Ecological Equity

I’m back online again, email is running and access to the Net is good. Unfortunately, the news isn’t good.

Humanities demands upon the Earth are still escalating, despite the best efforts of various organizations around the world. Some of these efforts don’t only seem to be at odds with one another, they are at odds with the basic principles of sustainability.

One of the problems is the continuance of the old paradigm, economic development and economic justice. No economic development can take place without impacting the biosphere, usually in harmful ways.

Instead of advocating a scale-back, power-down scenario, proponents of a “cleaner, healthier, Earth” are often found advocating the same paradigm – business as usual for those fortunate enough to be in the drivers seat. Hidden within their advocacy, is a technology “solution” to mankinds ecological impact. The contradiction this implies is utterly lost on them. How can technology improve or better anything, without causing more damage in the process? This is the false promise that science and technology have always offered, yet have always failed to deliver. There is a trade-off for any new invention or development devised by man, but it’s cost is always lost in it’s new fangled glitter, until the bills come due like Freon, DDT and PCP’s.

Worse, the climate change advocates (myself included) are at odds with each other how best to solve climate change issues. Here’s an example of this kind of thinking from Changing the Social Climate as it relates to global warming:

“What is the number one thing we can do for the environment? It’s to allow people to live together in diverse communities. Because the single biggest cause of environmental degradation in the Bay Area and other cities is literally people’s desire to flee to the suburb where everybody looks like them.”

I’m loathe to say, “are these people stupid?” or what, because nobody is preventing anybody from living in diverse communities now. You’re free to go live where you want. However, they claim they need to “allow” people to do so!

Put in it’s proper context, they intend to force people to live together in ways which people do not want. So instead of tract homes, we’ll have government sponsored “project housing” for “diversity” which has already proven to be a miserable failure in the inner cities.

Making the climate change issue a communities of color issue is misleading at best. Of course low-income people will be most affected by climate change, but you aren’t going to solve climate change by forcing integration. Climate change will indeed affect the poor the most. People, like penguins, will be most affected by climate change because of their economic and environmental status. Those that will be able to scoff the longest will be those who are wealthy, environmentally “secure” and even insulated against it’s most devastating effects.

But knowing this solves nothing, nor can it. It also obsucates some of the real issues, such as the poor contribute more to overpopulation then the wealthy. I don’t know (yet) who uses more resources, the wealthy “few” or the populous “poor”. Probably the poor, there are a lot more of them (myself included), but maybe somebody could find out.

Changing the Social Climate goes further though –

“From a technical perspective, one of the best things we can do for climate change is to implement energy efficiency retrofits for lowincome households. That housing is of such poor quality that residents have to use a lot more energy just to heat or cool them. Let’s make poor people’s houses super energy efficient. It creates jobs. It makes poor people less poor because they are spending less of their income on energy.”

This sounds good, but what about the “savings” the poor now have? How will these be spent? Will that expenditure lead to more ecological destruction? Almost certainly. Yet such factors are not even taken into account. And what about the retrofits themselves? What is their actual environmental costs?

Until the “consumer paradigm” is totally replaced with ecological responsibility, the rich or poor, it won’t make any difference. I’m not picking on the poor, exactly the same arguments can be used for the middle class or the wealthy. What I’m trying to point out is that the existing paradigm of consumption and expenditures cannot continue. It doesn’t matter if you are poor, or wealthy or middle of the road with a BMW in the driveway. It’s your individual, personal response to ecological sustainability and how you respond that will make the difference.

Changing the Social Climate advocates some good things, but it’s technological response advocacy to climate change and it’s desire for economic equity are the same business as usual approach that created these problem in the first place.

Think about it. Technology has long been advocated as the solution to all of mankinds problems, yet it’s hazardous effects are the very reason we have these problems today. Economic equity (democracy) is also the bastard offspring of civilization, and has not made people more free or economically equal at all – in fact, the opposite is far more true. Economic inequities abound everywhere because of “democracy”. Democratic institutions gave birth to all of modern living, at a tremendous and irreplaceable ecological expense. The only people who can’t see this are the same ones who are personally benefitting from these double standards.

Instead of relating global warming to human-to-human imbalances and inequities and social injustice, we need a new paradigm that relates to the human-to-environment imbalances and inequities. Ecological Equity is something that needs to be fostered, developed and nourished as a Rosetta stone for human relationships to our Earth host and all of the biosphere.

We can talk until we are blue in the face on “who has the right to pollute” and “pollution credits” and “taxing industry”, but this does not bring the issue into a proper perspective, because it assumes several things which are notably wrong. Primarily, the pre-eminence of mankind itself, and his right to do as he please with no regard nor respect for the planet he lives on. It is this kind of thinking that has directly led to our ecological devastation we witness today. We must reexamine this assumption and reassess our actual role in life on Earth.

At some point, we will be forced to do this whether we like it or not. The Green Movement is doing this in a haphazard way now, sort of. But it’s become fashionable (and profitable) to continue to promote the consumer paradigm while affixing green stickers to the latest invention. This should be recognized as ultimately self-defeating, but of course, it isn’t because profits still reign supreme.

This then, is where understanding ecological equity becomes a little clearer. Human motivation is for power, profit, control and ownership. Yet all of these things are in direct contradiction to ecological equity, since nothing in nature is depending upon such things. All these human emotions and desires create huge ecological deficits. This is the weakness of nature (and humans), because they can be so easily exploited to meet these emotions and desires.

But herein lies the answer for humanity too. We are also exploited in the same way nature is. But our strength can only come ultimately from nature itself. We can only be as strong as our natural world allows, or as weak as we have made the natural world. But we cannot be stronger then the natural world, this is an impossible contradiction.

In essence, humankind must learn to live naturally. Our task is to learn to live with nature and not against it. Civilization today is very much against nature, and this is why civilization must go. Only then will we achieve (again) ecological equity. Until that day comes, then concepts such as environmental justice and economic fairness are just pipe dreams.

We need to stop looking “without” at the world and how we might change it, and start looking within at our own selves, and how we might change so that we can actually learn to live in this world again. That’s the real Changing the Social Climate that is needed now, more then ever.

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