2020s >> 2021 >> no-1406-october-2021

After the Revolution: Managing the Environment

By the time socialism is established climate change and degradation of resources will have had an even greater impact than currently. So, how might a socialist society adapt to be in harmony with the environment? Depending on how long the wait is, the many factors to be seriously considered include climate insecurity, energy insecurity and food insecurity. These, together, reveal the absolute necessity of going beyond the limits of industrial mono-agriculture.

Inclusive global socialism is a world without a monetary profit system, unlike today where capital rules every facet and dimension of our lives. There are many wasteful jobs in capitalism, non-productive in the sense of being solely related to money, when what we sorely need is to be productive in ways that satisfy our needs and that work in harmony with nature, with our bio-system. It is imperative that the balance which has been gradually destroyed from the industrial revolution onwards is restored.

Mono-culture versus diversity

All life on this planet has three basic needs, air, water and food. Harsh as it sounds everything else could be viewed as a bonus. Whilst addressing the numerous challenges which lie ahead we must also recognise that these problems cannot be dealt with from a purely UK perspective – or European, North American, or any other single territorial focus. All areas of the globe are in this together and unless we are prepared to take that into account there is no chance of successfully remedying the problems created by our single common problem – the capitalist system.

It is common knowledge globally now that these basic essentials (air, water, food) are consistently and continuously contaminated as a result of the way the current system works, for profit, not for public or planetary good. Socialism can focus on more localised food production built on the experience of local knowledge of the vast variety of seeds and plants available. Control will be out of the hands of present-day multinational corporations which have consistently degraded soil, water and air in the name of profit. The aim will be healthy, uncontaminated food.

The need to emphasise local and regional farming is in contrast to all the various problems globalised agriculture has caused around the world. One example out of many reveals how the monetary system in India has led to greater discrepancies between ‘rich world/poor world’ access to food. Multinationals have taken over great swathes of agricultural land to grow fresh fruit and vegetables for export which has necessitated the import of wheat and rice (previously locally grown) from North America. Before this theft of land farmers on their own smaller plots provided more than was necessary of a variety of crops. But now millions are either landless farmers working for large corporations or have moved to cities in search of whatever work is available. Two negative results are increased air pollution from fresh crops being flown by air and increased pollution from the shipping of grain crops; and the vast amounts of water needed for irrigating such crops is stealing much needed water from many local communities. Whilst aggravating climate change, fossil-fuel-dependent industrialised global agriculture is unable to change within the current system. This globalised capitalist trade is severely damaging the planet and all its various life forms, and continuing on such a path in socialism is neither desirable nor viable.

When considered rationally there is absolutely no contest between capitalism and socialism in the field of agriculture. The industrial food system is based on oil; bio-diverse, organic and local food systems are based on living soil. The industrial system creates waste and massive harmful pollution; living agriculture is based on no waste.

‘Green capitalism’?

What is currently considered waste in farming is allied to the profit system. Any avoidable costs are passed on to third parties or simply to nature. These externalities come in many forms. Massive cess-pools from raising cattle, pigs and poultry in huge numbers in confinement are well known for the contamination and despoliation of local water systems. Mono-crop production based on chemicals (pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers) regularly poison the air, the water, the soil and the crop, negatively affecting both farm workers, local people and customers who are buying chemically contaminated food.

Organic farming has little if any waste. Green crops are recycled into the soil in order to add or fix nitrogen. Animal ‘waste’ is returned as enrichment to the soil, not released into the water system. Animals are fed on natural diets not chemical concoctions given to increase milk, egg or meat yields. There is much evidence showing the dangers of the many chemicals imposed on industrially raised animals, birds and fish including increased illnesses, deaths and allergies for some of which mega-corporations are having to pay record amounts of compensation after long-running court cases.

A proper, natural food cycle, not this chemical circus which has been forced upon us, and a more localised system of production radically reducing transport miles, together will give us fresher, healthier food, air and water.

A wide interpretation of what socialism will look like in practice will be vital if we are to continue to survive on this planet. Many different and varied cultures exist around the globe with hugely varying customs and proven methods for sustainability, low energy use and a more relaxed way of life than many in our so-called ‘developed’ world. Within this context and regarding the ‘neoliberal’ driving force of ‘globalisation’ – negatively impacting the planet by reaping riches without hesitation or concern for the disintegration of eco-systems – what will be the relationship between these different cultures? Are electric cars, from production through their useful working years, or wind energy as an alternative to current energy supply actually the real answer to some of our problems? Or are they just ‘green’ ideas of the business community still out to make profits?

There are multiple green groups around the world calling for governments to meet various standards or protocols, but if we invested any hope in the progress gained from meetings and protests we would surely be disappointed. Since the first Conference of the Parties (COP) in 1995, carbon emissions by 2018 had risen by 40 percent. The measures currently proposed by COP participants are expected to result in a 3°C warming since the mid-18th century, with some leading scientists forecasting at least 4°C. Some members of the Socialist Party are planning to be in Glasgow for the COP26 in order to present our view of what needs to be done. According to Neil Faulkner of Anti-Capitalist Resistance, ‘Industrial pollution destroys our eco-system and agribusiness generates wave after wave of killer pathogens… globalised, financialised monopoly capitalism has become an existential threat to life on Earth.’

How many individuals even noticed that 5 June was World Environment Day? Established by the UN General Assembly in 1972, 49 years ago, this year’s theme was ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ – also declared to be the decade for ecosystem restoration. Put it in your diary and check it in 2030.

In April, the Nobel Prize Summit ’Our Planet, Our Future’ announced a threat to ‘the enormous gains we have made in human progress’ and that ‘The ‘next decade is crucial: Global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by half and destruction of nature halted and reversed’. Unfortunately, participants are clearly and firmly enmeshed in capitalism’s mind-set. How else should we interpret this nonsense from their agreed statement? ‘Economic, environmental, and social externalities should be fairly priced’ (our emphasis) and ‘Complement GDP as a metric of economic success with measures of true well-being of people and nature.’ Meanwhile, recent UN Food Systems Summit meetings (Rome, New York) flew in delegates from all over the planet to stay in some luxury hotels. We wonder how much they contributed to the health of the environment.

JANET SURMAN

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