Environmental protection is incompatible with capitalism
October 11, 2018 9:08 AM   Subscribe

What Is Eco-Socialism? (Motherboard)
posted by The Whelk (14 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
"But ecosocialists argue even if some parts of capitalism can advance an environmental agenda, the rest of the market will still be working against it, and we’ll never get where we need to be."

This really is a central problem to all proposed solutions to climate change. If things on a large scale can only be done if they are profitable, we are doomed since that is profitable right until we are all gone because capitalists do not have long eyes. They cut off the nose to make a profit, the market/someone else will deal with the rest of the face.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:00 AM on October 11 [8 favorites]


If only we had some mechanism whereby we could alter individuals' incentives to act against the group in this global tragedy of the commons. Like some sort of governing body operating based on a mandate of power conferred by, of, and for the people. Theoretically one that could, I dunno, regulate and mediate various capital markets to reduce or eliminate profit-seeking models that externalize key aspects of the common good.
posted by turbowombat at 10:37 AM on October 11 [16 favorites]


I read the article and I was somewhat surprised (although I guess maybe I shouldn't be?) at the lack of mentioning Murray Bookchin, who, while not a socialist, used a lot of Marxist theory in his books about ecology and predominantly anarchist thought.

From the article:
Ecosocialism first began to spread in the 1980s alongside environmentalism, though some scholars argue that the roots of this movement trace back to Karl Marx’s theories. The concept is basically that environmental protection is incompatible with capitalism, and the best (or, some would argue, only) way to fight climate change is to move towards a socialist society. Capitalism is always going to be driven towards producing and consuming more and more, which is a big part of how we got in this pickle to begin with.

Though proponents of the movement have trouble detangling the two ideologies, the overlap may not be immediately apparent to everyone. After all, there are profits to be made from the fight against climate change: think of renewable energy or electric cars. These industries don’t exist out of some corporate altruism, they exist because they’re profitable. And they’re growing rapidly—in 2017, more than 500,000 new jobs in renewable energy were created around the world, bringing the total number of people employed in the sector to 10 million, and $335.5 billion of new investments were made in the industry.

But ecosocialists argue even if some parts of capitalism can advance an environmental agenda, the rest of the market will still be working against it, and we’ll never get where we need to be.

“Unless you do away with capitalism, you’ll still have the other companies that are much more influential and bigger in scale, like oil companies,” Wallis said. “There is ultimately a clash in the wider scheme of things, even if you have one sector of a capitalist market that responds to people’s concerns about the environment.”
And since I don't have Bookchin's books on me right now, this is from the summary section of the Wikipedia article about his book Post-Scarcity Anarchism:
Bookchin's "post-scarcity anarchism" is an economic system based on social ecology, libertarian municipalism, and an abundance of fundamental resources. Bookchin argues that post-industrial societies have the potential to be developed into post-scarcity societies, and can thus imagine "the fulfillment of the social and cultural potentialities latent in a technology of abundance".[3] The self-administration of society is now made possible by technological advancement and, when technology is used in an ecologically sensitive manner, the revolutionary potential of society will be much changed.[4]

Bookchin claims that the expanded production made possible by the technological advances of the twentieth century were in the pursuit of market profit and at the expense of the needs of humans and of ecological sustainability. The accumulation of capital can no longer be considered a prerequisite for liberation, and the notion that obstructions such as the state, social hierarchy, and vanguard political parties are necessary in the struggle for freedom of the working classes can be dispelled as a myth.[4]
On top of all that, Bookchin wrote a book called Our Synthetic Environment which came out around the same time as Silent Spring, which is considered one of the foundational texts environmentalism.

Now, in modern times, Bookchin's eco-anarchist views have inspired Abdullah Ocalan, who is the intellectual center of the Kurdish Worker's Party, who are currently fighting to build their society in Northern Syria (Rojava). How My Father’s Ideas Helped the Kurds Create a New Democracy

Roar Magazine: Murray Bookchin and the Kurdish Resistance:
Bookchin’s theory of social ecology is characterized by the belief that “we must reorder social relations so that humanity can live in a protective balance with the natural world.” A post-capitalist society cannot be successful unless it is created in harmony with the ecological environment.

