Ecosocialism III

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Ecosocialism III
M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=657][color=mediumblue][u]Ecosocialist International Network: What’s Next?[/u][/color][/url]

- an important discussion paper by Joel Kovel 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://a-zone.org/pipermail/ecosocialistcanada_a-zone.org/2009-March/000... on the Second Ecosocialist International Network Meeting, Belem[/u][/color][/url]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=1102]The 10 most-read articles at Climate and Capitalism[/url]

... all of them excellent!

George Victor

Wish I'd had the pieces and following comments on overpopulation a year or so back. 

But does Monbiot get the cold shoulder, go unmentioned,  for some purely  political reason?  Seems to me his math isn't  bad. Scary and demanding, but far more acceptable than the endless discussion on rallying sector participation to save our species.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Thanks for that info, M.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Previous threads ...

Ecosocialism One

Ecosocialism Two

 

Looking back on babble's old format ... I prefer the old format.

George Victor
N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

[quote=Fred Magdoff in Monthly Review] As we consider the prospects of a destabilized climate in the future, we should keep in mind that dramatic climate anomalies such as those of the late nineteenth century-like nothing that has occurred since-can devastate large regions of the world. All the more reason to do whatever we can to help educate people about the environmental harm being done to the planet by a system whose only driving force is profits, a system that must grow continually to avoid recession or depression, that views resources as infinite, and that assumes that the earth can permanently absorb all the waste we generate.[/quote]

current capitalism:

- driving force of profits

- must grow continually to avoid crisis

- views the finite resources of Earth as infinite

- treats the Earth as a limitless garbage can

That's not a bad summary of some of the key ecological problems with capitalist civilization and why an alternative way for humanity to interact - the MR crowd uses the biological idea of a metabolic relationship very helpfully here - with nature must be found.

Notes from the Editors - January 2011

Edited to add: This is also handy (from March 2010) ...

What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

 

NDPP

I truly think that this will end up being one of the quickest and most effective means of persuading the average person, if they don't already think it, that either capitalism goes or we do.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Using a metaphor of addiction ... the first step for a serious addict is to recognize that he has a problem. Then the search for a solution is more determined and more likely to be successful. That first step is difficult.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

These two excerpts are interesting.

[quote=N.Beltov]What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism[/quote]

excerpt:  

In theory, cap and trade is supposed to stimulate technological innovation to increase carbon efficiency. In practice, it has not led to carbon dioxide emission reductions in those areas where it has been introduced, such as in Europe. The main result of carbon trading has been enormous profits for some corporations and individuals, and the creation of a subprime carbon market.  There are no meaningful checks of the effectiveness of the "offsets," nor prohibitions for changing conditions sometime later that will result in carbon dioxide release to the atmosphere.

excerpt:  

A carbon tax of the kind proposed by James Hansen, in which 100 percent of the dividends go back to the public, thereby encouraging conservation while placing the burden on those with the largest carbon footprints and the most wealth, could be instituted.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[quote]An ecosocialist differs from an ecologist in that he analyzes the "ecological crisis" not as a crisis of the relationship between humanity in general and nature but as a crisis of the relationship between an historically determined mode of production and its environment, and therefore in the last analysis as a manifestation of the crisis of the mode of production itself.

In other words, for an ecosocialist, the ecological crisis is in fact a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism (not to overlook the specific crisis of the so-called "socialist" societies, which aped capitalist productivism). A result is that, in his fight for the environment, an ecosocialist will always propose demands that make the connection with the social question, with the struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a redistribution of wealth, for employment, etc.[/quote]

– [url=http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=3744]Daniel Tanuro[/url]

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Quote:

 

In other words, for an ecosocialist, the ecological crisis is in fact a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism (not to overlook the specific crisis of the so-called "socialist" societies, which aped capitalist productivism). A result is that, in his fight for the environment, an ecosocialist will always propose demands that make the connection with the social question, with the struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a redistribution of wealth, for employment, etc.

Words worth preserving!

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Fred Magdoff has another MR article - this time the lead article - in which he outlines what an ecological civilization would look like. In terms of getting your head around ecological issues and trying to organize your thinking on the issues it is a very good read.

