Geert Lovink on Wed, 30 Jul 1997 18:55:36 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> dx-lecture by Susan George: Economy and Ecology

See also: for an interview with
Susan George.

	15 JULY 1997


The Curator of Documenta X has asked a hundred people of different
backgrounds to 'present their standpoint towards globalisation'.  Artists
express their reflections on society in highly symbolic and often prophetic
ways.  I'm not an artist and I want to take Catherine David's invitation to
reflect on globalisation in a very literal and material sense.  

Aside from the language and medium of art, there are basically two dominant
contemporary views of the world, the ecological and the economic.  I will
argue that these two worldviews are fundamentally incompatible and locked
in warfare, whether or not this war has yet been recognised by most people.
 The outcome of this war will decide nothing less than the future of
humanity and indeed whether or not humanity even has a future.  This may
sound apocalyptic, but I hope to show that the contradictions between
economy and ecology are so deep that we ignore them at our peril.  
Economy and ecology share the same Greek root, oikos, which means the
household, estate or domain.  The eco-nomos is the set of rules and
regulations for running the domain; while the eco-logos is the reason for
it all,  the underlying principle, the spirit; in the sense that Saint John
affirms at the outset of his Gospel 'In the beginning was the Logos',
usually translated as the Word.   To me, the Logos necessarily includes
humans and their natural surroundings; we are all part of the same physical
reality, the same household or domain.
Given the Greek root, you would think that the Logos is the greater of the
two and should supersede the Nomos; that the spirit and underlying
principle should override and define the rules and regulations; that an
eco-Logos should be the guiding force behind the economy.  And in fact,
throughout history, social goals have always been put first and defined the
nature of the economy, including some we now find repulsive, like economic
systems based on slavery or human sacrifice.  

Today, however, for the first time, the economy, the forces of the
globalised free market, are dictating the rules to society, shaping our
relationships with each other and with the natural world.  The eco-nomos,
the globalised economy, the marketplace refuse to take second place to the
Logos or to anything else.  They have claimed leadership of the world.    

I said I would take the invitation to reflect on globalisation materially
and literally.  Nothing could be more literal and material than the state
of the actual, physical globe.  I won't spend time on a catalogue of
environmental horrors and dangers: you surely do not need to be reminded of
changing climate, disappearing ozone, razed forests, massive species
extinctions, polluted air and water, disfigureed coastlines, desertified or
asphalted land--the list goes on.  

But this is summer and much of Germany has already left or is about to
leave on holiday, so I'd like to take an example of particular interest to
Europe which is the source of European civilisation--the Mediterranean.
Western art begins there with the Egyptians and the Greeks; the
Mediterranean is the sea where history and culture began.  How ought we to
look at the Mediterranean today if we are objective and honest?  

The picture is pretty depressing.  Here are some figures: along the 46.000
kilometres of Mediterranean coastline live 130 million permanent residents
joined each year by at least 100 million tourists.  This population
produces an annual 500 million tons of raw sewage, piped, untreated,
directly into the sea.  Add to that annual total 60.000 tonnes of
detergents, several thousand tonnes of heavy metals, huge quantities of
nitrates from fertiliser run-offs and over 600.000 tonnes of petroleum.
Mediterranean ports are rarely equipped for cleaning oil tanks so they are
emptied at sea along with the rest of the rubbish. 

The predatory plant caulerpa taxifolia is colonising the sea floor and
creating irreversible biological pollution; over-fishing and disease are
destroying stocks of fish and other marine species.  Dolphins are choking
on plastics.  Fishermen are killing off monk seals because they compete for
the fish.  The sea is not flushed because the waters of the Nile are now
entirely used for  irrigation, Gibraltar lets virtually nothing from the
Atlantic  past the pillars and the Black Sea is, if anything, more polluted
than the Mediterranean itself.

