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Is our world becoming a sacrifice zone?

By       Message Brian Cooney       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   14 comments

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From flickr.com: A single hour of New York City's carbon dioxide emissions, as one-tonne spheres. {MID-311625}
A single hour of New York City's carbon dioxide emissions, as one-ton spheres.
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Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco describe "sacrifice zones" as places where "the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit." On Aug. 22ndthe Environmental Protection Agency announced America's latest sacrificial act: Trump's relaxation of pollution restrictions on coal-burning power plants is expected to cause 1400 premature deaths annually and 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems.

The traditional meaning of 'sacrifice' is "an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially:the killing of a victim on an altar." From this we get the more general meaning of giving up something of value to get something else. The 'something else' that capitalist governments always want is economic growth. The god on whose altar Trump's EPA will sacrifice thousands of lives is the Gross Domestic Product--the sum of the prices of all final goods and services produced in an economy during a period of time. In capitalist theology, the more we give up to this deity, the more abundance it confers on us.

To appreciate the cruelty of this hoax, keep in mind the difference between maximizing GDP and maximizing profits (which is the real goal of sacrifice zones). The dollar value of the GDP is a national income that gets distributed in different proportions to government as corporate taxes, to workers as compensation and to corporations as profits. Since the 1980s there has been a substantial decline in the share of national income going to workers and to government.

In other words, since the 1980s 'growing the economy' (a favorite Clinton phrase) has been all about growing corporate profits at the expense of worker compensation and the social programs funded by taxation. Trump's huge tax cuts for corporations are the latest example of this trend. According to Americans for Tax Fairness, corporations are not using their tax windfall to invest in production and create jobs. Instead, they "are spending 101 times as much on stock buybacks as they are spending on workers' bonuses and wages." These buybacks increase the value of stocks: "The richest 1% own 40% of all stock; the richest 10% own 84%."

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The expanding sacrifice zone needed to maintain our soaring economic inequality includes stagnant wages for most workers, cuts in social programs, and the kind of environmental degradation created by burning coal and other fossil fuels.

As Hedges and Sacco point out, in a sacrifice zone humans and the natural world are treated with the same disrespect, valued only for their profit potential and discarded as worthless once this potential has been extracted. In a society shaped by the capitalist value system, when people and the places they live in lose their market value, they become junk. Appalachia is one of America's lingering sacrifice zones. In the words of Dave Pruett, "Big Coal has plundered thousands of seams, ripped the tops off 500 mountains, extracted the land's wealth, poisoned its streams and rivers, and left the people destitute."

Following the lead of the Republican governors of Kansas and Oklahoma, Governor Bobby Jindal delivered a strong dose of capitalist religion to Louisiana, and turned it into a sacrifice zone. He justified his drastic tax cuts by claiming that rising corporate profits would bring greater prosperity. What he got instead were crippling deficits, gutted social programs and underfunded education budgets. As Nathaniel Rich reports in The New York Review of Books (11/10/16), Jindal stripped his state to make up for a $1.6 billion deficit: he "fired 30,000 state employees, furloughed many others, cut education funding by nearly half, and sold off as many state-owned parking lots, farms, and hospitals as he could."

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In addition to being victimized by Jindal and the state's GOP, Louisiana is also one of the early casualties of a growing global sacrifice zone. With each passing hour the Gulf of Mexico claims the equivalent of a football field of land from the Louisiana coastal wetlands. The sea level is rising inexorably because of global warming, and coastal areas in this country and around the world are being inundated by salt water and damaging storm surges.

As any non-Republican adult knows, global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels which crams the atmosphere with carbon and other heat-trapping gases. Eighty percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels. Global warming and sea-level rise are accelerating rather than increasing at a steady rate.

We're getting a taste of out future in the increasing frequency, size and duration of wildfires in California and around the world . Heat waves are getting longer and more intense worldwide . A recent World Bank study warns that 800 million people in South Asia will be at risk of serious health effects from rising temperatures by 2050. The cult of endless GDP growth is hurrying Earth toward a catastrophic decline in living conditions for humans and other species.

Capitalist religion's burnt offerings of coal, oil and gas are creating a global sacrifice zone in which most people will be unable to purchase refuge in increasingly scarce comfortable locales. According to Oxfam , "Last year, 82% of wealth created worldwide went to the top 1%. The poorest half saw no increase at all." In the American fusion of Christianity and capitalism, these one-percenters will find validation in the plight of those who can't afford to live well in the sacrifice zone, since their poverty is a symptom of deficient character. One-percenters will be like the saints in heaven who, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, will be allowed to see the sufferings of the damned "in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them" (Summa Theologica ).

As Naomi Klein explains in her important book This Changes Everything: Capitalism VS the Climate, we are blocked from saving ourselves by the capitalist dogma that government is to be avoided as much as possible. What we now need is government intervention in the economy on the scale we accepted at the onset of WWII.

 

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I'm a retired philosophy professor at Centre College. I also am a regular columnist for The Danville Advocate-Messenger,the local paper in what was my home town (I now live in Connecticut. My last book was Posthumanity-Thinking Philosophically (more...)
 

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10 people are discussing this page, with 15 comments


Brian Cooney

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I think I understand how the feelings of those Christians who believe the end time is coming soon but non-believers won't pay attention. Much of people's day-to-day perception of their world leaves out this disaster getting a grip on the planet.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 5, 2018 at 5:05:32 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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Did you just say that non-Christians don't pay attention to the consequences of climate change?

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 5, 2018 at 9:05:22 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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This site's computer is still screwy. I am asking this of Brian Cooney and it is not a rhetorical question.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 at 3:10:49 PM

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Brian Cooney

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No I didn't say that. I was comparing what I was feeling about inaction on the impending climate crisis to what I imagine certain millenarian Christians feel about an imminent second coming being ignored by non-believers.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 at 4:24:53 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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According to Dan Gerry and his mentor Guy McPherson, we will all die soon, Christian and Heathen, so what is the big difference? I saw one great video that went through all the bible verses leading to the the Russian EMP and Armageddon. The video went on to try to sell survival goods and books to preppers. Even from my Pagan perspective, it was a wonderful story and I wish I could find it again.


In order to make my remaining days better, I vow to quit fighting to make computer crap work. As it makes me obsolete, I will gladly succumb and likely prove my theory that these evil machines are here to intentionally make life hell.

Submitted on Friday, Sep 7, 2018 at 5:45:12 AM

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Barry Ledwidge

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In Canada we have the Green Party, which is the only political party that is serious about Climate Change, but with the "first past the post" electoral system a vote for the Greens is wasted. In the 2015 federal election, 3.5% of Canadians voted Green but the Greens only won one of the 338 seats. Proportional Representation would change that but so far Canadians have resisted changing the electoral system. What will it take to convince us that Climate Change is real?

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 5, 2018 at 9:12:45 PM

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Your system is still better than ours. We can't shake the duopoly.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 at 12:11:59 AM

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Ranked Choice Voting is catching on as the remedy of vote splitting. There are efforts across the US to implement this needed change. It already passed in Maine and we are working hard to get it passed in Massachusetts.


Check it out.

.rankedchoicevoting.org/

Submitted on Friday, Sep 7, 2018 at 2:27:39 PM

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Here is an article that looks at the big favour that the Trump Administration has granted to the American banking sector:

click here

Washington failed to learn the lessons taught by the 2008 - 2009 recession and has set the economy up for another banking sector crisis that the Fed will be forced to resolve, an issue that will compromise its ability to "correct" the economy.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 at 2:24:34 PM

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The problem is Brian Cooney, Chris Hedges and trolls who have supported the establishment all their careers. The establishment created the ghettos. Of course anyone who votes favors the establishment.

The voting class can't seem to recognize that nothing changes when they vote. Trump = Obama. All Day Long. Politicians never change, only the perception of the morons changes.

100 years of perpetual war doesn't seem to bother the elites. Not just war, but inequality, massive corruption , theft by the rich against the rest of us in every administration by both parties.

Super smart people called the voters must see a real difference between the democrats and republicans. Even smarter voters who call themselves progressives believe the answer is another party that would be really really different and they would vote for that party because the problem is the two parties aren't that different.

Submitted on Friday, Sep 7, 2018 at 5:05:05 PM

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This is discouraging. 4 people have recommended a comment which claims that all voters support the establishment, and voters are morons, and I and Chris Hedges are trolls who have supported the establishment all their careers.

Submitted on Friday, Sep 7, 2018 at 5:28:49 PM

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While I can well understand the discouragement Brian, my own discouragement comes from knowing we were headed out the door by making the planet a sacrifice zone back in the '70s, and seeing little or no major changes ever since.

I wish it were not so, and given the number of people who have been hollering this for decades, it is all too clear that we bow and grovel to the God of the Almighty Dollar. The one planet we happen to live on is a veritable paradise in a vast cosmos, and even though the number of likely planets has increased at least a trillion fold, in our galaxy alone, it's most unlikely we'd ever find one suitable for our own biologically evolved selves, and we'd never get there anyway. Be kind, love your neighbors, assume you are on death row (as anyone born clearly is), is about all I can suggest at this point in time.

Submitted on Friday, Sep 7, 2018 at 11:43:35 PM

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And your problem?

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 8, 2018 at 11:04:53 AM

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Copyrighted Image? DMCA

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 8, 2018 at 4:23:41 AM

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This is a pertinent question that needs to be addressed very urgently

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 8, 2018 at 10:34:10 AM

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