Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Pollution

Is there a Morality of Profit? Hrm. I dont think so!

“A society is moral if it both allows man to fulfill his potential and, in utilitarian terms, creates the most good. Fortunately, a society based on the profit motive can achieve both of these factors. By acknowledging the fundamentals of human nature — that man is intrinsically self-interested — and channeling it towards productivity through a system based on such an understanding, both individuals and societies will develop and grow.”

I beg to differ. Under this logic, the unbridled application of the profit motive would create the most moral society — and history shows us instead the Gilded Age. Unrestrained capitalism may produce the most wealth, but the wildly unequal distribution of that wealth guarantees that some will have more opportunity to fulfill their potential than others. The reality is that the more the profit motive rules, the less moral the resulting society.

I would have to be a blithering idiot to ascribe no good to the profit motive, nor acknowledge the multitude of positive human endeavors in which it plays an indispensable part. The transcontinental railroad, for example, allowed for the wholesale destruction of the buffalo, sealing the fate of the Plains Indians. But it also linked two sides of the continent — the epitome of an inevitable development. I would not be writing this without the internet and 10,000 inventions that preceded it — many motivated by the desire to make money. Societies in which there is no profit motive mostly do not work — witness North Korea. (I say “mostly” because many small communitarian societies in which there is no profit motive have worked very well. Native American tribes are a prime example.)

Without the profit motive we wouldn’t have much in the way of mining, oil and gas, skyscrapers, bridges, food production, housing, biotech, retail, fashion, banking and air travel — in short, all the elements of modern industrial society. It is also an indispensable part of any realistic solution to third world poverty — though ironically so, as this poverty is almost always inextricably linked to the legacy of rapacious colonialism.

But the fact is that the best things we do as human beings are never motivated by the desire for profit. Not one poem is written, symphony composed, or masterpiece painted. Miep Gies did not hide the Frank family for money, nor was it the reason Mother Teresa tended the sick of Calcutta. It’s not why 99.9 percent of all athletes pick up a football, swim a mile, or run a marathon. It’s not why you read to your kids at night, tend to an aging parent, or stage an intervention for a drug-addicted friend.

Here are two lists. One denotes 10 things done solely with profit as an overriding motive; the other, 10 things in which the desire for profit plays little or no part. (If there is a related consequence, I put it in parentheses.)

Profit-Motivated

1. The Slave Trade (Civil War)
2. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
3. The Iraq War
4. Sex trafficking
5. Blood diamonds
6. The arms trade
7. The drug trade
8. The genocide of Native Americans
9. The destruction of rain forests
10. Off-shore drilling (The BP Disaster)

Little or No Profit Motive

1. Motherhood
2. Affection
3. Volunteering
4. The Arts
5. Play
6. Twelve-step Programs
7. National parks
8. Exploration
9. The Olympics
10. Education

The profit motive may be necessary, but “moral” hardly seems like the right adjective for it. Loan-sharking is not moral. Strip mining is not moral. Sweatshops are not moral. A world in which making money reigns as a supreme expression of morality would be a sorry utopia indeed. Greed may be inevitable, but the urge to accumulate as much as possible should be far down on the list of traits a society should ever want to anoint as one of its highest values.


BP Oil Spill:

“The sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours …For this, for everything, we are out of tune.” 

Currently in the Gulf of Mexico, the most toxic pollutants known to man are being sprayed to disperse one of the most toxic pollutants known to man; unleashed as a result of man’s fallibility, in a near-global addiction to consumerism – it must be an environmental apocalypse now. One dispersant Corexit 9500, is four times as toxic as oil, and also disrupts the reproductive systems of organisms.

Attempting to capture the images, the lens appeared less than clear, then I realized it was not the lens, but the tears streaming down my face, in response to witnessing overwhelming minutes of beauty beyond imagination. Suddenly, was a certainty of feeling blessed, to understand poet John Gillespie Magee’s words : “…in the sunlit silence, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.” Fifty dolphin have so far, been reported found dead. Experts estimate only one tenth of species which die will be washed up. The full toll of big oil’s “collateral damage”, now, previously and in the future, will likely never be known.

Bird species of the region include albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, frigatebirds, cormorants, gannets, boobies, gulls, terns and skimmers. With temperatures of one hundred degrees and birds becoming oil covered, experts warn they are boiling, alive. The thick, tarry oil, absorbs the heat.

The many turtle species lay their eggs on or near the beach where they were born. Conservationists are removing eggs to unpolluted shores hundreds of miles away, where hopefully they will survive but another extraordinary natural miracle will have been severed. Four hundred and thirty two turtles have been found dead since April.

The Gulf’s Loggerhead turtle’s hatchlings follow the light of the moon to reach the ocean and swim to safety, away from land’s predators, when they emerge from the egg. For the tiny moon followers, the ocean itself has become their ultimate predator.