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Capitalism is the root cause of racism
McLaren and Torres 99 (Peter Mclaren, professor of education at U of California, and Rudolfo
Torres, Professor of Planning, Policy, and Design, Chicano/Latino Studies, and Political Science, Racism and
Multicultural Education: Rethinking Race and Whiteness in Late Capitalism, Chapter 2 of Critical
Multiculturalism: Rethinking Multicultural and Antiracist Education, edited by Stephen May, p.49-50, Questia)

racial diferences are invented. Racism occurs

when the characteristics which justify discrimination are held to be
inherent in the oppressed group. This form of oppression is peculiar to
capitalist societies; it arises in the circumstances surrounding industrial
capitalism and the attempt to acquire a large labour force . Callinicos
points out three main conditions for the existence of racism as outlined by Marx:
economic competition between workers; the appeal of racist ideology to
white workers; and eforts of the capitalist class to establish and maintain racial
divisions among workers. Capital's constantly changing demands for diferent
kinds of labour can only be met through immigration . Callinicos remarks that 'racism
According to Alex Callinicos (1993),

offers for workers of the oppressing race the imaginary compensation for the exploitation they suffer of belonging
to the ruling nation' (1993, p. 39). Callinicos notes the way in which Marx grasped how 'racial' divisions between
'native' and 'immigrant' workers could weaken the working-class. United States' politicians like Pat Buchanan, Jesse
Helms and Pete Wilson, to name but a few, take advantage of this division which the capitalist class understands

you might be
asking yourselves: Doesn't racism pre-date capitalism? Here we agree with Callinicos that
the heterophobia associated with precapitalist societies was not the same as modern racism. Pre-capitalist
slave and feudal societies of classical Greece and Rome did not rely on
racism to justify the use of slaves. The Greeks and Romans did not have
theories of white superiority. If they did, that must have been unsettling news to Septimus
Severus, Roman Emperor from Ad 193 to 211, who was, many historians claim, a
black man. Racism emerged during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries from a key development of capitalism-colonial plantations in the New
World where slave labour stolen from Africa was used to produce tobacco, sugar,
and cotton for the global consumer market (Callinicos, 1993). Callinicos cites Eric Williams
who remarks: 'Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the
consequence of slavery' (cited in Callinicos, 1993, p. 24). In effect, racism emerged as the ideology of
and manipulates only too well-using racism effectively to divide the working-class. At this point

the plantocracy. It began with the class of sugar-planters and slave merchants that dominated England's Caribbean

The 'natural inferiority' of

Africans was a way that Whites justified enslaving them . According to Callinicos:
Racism ofers white workers the comfort of believing themselves part of
the dominant group; it also provides, in times of crisis, a ready-made scapegoat, in the shape of the
oppressed group. Racism thus gives white workers a particular identity , and one which
unites them with white capitalists. We have here, then, a case of the kind of 'imagined
community' discussed by Benedict Anderson in his influential analysis of nationalism. (1993, p. 38) In short, to
abolish racism in any substantive sense, we need to abolish global
colonies. Racism developed out of the 'systemic slavery' of the New World.

Capitalism is the root cause of (hetero)sexism- its used as a

tool to divide the working class
Dickinson 7 (Torry D Dickinson, a tenured Professor of Womens Studies at Kansas State University,
(Hetero)Sexism as a Weapon of the World-System http://www.jstor.org/stable/40241695 \\ME)

As an institution that appears at every level of global-society, hetero- and

ageist-sexism has served as the world-system's pri- mary weapon of
mystification and division. Throughout the capital- ist world-system, the
market and labor processes are cultural forces that shape the ways that
all socially defined groups live (Smith et al., 1988: x). And sexism in the worldsystem has always included heterosexism and ageism at its very core. By
referring here to (het- ero)sexism as one of the world-system's weapons- which take the form of systemically and
culturally generated, unequal processes- I am directly acknowledging, extending, and re-contextualizing Suz- anne
Pharr's feminist formulation that homophobia is a weapon of sexism. Pharr was the first social analyst to widely
articulate the view that heterosexism, homophobia, and compulsory heterosexu- ality serve as a weapon of sexism.

