'Surviving Among the Predators: How Can Ecologically Sustainable Forms of Social Metabolism Survive and Prevail Against Aggressive Ecologically Destructive Forms'

Arran Gare, Senior Lecturer, Philosophy, School of Social & Behavioural Sciences (E-Mail)

From the energetic perspective on human development proposed by Richard Newbold Adams and further elaborated by Stephen Bunker, there is an inherent tendency for humanity to expand its capacity to exploit and transform the usable forms of energy within its environment. Such transformations involve the conversion of humanly useful forms of energy into humanly useless forms, but in this process energy is partially and temporarily conserved in useful energy forms which stimulate and facilitate production-enhancing modifications of the physical environment and increasingly complex social organization. That is, the conservation of useful energy forms makes it possible to develop new and more powerful means of exploiting the usable energy in the environment and for some people to dominate and control other people to extend this exploitation. Such developments are associated with the establishment of hierarchies of power and control both within and between societies, that is, by class societies and by imperialism in its many forms, culminating in the present global system of capitalism.

What drives these developments? On the motivational level, the situation appears clear enough. The life situations of some people are improved by expanding the exploitation of nature and other people, and most people who stand to gain are happy to sacrifice the interests of others to their own interests. Those whose life situations will improve are those who have the power to appropriate the benefits from such expansion. Power over nature and other people is ultimately based on control over the triggers which can release the transformation of usable energy. So those who have power to benefit from expansion are those whose power is based on this expansion. In other words, developments in society which increase the exploitation of usable energy and the control of people to effect this exploitation continue because it benefits those members of society who have the strategic capacity to implement decisions to pursue these developments. It would appear that efforts to escape this logic are doomed to failure since any community or society which attempts to preserve or establish a less voracious, less environmentally destructive form of life will thereby have less power and so eventually will be overwhelmed by those who choose a more voracious, more destructive path. How can this logic be avoided?


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