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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/17/11

Channeling Citizen Solidarity into Productive Channels of Action

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3) Mass-consumption economies based on buy-it-to trash-it market behavior

Children are programmed from birth to consume more stuff.   Former President Bush deemed consumption as our "patriotic duty".   We are all taught that an economy only works with endless consumption and constant "growth".   Uncontrolled growth in a living system is called "cancer".

The entire first-world economy is based on the idea that people need to consume more stuff, then throw it away, then consume more. All the corporate advertising is for this one single purpose, to convince people that they are inadequate unless they buy and consume more high-priced cars, designer jeans, electronic gadgets and throwaway home cleaning supplies. This system is insane. We cannot have infinite consumption on a planet with finite resources.

4) The mass poisoning of the oceans and aggressive over-fishing

Oceans ecosystems are collapsing. This isn't some future prediction, it's happening right now. Ocean acidification is destroying the coral reefs and mollusks all across the globe. At the same time, human civilization treats the oceans as giant planetary toilets into which all the toxic chemicals of modern civilization are flushed: Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals, hormone-disrupting chemicals are all mixed into this unsustainable soup.

As a result of the disruption of ocean habitat, massive fish die-offs are increasing. Fish populations are plummeting across several species. We are beginning to see the results of mankind's ongoing poisoning of the oceans.   The BP Oil Spill was like a final bullet in a rapid round of suicide shots.

5 ) The drugs-and-surgery disease management system is consuming the society that supports it.   The medical-phamaceutical complex consumes 20% of dollars in the economy.

Big Pharma's days are numbered -- based on raw economic reality. The system is bankrupting its own customer base; companies, cities , states and nations can no longer keep up with the rising costs of this very ineffective system.   We pay twice as much for disease management ("health care" is a total misnomer) and the US ranks a low #52 in life expectancy among all nations. No nation can economically survive in the long run if it keeps spending its money on Big Pharma 's sick schemes to capture and control such a huge share of the economic output of the entire population" (presently 20% of national GDP).   We need cost effective health care and prevention, not the expensive disease management industry.   Healthy people do not provide much profit to the Pharmaceutical-Disease Management Complex.   Our population gets sicker and sicker, so the complex   rakes in more and more profit, until the sick system bankrupts itself.

Until the day comes that the chemical-pharmaceutical complex collapses into financial ruin along with its parent, the Petrochemical Complex, the pharmaceutical pollution of the planet will continue unabated.   Right now, pharmaceutical factories in India (which export pills back to the USA to be sold as brand-name drugs) are dumping untold thousands of gallons of dangerous chemical drugs into India's waterways.   In the U.S., Europe and Canada, the municipal water supply of every major city is heavily contaminated with pharmaceuticals.

6) Human population growth has reached its limit within a carbon fuel industrial economy.

The human population growth we see right now is entirely unsustainable within our current conception of industrial society.   The availability of cheap food and fossil fuels over the last century has contributed to an unprecedented population explosion that is now nearing its end. There are only so many acres of farmland and only so much water for irrigation. Some scientists have calculated that we could actually support twice our present population in a balanced, sustainable system of global permaculture; a low consumption/high value society. Such a society would be based on knowledge and culture as our main source of economic value, not production of more material things.   We only need a few simple physical materials to support life.   Most of our consumption is outright waste and serves no valid life support purpose.

7) Water consumption for industrial agriculture is in a cycle of rapid depletion.

The Ogallala Aquifer   in the central plains "Breadbasket of America is running dry, threatening the agricultural output of Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and parts of Colorado. Water depletion is a global issue, affecting India, China, North America, South America and nearly every nation that produces any significant agricultural yields. Fresh water is running out all across the world, and while additional water supplies can always be created through desalination, for example, that's a very expensive way to replenish the water, and it's almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels.   Even if human communities could build enough desalination plants to irrigate the world's croplands, the resulting food prices would still result in mass starvation by those who couldn't afford the food which might cost ten times the current price.   Are you ready for $20 dollar loaves of bread?   Are you ready to get a bottle of expensive rationed water to survive?

8) Fossil fuel consumption is reaching the peak of the global consumption bell curve

The Earth is a finite object, occupying finite space. Inside it can only be a finite amount of fossil fuels. We have burned off millions of years of nature's petroleum production in just two hundred years.   The recharge rate of fossil fuels is on measured in of millions of years. We won't be around for that process. If we do not change our ways, our own bones may very well join the dinosaurs for future petroleum feedstock. There is convincing evidence that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, has been lying about its output capacity for at least the last decade. It can't reach its production targets, and there is reasoned speculation that its own best-producing oil wells are approaching their end. Even if oil remains available for a few more decades, it still becomes increasingly expensive oil, meaning that everything else down the supply chain becomes more expensive, too: Food, fuel, consumer goods, etc.

The era of cheap fossil fuels is now at an end . Although fossil fuels will no doubt be around for several decades more, the cheap stuff is all long gone.   Since our entire economy is based on cheap oil, that means our entire economy is now obsolete. Solar probably isn't a viable answer, as solar panels are entirely dependent on rare earth minerals that are held mostly within the borders mainland China.   There is no technological silver bullet.   Conservation of materials and energy and very efficient community based agriculture are now an absolutely essential citizen activity if we are to have any hope of making the transition to a sustainable society. A garden in every back yard and scores of CSA's in every county will start to meet our need.

9) The widespread destruction of natural habitat

For centuries, the human race has been behaving like a family that burns a room full of furniture and one section of their house each winter to keep warm to meet their short term needs.   Eventually the house is gone.   It is very appropriate to note that the root word of both economy and ecology is "eco" which is the Greek word for "house".   We are literally destroying our global home to support a false and failing notion of "economics".   Our economy consumes wide swathes of the ecology to "keep the industrial economy growing"" while we are actually destroying the web of life that supports human life.   This is very short sighted and based on outright ignorance.

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Michael Richards is a life long innovator, entrepreneur and author. His most recent book is; SUSTAINABLE OPERATING SYSTEMS/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available on line at; Mr. Richards has presented as an author, speaker and (more...)
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