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Ecology Against Capitalism by Christopher Pickering

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Crisis NOT caused by: human nature, modernity, industrialism, economic development
Problem = social relations of CAPITALISM
Environmental problems can be overcome without abandoning prospect of human progress
Fundamental social change to make sustainable relations to environment possible

Published in: Business, Technology

Ecology Against Capitalism by Christopher Pickering

  1. Ecology Against Capitalism
  2. John Bellamy Foster <ul><li>Leading theorist of Marxist perspective on ecology </li></ul>
  3. Realms of ecology & capitalism opposed to each other <ul><li>Crisis NOT caused by: human nature, modernity, industrialism, economic development </li></ul><ul><li>Problem = social relations of CAPITALISM </li></ul><ul><li>Environmental problems can be overcome without abandoning prospect of human progress </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamental social change to make sustainable relations to environment possible </li></ul>
  4. Capitalism = <ul><li>Impossible : Infinite expansion within finite environment </li></ul><ul><li>Potential catastrophic conflict between global capitalism & global environment </li></ul><ul><li>Capitalist economic focus = economic growth at any cost, including exploitation & misery of majority of world’s population </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid absorption of energy & materials + dumping of more & more wastes in environment </li></ul>
  5. Planning v Capitalist Anarchy <ul><li>Economic planning to include : water resources , rationing & conservation of non renewable resources , disposal of wastes , effects of population growth , location of industrial projects </li></ul><ul><li>Planning to create: “ Intergenerational Environmental Equity ” </li></ul>
  6. Global Warming <ul><li>Failure of Kyoto Protocol to significantly address problem suggests capitalism unable to reverse course </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis on profits obtained from fossil fuel consumption & form of development geared to auto-industrial complex will threaten, within a few generations, planet itself </li></ul>
  7. Capitalism has no environmental correcting mechanism <ul><li>False argument 1: </li></ul><ul><li>As ecological resources become scarce, economy </li></ul><ul><li>will respond by moving toward preservation. But no </li></ul><ul><li>functional relationship exists to do this </li></ul><ul><li>False argument 2: </li></ul><ul><li>Possible to solve problem via “polluter pays </li></ul><ul><li>principle”. But ecological reforms, like all </li></ul><ul><li>others are limited because moment they begin to </li></ul><ul><li>address fundamental nature of system itself, they are </li></ul><ul><li>quickly curtailed by vested interests </li></ul>
  8. Solution = Socialism <ul><li>Stark choice = reject “ the gods of profit ” as holding out solution to ecological problems </li></ul><ul><li>Solution = more harmonious co-evolution of nature & human society , as essential element in building more just & egalitarian social order </li></ul><ul><li>Alternative = ecological & social crisis rapidly spinning out of control, with irreversible & devastating consequences for humans & other species </li></ul>
  9. No Solution in Capitalist Economics <ul><li>Human society & human economy exist within larger biosphere </li></ul><ul><li>Undermining conditions of life bound to undermine conditions </li></ul><ul><li>of production itself </li></ul><ul><li>Nature not a commodity : attempting to treat it as such </li></ul><ul><li>& make it subject to laws of self regulating market is irrational, </li></ul><ul><li>leading to overexploitation of biosphere by failing to </li></ul><ul><li>reproduce the conditions necessary for its continued existence </li></ul>
  10. Socialist Solutions for 21 st Century <ul><li>System of production organised democratically in accordance with needs of direct producers & reflecting emphasis on fulfillment of totality of human needs </li></ul><ul><li>Production non-alienating only if promotes welfare of every individual as way of promoting welfare of all, & only if fulfills human need for sustainable, ie non-exploitative relation to nature </li></ul><ul><li>Struggle for environmental justice – struggle over interrelationship of race, class, gender, & imperial oppression & depredation of environment – likely to be defining feature of the 21st century </li></ul>
  11. “ Treadmill of Production” <ul><li>Fiction : Morality of individual is key to morality of society - individuals simply change moral stance to nature & alter own consumption & energy use </li></ul><ul><li>Fact : “ Treadmill of production ” is main enemy of environment. To generate profits, treadmill relies on energy-intensive, capital-intensive technology, allowing it to economise on labor inputs </li></ul><ul><li>Present trajectory : Increased production & more substitution of energy & machines for labor mean more rapid depletion of high quality energy sources & other natural resources, & larger amounts of waste dumped (increasingly toxic) into environment </li></ul>
