Telling it like it is: news from the dead centre (3)

What's your price?The IPCE (Institute of Public Confusion Enhancement) is delighted to see its policies and recommendations feeding into the activities of research and funding agencies in the UK.

Now that growing numbers of people appear to be spotting that a finite planet cannot support ever-growing consumer demands, Government needs mechanisms to show that it is addressing this inconvenience while at the same time not challenging any of the growth assumptions crucial to the ongoing support of its financiers.The Natural Capital Initiative looks like it will serve this purpose comfortably. Indeed it has attracted restrained nods of approval from various green types following its high-profile meeting at the end of April on ‘Valuing our Life Support Systems’.

The organisers of the initiative – august bodies like the Institute of Biology, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the British Ecological Society – brought together a variety of speakers for the event. These included representatives from the department publically known as DEFRA (in inner circles fondly termed DDECFIRA – Department for Damaging the Environment, Corrupting Food and Ignoring Rural Affairs) as well as big cheeses from British Gas, Natural England, Tesco, the National Farmers Union, Water UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Economic and Social Research Council and Eurostar.

The convenors cleverly realised the benefits of including a few organisations with words in their names like ‘natural’, ‘farmers’, ‘birds’ and ‘water’, especially for convincing people that the natural world would get full and fair representation at the seminar alongside the very small sprinkling of profit-making ecosystem-exploiters there to green-wash the case for business as usual.

The meeting called for ‘a new approach which explicitly values, considers and manages the trade-offs involved in any decision which affects the environment.’ This offers a neat reminder that an ‘either-or’ decision between profit and life can be entirely acceptable just as long as we trade one for the other according to an approved algorithm put together by some nature-loving ecologists.

The meeting also went some way towards generating support for Government implementation of the ‘ecosystems services’ approach to ‘protecting and enhancing our natural capital’.

This approach was originally recommended in 2003 by the groundbreaking Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report. To Government’s horror, the report proposed the rather radical action of valuing our ecosystems as we would anything else that provides services. This looked likely to present such a threat to global financial capitalism that it was ignored for five years.

However it’s since transpired that the ecosystems services method is not as damaging to global profit as thought. In fact, if used carefully, it can be rather handy. It retains the capacity to subordinate priceless things like nature and culture to the ideology and rigid logic of economic models, to the pricing mechanisms of the free market and to the cult of capital, thus upholding all that Government and business consider sacrosanct while simultaneously clouding the analysis of otherwise free-thinking environmentalists.

In addition, because of the free market aspect of the ecosystems services approach, it can have the effect of distancing its advocates from groups in the anti-globalisation movement; an additional and unexpected efficiency directly in line with IPCE’s main policy: ‘Keep them divided, and they won’t know what’s hitting them’.

Thank goodness these people haven’t read the threateningly intelligent article by Morgan Robertson, Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky, which spells out everything.


The DFJSSC (Department of Fear and Justification for Strict Social Control) regrets to announce that its plans for using the swine flu outbreak as a means of perpetuating a high level of public fear and thus enabling public acceptance of concepts like mass vaccinations, random identity checks, DNA databases, movement control and so on have been badly scuppered.

The virus proved to be somewhat less resilient than required althoughNoses in the trough the DFJSSC remains hopeful that it will rise again in the autumn to spread sneezes and scare stories and to continue raising the share prices of our pharmaceutical sponsors.

There is a risk, however, that the public is getting a sniff of where the virus originated. This could further blemish the image of the mass-produced meat industry; news has leaked that the source of the virus is likely a giant pig factory farm run by an american multinational in Veracruz, Mexico.

Campaigning organisations like GRAIN and Avaaz are warning that these factory farms are ‘disgusting, dangerous and … rapidly multiplying’. Their alerts have even raised public awareness of manure lagoons, as well as the terrible effects on the health of people living near Manure lagoon, Mexicothese farms, and the risk of other, more dangerous viruses emerging from such places. Alarmingly, thousands are signing petitions like this one against these practices. This should be strongly discouraged.


Note: VIVID suggests that modern civilization has no central command (discuss) but that it acts as if it does, and that it should set up a reality newswire, which declares in straight-talking, plain-speaking English what is really being decided at its hypothetical, brain-free centre. If it did, we might see articles like this one.


  1. I love these Swiftian ‘Dead Centre’ posts, but I have trouble coming up with better ways of describing the kind of thinking they employ than ‘beautifully cynical’ or ‘machiavellian’. Lately I’ve tried ‘just realistic’ or ‘switched-on and paying attention’, but they don’t really seem to get to the heart of it.

    Maybe the task of coming up with the evildoers’ rationalisations for them has come down to us, because to even attempt to do so makes the position untenable and turns you into a freakish cartoon monster if you actually try to live by those values. Maybe we can find a hope for humanity in the fact that they can’t ‘tell it like it is’ without having their world immediately fall apart around them.

    The meeting called for ‘a new approach which explicitly values, considers and manages the trade-offs involved in any decision which affects the environment.’ This offers a neat reminder that an ‘either-or’ decision between profit and life can be entirely acceptable just as long as we trade one for the other according to an approved algorithm put together by some nature-loving ecologists.

    What insanity! Lately a thought has really been landing home with me: that there can ultimately be no ‘win-win’ scenario between the industrial-capitalist economy and the ecology of living beings. For one of them to win, the other has to lose. I have begun to adjust my priorities accordingly 😉

    On the Swine Flu, I recommend F. William Engdahl’s Flying Pigs, Tamiflu and Factory Farms (if you’ve not already seen it) which mentions the important Rumsfeld connection so strangely absent from mainstream coverage.


  2. Thanks Ian! Honoured to have them described as Swiftian – and I have to say they are the best fun to write (involving laughter out loud at times). Yes, they are cynical, and yet also an attempt at experimenting (without too much blame) with what could be the psychology behind all the insane decisions we see. I’m sure many, if not most of the people making these decisions think they are acting in the best interests of the majority – and are so blinkered by the culture in which they are immersed that they cannot see the wider implications. I’m reminded of the quote from Upton Sinclair: “You cannot get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” I suspect most of us are doing something similar, somewhere. Which is why you’re so right that it falls to someone other than the protagonists to shed new angles on their decisions.

    Thanks for the swine flu link!

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