by Terry Plotkin
People living in a good chunk of the country weren’t the only ones affected by the intense cold and snow; the severe winter that won’t go away is hitting the U.S. economy hard as well. Economists tell us fewer jobs were created than would have been otherwise had it not been for the weather, retail sales took a hit, and overall growth was smaller than anticipated. Housebound people buy less, go to fewer restaurants, and start fewer projects. To make matters worse, some of the money that people often spend on buying things that boost business went instead to increased heating bills. Some towns have had to delay projects that were planned because the money went to plow roads and fix potholes instead. This kind of spending by people and towns comes at the expense of investing in ourselves. We will survive this. Capitalism, with the support of the state, which it maligns so much, has shown itself to be resilient, and the economist will tell you that once the weather settles down growth can continue on its slow but steady pace. But what if the weather does not go back to normal?
The world is not predictable, and nothing shows this more than climate change. No one knows how the heating of the Earth’s upper atmosphere is going to affect us; we just know it will, climate deniers aside. If the scientists are right, the variations in the weather will become more extreme as time goes on. And as it does, so will the pressure increase on many species, humans definitely included. What happened on a relatively small scale this winter could, in the future, turn into a struggle to thrive. The potential resultant suffering will force us to sober up from the many excesses of our time. This may be good for our spiritual growth, but it will wreck havoc on our standard of living. This is not good news for Capitalism, with its mantra of Grow or Die. Perhaps the oil and coal industries are more worried about the short term profit of selling carbon-based products than they are with the health of Main Street. The industries were not built for compassion; they exist to amass wealth – for themselves. But an overall decline in economic activity will hurt all corporations and the people who work for them. In addition, climate change offers the possibility of increased insect-bearing disease and the potential for war as nations fight over dwindling resources. (These wars are already being fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, to name a few). And although all the models will tell you that the world’s population will continue to grow, the opposite could be the case if environmental conditions no longer allow for any increase.
All this does not bode well for the overall health of the world’s economy. Perhaps it is time for corporations and the politicians they control to think beyond the next quarter’s profit and more on their long-term survival. Short-term thinking could trigger a disaster.
Behold! The battle of the century is unfolding before our eyes. The humongous capitalist system of acquisition is butting up against Nature in all its fury. Who do you think will win?