Forget the Planet: Save the "Arbitrage Junkies"!

Fri, 2008-06-27 06:50Ross Gelbspan
Ross Gelbspan's picture

Forget the Planet: Save the "Arbitrage Junkies"!

Carbon-trading systems will likely be a boon to lawyers, lobbyists and arbitrage junkies, a panel on emissions trading heard at the International Economic Forum of the Americas conference underway in Montreal.

But it is unlikely that the requisite global trading mechanisms will be in place and working quickly enough to rescue the planet from a climate catastrophe, Michael Dorsey, an environmental studies professor at DartmouthCollege in the U.S., said.


Dorsey konws very little about emissions trading, and his only argument about time scale ignores alternatives.

Is a global carbon tax or glogal direct regulatory structure any closer in time or more likely politically? Clearly not, and probably less so. His argument ends up being one of helplessness focusing on the particular path chosen, not one that makes a coherent alternative recommendation. In that sense it is sructurally akin to what Lomborg is peddling these days.

On living without regard to hard truths, matters of scale or limits to growth.........

How do rich and famous people, who live large and have huge ecological footprints, as well as corporate ‘citizens’ that cast giant shadows over the Earth today, so easily get away with socially irresponsible behavior which could soon precipitate an ecological catastrophe?

As everyone knows but few openly discuss, wealth and power buy freedom. What is all too obvious but often cloaked in silence is this: A small minority of individuals in the human family with great fortunes and virtually all large corporations exercise their great wealth and power in ways that allow all of these self-proclaimed masters of the universe to live lavishly as well as to willfully refuse assumption of the responsibilities which necessarily come with freedom.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

Dear Michael,

Thanks for your excellent environmental advocacy.

Even so, perhaps we not discussing real issues, but rather tip-toeing around them.

From a historical perspective, it appears that humankind is the only organism on Earth that produces food, amasses more food than is needed for survival and made food into a commodity. Farmers have not been primarily motivate by an altruistic desire to grow food because they have wanted to feed a growing population, nor have they been selling food to increase human population numbers. The more food farmers grew, the more wealth they accumulated. Our (agri-)culture has evidently devised a spectacularly successful economic system that continuously expands the food supply for human human beings worldwide. What I am trying to suggest is simply this: An economic system that requires ever increasing food production, supposedly to feed a rapidly growing human population, appears to be inadvertently and unexpectedly enlarging the size of the human population on Earth.

That is to say, the predominant culture and its global economy appears to produce many wonders as well as potentially deleterious impacts. Would you agree that if our culture chooses to keep growing the global economy as we are doing now, then we will likely keep getting what we are getting now... for better and worse?

For a long time, the leaders of the predominant culture have chosen to continuously expand production capabilities, ones that give rise to the rampant economic globalization we see today. Unfortunately, an ever expanding, leviathan-like global economy appears to give rise to something recognizably unsatisfactory because it could become unsustainable.

If you will, please consider how the relentless hoarding of wealth and the conspicuous over-consumption of resources by millions of people leave billions of people in the family of humanity hungry.

For fortunate millions of people with riches to recklessly consume limited resources, while billions of less forunate people go without adequate food to eat, seems somehow not quite right.

Inequity is sad enough; grotesque inequity will one day be considered intolerable, I suppose.

If leaders of our predominant culture choose to modify the way the unbridled global economy continuously grows and the way it inequitably distributes resources, then perhaps they and we will find more reasonable, sensible, fair and, equally important, sustainable ways of performing these practices better.

Perhaps it is a mistake for me to do so; but, nevertheless, I am assuming you would agree that the unbridled expansion of the global economy, given its huge scale and rapid growth, will result in this manmade economic colossus eventually reaching a point in human history when it becomes patently unsustainable in a finite world with make-up and size of Earth.