Saturday, August 22, 2015

Green New Zealand?

In just 100 days or so, world leaders will gather in Paris for the COP21 climate change talks. The urgent need for action to reduce CO2 emissions and stop global warming was recently described by both Barack Obama and Pope Francis as a “moral imperative” and summed up by President Obama who said: “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, and the last generation to be able to do something about it.”

New Zealand’s recently-announced climate change target are the second weakest of nine countries and regions. Only Canada will take a less ambitious goal to the United Nations December climate change conference in Paris. Even the carbon tax-scrapping Australians promise to do more than New Zealand to address climate change. Of the nine countries, New Zealand has the slowest greenhouse gas reductions planned for the decade beginning in 2020 decade.

Victoria University climate change scientist James Renwick said it was disappointing to see New Zealand could not even match the commitment of Australia, let alone the European Union’s goal to cut 40% from its emissions by 2030. “Australia are not actually doing particularly well either, but New Zealand is doing worse. It is not a good look. New Zealand already has a rather poor reputation in these meetings and negotiations, in my understanding.” The comparisons contradicted the government’s description of its target as “fair and ambitious”, Renwick said “It’s unimpressive and it is not fair, because it is not fair on future generations. As this becomes more and more important, this is going to hurt us, economically.”

Paul Young, co-founder of Generation Zero, said “New Zealand’s emissions are growing and the ministry for the environment tells us we’ll be nowhere near our target by 2030 under current policies. It would look even worse for New Zealand if you took that into account. Even if we had a plan to meet these weak pledges, we’d be in a much better position.”

Let’s cut to the chase, civilisation as we know it is coming to an end unless urgent action is taken. We are doomed and our time on this planet is rapidly approaching its endgame. The capitalist structures of society, and the foundations that our economic system and way of life are built on, are completely unsustainable. We are blindly and seemingly willingly accelerating towards our own self-destruction as a species. Many may think that this is an exaggeration and little more than a depressing dystopian look to the future.

The rising global temperature on both land and in the sea impacts on every living thing on this and it is caused by increasing levels of C02 in the atmosphere and has numerous knock on effects. New Scientist reported that a 2 degree rise in global temperatures would see water availability drop by 20-30%, crop yields in Africa drop by 5-10%, 40-60 million more people exposed to malaria in Africa, 10 million more people affected by coastal flooding, Arctic animal species will begin to die out, and Greenland’s ice sheet could melt permanently.
The UN has said that “desertification is a phenomenon that ranks among the greatest environmental challenges of our time.” Through unsustainable farming practices and through the impacts of climate change, more and more arable land is lost each year. It is occurring at “30 to 35 times the historical rate” and causes 12 million hectares of land to be lost every year. That is 23 hectares every minute with a single hectare being roughly the size of a rugby pitch. 1.5 billion people are currently affected by desertification.
With capitalist society’s relentless drive for bigger, better and more expensive, we have taken the phrase “out with the old, in with the new” to an unparalleled stage. Human waste and pollution has turned enormous parts of our Earth into dumping grounds of last seasons’ commodities. Its detrimental effect can be seen across the globe. Scientists from the US, France, Chile, Australia and New Zealand have found that there are “more than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes… floating in the world’s oceans”. On the island of Midway, more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continent, birds are found dead with plastic in their stomachs.
In March of this year, The Observer reported that the “fresh water shortage will cause the next great global crisis”. Though typically many see this problem as an issue for the developing world, Californians can attest to the fact that it is a concern for us all. The state is now in its fourth year of drought and cities and towns are being urged to cut back on their water usage by 35%. The crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, recently admitted: “For us, water is now more important than oil.”
There are also increasing number of floods each year, more numerous and more violent tropical storms and cyclones, droughts, the threat of volcanic explosions, earthquakes, rising sea levels, soil erosion, coral reef destruction, ocean acidification, nuclear waste, and unsustainable and damaging human farming methods.

