Tuesday, August 09, 2016

'Green' Capitalism

Scotland’s environment agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), has warned the country’s industries and farmers that their waste and inefficiency is now the biggest threat to the environment, overtaking pollution. The regulator’s chief executive, Terry A’Hearn, will urge businesses, farmers and manufacturers to adopt a “one planet prosperity” policy designed to cut their energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and resource use. Developed economies such as the UK’s are now consuming resources at a rate close to three times the planet’s actual capacity. “I’ve been extremely clear that if we have only one planet, we have to be really, really smart about how we use it,” he said. 

The aquaculture sector would be among the first to be approached by A’Hearn to establish new “sustainable growth agreements” which he said will be central to his new one planet strategy. Scottish salmon farms are repeatedly criticised by environment campaigners and other marine industries for heavy use of toxic chemicals to combat sea lice and disease, and seabed pollution caused by fish excrement.

All over the world, there is a feeling that something is deeply wrong. Humanity is being driven to the brink of extinction by social problems? All the poverty, the climate devastation, the perpetual war, and consumption fetishism we see all around us have roots in today’s capitalist society. The problems are self-replicating, according to the laws of capital accumulation. Yet economists and politicians deny we have any problem. Our so-called leaders talk about economic growth-at-all-costs as the only viable solution to mass poverty, wealth inequality, the climate crisis and other planetary-crises.

If we say that wealth comes from ecological function instead from buying and selling, then we have a system in which all human efforts go toward restoring, protecting and preserving ecological function. That is what we need to mitigate and adapt to climate change, to ensure food security, to ensure that human civilizations survive. Our economic system must reflect reality. We could have growth, not from stuff, but growth from more functionality. We have to be very careful not to commoditise nature. We need to naturalise the economy. Technology has enabled a massive level of exploitation to serve the rapacious appetite of profiteers. However, importantly, it has also enabled us to begin to achieve common ownership, created networks of production and distribution, permit democratic participation and decision making as tools by which people can assume control over our lives and communities. It is only a failure of imagination and will that requires us to continue down the path where everything is owned by all.

In capitalism, the state’s primary role is to secure the interests of private capital. The institutions of global capitalism – from the World Bank and the IMF down to the compliant nation states (or supranational unions like the EU) – facilitate private wealth accumulation that results in the unemployment, poverty, population dislocation, environmental destruction and bad food and bad public health) that have become acceptable as necessary for growth (the accumulation of capital) and it is all taken for granted by mainstream politicians and the media mouth-pieces. The system’s sole interest is to increase profitability and further the cause of the powerful capitalist class. They try to convince the public that an increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a relative few – via, for instance, de-regulations, privatisations and lower labour and environmental protection standards – is for their own benefit because it is good for ‘growth’ and the GDP. Yet the effects and outcomes of these policies across the world are plain to see: the increasing power of unaccountable financial institutions, record profits and massive increases in wealth for elite interests while for the rest of us, disempowerment, austerity, job losses, the erosion of rights, weakened unions, cuts to public services, environmental degradation, trade deals, such as TTIP, CETA, and TPP. Governments use the euphemism ‘business friendly’ to express a willingness much of the above. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations to world trade, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is. A ‘free’ market is code for letting powerful corporations be in control and dictate terms to the market on tax, subsidies and patent law. The ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those libertarians who churn out clichĂ©s about letting the market decide.

We need to realise that there is no ‘us and them.’ There is just us. There is one earth and one humanity. We have to act as a species on a planetary scale because we will all be affected by climate change. We have to come together to decide: What do we know? What do we understand? What do we believe as a species? Class conscious awareness is the beginning of the solution.

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