Shaun Caris Comment on, Comments on, Musings on the fragile and narrow Tasmanian economy

Fundamentally, all this comes down to the financial system at the global level.

For those not aware, it is mathematically impossible to repay the world’s debts. Sure, we can repay the capital, but the money does not actually exist to repay both the capital and the interest.

The real collateral for today’s debt is not simply a car, house or business. Rather, it is tomorrow’s growth that underpins today’s debt. Witness the turmoil in credit markets once it became apparent that growth was not stopping but merely slowing.

And in short that’s it. From drilling in ANWR, building pulp mills, dams or anything else controversial you choose to pick. It all comes back to a system that has only two modes of operation – constant growth or catastrophic collapse.

We’re on the constant growth treadmill like it or not. Every Tasmanian with a mortgage, and that’s rather a lot of people, can’t afford to not keep running. Likewise everyone else with debt, financial assets or who depends on government welfare. Thats virtually the entire population.

The reason I tend to “target” tourism is for much the same reason that many “target” the pulp mill. Both are the largest and currently most heavily invested in and promoted examples of their respective fields.

There are plenty of other things that harm the environment and plenty of other non-productive industries. But they are the logical points of focus given the present political, economic and public attitude situation.

The only real solution that would actually work is to remove the need for a debt based economy in the first place. And the only reason we need it is because we consume more than we produce.

Few seem aware that it only dates back to around 1971 on a large scale. That’s when the US, unable to sustain itself financially and suffering heavy losses of real wealth, embarked on the great experiment in which we now live.

What I would support is simply this. Australia needs to produce enough goods (in $ terms) to pay its way and end the debt spiral. That means, in practice, factories rather than holidays.

We’re not going to achieve anything other than financial catastrophy if we continue filling our homes with foreign gadgets, driving foreign cars etc while we “produce” nothing but dirt and a handfull of services. No society ever became rich swapping houses and taking holidays – those things consume wealth rather than create it.

Once we can balance our trade situation then we’re in a position as a society to contemplate an alternative to the debt based economy we have today. And getting rid of that is the only thing that provides us with a viable alternative to constant growth.

So it’s a series of big steps. Make more money (or replace imports), revolutionise the economic system, end constant growth and thus the threat to the environment.

That’s the only real solution. Moving pulp mills from one country to another does nothing at the global level to help. Neither does arguing about which fuel is margially better than another or swapping flooded valleys for a pile of radioactive waste. That approach, which dominates mainstream environmental thinking, is NIMBYism at its worst. Nothing fixed, just moved and slightly modified.

I’ll give you a prediciton if we carry on business as usual. Coal use will rise no matter what the consequences – we’re seeing that now. We’ll get serious about using nuclear too – also starting to happen. We’ll drill in ANWR and then the Antarctic. In short, we’ll burn literally everything we can get our hands on.

Somewhat ironically, supporting non-productive service industries only serves to support the debt-based constant growth paradigm. A point I suspect few if any in the environment movement have ever considered.

Taking a hardline stand against industry, even polluting industry, is somewhat similar to tobacco companies sponsoring childrens sport. Fine on the surface – no polluting factories and kids get fit – but in doing so it supports a far greater underlying problem.

Pulp mill? I really don’t know enough about how bad the impacts would really be. I’ve seen too many outright rubbish claims from both sides to give either much credibility. Presumably it’s a case of the truth being somewhere in the middle.

The biggest single problem with the whole thing is politics. It’s such a big issue that it’s hard to find anyone without an opinion. Just like trying to find a jury for a highly publicised case, that pretty much rules out any chance of objective opinion and proper research being done.

Read more, Comment HERE