Saturday, June 15, 2019

General Strike for the Planet

Bill McKibben, a prominent figure in global climate movement, has endorsed the youth-led general strike on September 20th.

We are in an existential emergency of the same kind, so staying away from work for a day and organizing is not too much to ask.” He explains, “What we’re playing for now as a movement is not to stop climate change — that’s not on the menu. What we’re playing for is can we stop it short of the place where it cuts off civilization at the knees?” said McKibben. “That’s what the goal is now. It’s not inspiring in a way that saying ‘I have a dream’ is inspiring. It’s more like: ‘let’s see how tame we can keep this nightmare’.” 

Other notable supporters for the strike include Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican diplomat who delivered the 2015 Paris Agreement, U.S. climate scientist Michael Mann, British lawyer Farhana Yamin and Indian activist Vandana Shiva. 

Politicians lecture us about the need to address environmental problems, while turning a blind eye to the role played by this rapacious system of profit chasing. Blaming “mankind” for causing the problem is misleading since this suggests that people have deliberately chosen to engage in the activities that have led and are still leading to global warming. Whereas this is not the case.

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. Many experts say society may collapse for ecological reasons. The collapse of to-day's society might involve far fewer people surviving, at a far lower standard of living than they expect, but it will probably not result in the end of humanity and certainly not life on the planet. Capitalism is based on ownership of the planet and the farms, factories, offices and is guided by the profit motive, it inevitably comes into conflict with the rest of nature. Capitalism is about competition and this is something which can never be done away with as long as it lasts. Capitalism, then, is bound to come into conflict with nature. It cannot go green because it simply cannot change its spots. Capitalism is based on production being controlled by profit-seeking enterprises which, supported by governments, compete on the market to buy resources and sell products. This competitive pursuit of profits is the essence of capitalism. It’s what capitalism is all about and what prevents any effective action to deal with climate change. The society which can be harmony with nature can only be a socialist one, a possibility cannot be realised under capitalism. Too little, too late. That’s the most that will ever be done under capitalism about the problems that global warming may bring. It is entirely of a piece with capitalism’s modus operandi that it sleepwalks into a problem and then guesses its way out of it, while bickering bitterly about whose fault it is and who’s going to pick up the cost. 

Corporations whose business involves the production of greenhouse gases are going to fight tooth and nail against moves to constrain them. Capitalists in general will take a similar line if they feel attempts to combat global warming will reduce their profits. Governments, which, after all, represent capitalist interests will jump in on their side. All talk of global or governmental responses to climate change has to take these harsh realities into account. It isn’t primarily confusion and lack of understanding that militate against capitalism taking serious steps to limit global warming. It’s the central role of the profit motive. And that’s why it will take a socialist society before these and other environmental problems can be tackled and humanity live in harmony with our shared planet.

Environmentalists warn that unless action to arrest global warming is taken within a short period it will be “too late.” Socialists say the same thing, but with the important proviso that “ action” must mean the establishment of world socialism. The urgency of climate change it is hoped will rouse people from lethargy to demanding society change.

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