 

Magdoff puts it like this:

[quote=Fred Magdoff]There are numerous ways to approach and think about the enormous harm that has been done to the environment. I will discuss the following: (1) the critical characteristics that underlie strong ecosystems; (2) why societies are not adequately implementing ecological approaches; and (3) how we might use characteristics of strong natural ecosystems as a framework to consider a future ecological civilization.[/quote]

intro
1. Ecological Principles: Learning from Nature

- Metabolism and Metabolic Connections
- soil-plant-animal-atmosphere metabolic connections
- Strong Natural Ecosystems: Diversity, Efficient Natural Cycles through Closely Linked Metabolic Relationships, Self-Sufficiency, Self-Regulation, Resiliency through Self-Renewal
- Are There Lessons to Learn From Bees?

11. Why are Societies Not Applying Ecological Knowledge?

- Rifts in Nutrient Cycles (lotsa good diagrams)
- Rifts in the Circulation of Organic Matter and the Carbon Cycle
- Disruption of the Hydrologic (Water) Cycle
- Rifts in the Interactions Among Organisms
- Intervention to Try to Bridge Metabolic Rifts - Or Transfer the Problem Elsewhere
- The Complexity of Ecological Disruptions
- The Wider Metabolic Rifts Engendered by Industrial Production/Consumption (including a really good table on the Consequences of Degradation or Rift in Metabolic Relationships)

III Creating an Ecological Civilization

- Self-Regulation
- Diversity
- Efficient Natural Cycles through Closely Linked Metabolic Relationships
- Self-Sufficiency
- Resiliency through Self-Renewal

 

Ecological Civilization

It's a very rich piece, lots of material to absorb, but also very helpful in organizing one's thinking about ecological issues and, therefore, invaluable.

 

Lord Palmerston

Boom Boom, thanks for highlighting those two excerpts.   It sure beats the partisan nonsense we heard around here about the NDP's cap and trade plan being somehow less "capitalistic" than the carbon tax during the 2008 election.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

An important new article by Richard Smith of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, London:

[url=http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=4405]Green Capitalism: The God That Failed[/url]

Outline:

[b]I. Saving the earth for fun and profit[/b]

[b]II. Delusions of "Natural Capitalism"[/b]

[b][i]A. The folly of cap & trade and carbon taxes[/i][/b]
1. Cap and trade: the market solution to Kyoto's failed voluntary limits solution
2. Carbon taxes: the market solution to the failed cap and trade market solution
3. The inevitable failure of market solutions

[b][i]B. The economics vs. the science on the scope of the problem[/i][/b]

[b][i]C. Natural limits to "greening" any economy[/i][/b]
1. Certified organic: green gone wrong
2. Fantasies of de-coupling and dematerialization
3. The electric/hybrid car solution to what?
4. The clean, green energy solution to what?
5. Green resource extraction?
6. Green manufacturing?
7. Saint Ray Anderson and the limits of the possible
8. Tax the polluters but let them pollute?

[b]III. Capitalism without consumerism?[/b]

[b]IV. Climate Change or System Change?[/b]

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

It's not ecosocialism (more like anarchism), but nevertheless a damn good documentary film about the environment and late-stage capitalism that challenges the viewer to act. And it's got lots of Canadian content:

[quote]END:CIV examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations. Based in part on [i]Endgame[/i], the best-selling book by Derrick Jensen, END:CIV asks: “If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air, and contaminated the food supply, would you resist?”

The causes underlying the collapse of civilizations are usually traced to overuse of resources. As we write this, the world is reeling from economic chaos, peak oil, climate change, environmental degradation, and political turmoil. Every day, the headlines re-hash stories of scandal and betrayal of the public trust. We don’t have to make outraged demands for the end of the current global system — it seems to be coming apart already.

But acts of courage, compassion and altruism abound, even in the most damaged places. By documenting the resilience of the people hit hardest by war and repression, and the heroism of those coming forward to confront the crisis head-on, END:CIV illuminates a way out of this all-consuming madness and into a saner future.

Backed by Jensen’s narrative, the film calls on us to act as if we truly love this land. The film trips along at a brisk pace, using music, archival footage, motion graphics, animation, slapstick and satire to deconstruct the global economic system, even as it implodes around us. END:CIV illustrates first-person stories of sacrifice and heroism with intense, emotionally-charged images that match Jensen’s poetic and intuitive approach. Scenes shot in the back country provide interludes of breathtaking natural beauty alongside clearcut evidence of horrific but commonplace destruction.[/quote]

Watch it in full on [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvH5KFS8kfA]YouTube[/url] (75 min).

