Friday, December 13, 2019

Environmentalists hiding from the truth

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said powerful business interests enjoyed easy access to the talks, and to behind-the-scenes meetings with national delegations. “They are inside government writing the rules, like the fossil fuel industry,” she said. “They can afford to run these big advertisements and have these meetings. Inside the conference, there is a sense of business-as-usual – that if we tweak things at the edges, we will be fine. But it’s not true. If we want system change, which is what we need, that is not going to come from inside the conference – it can only come from outside.”
Some climate campaigners see capitalism as an inescapable part of the climate crisis.
Al Gore, former US vice-president, rejected that view, and said the overthrow of current economics was not necessary to tackle the climate challenge. 
He said: “We need reforms, there is no question about that. But alternatives to capitalism were characterised by environmental abuses in the 20th century. I think the answer is reform, and not the discarding of capitalism.”
Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Programme, said social justice and development were inseparable from the climate emergency, and that governments needed to regard both in forming plans to tackle the crisis.
 “Climate change is causing new inequalities,” he said. “But by rebuilding the global economy in a low-carbon fashion, governments could also address issues such as jobs, skills, education, health and social development.” In putting forward their plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, scheduled for next year before a crunch climate conference in Glasgow in November, governments should address these issues explicitly, he said. “This is probably the greatest opportunity we have to get investment on the scale that is needed and deliver multiple development benefits at once,” Steiner said. “This is not sorcery – this is intelligent, smart systems planning.”
All smoke and mirrors, the Socialist Party would say.  Those who insist that we can solve the climate emergency within the constraints of capitalism are as culpable and just as complicit as those climate change denialists.
Even David Attenborough is at fault. In his latest series, ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet’, he has raised climate change in each episode, almost like a sermon, hand in hand with the devastation caused by over-exploitation of land. While laudably raising the issue (and being allowed to), he claims that it’s ‘humans’ who are responsible. By compensation he usually, rather forlornly, mentions some positive point, e.g. a local group who are succeeding in preserving a particular species from extinction. He obviously realises that such efforts go nowhere near to solving the problem.

In his next series, what a change it would be if he said that capitalism is the problem, not humans per se, and that to ‘do our bit’, the best we could do is to campaign to put an end to the system.

 Similarly, Chris Packham and other television natural world presenters, who more or less cover the same ground as Attenborough, know that the climate/land exploitation problem is urgent but convey the same limited messages and can’t see the wood for the trees. Until then although our voice is small the Socialist Party will continue to raise it as loudly as possible against the cause of our misery - the iniquitous profit system. 

'the capitalist system works against a rational agriculture…a rational agriculture is incompatible with the capitalist system.’ -  Karl Marx Capital 3

Capitalism involves the restless search for profit by a ruling class prepared to use all means possible to pursue its ends. Contrary to modern followers of Thomas Malthus,  there is no shortage of food in the world today. There is more than enough food to feed everyone on the planet. Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the supply of food in the world today. Despite all that, there exists new farming techniques and innovative modern technology to increase agriculture out-put. The fact that there is already enough food to feed the world shows that the food crisis is not a technical problem — it is a social and political problem. Why, when so much food is available, are over 850 million people hungry and malnourished? Why do children die of hunger every day? Why can’t the global food industry feed the needy?

The answer is simple. The world’s food industry is not organised to feed people, it is there to generate profits. The power exercised by the corporations allows them essentially to ensure the prices of crops purchased from farmers are kept low while at the same time keeping the cost of food to the consumer high.

Industrial agriculture has driven people off the land, turned the small peasant farmers into waged labourers or into unemployment and poverty in the shanty towns and slums of the world’s mega-cities.

Some environmentalists will argue that even if world hunger today is not due to a shortage of food, the projected growth in the world’s population in the years ahead will not be fed. Of course, food will be needed to meet the needs of more people. But more mouths to feed does not necessarily mean food shortages. It is social and economic factors, not natural factors, which leads to far less food grown in many parts of the world than could be. Africa’s failing agriculture and growing dependence on imports have led many to assume that simply too many people are vying for limited resources. Africa’s food crisis is real but Africa has enormous, still unexploited, potential to grow food.

 Certainly in a socialist society we would seek methods of production which are sustainable, but that does not rule out all forms of agriculture. Monoculture farming for cash-crop non-food is heavily dependent upon chemical fertilisers and herbicides is necessary but this does not dictate the adoption of fully organic production for all farm produce. In so far as alternative farming techniques achieve the goal of ensuring food security they should be welcomed because of their sustainability. Capitalism has created a food chain in which produce can be transported around the world. Specialisation in production has been beneficial and can be more efficient for many products. However, monoculture farming encourages the spread of disease, increases chemical costs and can result in lower yields. Any rational food production system would certainly lead to higher levels of localised production, certainly to greater diversity in the food we consume and certainly not a world in which millions starve while food is left to rot. Neither would a rational food production system see millions being made ill from the poor quality of the food produced or a world in which the food produced was determined by the needs of big business to maximise profits. But equally, with a world population of 10-12 billion, it would involve the continuation of some forms of large-scale agricultural production in food, but at a level which is sustainable, rational and aimed at satisfying the needs of all.

No comments: