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gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists

April 23, 2012

A frightening article from Al Jazeera about the ongoing effects of the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill:

Gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists

Further evidence, in my opinion, that we need to collectively change our behaviour, particularly the ways we produce our means of subsistence. Being the pessimist that I am, however, I doubt that we’re going to in time to prevent our actions from doing even more irreparable harm to the planet. Capitalism has become the dominate economic system worldwide, and with it, rampant consumerism, depletion of natural resources, and industrial pollution on a global scale. The market itself is designed to give people what they want, regardless of the consequences, and it’s frankly unsustainable.

For one, capitalism’s need for continual economic growth requires a continual increase in consumption, and in turn, continually expanding markets and/or an increase in population to create and sustain such growth. This, naturally, tends to lead to consumerism, which has its own downsides, such as environmental degradation, the depletion of natural resources, and the promotion of unnecessary and even harmful jobs as long as they contribute to growth. In addition, the planet’s resources are limited, and its ecosystems relatively fragile.

The cumulative cost of negative externalities produced by companies like BP are hard to calculate in dollars; but their cost in terms of quality of life for us and future generations is simply too high, in my opinion. Moreover, I don’t think that production, distribution, and exchange should be left to the whim of some supposedly self-regulating ‘invisible hand’ that guides production in global capitalism and directs “industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value.” While value can include things like quality of life and so on, it’s often limited to profit by the system itself since profit is not only the driving force behind capitalism (and hence economic behaviour), but the metric by which success is most often measured. And governments don’t necessarily perform the role of regulator any better, more often than not colluding with capital to the detriment of workers, consumers, and the environment alike.

Unfortunately, as far as I can see, there’s no panacea for the myriad of problems we face as an ever-evolving, technologically advanced, and increasingly globalized species with an unprecedented ability to change and shape the environment. But I’m strongly convinced that any long-term solutions lie not with governmental agencies or the ephemeral and God-like invisible hand, but with a politico-economic system that’s not centred around the idealization of profit, and which promotes the existence of an informed and engaged working class possessing a direct say in how production, distribution, and exchange is carried out. /rant


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