James Gustav Speth on five decades of US government knowledge of climate change and promotion of the fossil fuel industry, a legal challenge to power from children growing up in the shadow of catastrophe, and his book They Knew: The US Federal Government's Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis from MIT Press.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Irrational capitalism. There are those of us who complain that capitalism and its corporate and financial pillars only consider, or consider way too much, short term gain over long term effects. I held this belief for a long time myself. But that would be too simple for capitalism. Capitalism is cunning. It’s suspicious and watchful. It has principles now, principles perhaps it always had, but now it’s adhering to them, as they say, “bigtime.”
It’s not necessarily that capitalism leads its misbehaving leaders to seek something other than their own advantage, it’s that financial profit isn’t the only profit to their advantage.
Yes, if they could have peered into the future, they’d have seen that raping the Earth would eventually render their raw materials more expensive. Yes, they’d have seen that impoverishing as many of the public as they could push around would cripple the very consumption that drove the economy. They’d have seen that gaming for short-term future payoffs in a numerical gambling universe rather than long term sustainable development in the real world would lead to bubbles of imaginary accumulation that would explode, over and over, causing ever more volatile booms and busts. They would have seen that jockeying to narrow and unleash the wealth accumulating class would lead eventually to the loss of their health and heads.
But none of that would have changed their behavior. A lot of these destructive achievements required dedicated forethought and scheming, projecting well into the future. So why did they not heed projections of negative outcomes, negative even for themselves?
Beginning with the carving up of the commons in England in Shakespeare’s time (to The Bard’s advantage, I might add) and continuing through last week or so’s successful cramming of Prop 22 down California’s esophagus, corollary and coeval to the profit motive has been the fight for the sovereign right to control – control rules as well as resources human, agricultural, mineral, and otherwise. Now, you might suppose this is not separate from the profit motive, and in many cases it’s not. But it also arises from its own overriding principle.
It’s a principle of material philosophy with an invisible, therefore deniable, spiritual element. Weber wrote The Protestant... read more