Bookchin argues that “the most fundamental message that social ecology advances is that the very idea of dominating nature stems from the domination of human by human.” Social ecology moves beyond the traditional Marxist and anarchist view of how to organize a non-hierarchical, egalitarian society in that it places the need to avert an impending ecological catastrophe at the heart of contemporary social struggles.

For the Kurds, traditionally a rural people living on agriculture and animal husbandry, maintaining the ecological environment is as crucial as creating an egalitarian society. State-driven destruction of the environment in their mountainous homelands and on the fertile Mesopotamian plain is occurring on a daily basis.

The most obvious example is the GAP project in Turkey, in which dozens of mega dams have either already been built or are under construction. The project is presented as bringing development to the region in the form of employment opportunities at the construction sites, better irrigated mega-farms producing cash crops for export, and providing day jobs for the expropriated small farmers and an upgraded energy infrastructure with the construction of several hydroelectric power plants.

What is perceived as “development” by the agents of the state is experienced in an entirely different way by the people who see their homes and villages flooded, the free-flowing rivers turned into commodities, their lands being expropriated and bought up by large corporations and used for the industrial-scale production of goods that serve no purpose but to enrich the farm-owners in their faraway villas. These large-scale, highly destructive mega-projects expose the urgent need for local control over local environments.

But whereas wresting the natural environment away from the destructive claws of ever encroaching capitalist forces entails a direct confrontation with the state, a crucial first — and potentially even more revolutionary — step involves the abolition of hierarchy at the interpersonal level. Since, as Bookchin argued, the domination of humans over nature stems from the domination of one human over another, the solution has to follow a similar trajectory.

In this regard, the emancipation of women is one of the most important aspects of social ecology. As long as the domination of man over woman remains intact, the treatment of our natural environment as an essential and integral part of human life — rather than a commodity to be exploited for our benefit — is still far away.
posted by gucci mane at 11:20 AM on October 11 [14 favorites]


"If things on a large scale can only be done if they are profitable, we are doomed since that is profitable right until we are all gone because capitalists do not have long eyes."

The traditional solution to this problem is to adjust the incentives somehow, say by taxing externalities.
posted by floppyroofing at 11:22 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


I'm not against eco-socialism by any means, but: I don't see how an understanding of negative externalities and/or the tragedy of the commons is seen as incompatible with capitalism, unless the only version of capitalism one can imagine is some purist unconstrained free market BS (which isn't a particularly accurate picture.) The limitations of the free market are generally a part of any 101-level economics lesson, after all.
posted by mosst at 1:33 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


Environmental protection is incompatible with capitalism

Headline summed it up for me.
posted by ecourbanist at 1:54 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


I don't see how an understanding of negative externalities and/or the tragedy of the commons is seen as incompatible with capitalism, unless the only version of capitalism one can imagine is some purist unconstrained free market BS (which isn't a particularly accurate picture.)

Capitalism, as a system, is incompatible with care for the environment for the same reasons that it's incompatible with care for the community: it creates profiteers whose goal is "wring profit out of people" and the option of "create sustainable platform for profit-wringing" is, at best, a secondary feature - something that may be required for the main goal, but is not actually part of it.

If my goal is "give my friend in another state a gift," that may require "get a box and pay shipping costs," but those are incidental to my goal; I am not intending to support the shipping industry and would stop doing so in an instant if I could achieve my goal without it.

Modern technology has allowed capitalism to disconnect a company's financial survival from its workers' well-being and its local environment. There is no way to reconnect them (short of dystopian disaster); the only viable fix is either "stack a huge and growing pile of legislative restrictions on capitalism," or switch to a different economic system entirely, one that doesn't allow "profits" in the sense of "an unequal exchange, wherein one party receives more than the value of what they provide to the other party."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:02 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


I don't see how an understanding of negative externalities and/or the tragedy of the commons is seen as incompatible with capitalism, unless the only version of capitalism one can imagine is some purist unconstrained free market BS (which isn't a particularly accurate picture.)

