Attack of the Feather Brigade

feather_attack Apparently, the National Wildlife Federation recently “called upon” the powers-that-be to stop using Gross Domestic Product as the main benchmark of human welfare.  (Not that you’d ever know it by looking at the NWF homepage, which makes no mention of the news or even the topic.)

NWF types provide this analysis of the situation:

The root cause of our environmental problems—our ecological crisis—is infinite planet economic theory, the rules and axioms of a discipline that tells us that it is possible to have infinite economic growth on a finite planet.

So, our problem is that economic theorists are tricking us all into doing the wrong things?

Poppycock.  GDP counts most because our main problem is the cold, hard, in-the-flesh dominion of corporate capitalists over the whole of modern life.  GDP is a mere expression of that actual, material dominance.  All the special pleading in the world isn’t going to change either capitalism or the way it gets described in the corporate media/corporate politics.  This isn’t tiddly-winks.

But such is the state of the greens:  So well-indoctrinated and craven, they think hopeless language games are going to flip us toward survival.

And, to add insult to injury, the NWF feather jousters are proposing to count what isn’t countable — particular qualitative states of matter, a.k.a. the remaining unspoiled bits of nature here on middle-aged Earth.  GDP counts human labor.  No amount of human labor is going to turn smoke, heat, and ashes — or a pack of Charmin Ultra asswipes — back into an old growth tree.  That “greens” don’t get this speaks volumes about how very far away we remain from having proper leadership.

Capitalism, we now know, is a pipe-dream, an ecological suicide mission.  But it is a suicidal pipe-dream backed by the richest and most ideologically and organizationally powerful overclass in human history.  These people are not going to agree to start counting and reporting their destruction.  Unless and until those who hope to leave our children a decent world get honest with ourselves and direct with others about what we’re up against, we are simply f—ed.  Circumlocution and feigned naivete are not going to cut it.  Not by a long shot.

Quote for MLK Day

mlk Given his religious commitments, MLK probably would not have said this in this way, had he somehow lived to be 82 in this nation of right-wing shooters.  Still, I think the following quote sums up the situation, the day, and the ever-widening (and demoralizing) gulf between verbally celebrating MLK and the utterly heedless actions of our overclass and their political lapdogs, including the nation’s first black President.  It also overlaps with MLK’s still under-appreciated denunciation of the Vietnam War and its long-standing imperial instigator.  From the great James Keye:

Reality is that the earth is a summary of innumerable coincidences creating conditions of stability upon which life formed and now rides.  The variations of life have had sufficient opportunity to produce an adaptation manifesting the most minutely possible principles of a new system of order riding on (or in if you like) a single species.  The magnificence of this occurrence is beyond beyond.  The functioning of this adaptation is problematic given the nature of its origin, and now it is a toss up as to whether the carrier species will discover how to manage such a powerful adaptation before its more dangerous expressions destabilize the conditions that allow it to exist.

Al Gore Manifesto

human-history Stuart Staniford, who tracks peak energy problems, today suggests that those of us who hope to help engineer soft landings ought to abandon socialism in favor of Al Gore.  Speaking of human history, Staniford proposes that, “at least until we decide to engineer better human beings, a decent society will have an economic elite.”  To try to combat elites, in Staniford’s view, is to deny human nature.  The best we can do, he suggests, is to accept and nurture our overclass, in hopes of convincing “them, like Al Gore, to use a portion of their undoubted economic privilege in an attempt to move society in a direction of lower impact and less emissions.”

FWIW, I replied thusly:

If you are going to appeal to big history, I would suggest you stick with it. 5,500 years ago, permanent elites figured out how to keep surplus wealth for themselves as “property.” That, as you note, was the beginning of the end for egalitarian kinship societies.

Fair enough.

But when did anybody start making a serious attempt to check ruling classes and their stories of biological superiority? 1776/1789. Less than 250 years ago, on a 5,500-year timeline.

And when did socialists start trying to extend democracy to economic affairs? 150 years ago. And they also did so while making the mistake of dismissing existing democracy as mere bourgeois illusion. So, socialism 2.0 has barely started, here in the latest 20 years on that 5,500-year timeline.

And here you are, talking about the naturalness of elites? I don’t buy it, either as history or strategy.

The point of leftism is not absolute monetary equality. It is the extension of democracy over macro-economic choices.

Of course, the impending energy/eco crash is going to make modern wealth levels and our range of macro-economic options a lot smaller.

Capitalists, meanwhile, are militant ostriches and obstacles, like it or not, because they are trying to retain what is utterly unkeepable. Al Gore thinks electric cars are a sufficient answer.

Twin Quotes for Late 2010

“It’s not just the fact that the elites have all the wealth in a society, but that they are disconnected from the problems. If the rich and powerful still live the good life as society is spinning downhill, they are not motivated to solve the problems.” (Jared Diamond)

marie antoinette

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj saw in the third quarter a “decoupling” of the luxury and prestige markets, also including LVMH and Elizabeth Arden, from the mass marketers. And the results extended beyond beauty, as Macy’s and Nordstrom showed increases in customer traffic year over year last quarter even as the U.S. Walmart division last week reported continued year-over-year declines in traffic for the quarter ended Oct. 31, albeit improvements from the prior quarter.

“The luxury consumer is shopping again, and we are seeing our strategy contribute to … prestige beauty growing faster than mass in many parts of world,” said Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda on a conference call with analysts last month. He pointed to U.S. beauty sales in department stores and Sephora growing 4% last quarter, according to NPD Group, while sales in mass channels grew only 1%.  (Advertising Age, “Prestige, Luxury Products Thrive as Mass Market Sputters,” November 22, 2010)

Our Revolutionary Right/Duty

jefferson We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.