Tuesday, September 17, 2019

End the war on people and on the planet

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. That is the purpose of 20th of September and the days following it. To focus our attention upon the looming climate emergency. It’s particularly unsettling because there are the poor vulnerable countries that have contributed little in the way of global carbon emissions but will suffer the most from the effects of global warming. Experts anticipate that food and water shortages could trigger not only enormous suffering, but also mass migrations. Citizens of devastated countries will try to move — legally or illegally — to places where they have a chance to survive. 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 Earth is very sick. If we do not start treatment as soon as possible, it may never recover to its former self. 

Climate change exposes 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 our 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.

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 problems 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.

The answer to environmental damage does not lie with the number of people. It lies with how production is organised, what technology is used, how decisions are made and by whom, and how wealth and goods are distributed. What socialists say is that in an ecologically rational and socially just world, where large families aren't an economic necessity for hundreds of millions of people, population will stabilise. The advocates of the over-population argument weaken efforts to build an effective global movement against ecological destruction: It divides our forces, by blaming the principal victims of the crisis for problems they did not cause. They ignore the massively destructive role of an irrational economic and social system that has gross waste and devastation built into it. Those who worry about overpopulation tend to view people as nothing more than consumers. Resources are finite; humans consume resources. Therefore, fewer humans will mean more resources to go around. This is the core idea also behind the opposition to immigration. Namely, the fear that more people will mean less work and less wealth for the rest of us. The conclusion is incorrect. The reason is that humans are not merely consumers. 

Every consumer is also a producer as well, and production is how we have improved our standards of living from the dawn of man till today. Every luxury, every great invention, every work of art, every modern convenience that we enjoy was the product of a mind – in some cases, of more than one. It then stands to reason that the more minds there are, the more innovations we will have as well. A reductio ad absudum reveals the obvious truth that a cure for cancer is more likely to emerge from a society of a billion people than from one of only a handful of individuals. Resources are finite; humans consume resources; humans produce resources; therefore, if humans produce more resources than they consume, a greater population will be beneficial to the species. The celebration of low populations in the environmentalist movement is fundamentally anti-human based upon an unfounded bias against humanity. The disappointing reality is that there exist too many environmentalists who believe that the world is already “full up.”

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