Friday, October 30, 2015

Only Socialism Can Save The World

For many, climate change is too far removed from the present context to be of immediate concern. People say, 'It’ll be a problem 20, 30 years down the road, but I’ve got bigger problems today’. It’s not the immediacy of now. Climate change is already upon us, and it’s hitting fragile countries the hardest with changing drought and flood patterns. We can’t ignore it. Drought used to hit Somalia, for example, once a decade. Now about every three years, families are forced to abandon arid lands and move their sheep and goats – or camels for those better off – to areas with more water and forage, or where they can grow crops, experts say.
“The more that these cyclical shocks prevent people from having sustainable livelihoods, the more we’re seeing migration of people, which is leading to a lot of inter-clan violence” said Dustin Caniglia, who works in Nairobi for Concern Worldwide, a humanitarian organisation. “That’s where the peace building starts to break down,” he said. The struggle for scarce water resources along the Kenya-Ethiopia border, for example, led to clan violence spanning both countries in 2012. A new dam being built at Lake Turkana, which stretches into both countries, is predicted to trigger more clashes, according to Human Rights Watch.

In Mali, rainfall has dropped by 30 percent since 1998, leaving almost two million people in need of food aid according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. Furthermore, the vast Sahara desert is expanding southwards at a rate of 48 kilometers a year, according to a 2011 study by the University of Ohio. “Mali has good environmental laws, but the country does not implement them as it lacks the means to do so,” said Ravier, chief of the Environment and Culture Unit at the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Unit in Mali (MINUSMA)

 In a few weeks, the world’s leaders will meet in Paris to discuss global climate change. Some countries could be devastated. “If the sea level rises by 1 meter (about 3.3 feet), the whole Mekong Delta will be underwater,” said Pham Quang Vinh, Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States. “That’s the rice basin of Vietnam.” 

It’s particularly upsetting because these are the poorer, smaller countries that have contributed little in the way of global carbon emissions. Experts anticipate that food and water shortages could trigger not only enormous suffering, but also mass migrations. Citizens of devastated warmer countries will try to move — legally or illegally — to places where they have a chance to survive.

Climate change shows capitalism's short-term, irresponsible attitude towards the environment.  Already the world is getting warmer; sea level is rising; extreme weather events are increasing. We all depend on Nature for food and water and for all the goods we use which originate from the natural resources around us. Capitalism avoids the responsibility for the damage it does to the environment by pushing the costs onto others, now and into the future. Capitalism is a system that by its very essence must expand. The capitalist system requires continuous accumulation of capital and operates in a circuit of constantly expanding production. There is no political will to respond to the climate and ecological crisis we face. A real solution would require profound social and economic transformations. And we have seen, clearly, there is no will to carry them out so false solutions to climate change arise such as techno-fixes – geo-engineering. The idea that capitalism can be is fairly typical of the environmentalist movement. The destruction of the planet is rooted in the capitalist system of production and cannot be solved without a break with capitalism.

Socialist analysis has a great potential not only to explain the economic processes leading to environmental destruction, but to change them. Socialism is a necessary condition for optimising harmony between society and nature. The entire system of production based on wage labour and capital needs to be replaced with a system which produces for human needs. A serious critique of capitalism is essential to adequately address the current world environmental crisis. The environmental movement can no longer afford to adopt green capitalism. Businessmen know that to maximise profits environmental concerns are best kept on the product label and out of the production process. While it is perhaps theoretically possible that capitalism can reform itself to redress some of the problem of global environmental crisis, it cannot do so without some serious in-fighting between opposing vested interests and internecine sabotage of policies. Presenting solutions to save capitalism from its own ill effects would fall upon deaf ears. Capitalists will plead “If I don't do it someone else will' and if they do choose to act upon their ecological convictions, they will be quickly replaced by someone less willing to go green.

Many mainstream environmentalist organisations promote public events such as Earth Day and advocate lifestyle changes under the slogans like ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ yet individuals and household contribute a relatively miniscule amount to either waste or pollution. Global warming is, as the phrase denotes, a global phenomenon. As global temperatures rise and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increases, more of the world’s population is at risk. Nearly 40 percent of the global population lives near the ocean and climate change will increase the risks associated with hurricanes and flooding. Likening the planet to a human body afflicted by illness, Nobel laureate Professor Anthony Chen has prescribed urgency in treatment. "Planet Earth is very sick. If we do not start treatment as soon as possible, it may never recover to its former self," he warned. 

The physicist said a course of treatment that includes adaptation to the impacts is essential. However, he cautioned that adaptation is "treating symptoms, not the cause". What is critical then, he said, is mitigation, which is about "removing greenhouse gases caused by fossil fuels", such as oil and coal, from the atmosphere and which is equivalent to "treating the cause and curing the illness". It is, therefore, past time, Chen said, that the world listen to the scientists. "We should accept their verdict as we accept the second opinions of our doctors," he said.

And does his recommended remedies go to the cause of the illness and cure it? Of course not. As a non-socialist he cannot perceive a future beyond what we already have – capitalism. Chen choice of therapy for our sick planet is not to remove the cause but to apply palliatives. He suggests: Carbon dioxide capture and storage, nuclear energy; and renewable energy. He prescribes that “governments of the world form consortiums and establish research centres to bring the price of renewables and storage down quickly." He concludes that these “may be our last chance to save the planet Earth as we know it." 

If that is his solution, then the prognosis for the planet is inevitably terminal because these options simply do not possess curative powers.