Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Our Planet

The Socialist Party understands that capitalist production for the market cannot and will not halt the climate catastrophe. It is only through a socialist transformation can we guarantee survival. The struggles to halt environmental destruction and capitalism itself must be waged simultaneously and are inextricably linked. No one should imagine that solutions can be brought about through some miraculous technological salvation — although technical breakthroughs can and will happen. The capitalist imperative is for growth — meaning the growth of production for profit, whether or not such growth enhances or degrades human lives dominates all technology.

 In a capitalist market economy each enterprise must profit at whatever expense, or perish. Concerns over the production process, environmental or social, are inadmissible as reasons for the restriction of trade. Corporations will always be in a position of dictating the kind of regulation that is compatible with their vision of the global economy. The global reorganisation that will occur will necessarily reflect their needs, not peoples. It is disappointing that many of the large environmental lobbying organisations have chosen to go along with the promise of Big Business. 

Nor can a solution be based on some form of degrowth and the an imposed austerity upon global living standards in the name of sacrifice to protect the planet. Too many liberals and progressives claim that population growth is responsible for environmental degradation. Blaming environmental problems on population pressure is all too common, particularly among environmentalists. Regardless of the history population control and family planning programs violating reproductive and human rights such as forced sterilisations and the reality of a reducing global birth rates too many environmentalists still promote the view that population size is the primary cause of the environmental crises and other aspects society social problems. Socialists have always held that women should have full access to a wide range of safe contraception and as well as abortion. Lower birth rates will not alleviate our environmental problems and when women can choose to lower them from historical/patriarchal levels, we shall continue to support their right to do so.

 Our answer to environmentalists attracted to the over-populationist argument should be that the birth-control-only campaigns are, in the end, just one more patriarchal attempt to control women’s reproduction, and that improving child survival rates, giving girls access to education, and empowering women to control their own reproduction (and that means allowing women themselves to choose) are what will sustainably and non-coercively lower birth rates. Family planning and reducing family sizes, however, is not the answer to our environmental problems. Environmentalist focus on population is mistaken and can lead to equally misguided action. 

Climate change is an urgent problem that need thoughtful policies. We should strive to better understand the cause, so we can arrive at answers that benefit the environment, people and our communities. For sure, urbanisation and rising density leading to over-crowding have an environmental impact. Marx and Engels recognise them as such as far back as the Communist Manifesto when they called for the gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.But that is not accepting the argument that too many people is the source of today’s environmental emergency. Fertility rates are down because of better health services, more education and improved status of women. World populations is indeed expected to grow but then predicted to plateau and begin to slowly decline. Nor are the new babies and yet-to-be-born babies in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa responsible for existing environmental problems. The opposite is true. It is the poor who burden the weight of climate change caused by the wealthy nations.

Nor should environmentalist activists conflate consumption levels with population size and individual consumption. Consumption of resources is an important issue but an emphasis on individual consumption distracts from industrial and commercial and military consumption who are culpable for an disproportionate share of resource depletion, carbon emissions, waste and pollution. Those placing the blame of carbon emissions upon population growth are ignoring the real and immediate threats to life on our planet, the global corporations and the world’s armies who are polluting and destroying eco-systems. Yet, the consumer habits of working people and family sizes of those least complicit in climate change are being put at the forefront of the environmentalist debate. It is the indigenous peoples and the peasant small farmers who are resisting deforestation and promoting soil conservation. Ignoring the biggest contributors to the climate crisis, it keeps us from holding the worst of them to account.

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