To survive, capitalism must continue to expand. It must produce more and more stuff, whether actually needed or not, using up the earth's resources and killing off life forms in the process. The first prerequisite for making the world safe for all life, including our own, is getting rid of this deadly system. Capitalism by its very nature is exploitative. It exploits humans, and it exploits the planet.
The dominant narrative in the media is to promote the idea that environmental problems, as well as all the other problems facing us, are caused by "human nature." If the majority accepts this fatalistic view, all efforts for change are fruitless. People's beliefs and feelings toward one another, and toward the environment, are conditioned by the society in which they live. And those beliefs and feelings change as society changes.
For thousands of years before the coming of civilisation divided people into antagonistic classes, humans lived in basic harmony with each other and with their environment. Cooperation was the key to their survival and their advancement. Greed was unknown. The Earth and its animals were treated as sacred. Even the necessary killing of game for food had to be justified through rituals. t the environmental damage of pre-capitalist societies was done in ignorance and had no overall long-term global impact. The environmental damage of pre-capitalist societies was done in ignorance and had no overall long-term global impact. Today, despite millions of dedicated individuals who are deeply concerned to protect plant and animal life, the destruction of the environment continues. Why?
There are those who seek to lay the cause upon people themselves and say it is overpopulation that is the main reason behind the destruction of the environment. And without a doubt, there are too many people crowded into cities like Mexico City or Mumbai and others encroaching upon near wilderness areas. But overpopulation is a consequence of the workings out of capitalism and is not the main reason for environmental stress. For example, in vast areas of the third world, international agribusiness has thrown formerly self-reliant peasants off the best land in order to produce cash crops. Those who can't find work at poverty-level wages on the land they formerly owned have no choice but to migrate to cities where they hope to hire themselves out to industrial capitalists. Others are shoved out into the diminishing rain forests, which they try to make suitable for farming. These poor peasants are simply trying to survive and feed their families.
Profit, not the earth's survival, is what motivates international capitalist "investors." Directly or indirectly, the drive for profit affects everything around us and is the major reason for environmental destruction. This profit-driven system is so all-pervasive that it is destroying the environment in every area of the world. There is no land, no people, no species that has not been affected in one way or another.
In contrast to all previous social systems, the capitalist system is based on production for sale, and not for personal use or human welfare. Under capitalism, everything is a commodity to be bought and sold. Even labour is a commodity bought and sold on the labour market.
The capitalist system is governed by the laws of the market. There are essentially two "laws" of capitalism that dominate every business, large or small and affect every decision made by companies.
The first is that every cost factor in production must be carefully weighed. Wages must be kept to a minimum. Raw materials must be bought at the lowest price, or replaced by cheaper substitutes. Waste must be disposed of as cheaply as possible, which leads to the indiscriminate and criminal dumping of toxic chemicals and other waste by-products of industry.
The second aspect of the market system which has a devastating effect on the environment is that the costs of production must be constantly lowered. Every new labour-saving invention installed by one company requires industry-wide imitation by its competitors. The result is that the total amount of commodities increases in astronomical proportions as the number of needed workers diminishes.
The need to sell ever greater numbers of commodities creates, under capitalism, a throw-away culture. The system bombards us with commercials to buy, buy, buy while creating products with a deliberately limited life span and which cost more to fix than to replace. While it's good to have people recycle and consume fewer unneeded products, these personal choices alone can't redirect the underlying compulsions of the system that are the real reason for the environmental crisis.
Trying to solve environmental problems through government legislation has proved futile. Numerous laws that have been passed to protect the environment either are not enforced or are weakened in response to economic pressure from businesses. And the capitalists hold the ultimate weapon, the threat of moving their corporations to countries where there are no such laws.
The foundation for real democracy is the ownership and control of the economy by society as a whole - not by private corporations, not by the state, not by any other entity standing above us. To establish an economic democracy, we will need to organise to put ourselves in direct control of the economy by organising a political party to demand fundamental change. We must build a new workers’ and environment movement based on the explicit goal of replacing capitalism with economic democracy.
The change to an economic democracy will make it possible to solve the problems capitalism has created. With the absence of conflicting economic interests, the new society will be able to tackle problems in a spirit of cooperation. Our number-one priority will be conservation and protection of the environment, not only for ourselves, but to benefit future generations. This is a call for a revolutionary transformation of society where we declare that the means of life rightfully belong to all the people. We need to rediscover the common needs and hopes that bind us as a class, that override our differences. We need to understand that we, the world’s working people, are the only necessary class. We do all the useful work, and we are the only ones who can change it for the better.