The World Socialist Party (New Zealand) would love to write about the coming global social revolution, but realistically it seems more likely that the world will collapse rather than capitalism being overthrown. Our society and our way of life need to be in harmony with nature, not always battling against it, because in a fight against Earth and Nature there can only be one winner, and it will not be us. There are so many ongoing signs that the planet is heating up, even “on fire” when one reads the reports of raging forest-fires around the globe. Globally, surface temperatures have been setting record highs. Human-induced climate change is relentless. As the WSP(NZ) continually point out, to pollute or not, is a matter of the impacts on profits, and that alone. It does not take much digging to unearth the direct relation between a system of production for profit and a whole range of problems. This is particularly clear in the case of environmental problems. Capitalism is all about capital accumulation and the insatiable pursuit of profit is naturally accompanied by tremendous waste and destruction. If there are profits to be gained, capitalists are not too bothered by the long-term, or even short-term, consequences for other people or future generations. Political leaders lecture about the need to address environmental problems, while turning a blind eye to the role played by this rapacious system of profit chasing. Capitalism is a blind process of profit accumulation. It doesn't understand moral arguments. The functionaries of capitalism serve a supremely ignorant master. New Zealand political leaders are never going to challenge the thing they most believe in. They will still be making their bogus hot-air speeches while the world burns round them.

The survival of humanity depends upon the victory of the working class over the ruling class. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chair R. K. Pachauri, said “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change...Addressing climate change will not be possible if individual agents advance their own interests independently; it can only be achieved through cooperative responses, including international cooperation.”

The threat of global warming is clearly a global problem that can only be dealt with by co-ordinated action at a world level. But this is not going to happen under capitalism. As a system involving competition between profit-seeking corporations backed up by their protective nation-states, it is inherently incapable of world-wide cooperation. So it’s not going to happen. There is not going to be any coordinated world action to deal with global warming as long as capitalism is allowed to continue. Something will be done but it is bound to be too little, too late. Individuals do have some responsibility in the matter. Capitalism - the cause of the problem - only continues in the end because people put up with it. Effective remedial action will only be possible within the framework of a united world which can only be possible on the basis of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources being the common heritage of all humanity. A growing consciousness that we are all inhabitants of a single world, that we share the globe in common despite our different languages and cultures, is essential if we are to tackle ecological problems such as global warming. What is required is association with the other peoples of the world, on the basis of socialism. What is required is world socialism where the Earth's resources will be owned in common and democratically controlled through various inter-linked administrative and decision-making bodies at world, regional and local levels. A system without money and the profit motive in which the interests and needs of all are paramount. In such a system the challenge of the human impact on the environment can be seriously addressed for the first time. People and not money will control the world and steer the direction of social progress.
Think globally, act locally, we hear many sincere voices within the green movement say. Anyone who follows the news cannot help but think globally. We are up against a global system which can only be effectively and lastingly dealt with at that same level. The urgent need for world co-operation in dealing with the problems of world energy supply cannot be realised within the social productive relations and the existing economic framework. It is completely impossible under capitalism for humanity to use the earth's resources for the benefit of all people. Yet there is in fact no barrier presented by any alleged inability of people to co-operate in their mutual interests. On the contrary, this ability to co-operate is universal. This movement already exists as the movement for world socialism. It is vital that those who see the need for world co-operation in dealing with the problems facing all of humanity should join its ranks to swell its voice of sanity and thereby contribute to the work of preparing practical programmes of action which could be implemented once the socialist political objective is achieved. This political objective is one of democratically gaining political control with a view to taking the means of production and the earth's resources out of the hands of the world's capitalist class and placing them at the free disposal of the whole world's community. In the long run, humanity's greatest productive resource lies in the innovative genius of our species. The essential problem is one of how to establish a society in which this genius can find its fullest expression directly for human needs.

So perhaps not all hope is lost.

WSP(NZ) website:

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