Let's Go Beyond Weather and Climate, Let's Connect the Economic Dots Too

Andy Roberts /CC BY 2.0

Tomorrow, May 5th, is the next day of action from 350.org, their Connect the Dots campaign, attempting to connect the dots between extreme weather events and other effects of global warming we're already seeing, and, well, climate change itself.

The event invitation starts:

Because the globe is so big, it’s hard for most people to see that it’s all connected. That’s why, on May 5, we will Connect the Dots. In places from drought-stricken Mongolia to flood-stricken Thailand, from fire-ravaged Australia to Himalayan communities threatened by glacial melt, we will hold rallies reminding everyone what has happened in our neighborhoods. And at each of those rallies, from Kenya to Canada, from Vietnam to Vermont, someone will be holding a…dot. A huge black dot on a white banner, a “dot” of people holding hands, encircling a field where crops have dried up, a dot made of fabric and the picture taken from above — you get the idea. We’ll share those images the world around, to put a human face on climate change–we’ll hold up a mirror to the planet and force people to come face to face with the ravages of climate change.

It's a good approach, and somebody at 350 has been paying attention to recent surveys showing what is and what is not actually influencing Americans' attitudes towards climate change. In short, people in the US aren't nearly as influenced by scientific studies and appeals to logical analysis of facts as they are when they experience extreme weather events or other things they intuitively connect to what they've already heard about global warming.

So, connecting the dots certainly makes sense. I have my doubts that even if the dots are connected with dark, bold lines painting the perfect picture that the polluting class will be much influenced, but for convincing that segment of the US public (and the world public, events are scheduled globally, as with all previous 350.org 'days') it's smart.

I'm sure all the 350 events will do a great job in their dot connecting, but I'd like to broaden the view of the picture being drawn a bit.

Without belaboring the point (this is TreeHugger after all, and let's face it, I'm already about halfway to exhausting the average web readers attention span),
climate change is really not the primary problem humanity now faces. Rather, it's a symptom of a greater problem, a greater crisis made up of a couple of different facets.

Ignoring that part of this crisis is a crisis of cosmology and metaphysics (humanity's place in the universe and our relationship to the rest of manifest consciousness), perhaps the biggest facet of this crisis is just basic economics.

Our economic thinking fully fails to price the full effects of producing goods and services. It passes off the cost of dealing with pollution, directly in terms of cleanup and indirectly in terms of, say, creating health problems, onto society as a whole, rather than incorporating these costs into the price paid for those goods and services. It's one reason why a gallon of gasoline really should cost about $15 and in the US we pay less than one-third of that.

Our capitalist economic system is predicated on perpetual growth—that is increasing ecological throughput, increasing consumption of natural resources. It made a certain sense when human population and resource consumption levels were much lower, like at the start of the Industrial Revolution, but the basic situation is so different now that expecting perpetual increases in resource consumption on a finite planet is just suicidally delusional.

It may seem just as delusional to some more hardheaded "solutions oriented let's go after the lowest hanging fruit and other clichés" thinkers to attempt to change the very foundations of our economic system in the time required to avert the worst of climate change, but I submit that doing so is really not that much more unlikely to yield results as attempting to convince the polluting class, currently trying to delay climate and energy action, that they ought to change their ways—now.

Yes, this isn't an either-or thing. So let's not go down that road.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects