Gaia Brain - short version

Malcolm McMahon malcolm at pigsty.demon.co.uk
Wed Aug 6 03:01:02 EST 1997


On 5 Aug 1997 22:52:29 GMT, jchampag at lonestar.jpl.utsa.edu (John C.
Champagne) wrote:

>Pollution fees:  Part of the Gaia brain.         by John Champagne
>
>     We have a problem with pollution.  Our economy treats the earth as a 
>free dumping ground for wastes.  The ecosystems of earth provide a valuable 
>service by taking our waste products and transforming them into clean air 
>and water and soil.  Like anything that is free, this natural service of  
>accepting and cleaning up wastes that the earth provides for us is over used.
>

True enough. In fact the term in ecconomics is "Gift of nature".

>
>     If the earth's waste removal service were treated as the valuable
>resource that it is, and if our industries were required to pay a fee
>according to how much they use the service, then the problem of overuse
>due to zero cost would be eliminated.  A pollution fee would require the
>measurement of emissions and would cause a reduction in the emissions. 
>This is how a sensory nervous system works:  information about injury to
>the organism is transmitted by sense nerves into the neural network
>(brain) and the neural network changes in a way that causes a reduction in
>the injury.  In this analogy, pollution, or stress to ecosystems,
>represents injury to the organism, the earth.  Information about the
>environmental impact of industry and agriculture enters society (the
>neural net) through the price of goods and services in the marketplace. 
>Cleaner products cost less, while those with higher ecological costs would
>have correspondingly higher prices attached. 
>

Who get's all this income? Another suggestion was that polution permits
be issued on the basis of some equal ammount per head of population and
then could be traded, presumably causing a cash flow from rich countries
to poor.

>     We must decide what the earth's ecosystems can sustainably absorb 
>from us in the form of wastes.  But we do not know the answer to this 
>question.  No one does.  So we begin by recognizing that we cannot be 
>certain of the numbers.  Let us resolve to err on the side of caution, 
>that is, to be conservative and err on the side of preserving and 
>restoring ecosystems for the benefit of our grandchildren and future 
>generations. 

If this results in the collapse of civilisation in the present (and it
might) then the legacy for our grandchildren is not so hot. There are
cleaner technologies on the horizon but we need to get there with
industrial civilisation intact.

>
>     Because just about everyone will have a different opinion regarding
>the levels of pollutants that would be safe and harmless, the actual
>amount that we decide on will be a summary of the opinions of all the
>world's people.

Translation: A committee.

>
>     This concept of assigning fees to the use of earth's waste removal
>services can be applied to other areas.  Pollution fees are actually a
>subset of green fees.  Green fees are a way to manage scarce natural
>resources that are subject to overuse and depletion, such as forests,
>fisheries and grazing land.  This system could also be applied to the
>management of the use of non-human animals by human beings.  Someday,
>perhaps soon, we may completely eliminate the systematic enslavement and
>exploitation of non-human animals in industry and agriculture, 


i.e. exterminate the non-human domestic species.

>but until
>that time, we might create a system whereby industry and agriculture are
>subject to economic costs in some proportion to how much suffering they
>inflict on the animals they use.

How about balancing that with a positive payment recognising the innate
value of the lives of contented farm animals?

>
>     The Gaia brain/pollution fee system will so transform the global economy
>and society, we probably ought to think in terms of an elimination of
>government as we know it.


And it's replacement with a world government (the people who administer
this system). Is there any reason to suppose such a government would
behave better than national governments? Rather the reverse. They have
no outside pressure to behave. People have no chance to vote with their
feet when the government goes bad.


>  With the introduction of significant pollution
>fees, conventional taxes not only would be difficult to support
>financially, they may seem rather without philosophical foundation:  we
>may see that a fee according to our use of the earth's natural resources
>is well founded on philosophical principles of fairness, while taxes on
>income or sales do not seem on the face to be eminently fair. 
>

Taxes on consumption generally fall disproportionately on the poor.

>    The proceeds of the pollution fees and green fees would be a 
>monetary representation of the value of earth's air and water and 
>living systems.  As these resources can be thought of as belonging  
>to all, the proceeds of these fees probably ought to be shared equally among 
>all the people of the earth.  This could be the basis of a guaranteed minimum 
>income.  Perhaps we could contribute half of our share to charities and 
>spend the other half in whatever way we choose.  If everyone had access 
>to such an account, no one would live in abject poverty, and low income 
>people would have charity social services available. 
>

And what of the things taxes buy at the moment? What of public goods.
Infrastructure. Defence. Law enforcement. These needs aren't going to
magically disappear.

How about this as an alternative: We set up an international corperation
and we give the natural world to them as their initial asset. They
charge fees for polution and exploitation of natural resources according
to what the market will bear. The money they get from this (and from the
share markets) they invest,  particularly in buying land which becomes
wild-life preserves. They aren't allowed to hold any assets otherwise
under human control. Their capital holdings and share prices are
directly related to the health of the natural world.

---------------------------------+----------------------------------
I was born weird:  This terrible | Like Pavlov's dogs we are trained
compulsion to behave normally is | to salivate at the sound of the
the result of childhood trauma.  | liberty bell.
---------------------------------+----------------------------------
Malcolm



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