I want to contextualise this paper from the removed perspective of outer space, that of an observer detached from the gravitational bounds of our planet who can see this blue and green spheroid object whole and complete. I want to give this observer the ability to know all, past, present, and future circumstances of this planet, in which life, as if by chance, miraculously manifested itself. This observer is omnipresent and has notions of all and any possible event that has, is, and will take place on the face of the earth. This observer is not bound by scales of time. Via this all aware observer we can, much like computer models but with infinitely more freedom, plot scenarios of the world into future times, not stopping short at that of our great-grandchildren, but rather view and assimilate to scales that are in the order of geological time, a scale that goes beyond what humans innately psychologically contextualize. We live by a measure of time that is perceived by the length of our lives (Bergson, 1910), which if given thought, is an insignificantly faint flash. It is naive to think that it is reasonable to understand and justify our activities and their consequences into a future we innately do not comprehend. We are not invested in a long term scenario beyond our own life, perhaps because there is nothing really in it for us to lose or to gain. Nevertheless, the future is increasingly being influenced by our actions.
Concerned with the political, economical and environmental direction that was evolving, in 1972 the publication of a book titled “The Limits Of Growth”, authored and based on system dynamics computer modeling done by MIT scholars and commissioned by The Club of Rome, a think tank formed by fractions of elite organizations such as the Committee of 300, the Bilderberg Group, and the European Coal and Steel community (ECSC), made predictions that the world at some point in the future would “overshoot”. This is the concept that one of the interconnected global systems: food, population, industry, non- renewable resources and pollution, would so far surpass the carrying capacity of the planet due to sustained growth, that it would eventually set off a global downturn that would collapse the regular functioning of the other systems, creating unprecedented frictions in political, economic, social and environmental terms. The analysis of these models provides great insight on how to avoid such dire outcomes, but the players behind them and their secret agendas must be studied closely because some are suspiciously related, directly or by proxy, to organizations not only influential to the causes for overshooting in the “business as usual” models, but also connected to elitist circles arguably interested in influencing the world order. The predictions based on these models are powerful in their ability to communicate and describe potentially negative futures, which in turn can be used to frighten people into taking action. Lewis Strauss famous quote “energy too cheap to meter”, was a reassuring prospect of nuclear energy being the solution to the constraints of non renewable energy and its necessity to maintain quality of life beyond peak oil, and this, in turn, influenced and marketed the commercialization of nuclear power plants (Strauss, 1954).
Models which predict the future, tend to encourage that action be taken. The question then is where will this action lead and how does it compare to the agendas of those who finance, commision and publish these reports? Using the freedoms of our observer we are able to have insight into alternative futures. One being the optimistic outcome that the world will rearrange itself because of a rational understanding of the consequences of business-as-usual, and action via social adaptation and technology makes the global mean reach stability, equality and modest prosperity. Alternatively, by consequence of no global action in addressing the pressing global issues, the elite take on an even stronger role obliterating national sovereignties mainly by means of treaties and policy, designed as commonly done behind closed doors, as the global system enters a spiraling freefall, bounding “nations” to even more aggressive arrangements than those of NAFTA and that of the TPP leading to formations of comparatively greater scale than the ECSC, the post WWII organization which was the instigating entity that began the slow creation of the European Union. It is possible to draw a parallel between post WWII Europe and a post “limits to growth” globe as being fertile precursing conditions for the creation and agreement of treaties meant to consolidate power.
To be fair it seems sufficiently reasonable to consider these elites as genuinely concerned about the long term wellbeing of the systems on which their great wagers depend. That said, it is not possible that they are all Machiavellians solely interested in short term personal gains. There have to be some altruists who are truly interested in the long term global well being of the biosphere and concerned about the planet that they will endow to others, such as Amory Lovins. Nethertheless, it is important to acknowledge that those who hold power have the ability to influence legislative and policy measures, effectively limiting their exposure and responsibility. Examples of such dynamics are readily described in “Cult Of the Atom”. One case in particular describes the lobbyist representation of utilities and equipment companies pressing Congress to pass legislation that would protect them in the case of an “extraordinary nuclear occurrence” which according to the WASH-740 publication could lead to excessive damage claims. “…the Price-Anderson Act of 1957, whose complex provisions made legal history; they effectively repealed every citizen’s common-law right to sue for damages caused by someones else’s negligence” (Ford, p45). In a similar fashion negligence of how and who is to be held responsible for the global physical damages due to climate change violates these same rights. Much like the invisibility of radionuclides being causal to biological damage, the emitters of greenhouse gases cannot be pinpointed and held responsible. This is the global geography of unaccountable externalities.
