Quote of the day II: Capitalism’s fatal flaw


It just can’t help doing harm.

From economic historian and author Richard Smith, writing in his latest book, Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, via the Real World Economics Review:

From climate change to resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development revolutionizing technology, science, culture, and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, drilling, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible resources to turn them all into “product” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 to 6 billion, but in these same decades consumption of major natural resources soared more than 6 fold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly 12 fold, bauxite (aluminum ore) 15 fold. And so on. At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O Wilson says that:

“half the world’s great forests have already been leveled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.”

Corporations aren’t necessarily evil, though plenty are diabolically evil, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. Shell Oil can’t help but loot Nigeria and the Arctic and cook the climate. That’s what shareholders demand. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and other mining giants can’t resist mining Australia’s abundant coal and exporting it to China and India. Mining accounts for 19% of Australia’s GDP and substantial employment even as coal combustion is the single worst driver of global warming. IKEA can’t help but level the forests of Siberia and Malaysia to feed the Chinese mills building its flimsy disposable furniture (IKEA is the third largest consumer of lumber in the world). Apple can’t help it if the cost of extracting the “rare earths” it needs to make millions of new iThings each year is the destruction of the eastern Congo – violence, rape, slavery, forced induction of child soldiers, along with poisoning local waterways.  Monsanto and DuPont and Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science have no choice but to wipe out bees, butterflies, birds, small farmers and extinguish crop diversity to secure their grip on the world’s food supply while drenching the planet with their Roundups and Atrazines and neonicotinoids. This is how giant corporations are wiping out life on earth in the course of a routine business day. And the bigger the corporations grow, the worse the problems become.

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