Ecosocialism: the alternative that isn’t

Yes, I know I promised to go through the Way of Nature elements. But first, I want to write about an element that is not included in my Way of Nature analysis:

green Marx.jpgEcosocialism

Now, before you click away from here in disgust at the term, bear with me for a moment while I explain why I’ve not included ecosocialism as an element of the Way of Nature.

 

From Wikipedia:

“Eco-socialism, green socialism or socialist ecology is an ideology merging aspects of socialism with that of green politics, ecology and alter-globalization or anti-globalization. Eco-socialists generally believe that the expansion of the capitalist system is the cause of social exclusion, poverty, war and environmental degradation through globalization and imperialism, under the supervision of repressive states and transnational structures.

“Eco-socialists advocate dismantling capitalism, focusing on common ownership of the means of production by freely associated producers, and restoring the commons.”

Delving into ecosocialism is a lot like stepping into a steaming swamp where you can’t see the firm bottom. It’s chief proponents, Ian Angus in Canada, Derek Wall in the UK and the late Joel Kovel in the United States, have written voluminously on the subject, as it has evolved over the past 17 years. Ian Angus’s Climate and Capitalism website is the best place to explore the history and current development of ecosocialism.

Why do I exclude ecosocialism from my Way of Nature?

Ecosocialism began as a breakaway political philosophy from standard, everyday Marxism, an admirable attempt to align classic socialist economics with modern understandings of the effects of human social systems on the natural world. Unfortunately, because of its basic Marxist underpinnings, it falls short in two important respects: human population, and human consumption of natural resources.

Population Control

Adherents of ecosocialism are unswervingly opposed to any form of population stabilization or control. This roadblock to thought and rational analysis arises from Marxist focus on economic justice. Ecosocialists hold than any form of population control would preferentially affect people of color, people in poverty, people of the global south. This refusal to consider the detrimental effects of increasing population is extended to immigration as well, holding that people should be free to move from place to place at will.

Consumption

One of the basic Marxist assumptions of socialism is that with the elimination of capitalism, production will be for use and not for profit, and therefore increased technological production would create enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, equally in every part of the human world. In such a “post-scarcity” world, human consumption of natural resources would decline and reduce impacts on the natural world.

I = P x A x T

These two ecosocialist assumptions ignore the formula for measuring and predicting global human impacts on the natural world developed by Barry Commoner, Paul R. Ehrlich and John Holdren in the 1970s:

I = P x A x T – Impact on the nonhuman world is a function of affluence and technology, multiplied by population.

While it may be true that a socialist economy of use value eliminating production for profit value would reduce per capita production and consumption (this has never been demonstrated historically), this positive result would be held hostage to a growing population, which would overwhelm any gains through a reduction in production.

Stabilizing population growth, even unto the point of reducing human population globally, need not affect any particular population over any other. An ecosystem-based analysis of local human population pressures could be used to stabilize global population by reducing population levels in areas of high impact and stabilizing populations in areas of lower impact. Methods of such population control would be implemented based on local cultures and economies.

Lifting restrictions on immigration ignores the realities of local ecosystems and carrying capacities. If humans are free to drift from place to place, in response to population and social pressures, local ecosystems will quickly degrade in areas where the human drift accumulates. While restrictions on immigration by arbitrarily designated state boundaries might not be desirable from a social standpoint, an ecosystem-based analysis of human population pressures must be used to avoid undesirable negative impacts on the local ecosystem. If social relations in  a particular region are undesirable, humans should solve their problems in place, rather than exporting them to other ecosystems that may be less capable of withstanding increased human impacts.

In the end, despite its optimistic appellation, ecosocialism is yet another anthropocentric philosophy that begins and ends with human benefit as its primary concern and only tangentially addresses the detrimental effects of human growth and technology on the non-human world.

Socialism, even ecosocialism, offers no inherent alternatives to capitalism with regard to human consumption and destruction of natural habitats.

Now then, back to The Way of Nature.

via The Global Growth of U.S. Special Operations Forces

Unless they end in disaster, most missions remain in the shadows, unknown to all but a few Americans. And yet last year alone, U.S. commandos deployed to 149 countries — about 75% of the nations on the planet.

As I’m reading Chalmers’ Johnson’s penultimate book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, a sobering read, I’ve become more aware of signs of the movement of the United States government towards a global empire, albeit a rapidly declining global empire, such as the cited article above.

The inevitable comparison to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire leaps immediately to mind, along with most every other empire that has existed on this benighted and abused planet we humans overinhabit. But that’s just a literary allusion. The US Empire is real, it originates in the government that professes to represent me and my interests, and I, whether I agree with it or not, bear a modicum of responsibility for its actions.

I don’t know what to do about this. After 40+ years of environmental and political activism, I’m pretty discouraged with the prospects of being able to influence the course of action of the United States government, let alone the government of any other country. Even at the local level, I see city and county government increasingly in thrall to development interests (aka money) at the expense of the constituent residents of these jurisdictions. There is a strong tendency for local government to meet with development interests (aka “stakeholders”) and formulate policies and projects behind closed doors, then turn to the Economic Development Department to lobby the citizenry to accept the governments foregone conclusions and plans.

The is democracy turned on its head. The only meaningful response is increased citizen participation in local decision making, demanding that government respond to residents needs and desires, before those of development and business interests.

The problem is that few citizens are willing to engage in local politics other than a periodic trip to the polling booth, or increasingly, a trip to the post office with a mailed-in ballot.

