Wednesday June 20, 2012
Rio+20: Partisan Misconceptions Haunting the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
by Michael Chapdelaine
As member nations gather this June hoping for an accord and a palatable, concrete, coordinated, global plan of action for economic sustainability, there are lingering stereotypes and misconceptions that could scuttle long-term success. For the outcome of the meeting itself to be sustainable, it must be both evidently beneficial to the citizens of the nations of the world and implemented without deception and dictate.
In hopes of affecting an armistice between those in the hyper-polarized trenches of battlefield earth...
"Nothing good can come out of a United Nations meeting."
The United Nations is certainly not without inequity, failures, double standards, and indifference to criminality; from observing the Rwandan genocide to providing institutional cover for the outrageous NATO attack on Libya to introducing subject peoples in "developing" nations to the debt vortex of the World Bank to perpetuating the inflation-starvation-capitulation-occupation effect of fiat currencies via the International Monetary Fund.
It's reprehensible, to say the least, that the UN is more or less idle with respect to the most civilization-altering calamity-on-deck: the spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. There could hardly be a better occasion for decisive UN intervention.
The UN and institutions in the UN system have aided and abetted evil as well as good. Not recognizing this is as much ignorance as denial. For some, the UN can do no wrong; others, no right.
Nevertheless, the idea of the people of Earth having a specific, enduring forum to proactively engage one another to work toward peace, harmony, and understanding is a good thing. Putting ideological wish lists and philosophical rhetoric aside, the UN is the organization we have to work with here and now. It is not, in truth, completely without success -- like relief coordination and delivery of humanitarian aid in the wake of natural disasters.
Credit: Logan Abassi, UN Multimedia
It is well past the time for a withdrawal from some treaties, agreements, and alliances that have long-since served their purpose, become functionally impotent, or are no longer desirable, especially the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). America's UN membership card, on the other hand, is something to keep.
UN membership is in the United States' interest. Americans have a definite stake in UN initiatives to resolve global problems. If, for instance, China agrees to pollution reduction, it further equalizes production costs with U.S. manufacturing and reduces incentives for offshoring.
The United States is properly a free and sovereign republic. Participation of the U.S. via force of law in a given, worldwide, agreed-to effort is Constitutional provided
Willingly abiding global agreements, however, depends on both the perception and reality of terms not having been dictated by unelected officials and foreign governments. It is a mixture of perception and reality that Democratic and Republican elements are pushing for further globalization and transfers of wealth and sovereignty.
Surrendering sovereignty and forcing Americans to give up their self-determination and to be exploited by multinational interests has resulted in hostility to the very American founding ideal of striving to be cooperative and at peace with all nations. Successive imperial administrations and rubber-stamping Congressional sessions have soured and destroyed public opinion of the UN.
Until Constitutional governance is abided, UN initiatives are going to meet walls of emotional and physical resistance among broad segments of America and people across the world.
For its part, the United Nations, its member nations and affiliates, and their leaders must be transparent and establish credibility in intent, action, and consistency. Grossly hypocritical actors in leadership foster guilt by association for scrupulous individuals and organizations that scuttles causes which may have merit.
"Capitalism is destroying planet Earth."
This is a rather extraordinary and misguided allegation, since economies operating under the capitalist model exist almost nowhere in today's world. Capitalism certainly is not operative in the United States of America.
Is a crisis at hand? Absolutely. Earth's life-sustaining ability is being pushed beyond its capacity and regenerative bounds. However, the real culprit is globalized, consumption-and-debt-based economic growth that is
Creditism, corporatism, or fascism are more appropriate names for the current economic system. Fascism even threatens to engulf alternative energy and green business.
Capitalism, on the other hand, requires
It is perfectly ridiculous to suggest the U.S., most European, or the biggest Asian economies are capitalistic. The creditist-corporatist United States and socialist-mercantilist China are the still-standing heavy hitters of this consumption-and-debt fueled worldwide growth.
