Destroying the Hand that Feeds Us
It would be correct to say that most true socialists see almost all of society’s problems as a direct and inevitable outcome, or by-product, of the capitalist system. The threats and damage caused to our environment, become to socialists a symptom alongside all the other obscene and alarming ‘givens’ such as warfare, starvation, homelessness and so on that we face as a world community. A system based, as it is, on profit and continued growth ‘at all costs’, places unsustainable demands on the planet’s reserves – be they mineral, biological or social – and, in the end, must logically collapse. And yet, faced with irrefutable evidence of catastrophic damage to these reserves, the vast majority of people do not seem able, or perhaps do not wish, to make the connection and, alarmingly, seem ready at every opportunity, whether through relaxed social intercourse, elections or even by going to war, to stand by and defend a system that is patently failing, dangerous and serves them so badly.
The word ‘environment’ can mean many things, such as where we are at a particular time, or perhaps our immediate surroundings, but here the word is synonymous with what is also known as the ‘natural world’. Thus the term ‘environmentalist’ is a person generally thought to have a keen interest in (preserving and caring for) the ‘natural world’. The term ‘natural world’ is an interesting one as it suggests or implies that it exists as a separate entity, independent and apart from humanity – a place we can visit and leave as we wish. It is likely, also, that most people would wish the ‘natural world’ to continue to exist, unthreatened, undamaged and just how they imagine it should be; that is to say, with rivers and seas full of fish, woodlands verdant and alive with birdsong, endless square miles of unspoilt jungle, vast pods of whales in pristine, icy oceans or palm trees nodding gently next to lapping azure seas on Pacific islands. Sadly, though, the environment could not be less detached from the human species and in reality is the source of all the fundamental elements needed to sustain life. To damage it, therefore, is to damage ourselves.
Capitalism sees the environment, or natural world, in a rather different light. For capitalism, the natural world is an unwanted obstacle, a hindrance to expansion and growth; it is of no consequence to capitalism whether there are a dozen wonderful, species-rich ancient woodlands in the path of HS2. If it means increased profit and productivity, then they can be cut down with impunity. The great sadness is that capitalism is not a deranged despot or vicious psychopath but simply a construct – a means of arranging our affairs, distributing wealth, relating to each other and interacting with the environment.
With simple and logical examination it can be easily demonstrated that the dreadful damage that is being wrought on the environment and the natural world can be reversed or, at least, dramatically reduced by ending capitalism and establishing a new world order that puts the environment and people – the ‘natural world’ – first; a society predicated on free access to wealth, equality and a deep respect for wildlife and the environment – these things would be second nature to all people. Capitalism’s relentless conditioning of people to believe that the way to happiness and fulfilment is the acquisition of more stuff would be a forgotten malaise of the past, the idea that everything needed to be led by an economy and profit an outdated and arcane notion.
The facts relating to all the various ills that face the environment and, therefore, by definition, us, are there to be seen with only rudimentary investigative skills – corporations and politicians cannot censor everything. But to want change the individual needs to believe that there is an alternative way in which society can be managed and, equally, what it is about the environment or natural world that is intrinsic to their lives, indeed why the natural world is essential to their lives. Furthermore, what would the continued decimation of the environment and other species with which we share the planet mean to them?
Capitalism does not put a true value on the natural world, so, given its blatant ability to brainwash people and very successfully maintain itself, people feel part of capitalism and not part of the natural world. The stark reality is that there is no other planet to escape to and unless capitalism is brought to an end worldwide, and by true democracy, the true value of nature, the natural world and the environment will never be understood by future generations; like the dodo, once gone it will be gone forever.
Nature and the environment are truly beautiful and priceless – and therein lies the problem for the socialist within a capitalist society – nature is priceless.