Much has been written and said about environmental problems. You name it and governments renege on it. We may well ask with a score of promises broken, then what future for planet Earth? Will governments bring the world to the brink of ecological disaster? They are certainly having a good try. Governments always hate spending more than they absolutely have to, even if it is for the purpose of saving the planet. They will delay even that minimal expenditure until forced to respond to serious threats to the stable functioning of their system – the flooding of Florida, perhaps.
The teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has scolded EU leaders for holding three emergency summits on Brexit and none on the threat posed by climate change.
“Our house is falling apart and our leaders need to start acting accordingly because at the moment they are not. If our house was falling apart our leaders wouldn’t go on like we do today,” she said. “If our house was falling apart, you wouldn’t hold three emergency Brexit summits and no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate and the environment.”
Climate change activists continue to fail to locate global warming problems in a wider social and economic context, in capitalism itself, as if the profit motive was incidental to environmental concerns. Their ideas of a world compatible with a profit-driven market economy are illusory and their prospects for reform in the interests of humans and the environment a fallacy. Profit is in fact the biggest stumbling block to halting climate change and this blog has spared no effort in exposing this fact. Were those in the environment movement were to take the idea of socialism the world would stand a far better chance of survival. Our society and our way of life need to be in harmony with nature, not always battling against it, because in a war against the planet and nature there can only be one winner, and it will not be us. While the non-violent direct action policies of Extinction Rebellion and others may achieve limited success against government policies and lobbying for legislation, at the end of the day they will never be able to combat the motive of profit which is the root cause of the problems they wish to ameliorate and are destined to struggle endlessly against the tide of capitalism. Peoples' ideas and outlooks can and do change and the fact that more and more people are becoming concerned about the way the environment is abused is encouraging. But campaigning for new laws and more conservation areas is not the answer. We need to get rid of a society where a small minority can manipulate nature for their own ends and replace it with one where we all have a real say in how nature is used.
The truth of the matter, and for many it is hard to accept but when it comes down to it, the participants in the Extinction Rebellion's protests are actually campaigning to keep capitalism going, while hoping to change its course. Within capitalism that is fighting a losing battle.
Capitalists are not about to cut their profits for anybody. Have they ever reduced their profits to provide jobs, end disease, or avoid wars? There’s no reason to expect them to do such a thing in order to stop islands sinking into the sea. That will simply be seen as unavoidable collateral damage in the drive for profits. The world's resources are not owned by everybody. They are owned by a small minority who use nature to produce goods to be sold in order to make profits. Production for profit means that costs must be kept as low as possible. The cheapest methods of production must be used and the cheapest methods are rarely those which have a minimal impact on nature. As long as production is carried on for making profits and not for needs the same problems of global warming, resource depletion and species extinction will remain.
One criticism often levelled at the Socialist Party is that the complexities of modern life make socialism impossible. Capitalism's pursuit of profits and its competitive pressures to keep costs down have led to all sorts of inappropriate methods and materials being used in production.
Here is one aspect where we can state categorically that socialism will be better than the present system. In a world of common ownership, with the elimination of cost and profit considerations taking action against waste will be simpler and more efficient than it is to-day. The Socialist Party advocates a radical extension of democracy, with a need to localise and decentralise political power, the need for sustainability and balance in our relationship to the environment, and a consequent rejection of the values of rampant consumerism.
A rise in the world's average temperature would have disastrous consequences on the present patterns of human life. The sea level would rise, flooding areas which now supply much of the world's food would no longer be able to do so. Once again, what must be done is known. Steps must be taken to reduce current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. First, by dramatically cutting back on the burning of fossil fuels in power stations and in cars, trains, ships and planes. Second, by stopping further deforestation as trees absorb large amounts of CO2. So will capitalism step back from the brink? Will it be able to prevent its drive for profit from destroying the environment?
If civilisation is to survive and we are not doomed to a return to the Dark Ages, to protect the environment calls for the rational allocation of resources and for the widest possible development of democracy. This is a struggle for today. This is the struggle for socialism. Before anything constructive can be done, capitalism must go and, with it, the artificial division of the world into separate, competing states. The Earth, and all its natural and industrial resources, must become the common heritage of all humanity. A democratic structure for making decisions at world as well as at local levels must come into being. When such a united world has been established (or is about to be established) what scientists already know should be done can be done, and humanity can begin to organise its relationship with the rest of nature in a genuinely sustainable way.
A non-market order economic system is the only framework within which humans can organise their interaction with the rest of nature in ecologically acceptable ways. Capitalism is simply unable to be run on green lines, as its motive force is expansion and domination, with no thought for the consequences for the people or the environment. Capitalism is unable to cope with the ecological challenges that lie ahead, from global warming, to depletion of resources. Corporations have no interest in nil returns. It will be the people, not business, who, by sheer weight of numbers, will end the tyranny that is being waged now by international capitalism on the habitat.