Monthly Archives: January 2008

Green Puritanism or green realism? Frank Furedi on environmentalism

Frank Furedi, sociologist, political guru, and much else besides, writes an occasional column called “Really Bad Ideas” on the Spiked website. In his column, Furedi offers cultural and political criticism on issues as diverse as “The tyranny of science” and “Censorship”. It didn’t take Furedi too long to get around to ripping in to environmentalism, which he did in a column published in September 2007 here. There are plenty of critiques of green politics around the web and the secondhand bookstores of the world, but this is certainly among the more interesting, rigorous and insightful that I have read.

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Filed under David, green politics

Has the New Zealand Government unwittingly defined the U.S. Government as a terrorist entity?

I’m not a lawyer, so this may be a naive interpretation, but it seems to me there is a prima facie case that the U.S. government is a terrorist entity under the terms of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, Barry, social justice

From soothing palliatives and towards ecological literacy: a critique of the triple bottom line

Milne, Markus J (2005) From soothing palliatives and towards ecological literacy: a critique of the triple bottom line. Working Paper. Department of Accountancy and Business Law, University of Otago.

Not too long (21 pages) and not too hard to read for the most part, this paper is well worth a look. It reinforces (by looking at triple bottom line accounting) the concerns expressed about sustainable development and eco-capitalism expressed in our last post, and offers some constructive initial suggestions on advancing the transition to sustainability.

A few quotes:

“What emerges from this brief analysis of new concepts and tools is that current efforts of environmental or sustainability reporting are woefully inadequate means on which to form ideas about “success” in terms of the ecological logic needed to reorganise and ‘control’ economic activity.” (p.19)

In a transition to sustainability, if the end game is to remain unchanged, then the only… [way to seek processes, systems, and changes that promote a transition to an ecologically sustainable society]… is to seek changes that promote the decoupling of measures of success (growth, profits, etc.) from Earth’s limited physical energy and material flows. (pp.19-20)

Ultimately, however, humanity will need to realise that “success” is not just a case of making the transition to a solar economy, it is also in recognising that the natural cycles that the sun’s energy fuels are themselves limited in scale and speed (Sachs, 1999), and that all people have basic rights to meet their needs. Success is not just about technology, and efficiency, it is also about equity and sufficiency. (p.20)
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Filed under Barry, economic analysis, sustainability

An ecosocialist critique of sustainable development: maintaining growth through sustainable degradation

Karl Marx’s ideas about economic crises addressed the circumstances of 19th century capitalist development. In his critique, he identified an inherent contradiction in capitalism: a situation in which exploited and underpaid workers are unable to consume everything that is being produced. Marx foresaw that this state of affairs would lead to insufficient profits for business and insufficient revenue for the state, and, thus, a terminal crisis of overproduction. In this way, from a Marxist perspective, capitalism carries the seeds of its own destruction.

An economic crisis of this nature is highly unlikely to occur in a world of easy consumer credit and globalised trade, and in circumstances where many liberal states intervene (to a greater or lesser extent) in employer-employee relations and in financial markets. Furthermore, capitalism has been infinitely creative in restructuring itself in order to alleviate or sidestep all sorts of potential crises. Such innovations extend from technological revolutions such as IT, to strategic corporate alliances. These adaptations have allowed economic growth to be broadly maintained since the early 1950s.

Another problem with Marx’s crisis theory is that it also overlooks the reality that many of the most pressing socio-economic problems we face today have environmental origins. Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, in the past 20 years or so some Marxist writers have incorporated the ecological dimension into their thinking. And if we do give Marxist crisis theory an ecological twist, we come up with some fresh and very useful insights.

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Filed under capitalism, David, sustainability

Demographia Round #2: my faith in journalism is restored (a little)

Prime Minister takes issue with house-cost findings: An international survey that found New Zealand the least affordable country for house buyers was widely attacked yesterday and its findings questioned.

I’ll keep an eye on how this unfolds (Original post here).

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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, Barry, economic analysis

Spinning the Housing Affordability Crisis: Don Brash and Demographia try shift the blame, and the New Zealand Herald goes along for the free ride.

Anne Gibson’s unbalanced article: “NZ houses world’s least affordable” in this morning’s New Zealand Herald brings together a couple of themes I’ve been mulling over recently: housing affordability and PR “spin”. The article reports on the release of an international study of housing affordability and associated policy suggestions by Demographia (full report here).

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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, Barry, economic analysis

Economists are more selfish

In the early 1980s, a famous piece of research by Gerald Marwell and Ruth Ames (summarised here) suggested that economics graduates were more inclined than others to ‘free-ride’ on public goods by taking the benefits of public goods but failing to contribute to them. Neil Gandal, an economics professor from Tel Aviv University, and his colleagues Sonia Roccas, Lilach Sagiv and Amy Wrzesniewski have gone a little deeper into this problem by examining the personal value priorities of economists.

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Filed under David, economic analysis