01 May 2009

Money Money Money

Reality Sandwich: Money, A New Beginning

There are two important (related) points I want to address from this article:

We have a growth economy (in fact, an exponential growth economy) and a finite quantity of resources upon which that economy is supposed to be based. This is undeniable.

In a growth economy, we must constantly have more things if there is going to be more money in circulation- in other words, in order to grow, we must have more things to sell. If you look at our society, it is based almost entirely on the privatization of things which were once free (such as clean water), and the constant invention of new things to spend money on (for example, “upgraded” technologies, which renders the old versions obsolete).

This causes two problems: first, that in order to continue to grow, our economy encourages phenomenal amounts of waste. If you reuse something for ten years instead of buying a new one every few months, there is no profit to be made, as a long lasting reusable item subverts your need to constantly make a purchase. The same principle demands the constant use of more resources to produce the new items.

Second, it traps you into a constant cycle of accumulation. I’ve talked about this in terms of major environmental groups previously on this blog. When you constantly require additional funding to stay afloat (literally to stay in business- to maintain your employees and programming) a vast percentage of your time is spent on accumulating money in order to do this. Now imagine if we were secure, and accumulating money was unnecessary- that same amount of time spent on fundraising and grant writing could be spent on immediate, tangible applications, such as going out and quite literally cleaning up a stream.

It’s yet another way to look at sustainability. Let’s look at one of my favorite examples again, water. One way or another, we have to pay for water. Even if you refuse to buy bottled water, which is thus far the ultimate in privatization of water, you still have to get it from somewhere (a tap) because it certainly isn’t clean enough when it’s running in a stream or something similar. There are methods of collecting and purifying your own water, but these are typically discouraged, looked down upon, or made otherwise difficult, if not outright illegal. So we get our money from a tap, the cleaning of which is paid for typically by a municipality, which pays with our tax money and the like. If you have your own sink, typically you have a house or apartment or something around it (which you had to pay for), or even if you are getting water on the go, you need some kind of container to put it in (which you had to pay for). Water is by no means free. We must accumulate some sort of material good to grant us access- whether it be a whole house or a Nalgene bottle. Take a minute and imagine someone in a tribal society with a Nalgene bottle. What the hell would they do with it? They’d have to haul it around all over creation. If water were simply available, clean and without pollutants…

Well, possibly you can see what I’m driving at. The destruction of the commons, as it is typically called, has deep reaching consequences for our environment. If everything is privatized, it is no one’s responsibility- who is to blame for the polluted air in the vicinity of a power plant, as we’ve asked before? The plant, or the people who purchase power from them? And when it comes down to removing the pollution, who should pay? And who, ultimately, pays when the people living nearby (regardless of whether they purchase power from that plant or not) suffer from exposure to pollution?

Something to consider, certainly.

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