David Attenborough was on the TV with a documentary in what has been described as a “rousing call to arms” to combat what he called “our greatest threat in thousands of years”.
In contrast, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was telling the police to use the “full force of the law” against Extinction Rebellion protesters. “They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives.”
But the fossil fuel industries can, apparently, place themselves outside the law and put the lives of billions in jeopardy.
Police said the demonstrations were peaceful and although demonstrators’ tactic of lying down meant four officers were needed to make an arrest and that there was no legal justification for more draconian tactics, such as kettling and mass-arresting groups.
Can capitalism ever go green? No, say the Socialist Party. Rarely a day goes by when our attention is not drawn to the various issues of environmental degradation and how the increase in human activity is impacting on the natural environment globally, foremost climate change. Capitalism is not a rational system when you consider that the capitalist class have their own agenda which is totally blind to the creation of a common interest. The only interest the capitalist class have is to obtain profits through the quickest and easiest way possible so that the accumulation of capital continues. Capitalists by necessity have to compete within the market. If they don't compete they go under. This rivalry among the capitalist class always results in consequences in some form or another such as the extensive damage to the environment. Socialists are hardened by now to meeting the opinion that the system of production for profit is essentially sane and efficient. The opposite is true. The profit motive cannot work efficiently. Capitalism cannot cater for the needs of its people. It produces waste and it produces want and both are profitable only to the minority who hold positions of privilege.
Even if we act now to change the system it may be too late to stop serious ecological damage. Capitalist business, despite a few token fetters, has not only been able to waste and destroy in its mindless quest for the fast buck, but it has also affected the future, perhaps for generations. Socialism will be stuck with the legacies of capitalism and it will need every human resource and ingenuity to deal with them.
Profit-driven production in capitalism generates huge quantities of waste. It's not hard to imagine, in a social system designed around production for use instead of sale, how common sense would be applied to the mountainous problem of waste. Capitalism can of course address the problem of waste to some extent, but it doesn't have the power to stop trying to sell, sell, sell. We however have the power to switch off capitalism and its energy-hungry displays of consumerism. Socialism is still on stand-by. We just need to press the button.
One of the socialist society's aims will be to eliminate waste of all kinds. All use and re-use of materials will be carefully assessed as to their most advantageous and least harmful outcomes. Not accepting the requirement of growth per se, the aim will be conservation and the achievement of a steady-state with the philosophy of 'do no harm' – to animal, vegetable or mineral. Quality goods will replace built-in obsolescence and whole new approach to transport, energy and infrastructure will bring about a truly sustainable society. Short-termism and consumerism as we have come to know them will be replaced by an understanding of the consequences of ignoring externalities. Capitalist corporations now largely ignore externalities; they don't factor the negatives into their equations. Cleaning up their mess robs them of their profits; the costs in human health and environmental problems are not their concern. Individuals, being captives of the current system, are almost powerless to be in any way effective against the mighty machine. Material and human resources will no longer be wasted. People will devote their energy and talents to healing a poisoned planet and devising an ecologically sustainable way of life.
Meanwhile, for what’s left of Nature, time is running out. No matter what cures are proposed, if they do not take into account the basic, cut-throat nature of capitalism, they are doomed to failure. Only by changing the social and economic system which generates the conditions which cause starvation, resource-squandering and pollution will we ever see an end of such despoliation and such ecological insanity. Unfortunately, the environmental lobby do not recognise this simple and obvious fact. They do not attack the system of production for profit as the cause of climate change. They believe it is enough merely to regulate the system so as to legislate against its worst excesses. Members of the Socialist Party are again and again struck with bewilderment at the way humanity can go on tolerating a world so out of balance with its real needs and interests. In the name of commodity production and profit, capitalism wastes an enormous amount of the world’s resources and its people’s abilities. We’ve got the technology to reuse, repair and recycle much of what we throw away, but its use isn’t encouraged enough by our current system. Before we can find more sensible and practical approaches to using our resources, capitalism itself needs to get thrown onto the rubbish dump.
Climate change is happening. Mass extinction is happening. The time to act is now.