Wednesday, June 19, 2019

We are running out of time.

Nearly 70% of British people want urgent political action to tackle climate change and protect the natural environment, according to research. Two-thirds of people believe Britain needs to cut its carbon emissions to zero far faster. The Climate Coalition and Greener UK consists of more than 130 organisations including the Women’s Institute, NGOs such as Cafod, Oxfam, WWF and Tearfund, as well as the National Trust, Mumsnet and the National Union of Students will be lobbying parliament next week to say “The time is now” for action. Organisers say thousands of people from all over the country intend to come to Westminster to demand urgent action.

The destruction that capitalism has visited upon the planet, by deforestation, industrial agriculture, with CO2 levels changing the world’s climate has become well-known. Capitalism has so far simply proved incapable of stopping or limiting its use of fossil fuels. Why can't capitalism control carbon emissions? It does have proposed solutions like carbon trading which rest on the possibility of putting a price on a ton of carbon and requiring companies to pay to emit any level above a certain amount permitted. The solutions on offer, from carbon trading, carbon sequestration and storage, clean development mechanisms, or massive geo-engineering projects, are ways in which the system can continue to use fossil fuels and produce CO2. None will end climate change or will save the planet. The hand-writing is on the wall for all to see. The issue is no longer about the science, it’s the politics.

Capitalism is driven by short-termism in its hunger for profits. Investment decisions are made on the basis on what will make a return in the quickest time. Such a system cannot deal with the scale of the climate crisis or make rational planned decisions about what to produce that is separate from the bottom line of profits. Marx understood how capitalism treated nature and the consequences for both humans and environment, writing:
For the first time, nature becomes purely an object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognised as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws merely as a ruse so as to subject it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production”

Faced with the socialist argument that capitalism is the cause of climate change and only socialism i.e. common ownership and democratic planning of production can solve the problem, many environmentalists have objected, that there is no time to wait for the revolution. Instead they believe with effective campaigning they can push governments to take action and achieve speedier results than the struggle to overthrow capitalism. 

The Socialist Party's answer is that there is no time to wait for the capitalists and their governments to regulate and legislate. Whether capitalism could solve the problem of climate change is an abstract question; it is clearly not doing so with the required urgency. It is not about life-style choices and individually consuming less. It is all about stopping capitalism from consuming the planet. Socialists need to bring attention to green activists that the issues and the realities of climate change we must foremost identify capitalism as the culprit. For all the talk and rhetoric of a green economy we are well away from even taking the first steps. 

The Socialist Party is determined to win the new young generation to the struggle for revolutionary change which is to ensure the survival of humanity in the face of what may be greatest threat youth has ever faced. The presentation of the socialist case to the broad grassroots coalition and a larger analysis at this pivotal moment is essential to its success. Let’s be honest: No one said that changing course to avoid environmental catastrophe is easy. It can be done, and the necessary technology exists to do so, but converting to a sustainable economy and renewable energy requires both understanding and action. Saving the environment must also go hand in hand with ending capitalism and eliminating the obscene inequalities in our world. For an economic and social system organised for the accumulation and exchange of abstract value, nature is nothing more than a free, exploitable resource to trash. It should now be clear to everyone that the desperate state of the planet and the appalling potential of catastrophic climate change and the greatest obstacle to reversing this course is global capitalism.

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