May 17, 2023
From The Red Phoenix

The second-largest oil refinery in the US, owned by ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge, LA. (Photo: Barry Lewis/InPictures via Getty Images)

By Devin B., Red Phoenix correspondent, New York.

In recent decades, the capitalist ruling class has had to face the reality of the ongoing destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems and its inevitable consequences for human survival in the coming years. Leading scientists have proven and continue to emphasize that global warming, the extinction and endangerment of a majority of the Earth’s species, and the general destruction of the environment are the fault of human activity – with the majority of it being caused in the last two centuries. Suffice to say that capitalism as an economic system, maintained through profit incentives and monopolies, will be the gravedigger of humanity and most of life on this planet due to its innate desire to extract profits at a constant rate of increase.

Capitalism cannot fundamentally improve problems caused by the very motivation for production under capitalism – profitability. To drastically curb the excesses of a for-profit economic system means to heavily regulate or outright abolish private industry – concessions that the capitalist class will never grant to the working class or else jeopardize their very social position.

Humans have been interacting with their environment for the entirety of our existence as a species: first through the early nomadic hunter-gatherer societies of humanity; then to a greater extent with the advent of stone and bronze tools; then even more so with adoption of animal husbandry and domestication of agriculture. These types of changes occurred well before the Industrial period and serve as the start of mass human alteration and extraction of the Earth, although still very limited and inefficient in light of the technical capabilities of the epoch.

By the time of the Industrial Revolution and afterwards, the technological advancements in production and manufacturing allowed for greater efficiency in resource extraction and commodity production that further stimulated those processes to the point of unsustainability that we see today. Humanity has always interacted with nature as we ourselves are part of it, born from it, and need the resources it produces to stay alive. The difference in that relation under capitalism is that humanity’s need to interact with the Earth for survival was distorted into an urge to do so to the degree that these processes aided in commodity production and resulted in greater and greater gains for capitalists.

The realization of the capitalist mode of production greatly accelerated the rate of consumption of fossil fuels and rare earth materials relative to the pre-Industrial era. This rapid increase in humanity’s productive capabilities allowed for previously unattainable efficiency in the processes of creation of commodities, encouraging capitalists to indulge in the financial possibilities of largely unregulated environmental interaction and resource consumption.

Capitalism advanced the rate of exploitation of labor and nature to such an extreme degree that it was only a matter of time before the system’s contradictions produced grave environmental consequences that would result in loss of life on a global scale. For instance:

1) There are currently 3 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, (37 percent higher than the level prior to the Industrial Revolution);

2) The atmosphere has a methane concentration of 1,774 parts per billion (ppb) (a 59 percent increase from the concentration before the Industrial Revolution);

3) The concentration of nitrous oxide, which has a global warming effect roughly 300 times that of carbon dioxide over 100 years, is 18 percent higher than prior to I.R.;

4) Black carbon, or soot, is made up of microscopic particles from incomplete burning of organic matter like fossil fuels and warms both the atmosphere and snow (and ice). It is likely responsible for as much as 25 percent of global warming and over 30 percent of Arctic warming.

The anarchic and largely unregulated production under capitalism has allowed mainly 90 companies — including Chevron, Exxon, BP, etc. — to cause two-thirds of these global warming emissions and bring us into a new extinction event, according to leading scientists (who have said so as early as 1998!).

None of this has been a surprise to the capitalist ruling class. Scientists have been theorizing about the possible correlation between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming through CO2 emissions since the late 19th century (Svante Arrhenius). In 1960, Charles David Keeling provided scientific evidence to support this earlier hypothesis, and his data gave birth to the Keeling Curve, a daily record of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Yet, the American Petroleum Institute knew of such a connection a year prior through the likes of physicist Edward Teller who brought warnings of drastic increase in global temperatures by the end of the century. Sadly, this newly acquired knowledge was used for the purposes of misinformation and denial by oil industry executives who funded scientists and organizations that subscribed to their distorted view of reality.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, ExxonMobil formulated their anti-science positions through a series of memos that sought to stress uncertainty in scientific conclusions on fossil fuels and global warming to divert public outcry away from them and their peers. In response to impending catastrophe, the capitalists choose to sow distrust and anti-intellectualism to protect themselves, effectively condemning significant portions of the life on this planet to death. For almost 70 years, the barons of the oil industry have been well aware that continued intense use of fossil fuels would lead to a rise in the Earth’s temperature that would melt glaciers at the poles and raise the planet’s sea levels. Nearly a century’s worth of inaction and indifference by those almost solely responsible have caused the dire conditions that we find ourselves in today and will continue to have to adapt to in the near future.

Corporations are so indifferent to human suffering that some have even sued governments for attempting to switch to green energy! Internal documents and publicly released emails have shown that capitalists are not dedicated to achieving net zero emissions – they are truly the enemies of the people and life in general. They silence and smear science, take legal action against anybody willing to jeopardize profits for the future of humanity, and worst of all choose not only to maintain current levels of emissions but seek ways to raise profit margins and increase production – therefore looking to RAISE current emissions and accelerate our suffering.

We cannot stand for this any longer – the time has well passed when we could passively scoff at data that is staring us in the face. Capitalism will be the gravedigger of humankind if we do not immediately organize the working class around the most important fight of our times. We cannot trust the capitalist ruling class to consider the dire situation in front of us all – we have to take the reins of production into OUR hands collectively and conduct production in a manner that considers the environment first and foremost. We have to bring together our isolated and disunited organizations and parties into a coalition fighting for our Earth and our future! We have to unite to force as many concessions and reforms from the capitalist class as possible in preparation for greater and ultimately revolutionary changes to the structure of and policies around production, distribution and disposal in this country.

In the end, the only systemic solution that can guarantee complete and total control over the economy, the only one that raises humanity from the blind consumption of goods to responsible and sustainable control over itself, is a centrally planned economy. Centrally planned economies allow integration of all firms into a wider system, the destruction of intellectual property, the data transference necessary between different firms to both improve production and to actively account for indicators in a way LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments; processes to determine products’ environmental impact through an analysis of the product’s life from production to final disposal) can never do: across the entirety of a society. Central planning allows for the possibility of not only curbing the rising levels of greenhouse gases, but also to reduce their concentrations. All barriers to this progress would be removed, and we will exit the Capitalinian age and enter the Communian age. But what must first fall is private ownership of property. As such, even many scientists advocate that capitalist society must come to an end.

We cannot sit on our hands here. We have to advance the struggle against our extinction event at an ever increasing rate and without disunity and sectarianism. The best weapon we have as the working class is organization and solidarity for the achievement of a common goal, the security of the rights which we can guarantee, and the active rejection of all those proposed that seek to deny us those rights. As organizers and activists, as progressives and revolutionaries, we cannot allow our ideological differences to separate us beyond the point of cooperation; it plays right into the hands of the capitalists and therefore into our collective demise! If the capitalists act in unity for their common goal of profits, denial, and destruction, then let us unite for our common goal of democracy, solidarity, and sustainability.

Categories: Environment, U.S. News

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