This is now the objective, physical state of the sea which has inspired
poets and artists from Homer and Phidias onwards.  No wonder the New
Scientist entitled a recent article 'The Mediterranean: Dirty, Dangerous
and Doomed?'  That, anyway, is the ecological conclusion.  But for the
economy, as we now measure it, all these activities contributing to the
destruction and the utter defilement of this sea are excellent news.  Mass
tourism contributes to GNP; production of chemicals, plastics and
detergents provides employment; nitrates and irrigation help boost crop
yields for farmers; petroleum keeps our industries ticking over.  If you're
still depressed by the state of the Med, you can go out to dinner at a nice
fish restaurant, at least as long as supplies last.  So never mind.  Not to
worry.  A great deal of money is being made!
It's not just the Mediterranean, of course, or just Western Europe.  State
socialism caused environmental devastation on an even greater scale.  The
centrally planned economies of Eastern Europe were and remain ecological
disaster zones.  In large measure  they were simply imitating predatory
Western productivist patterns that began with the Industrial Revolution,
with even worse environmental results because citizens could not protest or
organise against the destruction.  

The eco-nomos is today triumphant and is forcibly integrating the entire
globe according to the rules of the marketplace and of neo-liberalism.
This is precisely the meaning of 'globalisation'.  Since the fall of the
Berlin Wall, neo-liberal capitalism has had no serious rivals,
privatisation is snowballing, global competition is advancing inexorably.

Besides 'integration', 'privatisation', and 'competition', another big word
in the globalisation vocabulary is 'deregulation'.  Its ironic to hear
neo-liberal economists talk about deregulation.  They invariably mean that
States should get rid of laws and regulations that  protect their citizens
and natural environments from external threats.  In reality, plenty of
rules are in place and more are being made every day: it's just that they
all favour the needs of capital and transnational corporations, not the
needs of people and society to reproduce themselves or the needs of the
planet to restore itself.  

Deregulation in practice means that in the United States, the Republican
majority in Congress is attempting to dismantle the Environmental
Protection Agency.  European welfare-state measures are under direct attack
from the forces of globalisation.  Employment comes a distant second to the
goal of corporate competitivity.  Companies are downsizing, shedding
workers like trees shed leaves in the fall.
In the South, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund impose
neo-liberal rules on poor and heavily indebted countries, orienting their
economies towards export production, refusing them all possibility of
protecting their infant industries and dictating their budgetary choices in
every respect.  An African participant in such negotiations reports that
during a review of the health budget, the Minister announced that 14 new
public health nurses would be recruited.  The World Bank representative
shot back, 'We told you you could only hire nine'.

At the international level, the document establishing the World Trade
Organisation, the successor to the GATT, is some 20.000 pages long.  It
describes in the smallest detail the rights of corporations to produce,
buy, sell or invest across national boundaries.  On the other hand, it
contains no rules at all concerning any obligations of these same
corporations to reduce waste, pollution and environmental destruction or to
pay decent wages, give enough time off and provide safe working conditions.  

At the Rio Conference of 1992--whose fifth anniversary meeting recently
ended in abject failure--the agenda was dominated by the World Business
Council for Sustainable Development--a tragically ironic name, given that
its membership includes some of the world's major corporate polluters and
destroyers of the environment.  The Business Council's great victory in Rio
was to avoid all mention of regulation for transnational corporation
activity. These companies are now officially assumed to be capable of

The Rio Declaration recognises that 'States have the sovereign right to
exploit their own resources': this means that corporations acting within
the boundaries of those States and using their environments have the right
to exploit those resources.  All countries now compete to attract
transnational investment which now stands above $3 trillion and has
dramatically increased since the beginning of the decade.  Countries which
are least demanding with regard to social protection or environmental
regulations, while offering docile, low paid and productive labour forces
are most likely to win the prize of investment.  
The internal logic of the capitalist market is to expand until everything
falls within its purview; until everything can be bought and sold,
including people and nature.  For the overwhelming majority of people in
industrialised countries, basic human needs like food, clothing and shelter
are already entirely dependent on money: no money means no food and no
housing.  As far as the market is concerned, people are not 'human beings'
but 'labour'; they are counted more as costs than as assets.  Nature is
considered as 'real  estate' or building sites, as a source of raw
materials' and as a place to dump wastes.  

You may find all this painfully obvious and I apologise if I'm covering
thoroughly familiar ground, but in my experience many people are still
surprised or shocked by such statements.  It would be far more surprising
that capitalist producers behave any differently, particularly in a fully
globalised market.  Their imperative is to maintain and improve market
share and profit in a highly competitive environment where no one is doing
anyone any favours.  

