Consequences of Capitalism:
Is that a Road-Train behind those lights?
March 26th, 2012
Exploring the Nature of
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
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
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
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
I don’t think so – I think, rather, that we are unable to stop
ourselves from heading there, even as we know that result!
We are like moths flying into a flame;
like young rabbits running into the headlights of an approaching
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?
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
Humans with rabbit brains!
There isn’t plenty of time – we’ve probably already run out of
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)!!