Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Shell is Hell

George Monbiot of the Guardian once again assails the vested interests who contribute to the climate change. 

...The oil industry is not your friend. Whatever it might say about its ethical credentials, while it continues to invest in fossil fuels, it accelerates climate breakdown and the death of the habitable planet. Shell announced a $300m fund for “investing in natural ecosystems” over the next three years. This, it claims, will help to “support the transition towards a low-carbon future”. By paying for reforestation, it intends to offset some of the greenhouse gases produced by its oil and gas extraction. In conversations with environmental campaigners from several parts of the world, I keep hearing the same theme: Shell is changing, Shell is sincere...sounds big until you compare it with Shell’s annual income of $24bn...Among its assets are 1,400 mineral leases in Canada, where it makes synthetic crude oil from tar sands. Some transition. An analysis by Oil Change International explains, “there is no room for new fossil fuel development – gas included – within the Paris agreement goals”. Even existing gas and oil extraction is enough to push us past 1.5C of global heating. Shell is a company committed for the long term to fossil fuel production. Shell’s “cash engines”, are oil and gas. There is no sign that it plans to turn the engines off. Its “growth priorities” are chemical production and deep water oil extraction. In the future, the company says, it will “sell more natural gas”. Shell, however, intends to keep finding and developing new reserves. Earlier this month its chief executive, Ben van Beurden, gave a lecture in which he instructed people to “eat seasonally and recycle more.” Shell’s strategy is so transparent that it is hardly worth debating. It wants to stay in the fossil fuel business, but it needs to fend off the regulation that might threaten this business. If the company is not prepared to
abandon its cash engines, it must change people’s perceptions of its activities. The company’s strategy is working. Shell is not our friend. It is an engine of planetary destruction....”

In a socialist future many national debates will take place about what we humans want and how we are going to source it. With the profit motive abolished, rational decisions can be made. When no one's profits or "job" per se hangs in the balance, industries can be looked at critically and either improved or abolished altogether. Without a doubt, workers are intelligent. While it is true that no one member of the working class knows everything, this is not a problem. No one member of the capitalist class knows everything, either. It just isn't necessary. What is needed is many different people who have a good understanding of different things. The working class is made up of people who are quite proficient at their jobs - producing goods, transporting them, organising the flow of products, as well as delivering services and assistance in many forms. We who do the work know the work. We don't need overlords.

Workers are creative. Technical advances are not developed by CEOs and stockbrokers, but by the very people who are physically involved in production and distribution of goods and services. The capitalists merely benefit from these innovations. How many times have workers devised a better way of doing things, only to watch helplessly as corporations seize our ideas and control the use of them to increase profits? Since we are the people who are generating new developments, we can continue to do so whether the very wealthy exist or not. There are so many of us that if we were to unite the sheer weight of our numbers would enable us to take control of productive systems peacefully, purposefully, and permanently.

With socialism, what is to prevent the worker-owners of the industries from carrying on polluting the environment just like the capitalists?

Socialists would put an end to carbon emissions (or at least reduce it to harmless levels) because the totality of the social interest would determine production decisions, not the narrow, material self-interest of a minority of society that is under the gun of competition. Under the present system self-interest compels capitalists to maximise profits, to the detriment of the interests of the wider society - not simply because they desire ever greater wealth, but because competition from business rivals, home and abroad, constantly threaten them. The occasional CEO who attempts to act in a benevolent manner generally doesn't last too long, as the company in question will fall behind its competitors if it spends significantly more on sustainable technology and less on improved productivity, to remain competitive. Stockholders would soon be complaining about their lower dividends. Accordingly, except in cases where a control measure substantially improves productivity or otherwise promises a substantial increase in profits, capitalists are virtually driven to use the least expensive method of waste disposal-dumping it into the air, water or land.

In terms of the labour time simply dumping wastes into the environment would be less "expensive" in a socialist society. But in the cooperative-based economy of socialism, the compelling anti-social force of competition would be absent. Moreover, with the end of exploitation, workers would be able to satisfy all of their material needs with but a fraction of the present work-week. And with employment opportunities and economic security guaranteed to all, no worker would have to fear the economic consequences of a particular workplace or area of production being shut down due to environmental considerations. 

With their basic material needs so readily and assuredly met, people in a socialist society will have every incentive to devote a considerable quantity of their working time to improving the quality of life and prominent would be the desire to live in a clean, healthy, and pleasing conditions, where sharing an appreciation for the wonders and beauty of nature is a fairly universal attribute of humankind, ranking only a few rungs below the need for food, clothing, shelter and other basic material things. 

The despoliation of the environment under the present system has made the reversal of present practices a matter of human survival almost as urgent as the daily need for food, clothing and shelter, etc. 

Though we do not presume to say how workers would decide on the finer, details in socialist society, it is a safe assumption to say that they would be in favour of their own collective self-interest. Therefore, insofar as there is a collective self-interest in breathing clean air, drinking pure water, eating nutritious food, living a long, healthy life and enjoying the bounties of nature, it is safe to predict that people would allocate the time necessary to virtually eliminate waste at the point of production. 

Thus, while in an abstract sense it is true that the self-governing producers of a socialist society could opt to continue neglecting the environment, it defies all reason and rationality to project such a scenario upon socialism. It is no more valid or credible a supposition than supposing that everyone under socialism could decide to burn down their own home or commit suicide some day. 

The gist of the matter is this: Under capitalism, the profit motive and competition form a systematic barrier against the protection and restoration of the environment. In socialist society, that barrier will be destroyed and humankind's common needs and wants will guide economic decision-making. Since those needs and wants include a clean and healthy environment, a socialist society will take the steps needed to create one. Workers would develop a profound sense of responsibility toward one another, and would come to recognise the value of cooperation for mutual self-interest, in the course of the struggle for socialism -- socialism couldn't be established in the first place without it. And the everyday practice of cooperation in socialist society would reinforce it. Socialism would change the material foundation of society in a way that would cause everyone to see cooperation and living in harmony with one's eco-system as being in everyone's own self-interest. 

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