Unfettered capitalism raises questions

To the editor:

A few months ago, Toronto experienced two significant road failures. One was due to natural subsidence on county Road 46, the second happened because of as-yet unannounced causes under state Route 7. It’s possible the developing sink-hole on Route 7 also was natural in origin, but it seems more likely it was caused by either an old mine which may have been improperly mapped or possibly it was due to a void from slippage resulting from nearby hydraulic fracturing. This wouldn’t be the first issue caused or possibly caused by fracking — slipping boulders, torn-up roads, seepage from containment, well pad explosions, flammable well-water and earthquakes have all been blamed on fracking.

Fracking isn’t the only cause of avoidable issues. As mentioned above, long-abandoned mines have been a problem for decades. Our community also has several so-called brownfield sites from shuttered manufacturing and abandoned power plants.

Industry is a wonderful thing, but we have to face the reality that it doesn’t come without problems. The 1967 movie, “The Graduate,” has a famous scene in which a family benefactor suggests to the film’s recently matriculated hero that he should go into the newly burgeoning plastics industry in some manner. What could go wrong? Just 50 years later (a mere blip in time in the grand scheme) we’re facing catastrophic ocean pollution levels caused by that then-infant industry. The personal-computer industry is even younger, and we already face a dilemma concerning the discarding of outdated, defective, or broken tech. We have a NIMBY problem involving the disposal of nuclear waste. The ozone layer’s just now beginning to recover from the damage wrought by chlorofluoro carbons in just the 35-year period between roughly 1935 and 1970. And industry as a whole has pumped enough Co2 into the atmosphere to cause the ice-caps to melt and the permafrost to dissipate.

A famous cartoon by Tom Toro of the New Yorker shows a dystopian future where a man sits around a fire with three small children; all wear tattered clothing and the remains of a now-wasted city can be seen through a haze in the distance, as the man says, “Yes, the planet got destroyed, but for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.” Is that what we want?

Look, I’m not saying we should abandon modern society and live as the Amish. I’m not even saying we should immediately adopt all the points in the Green New Deal; for the record neither is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying that. What I’m saying is that maybe — just maybe — we should acknowledge that unfettered capitalism is not necessarily always a good thing. Maybe — just maybe — we should weigh the consequences a little more when somebody comes around touting the next economic snake-oil and promising a panacea. Because maybe — just maybe — hucksters with something to gain at our expense don’t have our best interests or the best interests of our grandchildren at heart after all.

J. David Core



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