An exploration of how our global economic system contributes to the destruction of the most precious natural resource we have; our living planet by Tansy Baigent.
You would, I think, be hard pressed to find anyone who is unaware of the degradation of the natural environment; whether it be due to resource depletion, pollution, waste, toxicity, or biodiversity loss.
However the underlying reasons for the degradation are not widely discussed.
We may look at climate change, plastic waste, water depletion or deforestation, but these are not causes, these are all symptoms - the results of something much deeper. These are not symptoms caused by a few bad actors, over population, or of a lack of education - although all these can contribute - they are the symptoms of the foundational structures of western hegemony, and the pursuit of a global political economy centred around the will of, and profit for, the most powerful western states.
It is a global economic system which is determinedly driven towards the highest and most efficient and effective patterns of production and consumption in order to maximise profit, with little to no incentives for investment in the longevity of end products, the re-use of packaging, the recycling of water, clean transportation, or the protection of highly biodiverse forests. There is no built-in requirement for sustainability, decency or care.
This is in part due to the essential premise of all economic policy up to the present day has been based on the necessity and pursuit of greed and self-interest in fuelling a growing, competitive and increasingly profitable market.
And in part due to economists maintaining that it is not their responsibility to factor in concerns, that do not directly involve money, into their theories, projections or policies.
Due to this global economic policy fails to take account of mental health, procreation, the environment, or sustainability - despite the economy having the most significant impact on all of these areas of human existence now and into the future.
Over the last 10 years ethics and sustainability has become more widely discussed but the fundamental tenets of the western economic system has not altered to reflect such discussions. Unsustainable practices of production and consumption in order to maximise profit year on year has remained unchanged.
And when we consider the rate in which such production and consumption has been grown and continues to grow, and the impact this has had on the natural environment, we have to wonder what enables companies to grow to such phenomenal sizes in relative short spaces of time; in order for them to then be able to exert the kind of damage on the natural world that they do.
A small farmer is going to have a smaller and more sustainable impact on the environment than a conglomerate like Monsanto, International Paper or Nestle.
So how do these huge companies manage to grow far beyond their means and exercise the level of harm that they do in their desperation to be 'successful' by making their shareholders tremendous amounts of wealth?
The answer is debt.
For example in 2021, International Paper, a major player in deforestation due to the creation of paper - had a debt of $7 billion. But in cash they only had $900 million and the amount they would accrue during the year to repay that debt was around $2 billion. And in order to service these astronomical levels of debt they must drive production (and company consumption) in order to make as much profit as possible.
This is not a one-off company. This is how companies in our modern economy grow far beyond their means and then act like a demolition machine for the environment.
There is a saying "to make money, you need money". And out World is run off of debt.
So, where does this debt come from? Who is giving out such enormous debt?
What many people don't know is that credit/debt is fabricated out of thin air, it is essentially the 'creation' of money, and makes up the vast majority of the money in circulation at any given time. The premise is that the debt is 'created' out of thin air, however once it is repaid this money is deleted from the systems. So a debt acts like a bubble - blown up and given and then as it is steadily re-payed the bubble deflates and at the end of the repayment there is nothing left. And what the loaning bank receives for issuing this debt is 'real' money from the interest and the state receives 'real' money in terms of taxes (from the indebted company and their employees) as well as a net positive in new job creation, employment, and money feeding back out into the overall economy.
The assumption is that these will be paid back, but many of them aren't. Enabling billions of dollars to pump up the economy. Although the general population have access to loans the vast majority of 'loan created' wealth is given to huge companies and wealthy individuals, for the sole intent of generating more wealth.
This over-creation of money (via banks offering loans) has lead to the incentivisation of spend high, spend now, consume high, consume now tendencies.
All of which have a detrimental impact on a planet of finite natural resources and pollutant-carrying potentials (of the ozone, water sources, the oceans and our bodies)
And it is asserted that without this wealth 'bubble' the vast majority of these businesses could not exist at the level at which they do, and ultimately could not deplete the resources as wastefully, unsustainably and in such great numbers as they do.
The availability of these 'bubble' loans is the result of current economic policies and systems of fiat money (government backed) that enable the creation of new money through debt, as fiat money does not have defined constraints on its' availability - thus it can be increased as necessary or so to accommodate 'new' money entering the system.
So the question is, what would the natural world look like if we were to have a global monetary system with a fixed supply?
What would the World look like if money through debt could not be 'created' out of thin air? Nor inflated by overspending?
Would the reduction in harm create a better future for the planet and people? There are many arguments that argue that it would.
For, without the availability of fabricated money through loans, the size of companies, the pace in which they were to grow and their consumption of resources would all be greatly diminished, not only leading to greater competition between all actors on the global stage, but ensuring greater protection of finite natural resources and the creation of slower and more sustainable economic policies.
Where could such a global monetary system exist?
Bitcoin is such a system.
And what I have just discussed provides a key argument for the need for bitcoin, and it's role in supporting a cleaner, greener future.
Bitcoin provides a way out of our current system. A key tenet is that it is a monetary system with a built-in fixed limit of 21 million bitcoin (released over time).
Bitcoin cannot be fabricated, rejects the creation of debt 'bubbles', and is a monetary system that cannot be arbitrarily inflated, and so if bitcoin was to become the leading form of currency in the World, it is argued that this would have a powerful and positive impact on the sustainability of the natural environment.
There are many positive and powerful reasons for moving towards bitcoin for a greener and more equitable future, however it's role in removing the excesses of our current fiat system is one of the most important - our future depends on the health of our planet. If we do not make concerted efforts to define a new trajectory we will not survive.
We cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, as Einstein counselled.
We are in a time of great change with a number of possible trajectories laying out before us.
For a long time we had little choice but to stay within our broken, unethical, inequitable, outdated or destructive systems, but now we have a choice.
Bitcoin cannot fix everything, but it marks a powerful step towards a new way of relating to our world and to each other. A new means of exchange which takes out the controlling forces of those who seek to only benefit themselves and provides an opportunity for us all, as individuals to be part of a collective community, with a collective voice, and a collective vision of a better world.
Not everything about a bitcoin future is known, but what is known is that our current system is harmful in almost every way. And on our current trajectory we are rushing, at pace to the edge of a cliff, and if we simply don't try something new, our future demise (it seems) will be undeniably assured.
It is up to us to decide. The future is in all our hands.
Tansy Baigent is the founder and lead coach at The Crypto Ethic.
She holds a Masters' in International Environmental Law in which she wrote extensively about the global political economy and its implications for the environment.
She is a professional counsellor and guidance coach.
If you wish to contact her directly, e-mail her here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anja (my colleague) and I recently had a conversation with Margot Paez, a PhD candidate working on a Climate Change model, on our youtube channel 'The Crypto Ethic' and we spoke briefly to this topic. Margot discussed this, and other ideas, in her bid to reflect the importance of bitcoin for the environment and the World as a whole.
You can find the conversation here