Friday, September 20, 2019

It is time for a change

We have a choice between climate change and system change, between civilisation collapse or a better world. Despite their pledges and promises, governments aren’t doing anywhere near enough to end the environmental emergency. Capitalists have grown rich on polluting the planet, pillaging and plundering resources, why should they stop? Sociopaths are running the world. Facing up to them are the climate strikers around the World. That's lesson our children are teaching us today. We have a choice and we have an alternative. 

No one is disputing that in any consideration of existing social problems, the question of the environment is of prime importance. The current climate crisis is certainly a deep one and is driving capitalist states and capitalist companies towards some desperate measures to try and stabilise the eco-system and restore the ecological balance. The climate crisis and the increasing misery it is inflicting doesn't necessarily and inevitably lead to revolution. Relying upon the effects seems to be the lazy way to try and approach social change, scrap all the groundwork and hope the crisis does it for you. But the vital question is about the reasons why the existing world capitalist system cannot take up the technical possibilities which now exist for the setting up of a safe and sustainable world system. This question also takes us out of the sphere of applied science and technology and inevitably into the sphere of world economics and politics. 

From a practical point of view, society has available a wide range of technical options and there are large reserves of skill, labour and materials, yet at the same time we suffer from a chronic inability to take these up in a free and consciously regulated manner to solve global warming. We live in a social system predicated on endless expansion and it is the blind, unplanned drive to accumulate is the hallmark of capitalist production – the profit motive – that has created the environmental problem, not individuals. There can be no such thing as sustainable or environmentally friendly capitalism. It is completely impossible under capitalism for humanity to use the earth's resources for the benefit of all people, and it is equally impossible for it to deploy the accumulated knowledge, the skills and the techniques of production which now exist in a direct relationship with human needs on a basis of world-wide co-operation.

The protection of the environment is a social problem which requires humanity to establish a viable and stable relationship with the rest of nature. In practice this implies a society which uses, as far as possible, renewable energy and raw material resources and which practises the recycling of non-renewable resources; a society which, once an appropriate balance with nature has been formed, will tend towards a stable level of production, indeed towards “zero growth”. This does not mean that changes are to be excluded on principle, but that any change will have to respect the environment by taking place at a pace to which nature can adapt. But the employment by capitalism of destructive methods of production has, over two centuries, upset the balance of nature. Humans are capable, whatever the form of production, of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem. That was the case of many “primitive” societies which coexisted in complete harmony with the rest of nature, and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, waves, biomass, etc) but, for the capitalists, these are a “cost” which penalises them in face of international competition. So it’s not production as such (i. e., the fashioning of nature to meet human needs) which is incompatible with a stable balance of nature, but the application of certain productive methods which disregard natural balances or which involve changes that are too rapid to allow a natural balance to develop. 

So it is not “mankind” but the capitalist economic system itself which is responsible for ecological problems. In fact, not only have workers no influence over the decisions taken by enterprises but those who do have the power to decide - the capitalists - are themselves subject to the laws of profit and competition.

In socialism the producers, the immediate users of the common resources, would not be trying to make an independent living for themselves but would be carrying out a particular function on behalf of the community in a social context where the aim of production would be to satisfy needs on a sustainable basis. 

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