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The Environmental Endgame

The Environmental Endgame: Mainstream Economics, Ecological Disaster, and Human Survival

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Environmental Endgame
    Book Description:

    For decades, scholars have warned of an impending global environmental crisis. Yet politicians, particularly in the United States, have consistently shown that they are not taking the threat seriously. Initiatives aimed at protecting the planet are commonly seen as belonging to a category unto themselves-the preserve of scientists and environmental enthusiasts.In this groundbreaking book, Robert L. Nadeau warns that we have moved menacingly close to a global environmental catastrophe and that to evade this fate we must stop drawing a distinction between issues that are "environmental" or "scientific" and those that reside in the sphere of "real life." Although scientists have attempted to bring ecological concerns to the forefront of global issues, problems are rarely communicated in ways that can be readily understood by those outside the scientific community.Bringing together perspectives from a variety of disciplines, including economics, politics, biology, and the history of science, The Environmental Endgame articulates the concerns of scientists in a way that they become the real-life, tangible concerns of people around the world. Nadeau asserts that we have entered a new phase of human history that cannot be one of separation and division but must be one of cooperation and mutual goals.Nadeau demonstrates that our current governmental and financial institutions, based on neoclassical economics, lack the mechanisms for implementing viable solutions to large-scale crises. Such steps cannot be taken without moving beyond the power politics of the nation-state system. The book concludes with a call to view the natural world as part of humanity, not separate from it. This unifying worldview would be a catalyst for implementing the international government organizations necessary to resolving the crisis.The Environmental Endgame is an ambitious and timely book that will change the way we think about our economy, our government, and the environment. It should be read by everyone who cares about the pervasive neglect and abuse of planet Earth and wants to know what can be done about it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3939-3
    Subjects: Business, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    This book convincingly demonstrates that the crisis in the global environment is rapidly becoming a zero-sum endgame in which the winners or losers could be all of the humanity, but it also promises to reveal how this game can be won. Obviously, this discussion is not the final word on what will be required to resolve this crisis, and any author who claims to have answers to all of the complex issues involved is either hopelessly naïve or terribly misinformed. The intent here is not to provide those answers. It is to open a conversation predicated on two assumptions that...

  4. 1 THE MAKING OF THE GODGAME: Winners Take All
    (pp. 1-21)

    The “Godgame,” the in-group term for an online computer game that over one hundred software engineers are developing at Electronic Arts, the industry leader in the computer game business, is not designed for use by testosterone-driven males under the age of twenty-five. The designated players are social scientists, and their interactive playing field is a virtual planet Earth generated by sophisticated imaging software from photographic data gathered by satellites and high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The players will be able to look down on this revolving planet and observe the environmental impacts of large-scale human activities by zooming in and out on...

  5. 2 GODGAMES AT THE PENTAGON: The New Terms of Human Survival
    (pp. 22-45)

    It is well known that strategic planners at the Pentagon use some of the most sophisticated computer systems in the world to play war games. These interactive games, which are similar in design and function to the Godgame described in the previous chapter, simulate armed conflicts between sovereign nation-states. The challenge to the players is to minimize threats to the national security of the United States with a well-orchestrated series of moves ranging from diplomatic initiatives to armed intervention. But what is not widely known is that researchers at the Pentagon also use these computer-based simulations to study potential threats...

  6. 3 A NEW VIEW OF NATURE: Parts and Wholes in Biological Reality
    (pp. 46-60)

    Imagine that a computer game like the Godgame described in the first chapter is available for home use. Assume that the players of this game can view interactions between human and environmental systems from the same godlike perspective in outer space and can zoom in and out at will to observe these interactions from the global to local levels. If a user zooms in on urban environments, human systems appear as extensive networks of highways and tracks that resemble the circulation system of some giant organism. Products from distant factories, farms, and coastal ports are flowing through the arteries of...

  7. 4 THE AMAZING GIFT OF LANGUAGE: The Emergence of Fully Conscious Humans
    (pp. 61-80)

    Suppose that you are still playing the Godgame described at the beginning of the previous chapter on your home computer and the following question appears on the screen: “What adaptive trait allowed one species among the millions that have existed on this planet to live in environments that were not species-specific, increase its numbers to 6.4 billion individuals, appropriate roughly 90 percent of the planetary biomass for its own use, and create global technological systems that are rapidly undermining the capacity of the system of life to sustain its existence?” Assuming that you have access to the relevant scientific material,...

  8. 5 THE GODS OF THE SOULLESS MACHINE: Newtonian Physics, Metaphysics, and Natural Laws
    (pp. 81-101)

    Let us now imagine that you have been playing the Godgame on your home computer for some time and have now have arrived at the phase of the game where the players are challenged to coordinate large-scale human activities in environmentally responsible ways on a global or planetary scale. At this point, another question appears on the screen: “What narratives define the institutional frameworks and processes that are primarily responsible for coordinating the relationship between parts (large-scale human activities) and whole (global environment or ecosystem)?” The obvious answer is the political narrative that coordinates the relationships between peoples and governments...

  9. 6 THE GOD WITH THE INVISIBLE HAND: Neoclassical Economics and Mid-Nineteenth-Century Physics
    (pp. 102-123)

    The causes of the crisis in the global environment may be staggeringly complex, but the most effective way to deal with it in economic terms seems rather obvious. We must use scientifically valid measures of the damage done to the global environment by large-scale economic activities as a basis for assessing the costs of this damage, and we must develop means and methods for including these costs in the economic system. If this could be accomplished within the framework of mainstream economics, we could begin rather quickly to posit viable economic solutions to environmental problems based on assumptions about the...

  10. 7 A GREEN THUMB ON THE INVISIBLE HAND: Environmental Economics and Ecological Economics
    (pp. 124-145)

    The prospects of displacing neoclassical economics with an environmentally responsible economic theory would be greatly enhanced if mainstream economists were willing to recognize and come to terms with a scientifically valid truth—there is no basis in the neoclassical economic paradigm for realistically assessing the environmental costs of economic activities and internalizing these costs in pricing systems. The most expedient way to demonstrate that this is the case is to examine the manner in which neoclassical economists have attempted to graft a green thumb on the invisible hand in a subfield called environmental economics.

    Virtually all the economic solutions to...

  11. 8 AN UNNATURAL RELIGION: The Telos of the Market Consensus
    (pp. 146-164)

    The eighteenth-century authors of new narratives about democratic systems of government and free-market economies posited the existence of two sets of natural laws that they viewed as ontologically equivalent to the laws of Newtonian physics. They assumed that one set of natural laws governed the movement and interaction of people in political reality and that another governed the movement and interaction of people in economic reality. Virtually all of these figures firmly believed that both sets of laws originated in the perfect mind of the Creator of the mechanistic universe. But they did not assume that the two sets of...

  12. 9 THE ENDGAME: Resolving the Crisis in the Global Environment
    (pp. 165-188)

    The business-as-usual approach to resolving the environmental crisis is predicated on the following list of now familiar assumptions: (1) the lawful or lawlike dynamics of free-market systems can resolve virtually all environmental problems; (2) these dynamics will necessarily result in technological solutions; (3) governments should deal only with those environmental problems that cannot be resolved in these terms; (4) any actions taken by government must be commensurate with the understanding of the dynamics of free-market systems in the neoclassical economic paradigm; (5) the sole source of political power in dealing with environmental problems is the sovereign nation-state; (6) the sovereign...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 189-200)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 201-212)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-214)