The communist model of the Soviet Union was similarly destructive, though less speculative, their command economy was at least as inefficient. The extermination of the Caspian tiger was completed under communist control to make territory safe for collectivist farmers. Thanks to Soviet irrigation projects, the Aral Sea is now four patches of super-saline water covering a fraction of its original area. It's also toxic: weapons testing, industrial projects, pesticides, and fertilizer runoff have resulted in widespread disease and death. Dzerzhinsk, Russia became the most chemically polluted city on Earth after nearly 70 years of waste dumping. Communism also yielded the most toxic location on the planet: Lake Karachay.
Karachay: One Hour of Radiation Exposure Here is Lethal
If capitalism is so great, is regulation needed in a capitalist system? History provides evidence that the answer is "yes." Market interests don't always coincide with clear public interests. Capitalism in the pure, unshackled markets of the late 19th century were antagonistic with labor, health, democratic expression, and the environment, as these things are impediments to absolute efficiency and maximized profit.
Nevertheless, in contemporary history, capitalism is easily surpassed in environmental destruction and ecological carnage by the aforementioned state-directed and centrally planned economies in captive markets.
In fact, decentralization and privatization has proved highly successful for the proliferation of Cuban organic farms. Farmers now sell their surplus to the local market, accumulating wealth.
"Environmentalists want to completely de-industrialize the economy."
This is in some cases a misunderstanding and in others a sensational misrepresentation by those interested in maintaining the status quo. In fact, advanced "green" technologies for the masses are predicated on sophisticated industrial capability and capacity.
Planet Forward on Ecovative's new renewable material
Environmentalists by-and-large want to see a reduction in profligate consumption and reorient markets in service to people and be reflective and respective of their real, natural needs and local cultural requirements and traditions. Often, this view is born out of experience addressing poverty and witnessing the connection between poverty and environmental degradation. This holistic approach, in some cases, means rejection, reorganization, and replacement of an introduced one-size-fits-all prescription for production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
Rather than wanting to de-industrialize, the intent of the ecologically conscious is to shift and tailor industrial activity, when and where it is appropriate, such that it adds to quality of life, happiness, and community endurance. The preference is that industry should lean more toward the local crafter and rural cottage rather than an urban factory running off of virtual slave labor in a far-off land. Environmentalists envision a harmonious juncture of ecological consideration, social justice, and economic pursuits.
Wouldn't you like to have local factories and individual crafters making things you use in your community? Nearly everyone can agree that domestic industry is desirable and preferable to foreign.
"It's not worth trying to talk about sustainability with conservatives."
It is most unfortunate that, among so many other modern political perversions, "conservative" has lost its historical attachment to conservation. It often seems that no small number of self-described "conservatives" hold nature, wildlife, and the idea of sensitivity toward Mother Earth in contempt.
Cashing Out the Endowment
Credit: Tero Laakso
They likely lost their way on the environment as a result of popularized economic thinking and religious interpretation that holds nature and the environment as a resource to exploit; the value of natural resources comes from human use in accordance with the labor theory of value. Such an economic deterministic stance causes discomfort with positions that impede economic growth and holds voices for environmental consideration in contempt.
There is even a view that any regulation for an environmental purpose is unwarranted, disruptive, and/or tyrannical. The glaring double-standard is an implicit expectation that one must cede or subordinate their self interests to another who wishes to exploit, unfettered and to the obvious, severe detriment of society at large, the natural world for intra-generational personal or corporate material gain. In practice, unfettered free-market diehards actually are embracing a subsidized market where externalities -- like the costs of cleaning up Superfund sites -- are dumped on the public. This is more the logic of an anarchist or corporatist.
Explorer, Hunter, Author, Soldier, Politician,
Naturalist, Conservationist, and Environmentalist
Credit: Library of Congress
True social conservatism properly regards nature with inherent value and natural resources worthy of protection and limited use to be passed on to future generations. In an economic sense, natural systems are endowments. A selectively logged forest, for instance, will return "interest" so long as the endowment is maintained. True social conservatism recognizes ecological deficits in addition to fiscal deficits. True social conservatism emplaces regulation as necessary for accountability.
