A country is « developed » if it has been practicing extractivism for several centuries, the large-scale plundering of natural resources that are the common goods. First of all, at home, but above all at other people’s homes, in order to appropriate everything that he does not have or that is excessively destructive or too polluting at home. Wood and other tropical products, soya, palm oil, rubber, agrofuels, minerals of all kinds, fossil fuels, and fisheries resources have been imported for five centuries and industrially transformed by extractivist countries. The triangular trade with slavery, colonization with forced labor and the current neo-colonialism with the levers of illegitimate debt and free trade form a continuum of enslavement of other peoples, a grabbing of the soil and subsoil of their countries. They are the basis of the « development », also called « progress », of the richest countries.
A « developed » country is also one that has made the peasants and their world disappear and replaced them with farmers: those who cared for the earth have been replaced by those who bleed it for the benefit of the huge agri-food lobby with the help of huge robots that are the « petrolivorous » assistants, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, also based on fossil fuels. A country, which claims to be modern like France, destroys the fertility of its land, pollutes its fresh water, the air and the health of the French. But in addition, through its multinationals, it buys/acquires the land of other countries, expels farmers, pumps and pollutes water and in fine, exports the agricultural raw materials produced in order to profit from them at a very low price; these are mainly destined to feed its own livestock, or even to water its cars. Meat and dairy products are processed by our factories and distributed in our supermarkets in so-called developed countries.
The result is the disappearance of its food autonomy. Its almost total dependence on oil and trans-oceanic transport for its food (France, Europe) makes the country very fragile in the face of ongoing collapses (biodiversity, climate, fish stocks, ocean acidification, deforestation) and those to come, which will be increasingly serious. Even worse, our countries subsidize their agriculture. By exporting a part of their food resources, they ruin the agriculture of other countries in a so-called « free » competition, in reality without rules and perfectly distorted by the application of the law of the strongest. Extractivism being the basis of capitalism, our countries also appropriate the mines, the oil wells and all the big companies of the others thanks to a dominating and corrupting finance resulting from colonial development.
The developed countries are, by far, the first responsible for the collapse of biodiversity, the destruction of the environment, its pollution, the climate chaos and the acceleration of global warming, etc. The development is done by a frenetic search for the growth of the GDP, therefore by the competition and the crushing of the weakest. The average purchasing power per year is counted in tens of thousands of dollars, whereas in a so-called « developing » country the purchasing power per year is counted in a few hundred dollars. In both cases, internal inequalities, in the South as well as in the North, are increasing. Development produces above all an increase in the profits of the owners of capital, the real holders of economic and political power, with in return more global warming, environmental disasters and misery for the majority of people. It should not be forgotten that this pillo-development also benefits the urbanized middle classes who defend it by their lifestyle in order to keep their comfort.
POLLUTION AND WARMING
China and the United States, the two largest emitters of CO2, are also the two most unequal countries. In their image, the most developed countries, we, tirelessly advocating competitiveness and growth, are the ones who are accelerating the fastest towards the climatic and environmental « no future »! A Frenchman, or even a European, uses the equivalent of 400 « slaves », or energy assistants, 24 hours a day. Comparison made by Jancovici between the work capacity of a man counted in kWh — 0,05 to 0,5kWh/day, intellectual or physical work — and that of a liter of oil equal to 10kWh. A more telling image: the energy of a full tank of gasoline is equivalent to the average physical work of a person for a year. In 2050, when the oil party is over, daily life is likely to be seriously diminishing for the 2 billion people — including the majority of the French — who live on hundreds of energy assistants. Indeed, the price of a full tank of fuel remains derisory compared to the salary of 15,000 euros/year that a minimum wage worker receives during a working year counted in kw/h. Despite the expansion of renewable energies — whose production is oil-intensive and polluting — by 2050, waste and consumption will be history. Thus, believing that the individual electric car will slow down global warming and environmental disasters is a dream of capitalists in search of profit.
The grey energy, the one needed to build this kind of car, including batteries, is equivalent to the one needed to build a thermal car plus its use for 150.000km. Not to mention the hyper-extraction of lithium, rare metals and cobalt, which are essential to it, and the production of electricity with renewables.
NON-« DEVELOPED » COUNTRIES
In an « undeveloped » country where the person who has a job only earns a few hundred euros per year, there are extremely few private cars compared to « developed » countries. Côte d’Ivoire, with a population of 25 million, is one of the most « developed » countries in sub-Saharan Africa and imports 6,000 new cars per year. By comparison, in France, with a population of 65 million, more than 2 million new cars are sold each year, which is proportionally 1,000 times more.
The thermo-industrial civilization could only « develop » with the massive use of fossil fuels for the benefit of the fifth of the world population. At the current rate of extraction, 100 million barrels/day in 2018, this civilization will not last more than a century. The massive use of fossil fuels dates back to the 1950s; in 2050, it will be so hot, at the current rate, that it will be +3° or even +4°, and resources will have diminished to such an extent that the thermo-industrial parenthesis will have to be closed. So how will we eat without this agri-food system, totally addicted to oil? Approximately 2,000, plus the 400 energy assistants of each of us, are today at the service of a French farmer(1)! Fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, watering, without forgetting the downstream, transport, transformation, distribution. It is high time that all those who dream of a livable future get their hands in the dirt to learn how to produce basic food locally and without oil before it is too late.
