It Really Doesn’t Grow On Trees

Stephen L. Doll  1997  Published in: The Northwest Technocrat, 1st quarter 1997, No. 346 

The stripping of rainforests for monetary profit points up a vital truth — we are dead set on a collision course between human ambition and the hard, cold realities of physical science.

The world operates on two economic systems. The one is our true wealth, the physical planet we inhabit and its many diverse and interconnected systems — of which we are a part. All activities of this economy are concrete, measurable quantities, based in physical science. The other economy, that dictates the thoughts and actions of commercial society, is the financial one whereby we decide who gets how much of the product of the natural economy. The principles of this artificial economy are not found in any book on physical science. They exist only in the murky and unfathomable depths of human imagination, opinion and desire. You can’t eat this economy, drink it, or build a house from it. In this age of electronic funds transfer, it doesn’t even require physical evidence of itself.

It’s no longer a matter of how we slice the pie. It’s a matter of whether there is a pie at all. You can’t mix physical properties with philosophical pecking orders, particularly in a social system in which we perversely reward the consumers of resources with imaginary tokens allowing them to consume more resources. And, as resources dwindle and become more precious, each of us is required to make even more money to survive. We are sacrificing the earth for a mess of pottage, and misdirected technology has accelerated the trend. In our headlong pursuit of financial “rewards”, we have given little thought to the very simple fact that it is the physical that supports the financial — not the other way around. Yet even our efforts to maintain a habitable planet must meet the criterion of “cost effectiveness”. In other words, even the fate of life on earth itself is subject to the “What’s in it for me?” of monetary gain.

This is a point of distinction that somehow escapes even the most die- hard of environmentalists, who cling to the myth that with the coin of the realm, we can buy or bribe our way to ecological reclamation.

At the World Conference on Population in Cairo in 1994, Jacques Cousteau made the following comment: “Let us jump ahead to the year 2030. Then the world’s resources will be difficult to share. Their fullness can be evaluated today, using the most sophisticated science and technology to obtain the best yield from them while using our sense of justice to assure equitable distribution. Energy will be the money of the future, determining the real value of goods instead of basing the economy on the desire of artificially tempted customers.” For the record, at the rate we are rendering the earth uninhabitable for increasing numbers of life forms, we probably do not have that long to go.

In 1933, The Continental organization of Technocracy made the same pronouncement on the basis of an objective, non-political analysis of available energy and resources, but they took it a step farther. They proposed a switch from a monetary economy to one based on physical factors, and outlined a program for an orderly transition. It even provided a “sense of justice” in equal, but not identical, access to goods and services for the entire population. It is the only organization in existence, or in history, to do so.

A world without money? Or a world without resources? There is no middle ground. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to survive on dollar-bill sandwiches. Maybe through some mysterious alchemy we can convert all those computer bytes that represent our financial holdings into topsoil or estuaries. But somehow, it is doubtful.

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