Socialism needed to save the environment
Posted 07 July 2011, by Meghann Adams, Liberation News (Party for Socialism and liberation), pslweb.org
Another summer storm season, wildfires, tornadoes and other detrimental weather events raise the question of the expansive effects of global warming yet again.
Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, a large section of the ruling class and right-wing apologists for capitalism continue to debate the veracity of global warming. People around the world continue to experience the devastating effects of what they know in practicality to be real. Global warming, due to the dramatic increase of trapped gases in the Earth’s atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, and methane from mining and agriculture, results in devastation worldwide. While the melting ice caps are scarcely deemed important enough to continue being covered by the corporate media, the consequences of this melting continue and affect all of us.
The Arctic permafrost is melting, releasing methane into the atmosphere. The result is a two-fold “positive feedback” cycle. When methane is released and trapped in the atmosphere, it raises the temperature, melting more permafrost, thus releasing more methane and continuing the cycle. Increased temperatures also means that the melted Arctic is less effective at reflecting sunlight back to space. White ice and snow reflect 80 percent of sunlight back, while dark water reflects only 20 percent, absorbing a much larger heat load and warming the ocean further.
Degradation of the Arctic glaciers has far-reaching consequences. Increasing levels of water from the melting glaciers are anticipated to disrupt, and potentially halt, the major thermohaline ocean current because of changes in water temperatures and salt content. This current circulates very slowly in the deep levels of every ocean on the planet. It is responsible for moving nutrients between different environments and for assisting the wind currents that pull warm air from the tropics to regions in Europe. A disruption or halt would result, for a start, in higher temperatures along the equator and lower temperatures in northern Europe.
Changes in the deep ocean current, along with temperature change, would directly affect wind currents. Wind—created by warm air displacing cooler air—is dependent on temperature variation across areas. A disruption to this system would impact temperature regulation over large distances, as well as the movement of moisture from marine atmospheres to dry lands.
Rapid global climate change in temperature, wind and water currents, resulting from global warming, has left the environment in a precariously unstable situation.
Globally, the temperature has risen nearly two degrees over the last century, with polar regions warming nearly double the global average. Projections at the 2009 Copenhagen summit predicted that the global “carbon emissions budget” for the half-century would be exceeded, 16 years ahead of schedule, by 2034. Based on current trends, the International Energy Agency expects that there could be a 3.5 degree increase in the next 35 years.
This has led to predictions that the Arctic could experience an ice-free summer by 2040, a sea level rise between seven and 23 inches by the end of the 21st century, more than a million species facing extinction and a devastating impact on food and water resources. At some point, the ability to impact the global warming process could become impossible because of the positive feedback cycles.
What is the cause of global warming and what can be done to combat it?
A widely recognized answer is that the growing industrialization and imperialist exploitation is to blame. In other words, the rise of capitalism is responsible for the gross degradation of the earth’s biosphere.
And we don’t need theory to recognize this. We see the evidence in the communities suffering from desertification and soil degradation from monoculture agricultural production and reckless exploitation of resources. We see it in the more than half-million admitted U.S. corporate violations of the Clean Air Act that continue with little to no repercussions. We see it in the communities, especially oppressed communities, suffering prolonged and intense pollution from industrial and nuclear waste. We see it in the exploitation of developing countries’ resources and the intellectual patents by international corporations that keep effective and sustainable practices out of reach for millions of poor people.
We in the Party for Socialism and Liberation recognize that it is not the workers who bear the guilt of this mounting cataclysm. Full responsibility lies with the corporate politicians, the executives, the owners—in other words, the capitalist class and ultimately the anarchic, profit-driven, inhumane capitalist system itself.
The environmental crisis cannot be solved under capitalism. Under capitalism, we must wage a continual struggle to demand the implementation of environmental laws and force the EPA to take any sort of action against those who defile the environment. If the government was interested in defending the environment against corporations, the U.S. House of Representatives would not have voted in early April to amend the Clean Air Act to ban the regulation of greenhouse gases in order to address climate change.
A more humane and organized system could take immediate action to address the causes and symptoms of the global environmental crisis. It could fill the supermarkets with organic food that would be affordable for everyone. Grains would be used to feed the hungry, and not to produce destructive fuels or to put foreign nations under the control of international banks. There would be a massive cutback in plastics, incentives for reducing driving—along with vastly improved public transportation—and an end to patents and intellectual property rights over technology. An emphasis would be placed on reducing use of bottles, cans and paper and not just on recycling them. The health care system would not focus on developing and selling costly treatments for diseases, but on the prevention of them.
But we can plainly see that this is not possible under the current system. It is not in the nature of capitalism to take the needs of the people and the planet into consideration.
We must continue to be wary of the divisive tactics that present the issue as “workers versus the environment.” It is not the fault of the workers who choose fast food or cheap meals over the costly organic produce. Loggers, miners and other industrial workers, who are dependent on their jobs for survival, should not be blamed for the pollutants their work creates. Nor does the blame lie with families who drive cars because mass transit is unavailable or poorly accessible. The blame lies with the capitalists, who have no interest in any action that might cut into their profits, and the capitalist system, no matter how beneficial the change would be for workers and the world.
Socialism necessary to preserve the environment
In order to be successful, in order to preserve the environment and repair the damage done, we need socialism.
Socialism is a system based on centralized planning to meet the needs of the masses of people, in which the profit motive has been removed from the picture. It is a system that can more easily support the development of sustainable technology and produce healthy food that is actually used to feed people. It is a system capable of identifying ecosystems and communities in need of reparation and implementing programs to restore and revitalize them in an organized way.
A country constructing socialism exists, and fights for survival, only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. While experiencing more than a half-century under a criminal blockade and the last 20 years without the assistance of the Soviet Union, Cuba has been recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as the only country on Earth to meet the minimum requirements for sustainable development. The requirements are a combination of a low use of resources and a high level of human development.
Cuba provides free health care and education to its citizens, but also guarantees a job and a home. Because the profit motive does not dominate Cuba’s economy, Cuba is able to accomplish all this without the degradation of the environment found elsewhere.
The Cuban government has established a national system for the restoration and preservation of 14 national parks, 30 ecological and natural reserves, 11 fauna refuges, two natural landscapes and 11 flower reserves. It has been dedicated to the training of professionals in the field of environmental protection and the education of the public. Reduced energy CFLs are available from the government for free to residents who trade in their incandescent bulbs. To enable domestic food production without the availability of pesticides, and to reduce the fuel needed to transport food, local organic farms can be found throughout Cuba’s urban landscape. Agriculture is supported with the use of natural manure fertilizers and biocontrol agents (like native predators of pests).
To fail to take these environmental issues into account in our current struggles would be to ensure our ultimate failure in the fight for social justice. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to build a world capable of achieving what is possible and necessary.