In order to survive, even the largest companies must try to insure that
someone else pays the bill for human and natural degradation and
destruction.  This is what economists call 'externalising the costs of
production'.  If the corporations had to pay these costs, they would have
to charge more for their products, consumers would then consume less,
economic activity would contract, firms would fail, greater unemployment
would result--that, at least, is the theory.  In a globalised system where
everyone is at war with everyone else for a place in the sun and a share of
the market, the logic of the eco-nomos is necessarily to keep labour costs
low, to minimise ecological protection; to strip resources and dump wastes
as cheaply as possible.

Here are two simple examples concerning common, everyday products: Nike
shoes left the United States in the 1980s and went to Korea.  When Korean
workers struck for higher wages, Nike moved to Indonesia.  Wages there have
now reached $2.50 a day, below the level needed for physiological
reproduction.  Indonesian workers struck for better pay in April of this
year and, as one of the Nike managers said, 'There's concern that Indonesia
could be pricing itself out of the market'.  Nike is now moving part of its
production to Vietnam.  

For an example closer to home, the world automobile industry now produces
some 79 million cars a year, but can sell only 57 million.  Shouldn't the
market itself correct such a crazy and wasteful situation of oversupply?
Theoretically, it should.  But all car manufacturers are now racing each
other to reduce labour costs.  They are, however, investing in more
expensive  equipment to catch up with the best, like Toyota which can now
build a luxury car with only 18 hours worth of labour content.  Huge
over-capacity results, so it becomes quite logical in these circumstances
that Renault should shut down an almost brand-new plant at Vilvoorde in

Meanwhile, more unemployment and lower wages mean that fewer people can
afford cars.  The average American family used to need 18 weeks of wages to
buy the average American car.  Now it takes the same family 28 weeks to buy
the same car.*  Henry Ford knew you had to pay your workers enough so that
they could buy the cars they made.  No such logic operates at the global
level.  Perhaps we should rejoice from an ecological point of view that
there may be fewer cars on the road--at least until China starts
mass-production--but this is of small consolation to the hundreds of
thousands of workers who have lost their jobs.
The market can be formidably efficient and can do many things well.  What
it should not be expected or allowed to do is to make our social and
environmental choices for us.  Society has to define precisely the limits
of those things the market should and should not do; society has to
distinguish what should or should not be bought and sold; society has to
determine who should pay the costs now externalised by producers.  These
are political questions in the deepest sense; questions of power relations.
 They are enormously difficult, perhaps impossible, to solve in a
globalised world, at least until global crisis or global accident strikes.   

Most economists still claim that we should simply let the market get on
with its business; that it is the best allocator of both material and human
resources; that it will ultimately recognise and outlaw waste and scarcity
by making them too costly.  These theorists often point to the work of the
great founder of liberalism, Adam Smith, who proclaimed that the pursuit of
self-interest in the marketplace by millions of people would lead to
unintended but generally benign social outcomes.  The theorists today would
add that the market can also lead to benign environmental outcomes if it is
left to itself.  

Poor Adam Smith!  He never thought of himself as an 'economist' but as a
'moral philosopher'.  He saw man as a social being, possessed of what he
called 'fellow feeling', deeply concerned with the good opinion of others.
Thus in the competitive race, Smith said, a man will not 'jostle or throw
down any of his competitors'.  In a globalised world, on the contrary,
everyone tries to jostle and throw down all competitors who might threaten
market share and profits.  

Smith seems to have been wrong about human behaviour and social outcomes in
a globalised and competitive world.  I think it can be shown conclusively
as well that the famous Invisible Hand and market self-regulation do not
and cannot work in the case of   ecological outcomes.  In a competitive
environment, each fisherman or logger has an interest in taking as many
fish or trees as he can, right now.  It is in each oil company's or
chemical company's interest to clean its tanks or dispose of its wastes
efficiently, in the Mediterranean if that's the cheapest solution.  It is
in each individual farmer's interest to apply fertiliser; never mind the
run-offs.  And so on.

Let me take another example from the Mediterranean: I was on the Ionian
coast of Turkey in April.  The frenetic pace of hotel and high-rise
apartment construction there vastly outstrips local capacity to keep the
sea or the beaches clean because such undertakings are necessarily
collective or cooperative, not individual ones.   

