Green Left Weekly: The case for ecosocialism

Socialism through climate

Following on from the earlier post concerning post-normal science, this article in Green Left Weekly (whose articles appear in my regular news feeds every Sunday evening) caught my eye for the same reason: the whole climate change movement isn’t about the climate at all. It is a means to a socialist end, this time even more clearly annunciated. Even the title of the publication gives it away! The article begins with the usual alarmist statements about the climate system:

The rapid melting of the Arctic sea-ice is one of the most alarming examples of the looming climate change catastrophe. But where most see disaster, some of the world’s richest corporations see a business opportunity.

The rate of Arctic ice melt in recent years has surprised and worried experts. It is not just the fragile Arctic ecosystem that is under threat. As the ice retreats due to global warming, less sunlight is reflected back into space by the white surface.

This means the whole planet has likely already begun to warm faster, as more heat is absorbed by the darker ocean. This, in turn, could help trigger other climate tipping points — such as the release of millions of tonnes of methane gas trapped in Siberia’s frozen soils — and make runaway climate change a reality.

In 2007, NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally delivered a blunt warning: “The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”

Unfortunately, little of this has any merit, since there is no evidence of any such climate tipping points existing. Temperatures have been warmer in the past, and yet climate has never spiralled out of control. That we are still here after 4.5 billion years is evidence enough of that. Next, the cause of the strife is identified, and you guessed it – capitalism:

In 1950, the German-American economist William Kapp came up with an apt description of the capitalist system: “Capitalism must be regarded as an economy of unpaid costs.”

He described the reality of an economic system that creates immense waste and pollution but makes nature (and the sections of human society that did not reap the profits) bear the “disposal” costs.

For centuries, capitalism has treated the air, rivers and oceans as a global sewer. The long-term damage to natural ecosystems are never reflected in any corporate bottom-line. And as capitalism has developed into a global system, the environmental havoc it creates has been globalised too.

As public concern about the climate crisis rises, pro-capitalist economists and politicians are under pressure to find answers. But the business-as-usual solutions they offer generally rely on extending the market to more aspects of nature.

But what about green capitalism? No good:

US sociologists Brett Clark and Richard York have argued that the short-term need of capitalist markets to constantly expand is at odds with the long-term cycles of regeneration required by the natural world.

They said in the November 2008 Monthly Review: “The pursuit of profit is the immediate pulse of capitalism, as it reproduces itself on an ever-larger scale. A capitalist economic system cannot function under conditions that require accounting for the reproduction of nature, which may include time scales of a hundred years or more, not to mention maintaining the particular, integrated natural cycles that help sustain living conditions.”

In a talk at Green Left Weekly’s 2009 World at a Crossroads conference in Sydney, Canadian ecosocialist Ian Angus said green capitalism is a contradiction in terms.

“Capitalism combines an irresistible drive to grow, with an irresistible drive to create waste and pollution”, he said. “If nothing stops it, capitalism will expand both those processes infinitely. But the Earth is not infinite. The atmosphere and oceans and the forests are very large, but ultimately they are finite, limited resources — and capitalism is now pressing against those limits.”

And finally, the promise of a socialist utopia:

The ecosocialist vision of change is grounded in a vision of grassroots democracy and full equality for all people in the world. Unlike capitalism, the purpose of the economy would be to make sure everyone had enough. Under capitalism, much of the world’s population is condemned to extreme material hardship, while others are constantly urged to consume more.

A central goal of ecosocialists is to fight for a society that allows every human being to develop to their full potential — free of racism, war, poverty and discrimination. This goal of genuine human development, which applies to current and future generations, is unachievable unless society can be transformed to exist in harmony with nature’s limits.

This point was made forcefully by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at December’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen. “A spectre is haunting the streets of Copenhagen, and walks silently through this room”, he said.

“This spectre is capitalism — almost nobody wants to mention it … Capitalism, the model of destructive development, is killing people, and threatens to put an end to the human species. They are saying in the streets: If the climate were a bank, it would have been saved already.”

That the article quotes Hugo Chavez tells you all you need to know. But I think it is important for sceptics on the other side of the climate debate to understand where the true aim of “climate action” really lies. As the scientific consensus crumbles, the extremist environmental minority (as represented by publications such as Green Left Weekly) will see their dream of global socialism disappear, but they won’t let it go without a fight. So expect more alarmism and more hysteria (and worse) as they desperately cling to the sinking ship.

Read it here.


  1. In the goold old days, when I was a university student with plenty of spare time, I used to argue with hairy looking hemp clad students giving away the Green Left weekly. Well fed students from prosperous suburbs with a chip on their shoulder and a conviction they knew of a better way to run the world. Anything would get them going, as long as it was about koalas or trees, whaling or unions. I guess you could term it an early offline version of trolling. The little pseudo revolutionaries really got their backs up – you could really see the anger flashing in their eyes. The best way to really get them riled up was to take their paper and then walk over and stick it in the nearest bin. I’m not like that anymore, live and let live as far as I am concerned. If that’s they way they want to live their life, fine, I’ll leave them alone. But I notice that they don’t feel the same way : the AGW crowd wants to tell everyone else how to live their lives as well.


  1. […] The mask slippeth, meet ‘ecosocialism‘. […]

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