Sunday 4 October 2009

Eco-socialist update: people vs production debate continues

Socialist Worker newspaper in Britain recently ran this series considering causes and solutions to climate change. The first article “explains how individual solutions to climate change will not save the planet”. The second article addressing the old question of whether “over population” or “mode of production” is the driving force of pollution -- well known from the debate between US scientists Barry Commoner and Paul R. Ehrlich in the 1970s (although perhaps first raised in Karl Marx’s criticisms of Thomas Malthus). Socialist Worker UK, of course, gives the standard socialist response that it’s the way capitalism uses and misuses resources that’s the main problem. Then the third article in the series asks “Is there an alternative to how things are run?” With the inevitable answer, “yes, socialism”. Although in general I agree with this, the articles don’t seem to acknowledge that the world is facing serious resource shortages, such as peak oil, and that ultimately there must be physical limits to economic growth and resource use. This implies limits to population growth too. In my view, rather than ignoring these problems, socialists should be arguing that a democratically planned economy can manage a just solution to these problems in a way that a profit and growth addicted capitalism cannot. Climate change: are people part of the problem? Are there just too many people? Is there an alternative to how things are run?

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