This past week we have been discussing global environmental politics in one of the seminars I am enrolled in at the Voinovich School. This morning as I settled down to pen down a piece for my weekly column, “around the globe” segment, at the school’s blog, I didn’t have an idea of what to write about. So I logged into my Twitter account to follow updates of what is going on around the globe with the hope that I could get something to share. On the side, I queued a couple of tracks to play because I function best with music in the background.
So while at it, I bump onto this article that talks about redesigning our economic system on the Guardian’s twitter page, and at the same time my conscience is drawn to the lyrics of Shaggy’s song “Repent” coincidentally playing out of my queue at that particular moment. And voila I land on a subject to write about.
So today I am going to briefly share with you my perception of the dominant capitalist system, the place of the developed world and what my thoughts are on how the so-called third world countries should go about their development ambitions moving forward.
Last week in the seminar we discussed the current state of affairs with regards to current production and resource consumption trends around the globe. A majority, at least all those who contributed, were in agreement that the currently dominant capitalistic model of economic system has led to run away consumption tendencies across the globe and that these have been accompanied by an even greater level of inequality within human society i.e. the gap between the rich and the poor has widened tremendously over the recent past. The guardian article, which by the way seems to have read through my mind, captures this so well when the author asserts that “when the richest quarter of the world’s population use about half of our global resources – and take the liberty to produce half of the global waste – while another third live in poverty, it is clear that our economic and societal systems are failing us.”
I have always been of the opinion that every little economic venture that one embarks on should be equated with a dose of altruism and concern for nature. The current trends of run away inequality and environmental degradation are primarily caused by a system that puts more emphasis on profit margins and self interest than the consequences that the same has on the general public and environment. Such a system breeds greed and selfishness. Vices so bad and destructive, they can make a human being find psychological gratification from watching another human being die of malnutrition.
The Guardian article does a good job of elaborating on this when the author posts that “This is not just a matter of applying business ethics; we also need to embed this in our economic and business system, using new legal and accounting rules to recast the role of business in society. The impact of the private sector has increased enormously over the last 50 to 100 years. Some of the largest companies now have cash balances that are bigger than some countries’ GDP. The harm companies can do, as well as the good, is impacting our planet and its people on a scale never seen before. But it is also private companies, with their technological expertise and innovative power, who can provide solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.”
As the third world countries strive to catch up with the developed world, it always pains me to see the degree of “copy pasting” going on. Third world countries are relying on the developed world, their (developed world) run away consumption levels and pollution (read green house gas emission) not withstanding, as an ideal model of development. China for example has been developing at a very fast rate, but because the Chinese look up to the rest of the developed world as a typical model of development you can see the level of air pollution that residents of Beijing are grappling with at this point in time. In fact some American friends of mine have compared Beijing to some of their major cities during the 70s.
My own country, Kenya, late last year signed a contract with a South Korean firm that will see the country have it’s first ever coal fired power plant. A move aimed at spurring and facilitating the country’s economic growth by expanding national energy supply through the two 300 MW units that will feed into the national grid.
Well and good. But the Kenyan government should see to it that in their endeavor to achieve a middle-income economy status by 2030, the citizens’ wellbeing and that of their environment is not substantially compromised. This can only be achieved when nature is put first followed by people and profit. With nature at the forefront, human greed and selfishness will be tamed, as people will become more conscious of the fact that they share the planet not only among themselves but also with other non-talking partners in sort of a complex socio-ecological system where all the partners are interlinked. The trickle down effect of this will be a check on human population, a check on human consumption habits and a check on the now infamous human insatiable wants, which are to me the primary driver of the craze with economic growth.
Without sounding like a doomsday prophet I wish to submit here that, unless the developing world changes the tactic and takes a different development path; a path that fully embraces the triple P principle where development implies that, Planet = People = Profit, and the developed world redesigns the current development system and orient it more towards a triple P kind of a system, we will all be in for a very rude shock pretty soon. In the words of Shaggy, “Check the state of the world we are living in…Can’t you see it is a crying shame…It seems like mankind has gone insane…We are two steps away from a real disaster…Instead of finding a cure we should look for the means to prevent…”
Until next week, stay eco-conscious!