… The Superrich Are Different From Us:
- Isn’t ecological disaster a threat to the health and survival of corporate plutocrats just as it is to us ordinary citizens? We can understand why the corporate rich might want to destroy public housing, public education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Such cutbacks would bring us closer to a free market society devoid of the publicly funded “socialistic” human services that the ideological reactionaries detest, and such cuts would not deprive the superrich and their families of anything. The superrich have more than sufficient private wealth to procure whatever services and protections they need for themselves.But the environment is a different story, is it not? Don’t wealthy reactionaries and their corporate lobbyists inhabit the same polluted planet as everyone else, eat the same chemicalized food and breathe the same toxified air? In fact, they do not live exactly as everyone else. They experience a different class reality, often residing in places where the air is markedly better than in low- and middle-income areas. They have access to food that is organically raised and specially transported and prepared.
- The nation’s toxic dumps and freeways usually are not situated in or near their swanky neighborhoods. In fact, the superrich do not live in neighborhoods as such. They usually reside on landed estates with plenty of wooded areas, streams, meadows and only a few well-monitored access roads. Pesticide sprays are not poured over their trees and gardens. Clearcutting does not desolate their ranches, estates, family forests, lakes and prime vacation spots.
- Still, should they not fear the threat of an ecological apocalypse brought on by global warming? Do they want to see life on Earth, including their own lives, destroyed? In the long run, they indeed will be sealing their own doom along with everyone else’s. However, like us all, they live not in the long run, but in the here and now. What is now at stake for them is something more proximate and more urgent than global ecology; it is global profits. The fate of the biosphere seems like a remote abstraction compared to the fate of one’s immediate – and enormous – investments.
- With their eye on the bottom line, big-business leaders know that every dollar a company spends on oddball things like environmental protection is one less dollar in earnings. Moving away from fossil fuels and toward solar, wind and tidal energy could help avert ecological disaster, but six of the world’s ten top industrial corporations are involved primarily in the production of oil, gasoline and motor vehicles. Fossil fuel pollution brings billions of dollars in returns. Ecologically sustainable forms of production threaten to compromise such profits, the big producers are convinced.
- Immediate gain for oneself is a far more compelling consideration than a future loss shared by the general public. Every time you drive your car, you are putting your immediate need to get somewhere ahead of the collective need to avoid poisoning the air we all breathe. So with the big players: the social cost of turning a forest into a wasteland weighs little against the immense and immediate profit that comes from harvesting the timber and walking away with a neat bundle of cash. And it can always be rationalized away: there are lots of other forests for people to visit; they don’t need this one; society needs the timber; loggers need the jobs, and so on.
The Future Is Now:
- Some of the very same scientists and environmentalists who see the ecology crisis as urgent rather annoyingly warn us of a catastrophic climate crisis by “the end of this century.” But that’s some ninety years away, when all of us and most of our kids will be dead – which makes global warming a much less urgent issue.
- There are other scientists who manage to be even more irritating by warning us of an impending ecological crisis and then putting it even further into the future. “We’ll have to stop thinking in terms of eons and start thinking in terms of centuries,” said one scientific sage who was quoted in The New York Times in 2006. This is supposed to put us on alert? If a global catastrophe is a century or several centuries away, who is going to make the terribly difficult and costly decisions today whose effects will be felt far in the future?
- Often, we are told to think of our dear grandchildren, who will be fully victimized by it all (an appeal usually made in a beseeching tone). But most of the young people I address on college campuses have a hard time imagining the world that their nonexistent grandchildren will be experiencing thirty or forty years hence.
- Such appeals should be put to rest. We do not have centuries or generations or even many decades before disaster is upon us. Ecological crisis is not some distant urgency. Most of us alive today probably will not have the luxury of saying “Apres moi, le deluge” because we will still be around to experience the catastrophe ourselves. We know this to be true because the ecological crisis is already acting upon us with an accelerated and compounded effect that may soon prove irreversible.
The Profiteering Madness: … (full long text).