Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma

Smith, Richard
Date Written:  2014-11-12
Publisher:  Truthout
Year Published:  2014
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX16980

So long as we live under capitalism, today, tomorrow, next year and every year thereafter, economic growth will always be the overriding priority till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.



Like some kind of final planetary going out of business sale, we're consuming the world's last readily accessible natural resources in a generation or two, in a geological blink of an eye.

What's more, given capitalism, we're all more or less locked into this lemming-like suicidal drive to hurl ourselves off the cliff. Whether as CEOs, investors, workers or governments, given capitalism, we all "need" to maximize growth, therefore to consume more resources and produce ever more pollution in the process - because companies need to satisfy the insatiable demands of investors and because we all need the jobs. That's why at every UN Climate Summit, the environment is invariably sacrificed to growth.


Given the multiple existential threats to our very survival, you might expect that our leading environmental thinkers and activists would be looking into those "radical" solutions, and especially be thinking "beyond capitalism." Don't hold your breath. From the perennial boosters of "green capitalism" and tech-fixits like Lester Brown, Al Gore, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman, to the apostles of "degrowth" like Tim Jackson, the New Economic Foundation's Andrew Simms, and Serge Latouche, for decades, mainstream debate has been confined to hopelessly discredited, self-contradictory and empirically implausible save-the-planet strategies - held in check by their protagonists' fear of challenging the principal driver of global ecological collapse, capitalism.


Unless we can come up with an alternative economic system that will guarantee reemployment for all those millions of workers in industries around the world that will have to be retrenched or shut down to get that 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, we won't be able to mobilize them to fight for the radical changes they and we all need to save ourselves.


The only way to rationally reorganize the economy, to deemphasize the "careless" industries and emphasize the "caring" industries, is to do this ourselves, directly, by consciously, collectively and democratically planning most of the industrial economy, even closely coordinating most of the world's industrial economies. To do this, we would have to socialize virtually all large-scale industry

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