  12. The “Higher Immorality” <ul><li>Fiction : Appealing to ethics of individuals at top of social pyramid & to corporations </li></ul><ul><li>Fact : “ Treadmill of Production ” & the “ Higher Immorality ” are built into our society. Individual corporate manager is merely cog in wheel of system </li></ul><ul><li>Resistance to treadmill of production therefore has to come mainly from lower echelons of society , & from social movements rather than individuals </li></ul>
  13. Common Morality Vs Higher Immorality <ul><li>Ecological approach to economy means having enough , not more. </li></ul><ul><li>First priority = people, especially poor people, rather than production. Importance of meeting basic needs & long-term security = Common Morality to combat Higher Immorality of the treadmill </li></ul><ul><li>Only by committing itself to environmental justice ( environmental concerns & social justice ) can environmental movement avoid being cut off from classes of individuals most resistant to treadmill on social grounds </li></ul>
  14. “ Sustainable Development” <ul><li>Market mechanism so central to culture that dominant perspective on ecological crisis requires accept notion that further extension of market relations offers technical answer to all environmental problems </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainable development = Reconciliation between economy & environment can be achieved without altering main features of Economic Treadmill ( profits, competition, ever increasing productivity, economic growth, economic inequality, high levels of consumption, individual self-interest not needs of larger social communities ) </li></ul>
  15. Capitalism and the world environment <ul><li>Human history at turning point : result of fundamental change in relationship between human beings & environment </li></ul><ul><li>Scale of humanity transforming energy & materials reached level that rivals elemental natural processes </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainability of both human civilisation & global life processes depends not on slowing down dire trends, but their reversal </li></ul>
  16. Reform or Revolution? <ul><li>Opposition forces always emerge forcing capitalist system to moderate worst tendencies </li></ul><ul><li>Capitalists can’t accept changes resulting in destruction of system itself . Before reform movements threaten accumulation process as whole, counter-forces set in motion to head off necessary elemental changes </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamental political conundrum of Green politics = where radical change is called for, little is accomplished within system & underlying crisis intensifies over time. Impossible to prevent world’s environmental crisis getting progressively worse unless root problems of production, distribution, technology & growth dealt with on GLOBAL scale </li></ul><ul><li>Capitalism unsustainable : ecologically, economically, politically & morally: MUST BE SUPERCEEDED </li></ul>
  17. Imperialism & the fight for the environment <ul><li>Excesses of advanced capitalist states , & their impact on periphery of world economy: heart of capitalist world system where problem of unsustainable development is most acute </li></ul><ul><li>Ecological struggles therefore connected inseparably to struggle against imperialism : takes on new meaning when viewed in terms of exploitation of earth’s resources </li></ul>
  18. Social & ecological justice for Third World <ul><li>New ecological conscience says being green about having enough, not always more. Doesn’t mean abandonment of populations at bottom of world system, for whom genuine economic development remains essential </li></ul><ul><li>Ecology & social justice cannot be separated </li></ul>
  19. Limits of environmentalism without class <ul><li>Fiction : Many environmentalists think Working Class & Capitalist Class to blame for global environmental crisis & Greens represent new paradigm derived from nature’s own values (“ not right or left ”) </li></ul><ul><li>Fiction : Environmentalism can stand above & beyond the class struggle </li></ul><ul><li>Fact : Earth movement of this kind will hinder overall green goal of forming sustainable relationship between human beings & nature by splitting popular forces & creating more opposition to environmental cause </li></ul><ul><li>Fact : Route to create mass environmental movement is one that seeks to break seemingly intractable conflict between jobs & environmental protection - “ Ecological Conversion ” as key concept </li></ul>
  20. Environmental Revolution needed <ul><li>Everything depends on social struggle & movements & organisations people able to build </li></ul><ul><li>Current historical conjuncture requires “ E nvironmental Revolution ” on scale of earlier agricultural & industrial revolutions; must transcend present biosphere culture of capitalism & its Higher Immorality </li></ul><ul><li>Replacing it with world of ecological & cultural diversity : world of more complex & universal freedom rooted in a communal ethic & in accord with earth & its habitat </li></ul>
  21. The Goal = A New Society <ul><li>Only Solution = transformation of social relations of production in direction of socialism </li></ul><ul><li>New Society governed not by search for profit but by people’s genuine needs & requirements of socio-ecological sustainability </li></ul>

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