In such situations, the well-known paradox of the free rider immediately
surfaces: anyone volunteering to undertake the clean-up is a fool,
economically speaking, because he will pay all the costs, yet allow
everyone else to reap the benefits.  If no collective authority, stemming
either from the local community, a business association or the State
specifically decides to clean up after the mess of raw capitalist
entrepreneurship, or forces the  entrepreneurs to do so themselves, the
environment necessarily suffers. 

When capital can cross borders at will and seek out new places to set up
factories, strip resources, exploit cheap labour and dump wastes, it is
naturally hostile to regulation.  Let's assume that somehow nearly everyone
recognises the need for regulation.  Even then, to make the system work,
all countries, rich and poor, and all corporations, would have to adopt the
same standards at the same time.  Otherwise, the countries or companies
which were first to take the initiative and internalised ecological and
human costs would be at an immediate economic disadvantage.  They would
lose investment and markets and would ultimately be ruined or left behind. 

Unfortunately the market recognises and responds only to short term
interests.  Natural space is nothing but a source of raw materials and a
site for waste dumping.  In the same way, the market functions within a
framework of time which is completely antithetical to that of natural time.
 Production and reproduction are totally different processes and cannot be
governed by the same measurements.  Nature cannot be hurried.  It requires
rest and renewal.  Its rhythms contrast sharply with the speed of the
marketplace which is a creature of the eternal present, always focused on
that imaginary point where supply intersects with demand and price is
established.  In the marketplace, the fast devour the slow.  

Market actors try their best to compress natural time.  When they cannot
simply eliminate human beings from the production process, manufacturers
find ways to make the labour force move faster.  Ever since the Industrial
Revolution and Taylorism, a major source of friction between labour and
management has been production speed-ups.  The owners of one plant in
Thailand put amphetamines in the drinking water; some of the workers later
gave birth to deformed babies.  The market wants plants to grow faster and
animals to mature faster.  No wonder we're losing bio-diversity and raising
herds of mad cows.   

At a deeper level, the opposition between economic time and natural time is
epistemological; a conflict between ways of seeing and explaining the
world.  The keywords here are reversible and irreversible.  Since Adam
Smith's time, standard neo-classical economics textbooks have treated
economic processes as inherently reversible.  The equations in these texts
always assume that endless permutations are possible--permutations between
land, labour and capital; rent, wages and profits and other supposedly
independent variables.  All of them are supposed to be capable of reverting
to initial conditions.  Marxist economists reason in exactly the same way.    

Unfortunately, nature simply doesn't function according to the laws of
Newtonian mechanics.  In fact, nearly all significant natural changes are
permanent and irreversible.  Once a tropical forest is cut down, experts
say it would require a minimum of 400 years to reproduce it--and even then,
one could not be sure of the result.  A major debate in climatology today
concerns the possibility that North Atlantic ocean currents are changing
because of accelerated polar meltdowns due to global warming.  One of the
determinants of these currents, a tongue of ice called the Ogden feature,
has failed in its pump-priming functions for three years running, an
unprecedented occurrence.  

Oceanographers fear such changes in ocean currents will have a knock-on
effect and weaken the Gulf Stream.  Were that to happen, global warming
would paradoxically cause Northern Europe to become much colder, like
northern Canada which is at the same latitude.  The phenomenon would be
swift and irreversible--at least on any imaginable human time scale.    

Such a change of climate would clearly have incalculable economic effects,
but neo-classical economics is not a predictive science and the market
cannot possibly warn of impending ecological catastrophe until it is too
late.  This is nonetheless what we are inherently asking it to do.  Market
prices rarely even tell us about scarcity.  Because so many players are
competing for export revenues, market supply is plentiful so long as the
resource lasts.  Thus the market doesn't even tell us how much natural
capital, like fish and forests, we have left.  What's more, prices tell us
nothing about the fragility of the natural systems we depend on.