Voting for candidates in a representative government is not democracy. Voting is the failure of democracy, rule by the people. Our representative republican government was chosen specifically to rule out democracy, viewing the citizenry as the unwashed masses who are incapable of conducting the affairs of government, which should be reserved for property owners, aka the rich elite minority. Thus, our system of government has evolved from “one man, one vote, to “one dollar (or more), one vote.”

If we are to learn anything from the history of empire in human affairs, it is this: all empires have fallen to excessive militarism and imperialism, substituting democratic decision making with authoritarian, centralized military/industrial oligarchies, necessitating propaganda and information control to keep the rabble in line.

This is where we are today, in a global militaristic culture in which imperialism has replaced statecraft, and the governed, that’s us, are viewed as infinitely pliable puppets whose only role in government is to supply the manufactured consent required to maintain the illusion of democracy.

I haven’t yet decided which path I’ll follow in the few years I have left to roam this planet: either dig a hole and pull in the dirt over me, or dedicate the rest of my life to working locally to demand involvement in local decision-making and support popular assemblies as a legitimate form of local government.

So far, day to day, the latter continues to win out.

Smart Growth is an Oxymoron

pexels-photo-109919“They cannot see that growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness, that Phoenix and Albuquerque will not be better cities to live in when their populations are doubled again and again. They would never understand that an economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human.”   ― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

This is one of Ed’s most telling quotes, one that is increasingly relevant to conditions in today’s cities and counties across this overburdened continent.

In my fair village on the Pacific Coast, local government is strangling in problems caused by a rapidly growing, profligate populace. What is government’s answer to the problems of homelessness, drug abuse, gang violence and crime? Why, more growth, of course!

In reaction to the inability of local government to deal with rising social problems, and increasing impacts on the non-human world casued by unlimited growth, common interest groups are forming to bring pressure on government officials to recognize the needs and desires of the local populace, in opposition to development interests fomenting back-door deals outside of public view.

Local government officials have resorted to corporate strategies to limit public participation in the decision making process, such as “charettes” that divide attendees at public meetings into small, moderated groups to diffuse and obfuscate their comments and control the discussion. Participants in public meetings are referred to in bureaucrat-speak as “stakeholders,” a term that equates corporate development interests with local residents. Government commissions and committees are viewed as representing “public interest,” even though the members of these representative groups are not chosen by the public and have no legitimate constituency.

What is needed is more neighborhood and community groups, meeting in homes and public venues, marching to city and county government meetings, writing letters to the editor (if such creatures still exist) and speaking out at every opportunity on behalf of resident interests, the non-human world and untrammeled natural habitat. When dozens of community residents show up at public meetings, government officials are forced, if only to avoid public embarrassment, to acknowledge community interests and modify their pre-ordained plans.

Here are some examples of local groups formed to oppose local government growth mania in Our Fair County: Harbor Neighbors, Capitola Road Neighbors, Don’t Bury the Library, Friends of Arana Gulch, Friends of Corcoran Lagoon Beach, Friends of San Lorenzo River Wildlife.

In the absence of meaningful public participation, government devolves to that which is designed and supported by those who show up, those who wear suits and ties, those who count success in six figure dollars, those who care little or not at all for the natural world that still remains. Growth maniacs who promote unlimited population and economic growth with no thought to its consequences on the human or the natural world.

 

 

Climatism is Industrialism, not Environmentalism

0614-07CrumbEcotopian-750452
The Eco-Alternative – R. Crumb

In a recent post, Climatist Manifesto, Ron Clutz gave me a hat-tip (Thanks, Ron!) for my earlier expression of the “dismay many environmentalists feel at the damage climatists have done both to science and to efforts to protect the planet from real pollution.”

In his Climate Manifesto post, Ron expresses concerns that climatism (belief in human caused climate change and its solutions) threatens present industrial society.

“Political leaders are willing, even enthusiastic dupes, while climatist tactics erode the foundations of industrial society.”

However, climatism derives from and defends that very same industrial society. It is the foundations of industrial society, industrialism, that are the ultimate cause of the myriad impacts on the non-human world, and that must be changed if humans are to reduce these impacts on all life on Earth. Climatism is the industrial approach to natural climate variation, assuming that climate change is caused by human action and is therefore subject to human control and technocratic solutions.

Industrialism is more than the technological results of the Industrial Revolution, ca. 1800. Industrialism is characterized by hierarchical social organization, the concept of progress, and technocracy based on science, technology and bureaucracy.

Industrialism embraces efficiency and expediency above all values, including the appropriation and exploitation for human use of raw materials, defined as “resources,” including living beings and the very air, water and soil on which all life depends. Industrialism goes beyond the dualities of capitalism/socialism, North/South, East/West, science/religion. Industrialism portrays technological change as progress, regardless of negative impacts on natural environments or human communities. Industrialism portrays economic and technocratic growth as desirable and inevitable and views lack of growth as stagnation. Industrialism is the basic assumption of all western societies, and, increasingly, those of Eastern traditions.

It is not the mission, nor even the intent of climatists to deindustrialize civilization. On the contrary, climatists seek means by which industrial society can continue unchanged, and define that as “sustainability.”

It is environmentalists who seek to move away from industrialism to reduce human pollution and destruction of natural habitats. It is environmentalists who propose non-hierarchical, decentralized human societies built on ecological principles, accommodating to natural cycles of resource availability and climate variation. It is environmentalists who threaten industrial society.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein