SIMON ESPERSEN (Copenhagen)
Connie Hedegaard is the Danish Minister for Climate and Energy. Along with her fellow Danish colleagues she is hosting the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen.
Being a member of the Danish conservative party for decades you would not expect the minister to hold radical or extreme viewpoints regarding the relationship between man and nature.
However in February 2007 the Minister said the following:
“We cannot act like an enormous swarm of locusts, settling, feeding and leaving nothing to our descendants. We are obliged to act and the [UN] reports tells us to act now.”
The likening of people with locusts is not a new one. Thomas Malthus considered people similar in some respects to a pack of animals – expecting people to consume blindly enough to ensure starvation and leading finally to a decreasing population more suitable for any given amount of stock.
Industrialization, trade and prosperity however proved Malthus wrong in the developed part of the world.
It is also a sad fact that targeted people in Europe and elsewhere have been treated like beasts of burden by people in power – in the shape of slavery or repression – culminating in the horrors of Nazi-Germany – who also used analogies with animals in trying to eradicate particular creeds or races of humankind. – And along with the environmentalists the Nazis also did not consider production, innovation, creativity or industriousness a significant let alone defining human trait.
However the ability to change the environment and shape it so that it becomes a life-promoting value to the creators are exactly what sets man apart from consuming animals.
Humans do not consume as animals do. They transform what exists using their comparatively powerful minds to ensure a more viable result.
The earth may be considered a gigantic ball of “resources” or an almost infinite combination of chemicals – that nevertheless have no value in it self – but does become valuable because the human mind is able to see a potential usefulness in that matter (live or inanimate) and furthermore because they are able to realize that potential through productive action. Thus it is people who assess value to what surrounds us, and makes the potential value into something of genuine value.
Capitalist society (or industrialization) is in this respect the societal pinnacle of this creative human trait that sets us apart from the brutes of nature including swarms of locusts which Mrs. Hedegaard likens us with, killer bees or a marching army of ants.
Thanks to capitalism production is now more complex, sophisticated and yielding higher results than ever before. The pace within which human life has been extended and improved is staggering.
Growth is therefore all about production and transformation and not about consumption. Growth is the same as an improved rearrangement of inanimate or animate matter.
More growth is similarly not the equivalent of more consumption, – it is a further rearrangement of what is given in nature. And because humans have common needs, a very sizeable amount of what is made by every productive generation in capitalist society is left over to the next generation, who are thus free to move onwards with new challenges and a fuller and richer life.
The opposite of what Mrs. Hedegaard claims is happening is in fact happening: We leave more and more of value to the next generation!
By improving our own life through trade and production, we also liberate the next generation as may be seen in the ability to reduce work hours, hard work, time of transportation, obstacles to communication etc. etc., that may be identified during the last two hundred years.
The bells are therefore tolling for Mrs. Hedegaard whose viewpoints are entirely misguided (if not wilfully chosen by sheer malice regarding the producers to whom she does not belong).
There are of course people who simply consume what others produce – apart from taxpayer salaried politicians: Some get handouts from the welfare state. Others in the third world are victims of rulers who will not allow their respective countries to become members of the group of productive (westernised) nation-states.
In the last category we find real plundering and little viable production or transformation. Here Mrs. Hedegaards sinister words would be in place. (Sadly however, she would recommend anything but free trade and genuine industrialization.)
The Danish Minister of Climate and Energy has confused the pinnacle of civilisation that productive society is with a society of raw consumption.
If she and her fellow regulators succeeds in halting the human ability to transform the environment to serve a variety of human needs, future generations will find that the horrendous comparison of people with locusts may suddenly have become true.
Thanks to the no-growth policies of our political leadership we may in time return to the brutal state of nature that capitalism and industrialization relieved us from:
“At first we wanted to call the agreement [the environmentalist Kyoto-protocol] a kind of international Gosplan,” [former advisor to Russian President Putin, Andrei Illiaronov] added, referring to the agency that repeatedly created disastrous results in its efforts to run the old Soviet economy. “But then we realized that Gosplan was much more humane and so we ought to call the Kyoto Protocol an international gulag.
“In the gulag, though, you got the same ration daily and it didn’t get smaller by the day,” said Illiaronov. “In the end we had to call the Kyoto Protocol an international Auschwitz.”
– From the article Europe to Russia: Ratify Kyoto or Else
About the earth and the proposed concept of resources mentioned above: see George Reisman: Mining for the Next Million Years See also Global Warming Is Not a Threat but the Environmentalist Response to It Is by George Reisman.