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The future of mankind julio 4, 2007

Posted by pegasussudaka in economía, ensayos, filosofía, inglés, política.
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We are nowadays in a point of the history of mankind in which; we all as the human specie must decide what path we should follow. The first one is the way of capitalism, the maxima of producing and profiting. We are meant to maximize the product and our consumption no matter what it takes. The second one is to be conscious of the implications and effects of our actions, being aware that we just transform not create anything and therefore we totally depend on the primary resources, which are extracted from Earth, and this is the most important of the economical inputs because it is not solely an input for production but a necessary conditions for the survival of humankind and the support of all life. The horizon of our future is clear now in comparison of our expectations on environmental issues in the past; we now know that if we keep our actual way of living and interacting with the environment, the pollution, deforestation, global warming, poverty, and so on; will get worse and worse until it will not be bearable for any of us. This is the problem we are now in the position to choose whether we continue with our extractive, short sighted capitalist way; or if we take a completely different road, that will mean not only a change in our consumption path, but in our way of thinking, and obviously in our standard of living.

It is important to make clear, what should be considering for defining the “standard of living” category, even more what we mean when we talk about “welfare”. Is welfare related to wealth? Well the answer seem simple and obvious, it is a strong but complex yes. The first issue is to what we call wealth: it is just how much a person earns or it is a sum of a variety of factors like cultural heritage, ancient knowledge, technology, education, the aesthetics values like art and music. And the factor that it’s crucial for our purposes, the importance of considering the biosphere, our whole planet, nature or natural resources and services under the category of wealth.

Today, in the traditional national accounting method given by the UN, we consider the first definition of wealth; we measure the income and its rates of growth as a strong indicator of how a country is performing economically, but also as an indicator of welfare. And this is a huge mistake with disastrous effects. A government who is trying to improve the welfare of its country will try therefore to increase the GNP (gross national product). So where is the trouble? Well, if you are a poor country without capital goods or technology but a lot of natural resources, the only way to increase your income is to export primary resources or goods. For example, that country could export wood, and to be able to do this it must use its forests. And considering that deforestation is not measured on national accounts it will be a net increase of that country’s wealth. But this it is not true, when you exploit and cut off your forests you are getting “poorer”, forest provide a lot of goods and services besides wood. That is what is called, natural services: The first one is to be a provider of inputs (wood, oils, fruits, and so on); the second one is residuals processing and storage; the third one is support for life and the forth is the recreational, and aesthetic value per-se. So when you destroy an entire forest and hugely increase your account balance you are not getting richer, you are losing the other three environmental services that that forest provided you. Nobody will be able to admire its beauty, all the animals and life it contained will be gone, and finally it will affect the ecological equilibriums with unknown effects over health and even weather. It is specially true when forests are also the home of “primitive” (as they are called) societies like the “amazonic” Indians that depend on the forest as the basis of his way of living; or to put it simple the they and their forests is the same thing if one is gone the other is too. And if we dare to see our dependence on Earth, we will see that if we destroy it we will destroy ourselves. We will all die, because we cannot eat or breathe or drink money.

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