Tuesday, June 06, 2017

World Environment Day (5 June)

Another of one of those United Nations awareness days has passed and alo passed most of us by. World Environment Day began in 1972 with many thousands of events, from neighbourhood clean-ups to replanting forests.

It even has its own anthem to sing-a-long with:

Our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
the most beautiful planet in the universe
all the continents and the oceans of the world
united we stand as flora and fauna
united we stand as species of one earth
black, brown, white, different colours .
we are humans, the earth is our home.

Members of the Socialist Party tend to view these days where we remember our connection with Nature with a certain amount of sadness, rather than joy. Capitalism is a market system and nothing can change that. To produce the things that people need in an acceptable and ecologically benign manner presupposes that society as a whole must be in a position to control production and direct its purposes. This cannot be done in a society where the means of production are owned and controlled by the privileged few and governed by the blind economic laws which impose their own priorities.  Production for the market is an expression of the fact that the means of production and therefore the products are owned not by all the members of a society in common but by individuals or groups such as corporations. 

We, humans, are part of nature, not external to it.  We are one with nature; we must nurture it if it is to sustain us. We are a sharing economy. We have always shared. Humanity would never have survived unless we practiced sharing at a personal and communal basis. We shared common lands with our neighbours and communities just as today share the roads. Mutual aid is an evolutionary trait that anthropologists have long recognised as intrinsic to our essential nature. It remains a fact that the sharing economy has always been with us in one form or another and sharing has forever played its part in our everyday lives. People are naturally social and creative and it drives us to innovate. And the flexibility of human behaviour, such as our capacity for cooperation and adaptation, allows us to envisage and create a world beyond the current economic and political models many regards as unchangeable.

Humanity is now in a position and has been for some time, to supply, in a sustainable way the needs of the population.  The means of production and the knowledge at its disposal are more than sufficient to enable this to be done. The problem is capitalism.  Common ownership on a world scale means that there will be no property or territorial rights over any part of the planet or over any of the technology.  The Earth and its resources will not belong to anyone.  They would simply be there to be used in accordance with democratically-decided rules and procedures. We can imagine the local community being the basic unit of such arrangements.  People could elect a local council to co-ordinate and administer local affairs.  Delegates could be sent to regional councils to decide matters concerning a wider area, and so on.  Possibly a world council would be the best way to deal with matters on a world scale (for instance, the supply of scarce minerals, the protection of the biosphere, the use of the oceans, and space research). On the basis of common ownership and democratic control, the world-wide network of productive and administrative units can be geared to meeting human needs.  This need not involve the organisation of a bureaucratic world planning authority.  Instead, we could set up production and distribution mechanisms at different levels to respond flexibly to demands communicated to them.

In a society oriented to meeting needs, the concept of profits would be meaningless, while the imperative to ‘growth’ would disappear.  Instead, after an initial period of increase in useful production to provide the whole world’s population with basic amenities, production can be expected to reach a level sufficient to provide for people’s current needs and the future viability of their society.  A sustainable relationship with the rest of nature could be achieved. Needs on a world scale could be in balance with the capacity of the biosphere to renew itself after supplying them. As the only life-form that can act in a way conscious of the wider impact it can have on other species and on the planet as a whole, humans have the potential to act as planet’s ‘brain’, consciously regulating its function in the interest of present and future generations.  But before we can hope to play this role we must first integrate our own activities into a sustainable natural cycle on a planetary scale.  This we can do only within the framework of a world socialist society in which the Earth and all its natural and material resources have become the common heritage of all humanity.

Socialists work for a revolution in society from world capitalism to world socialism.  The revolution we want is a social revolution that will change the basis of society from the present monopoly of productive resources by rich individuals, corporations, and states into one where the Earth and its resources belong to none but will have become the common heritage of all humanity. This revolution can only be carried out democratically by the majority class in society, those forced to work for a wage or a salary in order to get a living, with a view to freeing themselves from exploitation for profit and from the restrictions and problems that the capitalist profit system imposes on them.  At the same time, socialists understand that such a revolution has also to achieve a sustainable relationship between human society and the rest of nature. Together we can be architects of the future rather than victims of the present.

Summer School 2017 

21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham 

These days, concerns about the environment tend to get pushed into the background by issues like Brexit, Trump’s presidency, and ongoing austerity measures. But climate change, pollution and extinctions don’t go away just because the headlines are filled with other events. 2016 was the warmest year on record, with implications for sea levels and habitats; more and more waste is produced for future generations to deal with, and many hundreds of species continue to become extinct every year.

Legislation places some restrictions on the use of dangerous materials, hunting and waste disposal, for example. However, legislators can only work within a system which is structured to safeguard the interests of the wealthy elite, rather than everyone. And of course, laws don’t always prevent environmentally-damaging methods from being used if they save or make money. Capitalism turns the natural world into a resource to be exploited for a profit.
The Socialist Party argues that the environment can only be managed responsibly if society as a whole is managed co-operatively and in everyone’s interests. If our industries and services were owned and run in common, then we would be able to produce what we need and want in the most reasonable, sustainable way.
Our weekend of talks and discussions looks at the current state of the environment, and its prospects for the future we make for it.
Full residential cost (including accommodation and meals Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) is £100. The concessionary rate is £50. Day visitors are welcome, but please book in advance.
 To book a place, send a cheque (payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain) to Summer School, Sutton Farm, Aldborough, Boroughbridge, York, YO51 9ER, or book online at spgb.net/summerschool2017E-mail enquiries to spgbschool@yahoo.co.uk

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