The new fashion of eco-consciousness is the epitome of hypocrisy
Placing used glass bottles, tin cans and newspapers in the council provided recycle boxes may lead you to count yourself as being conscious of the environment, and labelled with that proverbial shorthand, green. You can’t however claim that by choosing to recycle or to not travel by plane or opting for any other ‘lifestyle choice’ of this kind shows you are caring for the environment – you’re just not being honest with yourself.
Making small changes to your life may convince you that you’re solving the problem of climate change, or at least doing your part, but how can that be so – it seems that most people making the small changes simultaneously embrace our market system. I’m talking here about the system, which if you dare to point out its failings, will usually get you indiscriminately branded a radical, or even a communist.
Over the past 23 years, 41 percent of the Arctic Ocean’s perennial (permanent) ice has disappeared. If you have watched any of the friendly oil company adverts you might think that big business cares about this. However, the bigger picture shows that amongst the powerful, the real argument over melting ice-caps was never ‘what can be done?’ but rather ‘what can be gained?’. Instead of worrying over global warming, modern business is inevitably looking at how it can profit from it.
If enough of the ice disappears, the long haul shipping routes from Japan to Europe to western America can be significantly reduced by rerouting through the Arctic Ocean. Look at current investment in trans-Arctic shipping; in 2005 when there were 262 Arctic navigable ships in service, the private sector had on order a further 234 of these ships. Why would the private sector seek to nearly double the number of Arctic ships worldwide if it truly believed the messages governments and friendly oil company adverts send out about the necessity to act on climate change? Have the powerful not accepted climate change, anticipating a melted Arctic, merely using their supposedly green policies as fashionable, political gestures?
A melted Arctic would give way to a new wave of globalization, reducing shipping costs and ultimately the cost of all imports. Current spending shows the business world believes the Arctic will melt.
It is estimated that over a quarter of the world’s oil and gas resources are buried beneath the Arctic Ocean; as perennial ice disappears, this too will become viable. What in today’s market system can seriously detour companies and governments from pursuing the potential trillions of dollars in Arctic oil and gas? Our system is driven by greater profits which know no limits; a melted Arctic is just another lucrative market waiting to be exploited.
With no sign of demand falling, the world is looking to the Arctic for our future oil and gas supplies. The current scramble to claim ownership of the territory is typified by the well-publicised stunt last summer which saw Russia plant its flag at the North pole; Russia claims to have sovereignty of approximately half the Arctic ocean. Other Arctic powers such as Canada, Denmark and Norway have staked similar competing claims for the territory.
I take issue with the fact that so many people believe they can be green and live in a market system that will heavily reward the first person or institution to capitalise on Arctic resources – they are enjoying the benefits of the market system while simultaneously denying the negative effects of it.
Unlike the hole in the ozone layer, climate change is not a problem that will be solved if the world continues on its current trajectory. The hole in the ozone layer is visible, you can clearly see the problem in the shape of a large circle somewhere above the Antarctic, in photos taken by satellites, presented in a straight forward manner, on the news, to the public. With global warming, it seems that although people supposedly accept ‘the science’ and accept that global warming is a real phenomenon that is happening now, when they look outside and see a sunny day, flowers blossoming, they do not really have it at the front of their minds. So when things are looking so good, why shouldn’t we continue on our path of pursuing large profits?
The solution to the ozone layer hole isn’t as taxing on the market as that of global warming, the CFCs in aerosols etc. can be replaced, with no major loss to the economy. And since this strategy has been implemented, the ozone layer hole has started to recover (although current estimates are that it will not fully recover until 2065). The solution is a technological one, but not in the same sense that many believe will be possible for global warming. The truth is there is no magic biofuel around the corner that can supply all our carbon-neutral energy demands. The solar/wind/hydro sourced energy combined can produce nowhere near the amount of energy that fossil fuels can offer us for the same price. Energy costs will have to soar before renewables become viable on a large scale.
So where does this leave us? The truth without a current solution is that of ever-increasing populations resulting in an infinite set of demands on the world’s finite resources. Every year we consume more than the previous year, when will the oil and gas run out? Will the world have changed enough in time to cope? This is the inconvenient truth which is still largely ignored.