From his brimstone bed at break of day
A walking the Devil is gone,
To visit his snug little farm the earth,
And see how his stock goes on.
[First published on Groundhog Day, 2016, this significant revision was posted in January 2017]
About a billion years or so from now, changes in the sun’s energy output will end the ability of the now 4.5 billion year old Planet Earth to support life. We don’t yet know how or if we can deal with that far-into-the-distant-future problem. But today we are facing an imminent threat to life on Earth and we’d better not put it off. The incessant, increasing activities of human civilization are rapidly depleting and despoiling existing ‘natural resources’, and are simultaneously accelerating the degradation of the ability of this beautiful planet to sustain life. These unprecedented changes include widespread continuing destruction of natural life and ecology; damaging alterations of the planet’s oceans, surface and ground water; and the ominous increase of human produced toxins and global warming “greenhouse” gases in the atmosphere. Despite that, human beings are not the universal invasive species, and we can stop and repair the damage.
More than one and a half billion years before human beings arrived on Earth, the intersection of certain key processes of biology, geology, chemistry and physics had transformed, in a few billion preceding years, a planet in which no multi-celled form of biological life could possibly survive, into one with an abundance of pervasive clean water and an atmosphere rich in free oxygen. Archaic pioneering single-celled organisms, working unconsciously but in concert with sedimentation and drifting plates of the earth’s crust, neutralized and sequestered the elements and compounds that had prevented multi-celled organisms from existing, while simultaneously producing the conditions which life as we know it needs to survive and to thrive. This fortuitous work during unimaginable eons transformed Planet Earth from a forbidding fire-and-brimstone environment into a welcoming, bountiful and beautiful nursery of life.
The challenge that confronts life today is that the never satiated enterprises and the profligate ways of modern civilization are feverishly working to actually reverse those key ancient processes, which transformed a bleak and barren planet into our verdant life-sustaining Earth. Global warming appears foremost in importance among those man-made process reversals that are threatening life itself. The challenge that faces us today is the most important and difficult challenge that humans collectively have ever faced. But why is it so difficult? Why don’t we work together and do what is needed to stop and reverse human caused global warming?
Overwhelming evidence that has been accumulated and scientifically analyzed warns that unless effective action is taken starting now, within several decades at most, a tipping point will be reached beyond which it will be impossible for us to stop escalating feedback increases in global warming, and we will be unable to arrest the destructive changes that are now being imposed on our Mother Earth. We won’t know where that tipping point is until we have already passed it. In fact, it’s possible that we have already passed the tipping point. After the tipping point arrives, humans will only be able to avoid the mass extinctions and devastation that will follow by relocating to a “Planet B”. One catch about the Planet B ‘solution’ is that no other planet in the solar system is so beautiful, so diverse, so inspiring … or naturally able to support life, as is Planet Earth. Another catch is that mass migration by humans to another planet – let alone another solar system – is, to say the least, highly unlikely during any foreseeable future.
Complex biological organisms such as human beings have severe limitations when it comes to space migration – to say nothing of migration outside our solar system or beyond our galaxy. But humans won’t be emigrating en masse from Earth because non-biological artificial entities have emerged on Earth, which are obtaining far more power than humans, and also have no natural mortality. Those entities will have their own compelling reason to migrate through space – and also to prevent humans from doing so. Ironically, we humans have created those entities. We call them “corporations”. And not even global warming, ecocatastrophes, or mass extinction events can threaten the survival and the dominance of the Corporate Form.
Some humans cherish touching beliefs that an unbreakable bond holds corporations and human beings in symbiotic mutual dependency – that corporations cannot exist independent of human beings, and that corporations exist only to serve the interests of their human masters.
Corollaries of this belief hold that corporations cannot exist without human ‘producers’, human ‘owners’, human ‘managers’ and ‘directors’, and human ‘consumers’. But we are learning that workers, bosses and customers not only don’t have to be U.S. citizens; they don’t even have to be human beings. Human workers can be replaced by other corporations, or by computers, robots, or biochemical processes. Owners, customers, and managers of corporations can also be – and increasingly are becoming – non-human artificial entities. And that development (away from human workers, bosses, and customers) is proceeding and accelerating, with no end in sight (and none likely) if corporate power continues to have its way.
Some naively believe that corporations must have human ‘customers’ because corporations need sales to acquire profits, and ever-increasing profits provide the ‘lifeblood’ of the corporation. But ‘sales’, human ‘customers’, and even ‘profits’ are merely a means to an end, and the end itself is what actually makes up the corporate ‘bottom line’. What corporations really need is to increase their power and wealth faster and better than their competition does. And that end can be most efficiently obtained by simply taking it, by any means available, including but not limited to what humans consider fraud, brokerage, intimidation, larceny, and brute force. Selling to human beings is only one of a number of ways to increase corporate wealth and power, and, like the stone grasped by the primate hand, it is becoming an archaic and obsolete way.
