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Not Evil, Just Wrong

17 November 2009

It was to be expected that sooner or later the capitalist class and their hirelings would hit back at those who warn of the dangers of global warming. It began with those great climatologists, David Letterman, Regis Philbin, and Kelly Ripa treating it as an enormous joke on their shows. Now the serious attack is into high gear.

A recent documentary made by husband and wife team, Phelim McAleer and Ann Mc Elhinney, emphasizes the problems that working class people would face if effective legislation to reduce global warming was enacted. “Not Evil, Just Wrong” was privately screened in Toronto on October 18. The main thrust of the movie, as reviewed in the Toronto Star daily newspaper is that such legislation would mean more unemployment. Furthermore, it reprises a familiar refrain – the arctic is not melting and, according to columnist, Jason Anderson (Toronto Star, October 18),” It’s a happy time to be a polar bear.” Such talk flies in the face of reality when satellite photography shows staggeringly fast melting of the polar ice cap and the fact that bears are drowning because solid ice is scarce. The movie centers on the life of Tim and Tiffany McElhaney, a working class couple with three young children, who live in Vevay, Indiana. Tim makes $16 (US) an hour at a plant that makes mufflers for the local Toyota plant, which is better than the $6.50 he used to make working at a steakhouse. The family lives in a small house, but is renovating a bigger one. To quote Toronto Star columnist, Peter Gorrie,, “It’s your small tenuous scrap of the world and you’ll fight to keep it – even if that means taking the side of the very industries that pollute the land and keep you at the margin of economic survival while their executives and bankers prosper from your labour.”

Another aspect of the film is that Al Gore, who wishes (vainly) to solve the problem within capitalism, is portrayed as the heavy. Vevay has a coal fired generating plant that provides hydro to Toyota and a steel mill owned by a Spanish company who didn’t like the environmental laws back home. Obviously, if they can’t pollute in one place, they’ll do so in another, a wonderful solution for big capital! To quote Tiffany McElhaney, “ The industry has provided jobs for the everyday person. With no coal, kids like ours wouldn’t be able to play in the band or go to ballet class. Since we got married, every step has been in a positive direction. I wouldn’t want any setbacks.” She had better hold her breath until the next, inevitable recession, or until a more profitable opportunity arrives for the company to move elsewhere. Gorrie sums it up perfectly,” The message is that promises of green jobs and a new economy can’t compete with the reality of a paycheque, no matter how meagre, and that people are always grateful to hear that predictions of catastrophe are nonsense so that they can continue business as usual.”

First let’s get it straight – when we are told (regardless of who tells us) that we have little or nothing to fear from global warming, we are being lied to. There is a wealth of scientific evidence to the effect that global warming is already taking place and inaction will lead to catastrophic results. Nor is Al Gore a knight in shining armour, despite his enthusiasm or sincerity, because he seeks to solve the problem without changing the class nature of society, by keeping the very system in which the problem of pollution, i.e. dirty production is a natural and inevitable consequence, in place.

Surely it is obvious that there is no solution within capitalism. The capitalists will never stop polluting if it means reduced profits and reduced competitiveness. The US refusal to join the Kyoto Accord for just those reasons is proof enough. Nor is it logical to say that ‘Socialism may be the answer, but we’ll have to wait a long time for it and we need to do something now.’ It is just that attitude that delays socialism and the chance to make a real change in the way we produce and distribute wealth. There is nothing ‘now’ to be done that will solve the problem. Socialism can come as quickly as the majority wants it. Then decisions will be made with a view to satisfying the real human needs of everyone on the planet, and the removal of all that is harmful to the environment and the causes global warming can be addressed with sanity and science. Socialism is the only alternative to what we have. Socialism is the only option to solve this and other major problems.

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