There's also the problem of regulatory capture. By their nature, markets ruthlessly seek out loopholes and ways of bending the rules to maximize profit, and wealthy stakeholders will always lobby to distort legal models that try to compensate for externalities (see the ongoing fight over whether we should consider CO2 a pollutant.) Capitalism is incompatible with environmental protection in the same way it's incompatible with democracy; allowing unchecked accumulation of resources leads to power imbalances that challenge the state's ability to effectively govern.
posted by contraption at 5:27 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


Billionaires are causing climate change (GQ)
posted by The Whelk at 5:28 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


Here is a good video explaining social ecology as put forth by Murray Bookchin:
Social Ecology, Human Nature and Hierarchy

The Ecological Crisis, Socialism, and a New Society by Murray Bookchin
First, the most fundamental route to a resolution of our ecological problems is social in character. That is to say, if we are faced with the prospect of outright ecological catastrophe, toward which so many knowledgeable people and institutions claim we are headed today, it is because the historical domination of human by human has been extended outward from society into the natural world. Until domination as such is removed from social life and replaced by a truly egalitarian and sharing society, powerful ideological, technological, and systemic forces will be used by the existing society to degrade the environment, indeed the entire biosphere.

And some book-length Bookchin if you are interested:

Post-Scarcity Anarchism
The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy
Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future
The Murray Bookchin Reader

Or, if you are feeling less (more?) hopeful, brush up on your dolphin communication skills, wait for the nuclear war revolution, and call down those alien comrades. Long live Posadas!
posted by Regal Ox Inigo at 6:28 PM on October 11 [8 favorites]


Marxism is an outdated supply-side doctrine that also once rejected the idea of money as a tool of transactions, so it is natural that it would denounce, without mention, the one tool that capitalism has to solve almost every environmental problem, which is a sin tax. If anyone is unfamiliar, reflect on how they once scooped up all the cod from the Grand Banks, and nobody knew or cared, because it was only a handful of factory ships from many nations. Then imagine a handful of people telling us that we should boycott cod as a result, although it was used as animal feed and fertilizer too. Both over-fishing and boycotts are supply-side approaches. Environmentalism is about over-distribution and over-consumption, which is a demand-side issue. Taking over every factory in the world may pretend to solve labor issues, but it would only solve these price and distribution issues with rationing and lines, which it has historically done by dysfunction alone. The other problem is with public relations. Lots of people think the left needs more theory in order to persuade people, but this requires even more information to be supplied, and even more confusion about the issues. Moderating behavior to best practices doesn't need theoretical underpinning to understand. It seems like some of these movements are trying to piggy-back on sentiments that were coming forward without them.
posted by Brian B. at 7:23 AM on October 12


Moderating behavior to best practices doesn't need theoretical underpinning to understand.

If the only solution to climate change is for everyone to simultaneously decide to drastically alter their behavior and leave resources on the table that they could have otherwise used to make their lives better or increase their profits, we are truly fucked. Change has to happen at a systemic level, and soon.
posted by contraption at 8:13 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


Climate change will demand either ecosocialism or ecofascism. It will be the redistribution of resources to keep all people in comfort and health, or it will be drones and fences to allow a few hundred million to live in extreme luxury for a few more decades while seven or eight billion are allowed to die in horrors unmatched in human history. The dignity of humanity will be preserved or destroyed.

Socialism Or Barbarism has always been true but the permanent crisis will absolutely rip off the mask.
posted by Rust Moranis at 9:36 AM on October 12 [5 favorites]


Why Catastrophic Climate Change is Probably Inevitable Now
How Capitalism Torched the Planet by Imploding Into Fascism
It strikes me that the planet’s fate is now probably sealed. […] Yet [losing the fight against climate change] is for a very unexpected — yet perfectly predictable — reason: the sudden explosion in global fascism — which in turn is a consequence of capitalism having failed as a model of global order. […]

Catastrophic climate change is not a problem for fascists — it is a solution. History’s most perfect, lethal, and efficient means of genocide, ever, period. Who needs to build a camp or a gas chamber when the flood and hurricane will do the dirty work for free? Please don’t mistake this for conspiracism: climate change accords perfectly with the foundational fascist belief that only the strong should survive, and the weak — the dirty, the impure, the foul — should perish. That is why neo-fascists do not lift a finger to stop climate change — but do everything they can to in fact accelerate it, and prevent every effort to reverse or mitigate it.
posted by ragtag at 1:42 PM on October 14


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