But where is the indication of our real status — Earthlings — animals whose very survival and well-being depend on the state of our home, planet Earth? Do we think we can survive without the other animals and plants that share the biosphere? And does our health not reflect the condition of air, water and soil that sustain all life? It’s as if they matter only in terms of how much it will cost to maintain or protect them.
Nature, increasingly under pressure from the need for constant economic growth, is often used to spread the consumption message. Nature has long been exploited in commercials — the lean movement of lions or tigers in car ads, the cuteness of parrots or mice, the strength of crocodiles, etc. But now animals are portrayed to actively recruit consumers. I’m especially nauseated by the shot of a penguin offering a stone to a potential mate being denigrated by another penguin offering a fancy diamond necklace.
How can we have serious discussions about the ecological costs and limits to growth or the need to degrow economies when consumption is seen as the very reason the economy and society exist?
This is a matter related to a point I’m planning to close with at a Needham Lyceum talk I’m giving on 11th February 2018 (0915 EST) at First Parish Needham, Unitarian Universalist (*). That is, to the degree to which economic systems, a human invention, or political systems, also humanly invented, cannot solve a dire situation we find ourselves in, these systems will be destroyed and surpassed, hopefully through some kind of peaceful disruption. By cannot solve I have a specific definition: Offering a solution to a dire problem which is infeasible or horrifically expensive is no solution.
What’s notable about both the responses of Presidents Obama and Trump to the climate crisis is that they both asserted solutions to it cannot involve significant negative impacts to the United States economy. I would suggest that, to the degree to which this is the best the United States Constitution offers, despite its remarkable construction and past triumphs, the U.S. Constitution is demonstrating this problem is beyond its capability to solve. However, I believe economics and the Constitution are separable, even if they do not seem so today, and I hope that if that separation is needed to fix climate, it will happen. If they are not, I believe the problem will be fixed, but with the loss of both, either in consequence or along the way.
(See Dream Catcher.)
* “Carbon Emissions and Climate: Where do we stand now, and what can be done if it all goes wrong?”