She stated that heterosexism was an integral part of sexism and

connected the dots for egalitarian people who had seen heterosexism as
separate from sexism. In her seminal book and article, Pharr also suggested, along with many past and
contemporary feminist scholars, that sexism (including heterosexism) constituted a separate social system that had

(hetero)sexism serves as one of the worldsystem's shields. As an ofensive and defensive weapon, the shield of
hetero- and ageist-sexism both allows power- holders to advance
inequalities in intimate and abstract ways and to defend and protect the
system. In contrast to the view that sexism is an independent and holistic system, I argue that hetero- and ageist- sexism (or the institution of
gender) can best be understood not as a separate system (or as relations organized
under the institution of the household), but as one of a number of interconnected, everpresent global institutions of the capitalist world-system. Sexism is connected to all
its own logic and roots (1988). Here I argue that

activities in the global system and emanates from more than the gendering of household work, the secular increase
in unwaged activities es- pecially in areas of the global South, and the simultaneous increase in dependency on
waged labor, especially in areas of the global North (Dickinson & Schaeffer, 2001; 2008) and in the lives of some
U.S. professional households or "good job" families (Nelson & Smith, 1999). Rather than resulting from the workings
of one set of social processes, the institution of gender expressed and created all aspects of the modern, global

"The locus of
patriarchal control is not found in its pan-historical perseverance, but in
the contemporary organization of production" (Smith, 1984a: 74). Hetero- and
ageist-sexism form an integral part of the multi- faceted institutional
relations that sustain historical capitalism, and the formation of its many
layers and its connections with house- holds can be revealed through
feminist, world-systemic analysis and social-change practice.
social system. Following world-sys- tems analysts' definition of racism, Joan Smith wrote,

Technological fetishism fails to alter the conditions that cause
climate change and denies the role of capitalism in
environmental degradation
Foster, 10 - professor of sociology at the University of Oregon (John, Why Ecological Revolution, Monthly
Review, http://monthlyreview.org/2010/01/01/why-ecological-revolution/, February 3rd 2010)//jk

We are increasingly led to believe that the answers to climate change are
primarily to be found in new energy technology, specifically increased energy and carbon
efficiencies in both production and consumption. Technology in this sense, however, is often
viewed abstractly as a deus ex machina, separated from both the laws of
physics (i.e., entropy or the second law of thermodynamics) and from the way technology is
embedded in historically specific conditions. With respect to the latter, it is worth noting
that, under the present economic system, increases in energy efficiency
normally lead to increases in the scale of economic output , efectively
negating any gains from the standpoint of resource use or carbon
efficiency - a problem known as the Jevons Paradox. As William Stanley Jevons
observed in the nineteenth century, every new steam engine was more efficient in the use of coal than the one
before, which did not prevent coal burning from increasing overall, since the efficiency gains only led to the

This relation between

efficiency and scale has proven true for capitalist economies up to the
present day.[8] Technological fetishism with regard to environmental
issues is usually coupled with a form of market fetishism. So widespread has this
expansion of the number of steam engines and of growth in general.

become that even a militant ecologist like Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, recently stated: There is only
one lever even possibly big enough to make our system move as fast as it needs to, and thats the force of
markets.[9] Green-market fetishism is most evident in what is called cap and trade - a catch phrase for the
creation, via governments, of artificial markets in carbon trading and so-called offsets. The important thing to
know about cap and trade is that it is a proven failure. Although enacted in Europe as part of the implementation of
the Kyoto Protocol, it has failed where it was supposed to count: in reducing emissions. Carbon-trading schemes
have been shown to be full of holes. Offsets allow all sorts of dubious forms of trading that have no effect on
emissions. Indeed, the only area in which carbon trading schemes have actually been effective is in promoting
profits for speculators and corporations, which are therefore frequently supportive of them. Recently, Friends of the
Earth released a report entitled Subprime Carbon? which pointed to the emergence, under cap and trade
agreements, of what could turn out to be the worlds largest financial derivatives market in the form of carbon
trading. All of this has caused Hansen to refer to cap and trade as the temple of doom, locking in disasters for
our children and grandchildren.[10] The masquerade associated with the dominant response to global warming is
illustrated in the climate bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in late June 2009. The bill, if enacted,
would supposedly reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent relative to 2005 levels by 2020, which translates
into 4-5 percent less U.S. global warming pollution than in 1990. This then would still not reach the target level of a
6-8 percent cut (relative to 1990) for wealthy countries that the Kyoto accord set for 2012, and that was supposed
to have been only a minor, first step in dealing with global warming - at a time when the problem was seen as much
less severe. The goal presented in the House bill, even if reached, would therefore prove vastly inadequate. But the
small print in the bill makes achieving even this meager target unrealistic. The coal industry is given until 2025 to
comply with the bills pollution reduction mandates, with possible extensions afterward. As Hansen observes, the
bill builds in approval of new coal-fired power plants! Agribusiness, which accounts for a quarter of U.S.
greenhouse gas emissions, is entirely exempt from the mandated reductions. The cap and trade provisions of the
House bill would give annual carbon dioxide emission allowances to some 7,400 facilities across the United States,
most of them handed out for free. These pollution allowances would increase up through 2016, and companies
would be permitted to bank them indefinitely for future use. Corporations would be able to fulfill their entire set of
obligations by buying offsets associated with pollution control projects until 2027. To make matters worse, the
Senate counterpart to the House bill, now under deliberation, would undoubtedly be more conservative, giving
further concessions and offsets to corporations. The final bill, if it comes out of Congress, will thus be, in Hansens
words, worse than nothing. Similar developments can be seen in the preparation for the December 2009 world
climate negotiations in Copenhagen, in which Washington has played the role of a spoiler, blocking all but the most
limited, voluntary agreements, and insisting on only market-based approaches, such as cap and trade.[11]
Recognizing that world powers are playing the role of Nero as Rome burns, James Lovelock, the earth system

scientist famous for his Gaia hypothesis, argues that massive climate change and the destruction of human
civilization as we know it may now be irreversible. Nevertheless, he proposes as solutions either a massive
building of nuclear power plants all over the world (closing his eyes to the enormous dangers accompanying such a
course) - or geoengineering our way out of the problem, by using the worlds fleet of aircraft to inject huge
quantities of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to block a portion of the incoming sunlight, reducing the solar
energy reaching the earth. Another common geoengineering proposal includes dumping iron filings throughout the
ocean to increase its carbon-absorbing properties. Rational scientists recognize that interventions in the earth
system on the scale envisioned by geoengineering schemes (for example, blocking sunlight) have their own
massive, unforeseen consequences. Nor could such schemes solve the crisis. The dumping of massive quantities of
sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere would, even if effective, have to be done again and again, on an increasing
scale, if the underlying problem of cutting greenhouse gas emissions were not dealt with. Moreover, it could not
possibly solve other problems associated with massive carbon dioxide emissions, such as the acidification of the

The dominant approach to the world ecological crisis, focusing on

technological fixes and market mechanisms, is thus a kind of denial; one
that serves the vested interests of those who have the most to lose from a
change in economic arrangements. Al Gore exemplifies the dominant form
of denial in his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. For Gore, the
answer is the creation of a sustainable capitalism. He is not, however,
altogether blind to the faults of the present system. He describes climate
change as the greatest market failure in history and decries the shortterm perspective of present-day capitalism, its market triumphalism,
and the fundamental flaws in its relation to the environment. Yet, in
defiance of all this, he assures his readers that the strengths of
capitalism can be harnessed to a new system of sustainable

