Thursday, November 22, 2007

Making Green Lemonade

Some people have a knack for making the best of a bad situation. I'm not talking about Mary Tyler Moore whose character "can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worth while." For some people calamities, catastrophes and disasters aren't always so bad.

Disaster Capitalism - The new book by Naomi Klein is a follow up to her huge hit No Logo. In the new work she claims that political powers exploit disasters of many kinds to push through legislation that would otherwise be met with much resistance in safe and peaceful settings. The implication is that there is actually a disincentive for some to seek peace and incentives for them to sustain disaster scenarios so that they can enact legislation like The Patriot Act after 911 or bring forth the privatization of the school system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Military Industrial Complex - More than just the simple opportunism of disaster capitalism, the Military Industrial Complex is a much wider construct that is said to be more or less designed to encourage war in order to profit from it's ability to destroy capital which then needs to be recapitalized or replaced.

Measuring Wealth with GDP - Gross Domestic Product measures the value of all products that are produced within an economy. This positively counts product growth without taking into consideration the possibly more costly side effects of the events that created the demand. This is why such a terrible thing as an oil spill will increase the GDP of an economy because many costly products will be produced to nominally clean up the environmental mess and to replace the oil liner.

Blood for Oil - This seems to creatively mix all of the above. It's a fact that war in the Middle East has greatly benefited the petroleum sector as well as companies that sell their services to the US Government. It might be more than coincidental that many of these companies have close ties to the offices of the US Executive and many of the people in their cabinet.

Disaster Fundraising - Lobbyists are known to exaggerate their causes in order to get the money flowing. It seems that those in non-profit, charitable or humanitarian organizations are not beyond this approach. The UN has just had to restate their AIDS numbers for Africa. It seems that the incidence of the disease has been over reported for quite some time now. Stephen Lewis is disappointed but puts it into perspective by explaining that even these new lower numbers are so staggeringly large that it shouldn't discourage us from further investment in his efforts to eradicate the disease.

The Upside of Down - This is the title of a book by Thomas Homer Dixon who writes that not only can catastrophes lead to positive change, they sometimes are necessary for such change. When it comes to Global Warming it seems that this has not registered with most people as a catastrophe yet and therefore not much is being done. Because such shifts happen so gradually it is hard for the human imagination to put it in the same category as a catastrophe that occurs over a holiday weekend. Some are trying to make this link by pointing out that many of these more immediate disasters may intensify and become more common as a result of Global Warming.

Making Green from Green - Despite what Ayn Rand has so poorly written, I don't think greed should be the only primary motive for economic activity. But someone trying to convince people who are swayed by greed could use this motivation to their benefit. I have been trying to convince people of the benefits of green initiatives using the language and practices of a business case. It is not hard to make a compelling case that accepting the challenges of adhering to initiatives like the Kyoto Accord will create massive opportunities for those jurisdictions who lead the way. The innovations required to succeed can and will be sold to those who lag behind. That's why the levers of incentives and disincentives which are held by our governments should be pulled now before we get left behind.

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