Climate change v capitalism: the feast is almost over
Guardian – Friday 15 October 2010
Our guest editor, Antony Hegarty, was inspired by Jerry Mander’s 1991 book In the Absence of the Sacred. Here Jerry writes about the incompatibility of tackling climate change and prioritising economic growth.
Six weeks from now, in Cancun, Mexico, the world’s nations will gather under the auspices of the United Nations (the UNFCCC) to again discuss how to alleviate climate change. They’ll try to pick up the broken pieces from last December in Copenhagen, where we witnessed tortured dances by government leaders trying to avoid the realities of our time, and the profound conundrums we face as a society. They accomplished nothing, and may reprise that performance in Cancun.
Take the case of President Obama. He generally signals a serious desire to address climate issues, but, like the leaders of all the developed industrial nations, has been caught in a terrible dilemma. He tries to argue for lower emissions limits, both globally and in the US. But he is simultaneously desperate to revive rapid economic growth and stimulate a sluggish industrial economy hampered by rising costs of energy, rapidly diminishing resources and venal bankers.
So, while Obama talked climate change in Copenhagen, he pushed for accelerated growth and consumption, emphasising such climate-deadly industries as private automobile production, new road construction, nuclear power generation, and continued coal extraction (including horrendous “mountain top removal”) while extolling an entirely theoretical “clean coal”. He was also for expanding manufacture of heavy industrial equipment, and for more export-oriented industrial agriculture, as well as “new housing starts”, increased oil drilling in deepwater zones – such as BP’s – and for deadly tar sands development, all in hopes of growth, profit and jobs.