Monday, May 26, 2014

Rifkin's new book continued

Continuing from this post.

Chapter 15 is on the tension between scarcity and abundance. Capitalism is based on scarcity due to the limited sources used to maintain it, like fossil fuels. Whereas renewal energies are abundant. Therefore the former uses exchange value and the latter share value. The former depletes our environmental stores, the latter sustains it. It depends though on how we define abundance. It is not the sort of over consumption inherent to capitalism. Biologically humans need 2000 – 2500 calories of food per day. The average American consumes about 3700, while much of humanity on far less than what's needed. We are consuming far to much to sustain our biospheric ecology.

Part of the solution is finding the balance of what is enough to make us happy. Studies indicate that we are happiest when we have enough income, about $20,000 in the US, to buy the necessities. More than that has an inverse relationship on happiness. Buying more stuff feeds off of capitalism's inherent scarcity, in that we can never have enough. Focusing on individual material surplus only reinforces our dysfunctional autonomy and represses our empathy. Whereas when our focus is more on sharing surplus with each other we feel not only more connected but that enough is enough. We consume only the resources needed and change our wants into sharing social goods and are far happier in the process. And greatly reduces our ecological footprint in the process.

However two key elements can derail the entire transition into the commons era. One is climate change, the other cyberterrorism. Already the overall global warming is disrupting the water cycle causing increasingly disastrous events. Agricultural food losses due to flooding and drought are bad and will only get worse, causing severe scarcity. Vital infrastructure is being decimated by extreme weather events. Hence we need a quick, effective transition to RE to curtail climate change. Cyberterrorism prime target is the current centralized energy grid. Take that out and you virtually destroy society. This too requires a quick transition to a distributed smart grid system that cannot incapacitate the entire society. All of which will require “a fundamental change in human consciousness” (296) from capitalism to the commons.

1 comment:

  1. Addendum to the last chapter. It stated that $20,000 per year was a sufficient individual wage to meet our basic happiness. I'm guessing that number is a bit high due to likely including a range of types, from commoners to capitalists. I personally am getting by nicely on far less since I retired. Yes, I reduce rent by living with others in a home share. And I've drastically reduced the amount of owned stuff, even books, sharing them via the library. I have enough to eat and my health care is covered by the VA since I'm a vet. Even if I weren't I'd likely qualify for very low-cost to free care with Obamacare. And I'm happier than when I made a shitload of money working for a company that had little to no ethics or social concern.

    Another issue is that is we create a society of shared abundance won't we thereby continue to consume much more than is sustainable? Yes, if we were to remain in a individualistic mindset beset with scarcity. The whole point though is that the reason a commons mindset is emerging is due to the commons lifestyle. He cites studies that show youth growing up in this milieu are much more socially and environmentally conscious, thus reducing their consumption of material goods and increasing their sharing of those goods. If we implement a commons economy on a global scale, thus producing material abundance, any surplus will not be transferred into more material stuff but a better and fuller life for everyone, including sustainable environmental practices based on RE.


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