Sustainable Music


Monday, November 4, 2019

Nested Sustainabilities and the US Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement

     Today US President Donald J. Trump put in motion the Nation's withdrawal from the Paris Climate accords. Musical and cultural sustainability depends on sustainability of the Earth no less than does economic activity, a lesson that ecological economists understand whereas the neoclassical economists that run the US economy do not. In announcing the withdrawal, Secretary of State Pompeo justified the withdrawal on the grounds that the Paris agreement was bad for the US economy, never mind whether it might have been good for the Earth and the nations of the world as a whole.
       As reported, his justification advanced no propaganda against the climate science consensus, because this rationalization was unnecessary. It was purely an economic decision, based on narrow self-interest and incorrect knowledge of how dependent national economies are on global commerce and the Earth's resources. The nation's isolationist economic policies are reminiscent of mercantilism. The withdrawal decision illustrates "economic man" acting on a national level. Adam Smith believed that individuals acting in their narrow economic self-interest resulted in a more prosperous economy for all because competition and the marketplace acted as an "invisible hand" to ensure a good  outcome for all. The rising tide would lift all boats. Never mind that some boats were larger than others and would grow faster. But just as narrow national self interest led to centuries of conflict and war in international politics, so in economics the result was the exploitation of the Earth's natural abundance. Now the Earth is paying us back in the currency of mass extinctions and climate change. There is no invisible hand to ensure a good outcome for the Earth and all its creatures, including humans.
       Even though the Paris accords targets are insufficient to do more than slow down the climate emergency train wreck, as a step in the right direction they could have led to more and larger steps. The withdrawal of the world's largest economy will cripple those accords and the chance to do more to mitigate the worst of the climate dangers on the horizon. Given the US' withdrawal, it will be more difficult for other world leaders to keep their nations in the Paris agreement, as well. But US withdrawal is not a foregone conclusion. The US is set to withdraw officially on Nov. 4, 2020--one day after the next US Presidential election.