In recent years the environment has become a major political issue. And rightly so, because a serious environmental crisis really does exist. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat have all become contaminated to a greater or lesser extent. Ecology – the branch of biology that studies the relationships of living organisms to their environment – is important, as it is concerned with explaining exactly what has been happening and what is likely to happen if present trends continue.
Since the publication of our Ecology and Socialism pamphlet of 1990 environmental problems facing the planet have got much worse. We said then that attempts to solve those problems within capitalism would meet with failure, and that is precisely what has happened. Recent research on increasing environmental degradation has painted an alarming picture of the likely future if the profit system continues to hold sway. Voices claiming that the proper use of market forces will solve the problem can still be heard, but as time goes on the emerging facts of what is happening serve only to contradict those voices.
In this pamphlet we start with a brief review of the development of Earth and of humankind’s progress on it so far. We then examine the mounting evidence that the planet is now under threat of a worsening, dangerous environment for human and other forms of life. The motor of capitalism is money profit for the minority capitalist class to add to their capital, or capital accumulation. Environmental concerns, if considered at all, always come a poor second. The waste of human and other resources used in the market system is prodigious, adding to the problems and standing in the way of their solution.
Earth Summits over the last few decades show a consistent record of failure – unjustifiably high hopes and pitifully poor results sum them up. The Green Party and other environmental bodies propose reforms of capitalism that haven’t worked or have made very little real difference in the past. Socialists can see no reason why it should be any different in the future. Finally we discuss the need, with respect to the ecology of the planet, for a revolution that is both based on socialist principles of common ownership and production solely for needs, and environmental principles of conserving – not destroying – the wealth and amenities of the planet.
Introduction to "An Inconvenient Question - Socialism and the Environment" an SPGB pamphlet.
The whole pamphlet can be read here or ordered here.