Humanity and Nature under Capitalism

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Welcome to the era of human-caused climate change. [1] This economic and political system will kill us all – that is, if we don’t do something drastic quite soon. If not, there will be no future for human beings or other species. The world, as we know it, may soon become a mirage, a beautiful dream. We are reaching the end of the road, after driving the wrong way for over 200 years. What awaits us? The answer is obvious: destruction, suffering and death.

But is this inevitable? Is the human being biologically destined to destroy the natural world they so keenly depend on? Mercifully the answer is likely ‘no’, this destruction is most clearly understood as the result of very particular institutions and social norms, a situation we can change if we have the will to do so. A task which, while certainly not easy, is the most palatable outcome at this late stage.

Of course, climate change won’t bring a clean, quick, death to humanity, but rather a long, arduous, decline into barbarism. Pandora's Box has been opened. Natural disasters will become more frequent and devastating, rising sea levels and drought will drive us from our homes, crops will fail [2]. It is not “fake news”, the consequences of global warming are real and will have a greater impact on poorer countries, but no one will escape. It is undeniable to recognize that our way of life is directly related to these events. Capitalism is the King Midas of the Dark Side, destroying everything it touches.

But what happened? Where did we get lost? The most tragic moment of humanity was when humans began to see nature as their enemy. Rather than being a part of an ecosystem, humans have placed themselves at the top and outside the web of relationships with other living beings. This is largely a reflection of the way we as humans have dominated each other. As Murray Bookchin noted in ‘Remaking Society’, ‘whatever has turned human beings into ‘aliens’ in nature are social changes that have made human beings ‘aliens’ in their own social world.' [3]

Humans created a new jargon to define their relationship with nature, a language used by businessmen [sic] and bureaucrats: “buy” and “sell”, “profit” and “debt”, “ownership” and “accumulation”. Indigenous people have been and continue to be persecuted and "schooled." Their lifestyle ridiculed and considered primitive. Our children are enclosed between walls, for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, without any contact with the exterior, in a place called “school”. “Only those who have the best grades can survive in the real world”, the teachers say. Obedience, fear, and competition are present. The blame of parents for being poor and illiterate, and where the "new", the "fashion" and the "cool" are the role models. School is where the indoctrination of capitalism begins.

This educational model results in a total alienation of nature by humans. Rather than enhancing the relationship with the natural world, it does exactly the opposite. The only contact that exists is through books and screens. An example of this is the fact that 7% of American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. [4] Ignorance is strength. Perhaps we are not that far from the dystopian world described by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Humans have created and shaped their own natural world, what we call "society." A replica of an unforgiving jungle, full of “sellers” and “buyers”, prey and predators, dominated by “Social Darwinism” and the “market laws”, where social privilege, “moral authority”, violence and exploitation define the relationships between humans, with real and direct consequences on our planet.

What future? There is no future within capitalism. We are currently consuming more resources than the Earth can produce. In a planet with limited resources, our way of life is simply unsustainable. [5] Is global warming enough to kill this greedy monster called capitalism? Probably not. The current system showed many times that it is capable to resist and adapt, even in catastrophic situations. [6]

It is urgent to break with the traditional economic models, based on consumerism, capital or material accumulation and on the myth of infinite growth. New ways of living together need to be invented, where solidarity, cooperation, ecology and sustainability are not only words on a dictionary but pillars of the new society that we want to build. To our great fortune as a species, we will not have to invent from scratch. There is a long and fruitful history, though an often untold history, of social experimentation, of practising direct democracy rather than command and ‘representation’, of forming real communities based on mutual respect and even sometimes on ecological harmony. The vast discoveries of science and an arsenal of progressive technologies await our application to this end.

We don’t want to fix capitalism, we want to destroy it. We want to destroy its dogmas and all the social fictions on which it is based. This a call for action. This is a call for revolution. We need to do something before capitalism kills us. We need to do something before it's too late, because “there's nothing worse than too late”. [7]

 


 

References

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/31/climate-change-poor-suffer-most-un-report

[2] ‘Climate Change - The Basics‘ https://www.wsm.ie/c/climate-change-basics

[3] Murray Bookchin, Remaking Society. Here is a talk by Bookchin available on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8L9p1LpkHc

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/06/15/seven-percent-of-americans-think-chocolate-milk-comes-from-brown-cows-and-thats-not-even-the-scary-part/?utm_term=.ac30d9b61155

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/earth-overshoot-day-2-august-2017-year-planet-natural-resources-clean-water-soil-air-pollution-wwf-a7872086.html

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/06/not-even-climate-change-will-kill-off-capitalism

[7] Excerpt of the poem “Oh, Yes” by Charles Bukowski.

 

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