When you live with apes,
it’s hard to be clean.Manson
There really isn’t! We desperately want there to be – but there is no ‘morally’ or ethically acceptable consumption of any capitalist commodity, full stop.
Sorry kids: it’s all bad.
Here’s the thing: once you make the purchase and acquisition of that specific thing, it already exists! And it has for a while. Most of the the greenhouse gas emissions consumer goods emit comes from the production of said goods. The capital has been outlaid, the labor exploited (it’s always exploitative!), the energy cost paid. It’s done already – and so has a bunch of the environmental and human damage that thing will generate. (And ya, this includes even inefficient monstrosities like cars – ICE and electric!) The purchase of the thing is just another moment in its timeline – and some of the things will spend a lot longer rotting in the landfill than hanging out with you. And it’s all made out of time and biomass calories, both finite.
We eat the future!
Whether or not anyone buys it doesn’t matter to the biosphere – if it has already been produced.
The point of consumption isn’t the genesis of the thing, is the thing. It’s the production of the commodity that started the whole problem in the first place.
So, if we actually want to survive, we have to change the why and how (and what) of making stuff. We have to change the structure of the entire cycle – production, circulation, distribution, and consumption. We have to make way less stuff, and we have to do it for way better reasons than we do now.
Ok lemme try to work with this:
So like – obviously less is better. But 90% of the global population’s consumption only accounts for 51% of total carbon emissions here. And this graph obscures that most of that top half is generated by the ‘lifestyle’ practices of the top 1%.
So unless you’re in the top 10% of ‘wealth’ holders (ie; biomass parasites/carrying capacity thieves/time vampires/agents of extinction) your consumer choices really are just miniscule bullshit relative to the scale of the totality of the Event. Your space of possible decisions is a rounding error. Don’t worry about this stuff.
If you’re in the top 1% – well, I guess just please kill yourselves? The world will be better without you, I guarantee it. We won’t miss you!
Or y’know – stop consuming the planet and start redistributing your stolen surplus/biospheric carrying capacity. That’d be great too.
That other 9% in the top 10%, well – you’re assholes! That covers your core-world ‘middle’ classes. I mean shit – if it weren’t for you spineless shitbrains slurping billionaire ballsack, we might actually still have a future. And it only takes a net worth of 100k USD to get you there! Six fucking figgies to being human slag, actively harming everyone and everything else just by existing.
Ignorance? Stupidity? Malevolent evil? Greed? Ideological programming? Genes? Just your garden-variety commodified narcissism and sociopathy?
Who cares? The Event doesn’t make these distinctions. It’s the results of our actions that count – so it’s all the same wasteland in the end, isn’t it?
Less is better.
Nonetheless – the narrative that the Event can be fixed or even ameliorated on the consumption end is Liberal bullshit – privatizing a public task, an historical necessity. Consumption is a transition (to the landfill) of a very long production chain – we cannot combat the Event without changing the structural function of consumption itself.
No intra-systemic choice can do anything to stop the Event (cuz the Event is the system). All the consequential choices to be made are outside the space of systemic possibles.
For instance, our voting choices are also meaningless. All we can do is vote for different flavors of capitalist stooges – extinction architects. You can’t vote in a party that hasn’t been built to a wide enough scale yet. We need parties in power that are committed to building eco-socialism and stay in power. This could only ever happen with majority approval.
Most of GGE don’t actually come from consumption – they come from the rest of the cycle – production, circulation, and distribution. And we have very little influence over any of it – what gets made, how, or why – certainly not how many; it’s always way too many. This is stuff that is structural, stuff that has already happened by the time you consume anything. Our acts of consumption can never change the how or the why of production – and that is exactly what has to happen.
What we need to be doing is throttling production-for-exchange – which will automatically throttle consumption. You can’t consume something that ain’t there – and choking off capitalist overproduction targets the entire cycle from where it physically starts. This would prevent all of the environmental damage future cycles would have caused, save tons of energy, make us all healthier and smarter, extend our foreseeable lifespans, etc etc etc.
The fuck do we need cigarettes for? Or candy? Or fast food? Or plastic toys? Or pop/soda? Or meat for every meal? Or any of the other thousands of different kinds of bullshit garbage we converted a biosphere into over a few decades?
We don’t! Nobody does!
And like – you know it’s all going extinct anyways, right?
The people doing that shit now can be put to use in the new division of labor planting trees, rewilding, trying to stabilize disintegrating ecosystems – y’know, all the necessary-for-survival shit that capital will never do at scale fast enough.
This is a political problem that can only be tackled by a mass movement – using the state to throttle, redirect, and redesign capitalist production. (We know the state can already do this – because many states did exactly this when Covid happened. That shit needs to be happening in a planned, continuous way). It has nothing to do with your consumption choices – of which there are none harmless.
If you care even the slightest about the future (or ‘environmental issues’ whatsoever) – you deal with it by educating yourself, going future-pol as fuck, getting loud and mad as hell and struggling with others – not by moral grandstanding/virtue signalling about your always already destructive consumption choices.
We’re all biosphere terminators as long as we’re doing capitalism. The only ethical points left are gained by stopping accumulation, and stopping the accumulators.
They only do it because we don’t stop them.
We have to figure out how to produce-for-use, not exchange – where ‘use’ here is probably going to be defined as ‘necessary for the reproduction of the social project’s conditions’ – survival. (Defining and implementing this will entail an ongoing political struggle that we’ll all need to participate in – democratic control over production is the only definition of democracy that means anything). I’m gonna say it’s looking like – bumping those assclown 10%ers down a notch and capping individual consumption (by production throttling) at somewhere around where the other 90% live would be a decent start.
It’d be fun too. And better for everyone. Let’s do it!
Ultimately, a significant portion of our division of labor and energy output needs to be redirected towards infrastructure overhaul, redesigning agriculture and re-terraformation. (Otherwise, this civilization is finished – in your expected lifespan, if you’re under 40). Capitalism cannot and will never do this – especially in its current schlerotic state.
The only way to change the division of labor is together.
Start thinking about that shit, rather than beating yourself up over the amoral but still always unethical necessity of the consumption of capitalist commodities.
When it comes to consumption choices:
all are bad,
less is better,
and giving it all up
just for a chance
to die in a revolution