Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Capitalism - The Economics of Insanity

Pacific island nations under threat from rising seas havewarned that climate talks in Paris represent the “last chance” to save them from obliteration. The warning came as a report castigated Australia and New Zealand for ignoring their small, impoverished neighbours’ calls for more robust action to cut carbon emissions.

 “What we are talking about is survival,” said Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati, a string of atolls barely 3ft (0.9m) above sea level. “It’s not about economic development... it’s not politics. It’s survival,” he told a meeting of Pacific island leaders in Papua New Guinea. The small island nations want Australia and New Zealand to use their regional muscle to advocate for them on the world stage. Mr Tong said. “If they really are our friends, then they should be looking after our future as well.”

Preparing for their annual Pacific Islands Forum summit this week, Pacific leaders implored the rest of the world to commit itself to limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Leaders of six island nations said the Paris talks were “our last chance to reach an outcome that must reverse the global warming pathway to ensure the future survival and existence of our nations, people and culture”.

“Anything over two degrees... and we go under water,” Tony de Brum, the  Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, told Australia’s ABC radio recently. Australia’s PM Abbott has been widely criticised for dragging his feet on tackling climate change. Referring to the emissions reduction target, Mr de Brum said: “If the rest of the world followed Australia’s lead, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear. So would my country, and other vulnerable atoll nations on Australia’s doorstep.” Australia is one of the world’s biggest coal producers, and Mr Abbott last year lauded coal as “good for humanity”.

Last week, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, castigated Australia for siding with “the coalition of the selfish – these industrialised nations which are putting the welfare of their carbon-polluting industries and their workers before our welfare and survival as Pacific islanders”.

Oxfam Australia berated both countries for setting the bar low in relation to reducing carbon emissions. Australia is aiming to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, while New Zealand is seeking a 30 per cent cut. The two governments – led by conservatives Tony Abbott and John Key, who are expected to meet a chilly reception when they arrive in Papua New Guinea later this week – are “threatening the very survival of some Pacific nations”, Oxfam said.

The nations point to these more frequent and destructive storms – along with eroding coastlines and crops poisoned by seawater – as evidence that they are already suffering the impact of climate change. An Oxfam report also lambasted the two countries for failing to heed the “wake-up call” of Cyclone Pam, which devastated Vanuatu six months ago, and of catastrophic flooding in Kiribati and Tuvalu earlier this year. The chief executive of Oxfam Australia, Dr Helen Szoke, said the “two big brothers of the Pacific [Australia and NZ] have largely ignored their neighbours’ calls for stronger emissions reduction targets and greater support to meet the challenges of climate change”.

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, told AFP last month that climate change was the “enemy No 1” for his country

“We in the Pacific did not cause climate change, but we suffer because of it,” Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, said.

After two decades of meetings, conferences and summits this year’s Paris 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) is being cited as the make or break one when nations must come up with a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. The world is already experiencing extreme weather events, things we have not experienced before and they are happening more often and all across the globe – and this because the world has warmed up just by a 0.8°C. It will take a tremendous effort by governments to make the Paris talks successful. This will entail unprecedented international cooperation to accomplish the goal of making the planet safe and sustainable world. Is humanity capable of achieving such consensus? With time running out can countries commit towards to a fossil fuel-free economy by 2050? The World Socialist Movement basing its view on history can only be skeptical. Change will never come from the corporations. Big Business is committed to one principle, that the purpose of the natural world is to serve as raw material for capital  accumulation. The profit-and-loss calculations made on something as basic to existence the air and the water speaks volumes as to the logic of capitalism. Real change, which is what we need, has to emerge from the communities. Livelihoods and the quality of all our lives are directly dependent upon our relationship with Nature. It is vital that we the people are ‘at the table’ that shapes policies of the ruling class concerning the environment. After all, we have the most at stake and the most to lose.

We have a responsibility as world citizens to figure out what needs to be done and help do it. If COP21 fails to deliver and considering the complicated challenge in organizing 190 sovereign nations around one single goal where competing interests exist, that is very likely, the consequences are unimaginable. The threat of climate change cannot be dealt with by just piecemeal reforms. It requires a radical transformation of society. The struggle to protect our planet is the struggle against capitalism, itself.

We're at an important crossroads and here’s how we can save the planet. We can change the economic system that causes global warming and environmental destruction. Time really is running out to save the world we live in and there's really only one thing we can do to prevent a total climate catastrophe: we must end capitalism and establish socialism. The worldwide social movement fighting for a more ecologically sustainable world has travelled a long way in the past few decades. That is no small achievement and we should congratulate them but there is still a distance to go. Capitalists never willingly gives up anything, never voluntarily relinquish their privileges and power without a struggle. The environment will not be protected merely because it would be rational to do but only because we the people demand and fight for it. In Paris we could be out in force, filling the streets but it will take more than just protest to stop humanity’s future being stolen. As we protest, we must also propose. The world as a whole has never been so endowed with resources and productive technology. There is actually no reason for pessimism – but only if we the people take control and begin to determine the way we want the world to be run.

People around the world have more in common with each other than with their rulers. We ally with no nation, but only with working people throughout the world. Socialism and democracy are one and indivisible. Socialists participate in the electoral process to present socialist alternatives. People’s power cannot be created by legislation but nor can they spring into being only on the eve of a revolution. They can grow only in the course of struggle. The end profoundly shapes the means and process of change. In a socialist system the people commonly own and collectively control production and distribution through democratic and accountable administrative agencies. The primary goal of economic activity is to provide the necessities of life - food, clothing, shelter, health-care and education. Democracy in daily life is the core of our socialism. Work-place and community control make it possible to combine life at work, home and in the community into a meaningful whole.  A socialist society will be a harmonious part of our natural environment. This planning takes place on local, regional and global levels and covers the production of energy, the use of scarce resources, land-use planning, the prevention of pollution and the conservation of flora and fauna. The clean-up of the contaminated environment will be among the first tasks of a socialist society.

Millions of the population have nothing to do with creating anything useful at all. Instead, they devote their skill and effort to other purposes, for example, persuading people to buy things they would otherwise not have thought they needed. In a world where brand names and packaging count for much more than the actual utility of goods. If we are socialists, what are we actually striving for?

The World Socialist Party (New Zealand) does not feel it necessary to give up a single one of our ideas about socialism. It is the opponents of ourselves who find themselves wandering about helter-skelter, without purpose or goal. Supposing the environmentalist lobby do not succeed in changing the capitalist social order what then? What kind of a future? We can be assured it will not be a pleasant sight. It is the utopian dreamers who promote imaginary futures in which capitalists cooperate with their workers in the new society and the world’s problems are solved.

 Socialism and a steady-state economy can be built only when there has been a social revolution.

World Socialist Party (New Zealand):
E-mail: wsp.nz@worldsocialism.org


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