The Climate Crisis is Here
The delicate balance between humans and nature has been torn apart. It has reached a critical point, and we are getting closer to the point of no return. The world is characterized by air pollution, climate change, extreme weather events, deforestation, species extinction, soil degradation, the continuing genocide of Indigenous peoples, the emergence of millions and millions of climate refugees on this planet, and expanding imperialist wars and occupations.
The climate crisis has not been brought on by humanity, but rather by the economic system of capitalism that has dominated the planet for over 200 years, as it is today. The capitalist system is fundamentally incompatible with mother nature because its drive for constant growth and expansion in the name of profit simply ignores that the planet consists of finite resources.
The world’s best climate scientists have confirmed over and over again that the climate catastrophe is here and that the window of time that humanity has to reverse its most deadly impacts is rapidly closing. The most recent reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have concluded that there must be immediate action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This call is being ignored by the leaders of the world’s largest capitalist countries every single day.
Inaction on Climate from the Trudeau Government
The Federal government of Canada is not only not taking urgently required measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions immediately, but it is also lying about its 2030 emission reduction plans. In March 2022, to much fanfare, the Trudeau government launched a roadmap for emissions reductions and announced that Canada would meet their emissions targets for the first time. However, internal government documents obtained by the Globe and Mail Newspaper indicate that the Liberal government is expecting reductions that are only onehalf of the amount they announced. These documents also reveal how much the Liberal government relies on undeveloped and unproven technologies in their estimations of greenhouse gas reductions.
In fact, based on the Government of Canada’s anticipated expansion of oil and gas extraction, which is not addressed in the emissions reduction roadmap —more oil and gas is expected to be produced in 2050 than in 2019. Canada’s oil and gas sector will still emit some 200 megatons of CO2 equivalent in 2050, the year by which the federal government has committed to achieving socalled net-zero emissions.
I don’t imagine this comes as a surprise to any of us on the webinar today. Still, I say it to emphasize the gravity of the situation we face and the bankruptcy of the government of Canada. The Trudeau government has delivered only empty promises and lip service regarding climate action and respecting Indigenous rights, which go hand in hand.
Beyond Canada’s borders, the government has not delivered on its commitments to give money to developing nations to combat and mitigate the climate crisis. Developing nations continue to suffer under the super-exploitation of imperialist countries and corporations, especially mining corporations, based in Canada. Yet, the Liberal government has not given a fair share of the resources developing countries need to mitigate the already existing humanitarian and climate crisis in their countries. The government of Canada has also continued its participation in imperialist wars and occupations and complicity with U.S. and NATO military expansion, which destroys all life.
Also, I think it is important to say that despite Canada’s relatively small population globally, the environmental impact of Canada is immense. Emissions from oil and gas production in Canada between 2021-2050 are projected to exhaust about 16% of the world’s remaining carbon dioxide greenhouse gas budget (the amount of carbon that can be released into the atmosphere and keep global warming limited to 2 degrees Celsius). Therefore, the climate justice movement we build here, and the victories we achieve, will have a global impact.
Capitalism is Destroying Our Mother Earth
The capitalist system prevents the rapid decisions that must be made. This is what we observe every day, the Trudeau Liberal government continues with the status quo pollution, emissions, and destruction of Mother Earth.
What is the logic beyond this inaction? Why isn’t the government of Canada, or other imperialist governments, doing what they can to stop the destruction of Mother Earth? As Joel Kovel, scholar and author, and founder of the ecosocialist movement, explains in “5 Theses on Ecosocialism,” “Capitalism is the first system of production in the history of the world where exchange value rules over use-value. Its whole history and culture may be seen from this perspective, which requires that money rules the economy and that the economy rules over society, subordinating humanity and nature to the logic of accumulation.”
Under capitalism, just seven countries, the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia, are responsible for 48% of the world’s historical greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Because of capitalism, the economic system based on the accumulation of capital, the divide between rich developed and poor developing countries, and the divide between people with access to resources needed to mitigate the climate crisis and those without is also growing. According to the World Bank, by 2030, an additional 68 to 135 million people could be pushed into poverty by the impacts of the climate catastrophe.
The climate crisis is here, and it impacts everyone, but does not impact everyone equally.
Will “Green” Technology Prevent Climate Catastrophe?
Is “green” technology implemented under capitalism a solution to the climate crisis? The short answer is no. The production of solar panels or electric vehicles by the millions using materials mined by workers who are super-exploited, using methods that destroy mother nature in the name of profit, and manufactured under these same conditions of labour and exploitation of the natural world, will not save the world from the climate catastrophe, nor combat growing inequality.