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[quote=Esther Vivas]The starting point for today’s debate is to note that humanity is in a global ecological crisis that is an intrinsic part of the systemic crisis of capitalism. And one of the differences from past economic crises, from that of the 1970s or the crash of 1929, is precisely its ecological aspect.

Indeed, we cannot analyse the global ecological crisis separately from the crisis in which we are immersed or the critique of the economic model that has led us into it. It is also necessary to reject outright the logic of profit maximization of the capitalist system and the productivist orientation which takes no account of the limits of planet Earth.

The reality is that we are witnessing a crisis of civilization that has multiple dimensions: a crisis of ecology, food, care, finance, and as José Saramago says, ethics and morality.[/quote]

[url=http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=5234]Speech at a conference to commemorate José Saramago at the University of Granada, 28 April 2011.[/url]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[quote=N.Beltov]

What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism[/quote]

That article is now the title of [url=http://monthlyreview.org/press/books/pb2419/]a book[/url] by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster. Here's an [url=http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/magdoff240811.html]interview with Magdoff[/url] about the book. Excerpt:

[quote] Q. Why did you decide to write a book like this, and why now?

Magdoff: In the fall of 2008 I attended a conference where discussion of the environment was prominent, although not the only subject.  As people talked about the variety of problems facing the earth and humanity I had the feeling that they were constantly "beating around the bush." ...

They were very interesting and innovative people -- many would be considered "out of the box" thinkers.  But, [b]I realized that they, and those in the environmental movement in general, were unable to think outside of capitalism.  It appears inconceivable to most of the people I spoke with that somehow there might be a future economic system that wasn't capitalist.[/b]  It seemed to me that this was the critical issue.  I thought that, if they fully understood the role of the normal workings of the capitalist system in causing environmental havoc, people with such great concern for the environment might begin to understand that another social/economic/political system is not just possible, but essential.[/quote]

ruth67
lagatta

Thanks to you all. I'm a member of the Ecosocialist International Network and know almost all the people you have cited above. I'll make sure to visit these threads when I'm on a computer that allows me access to rabble/babble, and hopefully after I've replaced my clunker.

As for anarchism, I think ecosocialists can find many points of convergence with certain anarchist currents. One of the main issues will be how we approach planning. Certainly ecosocialists favour democratic, "from below" socialism - certainly not Stalinist type authoritarian planning, but there is also a very centralised social-democratic planning history (mostly in Europe) that requires critique. That said, I think socialism does require some kind of planning, and does developing Ecocities and towns.

We are very much in discussion with the "décroissance" (degrowth) current, but there are problems in terms of countries exploited and "underdeveloped" by capitalism where a different form of development (one might prefer a different term) is imperative to end glaring global inequalities. Moreover, reducing our footprint does require investment in terms of urban planning and public/active transport infrastructure.

Unionist Unionist's picture

Renowned ecosocialist Gary Doer works hard to promote nonrenewable energy sales to U.S.:

[url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/konrad-yakabuski/gary-doer-sel... Doer sells oils sands from coast to U.S. coast[/url]

 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Doer really is a prick, isn't he? Frown

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

He is a disciple of Tony Blair. He is a social democrat in the European and British tradition.  They are bowing to big finance and the military industrial complex. When he was a Premier he didn't speak much on foreign affairs but his support for the tar sands is no surprise.  His "legacy" in Manitoba on other fronts appears to be debatable. Here is a link to thread from 2009.  The man is no more progressive than that other NDP Premier, Bob Rae.

 

http://rabble.ca/babble/national-news/gary-doer-defends-alberta-oilsands

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=5296]Cy Gonick's Ten Theses for the Ecosocialist Movement[/url]

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

hmm. Marx took 11 theses to get around to the important one about going beyond interpreting the world to changing it. Gonick managed this idea in only 10 theses. This is a nice ecology of effort from Cy Gonick. :)

Recycle Reuse Reduce

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

John Bellamy Foster has, yet again, provided an excellent essay on the topic of what every environmentalist needs to know about capitalism.

Strongly recommended.

