The forthcoming international Conference of Parties (COP) to discuss limiting global warming, we can already say, will be a complete and utter cop-out. Despite decades of evidence of the dangers of overproduction, over-consumption and reliance upon fossil fuels, like other such pro-capitalist gatherings, little will be done. The coming Cop-26 event in the UK during November will pussyfoot around discussions of ‘symptoms’ whilst steadfastly ignoring the cause. Capitalists and pro-capitalist governments can only tinker with symptoms because they are in denial about the current mode of production – which is the underlying cause.
So dominant and entrenched is the ideology of ‘capitalism’ that even those among the middle classes who are critical of rising temperatures, pollution, floods, fires and poverty, remain unable to grasp that the existential threat to humanity is from the economic system itself, not the dangers it continually spawns. Consequently, those at such Cop-26 events, will be locked into only considering a range of reforms – all of which confirm and depend upon the existing mode of production. The choice of technical ‘alterations’ or ‘adjustments’ discussed at Cop 26 will be between a few immediate token actions and more token measures to be implemented – decades in the future! None of these ‘adjustments’will reverse the present trajectory of human-led ecological devastation.
The reason it will not halt or reverse this trajectory is not hard to understand. The larger the mass of middle and upper class ‘better off’ individuals there are in any class divided society, the more overall production is necessary to satisfy the cultivated needs of their elevated station. The working classes, who provide all the essential (and luxury) services for all classes, are therefore required to work harder and continuously increase their productivity. However this increased productivity requires more materials and energy to produce the new products, more resources to distribute them and more resources to dispose of those products replaced by the latest ones. Yet the only resources available to maintain such cycles of present and future production and consumption are those still available on an already depleted planet earth.
The cycle of earth, air and water depletion due to present and future conspicuous consumption will not be altered or interrupted by productive methods which are less reliant on carbon and fossil fuel for their manufacture. Furthermore capitalist based science will not (and cannot) solve this problem of class divided modes of production. Indeed, science and it’s ally technology, has created the problems we face. Mass production, Plastics, and other Petroleum products, Nuclear weapons, Mass Air, Road and Sea transport are all the products of capitalist based scientific and technological innovations. Moreover, all of them were hailed by their inventors as solutions to past problems. These and many other past ‘invented solutions’ (Alfred Nobel’s dynamite to end wars, for example!) have become the problems faced by humanity.
The only solution to capitalist resource squandering and overproduction is to stop doing it. The solution to repairing the planet is not to scientifically find other things to overproduce or divert public attention into the fantasy of space tourism and planetary colonisation. Social problems can only be solved by social means. Science, technology and politics cannot solve them. These aspects of our mode of production are part of the problem, not part of the solution. They only ‘appear’ to be possible solutions to those who don’t probe beyond surface appearances. These are the modern equivalent of those who thought the sun circled the earth because it appeared to do so. Or those who thought the earth was flat because the horizon appeared straight. The bad news for humanity is that although flat and earth-centred believers are few and far between, nevertheless the vast majority of people are focused on appearances. Most people seem unable to see beyond the socio-economic surface of the capitalist mode of production.
The results of this general intellectual inability, will be that the token decisions taken at Cop-26 will satisfy some optimists, but business as usual will continue. People will continue to be encouraged to consume current and new products and services for the sake of the ‘economy. Actually it’s ‘their’ economy. Among the masses, the ‘entitlement’ generations of all classes, will expect and demand holidays abroad, along with extravagant nights out and walk, drive or fly past those homeless and unemployed as if there is no connection between the wealth of some and the poverty of others. Yet it is not the talents of individuals which deliver riches to a relative few and poverty to many – that too is merely an ‘appearance’. The underlying reality is that it is the current economic system which delivers these unjust outcomes.
During the current Covid19 pandemic, members of these same entitlement generations have proved they are prepared to accept a high level of unnecessary deaths of other citizens as long as they can continue to experience holidays, sports and entertainment. If they are not sufficiently concerned about the deaths of those who live in the same or neighbouring communities, then how bothered will they be about floods, fires, storms and famines experienced by those in different and foreign lands? That and the current Vaccine imperialist type hoarding and authoritarianism, are precursors of things to come. The elites and their supporters in the advanced countries want the current economic system to survive and prosper – by whatever means they decide is appropriate!
NB. Every elite who control a dying mode of production, turn to authoritarianism and to blaming the systems victims as a strategy to allow it to survive.
However, elites also need to convince a large proportion of the victims that the authoritarianism they espouse and implement is a benign form of concern for them. How well they succeed in getting the masses to agree to elite inspired authoritarianism and to accept the demonisation of those who in various ways oppose the capitalist system, determines the future struggle. In the 20th century, it was ordinary Jews, Slavs and Communists, who were demonised as the threat and thus Fascist means of authoritarianism were needed to combat and silence them. In the 21st century – as yet – it appears to be immigrants, anti-vaxers and extinction rebellion supporters who are to be demonised and suppressed. Finally, I suggest the outcome of Cop-26 in the UK will undoubtedly disappoint all those who are really concerned with the future of planet earth and the life forms dependent upon it.
Roy Ratcliffe (September 2021)