Technological approaches to climate change only pass the buck

on to future generations- failure to destroy the root cause of
climate change makes extinction inevitable and means
capitalists misuse the technology
ROHRICHT, 6/29/14 M.A. Candidate, Ethics, Peace and Global AffairsB.A., Professional Writing & B.A., Philosophy (Alyssa, Counter-Punch, Capitalism and Climate Change,

Pursuing sustainable energy sources is an equally dubious response to the

climate crisis. Just as with geoengineering, the thought is that human ingenuity and
investment in new technologies will lead to cleaner and more efficient
industrial practices, thus reducing our GHG emissions. Yet this ignores the
very nature of the capitalist system of endless growth and accumulation,
and given the opportunity to expand further while expending less on
energy and resources, capitalism will naturally expand to fill the newly
opened space. This concept is often called Jevons Paradox, after William Stanley
Jevons, a 19th century economist who sought to examine why increased efficiency in the use of coal led to

What Jevons noted was a positive correlation between

efficiency and resource consumption, observing that as the use of coal became
more efficient and thus more cost efective, it became more desirable to
consumers, creating more demand and thus more production and
consumption. On and on it goes. This is called the rebound effect whereby gains in
efficiency lead to a drop in the price of a given commodity and a rise in
increased consumption.

demand and consumption. Any gains in efficiency, then, do not lead to a

decrease in consumption, but often have the opposite efect . In fact, over the
period of 1975 to 1996, carbon efficiency increased dramatically in the US, Japan, the Netherlands, and Austria.
However, studies show that during the same period, total emissions of carbon dioxide and per capita emissions

gains in fossil fuel efficiency have resulted in

increased use by the capitalist, industrialized societies. As Karl Marx
noted, capitalism prevents the rational application of technologies
because gains are only reinvested in the capitalist system and used to
further expand and grow capital accumulation. Renewable energy poses
similar problems. Drastic measures would need to be taken to change the
entire infrastructure currently built around fossil fuels. In order to keep global
warming to a 2C increase by purely technical means, about 80% of the worlds energy use
would have to be switched to carbon-neutral technologies like wind, solar, and bio-fuels. An article in
the New Yorker on inventor Saul Griffith noted that this would require building the
equivalent of all the following: a hundred square metres of new solar cells,
fifty square metres of new solar-thermal reflectors, and one Olympic
swimming pools volume of genetically engineered algae (for biofuels)
every second for the next twenty-five years; one three-hundred-foot-diameter wind turbine
increased across the board. Thus

every five minutes; one hundred-megawatt geothermal-powered steam turbine every eight hours; and one three-

To construct all of this carbon-neutral

technology would require emitting huge amounts of GHGs into the
atmosphere, over and above what we are already emitting to continue
running the current system. Furthermore, large-scale renewables can be just
as destructive as other forms of energy. Large-scale dams used for
hydropower a supposedly clean energy have led to destruction of
habitats for both aquatic and land species, destruction of flood plains,
river deltas, wetlands, and ocean estuaries, reduction of water quality and
nutrient cycling and have been known to cause earthquakes. Biofuels,
similarly, cause huge environmental damage, sometimes using more
energy to grow and transport the crops than energy gained from it, not to
mention the issue of creating competition for arable land with the food industry. Once again, a boon for the
capitalist economy in creating new industry in sustainable energy is to
the great detriment of the environment and the climate , so long as the harms caused
by these new technologies can be written off as externalities. Focusing on technology whether
through methods to increase efficiency, through sustainable energy, or
through geoengineering do nothing to change the underlying capitalist
system of unfettered growth that has been at the source of the climate
change problem from the beginning. They are merely attempts at treating
the symptoms of climate change, not the cause. Karl Marx first employed the concept of
gigawatt nuclear power plant every week.