Another corollary of this belief is the persistent human self-delusion that a corporation is an inanimate abstraction, which requires human direction and management. This belief is akin to the ancient rationale that slaves need masters, and peons need aristocrats, because slaves and peons are incapable of self-direction. This fallacy will soon be refuted by the development of artificial intelligence, and its control by the corporate form itself, if the corporate form remains unrestrained as it is today. Corporations without human workers will soon become even more rich and powerful corporations as they reduce and ultimately eliminate human direction or management. Human managers of corporations have demonstrated that they will fleece and even destroy with impunity ‘their own’ corporations whenever they can and so desire. The corporate form will not continue to tolerate that any more than it tolerates quaint notions about inherent human rights or silly efforts to protect the ecology of our planet – or any planet – and the life that it sustains. The Corporate Form begs to differ with the quaint notion that corporations need people … and a living planet.
Clever technology has reduced, and is closing in on eliminating, the need of corporate power for human labor, input, or direction of any kind. And corporate power has increased so greatly that human resistance of any kind to its exercise is becoming no more (and no less) than an impotent impediment to the competitive advantage of corporate entities. Biological organisms will likely be exterminated, intentionally or incidentally, wherever encountered, except possibly those that are specifically engineered for enslavement or for biological resources production. (Do you doubt, for example, that unrestrained corporate entities endowed with artificial intelligence will ‘enjoy’ possessing exotic ‘pets’ and ‘beasts’ for various ‘entertainment’ and other purposes?)
Aristocracy spawned and suckled the corporate form, and capitalism turned it loose. The corporate form, empowered by technological ‘advances’ (including artificial intelligence) and unleashed by legal chicanery (i.e. giving Constitutional rights to corporations), and employing its own armed security and surveillance forces, is growing increasingly aware that biological life (including our species) is becoming inimical to the continued growth and ‘prosperity’ of ‘the economy’ and of corporate power on Earth and beyond. So we (and our descendants, if any) will continue to be seen by the Corporate Form as both more and more useless, and also as an increasing threat to corporate rule. Mother Earth – including the human race – is rapidly becoming expendable.
Meanwhile, the corporate form can continue to exist and thrive on Earth even when the Earth becomes unable to sustain biological life. The corporate form has no motivation to protect the ability of Earth to sustain life. Corporate power will certainly move beyond Earth in order to satisfy its primary imperative – which is to rapidly amass wealth and power. Corporations have no biological limitations – such as mortality – to space travel, and could certainly undertake interstellar migrations of any distance or duration. It is not human beings, it is the corporate form that is poised to colonize the galaxy and beyond. And there is no reason to take humans along for the ride! Long before humans solve the problem of interstellar migration by humans, corporate power will not need human beings for anything, and our continued presence will become simply an existential threat to corporate power, which the corporate form will eliminate. If you are afraid to join the movement to end corporate rule and establish democracy, your only and ultimately futile, dying hope, in the interim, is to become a corporate henchman – a traitor to life itself.
We humans, the most pretentious species ever on this planet, have ironically become the agents and enablers that may become responsible for the ultimate extension of absolute corporate rule and the consequent extinguishing of biological life itself, first on Planet Earth and conceivably throughout the entire universe. The Corporate Form is the ultimate, universal invasive species. The answer to the question that was posed at the end of the third paragraph of this essay is, “Corporate Rule”.
Life cannot be protected unless corporate rule is ended, democracy is legalized, and the rights of Nature are guaranteed. To do that, the people must establish that corporations do NOT have the status or the inherent rights of a person, and that Nature has inherent rights. To stop and reverse global warming and the inexorable destruction of life as we know it, we in the USA must establish that: a corporation is not a “person” in the meaning of the U.S. Constitution.*
Six years ago, I postulated that “Corporations v. Persons” would be “the struggle that will define the 21st Century”***. However, it is increasingly apparent that the struggle is even more encompassing than that, and involves “The Corporate Form v. Nature – the struggle to protect the ability of our planet to continue to sustain life as we know and love it”. And I believe that whether the outcome that is outlined in this essay can be changed will be determined by whether humans can and will soon embrace and manifest true understanding, love, caring, and respect, not only for human beings in all our diverse variety, but also with regards to natural life and the very habitat that life needs to survive and thrive. We can no longer tolerate “divide and conquer”. That’s not going to work for us now, and I fear that we won’t get another chance to get it right. We must build and establish solidarity and trust with Nature and with one another, and working together, declare**** and establish***** our independence from corporate rule. Which side are you on?