Monday, December 07, 2009

Climate Change or Change the System

Capitalism is based on ownership and control by the minority capitalist class, ruthless exploitation of the majority for profit, and thus competition. In this system, the nation state is a mechanism used by capitalists to protect – and extend – their dominion as owners and rulers, and this has always led to international strife. As resources dwindle, due to pollution, over-exploitation and climate change - or easily accessible supplies (those that are profitable) are used up - competition and thus conflict can be expected to intensify. As long as capitalism continues the working class will continue to be exploited for profit, and the system will continue to give rise to waste, war, poverty and famine. The capitalist class will continue to claim that the aim of their actions is to relieve us of these dire conditions, whereas in actual fact their profit-making policies only perpetuate them.

It is by no means unknown for a society to collapse for ecological reasons, which is to say, because it did not treat its environment with care. By ‘collapse’ here is meant a drastic reduction in living standards and population, not that everybody who lives in a certain place dies. The collapse of present-day society, then, might involve far fewer people surviving and at a far lower standard of living, but it would not result in the end of humanity and certainly not of the planet on which we live. Yet how likely is it that there will be a societal collapse caused by climate change or other ecological factors?

Energy production and global warming being so integrated as closely as they could be in capitalist production combatting them would not be a mere matter of changes in , say , the manufacture of aerosols and CFCs , but of changing something which is part and parcel of the capitalist system and on which all companies depend. No company will take action which endangers their profits, just as no government will pass legislation that puts the capitalists whose interests they represent at a disadvantage. Capitalism is about competition and profit-making, and this is something which can never be done away with as long as it lasts. The threat of global warming is clearly a global problem that can only be dealt with by co-ordinated action at world level. But this is not going to happen under capitalism. As a system involving competition between profit-seeking corporations backed up by their protecting states, it is inherently incapable of world-wide cooperation.

With “unseasonal” droughts, “exceptional” heat-waves, “record breaking” cold snaps, “increasing” typhoons, “freakish” floods reinforcing a justifiably growing sense of alarm, the world’s captains of capitalism are being forced reluctantly to dine at well-stocked conference table after conference table in order to put aside their nationalist differences and ask how in blazes they are going to continue to stay in power when climate change is going to cause chaos and anarchy and they are all going to be murdered in their beds by starving rioting populations and climate refugees. But there is not going to be any coordinated world action to deal with global warming . Something will be done but it is bound to be too little, too late.

Is it good that politicians are listening to scientists at Copenhagen ? Yes, because scientists are the only people who cannot plausibly be accused of a political agenda, and who therefore have no incentive to lie or distort facts. But politicians are not really listening to everything scientists say, only that portion of it that they can conveniently do something about. The real obstacle to change is what it has always been, the same obstacle which blocks any real progress on the impending food or water crisis, on the bio-fuels controversy, on carbon capping, on the rampant waste of resources, and on global warming. It is class ownership, and the fact that the owning class are raping and destroying the world is increasingly being brought to the headlines by scientists with no axe to grind and no political cards up their sleeve. Workers should have learned by now never to trust a politician. Quite right. But let’s hope people start taking more notice of the back-room boffins, because they are asking questions which, until now, only socialists have ever asked. Scientists, like charities, have not been accustomed to addressing questions they considered outside their scope, such as global inequality. But as the weight of evidence mounts, that is changing. Increasingly, some scientists are putting the words ‘carbon’ and ‘capitalism’ together.

At present, 'stewardship' over the earth is in the hands of a small minority of the world population . Their interests have proven to be irreconcilable with the need to protect the environment from pollution and degradation . Surely it is obvious that there is no solution within capitalism. The capitalists will never stop polluting if it means reduced profits and reduced competitiveness. Nor is it logical to say that ‘Socialism may be the answer, but we’ll have to wait a long time for it and we need to do something now.’ It is just that attitude that delays socialism and the chance to make a real change in the way we produce and distribute wealth. There is nothing ‘now’ to be done that will solve the problem. Socialism can come as quickly as the majority wants it. Then decisions will be made with a view to satisfying the real human needs of everyone on the planet, and the removal of all that is harmful to the environment and the causes global warming can be addressed with sanity and science. Socialism is the only alternative to what we have. Socialism is the only option to solve this and other major problems. We, the producers , who do not own the means of producing and distributing wealth are in the vast majority. It is up to us, not the small minority of owners and their political minions , to change the system so that a clean and sustainable lifestyle IS possible.

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