metabolic interactions between humans and nature in the 19th century, recognizing the complex
interdependence between the two. Since man lives from nature and derives the very necessities to survive from it,
nature is his body. He is a part of nature and they are inextricably linked and so man must be in dialogue with it in
order to survive. This complex interchange he likened to the metabolism or material exchange within the body.
But as man began to adopt practices that disrupted this interchange, a rupture occurred with the relations between
man and the natural world. This rupture, driven by capitalist expansion, intensified with large-scale agriculture,
harmful industries, and the global market. Marx saw this rupture, or metabolic rift, occur as populations began to
flock toward cities. In contrast to traditional agriculture, where waste from food is recycled back into the soil, this
new type of agriculture meant nutrients (food) were being shipped to cities to feed the growing population, and
thus not cycled back into the soil. This caused the natural fertility of the soil to decline and nutrients in the city to
accumulate as waste and pollution. As soil fertility worsened, more and more intensive agricultural methods were
needed, increasing the use of artificial fertilizers, further harming the nutrient cycles of the soil. Capitalism

continued to demand higher and higher yields, requiring more and more intensive and harsh farming methods,
greater fertilizer use, and so on, creating a cycle of deterioration of the natural processes, and a rift between man

Humans have disrupted the natural processes of the earth in

unimaginable ways. The very composition of the air we breathe is being altered by our ever-growing
and nature.

emissions of GHGs. The system we have put our faith in for many years rests on a ceaseless hunger for

As our energy sources become more and more

scarce and difficult to find and extract, instead of scaling back and
recognizing natures natural boundaries, capitalism doubles down and
employs even more dangerous methods. Searching for market-based
solutions to the climate crisis will not work. When capitalism attempts to
put a price on the natural world, it takes into account only the interests of
those with the greatest purchasing power. Capital accumulation is the
primary objective, and any costs that can be externalized onto nature and
the global poor will be. Technology in the capitalist system has helped us
to create ever-more energy-efficient processes, yet a paradoxical
relationship arises, where increased energy-efficiency leads to increased economic expansion, negating
accumulation, spurred on by fossil fuels.

any reduction in resource-use. Likewise, transforming our infrastructure to more sustainable energy sources would
require a such massive output of GHGs from fossil fuels to build that implementing the change would push us over
the climate cliff.

Geoengineering, the solution touted by many cheerleaders of

the capitalist system as the saving grace of humanity, absurdly argues for
altering the earths natural systems even further, hoping that capitalism
can continue undiminished. Technology may help pass the buck to future
generations, but it will not solve the problem. Capitalism would have us
grow indefinitely, but the earths natural carrying capacity would have us
reverse this trend. The interminable drive for accumulation on which
capitalism is solely focused has led humanity down a path of near-disaster
with the very systems that we rely on to sustain life human and
otherwise. If we continue down this path of relentless accumulation
inherent in the capitalist system, we cannot stop the climate disaster.

A thorough analysis of capitalism in relation to its concealed

structural violence and environmental issues is keysolutions
formed without specific recognition of root cause fail
Richard York and Brett Clark, 2010, Professor of Environmental Sociology and Statistics at the University
of Oregon, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Sustainability, 2010, Nothing New Under the Sun? The Old False
Promise of New Technology, Review (Fernand Braudel Center), VOL 33, pp. 203-224, online:

While these structural arrangements produce various con tradictions, given the social inequalities and ecological
degrada tion that the system inevitably creates, it also provides a degree of structural stability when measured
on a limited timescale, such as decades or centuries. Thus, the "laws" of capitalism, due to their relative
constancy over the past centuries, can appear to be laws of nature that cannot be transcended. But, as historicity
suggests, what appears to be a universal law in a particular context may be shown to be invalid in other

a thorough analysis must account for background conditions

that act as social gravity, that are creating specific problems. These background
conditions may also restrict the range of debate, assumptions about the
social world, and the potential suggestions for change. Too often, pro posed
solutions, whose focus is on the particularities of the first tier of time, fail to assess how
contexts. Thus,

background conditions contribute to particular problems, such as the

current crises over food, energy, and the environment. As a result, a series of socalled solutions are generated throughout time, without actually
addressing the roots of the problem. Once this is understood, it is possible to compre hend
how contemporary environmental problems are similar to those in previous decades and centuries. At the same
time, given the persistence of the social gravity stemming from the structure of the world-system,

contemporary environmental problems are more pressing than they have

been in the past due to their extra ordinary scale, and threaten to transgress the planetary boundar ies
that maintain the earth system in a state that supports human civilization. All of this stresses the
importance of properly assess ing the forces driving ecological problems,
as well as the proposed


