Saturday, December 8, 2012

Failing our children

For the past two weeks climate negotiators have been meeting in Doha, Qatar at the United Nation's 18th climate change summit. And, for the past two weeks, nothing has been accomplished.

The abject failure of this exercise highlights one of the glaring faults of capitalism. We are told that markets are the solution to any problem. We are told that when we all act in our own self-interest, everyone benefits as a result of the efficient allocation of resources. We are told that the market allows us to create incentives for people to act in desirable ways. We are taught that the private ownership of property is the key to our prosperity.

And that is the problem.

You see, no one owns the sky above us. No one owns the rivers and oceans. No one owns the atmosphere. And because no one owns them, no one has any incentive not to fuck them up.

If you've ever driven through Pasadena on 225 you have seen smokestacks belching god-only-knows what into the sky. The winds take that smoke and carry it away. Chemical plants around the world pump their poisons into the sky and into the water. The same goes for refineries and coal-fueled power plants.

There is no incentive for any of these polluters to stop what they're doing because it's free to pump pollution into the sky. And, while we're at it, let's not forget us. We drive our cars and pump exhaust fumes skyward (though not nearly as much as we did before we got serious about auto emissions). We do it because there's no cost to us.

Oil pipelines spring leaks. Tankers lose oil. Off shore wells blow out.

In our never-ending quest to obtain natural gas we pump water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressures in order to fracture rock formations that contain our fix. The toxic solution that comes back to the surface is then injected deep into the earth causing fault lines to shift and move.

Business, and their whores in Washington (and other capitals around the world) are more interested in the here and now than they are in the world they leave behind for the next generations. They are far more concerned with the quarterly earnings reports than they are about what our world will look like tomorrow.

The climate is changing. We can't stop that. We can, however, reduce the harm we are causing. But it's going to take people who are willing to stand up and say Enough! Our government is mortgaging our future, and our children's future, in order to pay back the corporations for their campaign largesse.

We can't solve this problem if we just sit back and repeat the capitalist mantra of the sacredness of private property. It's going to take a new paradigm for us to do what is necessary.

We are stewards of this earth. It isn't ours. It is our job to ensure that our children, and their children, have a better place to live than did we. We are failing them miserably.

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