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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The New Way : Ecosocialism (Guest Post by Gary Stuard,Environment And Socialist Activist,University of Houston)

Gary Stuard’s Response to Solidarity’s Questions on Ecosocialism

Ecosocialism differs from earlier manifestations of socialism/labor movements and politics due to its placing of all liberation/emancipation struggles in the larger, indeed, all-encompassing context of the Earth’s biosphere and its numerous ecosystems. Whatever decisions concerning goals, strategies, tactics and policies (from advertising to zoning) must be grounded on a thoroughly ecological perspective or, according to Daniel Tanuro in his Green Capitalism: Why it Cannot Work, “ . . . the real challenge is not to integrate ecology into socialism but rather to integrate socialism into ecology.” p. 140.  In choosing and developing policies, we must only choose those policies that aim to promote human well-being that, at the same time, does not degrade the Earth’s biosphere. In other words, human interests and struggles can no longer be conceived and enacted as though the human realm is separate from Nature and its natural processes. Nature is not a stage, a prop, an adjunct, plaything or, more to the point, super-market or warehouse of goods for humanity and its enterprises. ‘Human well-being”, “meaning”, “dignity”, “freedom” and “liberation” are inconceivable, indeed nonsensical, when seen as separate from the natural world and its laws. This means that human emancipation from capital and its masters must also be the liberation of the Earth and its biosphere from the cancer of capitalism. Jobs dependent on the exploitation of the planet, such as the resource wasting industries as the military industrial complex, the auto industry, the fossil fuel industries, advertising, industrial agriculture and the manufacturing of disposable consumer “goods”, are inherently ecologically violent, as well as politically violent as they are dependent on the exploitation of resources from third/fourth world nations and from poorer areas within developed nations.
   Our growing ecological awareness is forcing us to see the central importance of ecology in any revolutionary movement. But this awareness is not completely new, as shown brilliantly by John Bellamy Foster in his Marx’s Ecology, where Marx is shown having understood the “metabolic rift” between modern development (i.e. cities) and the countryside. But, even though a few early Marxists saw the importance of this fact, it soon faded from view in Marxist circles and this blinding of vision has seriously hampered liberation movements. The situation is as described by Mario Candeias in his “What is ‘Socialist’ about ‘Green Socialism’”:
    “There was a ‘passive revolution” (Gramsci) divorcing the ecological from the    social question. The ecological question was absorbed into the neoliberal   strategies of managing globalization. This happened through the institutionalization of environmental policy and global climate summits, as well through the integration of green parties and NGOs into mainstream politics. From an ecological standpoint, the successes of the passive revolution were limited; there is an unbroken trend towards deepening ecological and social crises; the ecological crises have accrued considerable social costs and vice versa. Consequentially, ‘green socialism” has to be linked with concrete struggles such as struggles over energy production and projects of conversion based on a ‘just transition.”
Candeisa continues:
      “‘Green socialism’ is about taking a stand against – not for a long time realized – ‘green capitalism’. The concept is about linking up a range of interests and movements in the name of ‘revolutionary Realpolitik’, ensuring that ‘their particular efforts, taken together, push beyond the framework of the existing order’ (Rosa Luxemburg, Marxist Theory and the Proletariat). In the process , many of the socialist themes – e.g. redistribution, power and prosperity, planning and democracy – are updated and linked with new issues. It is necessary to link ‘green socialism’ to real contradictions and conditions – to real social forces and movements that are tackling different issues, getting involved in different conflicts and developing concrete, experimental practices.”