Original accumulation as a means of privatizing the mode of production was a stratifying force of capitalism, it created a group of elites and a proletariat. The capitalist mode of production dependant on a perpetual reinvestment of profits, does not thrive without growth. This in combination with the neoliberal operation of industry of being allowed to self regulate, has complicated the willingness to change at all levels for being viewed as detrimental to growth. More so, when presented with opportunities for profit, the opportunity is rationally taken because of the facilitation by the machinery of the existing political economy. But the externalities are not factored into this rationale because deregulation has allowed them to be disregarded and make them independent of profit.
I want to stress how the notion of time plays an important role in the circuits of rational decision making. The great scientists of the 20th century, brilliant as they were, stepped onto the world stage with great promises of technological capability that would grant incredible gains realizable in their lifetimes, but bluntly ignored the residual effects that go well beyond the terms of one single life, creating a situation that left later generations with a revolving tab of unpaid bills for gains reaped in a time before their own. This can be exemplified today with the exorbital recurring expenses of cleaning superfund sites such as the Hanford complex in Washington state. Thanks to the observer we know that the future will bring increasingly more of these expenses as a consequence of legacy technology that carries its negative externalities into the future. Fracking, GMOs, and other technologies propelled by the private sector with promises of solving global problems have to be considered not only by their short term potential but also by their long term consequences. The future of living organisms, as we are told by the observer, has the potential to be solely owned by corporations, who for a fee, will create new synthetic organisms required to subsist in this future planet of hazards shaped by lack of accountability, foresight and harmonious cooperation with nature. Is it too far from reality to think that corporations are invested in creating situations in which they hold a monopoly on the solutions? Bechtel has the revolving, never ending, bid-free contract for mitigating the nuclear cleanup at the Hanford site and this same company has also been for the past 50 years one of the largest nuclear developers. Is seems overly convenient that they have developed a closed loop system of revenue, which leaches off taxpayer (the proletariat) money.
Allowed by the observer, zooming out to a view of Earth from outer space, a planet so conveniently fortunate of being able to sustain life, is seen as threatened by its social construction of nature. One in which a notion of “other” is given to all mechanisms alien to the human race. Using Doris Lessing’s science fiction novel, Shikasta: Re, Colonised Planet 5, as an allegory of Earth one can see the contrast of how the “other” is integrated in the social construction. Rohanda, the name of the allegorical planet before it becomes unaligned and loses its “Lock” with its benevolent coloniser Canopus, was the promising planet in which communal goals of advancing evolution was what kept its harmony. This can be interpreted as no alienation of the “other”. As a consequence to its misalignment to the cosmos, it eventually became “poor Shikasta” because this occurrence created a lack of the received “substance-of-we-feeling”, the substance “which kept everyone safe and healthy and above all, made them love each other”, this lead to the “Degenerative Disease” which in essence is to identify with ourselves as individuals and not to the extent of “the phases of our evolution”. Much like the current social construction of nature on our Planet Earth we identify ourselves as individuals, disconnected from the goals of advancing harmoniously with the evolution of this planet.
I want to conclude by considering the current global struggle, a struggle that consists of many fronts. There is an incredible income inequality,“unalienable Rights” are constantly being challenged, the will of the people is being undermined by corporate interests and high level elites and it is becoming increasingly clear that our relationship with nature is incredibly fragile; people are genuinely disenfranchised and there is a will to take action. Grassroots organisations are creating a bottom up movement and people are mobilizing because of a growing misrepresentation of the proletariat (or as its called in contemporary terms the 99%) by the elite which is reaching unbearable terms. This is happening as powerful nations are losing hold of hegemony over other nations as the process of globalization has in many ways created a new deterrent and hegemony has transformed to be cultural, one in which domination is not by a nation but by a class over another.
To close I want to quote a fragment of the speech at the Nobel Prize Ceremony by latest Berkeley faculty to receive this highest recognition, Randy W. Schekman, as it expresses yet another struggle. “…I which particularly to acknowledge the Nobel foundation for its recognition of basic science. This years laureates in the natural sciences reflect the value of curiosity driven enquiry unfettered by top down management of goals and methods. …and yet we find a growing tendency for government to want manage the discovery with expansive so called strategic science initiatives at the expense of the individual creative exercise we celebrate today” (Schekman 2013).
Bergson, Henri, and Frank Lubecki Pogson. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. Swan, Sonnenschein, 1910.
Lessing, Doris May. “Shikasta: Re, colonised planet 5: personal, psychological, historical documents relating to visit by Johor (George Sherban) emissary (grade 9) 87th of the period of the last days.” (1979).
Ford, Daniel F. The cult of the atom: The secret papers of the Atomic Energy Commission. Ford (Daniel), Cambridge, MA (USA), 1982.
Strauss, L. 1954 Speech to the National Association of Science Writers, New York City, 16 September, 1954, reported in New York Times, 17 September, 1954.
Schekman, Randy W. Speech at the Nobel Banquet in the Stockholm City Hall, 10 December 2013.