Save the planet from global warming — phase out capitalism

Published 16 August 2012.

(Crossposted at Firedoglake and at Voices on the Square)

OK, so you would think there would be some sort of publicly-voiced concern about this little matter of the Earth turning into Venus during the hottest year on record in the US.  You know, global warming.  I did at some point show the David Roberts speech on global warming:

Let’s repeat the message on the slide depicted at 15:01 of this video for those who are reading this diary on their lunch breaks.  It says: “our present course leads to certain catastrophe.”

Sooo, while Mitt Romney flirts with the deniers while being typically evasive, and Obama’s Secretary of the Interior just approved more oil drilling in the Arctic, I suppose it behooves us to wonder if anyone in politics really cares.  Certain catastrophe, ho hum.  Global mass suicide, after all, will solve all of our problems.  Of course, while you’re waiting to die you don’t get to live in any hope, but whaddaya gonna do?  Sacrifices will be necessary (or at least that’s what the folks imposing austerity upon the world economy keep telling us.)

Part of the hope problem is that hope has already been falsified.  Politicians promise you stuff, then go back on it.  And maybe hope is overrated: kids believe in it or something like that.  But part of the hope problem has to do with the fact that the people who are squawking about this thing don’t really seem to know what to do about it.

The good folks at want to impose a carbon tax.  This is what Bill McKibben and James Hansen have been asking for.  It’s easy to see how the oil companies are going to fight that one — send the oil to where the carbon tax doesn’t apply, refuse to pay the tax, set up a black market.  The ultimate end of this tax is to create a situation where the commodity value (what Karl Marx calls the “exchange-value”) of the oil and coal and natural gas fields is zero.  So no wonder the oil companies will want to fight that one to the death, either theirs or ours.  The problem with this proposed situation is that everything else will continue to have a commodity value, and the system will still be based on capital accumulation.  Below the fold I will describe what I will ultimately propose — a transition out of the capitalist system to some sort of suitable way of life that isn’t based on the existence of an investor class or of capital accumulation.  This, I assert, is the only way through — so it’s time we started demanding it.

The capitalist system is based on capital accumulation.  “The rich get richer” is the idea behind it.  Or rather, it’s the idea that it takes money to make money.  “Working for a living” is what the working class does under capitalism — this activity is by no means predicated upon the existence of a snooty investor class.  “Trade” is not the essence of capitalism — trade has existed for thousands of years before capitalism, and will probably be around after it is gone.

The capitalist system is not “human nature.”  Human nature has existed for 200,000 years, of which only 300 of those have seen an organized capitalist system.  The idea that “greed is human nature” is a ridiculous justification for a system where only a privileged few ever get to see something for their “greed,” while the rest of us are simply looking for a decent break.

No, this is all about investors, and the idea that they can buy the system and make sure that all that oil and coal continues to have a commodity value — so that it’s pumped out of the ground and burned into the atmosphere so that Earth eventually becomes like Venus.  They must be stopped.  Not consuming means not producing.  The time of shell games is over — it’s just too hot outside.

And for Pete’s sake let’s stop blaming the consumers.  “We need to reduce our ecological footprint” — feh.  You want to know what the ultimate end of the “ecological footprint” strategy is?

Yeah, that one’s a little gross.  Foster, Clark and York’s The Ecological Rift shows the way forward.  Here is their argument in sum:

…the calculations for the ecological toll taken by “consumption” do not take into account the consumption decisions made by investors, which take an ecological toll which far outweighs the toll calculated for mere “consumption.”

So once again it’s the problem of production.  The producers screw things up far worse than do the consumers.  So once production is under democratic control, and not as a private, for-profit matter, then that mass death thing will be under control too.To a certain extent capitalism is about human relationships, about the relationship between you and me.  Here’s a better start: let’s declare our mutual independence from the investor class, and go about trying to achieve that independence.  A good place for us to start is if we produced our own food, for each other.  We can start to achieve the twin goals of independence and sustainability through sustainable farms and urban gardens.

We should tell the politicians that this is about a phase-out of coal, oil, and natural gas. They’re all beholden to more capitalism, so that’s the most they can hear right now.  And they won’t even be able to do that.  Eventually, when we gain control over them, we can get a phase-out of the capitalist system as a whole, and its replacement with something more humane in which the integrity of the natural world comes first.

Right now, (the movement) is trying to cut around the edges of the system.  They want toend oil subsidies — fine, I’m all for it.  But it’s time to start advocating for what we really need, and not merely for what sounds like a piece of feasible legislation in Congress, or what would be a feasible piece of legislation were Congress not completely sold out.

Phasing out capitalism is the only way through.  Let’s stop pretending it isn’t.


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