Conversely, an undeveloped country (poorly…, under…, in the process of…) is a plundered country. The one whose wealth is extracted and exported, whose pollution is left behind, whose elites are corrupt and whose country is indebted to the looters, the « developed » countries. An « undeveloped » country is therefore a country colonized by extractivist countries and their plundering multinationals, with numerous private/public partnerships, for a perfect plundering: theft of their mineral, vegetable and fossil resources, plus dramatic exploitation of labor.
An « undeveloped » country, if it wants to join the club of « developed » countries — those who destroy the biotope of all earthlings and are responsible for ecocide — must plunder other countries and peoples, including « developed » countries, if it can do so. This is what China has achieved in a few decades and what India is trying to do in its turn. The US protectionist measures against China are proof of this. If development has allowed them to lift part of their population out of poverty, for how long and with what feedback loops due to maximum pollution and global warming? The ecological disasters and wars linked to these economic developments are already here. In 2018, China emitted twice as much CO2 as the United States, even though each American still emits twice as much as a Chinese, while his country, through its exports of industrial goods, has become the workshop of the world, especially the United States. The purpose of these developmental delusions? To consume more and more to make more and more, therefore to destroy more and more.
DEVELOPMENT OR RENEWAL
A child develops physically until it reaches its adult size, the same goes for a young tree when it has access to light. In the forest, the large trees prevent the young from growing by their very presence, their spread out canopy blocks the sun’s rays, photosynthesis cannot take place. If the forest were to develop like the sustainably growing countries, the forest would become so dense that all life would be impossible, it would self-destruct. What cancer does in a human body by infinite multiplication (mitosis) of certain cells. When the biggest and oldest trees die or fall, on a stormy and windy day, a hole of light is made, the youngsters in waiting can then grow and become adult.
In our body, every day a billion cells die and as many are born. All earthlings, bacteria, vertebrates, insects, are born, grow, and then disappear, leaving their place to the following ones. An economy capable of maintaining a future cannot be in continuous growth and development without seriously mortgaging the future of all. The economic system of our countries exists only by using the finite natural resources, without limit. At the current rate of drawdown, they will not be able to function for much longer. Nature, of which we are one element among others, does not develop but renews itself. It evolves slowly, which has allowed humanity to thrive in a very favorable climate for the past ten millennia.
Seeing the disasters in progress, the holders of capital, these madmen of profit who run the world, have decided to make development… sustainable. However, infinite growth in a finite world is a fable to lull the big children that we are. Kept in ignorance or on the contrary saturated with more or less true information on these serious issues, sustainable development opens them the possibility to be in denial.
Let’s resist the evil project of the developmentists and those who profit from it, let’s not let them kill us. It is imperative to fight to reverse the trend, it is urgent to move towards a decrease in inequalities. It is only in a fairer world — one in which there will no longer be the 1% who possess the majority of the global wealth, individually pollute 100 or 1,000 times more than each of the remaining 99% — that it will be possible to fight together against the vertiginous degradation of our biotope, the ecosystem that allows us to live. The book Why Equality is Better for Everyone shows this very well(2).
Only a march towards simplicity, sobriety, mutual aid, solidarity, gratuity, respectful of freedoms will be able to bring us towards more equality and thus towards a world with a livable future. A capitalist-communist dictatorship, like the Chinese one for example, or a capitalist and pseudo-democratic totalitarianism, will never make competition and greed disappear as primordial values. By being the opposite of equality, it will also destroy freedom. The reversal of these deadly values, at the base of the suicidal western civilization, is fundamental for everyone to understand their responsibility, to accept the immense transformation of their daily life, and even to become an activist in this fight for the survival of all earthlings.
Who would want to eat 5 to 10 times less meat, leave his car to pedal, no longer take the plane to go lazing under the coconut trees and tie up business, stop sublimating his libido in consumption, if he does not find a real fulfillment? Impossible as long as others continue to get richer, dirtier and hotter shamelessly, as long as the 1% do not abandon the growth of their profits, the principles of competition, development, useless and destructive consumption, power and increasing inequalities.
The renewal of our ecosystem, without which there will be no future, rests on the one hand on the renunciation of this civilization which has led to the domination of a few over our lives and the future of all earthlings. On the other hand, the creation of a world of hope and mutual aid where everyone will have a dignified place, a world of sharing, an adventure of life that will give meaning to our actions and strength to accept this upheaval in our daily lives. To believe that technology will find solutions to global warming and to the current environmental and social crisis is as credible as the discourse of our « great engineers » on the treatment of nuclear waste. Our magnificent power plants have been spewing out these gases for 50 years and technology, despite its repeated promises, has still not found a way to get rid of their immense danger. They accumulate by the thousands of tons for tens of thousands of years without knowing who will manage them for so long. But as the title of the book by Pablo Servigne and his co-authors indicates Another end of the world is possible(3).
- Pour produire la nourriture aujourd’hui consommée par les Français, il faudrait une population agricole de… 1,8 milliard de personnes (pour 65 millions de Français) si nous avions le même régime alimentaire et pas d’énergie fossile ou fissile. Bien sûr, les conventions choisies peuvent se discuter, il est possible qu’il suffise de 500 millions (!!).https://jancovici.com/transition-energetique/l‑energie-et-nous/combien-suis-je-un-esclavagiste.
- Richard Wilkinson et Kate Pickett, Pourquoi l’égalité est meilleure pour tous, Les petits matins, 2013.
- Pablo Servigne, Raphaël Stevens, Gauthier Chapelle, Une autre fin du monde est possible, Seuil, 2018.