Once again working class families in England have experienced the destructive effects of flooding in their communities and homes. Not for the first time, communities of terraced and semi-detached houses have seen the lower portions of their homes flooded to considerable depths. Yet again their furniture, fittings and personal items have been completely ruined by debris and sewage. For the third time in a decade, serious infrastructure failures along roads, bridges and electricity supply chains have also occurred leaving people stranded, cold, wet and in considerable danger.
Where was the prevention and preparation given this latest inundation was not entirely unexpected? Weather and climate specialist have repeatedly predicted the kind of changes in weather patterns which would cause exactly these results. But hey! Don’t blame the elected representative, the officials of the state, or the executives of the power companies for lack of preparation – do want they want us to and – blame the rain!
Blaming this or that aspect of the planet’s ‘natural’ events and climate reactions has become a hackneyed excuse for the pro-capitalist economic and political elite of Europe and America in particular. Leaves are routinely blamed for train delays, hurricanes are frequently blamed for topping levies and now ‘excessive’ rain fall is regularly blamed for spilling over river banks and into homes. Sometimes I wonder if these elites are for real and if they think we are all stupid! Sufficient funds can be found by them for dozens of £250, 000 ‘smart’ bombs to drop on Syria but not enough can be found for more than a few lorries of ‘dumb’ sand-bags and a few miles of woefully low walling – job done!
I suggest one of the characteristics which for thousands, if not millions of years, has distinguished the human species from other species is the sophisticated ability to predict the likelihood of negative patterns reoccurring and importantly – to take measures to counter them. And indeed extreme weather events, due to the excessive industrialisation of the planet created by the capitalist mode of production has been reliably predicted for decades. So why are there not numerous counter measures in place in the form of considerably more than adequate flood defences? This extreme weather is serious stuff and should attract serious attention.
Actually the failure of the pro-capitalist elite to take measures to adequately counter these events where they effect the poor and the working classes shouldn’t be too surprising. Nor should it be surprising that it Is very rare for the rich and the elite to have their houses and workplaces flooded and still rarer for them to be stranded and left for long periods of time without electrical power and other essential services. This is something which has happened again and frequently will in future in less fortunate areas. In this case, as in many other areas of life, class differences exist. Under this current system, the wealthy are protected, and the poor are neglected.
On an increasingly regular basis across the globe, working class families and communities are suffering from climate change and many other negative side effects of the capitalist mode of production. In the eyes of the elite, working class communities are just not worth protecting, nor are they worth the considerable expense of really 21st century-proof flood barriers. And what is the ‘unnatural’ probable cause of this relatively recent weather-related development? Fortunately that is not too difficult a question to answer.
Since the invention of the steam engine, the internal combustion engine and the electric motor, the complete reliance of capitalism upon fossil fuels has undoubtedly contributed considerably to this state of affairs. Irrespective of any other factors which may be involved, this technological fact harnessed to the economic profit motive has now led to accelerated pollution, rapid resource depletion, incremental changes to global temperatures and erratic weather patterns. The entire economic, social and political life of capitalism is now structurally dependent upon burning fossil fuels for heating, lighting, commodity (and service) production and of course all – forms of transport!
The profits of companies – the economic motive of production under capitalism – are now tied inextricably to the production, and consumption of coal, oil and gas. And despite well meaning attempts to sever this historic link by reform, (including the latest bourgeois climate conference in Paris 2015) it is just too firmly – and profitably – attached to be voluntarily be broken. To maximise profits, the cheapest forms of energy and waste disposal are the default position of capitalist industry and commerce.
As the saying goes; ‘There are none so blind as those who won’t see’. Or in this case those who choose not to see beyond their investment portfolios and bloated bank accounts. Yet it is precisely such people who control the hierarchical nature of contemporary capitalist societies, along with the tax revenue. Consequently the multiple side effects of the capitalist mode of production, including dangerous global weather patterns, will continue to disproportionately effect the working classes and poor. That is until the mode of production itself is transcended. Yes it really is as bleak as that!
The political class along with the economic and military elites are just too firmly attached to, and reliant upon, their numerous privileges to question the domination of capital and think for the future of humanity as a whole. The perspective of seriously thinking about the future welfare of the entire planet and its varied human and non-human inhabitants will have to arise in a different class than those with already vested interests in the current mode of production. In the meantime don’t be surprised when flooding occurs again – and it will – that they won’t blame the system but continue to – blame the rain!
R. Ratcliffe (December 2015)