[quote=J B Foster] It is no secret today that we are facing a planetary environmental emergency, endangering most species on the planet, including our own, and that this impending catastrophe has its roots in the capitalist economic system. Nevertheless, the extreme dangers that capitalism inherently poses to the environment are often inadequately understood, giving rise to the belief that it is possible to create a new "natural capitalism" or "climate capitalism" in which the system is turned from being the enemy of the environment into its savior.1 The chief problem with all such views is that they underestimate the cumulative threat to humanity and the earth arising from the existing relations of production. Indeed, the full enormity of the planetary ecological crisis, I shall contend, can only be understood from a standpoint informed by the Marxian critique of capitalism.[/quote]

The author makes some interesting observations: that Marx's introduction to politics, before he was a communist, was in relation to an environmental issue. Foster also outlines the importance of understanding the difference between value in use (use-value) and value in exchange (exchange-value) as critical for a critique of capitalist political economy and in understanding how capitalism, inherently, comes into conflict with natural production and how public wealth is undermined by the private wealth of capital. It's all very clear and readable.

"The domination of exchange value over use value in capitalist development and the ecological impact of this can also be seen in Marx's general formula of capital, M-C-M′."

Foster is the thinker who, more than any other author, has RESCUED Marx's brilliant idea of "metabolic rift".

[quote]Marx's most pointed ecological contribution, however, lay in his theory of metabolic rift. Building on the work of the great German chemist Justus von Liebig, Marx argued that in shipping food and fiber hundreds and thousands of miles to the new urban centers of industrial production, where population was increasingly concentrated, capital ended up robbing the soil of its nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which instead of being returned to the earth created pollution in the cities. Liebig called this "Raubbau" or the robbery system.... For Marx this capitalist Raubbau took the form of "an irreparable rift" within capitalist society in the metabolism between humanity and the earth-"a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself"-requiring its "systematic restoration as a regulative law of social production." [/quote]

Finally,

[quote] In order to understand the significance of this ecological critique for Marx's overall critique of capitalism, it is necessary to recognize that the labor and production process was itself designated, in his analysis, as the metabolic relation between human beings and nature. Marx's primary definition of socialism/communism was therefore that of a society in which "the associated producers govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way...accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy." Along with this, he developed the most radical conception of sustainability possible, insisting that no one, not even all the countries and peoples of the world taken together, owned the earth; that it was simply held in trust and needed to be maintained in perpetuity in line with the principle of boni patres familias (good heads of the household). His overall ecological critique thus required that instead of the open rifts developed under capitalism, there needed to be closed metabolic cycles between humanity and nature. This allowed him to incorporate thermodynamic conceptions into his understanding of economy and society.[/quote]

This conception of Marx is identical to what is often considered a FN spiritual principle, viz, that Mother Earth is sacred and cannot be owned by anyone. The more we read Marx the more we re-discover what an astonishing genius he really was.

The Ecology of Marxian Political Economy

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://lifeonleft.blogspot.com/2011/09/foundations-of-ecosocialist-strat... of an ecosocialist strategy[/url]
by Daniel Tanuro

[excerpt]

[quote]Contrary to the false but extremely popular Easter Island metaphor advanced by Jared Diamond, the environmental deterioration we are now observing is not at all comparable to the damage that may have occurred in previous historical periods. The differences are not only quantitative (the seriousness and global scale of ecological problems) but also and above all qualitative. While all the environmental crises of the past stemmed from social tendencies to chronic under-production, hence the fear of shortages, the current problems originate in the converse tendency to over-production and over-consumption, which is specific to generalized commodity production.

[b]Consequently, the expression “ecological crisis” is inappropriate. It is not nature that is in crisis, but the historically determined relationship between humanity and its environment.[/b] This crisis is not due to the intrinsic characteristics of the human species but to the mode of production that became dominant about two centuries ago — capitalism — and the modes of consumption and mobility that it entails. The serious damages to ecosystems (climate change, chemical pollution, swift decline in biodiversity, soil degradation, destruction of the tropical forest, etc.) constitute one dimension of the global systemic crisis. Together, they express the incompatibility between capitalism and respect for natural limits.[/quote]

Policywonk

[quote=M. Spector]

[url=http://lifeonleft.blogspot.com/2011/09/foundations-of-ecosocialist-strat... of an ecosocialist strategy[/url]
by Daniel Tanuro

[excerpt]

[quote]Contrary to the false but extremely popular Easter Island metaphor advanced by Jared Diamond, the environmental deterioration we are now observing is not at all comparable to the damage that may have occurred in previous historical periods. The differences are not only quantitative (the seriousness and global scale of ecological problems) but also and above all qualitative. While all the environmental crises of the past stemmed from social tendencies to chronic under-production, hence the fear of shortages, the current problems originate in the converse tendency to over-production and over-consumption, which is specific to generalized commodity production.

