It is common to describe our relationships with society, the world, and the biosphere with metaphors from economics, which has specific understandings of value. With regard to the biosphere, today’s prevailing economics conventions are unable to recognize intrinsic value to the ecosystems on which all life depends. In cultures overdetermined by concepts from economics, we are left without adequate discursive instruments to socially or politically address the importance of the work of the biosphere.
The Life Support System experiment consists of 1 square meter of wheat, cultivated artificially in a closed environment. All inputs such as water, light, heat, and nutrients are measured, monitored and displayed for the public. This one square meter unit of Life Support System is capable of furnishing 1 day’s worth of necessary caloric nutrition for one human adult every 4 months. To feed a single human adult all year would require approximately 100 such units running concurrently. This procedure makes palpable the orders of magnitude, of material and energy flows, that are required to reproduce human nutritional requirements in closed or artificial environments, in contrast to outdoor agriculture on arable land. This indoor farm experiment is a counter-example which points to the vastness of the ecosystem contributions involved in conventional agriculture, that defy conventional economic reductionism.
By attempting to grow, in a closed environment, a staple food like wheat, which has historically provided the greatest proportion of necessary caloric intake for humans in Europe, this experiment provides a sense of scale of ecosystem contributions that are poorly acknowledged under the current economic conventions. The empirical “true-cost estimates” obtained through this indoor experiment are about 200€ per kilogram of wheat, an extravagant cost compared to the 15 cent per kilogram current market price. Though Hydroponics can be used for certain plants, for necessary caloric nutrition there is as yet no economically justifiable replacement for conventional agriculture embedded radically and immanently in the biosphere.
In “Marx’s Theory of Metabolic Rift” (1999), I argued that the widespread view on the left that Marx had adopted a Promethean (extreme productivist) view of the human domination of nature—and hence had failed to perceive the natural limits to production and ecological contradictions in general, giving them at most only marginal attention—was contradicted by his theory of the metabolic rift, which played a key role in his overall analysis.
Humanity’s adaptation to climate change will require novel, global cooperation and societal evolution. The award-winning science fiction author of "2312", the "Mars" Trilogy, and "Aurora" shares his vision for how the world must change in advance of his 02017 novel "New York 2140". Hosted by Stewart Brand.
Capitalism itself is a failed utopian project. Its most ardent supporters claimed capitalists had brought us to the end of history, the apex of human civilization, where the comforts and conveniences of capitalist production would be enjoyed by all. Instead it has delivered a system that has abandoned all but an elite class to die. Amid a pandemic, in 2020, the wealth of America’s billionaires expanded by nearly a trillion dollars; the only thing that grew for everyone else was misery and desperation. The ideology of “technology,” as it is expressed by the tech industry and its thought leaders, is the necromancy that keeps this zombie capitalist system from staying in its grave.
Oil and gas companies make far more money churning out new plastic than reusing old. Meanwhile, the public gets the blame, writes Arwa Mahdawi
How we went from B.F. Skinner to China's social credit system.
"The management of the population has become synonymous with the management of waste, excess, and trash, and only those who have the ability to accelerate will be sustained and supported by the larger logistical and infrastructural systems of a new post-pandemic cybernetic economy, which in reality is just a more extreme and refined form of the capitalism we had all already been accustomed to living within."