The science of ecology gives us powerful tools for understanding how nature functions — as interrelated, integrated ecosystems. It gives us essential insights into humanity’s impact on the environment, but it lacks a serious political social analysis. Socialism can make an ecologically balanced world possible, which is impossible under capitalism. The needs of people and the planet will be the driving forces of the economy, rather than profit. It will set about restoring ecosystems and re-establishing agriculture and industry based on environmentally sound principles. The world we want must begin with actually defining what sort of world we want. We can't rely only on the bureaucracies of governments to address the problems facing our planet. We must start doing it ourselves.
Terminology is important to discussion and bandying words around without fully comprehending their meanings won’t be fruitful. Capitalism is the social system under which we live. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. Capitalism is an economic system where, under pressure from the market, profits are accumulated as further capital, i.e. as money invested in production with a view to making further profits. This is not a matter of the individual choice of those in control of capitalist production – it’s not due to their personal greed or inhumanity – it’s something forced on them by the operation of the system. And which operates irrespective of whether a particular economic unit is the property of an individual, a limited company, the state or even of a workers’ cooperative. The capitalist system is left unscathed. Nowhere is the market-driven profit system as such challenged. Nowhere is the “can’t pay, can’t have” society we have that consigns the greater portion of the population of the planet to lives of abject misery condemned. Capitalism is taken for granted and all that is being asked in the end is the end of corporations. It is just the demand for wider democracy and fairer trading conditions while allowing capitalism to carry on perpetrating every social ill that plagues us.
Alexander Berkman, the author of the Anarchist ABC, put it, "capitalism will continue as long as such an economic system is considered adequate and just". Until people see through it capitalism will continue to stagger on from economic crisis to war to ecological crisis. To simply denounce finance capitalism as the main enemy is to side with industrial capital in the struggle between the two over how much each is to get of the wealth produced by the worker class. When we challenge capitalism, we challenge it all or we do not challenge it at all.
The result of capitalism is waste, pollution, environmental degradation and unmet needs on a global scale. The ecologist’s dream of a sustainable ‘zero growth’ within capitalism will always remain just that, a dream. If human society is to be able to organise its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.
Marx was fond of quoting the 17th century writer Sir William Petty’s remark that labour is the father and nature the mother of wealth. Marx’s materialist conception of history makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society. Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of nature into things that are useful to them; this in fact is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of nature. Humans survive by interfering in the rest of nature to change it for their own benefit. That humans have to interfere in nature is a fact of human existence. How humans interfere in nature, on the other hand, depends on the kind of society they live in. Humans are both a part and a product of nature and humans have a unique significance in nature since they are the only life-form capable of reflective thought and so of conscious intervention to change the environment. It is absurd to regard human intervention in nature as some outside disturbing force, since humans are precisely that part of nature which has evolved that consciously intervenes in the rest of nature; it is our nature to do so. True , that at the present time, the form human intervention in the rest of Nature takes is upsetting natural balances and cycles, but the point is that humans, unlike other life-forms, are capable of changing their behaviour. In this sense the human species is the brain and voice of Nature i.e. Nature become self-conscious. But to fulfil this role humans must change the social system which mediates their intervention in nature. A change from capitalism to a community where each contributes to the whole to the best of his or her ability and takes from the common fund of produce what he or she needs. Competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly. Attempts to “green” capitalism, to make it “ecological”, are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth. The only framework within which humans can regulate their relationship with the rest of nature in an ecologically acceptable way has to be a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources, freed from the tyranny of the economic laws that operate wherever there is production for sale on a market. Humans are capable of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so, that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and whatever) but, for the capitalists, these are a “cost” which penalises them
The Green New Deal movement is really a green-washed attempt to create a new model of capital accumulation. All the "progressive" rhetoric aside, the GND is intended as a last-ditch effort to rescue an entire system of class privilege and economic exploitation based on artificial scarcity from the revolutionary impact of abundance.
The liberation of our class will only come about when we, the class ourselves, for ourselves, do the hard work of organising, which needs that we class conscious workers doing the equally hard work of convincing our fellow workers.