We need a new economic system, one that doesn’t exist yet. Right now, all the models focus on wealth creation and who gets it. Each model has adherents who try to persuade people that their model is fair and practical and right. And generally, that the other model is evil and, perhaps, doesn’t really work.
There are “ideal” versions of these economic systems — Adam Smith’s capitalism and Karl Marx’s communism. To any reasonable observer, the economic systems operating in the actual world bear, at best, only a slight suggestion of those ideal models.
Various ideologues claim that, yes, their system in practice falls short of the ideal, but it’s the best we can do. Or, yes it falls short, so we need to do better. Let’s tweak it.
For example, libertarians might argue that existing government regulations and taxes must be scrapped, and then our new improved capitalism will be more like the ideal. And everyone’s lives would be better.
I don’t think any of this is credible. Production and human activity under capitalism, communism and whatever you want to call the dominant economic systems of the world, encourage endless extraction and burning of fossil fuels and are bringing our civilization speedily to unprecedented suffering and destruction.
We were warned by climate scientists decades ago, and if these economic systems were capable of slashing fossil fuel emissions, we would have seen it happen long ago.
Instead, C02 emissions are at record levels and continue to rise. Yes, various politicians and corporations announce new plans and targets and promise this time they’ll really do something to fix this.
Some people still believe them. But the people in charge don’t and won’t take care of the biosphere, because, even if they sincerely care and want to do the right things (and some do), they can’t. The economic (and political) system is operating within its limits and is capable only of continuing on this path that leads directly to doom.
What Is Biospherism and Why Do We Need It?
When you decide to scrap a system that’s in place, people naturally ask: “But what will you replace it with?” This is a little disingenuous because getting rid of a harmful thing is, in itself, a good thing. Nobody defended, say, Nazism by appealing to the argument that you need something better to replace it. Sometimes, the thing itself is so destructive that simply getting rid of it is a major improvement.
However, in this case an actual replacement is genuinely useful and perhaps necessary. That’s because we can’t count on saving the climate to happen as a secondary effect of whatever replaces capitalism (actually plutocracy) or communism (actually dictatorship). Nor can we expect that simply ditching plutocracy (which is the word I use for the dominant system), we’ll get a replacement that’s hell-bent on rescuing the biosphere.
Saving the climate must be a direct and focused goal built directly into the systems under which we live. This is too important to settle for less.
We need biospherism — a system that focuses a society and its institutions on ending the destruction of the environment and living in league with Nature. Any system focused on wealth or power is a death trap.
But It Doesn’t Exist Yet
This article is simply the first step — introducing an idea and the broadest outlines of it. The details of how it will work do not yet exist. I’ll be thinking about it. And maybe you can think about it, too.
We will need to end the C corporation. That’s the current engine of our troubles. The widespread praise for capitalism’s productivity overlooks the massive waste of human lives and massive destruction of Nature that the system requires. It is corporations — primarily fossil fuels corporations and financial corporations — that have pushed ahead with fossil fuels, fracking, monetary shell-games and other terrible schemes to keep profits climbing while removing mountaintops, and removing the life-sustaining qualities of our Earth.
We must cancel those corporate charters. Those companies must stop functioning. It’s them or us. They have been killing the planet unimpeded. We cannot negotiate or be reasonable with them. The science is clear: end fossil fuels. Even if we decide to phase them out (and we may be out of time for that), capitalism and capitalists are incapable of doing that. So, under no circumstances can those entities continue as for-profit operations.
SIDE NOTE: One of millions of examples why our systems MUST be scrapped immediately: Berkeley’s first-in-the-nation ban on natural gas tossed by federal appeals court. Our systems are incompatible with the survival of humans and other species who share the Earth.
We must also close down every large scale business that produces useless crap or, worse, deadly things like cigarettes or bullets. We can’t afford the waste or the damage. We don’t want cancer and we don’t want bullet-ridden people. And we don’t want lives wasted laboring to produce unneeded or deadly crap.
Oh, and no bitcoin. Why the f-ck are we wasting so much energy on imaginary money?
Which brings me to the inevitable question: with so much less work, how will people get money to live? You’ve probably already heard of the Universal Basic Income. We need UBI. It’s an essential part of biospherism. Instead of wasting their lives maximizing shareholder returns for wealthy idle manipulators and schemers, people will have free time to do actually useful things.
If you didn’t have to exhaust yourself week after week working for some jerk to make enough money (or, just as likely, not enough money) to live, what would you do? With UBI, you’ll have that chance. Once money grubbing and attention whoring is no longer a thing, I’m betting that people will decide to do things they find meaningful. Growing real healthy food instead of producing and eating processed chemicals masquerading as food. People will work to expand green energy. They’ll create and operate co-ops. They’ll create books and movies and plays.
People will have more time and inclination to socialize and get to know each other. We will ditch money as the centerpieces of our society, and replace it with meaning. Honest caring relationships are meaningful. Living in concert with Nature is meaningful. Expressing yourself in the arts is meaningful.
Money is an empty soulless adrenaline rush, at best. We will all feel better NOT spending most of our lives doing empty meaningless work. We WILL work producing everything that we as a species need. And because we will be producing food, clothing, shelter and healthcare for fellow human beings — who we identify with and care about — we will be focused on quality, not quantity. With modern techniques, with far less labor, we can easily produce more than enough. Of course, we won’t be able to continue to support the plutocrats in the style they’ve become accustomed. I guess they’ll just have to join humanity and adjust to a world of cooperation, not cut-throat competition.
Let’s figure out this biosperism thing together. Nothing is perfect — but we need it to be good enough to help us survive the climate crisis. I’m betting that we can do that, and so much more.
Thanks for reading.