If any have any doubts about the strength of the economic tide the world environmental movement is attempting to swim against, the environmental movement themselves best illustrate the quagmire in which capitalism leaves them. The Extinction Rebellion arguments and their policies are based on the assumption that under capitalism political parties in government can do what they like, and make a positive difference for the whole of society. The motivation is good, but unfortunately, the assumption is false. Capitalism is not open to manipulation so that it benefits the majority; it’s a system that is very tightly structured to benefit only the wealthy few. Support for the environmentalists means not only ignoring market forces but also ignoring an obvious contradiction in their argument. The contradiction is this: with market forces essentially causing and creating a sick society how can you realistically expect those self-same forces to solve it by proposing a form of eco-capitalism? The greens have chosen to ignore this and continually assert that they can make the market system a nicer kind of capitalism. But capitalism will still be capitalism, with no fundamental change in how we live and how we could live as it will be business as usual.
The main obstacle to reducing global warming is capitalism, where production is geared to profit, and production costs have to be kept to a minimum. Measures to curb emissions may increase the latter and place firms at a competitive disadvantage. Also, in many cases, it is more cost effective to import materials from abroad, which requires the burning of fossil fuel in transporting them. Nation states and trading blocs also seek to compete with each other on the best possible terms, and in some cases endeavour to protect their profitable extractive industries. Attempts to tackle climate change in the context of a world market economy will, at best, achieve only limited results.
Capitalism is the cause of a range of environmental issues the world is facing, but can a socialist alternative resolve these issues? Would a socialist alternative have to curtail growth or could it administer an environmentally sustainable version of growth? In socialism, where production can be rationally organised according to human need, we’ll have the best chance of successfully curtailing global warming. Removing poverty and deprivation requires growth, yet most XRs would argue that any growth is unsustainable. Many seek ‘degrowth’ – in order to save the planet. This may or may not be necessary in the long run but in the short run, to eliminate world hunger, ill-health and shanty towns, the production of necessities will surely need to be increased.
The Socialist Party puts the argument that it is impossible to tackle environmental problems without effective global planning and cooperation, a prerequisite for which is eliminating the conflicts that result from scarcity. The Socialist Party contends that the growth needed to remove scarcity can be green and sustainable, but only if organised in the context of a democratically planned socialist economy. One where production and distribution is based on human need and not markets and profits, where buying and selling is abolished and with them consumerism and all its associated waste, where any economic growth can be constantly assessed for the impact it will have on nature and society.
The Socialist Party further argue that not only is pollution and environmental destruction caused by the profit system but also that it is the science of ecology that explains the processes by which pollution and environmental destruction resulted from releasing waste substances into the rest of nature at a rate and in amounts that it cannot cope with; that science and technology, far from causing the problem, provide the knowledge and techniques that can be used to solve it given the right social and economic framework; and, last but not least, that this framework is a less centralised society that produces to meet human needs not for profit, which could only be done in a state-free, money-free, socialist society. The only way to green the planet is to first make it the common heritage of all of us. Then we will be freed from the tyranny of market forces and money and in a position to consciously regulate our relationship with the rest of nature in an ecologically acceptable way.