THE ENERGY DEBATE — Why we don’t bother changing the current system?
Part 1 — A story of Capitalism, Obsession and Waste
How much energy does an industry should consume?
Right now, organizations around the world are facing pressure to limit the consumption of non-renewable energy sources and the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. But figuring out how much consumption is too much is a complex question that’s intertwined with debates around our priorities as a society. The calculation of which goods and services are “worth” spending these resources on, after all, is really a question of values.
The climate issue, pushed by scientists and activists to the top of the global political agenda, is at the forefront of global debate, raising a number of questions about how — in fact — to implement the processes of change recognized as necessary.
As cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin, in particular, have grown in prominence, energy use has become the latest flashpoint in the larger conversation about what, and who, digital currencies are really entangled with the concept of ‘waste.’
is the almost total absence of a radical critique or need to change the economic system
among the priority actions for climate containment.
CAPITALISM AND WASTE
“By nature, man is selfish, which is why socialism will never work. Capitalism better reflects the fundamental characteristics of human nature.”
— a capitalism’s defenders may say. We might all agree though, that in the process of ‘one’ being in an advantaged position over the ‘other’ implies that one of the parties will always get into a position of disadvantage — in a process which has its toll in terms of energy expenditure — always creating a ‘wasteful’ product in relation to such.
In English, the term “waste” as a noun means rubbish, whatever can’t or won’t be used and is only good for the waste bin. The verb “to waste” has more subtle varieties: one meaning is to be profligate, to squander, or make inefficient and uneconomical use of a resource. But to “lay waste” is to devastate, for example, when an army or a barbarian horde lays waste a city. In gangland slang, to waste can also mean to kill: “I pulled out my gun and wasted him.” The theme of “waste” is admirably illustrated by the capitalist system, which does all three.
Capitalism wastes people by organizing them hierarchically and preventing the vast majority of workers from having any say in running the enterprise. It sees employees as nothing but a cost factor. The proof? As soon as a mass lay-off is announced, the corporation’s stock goes up. Most people have little or no control over their career development and, particularly in times of crisis, can find themselves redundant through no fault of their own.
Capitalism wastes social cohesion. A capitalist society is one that naturally creates huge inequalities, and even in the richest countries, millions are left on the margins or excluded.
The European Union officially acknowledges the presence of 92 million poor people;
Over 20% of EU population at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2019
In 2019, 21.1% of the population in the European Union (EU), equivalent to 92.4 million people, were at risk of poverty…
While in the United States, the CEO of a large corporation is routinely paid at least 350 times as much as his or her average employee. The wealth of the top one percent of Americans used to be 8 % of the total — today, it is three times that.
In 2020, top CEOs earned 351 times more than the typical worker
The CEO-to-worker pay gap has expanded exponentially over the past several decades. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI)…
The world’s 80.000-plus transnational corporations are experts in tax avoidance, making full use of transfer pricing and tax havens to escape contributing their fair share to the social and public services of the countries where they make their profits. As everyone knows by now, bankers and traders continue to receive huge bonuses despite the devastation their casino-capitalist methods have wreaked on their fellow citizens.
The increase in inequalities and the breakdown of social cohesion are closely correlated with phenomena as different as rates of alcohol and drug addiction, physical and mental illness or obesity; crime, homicides, delinquency and prison populations; premature pregnancies, infant mortality, and life expectancy — the costs are high for everyone, even the rich.
Capitalism wastes resources through such well-known techniques as “planned obsolescence” and deliberate introduction of minor innovations made desirable and “cool” through mass advertising. Huge percentages of energy are wasted before doing any work at all, and in many countries, huge quantities of food are spoiled in storage, processing, and distribution before reaching any consumer.
Capitalism even wastes money. In the United States, less than 20% of all investment is directed to the actual production of goods and services, whereas more than 80% is invested directly in financial products. Many of these products are “collateralized debt obligations” or other derivatives with little or no social value. Currency trades alone absorb $6 trillion a day.
Capitalism, “by design,” is based on waste in two meanings:
- the tangible waste that is essential to a consumer economy of scale,
2. the social waste given by the accumulation of financial and productive capital in the hands of the famous 1%.
Can a review of the current economic system or its mitigation help with the environmental issue?
Certainly yes, as far as consumption is concerned: reducing tangible waste by reducing the planned obsolescence of many technological goods, for example, could give rise to a local and sustainable economy of aforementioned waste.
So what to do?
First of all, analyze what is to be redistributed - liquidity, resources or rights?
By distributing $2,000, for example, to every family in a developing country would create a surge in domestic demand, which, in the absence of local production clusters, would be covered by multinationals, i.e. external agents accustomed to predatory policies, thus creating additional waste.
Many poor countries are rich in natural resources that are still being plundered with the complicity of corrupt governments and unscrupulous corporations. Halting this is a key issue in promoting sustainable local growth.
For many local communities/tribes/colonies, rights are an alien concept or, at best, in the process of being formed through natural and organic cycles of development that should be supported without interventionism of any kind.
The model of ‘prosperity without growth’ is now making its way into prestigious economic circles, as outlined by Tim Jackson, professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey, in his book Prosperity Without Growth: Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow, which suggests that Western nations should recalibrate their economies from mass production to the production of local services such as education, healthcare and crafts.
John Maynard Keynes himself, in 1930, imagined a society of 2030 where technology and investment would increase wealth eightfold by allowing everyone to work a maximum of 15 hours a day and devote the rest to personal well-being, in a low-waste model.
What Keynes could not have imagined was the social butchery enacted from the 1970s onwards, but he was certainly right that the love of money as a possession will be seen for what it is:
a disgusting obsession.
End of Part 1
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