Since the 70’s, climate science has been an ever growing body of data that shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that global warming/climate are real, that it is human caused and it is now rapidly worsening to the point of destroying human civilization, as well as devastating the Earth’s ecosphere with the result that at least 60% of current species will be lost forever.  While there are a host of other ecological catastrophes currently unfolding due to human activities (acidification of the seas, deforestation, desertification, wholesale destruction of natural habitat, global contamination of air/water/soil, etc.), global warming/climate change is the prime mechanism that is driving most of the planet’s ecological instability. Given that it has been modern industrialization, with its dependence on fossil fuels, which has and still is releasing the greenhouse gasses causing global climate change, the reduction of such gasses being released into the atmosphere is of penultimate importance. According the latest estimates by the IPCC,  the world community must reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2020, 95% by 2050 to avoid going over the average global rise in temperature (in comparison with the pre-industrial period) of 2.0 to 2.4 C, a temperature rise which of itself will cause major environmental destabilization, species loss and immense human suffering.
      It is beyond question that developed nations have been and continue to be the historically biggest emitters of greenhouse emissions, given that they have been emitting such gasses since the 18th century. It has been estimated, through the analysis of business and state archives, that 70% to 80% of climate change can be attributed to the developed nations (p.56). That said, in order to avoid more than a 2.0 -2.5 C increase of surface temperature, the underdeveloped countries must drastically reduce their greenhouse emission as well. This immediately raises the issue of radical inequality in development and quality of life between developed and under-developed nations. It is ethically unacceptable and politically, economically, as well ecologically, unsustainable for the developed nations to allow the underdeveloped nations to suffer from lack of clean water, electricity, food and basic human services while they themselves currently enjoy a much higher standard of living, a standard of living, it must be emphasized, dependent upon the exploitation of the same underdeveloped nations. Addressing climate change requires, even demands, the ending of such exploitation of poorer (financially speaking) nations by rich nations, as well as the developed nations heavily investing in sustainable development and renewable energy technologies in the underdeveloped world.
       So, in recapping Tanuro’s main points, the following are absolutely imperative:
·        Developed countries must reduce their emissions by 40% by 2020, 95% by 2050.
·        The level of emissions for developing countries must be reduced by 15 – 30% in relation to the plan envisaged for all regions by 2050, and almost everywhere (except Africa) by 2020.
·        Global emissions must reach their highest point by 2015 and must be reduced by 50% - 85% by 2050, in comparison with levels in 2000.
·        The transfer of appropriate technologies must enable the peoples of the Global South to develop their economies without causing the climate to deteriorate. (p 60)

       The question now arises as to whether this drastic, indeed “Herculean”, task can be done through capitalism, even a “greened” capitalism. Is capitalism, even in its “green” form, inherently ecologically and socially destructive? Given that greenhouse gasses worldwide have to be reduced by 85% by 2050, this would entail a radical slashing of current manufacturing/production and consumption, all of which are almost completely dependent on fossil fuels, which, as we have seen, must be abandoned as rapidly as possible in 36 years! As Tanuro states, “[t]he situation is so very serious that we urgently need to reduce energy consumption and the production and transport of materials at the same time.  . . . To save the climate on a global scale, we need to produce less and production needs to be located closer to consumers.” (p. 65)
Ecology and Socialism
 This is the reality we are now faced with. For capitalism to continue in operation, we are, according to Tanuro, immediately faced with two challenges: “the race for profits and the growth of material production (which implies the growth of consumption”, both connected to the logic of competition inherent in capitalism. (p.)  The pursuit of profits (which are overwhelmingly short-term in nature since investors want a quick return on their investments, the long-term future be damned) and the ever increasing expansion of markets which inevitably leads to the ever increasing exploitation of natural resources and the degradation of other resources (i.e. air, water and soil) is the genetic makeup of capitalism. Thus, to expect the captains of capital to regulate carbon use without corrupting the endeavor into being primarily an investment scheme that leaves the poorer nations footing the bill is nothing short of lunacy. Also, even as the cost of solar energy has dramatically gone down, it has yet to be embraced wholeheartedly by capital given capital’s utter dependency upon and complete financial buy-in to fossils fuels. Capitalism is only interested in short-term profits, not long term investments, much less the fate of billions of humans and the Earth’s biosphere. However, at the same time, capitalism’s dependency on fossil fuels and rare metals is now being fundamentally undermined by the reality that humans have already entered into the age of post-peak oil, as well as having almost depleted the planets rare metals. It is becoming more technologically challenging and thus more expensive to discover and extract new sources of oil, gas and coal and these new methods are proving to be more environmentally destructive and socially disruptive, even violent, than past methods. The fact is that the cheap, easily available resources have already been obtained and used. There are simply not enough natural resources to feed the capitalist juggernaut. This spells the end of capitalism since capitalism cannot exist without endless growth.

To make a visit to Gary Stuard's Facebook Link,Click here.
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  1. Great share, thank you! We can change the world!! Solidarity.

    1. You are welcome.Great post - and I believe we can.


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