Until environmentalists tackle capitalism, we will never stop climate change

Brad Hornick

rabble.ca, June 16, 2014

In a recent speech, environmental journalist George Monbiot argues that opposition to the central drivers of climate change (neoliberal economic policies being the key) is consistently neutralized by environmentalists themselves. He says environmentalists shape their strategies to appease people who do not share their values…..

This is where the tar-sand hits the road. Growth as an abstract concept that can be remedied by the “voluntary” lowering of economic throughput skirts the question of capitalism. Neither degrowth, nor the mainstream of ecological economics emphasize the necessity of breaking the concrete power relationships that guide the logic and imperatives of capital accumulation and hence, economic growth.

The social relationships that are integral to the system we call capitalism are wage labour and private ownership of the means of production (that is, property: “who owns, calls the shots”). These are technical terms to describe the reality that underneath all the talk of democracy and free markets, our society is based on class rule. The key point is this: no matter how many rationally derived, substantive voluntary gestures are recommended, the ruling classes (ie. the fossil fuel, automobile, aerospace, etc. corporations) will not voluntarily implement innovative initiatives to the extent that they threaten the expansion and waste that is central to their own existence.

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