Capitalism is the root cause of environmental problems

John Bellamy Foster, November 5, 2011, originally published by MRzine, John
Bellamy Foster has been writing articles about capitalism and he cites multiple
people in his works, for a complete list visit the attached link, Capitalism and
environmental catastrophe, Capitalism and environmental catastrophe
This is a reconstruction from notes of a talk delivered at a teach-in on "The Capitalist Crisis and the Environment"
organized by the Education and Empowerment Working Group, Occupy Wall Street, Zuccotti Park (Liberty Plaza),
New York, October 23, 2011. It was based on a talk delivered the night before at the Brecht Forum. Fred Magdoff

the economic crisis

of capitalism, and the way in which the costs of this were imposed on the
99 percent rather than the 1 percent. But "the highest expression of the
capitalist threat," as Naomi Klein has said, is its destruction of the planetary
environment. So it is imperative that we critique that as well.1 I would like to start
by pointing to the seriousness of our current environmental problem and
then turn to the question of how this relates to capitalism. Only then will
we be in a position to talk realistically about what we need to do to stave
of or lessen catastrophe. How bad is the environmental crisis? You have
all heard about the dangers of climate change due to the emission of
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere -trapping more heat on earth. You are undoubtedly aware that global
warming threatens the very future of the humanity, along with the
existence of innumerable other species. Indeed, James Hansen, the leading climatologist in
this country, has gone so far as to say this may be "our last chance to save humanity."2
But climate change is only part of the overall environmental problem.
Scientists, led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, have recently indicated that we have
crossed, or are near to crossing, nine "planetary boundaries" (defined in terms of sustaining the
also spoke on both occasions. The Occupy Wall Street movement arose in response to

environmental conditions of the Holocene epoch in which civilization developed over the last 12,000 years):

climate change, species extinction, the disruption of the nitrogenphosphorus cycles, ocean acidification, ozone depletion, freshwater usage,
land cover change, (less certainly) aerosol loading, and chemical use. Each of
these rifts in planetary boundaries constitutes an actual or potential
global ecological catastrophe. Indeed, in three cases -- climate change,
species extinction, and the disruption of the nitrogen cycle -- we have
already crossed planetary boundaries and are currently experiencing
catastrophic efects. We are now in the period of what scientists call the

"sixth extinction," the greatest mass extinction in 65 million years, since

the time of the dinosaurs; only this time the mass extinction arises from
the actions of one particular species -- human beings. Our disruption of the nitrogen
cycle is a major factor in the growth of dead zones in coastal waters. Ocean acidification is often called the "evil
twin" of climate change, since it too arises from carbon dioxide emissions, and by negatively impacting the oceans
it threatens planetary disruption on an equal (perhaps even greater) scale .

The decreased
availability of freshwater globally is emerging as an environmental crisis
of horrendous proportions.3 All of this may seem completely
overwhelming. How are we to cope with all of these global ecological
crises/catastrophes, threatening us at every turn? Here it is important to
grasp that all of these rifts in the planetary system derive from processes
associated with our global production system, namely capitalism. If we are
prepared to carry out a radical transformation of our system of production
-- to move away from "business as usual" -- then there is still time to turn
things around; though the remaining time in which to act is rapidly
running out. Let's talk about climate change, remembering that this is
only one part of the global environmental crisis, though certainly the most
urgent at present. Climate science currently suggests that if we burn only half of the world's proven,
economically accessible reserves of oil, gas, and coal, the resulting carbon emissions will almost certainly raise
global temperatures by 2 C (3.6 F), bringing us to what is increasingly regarded as an irreversible tipping point -after which it appears impossible to return to the preindustrial (Holocene) climate that nourished human civilization.
At that point various irrevocable changes (such as the melting of Arctic sea ice and the ice sheets of Greenland and
Antarctica, and the release of methane from the tundra) will become unstoppable. This will speed up climate
change, while also accelerating vast, catastrophic effects, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather.
Alternatively, if our object is the rational one of keeping warming below 2 C, climate science now suggests that we
should refrain from burning more than a quarter of the proven, economically exploitable fossil fuel reserves