We have become accustomed to relying on 'market signals', or changes in
prices, for virtually all our economic and political decisions.  Thus we
fail to recognise that in this crucial area of environmental decline and
breakdown, no market signals will be forthcoming.  We continue to apply
irrelevant mechanical, Newtonian, reversible methodologies to natural
phenomena which are governed instead by dynamic, chaotic and irreversible
forces.   Here is a simple illustration:  

In the orthodox market view, extra units of anything--let's say CO2 or
HFCs--added at uniform rates gives 1+1+1+1 etc. and makes a nice straight
oblique line on the graph.  This process, and the line that represents it,
are supposed to be able to continue forever.  In natural time, however, the
addition of an extra unit of greenhouse gas or ozone destroying chemicals
can become at any time the straw that breaks the camel's back and forces
the curve to fly off the chart.  The market will never tell us when that
moment has arrived.  I sometimes wonder if we haven't already had our
wake-up calls for ozone and global warming; if the curve isn't already
flying off the chart and we just haven't realised it yet.  
The natural environment is subject to complex feedback loops, sharp shifts,
comparatively sudden and unpredictable systemic collapse and
reorganisation.  A few isolated economists are beginning to listen to
scientists like Per Bak who has shown how large, complex, interactive
systems organise themselves to a critical state in which an unpredictable,
minor event sparks a chain reaction that can lead to a catastrophe.  Bak
calls this state 'self-organised criticality'; the chain reaction is better
known as the 'sandpile' or the 'landslide effect'. 

Am I being unnecessarily alarmist?  Mainstream economists would definitely
say yes.  They do not believe in natural limits and they believe that the
market can solve all problems, including ecological problems.  Here, for
example, is the view of Mr Larry Summers who used to be Chief Economist at
the World Bank and is now Under-Secretary of the US Treasury in charge of
International Affairs.  Summers is best known for his leaked statement that
Africa is seriously under-polluted and should import toxic wastes from
elsewhere.  The following quote is even more revealing: 

	There are no ... limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are
likely to bind at any time in the foreseeable future.  There isn't a risk
of an apocalypse due to global warming or anything else.  The idea that the
world is headed over an abyss is profoundly wrong.  The idea that we should
put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error and
one that, were it ever to prove nfluential, would have staggering social

Summers' logic is echoed by a British economist, World Bank and OECD
consultant Wilfred Beckerman in his anti-environmentalist book titled
'Small is Stupid: Blowing the whistle on the Greens'.   Like many
economists, Beckerman accuses ecologists of fabricating 'meldramatic
disaster scenarios' and claims that the answer to environmental problems is
more economic growth.  The richer we become, the more funds we can devote
to environmental repair and clean-up.  Besides, according to Beckerman,
economic growth is itself responsible for greater environmental awareness.
It is 'economic growth that has allowed a shift in people's prioritites
from the satisfaction of basic needs to a concern with their environment
and a greater willingness to devote resources to environmental protection'.

Summers and Beckerman are perfect illustrations of a worldview which sees
economic life as a continual circular flow from input to output, production
to consumption, firms to households; where output is seen as the result of
inputs of capital and labour

This system is closed.  Even when raw materials are introduced into the
loop as a factor of production, the system remains autonomous.  In other
words, economists look at economics as the total system, with everything
else, including nature, subordinate to it.  Now I ask you to simply look
out the window.  That is about all it takes to recognise that the man-made
economy operates within the confines of the natural world.  

This is so simple and obvious that it is almost always overlooked.  A
different way of looking at the global economy seems to me far more
realistic and sane.  This vision was pioneered by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen
in the early 1970s and has since been popularised by ecological economists
like Herman Daly.  Unfortunately, it has yet to penetrate the calculations
of economists and the projects of politicians.

Here is a square, or, in three dimensions, a cube which represents the
economy.  It is set inside the bio-sphere.  In this vision, the productive
process is embedded in nature.  The sphere is necessarily closed because we
will never be able to increase the capacity of the biosphere by a single
cubic centimetre, no matter what our present or future technology.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand this approach to economics 
is to think of the human body.  Like the economy, the body is a complex
system which will decay and die if it does not constantly import high-grade
energy and matter from the larger system in which it lives and if it does
not export, so to speak, degraded energy and matter to the outside.  When
you've played a set of tennis or visited the Documenta, you can't use that
energy again.  It is dissipated and useless.  

The economy also imports high-grade energy and matter from the biosphere
(this is called the biosphere's 'source' function), uses them in production
and finally exports its wastes and used-up energy in the form of heat into
the biosphere (this is called its 'sink' function).  The biosphere can only
provide and assimilate so much; its capacity both as a source and as a sink
is limited.

This alternative vision of economics is based on the laws of
thermodynamics, on flows of matter and energy and the creation of waste and
useless heat, or entropy,  Once you've read Georgescu-Roegen and Daly,
their arguments seem blindingly, inescapably true but it's incredibly
difficult to convince the economics profession of those truths.  

