Abby Martin’s interview with Richard Wolff on her show Breaking The Set is one of those revolutionary interviews that the people of the future will be studying in universities and asking why wasn’t anybody paid any attention to what he had been saying. That is, of course, if our respective countries don’t destroy one another by then.
People cannot comprehend the totality of the situation (and therefore cannot realize that we are trying to support an impossible system) because of the two factors he mentions. So much power has been acquired by the top few that they are A)shaping the politics and B) shaping the global consciousness.
We are getting to the point, and I think we are already there, where even if each country of the world were to employ each and every one of its citizens, our countries would not be able to pay off the loans/debts they owe one another because there would not be enough natural resources to enable us to continue the mining, manufacturing and farming processes and territorial and population expansion. We would run out of space for mining, farming and agriculture. We would use up all the natural resources. The number of people in relation to available resources is a problem we don’t know how to solve.
Some argue that new technologies would enable us to design more efficient tools and processes for harvesting, refining, production and production management. But I remain sceptical.
What people forget is that the more we manufacture, mine, farm, produce the more we pollute the environment. Thus we are reducing the natural resources not just by my consuming them but by the very manufacturing processes that are producing the goods we are consuming. In other words, if you could employ every citizen of your country then every factory and every company in your country could operate twenty four hours a day seven days a week. The number of factories and companies would start to increase at an unstoppable rate, unless you were to regulate them. Imagine what that would to do to the environment and to the resources. They’d disappear in a decade.
In the late fifties and early sixties Aldous Huxley had realized this and had written about it:
In certain parts of Asia and in most of Central and South America populations are increasing so fast that they will double themselves in little more than twenty years. If the production of food and manufactured articles, of houses, schools, and teachers, could be increased at a greater rate than human numbers , it would be possible to improve the wretched lot of those who live in these underdeveloped and overpopulated countries. But unfortunately these countries lack not merely agricultural machinery and an industrial plant capable of turning out this machinery, but also the capital required to create such a plant. Capital is what is left over after the primary needs of a population have been satisfied.
But the primary needs of most of the people in underdeveloped countries are never fully satisfied. At the end of each year almost nothing is left over, and there is therefore almost no capital available for creating the industrial and agricultural plant, by means of which the people’s needs might be satisfied. Moreover, there is, in all these underdeveloped countries, a serious shortage of the trained manpower without which a modern industrial and agricultural plant cannot be operated. The present educational facilities are inadequate, so are the resources, financial and cultural, for improving the existing facilities as fast as the situation demands. Meanwhile the population of some of these underdeveloped countries is increasing at the rate of three per cent per annum.
The same problem was discussed by Harrison Brown, James Bonner, and John Weir in their 1957 book The Next Hundred Years. Their conclusion was that the evidence suggests that and I quote:
People have become more poorly fed. There are fewer available goods per person. And practically every attempt to improve the situation has been nullified by the relentless pressure of continued population growth.
Huxley also said:
Overpopulation leads to economic insecurity and social unrest. Unrest and insecurity lead to more control by central governments and an increase of their power. Whenever the economic life of a nation becomes precarious, the central government is forced to assume additional responsibilities for the general welfare. It must work out elaborate plans for dealing with critical situations and; it must impose ever greater restrictions upon the activities of its subjects, and if as is very likely, worsening economic conditions result in political unrest, or open rebellion, the central government must intervene to preserve public order and its own authority. More and more power is thus concentrated in the hands of the executives and their bureaucratic managers. In the absence of a constitutional tradition, this increased power will probably be exercised in a dictatorial fashion.
Isn’t that what we are witnessing right now.
And the scariest part about this is that the governments are well aware of this and have been looking for resources elsewhere and I mean off world. This is not science fiction. NASA as well as a large number of other physics, astrophysics and engineering and mining institutions, companies and corporations have been researching and writing about off world mining operations for the last sixty years. Not to mention science fiction writers and scientists like Arthur Charles Clarke.
They are well aware that the planets like Mars and Jupiter and their moons offer large quantities of purer and denser elements. In other, words the resource that would make anyone who could transport a single container to earth (and process it) an instant what, quadrillionaire, octillionaire. So the US flag and the Russian flag and the Chinese flag in space are no coincidence. Given the obvious disappearance of resources an international flag representing united human beings is a utopian dream. It’s not about exploring the final frontier. It’s about mining.
Unfortunately, whether we develop the technologies necessary to extract resources from places like Jupiter’s moon Europa, whose entire surface might be made up of oceans or frozen ice, might determine whether we survive or not.
We have been trying to solve the problem of overpopulation and resources for a long time. The tragedy is we keep failing to realize we will keep failing as long as the nature of our ambition keeps exceeding the nature of the technology of the era. I think the technology is here, has been here for a long time, but our thinking remains unchecked and irrational and cannot not make best use of it. Instead of focusing on the most relevant technologies of our time, the technologies that could help solve our problems, we focus on the technologies of the future.
Primarily because the nature of the economic system means that we can advertise and therefore sell the new technologies but not the existing technologies. Thus we are not using current technologies to solve problems. We are suing them to create new technologies which we will use to create more new technologies and so on, ad infinitum. I think that our thinking is neither deep enough nor mature enough. Hence we permit ourselves to keep imagining the simplest and the most obvious solutions thus remained convinced our generation is not the one to solve the problem because we do not have the required technology. Therefore we imagine, construct and purse new technologies without ever exploiting their full potential to solve our current human problems.