Friday, March 22, 2013

Book review: Ecology and Socialism - Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis

At the forefront of these conditions rank habitat destruction and rapid, human-induced climate change. the human species seems well on the way to creating the Sixth Great Extinction as we exterminate other species faster than they can be classified; scientists estimate that we have classified less than 10 percent of all the species on the earth. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's largest coalition of environmental organizations, of the nearly 50,000 on its red list of endangered species up to 17.000 face the prospect of immediate extinction. If nothing is done, the IUCN predicts the demise over the course of the twenty-first century of 50% of amphibians, 70% of botanic life, 37% of freshwater fish, 28% of mammals and 12% of all birds. -- Ecology and Socialism
As a result of all the carbon emissions we pump into the atmosphere, the earth is getting warmer. In our never ending quest to accumulate more and more oil we are fouling our water, our land, our food supply and ourselves.

Putting your green recycling bins on the curbside every other week isn't going to reverse the problem. For everyone plastic carton or magazine you put in that bin, there's more being produced every day.

And that's because it's profitable to do so. Manufacturers discovered that if they designed products to wear out they could sell more - and by encasing them in plastic, they could save money.

Instead of investing money in research and development for clean and renewable energy sources, our government provides billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries - ensuring the continued pollution of our environment.

Instead of investing money in research and development for sustainable agriculture, our government provides billions of dollars in subsidies to agri-business - ensuring the continued destruction of our environment and impoverishment of the developing world.

The root cause of environmental degradation is our system of economic production, so says Chris Williams, professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University, in his 2010 book Ecology and Socialism. Under capitalism we have been indoctrinated that our surrounding environment is a free resource. We use the ground to extract gold, minerals, oil and gas. We then dump the toxic byproducts into the air we breathe and the water we drink. If you recall from your macroeconomics class, the air we breathe and water we drink aren't valuable resources because we can't put a price tag on them - and under capitalism, if you can't put a price tag on it, it ain't worth a damn thing.

As a result manufacturers have no incentive to protect the environment. Strip mining destroys untold acres of land. Refineries dump ungodly amounts of pollution into the skies above us. The oil and gas industry poisons water tables and rivers. All in the name of profit.

And the idea that we can use a so-called market mechanism, such as carbon trading (permits to pollute) is the biggest inside joke around today. The market caused the calamity in the first place because it can't place a value on resources (such as water and air) that cannot be owned by any one individual. The market will always be manipulated by those who have the power to do so and who stand to profit from it.

The only way to save the planet, according to Mr. Williams, is through a radical re-organization of our systems of production. That is, a change from a system that produces goods for their exchange value (commodities) to a system that produces goods for their use value. So long as we leave our planet's future in the hands of those who only see profit, we are doomed to the inevitable destruction of the planet.

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