Moreover, true social conservatism long held rural life as the source or sole remnant of traditional society; the small-holding agrarian class was long the backbone of many nations. Regional ecological persistence preserves tradition.
Theodore Roosevelt recognized in an address to the National Editorial Association in Jamestown Virginia on June 10, 1907, "…The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life."
Keep the lines of communication open.
"Sustainable means economic ruin."
Sustainable means an economy
Restraint is a shocking concept for many in this world of profligate consumption, waste, and credit-fueled speculation. For example, American and Chinese culture, respectively, are now both so dependent on growth for social and economic stability that it is, in many minds, inconceivable and frightening to entertain a retraction toward some equilibrium.
As the technocratic Dr. Marion King Hubbert acknowledged in his 1976 paper, Exponential Growth as a Transient Phenomenon in Human History:
So it is that many people tend to ignore or vigorously reject the unsustainable track of humanity.
Government promoted, consumption-oriented lifestyles have resulted in a minority of humanity consuming a majority of resources. This is as significant a threat to the national and planetary carrying capacity as high birth rates in low-consumption countries. The scenario playing out is proliferation of higher human consumption rates and population increases with no increase in resources.
Economic determinists are entranced by the fantasy of perpetual growth within a finite system and usually put their faith in scientists and engineers to promptly develop technical solutions when the markets call for them. Yet when presented an unfavorable outlook, many economists will enthusiastically, but without basal qualification, dismiss the science.
To quote geologist Kenneth Deffeyes, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, from the October 16, 2005 USA Today article "Debate brews: Has oil production peaked?" by David J. Lynch, "They [economists] believe if you show up at the cashier’s window with enough money, God will put more oil in the ground."
Sustainability will be achieved, the only question is how. If it occurs because reality imposes itself, the pain will be all the more biting. It will be far less cataclysmic to affect the transition according to a plan.
Sustainable living is a classical American ideal, anyway.
"When they say we need a lower population, they really want to wipe out the human virus and useless eaters."
This is a dominant theme for
The actual or perceived desire for euthanasia among the elite possibly embracing eugenics undercuts those acknowledging populations' contribution to global distress.
Despite the fact that Karl Marx rejected the notion of population limits and thought his model could accommodate high fertility, "communist" is but one of the labels flung at family planning advocates in blanket reference to China's one-child policy, even when it may not be the policy being advocated.
Environmentalists also tend to be humanitarians. Few advocate a government policy that prohibits or punishes pregnancy. Centralized control and forced limits certainly are not the measure of excellence. It is, as Charles Moffett points out in his study of the human side of the population crisis, Critical Masses, local family planning services that have proven to best meet the needs of people from Colombia to Thailand. Moreover, these programs are not, by virtue of their existence, coercive or imposed; family planning services are as desired and welcomed in Mexico as they are in Poland. Statistics show high contraceptive use supplants and lowers abortions.
Rather than hoping to see high infant mortality to reduce growth, many population-conscious organizations put a great deal of effort into ensuring the survival of infants, as women who don't lose children are less inclined to become pregnant in short order. They also support rural banks and micro-enterprise loans to help on all sides of the fertility issue. People have economic motivations to limit family size and are empowered with the means to control the number of children brought into the world.
The issue sparks a powerful emotional response from pronatalists. However, it is cynical and presumptive that discussion, recognition of the benefits, consideration, or advocacy of decreased fertility is motivated by a desire to see human beings die wholesale. Ike Eisenhower, who both led U.S. military forces as a General against Nazi Germany and later as President warned of the pitfalls of the military-industrial complex, supported measures to limit population growth. Did Ike want to see human beings die? Eisenhower realized after a trip to India that consumption combined with runaway population is a problem.
Today, environmentalists widely make the case that the discussion of economy in harmony with ecology should not and cannot be limited to population numbers and birthrates.
It is conceivable that some in and out of government would like to see much of humanity die. It doesn't stand to reason that it is a view held by all.
At the same time, it is unfair to presume all Christians, Muslims, and followers of other major world religions are against contraception. Responsible parenthood is quite popular.
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