[b]Consequently, the expression “ecological crisis” is inappropriate. It is not nature that is in crisis, but the historically determined relationship between humanity and its environment.[/b] This crisis is not due to the intrinsic characteristics of the human species but to the mode of production that became dominant about two centuries ago — capitalism — and the modes of consumption and mobility that it entails. The serious damages to ecosystems (climate change, chemical pollution, swift decline in biodiversity, soil degradation, destruction of the tropical forest, etc.) constitute one dimension of the global systemic crisis. Together, they express the incompatibility between capitalism and respect for natural limits.[/quote]

[/quote]

How is a an extinction event like the one we are currently in not nature in crisis? I don't disagree that there is an incompatibility between capitalism and respect for national limits, but the relationship between humans and the environment is essentially human ecology; hence there is by definition an ecological crisis.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the GNU/Linux debate. It's a question of the right definition and perhaps you just don't like the definition you're being presented with and which clearly identifies our current relations of production and social organization (capitalism) as the cause of the crisis.

Ecology is often defined as the relations that all organisms, not just humans, have with each other and their natural environment. That's a definition that could easily go along with a description of the crisis that's blamed on a wrathful God, or little green men, or inherent qualities of human beings that can never change, or random changes in climate, or a million and one other reasons for the crisis OTHER than the way that humans interact with nature under capitalism. Put the blame where it belongs so we can direct our energies at the cause of the crisis. There is a great deal of energy put into denial including denial of this.

Policywonk

[quote=ikosmos]

Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the GNU/Linux debate. It's a question of the right definition and perhaps you just don't like the definition you're being presented with and which clearly identifies our current relations of production and social organization (capitalism) as the cause of the crisis.

Ecology is often defined as the relations that all organisms, not just humans, have with each other and their natural environment. That's a definition that could easily go along with a description of the crisis that's blamed on a wrathful God, or little green men, or inherent qualities of human beings that can never change, or random changes in climate, or a million and one other reasons for the crisis OTHER than the way that humans interact with nature under capitalism. Put the blame where it belongs so we can direct our energies at the cause of the crisis. There is a great deal of energy put into denial including denial of this.

[/quote]

Ecology is actually the study of the relations that all organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. It can and does eliminate the incorrect answers. Since the main interaction of humans with the environment is via the economy (which I consider the same as human ecology), and the predominant economic paradigm is capitalism I see no inconsistency with the scientific definition of ecology and blaming capitalism for the global ecological crisis or recognizing that there were local and more widespread ecological crises under systems other than capitalism.  I assume you've heard of the Aral Sea.

6079_Smith_W

[quote=Policywonk]

  I assume you've heard of the Aral Sea.

[/quote]

...and as I mentioned a a few weeks ago, the German Democratic Republic.

Not that I don't get it that the main driver of the damage is runaway consumption, and much of that is due to global capitalism - I do.

But capitalism ain't the only force out there, and there is plenty of evidence that humans have a tendency to outstrip their resources and fuck things up no matter what car we are driving.

Socialist revolution will put a stop to that? Excuse me if I am a bit sceptical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleistocene_megafauna

 

 

 

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[quote=6079_Smith_W]

Excuse me if I am a bit sceptical.[/quote]

Yes, you were excused a long time ago. We understand that your sole function here is to ridicule and dismiss out of hand any criticism of capitalism or advocacy for social change.

We get it already.

ygtbk

I think 6079_Smith_W's point is that communism's environmental record was no better than capitalism's. The reason we link current environmental problems to capitalism is that the competing system fell apart.

Now, maybe ecosocialism will fare better, but that's yet to be seen.

6079_Smith_W

Yup... 

What ygtbk said.

I am no more a fan of predatory capitalism than you are, and I see the links between the two struggles but capitalism didn't create the car that ran on motor oil. And it didn't create this, which even back before the fall of the east bloc was responsible for close to one third of all Europe's air pollution:

http://www.energy.rochester.edu/pl/blacktriangle/

According to the article, the three countries started working together in 1991 to deal with the problem,

And Mr. Tanuro's claim in posts #13 and  #30 that humans only began damaging the environment 200 years ago because of capitalism are nonsense.

