There is a screaming need for us to properly account for the things that come from the bounty of nature. If ever there was something that was not developed privately and belongs to us all publicly that thing is nature. And yet business is taking an extremely costly free ride at our collective expense by failing to account for and pay for the full costs of their activities. Unfortunately a proper accounting and payment plan cannot begin until this free ride becomes common knowledge and cause among the U.S. people. Who then must force that knowledge on to the U.S. Congress, Senate and Supreme Court. I single out the U.S. for what needs to be a global effort because she is for better or worse the exceptional nation. The indispensable nation. What I mean by that is however very much not what Obama or Bush or Reagan or Clinton meant when they used the very same words.
The U.S. is exceptional in the amount of resources that its people consume and the amount of green house gasses that this consumption creates. When you consider both absolute terms and per capita terms no other nation is close. Truly the U.S. is exceptional. The U.S. is also indispensable in that it is the largest arms builder, arms seller and arms user in the world. And what is the U.S. fighting to maintain? The physical flow of and its access to the profits from the very substance that is choking the life out of the planet. If there is today a more perverse use of technological expertise and national wealth I’ve yet to find it.
The U.S. dollar is the foreign reserve currency of the world with all of the political and economic power that this entails. The U.S. dominates how trade laws are written. The rules of global finance. Until very recently the U.S. was at the forefront of laws created to protect its citizens from being poisoned and their environment from being extinguished. Still today the U.S. media and entertainment industries in combination with its public relations industry and political lobbyists do more to shape everyone’s understanding of the world than any other nation in history. Much is made of the fact that there are U.S. military bases on every continent of the world. What is more important is that there are U.S. dollars and U.S. ideals in every country of the world. The ability of the U.S. to effect change and exert influence is unparalleled. From such an exalted position there is much the U.S. could do. Much the U.S. does do. There is however one thing above all others that the U.S. must do if the world is to meet the challenges that industrial civilization has presented us.
The U.S. must, finally, move its economy from a war time footing to a peace time one. The real enemy today is not terrorism. The real war today is not a clash of civilizations. The real war today is the war that human civilization is waging against the biosphere. If we are to survive this war the U.S. is indispensable to that effort. She is the richest nation in the world. She is the most technologically advanced nation in the world. She is today spending close to a trillion dollars a year on the wrong war and so has ample discretionary income to transfer to the right war. She is also the foreign currency reserve for the world, and just as she recently printed trillions to save Wall Street from itself she can print trillions to save us from ourselves.
We speak much today of disruptive technologies and they are not without importance. But the true disruption required is not technological but societal. We must move from the age of technological advances and military conquest to the age of technological advances and the plenty that peace affords. For hundreds of millennia we have felt besieged by nature. We have felt cowed, and small, and insignificant against the size of her oceans, her deserts, her plains, her forests, her mountains. We have fought her indifference. We have fought her elements and her plagues. We have suffered at her hands. This war has gone on for as long as we have existed, and we have paid for every inch of advance with our lives. We have died at sea. We have died in the deserts. We have died of cold, and thirst, and famine, and we have buried our kin in her earth. But we refused to be defeated, we never relented, and we now finally have won! The war is over, and nature now lies at our feet. It is time to make an honorable peace. To accept our victory with the necessary humility, and to rehabilitate our vanquished foe. It is now time that we the masters of all we survey ensure the survival of our most ancient nemesis. That we make of her the ally she has always been even if we did not know it. Having won the war let us not lose the peace.
Jeff Berg is a founding member of Post Carbon Toronto