You can find a French translation of this essay here.
Scarcity is one of the defining features of modern life. Around the world, one in five children suffers from hunger. We fight wars over scarce resources such as oil. We have depleted the oceans of fish, and the ground of clean water. Worldwide, people and governments are cutting back, making do with less, because of a scarcity of money. Few would deny that we live in an era of scarce resources; many would say it is dangerous to imagine otherwise.
Yet it is not hard to see that most of this scarcity is artificial. Consider food scarcity: huge amounts, as much as 50% of production by some estimates, are wasted in the Western world. Vast areas of land are devoted to producing ethanol; vaster areas still are devoted to America’s number one irrigated crop: lawn grass. Meanwhile, land that is devoted to food production is typically farmed by chemical-intensive, machine-dependent methods that may actually be less productive (per hectare, not per unit of labour) than labour-intensive organic agriculture and permaculture.
Similarly, scarcity of natural resources is also an artefact of our system. Not only are our production methods wasteful, but also much of what is produced does little to further human wellbeing. Technologies of conservation, recycling and renewables languish undeveloped. Without any real sacrifice, we could live in a world of abundance.
Perhaps nowhere is the artificiality of scarcity so obvious as it is with money. As the example of food illustrates, most of the material want in this world is due to lack not of anything tangible, but of money. Ironically, money is the one thing we can produce in unlimited quantities: it is mere bits in computers. Yet we create it in a way that renders it inherently scarce, and that drives a tendency towards the concentration of wealth, which means over-abundance for some and scarcity for the rest.
Originally published in Resurgence Magazine. Read more here….