Our collective success is killing us.
We, homo sapiens, may be evolutionarily the most successful species on earth. Dr. Paul Erlich warned us in “The Population Bomb” in 1970 with predictions of famine and starvation. That spawned “The Green Revolution” to increase crop yields and avert the disaster. The Green Revolution, in turn, manufactured its own plight. Those miraculous techniques that made more food available required more water and fertilizer. Today, aquafers in several places have become critically low while fertilizer run-off is polluting our surface supply of clean water. Now we are again facing famine and starvation exacerbated by lack of drinking water.
Today’s human residents use necessary resources faster than they can be recycled. Everything on this planet gets recycled. Recycled living things supply the energy that keeps the lights on, literally. Burning our ancestors is at the heart of the climate crisis wreaking havoc in all parts of the globe. This is the direct result of our collective success.
One of the many traits bestowed upon us by evolution and accounting for our success is our intellectual capacity. We, more than any other species, have a knack and drive to solve problems. The inherent dilemmas in our evolutionary triumph can be remedied. Throngs of scientists are already finding positive ways forward. We can slow population growth to 0 and below. We can blunt and eventually end Climate Change.
Between humankind and solutions to our self-made disasters, stands our individual success.
There are more billionaires in America than any other country in the world. If we are not an Oligarchy, we are Oligarchy adjacent. All these rich people and corporations pay lobbyists millions of dollars annually to influence tax legislation and make enormous contributions to Congressional and Senate candidates to that end. They have lobbied for and gotten subsidies, tax loopholes, and tax credits (the IRS sends you money even if you paid no taxes), sucking money out of the U.S. Treasury desperately needed to assuage our present quandaries.
Their success is apparent. The IRS does not have the budget to enforce tax law and has been co-opted into only investigating poor and middle-class tax cheats, not the rich ones. Public school budgets have been squeezed to make “School Choice” popular with voters to subsidize private education for rich children. The EPA can no longer enforce standards that keep major polluters from spewing toxins into our air and water. When they do enforce the rules, the fine is no more than chump change to them. At the heart of all this wealth, the Financial Industry has made it, once again, possible for the wealthy to drive the economy off a cliff in the name of greed (think 2008). They get bailed out, no one goes to jail while ordinary Americans lose their homes and credit ratings. When greed gets the rich in over their heads, they declare bankruptcy and shelter their assets from seizure while college graduates are not allowed the same relief from student debt.
The wealthy have kept the minimum wage below poverty level and conducted a successful propaganda campaign to vilify the poor as lazy, as welfare cheats. They lobby to privatize Social Security and Medicare to get a slice of that tax revenue pie. They are against paid vacations, paid sick leave, and childcare for their employees. They want to keep us poor, uneducated, and overwhelmed so we cannot fight back. Starting in 1980 with President Reagan, they began and continued a campaign to break unions’ power to protect workers. The 40-hour work week and time-and-one-half for overtime vanished. They were replaced with the Gig Economy where it is every person for themselves and no safety net. The rich and large corporations refuse to pay for bridges, roads, police, fire protection, or schools but expect first class protection from crime, prompt fire mitigation, smooth transportation, and first-class education at our expense. To quote Robert Reich: It is welfare for the rich and capitalism for the poor.
Right now, American corporations are exacerbating inflation by jacking up prices and bragging to their shareholders about it. The Wall Street casino has bid up the price of oil sending gasoline prices through the roof. Very specifically, Charles Koch, a member of the 2153, is lobbying the Supreme Court of the United States to keep the EPA from regulating emissions from power plants so he can continue to make more money than he can possibly spend. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media refuse to initiate steps to take megaphones away from hate filled users. They do so for no other reason than greed. All those disparate voices have a Constitutional right to say whatever they want. A global megaphone is not among those rights. Rich corporations spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, on bribing politicians, on massive ad campaigns, on buying elections and influencing dictators to increase their wealth by further dividing us.
The deluge of money into politics has corrupted every level of government and finally produced an American political party promoting fascism and the end of democracy. The first shots of the coming civil war were fired on January 6 to preserve a wannabe dictator’s power.
America is not the only country inflicted with this disease. Oligarchy is endemic with increasing infections everywhere in the world. Those increasingly greedy global oligarchs behave even worse than ours. Think Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and 14 other armed conflicts around the world. Oligarchs (governmental or criminal) are killing citizens who refuse to pliably comply. I am sure you have seen the waves immigrants from Africa into Europe and the throngs of people at our southern border. Those are citizens leaving home because they refuse to obey and refuse to wait at home for death or worse.
Oligarchs are responsible for the monstrous war in Eastern Europe. One of the reasons Ukrainians continue to keep the Russian army at bay is because Putin and his cronies have been stealing from Russia’s military budget and buying cheap inadequate military equipment. Think 40-mile stalled convoy.
Behind every dictator or strongman ruler are people of great wealth that keep them in power. Many autocrats are oligarchs themselves: Putin, Xi, Erdogan, Orban, Bolsonaro, Assad, bin Salman, and Kim, to name a few. They murder and imprison those who disagree with them while robbing their countries blind.
Another institutional oligarchy is the World Economic Conference. The rich and powerful meet every four years in Davos, Switzerland to shape global, regional, and industrial agendas. They meet, ostensibly, to decide what to do about us peasants without paying any taxes or affecting their bottom lines, while convincing us they should continue to be in charge... of everything.
There will always be predators willing to take undue advantage of people and situations, willing to let people starve or die so they can thrive, willing to murder to improve their bottom line. There is no irradicating this disease, a far more pervasive and deadlier disease than Covid-19.
The ELE or Extinction Level Event
If left to the oligarchs, the Climate Crisis will continue unabated until we extinct ourselves. They think their money will save them from the dissolution of civilization through extreme climate events and rising sea levels, that it will preserve them when Putin or someone else, ends our Climate Crisis with a nuclear winter exclamation point!
Unchecked, in the presence of an oligarch made, maintained, and exacerbated Climate Crisis, the disease of oligarchy is fatal... for all of us... everywhere.