Anyone familiar with systems analysis will confirm that the rules of a
subsystem do not govern the rules of the total system.  This may be why it
seems so hard to get the economics profession, with a few notable and
honourable exceptions, to draw the circle around the square.  They would
have to admit that the biosphere is the total system of which our human
economy is only a part.

This observation has huge practical consequences.  One is that questions of
scale become crucial.  If the 'box' of the economy is quite small with
regard to the total capacity of the sphere, as it was in the eighteenth or
nineteenth century, there would be no problem.  Today, however, we are
producing in less than two weeks the entire global output of the year 1900.
 The scale of the world economy at present growth rates doubles in less
than 25 years.  

Some biologists estimate that humans are already appropriating for their
own uses roughly 40% of what they call the Net Primary Product or Net
Photosynthetic Product, NPP.  The NPP measures the impact of human use of
food, fuel, fiber and other plant output, plus human destruction of
ecosystem potential through deforestation, overfishing, desertification and
the like.  This human appropriation of NPP is also calculated to double
every 25 years.  If these figures are exact--the scientific article giving
the details was published in 1986--then at present rates we shall reach 80
percent human appropriation of NPP before the year 2015 and 160 percent
appropriation before 2040!

Furthermore, work undertaken at the University of Vancouver in Canada
suggests that the richest billion and a half people in the world are
already appropriating for their exclusive use the entire biophysical output
of the planet.  This means that global carrying capacity is already being
hugely overshot and that natural degradation will therefore increase
exponentially.  The Vancouver team calls this phenomenon the 'ecological
footprint', a unit which measures the land area and energy output required
to satisfy consumption per person according to income.  Thus the world's
carrying capacity is affected not just by having more people, but by having
much larger people.  They 'weigh' more or the earth and they take up more
space because they are comparatively much richer. 

Even if these biologists' and environmentalists' figures are way  off, they
still give an idea of the ecological impossibilities we face.  Humans rely
on other species; we simply can't grab the entire Net Photosynthetic
Product and leave nothing for other living creatures.  Besides, the NPP
isn't going to get any larger, it is not under the control of Bill Gates or
anyone else.  We are facing not just a natural impossibility but a
mathematical and a logical one as well.  

No wonder the economics profession balks and rejects the ecological
worldview: it believes that continual growth is the Holy Grail and the
solution to all our problems.  But as the ecological economist Kenneth
Boulding reminds us, 'When something grows, it gets bigger!'  Growth is not
the solution but the problem.  For most economists, this is heresy, too
shocking even to be contemplated or discussed.  One can readily understand
that denial of physical and biological reality can become a way of life.  

Some economists try to escape the dilemma by claiming that man-made capital
can substitute for natural capital, so if we invest and improve our
technology enough, it doesn't really matter how much natural capital we
strip from the planet.  This is another specious argument.  Most man-made
capital is still directly dependent on underlying natural resources.  For
instance, it makes no difference how many sawmills you have when there are
no more trees; how many trawlers and canneries when there are no more fish.
 As for the 'sink' functions of nature, where is the man-made capital that
can save us from the loss of stratospheric ozone or from the consequences
of severe climate change?

What if we were to embrace the alternative logic, the unconventional vision
of economists like Georgescu-Roegen, Daly and Boulding and recognise that
our economy is the subsystem subject to the rules of the total system which
is nature?  Would this mean the end of the good life?  I think not.  In
fact, we have everything to gain from looking at the world, the biosphere,
as the total system and at the economy as the sub-system.  

If we accept these alternative premises and this changed vision, then the
first question is how much bigger can the economy get and the second, how
much bigger should it get?  It clearly can't go on doubling every 25 years
or so in terms of total production and distribution.  

This is all to the good.  Much of what we call growth is nothing more than
the destruction of natural capital which economists don't count as the
destruction it is, but as income.  If a company used up its capital and
counted it as income, it wouldn't stay in business for long.  

Furthermore, much so-called growth is making us poorer or is vainly trying
to compensate for past economic and social failures.  Here is a trivial
example: in the United States last year, people spent about $675 million on
complex electronic gear to prevent their cars from being stolen.  This
figure is soon expected to top $1.3 billion.  Isn't it a bit short-sighted
to exclaim that an epidemic of auto-theft is great news, because it
contributes to growth?  For that matter, so do prison construction,
reconstructive surgery, cancer treatments, repairs after terrorist attacks
and best of all, major or minor wars.  

