|THE CAUSE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IS CAPITALISM|
Today many thousands of youngsters are expected to walk out of their schools to protest the inaction of governments over the climate crisis we are all confronted with. Since one teenager – Greta Thunberg – held a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament the school student movement has spread across the world. Anna Taylor, 17, who co-founded the UK student climate network, said: “Young people in the UK have shown that we’re angry at the lack of government leadership on climate change. Those in power are not only betraying us, and taking away our future, but are responsible for the climate crisis that’s unfolding in horrendous ways around the world,” adding that “those least responsible for contributing to climate change are already suffering the worst effects”. She continued: “It is our duty to not only act for those in the UK and our futures, but for everyone. That’s what climate justice means.”
In Scotland, the Guardian is aware of strikes planned in 19 different locations, from South Uist in the Outer Hebrides to St Andrews on the east coast, with large gatherings expected in Glasgow’s George Square and outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.
One of the UK’s most prominent school strikers, Holly Gillibrand, will be taking part, after staging a weekly action outside her school in Fort William, in the Scottish Highlands. Asked whether she feels optimistic about the potential of Friday’s protest, Holly replied: “I wouldn’t say optimistic is quite the right word. It shows there are thousands of students out there who care very deeply about the environment and are willing to miss school to demand that politicians take this ecological crisis seriously.”
Méabh Mackenzie is organising a protest with about 30 fellow pupils from Daliburgh primary school on the island of South Uist, with the express purpose of standing in solidarity with other threatened island communities across the globe.
The 11-year-old explained: “I just wanted to share what I believe in. Uist is really low lying and I really love the place and don’t want it to disappear. I think all the striking around the world will let politicians and lawmakers know that they have to do something because it is falling down the list of priorities. They are arguing about things like Brexit but we need them to act now on climate change because in 12 years we can’t turn anything back.”
During the last hundred years or more, irreversible damage has been done to the natural environment by human action than in any previous period in recorded history. Rarely a day goes by when our attention is not drawn to the various issues of environmental degradation and how the increase in human activity is impacting on large areas of the natural environment globally. There’s a lot of proposals in the pipeline, but when stripped of their jargon, in practice it means that capitalism has to go green. This shows a lack of understanding of the workings of capitalism. No sensible person is going to deny that the sooner we work with nature, rather than against it, the better. By increasing our understanding of the interaction between the natural environment and the impact of human activity, society will be in a better position to minimise the damage on natural resources, and be able to arrive at rational judgements on whether or not any interference in the natural environment is justified and warranted.
But capitalism is not a rational system when you consider that the capitalist class have their own agenda which is totally blind to the creation of a common interest. The only interest the capitalist class have is to obtain profits through the quickest and easiest way possible so that the accumulation of capital continues. A fundamental contradiction of capitalism is that although the capitalist has a common interest — as a class — to cooperate to keep the system going, by necessity they also have to compete within the market. If they don’t compete, they go under or are at best taken over by other capitalists. This built-in rivalry between the sections of the capitalist class always results in casualties in some form or another. It is these conditions of competition which make it extremely difficult to reach any regulatory agreement which can have a global application. But not impossible. When it has been in the common capitalist interest to facilitate an expansion in the global market capitalist governments have drawn up international agreements, for example on postal services, maritime law, air traffic control, scientific research at the poles, etc. These agreements are generally abided by, specifically because they do not reduce the rate of profit. It’s when any such proposals come into conflict with the rate of profit that the competitive self-interest of the various national sections of the capitalist class becomes focused on the problems of winners and losers appears. This is usually announced in the media as, “There was a failure to reach an agreement over who is to pay the bill”.
If market forces essentially cause and create environmental damage by literally encouraging an irrational human impact, how can you realistically expect those self-same forces to solve it? This conundrum will almost certainly intensify. When confronted by barriers of environmental legislation which are designed to diminish the rate of expected profits and the accumulation of capital, the capitalists will do what they have always done in their search for short-term profits: finding or creating loopholes, moving the goalposts, corrupting officials, trying to bribe the local population with empty promises, or shifting the whole concern to an area or region where a more favourable reception is expected and profits maintained. The simple fact is that businesses will not take the risk of falling behind in the struggle for profits and nor will any government enforce policy that will result in a drop in the profits of its respective capitalist class. Capitalist businesses survive by forcing out their competition, by cutting costs and sidestepping policies that hinder their expansion. They seek new outlets for their wares, to sell more and more, because this is the law of capitalism, and it is a law antagonistic to ecological concerns. It is the crazed law of capitalism that compels the big oil producers to pay teams of scientists to prepare reports that refute the findings of environmentalists who forewarn of the dire effects of current production methods.
The market economy demands that businesses only take into account their own narrow financial interests. Pleasing shareholders takes far more priority than ecological considerations. The upshot is that productive processes are distorted by this drive to make and accumulate profits. The result is an economic system governed by anarchic market forces which compel decision-makers, whatever their personal views or sentiments, to plunder, pollute and waste. They may well be loath to contaminate ecosystems, but the alternative is closure should they invest in costlier eco-friendlier production methods. Little wonder then that nature’s balances are upset today, and that we face problems such as melting glaciers, rising sea levels and the like due to global warming from carbon emissions.
Once the Earth’s natural and industrial resources have been wrested from the master class and become the common heritage of all humanity, then production can be geared to meeting needs in an ecologically acceptable way, instead of making profits without consideration for the environment. This the only basis on which we can meet our needs whilst respecting the laws of nature and to at last begin to reverse the degradation of the environment caused by the profit system. The only effective strategy for achieving a free and democratic society and, moreover, one that is in harmony with nature, is to build up a movement which has the achievement of such a society as its objective.