Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pollution and environmental catastrophe is capitalism's legacy

By Richard Mellor
AFSCME Local 444, retired

Capitalist globalization has not only integrated the world market like never before in human history, it has affected all aspects of human life.  We now live in a world economy, corporations are global and profits and production for some companies more often than not arise outside of a corporation’s home base, it’s national origin. Giant concerns like Caterpillar or Coca Cola, rely to a great deal on foreign markets for their profits.

The migration of people form the poorer countries to the richer ones has risen substantially whether to escape poverty or the endless wars and regional conflicts that are the result of capitalism in decay.  Tension between competing nations states, China and the US, the EU and Russia, for example, are growing as the capitalist class in different countries compete for a crowded world market and vie for a greater share of the spoils.

The idea that there is a solution to global crises in one country or one region is utopian. It is not only in the economic sphere that all the nations and peoples of the world are linked.  Perhaps the most important issue facing us all is the looming environmental catastrophe.

Chernobyl, the Fukushima disaster, the poisoning of the rivers of Ecuador, the Niger Delta or the “Dead Zone” where the Mississippi empties its waters in to the Gulf of Mexico where the spawning grounds of Blue Fin Tuna have been contaminated thanks to the decision makers at British Petroleum and their friends in the US government.  These are just a few of the global environmental disasters that are the legacy of the capitalist mode of production. And can anyone deny global warming and climate change? 

Whatever happens in any part of the world happens to all of us, this particularly so when it comes to environmental degradation and pollution caused by conscious decisions of human beings, the representatives of the global capitalist class.

The industrial revolution and incredible economic growth that China has weathered over the past 30 years is having devastating effects on that county’s eco system.  Capitalism, even with a the Stalinist bureaucracy at its helm cannot place the environment above its need to compete on a world scale.  Chinese scientists are now saying that the country’s air pollution is now so bad it “resembles a nuclear winter” Jonathan Kaiman writes in yesterdays Guardian.  Kaiman points out that, “Beijing's concentration of PM 2.5 particles – those small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream – hit 505 micrograms per cubic metre on Tuesday night.”

The air pollution is so bad that it has grounded flights and closed highways as it resembles a “dense pea soup.”. The present situation threatens schools and factories which may have to be closed, and if it persists, which it will over time, China’s production of food will be seriously curtailed.

We have said many times that huge movements can arise over environmental degradation as whole swathe’s of the earth’s surface will become uninhabitable.  We do not yet know the real and long-terms effects of the BP spill or the Fukushima disaster.  Here in the US with the worst mass media in the industrial world many of us may not be aware of the thousands upon thousands of protests and demonstrations that occur in China every year, many of them over land acquisitions and environmental issues. As the environmental crisis continues in China, we will see more of this activity.  The most important thing for all of us to recognize is that there is no solution to the crisis of capitalism which is what the environmental crisis really is, within the confines of the nation state.  Nationalist fervor, economic protectionism, tidying up “our bend in the river” from the pollutants the factory expels upstream will not solve our problem, and in this case will not keep the numerous global crises at bay, not the environmental one, not the economic one.

A global united working class movement and the transformation of human society through a world federation of socialist states with democratically planned economies integrated in to this world federation is the only solution to the ongoing nightmare that the capitalist mode of production has in store.

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