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Capitalism, Consumerism and Materialism: The Value Crisis

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The Continuum of Crisis 

The global economic, ecological and energy crises we face – as well as associated crises (terrorism, conflict, and so on) -- are not separate but fundamentally interlinked: at the source of our ills is an excessive exploitation of hydrocarbon resources that is tied to the escalation of CO2 emissions with no recognition of limits or boundaries, fuelling global warming and the acceleration of climate change, devastating eco-systems, facilitating the deaths of millions of people and the extinction of thousands of species.

The logic of “growth” is simultaneously driving us to deplete hydrocarbon and other natural resources at unprecedented, and unsustainable, rates – such that oil and gas are for all intents and purposes running dry. Both climate change and energy crises are impacting on our ability to sustain global food production. Water shortages and hotter weather are destroying the viability of agriculture, while portended fuel shortages are set to undermine the continuity of agribusiness which is heavily dependent on oil and gas. The increasing inability of food production to meet consumer demand is also linked to the destructive “growth”-driven technologies of a hierarchical agribusiness industry monopolized by short-sighted corporate conglomerates, within a skewered international system of food distribution that marginalizes two-thirds of the world population.


Finally, the world economy on its own terms is on the verge of self-imploding. Geared to serve the interests of corporate profit maximization, the world economy systematically generates widening inequalities that result not only in the deprivation of the majority of the world’s population, but death-by-deprivation on an increasing scale. But in doing so, the economic system ignores its own internal contradictions, even while leading financial analysts from within the IMF to Morgan Stanley are now warning of an imminent global economic meltdown.


So we are nearing critical points simultaneously on four fronts – the climate, our energy dependence, our economy, and even our food supply. The scale of these crises has been sorely underestimated by officials, and even some experts, because their cumulative impact is not properly understood. Western experts tend to look at these crises as separate processes, and thus to offer separate analyses and solutions. The problem is that these crises are not separate at all – they are fundamentally tied into the way the global political economic system functions, and as they accelerate they are, and will, feed into and exacerbate one another.


The worst thing is, amidst the chorus of condemnation suddenly coming from Western governments themselves about the catastrophic dangers and costs of climate change, there has been a gigantic obfuscation of the true extent, scale and impact not only of climate change, but of its intimate interrelationship with other global crises.

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Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the 'System Shift' column for VICE's Motherboard, and is also a columnist for Middle East Eye. He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work.

Nafeez has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New (more...)

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