I can eat all those rabbits and hares around the property and start on the carp in the irrigation dam if we have to!

Who am I kidding? If that’s a road-train behind the lights then I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.

AND, OF COURSE, IT WILL ALL BE YOUR FAULT (don’t we always have to find someone else to blame)!!

For a few of the many indications of where we are heading in the near to medium future see:

 

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6 Responses to “The Consequences of Capitalism: Is that a Road-Train behind those lights?”

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