Capitalism's profit motive is the culprit for this, as well as many other unthinkable environmental disasters in the making. The profit motive and capitalism are bringing civilisation to the brink of disaster, and time is running out to take corrective actions where it is still possible or to lessen the effects where the damage is already too advanced to be undone. It ought to be clear by now that the system primarily responsible for bringing humanity such peril and which even now continues to ignore the warnings of scientists is not about to spend the hundreds of billions needed to avert or mitigate the dangers. Socially harmful decisions are made because, in one way or another, they serve the profit interests of the capitalist class. Capitalist class rule over the economy also explains why government regulation is so ineffective: under capitalism, government itself is essentially a tool of the capitalist class. Politicians may be elected "democratically," but because they are financed, supported and decisively influenced by the economic power of the capitalist class, democratic forms are reduced to a farce. The capitalist class and its government will never be able to solve the environmental crisis. They and their system are the problem.
Freed from any restrictions imposed by private-ownership interests and operating only for the good of humankind and the world, and in sharp contrast to the feeble and timid actions of the environmental activists tied to the capitalist system who are perennially preoccupied with garnering political influence among politicians and trying to raise the monetary funds to carry on their work socialists find themselves in the task of rebuilding our world. The action workers must take is to realise their political power with the goal of building a new society with completely different motives for production -- human needs and wants instead of profit -- and to organise their own political party to challenge the political power of the capitalists, express their mandate for change at the ballot box and dismantle the state altogether.
Too often environmentalists are limited in their world view and understanding of the capitalist system, imbued with notions of the "evil men [or corporations]" theory of history, are prone to divorce their specific environmental cause from the whole socio-economic fabric. These environmental warriors of capitalist society endlessly flounder, winning, at best, only a delaying action against the disintegrating effects of capitalism on the natural world. Government regulations pose no threat to capitalism, and never have, regardless of how they may affect or place certain restraints on specific capitalist interests. The real threat to capitalism and the crimes that capitalism commits against nature and humanity is an informed and active working class. Only socialism can satisfy our needs while operating all the industries in harmony with the best interest of the whole planet. However, until the working class decides that it must take control of the economy and establish a new form of democratic government based on collective and democratic ownership of the economy, all creatures on earth will continue to suffer under the capitalist dictum of "business as usual."
The best capitalism can do is to substitute one set of risks for another. Every time capitalism "solves" a problem it creates a new one. It will take a fundamentally different type of social and economic system to even begin to rationally address the problem of global warming-- a socialist society, freed from what Marx once referred to as "the furies of private interest" that now control energy sources and its uses. As always, the moneyed interests come first, and people last. The fossil-fuel industrial complex spends millions of its ill-gotten profits on a persistent campaign of disinformation that is readily augmented, amplified and widely disseminated by the capitalist media. Despite all warnings, the situation will continue to deteriorate as long as the capitalist system continues to exist. The capitalists will defend their source of profits by every means in their power and we will near ever closer to the brink of social disaster. We'll be taken over the edge of the abyss unless the workers awaken to the danger, recognise that capitalism is both the cause of the problem and the obstacle to its solution, and take steps to abolish capitalism and establish socialism.
There exists mountains of studies, reports and research papers that amount to indictments of capitalism as the culprit for the destruction of the environment. University libraries are bulging, publishers are glutted and periodicals are saturated with facts and figures. Hardly anything seems to have escaped the scrutiny of those scientists who have produced findings that Nature and the planet’s eco-system is in deep trouble. Rare indeed are explicit condemnations of the capitalist systems operations. These scientists have drawn conclusions, without the essential inference that environmental degradation is inherent in capitalist development. Such an inference would, of course, have led to only one conclusion: that meaningful action to repair our world can only be taken when the competitive pressures of capitalism, indeed the capitalist system itself, is abolished and socialism established.
Among the most serious problems facing society today is that of environmental pollution and
destruction. Air pollution, acid rain and acidic seas, tainted and toxic water, poisonous industrial pollutants in our rivers and oceans, cancer-producing pesticides on the food we eat, unhealthy hormones and antibiotics in meat and dairy products, nuclear waste leakage and accidents like Japan’s Fukushima, ozone depletion and last but by no means the least, global warming -- the list of bad news on the environment is seemingly unending.
Marx and Engels perceived enormous squandering of society's resources, a fact that caused Engels to observe: "When one observes how here in London alone a greater quantity of manure than is produced by the whole kingdom of Saxony is poured away every day into the sea with an expenditure of enormous sums, and what colossal structures are necessary in order to prevent this manure from poisoning the whole of London, then the utopia of abolishing the distinction between town and country is given a remarkably practical basis." (The Housing Question.)
The world in which we live does not belong to this generation, or even to the human species so is it reasonable, then, to permit its ongoing destruction -- not by the humanity, but by that tiny minority of the human species that is befouling the nest of all -- the capitalist class? There is no reason whatsoever that prevents mankind from living in harmony with its natural surroundings. Indeed, humanity is itself an integral part of the total environment and no more at odds with it by nature than any other animal. Pollution is not an inevitable by-product of modern industry. Methods exist or can readily be developed to safely neutralize, recycle or contain most industrial wastes. Less polluting forms of transportation and energy CAN be built. Adequate supplies of food CAN be grown without deadly pesticides. The problem is that, under capitalism, the majority of people have no power to make these kinds of decisions about production. Under the capitalist system, production decisions are made by the small, wealthy minority that owns and controls the industries and services -- the capitalist class. And the capitalists who make up that class make their decisions to serve, first and foremost, one goal -- that of maximising profit for themselves. That is where the environmental crisis begins and offer grim testament to the anti-social character of capitalism.
Capitalism was at one time a necessary development of the human species humanity must continue to progress its social development -- to socialism. It seems all too obvious that every move ruling classes make is calculated to increase their profits or consolidate their power over the peoples and the countries they control. The clean up of polluted waters, the reclamation of toxic land, and the restoration of the natural environment generally will have to wait for the advent of socialism. That is the only sane, logical and practical way to eliminate all such unnatural disasters because it is the only way to take control of the economy away from an impervious ruling class and place it under the direct control of society as a whole. A socialist industrial democracy is what is needed to solve the environmental crisis. By placing the economic decision-making power in the hands of the people, by eliminating capitalist control and the profit motive in favor of a system in which workers produce to meet their own needs and wants, the necessary resources and labour could be devoted to stop pollution at its source and repair the damage already done. Socialism, of course, could not immediately halt the use of coal, oil and nucclear power as energy sources; nor could it immediately clear the atmosphere of the already accumulated greenhouse gases. Socialism could and would set corrective processes in motion by eliminating the anarchy and duplication characteristic of capitalist production; by putting an end to the massive production of nuclear arms; by decreasing the use of fossil fuels wherever possible; by the elimination of a host of other wasteful industrial activities and polluting practices that are part and parcel of the capitalist system and the mad drive for profits that it engenders. It would, thereby, provide time and resources to our researchers and scientists to enable them to discover and/or develop alternative non-polluting and renewable energy sources, even as nature begins to clear the atmosphere.
History cannot stand still. If we do not move forward we must either stagnate or regress. It is time to choose.