Some may consider these environmental posts as unnecessarily repetitive but when we have to confront the continuous continual mainstream media's messages we are required also to say the same thing over and over again, too.
When we look at the world around us we cannot fail to notice the extent to which nature is being ravaged in the name of short-term economic gain. It is all too clear that the prevailing economic system of capitalist competition is quite incapable of seriously taking into account the long-term considerations of a healthy planet. On a global basis the alteration in the natural balance is taking place on a massive and unprecedented scale. One of the gravest criticisms that can be leveled against the capitalist system is that the application of the profit motive have been disastrous to the land. Throughout virtually the entire world, land is not used to produce the crop best adapted to it on a permanent basis but to produce as much cash as possible, as cheaply as possible, and as quickly as possible - the same system exalted by the industrial manufacturer. Almost everywhere, the land is being impoverished; its fertility flushed down the world's rivers or blown away by its winds or simply buried under an expanding carpet of concrete.
Every vote seeking politician in the world waxes eloquently about the urgent need for a curb to be placed on global emissions. They fly hither and thither across the world addressing congresses about their deep concern for the planet's future. Behind these vote catching antics however lies a more pressing problem - how to compete against international rivals in obtaining a larger share of the profits. For national governments to reduce industrial pollution would be economic suicide. Their costs would go up and they would not be able to compete with other nations that had not reduced their pollution. Inside capitalism in the battle between less pollution or more profits there is only one winner. Businesses pollute because it is in their economic interests to do so. Oil companies. Supermarkets. Petro-chemical firms. Airlines. Globally they spend millions of pounds undermining environmental policy. Big businesses spend serious money on advertising and PR telling us that they are doing their bit for the environment. But away from the public eye they’re spending many millions holding back environmental progress. Airlines are spending millions to persuade governments to expand airports. Petro-chemical companies are blocking environmentally friendly measures because of the cost to them. Oil companies are funding ‘independent thinktanks’, designed to undermine serious climate change research. And they are all doing it for one thing. Profit. The big businesses concerned are only doing what they were set up to do – preserve and increase the wealth of their shareholders. This is an economic imperative as well as a legal obligation. The directors and executives of a business who did not seek to maximise profits and grow bigger could face legal action from its shareholders.
So what do many of the environmentalist propose to do about it? Campaign against the whole profit system and for a society in which there would be no profit-seeking businesses controlling production because productive resources would have become the common heritage of all and be used to directly provide for people’s needs? No, not at all. They accept the profit system and merely offer to restrain profit-seeking activities of big businesses by lobbying against their excesses. “We have nearly 40 year’s campaigning and political lobbying experience. So we know how to take on, and beat, the corporate bullies.” Friends of the Earth optimistically and unrealistically boast. They claim an “ability to influence change”
How might socialism approach the problem of maintaining the world’s eco-systems.
Firstly, in socialist society, free of the constraints of the marketplace, it would of course be entirely feasible to allocate resources in such a way as to ensure their most productive use. Underpinning this freedom would be the unity of common purpose, a unity forged in the basic structure of a society in which all had free and equal access to the wealth that society produced.
Secondly, socialist society would obviously want to halt and reverse the long-term decline in soil fertility by improving the humus content of the soil. Not only would this make for the more efficient absorption of chemical fertilisers but would help contain further topsoil loss as a result of erosion. Whilst this would involve more labour intensive work which would require a larger agricultural workforce it should be borne in mind that one of the greatest productive advantages of socialism over capitalism is that it would release a tremendous amount of labour for socially productive work. At least half of the workforce today are engaged in activities that, although vital to the operation of a modern capitalist economy would have no purpose in a society where production was directly and solely geared to the satisfaction of human needs.
Thirdly, and most importantly, as a society freed from the profit motive and competitive pressures "to produce as much cash as possible, as cheaply as possible, and as quickly as possible", socialism will be able to adopt agricultural methods which achieve a working compromise with nature (for, as explained, all agriculture unavoidably upsets the pre¬existing ecosystem to a greater or lesser extent) respecting the long-term considerations which ecological science teaches are vitally important.
Fourthly, socialism would have no difficulty in developing and applying existing technology. Conservation production would mean employing methods that avoid using up and destroying natural resources. For example, standardised machinery could be designed with the minimum number of wearing parts which, with simple maintenance, could be easily replaced and the materials re-cycled and used again. For parts of machinery not subject to wear, durable materials which do not deteriorate could be used. If for some reason such machinery became redundant, the materials involved could be recycled and used again. The principle of conservation production could establish the practice that once materials became socially available after extraction and processing, they would be available for permanent use in one form or another. Thus socialism would bring into use means of production, permanent installations, structures and goods which would last for a long time, and even when redundant could be re-cycled for other uses. With its shoddy goods, built in obsolescence, and the pressure of the market to constantly renew its capacity for sales, capitalism is incapable of applying this production principle.
If environmental destruction are to be minimised then human behaviour — human productive activity, to be precise — must change, in such a way that what humans take from nature, the amount and the pace at which we do so, as well as the way we use these substances and dispose of them after use, should be done in such a way as to leave the rest of nature in a position to go on supplying and re-absorbing them. We call for a change of social system. We plead guilty to being human-centred for we do have a human-centred approach: we want a socialist society primarily because it will be good for human beings. It will also be good for the biosphere but, then, what is good for the biosphere is also good for humans.
We have indeed spoken of socialism in terms of abundance and our green critics claim that human wants are "infinite" — interprets this as meaning that socialism will be a society of ever increasing personal consumption, of people coming to consume more and more food, to take more and more holidays, and to acquire more and more material goods. If humans wants were "infinite" then this would be the result of a society based on free access and geared to meeting human needs, but human wants are socially-determined and limited. Humans can only consume so much food, for instance, and only seek to accumulate more and more material goods in a society of economic insecurity like capitalism. In a society, such as socialism would be, where people could be sure that what they required to satisfy their needs would always be available then we would soon settle down to only taking what we needed and no more. This is all we meant by talking of socialism as a "society of abundance": that enough food, clothing and other material goods can be produced to allow every man, woman and child in society to satisfy their likely material needs. It was not a reference to some orgy of consumption, but simply to the fact that it is technically possible to produce more than enough to satisfy everyone's material needs, thanks, we might add, to technology and mass production.
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