Take carbon capture as an example. Carbon capture is a “green” technology that is being pushed by the Liberal government of Canada as one of the solutions for lowering Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, under
capitalism, the use of carbon capture technology is actually just a way to give permission to massive oil and gas companies to pollute even more. Implementing carbon capture is projected to increase – not decrease – oil and gas production and, with it, the super-profits of oil and gas corporations.
These contradictions arise if we, as a climate justice movement, do not tackle the fundamental problem. capitalism is a system based on exploitation – whether of human beings or mother earth; unless we end capitalism, we will not be able to confront the climate catastrophe.
In his book “The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?” Joel Kovel writes, “If we wish to restore the intrinsic value of nature in this sad world, we have to break down capital, and the power of its exchange-value, thereby freeing usevalues and opening up differentiation with intrinsic value. But the consistent demand for the liberation of use-values from the clutches of exchange inexorably leads to that one use-value which is condensed the core of capital – labour power. This is the sticking point and it makes no sense to evade it.
Ecosocialism is more than socialism as traditionally known, but it is definitely socialism as well. Capital is the efficient cause of the crisis afflicting ecologies, but the sine qua non of capital, the one feature that defines its dynamic above all others in the commodification of labor power and its reduction to abstract social labour for sale on the market. If one prefers another line of explanation for the ecological crisis, so be it, and this consideration does not hold. But if capital is truly the enemy of nature, then we do not overcome it absent the liberation of labor.”
Cuba Leading the Way in the Struggle for Climate Justice
On that note, I want to bring into our discussion today an example of what a tangible and planned approach to fighting the climate crisis could look like. And that example is Cuba, a socialist project in transition that has begun to tackle the problem of the commodification of labour that Joel Kovel explained.
Of course, one country cannot end the climate crisis alone. There is only one earth, one atmosphere and one interconnected ocean, and we must fight the climate crisis together. However, in contrast to the inaction of the world’s biggest capitalist countries - Cuba has a plan and is actively implementing a plan to confront the climate crisis. This plan is called “Tarea Vida” (Life Task). This is a 100-year plan to combat climate change that is fueled by the dynamism of the Cuban Revolution, a revolution that is constantly changing and updating – but with the guiding principles of building a transitional socialist society and with a planned economy that puts people before profit.
It is only with socialism that Cuba, an island of 11 million people, has become a leader in the worldwide struggle against climate change through concrete actions, land reform being one of the first, which began in 1959. This plan includes enforced legal protections and laws that protect the environment and control the production of goods and services. There is planned allocation of state resources, the creation and promotion of state institutions, and education campaigns, bringing the climate debate to all levels of society. Cuba also carries out democratic planning and decision-making, which is a fundamental component of combatting the climate crisis.
Building a Mass Anti-Capitalist Climate Justice Movement
If capitalism persists, the necessity of bringing in super-profits will always surpass the interests of humanity and our Mother Earth. This applies whether we are talking about companies that extract oil or corporations that manufacture solar panels and build wind farms. The capitalist system encompasses the production and distribution of all aspects of human life — from food and energy to our systems of health and education. Unless we get rid of this system and release the powerful technology and human capacity that is only possible without the chains of capitalism, we will not be able to fundamentally change humanity’s destructive relationship with our Mother Earth.
So, what do we do? We build a mass anticapitalist climate justice movement. We need a mass movement for the environment and mother earth, but we must also work to bring this movement in an anti-capitalist direction because we must eliminate capitalism to prevent climate catastrophe.
As anti-capitalist climate justice activists, this does not mean that we only work to build anti-capitalist campaigns. Just the opposite, we participate in all levels of community and grassroots struggle in defense of Mother Earth.
Despite the increasingly grave reports from the United Nations IPCC, despite the signs of the climate catastrophe in all of its forms, we still must recognize that we are in a position to struggle and, therefore, a position to win. We must not only expose capitalism’s role in the destruction of Mother Earth or talk about the failures of the Trudeau Liberal government. We must organize for the future that we all know is possible. We have had victories; let’s build on those and build for system change, not climate change!
A talk by Alison Bodine at the webinar – “Fossil Capitalism, Climate Breakdown and GreenLeft Strategies,” organized by the Society for Socialist Studies, co-sponsored by Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver and the Fire This Time Movement for Socialist Justice, held on June 15, 2022
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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