Economic growth once correlated quite closely with increases in overall
welfare, but this is no longer true.  More and more growth is occasioned by
social phenomena most people would rather do without.  Steps to clean up a
fouled environment will rank high on the list of growth-inducing projects
in the coming years.  Why not simply keep it clean to begin with?  Overall
welfare would increase even if growth did not. 

We don't even know how to measure precisely what proportion of present
growth is the result of trying to make up for past negligence; our national
accounts do not distinguish between genuine, positive, wealth-producing
growth and growth that impoverishes us.  As far as I know, only the
Norwegians and the Dutch are seriously trying, statistically speaking, to
determine which is which.  In other words, we are trying to steer our
highly complex economies with extraordinarily crude tools.

How might we become more sophisticated in our world-view?  Mere awareness
of ecological problems, even if it is widespread, will never suffice to
guarantee changes in policy.  Consciousness raising is no substitute for
building new rapports de force, new balances of power.  To bring about
change we shall have to confront not just inertia but many entrenched and
powerful interests which for reasons already noted will put their own
short-term gains first.

The stress placed by human beings on the planet can be expressed by the
simple formula Impact = Consumption x Technology x Population, I= C x T x
P.  Even though the Southern hemisphere has the bulk of the Population, the
P factor; the per capita Consumption, the C factor of 1 average Northerner
outstrips that of 20 average Southerners.

All three factors--C, T and P need to change.  Population growth rates are
already declining in most of the South faster than most demographers
believed they could. The best way to make them decline even faster is to
educate women and girls and give them the means to control their own

As for the 'T' factor, the technology we are transferring to the South is,
all too often, a disgrace.  The World Bank in particular is guilty of
ecocide, in partnership with the elites of the South.  For example, between
them, the Bank and the government of India are bringing on stream a series
of new power-plants to be fired with low-grade, extremely dirty but
abundant coal.  When completed, it is likely that these plants will by
themselves produce five to ten percent of all the greenhouse gasses in the

If the World Bank decided to go for solar energy in India and elsewhere, it
could single-handedly bring down the price of solar equipment to the point
that it would be competitive with cheap Indian coal, even in narrow
economic terms, without even counting the benefits to the environment and
to the health of ordinary Indians.  But the Bank refuses to use its
financial clout and to  transform its major projects into environmental
assets, funding instead small showcase projects as environmental alibis.  

The official goal of 'development' is still to provide a middle-class
American or British standard of living to large segments of Southern
populations.  However, if the developers do not immediately switch to clean
energy and clean production, we will need five or six planets to meet their
objectives and, unfortunately, good planets are hard to find.  As China and
India show, third world countries are most unlikely to take the clean
energy, clean production road by themselves because for the moment, it is
more expensive.  This is the vicious circle which only public spending can

In the North, the C factor, Consumption, is the hardest to change.  I still
believe we can shift to an economy embedded in the natural environment
without renouncing the good life.  Work here in Germany at the Wuppertal
Institute, recently translated into English as Factor Four: Doubling
Wealth, Halving Resource Use is full of examples of ways to maintain or
improve our standard of living while weighing more lightly on the earth.  I
recommend this book which covers much ground I do not have time to cover

I could give a great many specific, material recommendations but we only
have a short time together here.  I've asked the DOCUMENTA to put an annex
to my talk on the Internet, where you may want to consult it.  Let me just
say in conclusion that the eco-nomos, market approach to globalisation
through competition and the war of all against all can only lead to
collective disaster.  The opposite view of the eco-logos places cooperation
between people, and between people and nature, at the center of our
choices.  It recognises that the future depends on this cooperation.  

The reductionist view, a kind of primitive so-called Darwinism, is under
challenge.  Human culture is not based on the 'survival of the fittest'.
Man first became capable of creating culture and art through collaboration.
 I hope that these Hundred Days will help to make this clear and speed the
victory and the reign of the eco-logos.  

To end on a slightly Zen note, if you are in Leipzig and you want to go to
Berlin but find yourself on the road to Munich, the answer is not to go
faster and faster towards Munich but to stop, turn around, and head for

Thank you.
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