Deforestation in Ireland and Wales wasn't started by capitalism. Nor was irrigation damage in Mesopotamia, the Romans poisoning themselves with lead, the crash of classical Maya, slash-and-burn agriculture, or the extinction of large land animals around the world. Our image of hell? Most of it came from a garbage dump near Jerusalem that was kept burning all the time.

When I go out to my garden I don't pretend that the slugs are the only creatures I need to deal with. I go after whatever is doing the damage, and if that means I have to pick a few cabbage worms, so be it.

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[quote]maybe ecosocialism will fare better, but that's yet to be seen.[/quote]

It's never going to be seen if the Smiths of this world have their way.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

[quote=Smith] ... the main driver of the damage is runaway consumption ... [/quote]

Actually, no, as the whole logic of capitalism is towards over-production, etc. Production, and now finance, dominate consumption under capitalism and therefore fiddling with consumption patterns does not get at the cause of, for example, the zillions of dollars of waste and pollution associated with marketing and packaging under late capitalism. Green capitalism is a project doomed to failure, just as exortations to "consumers" to recycle, reuse, and reduce isn't satisfactory (enough) when millions of tons greenhouse gas creating toxins pour out of the privately owned factory next door.

I would take your objections more seriously if, instead of jumping in to attack any alternative to the ecocidal capitalism, you actually showed that you had read the author's arguments and addressed them directly. However, knee-jerk anti-communism does save the effort of thinking, doesn't it? Margaret Thatcher would be proud.

As the author puts it, "Growth-obsessed capitalism inevitably implies a growing consumption of resources, which is irreconcilable with their finite nature and their rates of renewal."

[quote=ygtbk]The reason we link current environmental problems to capitalism is that the competing system fell apart.[/quote]

The competing system in the Soviet bloc of countries in many ways mimicked the capitalist approach to environmental problems. If you looked at other socialist examples, such as present-day Cuba, you would see some of the best approaches to ecological issues in the world today. Of course you have to be willing to look and do some homework.

No. Capitalism has its own logic of ecocide. And that needs to be addressed and understood and challenged. Many authors are showing this claim to be true, and tired knee-jerk or pathological anti-communism as a justification for tinkering with capitalism - such as greenwashing or petty changes in "consumer" behavior - as a remedy to this runaway train of death is doomed to failure.

 

 

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

[quote=6079_Smith_W] When I go out to my garden I don't pretend that the slugs are the only creatures I need to deal with. I go after whatever is doing the damage, and if that means I have to pick a few cabbage worms, so be it. [/quote]

The problem with private property is that you just might choose to build a tar sands project " in your garden" to make a few billions in profit and, under capitalism, that's good and fine. It's not good and fine. It's leading to ecocide.

Thanks for giving yourself away there. Have a nice day.

6079_Smith_W

And Ikosmos, I'd take this thesis more seriously if you just wanted to fight capitalism for its own sake. I agree with you on a good part of that. 

And I think I said a few times that I see the stong links between the two struggles. 

But trying to dress it up like the two are exactly the same thing is dishonest (and frankly, it smacks of trying to take over someone else's parade float), and sorry, I don't like being played for a fool, even if it is for a good cause.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Solving ecological problems, when there are so many of them of such enormous significance, also means not being mis-directed into some cul-de-sacs that can't address these big issues. I've already provided the example of the problem of restricting environmental "activism" to exhortations to "consumers" to change their purchasing behavior. Capitalism has reached the end of the road. It's continued success depends upon the fiction of endless "growth" while being indifferent to what sorts of "growth", endless wars, mass impoverishment and mass unemployment, resource crises left and right, man-made disasters, greenhouse gases, global warming, and, ultimately, ecocide.

J B Foster and many others have written a great deal more, and more eloquently, than I could here about the connection between late capitalism and the ecological disasters that the world is facing. These questions are too important to ignore such thinkers.

6079_Smith_W

Well if your focus is on the "big issues" you might have to get in line, because there are a few others - with somewhat flashier PR and media distribution - who are onto the same mega-approach:

http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/

If on the other hand, you want to take action on environmental issues (and no, I don't think recycling bottles does it), I am with you. 