The central issue in all

of this, it is important to understand, is irreversibility . Current climate models indicate
(unconventional sources such as tar sands are excluded from this calculation).4

that if we were to cease burning fossil fuels completely at the point that global average temperature had increased
by 2C, or 450 parts per million (ppm) carbon concentration in the atmosphere (the current level is 390 ppm), the
earth would still not be close to returning to a Holocene state by the year 3000. In other words, once this boundary
is reached, climate change is irreversible over conceivable human-time frames.5 Moreover, the damage would be
done; all sorts of catastrophic results would have emerged. Recently climate scientists, writing for Nature magazine,
one of the world's top science publications, have developed a concrete way of understanding the planetary
boundary where climate change is concerned, focusing on the cumulative carbon emissions budget. This is
represented by the trillionth ton of carbon. So far more than 500 billion tons of carbon have been emitted into the
atmosphere since the industrial revolution. In order to have an approximately even chance (50-50) of limiting the
increase in global average temperature to 2C, the cumulative CO2 emissions over the period 1750-2050 must not
exceed one trillion tons of carbon; while in order to have a 75 percent chance of global warming remaining below
2C, it is necessary not to exceed 750 billion tons of carbon. Yet, according to present trends, the 750 billionth ton
of carbon will be emitted in 2028, i.e., about sixteen years from now. If we are to avoid burning the 750 billionth ton
of carbon over the next four decades, carbon dioxide emissions must fall at a rate of 5 percent per year; while to
avoid emitting the trillion ton, emissions must drop at a rate of 2.4 percent a year . The
longer we wait the more rapid the decrease that will be necessary. The trillionth ton, viewed as the point of no
return, is the equivalent of cutting down the last palm tree on Easter Island. After that it is essentially out of our

This takes us to the social question. The problem we face when it

comes to the appropriate response to impending climate catastrophe is
not so much one of climate science -- beyond understanding the
environmental parameters in which we must act -- as social science. It is
an issue of social conditions and social agency. We live in in a capitalist
society, which means a societyin which the accumulation of capital, i.e.,
economic growth carried out primarily on the terms of the 1 percent at the
top (the ruling capitalist class), is the dominant tendency. It is a system
that accumulates capital in one phase simply so that it can accumulate
hands. 6

