Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why Climate Change means big, really big government


CCBigGovtAt the core of those fighting our collective efforts to address and mitigate Climate Change is the fear of Big Government. Big Government means, by those who fear its name, more environmental regulations and more taxes on the so-called “producers”. Big Government means fewer jobs because burdensome regulations kill jobs that are only created by those ambitious individuals who magnanimously trickle some of their profits down to you. Big Government will take away your guns, take away your doctor and all those great health benefits you’re getting—or could get if you got a really good fossil-fuel job. Through regulations such as Fracking moratoriums, Big Government is stealing your absolute right to use your land as you want. Big Government is evil and does no good for society, only harm. And so it goes for those who haven’t really thought this issue through—or have thought it through and are too craven to admit it.

What’s odd about the rage against Big Government is that the very folks who continually rail against more government regulations and taxing are exactly the folks who will insure the hurried necessity for even Bigger Governments. Free market fundamentalism, which treats our environment as an externality (garbage dumps and magical resource provider), forces public monies to develop and maintain a transportation system that allows their industries to function. These publicly supported services, along with supplying water and removing waste, will force Big Government to grow Bigger because Big Business is certainly not going to do it. That would violate their prime objective, which is to only provide profit for their shareholders. Corporations are single-minded in a way that makes a mad dog seem as distracted as a puppy.

Brownfields, insurance for extreme weather events, public health measures to mitigate diseases, more military engagements to confront waster disputes that will come with Climate Change, and a lot more environmental disruptions will all have to be paid for and orchestrated by Big Government. There is no private option to replace the kind of planetary infrastructures needed to keep corporations or the rest of us thriving. Even if they had a desire to do so. Big Business, by maniacally focusing on ‘business as usual’, will lead all of us to Big Government (and probably Big Brother if we’re not careful). No amount of existential rage will stop that. Even if you continually vote out of office those politicians who create more environmental restrictions and up your taxes, you’re going to have to vote them right back in because you’ll be desperate. Your water will go bad from sewage overflows and pesticide pollution. Your roads will deteriorate and your bridges will fall down. You won’t be able to afford any health system, Obamacare or Fat Cat Care.

Planet Earth, 25,000 miles in circumference, is very big but not infinitely so. Free market fundamentalism has appeared to work well because, just as it was failing in Europe, we discovered the New World. The New World (of exploitation) seemed at the time to come with an endless supply of fresh water, lumber, beavers, soil, fresh air, and a ready supply of indentured servants to make it all work. Actually, because free market is a human idea, not accountable to the laws of Nature, it has created a destructive delusion. There has always been a cause and effect relationship between what we take and give to our environment. We just got really infatuated with the absurdity that we could conquer Nature, that is, until we bumped up against pollution and other environmental problems on a planetary scale. Now, with Climate Change we are threatening everyone and every living thing (except some bacteria, I suppose).

There is no private mechanism which addresses the environmental implications of the products we buy, even when used correctly. Stuff has to be transported and those carriers usually burn greenhouse gases (GHG’s). Anything made with paper depletes our forests, which reduces biodiversity and transforms carbon sinks to carbon emitters. Anything made with plastic creates environmental pollution that affects all life on land and sea—and in the air if you’re crazy enough to incinerate this stuff. Removing what little restrictions there are on using our waters for waste removal and our land for trashing cannot be replaced by any market force. Nor can we expect any sudden moral epiphany to sweep humanity from its love affair with unfettered consumerism and growth. It was a crazy idea in the first place to shape human behavior around greed.

Granted, it would be more politically savvy to frame the Climate Change issue as something that wouldn’t invoke the core ‘evil’ of Big Government that many fear the most. It would be more economically savvy to frame Climate Change as something bright with green energy jobs. And it would be more psychosocially savvy to frame Climate Change as something benign and remote, only the worry of those who need help.

Yet, for all the framing of Climate Change, only one thing will address it: quickly bringing down GHG’s in our atmosphere. Big Government is the only mechanism we have to affect that kind of large-scale and immediate change. Oh, I forgot, war accomplishes that too; but that won’t bring GHG’s down. Quite the reverse.

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