Editorial: Think globally, act globally
The threat of global warming is clearly a global problem that can only be dealt with by co-ordinated action at world level. But this is not going to happen under capitalism. As a system involving competition between profit-seeking corporations backed up by their protecting states, it is inherently incapable of world-wide cooperation. There never has been such cooperation. Just the opposite, in fact. The inevitable clashing interests between different states, each seeking to pursue the interests of its profit-seeking corporations, breeds war rather than cooperation. Look what happened last century. Look at the invasion of Iraq this century.
So it’s not going to happen. There is not going to be any coordinated world action to deal with global warming as long as capitalism is allowed to continue. Something will be done but it is bound to be too little, too late.
It’s certainly going to be too little. These days, when private corporations have governments under their thumb much more than in the recent past, what is being proposed is not even state intervention to force carbon-polluting corporations to limit their emissions in the overall capitalist interest. It’s to try to use the mechanisms of the market to solve the problem: fiddling about with the tax system to make investment in anti-pollution measures more profitable; establishing an artificial world market and price for carbon. Anybody can see that this is not going to work.
Governments are also proposing that individuals play their part, as if individuals rather than the system were to blame. They want us to drive smaller cars, even cycle to work, turn off the lights when we leave a room, not leave our TV on standby, not fly to our holiday destination. That’s all very well but unless they want us to reduce our standard of living that will just mean we would have money to spend on something else. As the capitalist class are always wanting us to reduce our standard of living since this means more for them as profits – and provoke strikes and impose austerity to try to do so – socialists are naturally suspicious of the motives behind the government propaganda here.
In any event since the great bulk of carbon emissions come from energy generated for industry, offices and commercial transport, as well as from deforestation, even if we did all the things they want – and we’re not saying people shouldn’t, that’s an individual life-style choice – it wouldn’t make much difference. Changing life-styles is no more a solution to global warming than letting the invisible hand of the market have a go.
Having said this, individuals do have some responsibility in the matter. Capitalism – the cause of the problem – only continues in the end because people put up with it. Most people don’t see any alternative to working for wages, producing for profit, using money, the world divided into states, the existence of armies. These attitudes both reflect and sustain capitalism. And every time people get a chance to vote, a majority back politicians committed to maintaining the capitalist system as the way of organising the production and distribution of wealth. So capitalism continues. As do its problems, including the threat of global over-warming. Maybe as this gets nearer people will be driven to consider an alternative.
Global warming can only be tackled by global action. And effective global action will only be possible within the framework of a united world. A united world is only possible on the basis of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources being the common heritage of all humanity.