still more capital in the next phase -- always on a larger scale. There is no
braking mechanism in such a system and no social entity in control. If for
some reason the system slows down (as it is forced to periodically due to
its own internal contradictions) it enters an economic crisis. That may be
good temporarily for the environment, but it is terrible for human beings,
particularly the bottom portion of the 99 percent, faced with rising
unemployment and declining income. Overall, capitalism is aimed at
exponential growth. It cannot stand still. The minimum adequate growth
rate of the system is usually thought to be 3 percent. But this means that
the economy doubles in size about every 24 years. How many such
doublings of world output can the planet take? Hence, there is a direct
and growing contradiction between capitalism and the environment, a
contradiction that becomes more and more apparent as the size of the
capitalist economy begins to rival the basic biogeochemical processes of
the planet. Naomi Klein has rightly characterized the age we live in as "disaster
capitalism" because of its dual economic and ecological crises -- and due
to the increasingly exploitative means the rich employ to enable them to
prosper in the midst of increasing destruction .7 There are two predominant ways of
addressing the climate crisis and the environmental problem generally. One is to look for technological ways out -often seen as being spurred by the creation of carbon markets, but the onus is on the technology. The argument
here is that through the massive introduction of various advanced technologies we can have our pie and eat it too.
We can get around the environmental problem, it is suggested, without making any fundamental social changes.
Thus, the pursuit of profits and accumulation can go on as before without alteration. Such magic-technological
answers are commonly viewed as the only politically feasible ones, since they are attractive to corporate and
political-power elites, who refuse to accept the need for system change. Consequently, the establishment has
gambled on some combination of technological miracles emerging that will allow them to keep on doing just as they
have been doing. Predictably, the outcome of this high-stake gamble has been a failure not only to decrease carbon
emissions, but also to prevent their continued increase. The turn to those alternative technologies that are already
available (for example, solar power) has been hindered by the fact that they are often less profitable or require
changes in social organization to be implemented effectively. As a result, greater emphasis is placed on: (1) nuclear
energy (a Faustian bargain if there ever was one); and (b) carbon capture and sequestration technology for coalfired plants, which is neither economically nor ecologically feasible at present, and hence only serves to keep coal,
the dirtiest fossil fuel, going. Beyond this the only option that the vested interests (the 1% and their hangers-on)
have left is to push for geoengineering technologies. This involves such measures as dumping sulfur dioxide
particles in the atmosphere to block the suns rays (with the danger that photosynthesis might be decreased), or
fertilizing the ocean with iron to promote algal growth and absorb carbon (with the possibility that dead zones might
expand). These geoengineering schemes are extremely dubious in terms of physics, ecology, and economics: all
three. They involve playing God with the planet. Remember the Sorcerer's Apprentice! Nevertheless, such
technological fantasies, bordering on madness, continue to gain support at the top. This is because attempts to
shift away from our currently wasteful society in the direction of rational conservation, involving changes in our way
of life and our form of production, are considered beyond the pale -- even when the very survival of humanity is at
stake. The other approach is to demand changes in society itself; to move away from a system directed at profits,
production, and accumulation, i.e., economic growth, and toward a sustainable steady-state economy. This would
mean reducing or eliminating unnecessary and wasteful consumption and reordering society -- from commodity
production and consumption as its primary goal, to sustainable human development. This could only occur in
conjunction with a move towards substantive equality. It would require democratic ecological and social planning. It
therefore coincides with the classical objectives of socialism. Such a shift would make possible the reduction in

After all, most of what the U.S. economy produces in the

form of commodities (including the unnecessary, market-related costs that
go into the production of nearly all goods) is sheer waste from a social, an
ecological -- even a long-term economic -- standpoint . Just think of all the
useless things we produce and that we are encouraged to buy and then
throw away almost the moment we have bought them. Think of the
bizarre, plastic packaging that all too often dwarfs the goods themselves.
Think of military spending, running in reality at $1 trillion a year in the
carbon emissions we need.

United States. Think of marketing (i.e. corporate spending aimed at

persuading people to buy things they don't want or need), which has
reached $1 trillion a year in this country alone. Think of all the wasted
resources associated with our financial system, with Wall Street
economics. It is this kind of waste that generates the huge profits for the
top 1 percent of income earners, and that alienates and impoverishes the
lives of the bottom 99 percent, while degrading the environment.8 What
we need therefore is to change our economic culture. We need an
ecological and social revolution. We have all the technologies necessary to do this. It is not
primarily a technological problem, because the goal here would no longer be the impossible one of expanding our
exploitation of the earth beyond all physical and biological limits, ad infinitum. Rather the goal would be to promote
human community and community with the earth. Here we would need to depend on organizing our local
communities but also on creating a global community -- where the rich countries no longer imperialistically exploit
the poor countries of the world. You may say that this is impossible, but the World Occupy Movement would have

If we are going to struggle, let us make our

goal one of ecological and social revolution -- in defense of humanity and
the planet.
been declared impossible only a month ago.