Tag Archives: poverty

What’s Wrong with Money?

What’s wrong with money? Nothing, intrinsically. But it gets in the way. The monetary system is a system based on debt,  scarcity and never ending growth. The first two aren’t very nice and the third is impossible, so it strikes me this isn’t a very good tripod to place our lives on.

I’m no economist, it really isn’t my forte, so I’m treading carefully here. Don’t expect expert opinion from me. What I want to say is nothing more than common sense.

The most common form of banking in the world today is called fractional reserve banking and I suggest you look it up yourself. But in a nutshell, it allows banks to create new money out of thin air. This is because when you deposit money into a bank, they only need to keep a percentage of it as a reserve, and will lend the rest to someone else. If everyone tried to withdraw their money at the same time, there would be nowhere near enough cash.

This means that most of the money in the world doesn’t exist; a pretty weird concept. Also in America (and probably other countries) every dollar bill that is printed, is actually leant to the country with an added sum on top, to pay back. This is of course impossible as to pay the money back, more must be printed, which comes with more debt, and so on.

World wide, governments are always borrowing and lending, with the poor Third World countries the worst off, spiralling into more and more debt as they are bullied into taking on more loans to pay back earlier ones.

I always get infuriated when the government’s excuse for not doing something important is “we simply don’t have the funds”. Yes you do! You have the funds for anything you actually want to do!

I read a statistic a while back claiming that the money the UK and US governments spent on bailing out the bankers when they crashed could have fed the entire world for 80  years.  World hunger and poverty could be eradicated. We have the technology and the resources, it’s just the money that’s the sticking point.

In the monetary system, scarcity is a good thing, because it keeps value up. There are actually places where diamonds are incinerated to keep them rare and expensive. But in terms of you and me, in terms of reality, scarcity  is bad because there might not be enough to go round. This shows that what’s good for the economy and what’s good for the people is not always the same thing.

But it should be. Money is a tool to oil the cogs of civilisation, a more sophisticated form of bartering for the modern day. It’s meant to sit around passively helping us, like washing machines and toilet paper, but instead we’ve somehow got into a situation where it has priority over humans.

This is insane.

The concept of never ending growth is also ridiculous because however technologically advanced we may be, all human-made products and services – without exception – rely originally on natural resources and natural processes. And the planet simply isn’t getting any bigger. To expect that it is, is an illusion too fanciful for anyone who has ever attended a geography lesson. For our world leaders, who to my knowledge are all over the age of 5, to base world economics on this assumption…

Is also insane.

A resource based economy 

I think we need a new type of system. A system where the focus is on the most efficient and beneficial (to all parties) management of the Earth’s natural resources. Something that’s based on reality.
This is still pretty hazy in my mind’s eye at the moment but I’m gradually working it out. I’ll keep you up to date.

In the mean time, take a look at this. There’s also something related called The Venus Project which is very interesting. However two sticking points for me are that I think having too much of our world automated will not be sustainable, and that I am very strong on culture and I hate the idea of having the world run by one central group, whatever that group may be. It is a little overly futuristic for me, but still fascinating to be sure.

 

Too Many People!

Over-population is a very touchy subject. It’s much easier to kind of ignore it and try to just deal with everything else. This post was actually inspired by my doing just that. I was posting all these great ideas about organic farming, recycling, passive solar heating and etc in an earlier post (What Are We Aiming For) and EcoCatLady wisely suggested that finding a decent way to limit our population was really they key thing.

And it is. But how?

The reason it’s such a charged topic is because there aren’t really any obvious and ethically acceptable ways of stopping people having so many babies. Rightly enough, we think this is our business. The creation of new life is a sacred and ridiculously personal thing. Whether you have 2 or 4 kids is something to discuss with your partner, not your government.

Nevertheless, our global population is now roughly 7 billion, and growing. How great it’s likely to get before it plateaus is up for debate because it really depends on how many humans the planet can support. It won’t get beyond that because our natural resources will be spread too thin for us to all survive. We don’t know what that number is because we’ve never before in history pushed Earth to it’s limits in this way. But we can assume from small scale scenarios, like what happens when fish over-breed in a pond, that when it is reached, things won’t be going well for us.

The fertility rate (number of children per woman) that is required to sustain the population is 2.1. In the West the fertility rates are somewhere around or even below that, but in the Developing World, where most of our population growth is happening, it can be as high as 7.

The problem is darkly ironic: any progress with developing countries getting out of poverty and gaining better living conditions is actually worsening the issue of over-population because although the death rates from hunger and disease may go down, the birth rate often does not. This is ridiculous – a situation where curing babies of water-borne diseases is in some way bad for the world is not a situation I’m happy to have.

Clearly, the birth rate of these countries needs to decline along with the death rate, but how this is managed is not at all simple. For example, I’ve never been to Uganda, (fertility rate 6.7) but I can only assume that having large families is deeply engrained in their culture. It’s difficult to change.

As I have already mentioned, there aren’t any clear-cut and ethical ways to make that change. China is famous for it’s one-child policy, and although effective, other countries are not exactly clamouring to copy them because of the brutality of this strategy. Despite being “optional” and not an actual law, Chinese women pregnant with a second child would be forced to abort, risking being fined, jailed or fired from her job if she didn’t.

Happily, there are some positive sounding correlations relating to this issue. Apart from the obvious fact that not everyone in the world has knowledge of and access to contraception, and that birth rates go down a lot when they do, it seems women’s independence correlates smoothly with lower fertility rates. When women have little other purpose in society other than to have children, it would make sense to have a lot of them. But when women are taught to read, they tend to have fewer babies. When they have education and jobs, it lessens still. In the West, where men and women both have rewarding careers as well as family life, the fertility rate is below the replacement rate. Family size is also smaller in urban rather than rural areas, and tends to shrink with affluence.

I will also add that although China has a low fertility rate of about 1.5, it is not the lowest in the world. Other countries that have had no population limiting policies such as Taiwan, Italy, Greece, Japan and some 20 others actually have lower fertility rates. It seems humans appreciate free choice on this matter. I guess education is the only useful tool here. Explaining why it’s a problem, improving literacy and education on the subject of contraception and family planning. Human population is an issue I think is really important, but apart from not having more than 2 children myself, I don’t know there’s much else I can do about it…

Resources:

The Meaning of the 21st Century  - James Martin

The Constant Economy - Zac Goldsmith

www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_tot_fer_rat-people-total-fertility-rate

Organic Cotton

Look, you have to click on this link and read Katherine Hamnett’s page about organic and conventional cotton growing. It brought tears to my eyes.

http://www.katharinehamnett.com/Campaigns/Organic-Cotton//

Also good news: Organic cotton is definitely getting cheaper. My mum brought an organic cotton sheet the other day that was the same price as the conventional ones.

And it’s getting more mainstream too, what with New Look and Top Shop selling their own ranges.