As the ecological crisis worsens it would be all too easy to slide into catastrophism, to present mankind’s future as an apocalypse, a social Armageddon. The environmental struggles needs an alternative social vision. The cause of our environmental problems are bad individual life-style choices and the strategy for change does not involve writing pleading letters to politicians to regulate corporate behaviour. These will do next to nothing about the economic system which requires profit expansion that drives it.
Capitalism maximises economic growth. Capitalism just attempts to grow regardless of any consequences which may be harmful to our environment. Competing businesses are concerned only with profit and capital accumulation, not with sustainability. Capitalism doesn’t care for neither either humanitarian nor environmental welfare are central to its economic decision-making. The result is that both peoples and the planet are suffering. The global competition for profits is larger than any one individual or corporation or government. The system is unstoppable. Its inhumanity is extreme. the poor are left to die from preventable hunger and curable diseases. The objective of capitalism is simply the achievement of profit and corporations will be environmentally friendly only it is profitable to be, or unprofitable not to be. Big business tramples over people’s needs. Capitalism fails to aid the desperately vulnerable if profit cannot be extracted or costs levelled elsewhere. Ethical investments and government guidance to consumers are inadequate in the face of the omniscient power of the capital economic laws. Business ventures which has the possibility of attracting high profits will always be a magnet for the stock-exchange share-holder regardless of any environmental downsides and they will lobby against any government regulation which is an obstacle to expected lucrative dividends. Divestment merely leaves the door open for others less scrupulous to make a financial return.
A commonly held misconception is that the World’s growing populations present one of the greatest ecological problems. Many in the environmentalist movement seem convinced that the amount of land and resources used by humans far outstrips the carrying capacity of the planet. Yet the apparent logic breaks down quickly. Peoples with the highest birth rates such as in Africa use a fraction of the world's resources, while a minority with low birth rates in the "developed" countries use most of those resources. The apparent “over-population problem” isn't one of numbers but more of a distribution of wealth problem. Any ecological carrying capacity calculations do not account for scarcity and starvation. There is ample food presently being grown to sustain the world’s population yet it isn’t filling the bellies of the hungry who cannot afford to pay the prices being paid to fatten livestock and or to fill the tanks of cars with ethanol fuel. Green activists who claim the focus must be on slowing population growth are ignoring the real and imminent threats to our planet.
“Green” capitalism is based around making profits from renewable energy sources, cap and capture technological fixes, electric vehicles and the like, all on the premise on the belief that global warming can be stopped by changing dirty products for clean green ones. Capitalism’s stock-exchanges we’re assured, is capable of saving the planet by the miracle of the invisible hand of the market take hold of the steering wheel and trading in carbon credits. But as we expect it is the need for making profit which drives the whole process. People should not fall for market-inspired “solutions” as the lesser evil and less pain. Socialists go beyond the market-led illusory promises of a low-carbon economy.
A socialist society would allow genuine possibilities for ecological sustainability. Without profit-seeking being the motivation for production, we will have eliminated the reason environmental safeguards are not put into place. Protecting the environment is often a commercial impracticality, a cost to be cut to the minimum. A world socialist revolution and constructing a new society not dominated by the needs of capitalist accumulation is necessary where the human carbon footprint would be relatively benign. The struggle for socialism remains an urgent necessity.
The Socialist Party faces up to the reality, difficult as it is, to prevent exceeding the tipping points and experiencing catastrophic runaway climate change in the future it will be necessary to do away with capitalism, to overthrow it and replace production for profit with planned production for human need. The battle lines are drawn. There can be no truce and no alliances made with capitalists. The enemy who will sabotage all attempts to mitigate the threat of climate change is the capitalist class.
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