And if you want to fight predatory capitalism and globalization, I am with you on a good part of that as well, though I suspect there are a few things on which we disagree there.

"Think globally; Act locally" doesn't tell the whole story, of course. But it is a good first step in actually getting stuff done.

And yes, part of that involves my garden.

 

 

 

Policywonk

[quote=ygtbk]

I think 6079_Smith_W's point is that communism's environmental record was no better than capitalism's. The reason we link current environmental problems to capitalism is that the competing system fell apart.

Now, maybe ecosocialism will fare better, but that's yet to be seen.

[/quote]

The Soviet Union's environmental record was poor. That is because environmental protection was not a priority, and cannot be used as an general indictment of communism's record on the environment.

Policywonk

[quote=ikosmos]

[quote=Smith] ... the main driver of the damage is runaway consumption ... [/quote]

Actually, no, as the whole logic of capitalism is towards over-production, etc. Production, and now finance, dominate consumption under capitalism and therefore fiddling with consumption patterns does not get at the cause of, for example, the zillions of dollars of waste and pollution associated with marketing and packaging under late capitalism. Green capitalism is a project doomed to failure, just as exortations to "consumers" to recycle, reuse, and reduce isn't satisfactory (enough) when millions of tons greenhouse gas creating toxins pour out of the privately owned factory next door.

[/quote]

As I see it over-production requires over-consumption in order for the captitalist system to "work" (for a minority, in the short term). They feed on each other.

[quote=ikosmos]

As the author puts it, "Growth-obsessed capitalism inevitably implies a growing consumption of resources, which is irreconcilable with their finite nature and their rates of renewal."

[/quote]

Is there any other kind?

sknguy II

[quote=ikosmos]

..This conception of Marx is identical to what is often considered a FN spiritual principle, viz, that Mother Earth is sacred and cannot be owned by anyone...

[/quote]

Well... I doubt that it's actually identical. Although it's among the most important, the idea that the Earth cannot be owned is just one facet of a whole social framework revolving around what you'd call ownership or property relationships.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[quote=Policywonk]

As I see it over-production requires over-consumption in order for the captitalist system to "work" (for a minority, in the short term). They feed on each other.[/quote]

This is an error.

Firstly, production precedes consumption; one cannot consume what has not already been produced.

Secondly, capitalism is notorious for having periodic crises of overproduction, where production outstrips demand/consumption. This is a built-in feature of capitalism, and is due to the fact that workers are paid less than the value of the commodities they produce - therefore they are chronically unable to purchase back those commodities. For a time, this contradiction was forestalled by the expansion of consumer credit - let the workers buy on credit that which they cannot pay for. But this just postponed the inevitable and resulted in periodic credit-driven bubbles and debt crises - all traceable back to capitalist overproduction.

Thirdly, consumer-consumption is driven to an increasing extent by advertising. Waste is also a form of consumption, and it is rampant. Waste includes, but is by no means limited to, planned obsolescence, excessive packaging, and the throwaway model of commodity production (too expensive to repair; throw it out and buy a new one). This kind of consumption is not driven by consumer demand, but by the corporate marketing departments of the manufacturers.

Fourthly, consumption is not only that which results from consumer spending; it includes also that which is done by investing or saving. Funds invested as capital are used to purchase means of production in order to continue and expand production of goods and services. Those means of production get used up or "consumed" in the process. Also consumed and used up are the natural resources that constitute material inputs and act as waste disposal facilities (air, water, soil, etc.). In short, the act of production is itself an act of consumption; and thus over-production is itself over-consumption.

Fifthly, over-production is motivated not by satisfying human needs or demands (consumption), but by profit maximization. The built-in tendency for the rate of profit to decline in the capitalist mode of production drives the necessity to increase the amount of goods produced in order to compensate, and keep profits high.

Over-production does not "require" the existence of over-consumption as a pre-requisite, but rather it creates over-consumption in order to continue realizing profits.   

Policywonk

[quote=M. Spector]

[quote=Policywonk]

As I see it over-production requires over-consumption in order for the captitalist system to "work" (for a minority, in the short term). They feed on each other.[/quote]

This is an error.

Firstly, production precedes consumption; one cannot consume what has not already been produced.

