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Capitalism is destroying the environment and can never cure the problem:
What is it going to take?
9 November 2015. A World to Win News Service. The following is by the Revolutionary Communist Manifesto Group.
The environmental crisis is taking alarming proportions in the world today. Scientists warn that the rising temperature of the planet due to high levels of carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels as well as other greenhouse gases threaten to destabilise whole ecosystems, with devastating potential consequences for life on the planet as we know it. From destroying rainforests and coral reefs and depleting entire species to over-fishing the oceans and shifting land use away from food needs and consuming the earth’s resources at galloping speed, together with the increasingly polluted air, poisoned ground water and soil and much more. Who and what is responsible and who suffers most of the burden in this horrifically uneven world?
The human toll is also as deadly as it is highly unequal. The destruction of the environment is a global problem. But the human exploitation and destruction of lives and livelihoods connected to the massive environmental wreckage underway and to the ongoing plunder of resources are concentrated among the world’s poor and countries of the South (Latin America, Africa and Asia), dominated by the ”North”, where imperialism is headquartered – its finance, the organisation of its production systems, and by far the earth’s greatest resource consumers. The terrible impact of climate warming and rising sea levels hits the already vulnerable populations the hardest, and it is going to get worse: more tropical cyclones like the one in 2013 that took the lives of 10 000 people in the Philippines, higher temperatures and worse flooding that every year washes away peasant food crops and kills thousands in Pakistan and Bangladesh, while desertification and rising heat shrink the arable land of farmers in the Sahel countries. So why aren’t the sustainability and preservation of the earth in everyone’s interest? If we all want future generations to lead healthy lives and continue to enjoy nature, why can’t the ruling classes of the world agree on this one thing and take measures to stop it? Why can’t scientists’ knowledge, all the good intentions and awareness campaigns make it right? Why can’t we just cut back our personal consumption and hope that reason will prevail to reverse what capitalism’s recklessness has destroyed?
Capitalism is not only the cause of the resource massacre, the threat to the world’s ecosystems, climate destabilisation and the resulting impact on life on earth, it cannot and will not offer any real or lasting solution. Why not? For capitalism nature is seen as nothing more than an instrument to exploit and to fuel a certain type of growth, with little consideration for environmental and social need. It is the inner workings and logic of the system themselves that drive capitalists to carry out cut-throat competition in search of the highest profitability, rooted in the production of commodities. The main industries in the world driving the others and fighting for an edge over their rival producers depend on fossil fuels that also sustain cheap production. Environmental degradation and damage, loss of resources and ecosystems are not part of the capitalists’ calculation… and those costs and damage become the burden of society and the world.
Even in developing green sources of energy, everything the captains of industry do makes things worse: burning down Indonesian rainforests for palm oil has a global impact. With the Mozambican government’s complicity, multinationals force peasants off their land or to convert to industrial production of jatropha (biofuel), which later is scrapped as not sufficiently marketable. In fact, the market tunnel vision of capitalist industries and states cannot view each new environmental problem as anything other than potential investment, whether for ecosystem services and marketing, dumping or “clean-up” practices.
Capitalism-imperialism functions as a system, under capitalist political rule. These states cannot and will not represent either the interests of the people in changing the world on all levels, nor protecting or seriously repairing the planet the system is bleeding and destroying. Imperialist states are also central to organising the control over key energy sources for waging geo-strategic political and military rivalry. The U.S. military is the single largest institutional oil consumer in the world.
All the political debate and meetings that acknowledge the environmental crisis and establish conventions to reduce greenhouse gases, laws against deforestation and limits on ocean fishing, that expose the tar sands debacle and issue UN reports warning of the dire global situation cannot lead to any serious or unified action, despite the fact we live in one integrated world. Regulation and “responsible investment” are not a solution. Capitalists and willing governments trample conventions every single day. Toxic e-waste is still shipped to Africa in the form of ”donating computers”. The Arctic melt is far away from the stock exchanges in the world’s capitals, where ”counter-experts” are paid to cast doubt on the real dangers. What kind of perverted system argues for “emissions trading” to allow big rich polluting countries like the U.S. to buy the “right to pollute” from less developed economies?!
A radical approach is needed – and this means revolution.
Revolution means a completely different path of social development not based on the narrow interests of the imperialists. A revolution carried out by the oppressed and proletariat acting in the interests of humanity as a whole and conceiving of and acting upon the reality of the natural world as a whole. Socialist revolutions, wherever power is seized, can with this perspective set global standards and begin to repair the immense damage to the environment. They can take steps required to put an end to the pollution-intensive, cheap labour, global manufacturing grids of production. This will be linked to planning and regulating growth – what is produced and how – the only way to protect and preserve a variety of ecosystems and prevent today’s environmental crisis from moving towards collapse. Revolution will mobilise the knowledge of science across the world, as well as the conscious activity of the people themselves to implement sweeping change. Socialist revolution must restructure industrial and agricultural production as well as transport and replace fossil fuels they depend on with renewable energy sources. Wind, solar and other forms of power can be further developed, unhindered by the logic of capitalism. Food needs can be met on the basis of long-term land use planning, biodiversity and protection of ecosystems, developing many of the green initiatives, technologies and knowledge that weren’t available to past socialist revolutions as well as discovering new ones. With a communist perspective, socialist revolution will lead people to work to develop the health of the planet for future generations, to build a different culture not based on consumerist values, as part of one world, one earth and one humanity that has a common interest in a very different, a radically different, social future and overcoming the huge gap between oppressed and oppressor countries. This other world is possible, but it requires revolution.
Socialist revolutions of the 20th century such as in Mao’s China made huge advances based on mobilising the consciousness of humans to change society, including measures to counter environmental destruction and plan for the future; yet in the drive for rapid industrialisation to – improve people’s lives these initiatives were far from sufficient. With an understanding of these shortcomings and scientific advances since then we can and must do much better next time.
We have to urgently step up today’s struggles against the massive environmental crimes being committed now that under this system will only increase in magnitude. And we must just as urgently link the growing environmental movement to building a movement for real revolution. We who are revolted at the state of the planet and where it is headed must get beyond the more comforting illusions that capitalism can be ”greened” and made to work for humanity. We need to take up the challenge of revolution, our only chance to create a sustainable and liberating society and planet.
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