As much as the Star Trek universe posits a clean future/post-scarcity economy, there have been more even-handed Star Trek series and plot lines that bring the reality of things like war and suffering to the forefront. The best of these, as mentioned previously, is Deep Space Nine, with a lot more moral fuzziness than Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.
Part of the enjoyment from seeing Deep Space Nine is seeing how one of the species, the Ferengi, react to things. Obsessed with profit, they are a parody of us (sketched by the writers in the 1980s, reflecting the financial sector), yet strangely enough, they have not participated in such atrocities such as genocide among their own species (the slavery issue is a bit blurry). There is a great bit of repartee between Quark (a Ferengi) and a Vulcan about the logic of peace here, and it is well worth the few minutes of your time. Even for a non-Trek fan, the mention of a Vulcan should immediately bring to mind the idea of logic and cold rationalism. But in this bit of back-and-forth, Quark brings up an important concept, that one should “never pay more for something than you should.” The “something” in this case is peace, and as he says, “The price of peace is at an all time low!” so buying now (negotiating, while peace is close at hand) is the logical move. He even manages to surprise his Vulcan counterpart. This may be cherry picking a bit, as Quark has been known to be a bit more corporate in his outlook, but the sentiments about peace seem to be a bit more heartfelt than that throwaway line. But the attitude on peace does make sense.
In our world, the price of fixing the climate was a lot lower thirty years ago. As time has progressed, that price has gone up, and will continue to go up if we don’t respond. Likewise, a host of our other predicaments gets worse (and the price of ameliorating them) gets far higher.
- Is it possible for capitalists to stave off the worse of our environmental problems, or is capitalism just not thinking the costs through?
- Is the cost of reversing climate change so high that it simply is unthinkable? The best analogy that comes to mind is that of someone being hopelessly in debt. At some point, you continue living a profligate lifestyle, until bankruptcy kicks in. Alas, with reality and Mother Nature, bankruptcy means extinction, and there are no do-overs.
- What might make capitalists take note of the environment, in a serious way? Some companies claim to be ‘green’, but more often than not, it is only window dressing (also known as “green washing“).
- It is surprising that cost-benefit analysis doesn’t factor into more of our world and its decision making. For example, foreign aid to Central American countries might drastically reduce the amount of refugees coming north, reduce our costs, and make other people’s lives better. How might we convince people that just in dollars and cents, it makes more sense to invest (!) rather than pay the price we are paying now?