Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top 10 Countries Killing the Planet

Top 10 Countries Killing the Planet recently, May 11th, ran an article by Melissa Breyer called Top ten countries ruining the planet, wherein she stated that a country's wealth is the key factor in determining their threat to the planet. Makes sense. To generate wealth a country must exploit its resources, at least that has proven to be the case historically. Maybe in the future it could change but based on what I understand of human nature, I don't see that happening. When we have wealth we seek a "better" way of life, in terms of our enjoyment. We want better shelter, better food, water, air and of course, more security.

Only poverty seems to force us to accept a poorer quality of existence. We may speak (if we do) of having a more eco-friendly way of life, saving the whales, preserving bio-diversity, but it's human nature to want more food, better food, more leisure, more enjoyable leisure, more toys, more exciting entertainment.

The faint hope is that technology will help us do it. But the economic reality is that that's not what we want to spend our wealth on. The market determines what we spend our money on and market forces determine what governments will do. Governments exist to serve the dominant class in society, which according to John Ralston Saul is the Corporate Class. But that is not the core of my essay today.

“The environmental crises currently gripping the planet are the corollary of excessive human consumption of natural resources. There is considerable and mounting evidence that elevated degradation and loss of habitats and species are compromising ecosystems that sustain the quality of life for billions of people worldwide,” says Corey Bradshaw, leader of a new study by the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute in Australia that has ranked most of the world’s countries for their environmental impact."

quotes Melissa Breyer in her article.

The top ten countries endangering the planet are doing it by clearing forests, mining whole mountains, polluting air and water and destroying bio-diversity by endangering animal species.

They do all of this, not as a national program, but by the collective hand of its business interests, and this is of course in the interest of making a profit. No profit, no environmental impact. The corollary is: no market, no profit.

At the basis of this environmental exploitation is the market. The market is at it's simplest: people. There are nearly 7 billion people on the planet. In the first two hundred years since the Industrial Revolution market growth was achieved by colonizing. There were new countries to mine, harvest and to sell to. In the 20th century there were still new markets to sell to as Coca-Cola found out as they expanded into other countries. then followed MacDonald's Restaurants and every other corporation. Now in the 21st century as every country in the world has the internet and tv and is reached by any corporate interest that perceives them as a potential customer, new customers are achieved by birth.

Perhaps that's why there is no (or very little) discussion of population control. It may sound like a good idea for parlor room discussions but when dinner is served it is forgotten, yet as Paul Ehrlich warned in 1968 with his book The Population Bomb, everything else mentioned above depends on growth in human population. Stop population growth and you begin to limit environmental damage, species endangerment and climate change, also you begin to limit profits. Allow those 7 billion to become 9 billion by 2050 as predicted by the UN and the damage goes unabated.

There may be interest in the discussion, but could it happen at governmental level? The Canadian government is reluctant to include funding for abortions in their foreign aid budget because they are afraid of the contentious subject derailing their term in office and threatening their continued reign in subsequent elections. The foreign aid initiative concerns the perinatal care of third world mothers many of whom die in child birth. It is clear that they cannot accept that medical care professionals in third world countries, where women are routinely raped and may want abortions to save their lives, not to mention being saved the hardship of trying to raise and feed an unwanted infant in a war torn country whose netire population has struggled to survive below the poverty line for generations, may decide to terminate a pregnancy with the foreign-aid dollars. And if the Canadian Government cannot even entertain this discussion then there is little hope that they could survive the discussion of reducing environmental exploitation, including mines, forests, fisheries, and watersheds (where fertilizer pollution threatens our fresh water and food sources,) in the face of resistance from corporations who like their profits, and citizens who like their lifestyles.

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