Notes on dark-green capitalism

Capital is many things: security for the future, a store of value and something you aspire to own.  It is the motivation for your labours since desire for it gets you up in the morning; it is the fruit of your labours; and the store of the fruit of your labours. It is also the sign of your success.

You can have dark-green capitalism if you can create capital without damaging nature.

This means that both the embodiments of capital do not damage nature and you don’t damage nature in pursuing and creating those embodiments of capital.

Here are some examples of embodiments capital which usually do not do much damage to nature. I don’t mean necessarily in their genesis; I mean once it they exist.

– an expanse of forest (where there was previously desert)

– a store of clean water

– a state of happiness or wellbeing

– a reputation for having helped someone

– a piece of music

– a painting

– a story

– a dance

– an achievement

– a memory

– a thought

Then there are examples of capital which do a bit of damage to nature but perhaps not too much, or not irreparable damage:

– a book

– a straw hat

– a small, stone pyramid

– a football

– a well insulated house made out of mud bricks

More creative people could come up with longer lists of zero or very low impact stores of capital.

So you can store capital and can aspire to own and hoard things which don’t do too much damage to nature.

Can you get there without doing too much damage to nature? As a general rule you can if you do it slowly and use particular materials, where materials are needed.  It is best if you aspire to intangible forms of capital which don’t require physical materials.

Capitalism is good because it keeps people busy, organised and purposeful once they have got beyond the stage of having enough to eat. The key thing to achieve green capitalism is to be sure that the purposes which the capitalist adopts as his motivation and goal fit onto the above lists (which could be much, much longer).

The impact the capitalist has on nature is down to how he goes about keeping busy and what he seeks to create. And also down to how he influences other people: if he has capital he will influence other people.

Dark-green capitalism is absolutely possible.  Greenness depends on the dreams that the capitalist dreams, and the way he goes about achieving them.

You have to distinguish between necessities and luxuries, which needs some arbitrary line drawing.  There is no use aspiring to having a nice painting if you have not got clean water.  So clean-tech people can be kept busy building infrastructural capital with conventional, physical embodiment (e.g. water pipes).  But once the basic infrastructural capital goods are built – and to keep emissions down they need to be pretty basic – , most luxury capital needs to be natural or intangible.

That is, if we want capitalism and survival.

For that capital to have value, there have to be people that want it.  This is where belief comes in.  If people believe that items of dark-green capital are desirable, then they will want them.  Capitalism responds to the values that our culture and our beliefs give to things.  This is why it is so important to foster in people love of nature and desire for green things.  This provokes the benign ambitions of dark-green capitalists.

It is good if the objects of dark-green capitalist desire have some genuine usefulness.  It means that their value will not be so subject to whims of fashion.  There is a lesson from the boom and bust real-estate economy: if you believe too much in luxury apartments, too many will be built and then the market will collapse.  So it is important that the dreams of capitalists – dark-green or otherwise – are grounded in reality.

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