While capitalism’s latest child, Covid-19, rains death down on us, capitalism’s destruction of the planet is actually taking us down a path towards human extinction. According to a United Nations report published in September, the world has failed to meet any of the targets set in 2010 to protect biodiversity and one fifth of all countries are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing.
The report concludes that “We are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.” In addition to the biodiversity destruction, global heating gets steadily worse. None of the carbon emissions reduction goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference have been met. Instead we are heading for at least double the agreed temperature rise this century, between 3 and 5 degrees centigrade! Despite a fall in carbon emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to rise steadily and are now 417ppm – a rise of 33% since 1960. This means one thing only – more global heating. Polar ice sheets melt, forest fires rage from the US to Australia to Siberia, coral reefs die and we approach the dreaded tipping points, the points of no return where no human action makes any difference; yet the capitalist system is incapable of changing course!
The UK government is doing next to nothing either to slow a decline in biodiversity or to lower our carbon emissions. Boris Johnson made a speech at the UN biodiversity summit in October, where he promised to protect 30% of land for biodiversity. However, the proposed protected area refers to land protected for beauty, not wildlife; and some of it is poor in biodiversity due to decades of overgrazing. This and his latest commitment to more wind turbines, which he previously dismissed as “seagull slicers”, are just, well, hot air.
The environmental movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) organised a week of action in September including marches and disrupting the distribution of newspapers. This coincided with the presentation of the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill by Green MP Caroline Lucas. The CEE bill attempts to get the government to stick to and go further than its commitments of limiting global temperature rise this century to 1.5°C. The bill aims to create a “Citizens’ Assembly,” one of XR’s demands, to decide the necessary measures needed. Of course, anything which reduces profits, including this bill, will never be agreed by parliament, since parliament is the executive of the capitalist class. Its job is to protect profits.
XR attempts to make the capitalist class embrace a green capitalism, but this is turning out to be like trying to persuade a shark to become a vegetarian. The failure of XR has led some of its leading members to form a more radical organisation, but one with fundamentally the same aim. Roger Hallam, one of the founding members of XR, split to start this new organisation, known as Beyond Politics, which trades under the name Burning Pink. This group want to take more disruptive action and dismiss XR as ineffective and middle class. They have got themselves arrested for various stunts. The state is, of course, watching and in August Hallam and four other members of the group were arrested in their homes, charged with conspiracy to cause public nuisance and remanded in gaol. In the statements of those arrested and published by Burning Pink, they make clear that they see themselves as part of the liberal tradition of the suffragettes, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela. One of the co-founders of Beyond Politics, Valerie Brown, plans to stand for election as London mayor. The group is clearly not beyond bourgeois politics. Despite the talk of putting environmental control into the hands of citizens’ assemblies, which Hallam in a new pamphlet Common Sense describes as revolution, there is no mention of the real problem which is capitalist production. There is no understanding that the capitalist system itself demands continual accumulation of capital if it is not to collapse. This equals continual growth. Continual growth, such as the present doubling of global GDP every 25 years, on a finite planet is impossible. It equals environmental destruction and pollution on a global scale leading to a new mass extinction.
Why have decades of climate conferences, pious resolutions to halt global warming and environmental destruction led to a situation where global heating and environmental destruction are both accelerating? The answer is because capitalist production is for profit and capitalists will not reduce pollution if that reduces profits. Rather than admit this, members of the ruling class, like fossil fuel capitalists and others, have spent decades financing climate change denial lobbies and think tanks to rubbish climate science.
The truth is that only through abolishing capitalism and building a society that produces for human needs instead of profit, does humanity have any chance of survival. We call such a society communism. It has nothing to do with the state capitalism which existed in Russia. It is a society without classes, where the means of production are social property and production is for human need, where states and borders are abolished and control is by a system of workers’ councils. Only in such a society, by means of global planning and ending the massive waste production of today, can we begin to reverse the terrible damage which capitalism has inflicted on the planet. The struggle to create a higher system of production is really the only real struggle against environmental destruction. Anyone who seriously wants to save humanity from extinction has no choice but to join the struggle for a new society.
Join the internationalist communists and fight for the communist programme!
The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 53) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.