Nature as a capitalist

Whether or not one likes it, capitalism has prevailed. In the 230
years since Adam Smith, capitalism has created sturdy institutions,
converted many infidels, gone global and bound the world in a seemingly irreversible way. It’s a hard to beat the capitalist brotherhood. But the ‘capital’ in capitalism is money; it’s about investments, returns and growth of capital. Is there a way to extend its concepts to other aspects of our life? Well, I think there is and it must be tried.

In capitalism, there is an owner of capital -the capitalist- to whom the user of capital is in some way accountable. Either the capitalist gets a good return on his investment or he switches to another user of his capital. If there is willful default, he invokes powers in the system to punish the defaulter. Hordes of people are involved in managing interactions between the lender and borrowers of capital.

When it comes to natural resources however, modern man has failed to develop an enforceable system. In older times, when the world was fragmented and communities governed themselves, there was the sway of religion, tradition and remembered values to control man’s behaviour towards nature. Food, energy and water, the three essentials of life were consumed abiding by a set of unwritten rules. No doubt there was privation, disease, tyranny and restricted rights of man, lack of innovation and change but nature had room to renew itself and remained the winner- not man. Sustainability was not an issue.

With the advent of industrial revolution, colonialism and now, globalisation, man’s natural connections have been severed. Money-capitalist has emerged as the sole intermediary between man and nature. The capitalist would marshal the resources of nature, produce goods, amenities, conveniences and services for an increasingly urbanising man. You and I, will transact solely with the capitalist with nary a relationship with nature.

The capitalist arranges to provide our food, water, roads, heating or cooling, education, fitness and entertainment. We shall receive employment and wages with which we shall pay the capitalist for our needs. We shall be occupied, pre-occupied, entertained, retired, cared for and cremated.

Everyone agrees all this is horrible but what is one to do? There have been protesters in Thoreau, Tolstoy and Gandhi, those first-wave environmentalists. There have been implementers of Marx’s grand ideas too, who we all may now mention only in whispers. And oh, wasn’t there something called interest-free Islamic banking? As for Gandhi, his puritanism might have restricted his success. The Soviets tried to compete with capitalism, replacing the tycoon with the state. Islamic banking, when I last took notice, seemed to have thrown in the towel. What is the new notion that is driving pointReturm?

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