Secondly, capitalism is notorious for having periodic crises of overproduction, where production outstrips demand/consumption. This is a built-in feature of capitalism, and is due to the fact that workers are paid less than the value of the commodities they produce - therefore they are chronically unable to purchase back those commodities. For a time, this contradiction was forestalled by the expansion of consumer credit - let the workers buy on credit that which they cannot pay for. But this just postponed the inevitable and resulted in periodic credit-driven bubbles and debt crises - all traceable back to capitalist overproduction.

Thirdly, consumer-consumption is driven to an increasing extent by advertising. Waste is also a form of consumption, and it is rampant. Waste includes, but is by no means limited to, planned obsolescence, excessive packaging, and the throwaway model of commodity production (too expensive to repair; throw it out and buy a new one). This kind of consumption is not driven by consumer demand, but by the corporate marketing departments of the manufacturers.

Fourthly, consumption is not only that which results from consumer spending; it includes also that which is done by investing or saving. Funds invested as capital are used to purchase means of production in order to continue and expand production of goods and services. Those means of production get used up or "consumed" in the process. Also consumed and used up are the natural resources that constitute material inputs and act as waste disposal facilities (air, water, soil, etc.). In short, the act of production is itself an act of consumption; and thus over-production is itself over-consumption.

Fifthly, over-production is motivated not by satisfying human needs or demands (consumption), but by profit maximization. The built-in tendency for the rate of profit to decline in the capitalist mode of production drives the necessity to increase the amount of goods produced in order to compensate, and keep profits high.

Over-production does not "require" the existence of over-consumption as a prerequisite, but rather it creates over-consumption in order to continue realizing profits.   

[/quote]

Your first point contradicts your fourth point about consumption of natural resources. If you are going to talk about natural processes of production of primary resources then they are also products of consumption at some point, so you have a chicken and egg problem.

Capitalism is certainly prone to over-production, but it is not only due to low wages. Even with advertising and people having money to spend they may still choose to save their money, and even with planned obsolescence there are only so many widgets people need or even want at any one time, and markets are imperfect instruments for distributing goods and services.

Your point that waste is not driven by consumer demand is ridiculous, given packaging for things people want or need and inefficient use of energy both in consumption and production.

Production is driven by profit, or at least potential profit, in a capitalist system, but people have real needs as well as wants, otherwise there would be no economy of any kind since there would be no people.

Production requires consumption and consumption requires production. Because of positive and negative feedback mechanisms over varying lengths of time both in nature and in the market capitalist system (and probably in any conceivable economic system) there will be imbalances leading to over-production and over-consumption, but not necessarily at the same time. This is not to say that production and consumption can't be manipulated though. Some feedbacks may lead to economic growth and contraction and others to a biological expansion or contraction and it is an open question as to whether we can develop a society where these are not inevitable in the short or long term. It is probably wrong to say that over-consumption requires or leads to over-production generally, but the opposite is probably not true either as production does not necessarily precede consumption in nature or in the economic system.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

All of your points are answered in Daniel Tanuro's article. I'm not going to try and teach you elementary economics.

Policywonk

[quote=M. Spector]

All of your points are answered in Daniel Tanuro's article. I'm not going to try and teach you elementary economics.

[/quote]

"While all the environmental crises of the past stemmed from social tendencies to chronic under-production..."

If you and Tanuro believe this you are being too dogmatic, and that has nothing to do with my knowledge or lack thereof of elementary economics. History requires interpretation of available evidence, which suggests that past societies flourished, declined, or collapsed for various reasons, including inability to adapt to climate change. While there is some evidence to suggest that humans affected greenhouse gas concentrations prior to the industrial age (see early Anthropocene theory), it is unscientific to ascribe prolonged drought thousands of years ago to social tendencies to chronic underproduction. Beyond that I won't try to teach you basic science.

 

 

 

6079_Smith_W

Well not just that. Even though earlier civilizations may not have been large enough to affect the entire globe, the fact that we could destroy ecosystems, outstrip our resources so much that our societies collapsed,  and drive species to extinction even thousands of years ago is evidence that this is a much more basic problem.

Although it is natural that an organism will expand to the point that it dies back, and then reaches equilibrium. One would think that humans, with our intelligence, would alter that natural model in a positive way. Unfortunately, we seem to pay more attention to our greed than our lessons of past experience.

(edit)

Of course, that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight globalization and predatory capitalism.

 

 

 

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