Saturday, February 01, 2020

Changing Climate Change Needs Change

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley"
 (trans. "The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry")

The plans of the “greenest” of capitalists are at best confused and at worst fraudulent. The whole array of solutions proposed within capitalism are not working or is working far too slowly. Too often the socialist answer is more or less dismissed because of the failures of the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European bloc to address their ecological damage despite these countries being a form of state-capitalism. What every government is doing is inadequate, to say the least. It is clear that capitalism is incapable of making the necessary changes. What capitalist country has ever been able to fully meet even the basic needs of its people, let alone totally and fundamentally transform its economy? It’s not that capitalists are necessarily bad people for some do invest in green renewables and some sincerely wish to alleviate poverty but it all to no avail. The capitalist system is based on: Production for profit, not for use; and a continual impetus to expand in order to maintain the drive for profit. This requires an endless cycle of accumulation of new wealth, finding new markets, even if necessary, conquest and war. No capitalist or reformist party or environmentalist organisation is ever going to be able to change the fundamentals of the capitalist social order one little bit.

 Despite high-profile conference after conference, all concluding with optimistic statements, despite the many fine words UN conferences have made little difference to the World’s worsening environmental situation. The World’s governments remain paralysed by inertia and in hock to vested corporate interests. Summits on the climate remain ineffectual and the people on the planet are paying the price.

While Glasgow’s COP26 will gather together many campaigners and many involved will reject the false solutions of green capitalism and the Socialist Party will not be unique in understanding that this system, geared towards profits, can only lead to further environmental disasters. However, there will be a few who will be actively issuing a troubling message by arguing population growth is responsible for the environmental degradation, that the world’s population size is the primary cause of climate change as well as other social problems. Blaming our environmental problems on population pressures is all too common and has resulted in a sordid history of top-down population control programmes violating women’s reproductive right. For certain, all women should have access to contraception and safe abortion as part of overall health services. Family planning, however, is not the answer to our environmental problems. It is misguided. Babies and yet-to-be-born babies are not responsible for today’s environmental problems. Smaller family size is now the norm. Birth and fertility rates are down because of factors like improved health services, education and status of women. Reducing population numbers will not stop rising sea levels. Many environmentalists will cite carrying capacity in there argument that we have too many people on the planet but overemphasis on individual consumption distracts from industrial and military consumption. Corporations are responsible for a disproportionate share of resource depletion, carbon emissions, waste and pollution. They should be held accountable for their actions, not the innocent victims of global warming.

 What we in the Socialist Party offer is a vision of an alternative society, based on (in Marx’s words), “the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of nature.” 

For the Socialist Party, our task is to integrate an understanding of climate change and what to do about it, into a campaign to overthrow capitalism and change the world economy. Only a socialist, globally planned economy, coordinating and working at every level is capable of halting climate change. Nothing can be guaranteed if the tipping-points and loop-backs are exceeded but what else is capable of making the necessary transformation, if not the organised working people of the world, sweeping capitalism out of the way, and democratically running the world in our own interests?

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