I came across an interesting essay this morning about the role of capitalism and anarchism in climate change and the political debate around it.

The failure of the climate summits, from Kyoto to Copenhagen, to deal with the climate crisis effectively is telling. While those in power pay lip service to “cutting emmissions”, they do everything possible to stall on meaningful changes. And yet far too many activists are returning time and time again to the same old failed ideas of state intervention.

It’s true that a small minority of capitalists are trying to make profit off global warming. They are building vast wind and solar installations, inventing hydrogen powered cars, converting millions of acres of farm land to the production of biomass, trying to create a market for carbon trading, and starting to build vast new power grids. When corporations and governments do get involved in trying to stop global warming, this is the direction they go in. They try to solve the crisis within the framework of capitalism. Even many of the most outspoken climate activists do this; that is, they are not anti-capitalist – James Hansen, George Monbiot, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, or Ross Gelbspan. Those few climate theorists who are anti-capitalist, mostly from a Marxist perspective, nevertheless think that the crisis can be solved with the aid of governments – Joel Kovel, John Bellamy Foster, Charles Derber. That is, they are anti-capitalist, but not anti-state. This is just to say that an anarchist perspective on the crisis is hardly in the discussion at all.

The current environmental crisis, of which climate change is only one part, will not be solved by giving either governments or corporations a free hand. At their core, states and capitalists represent two sides of the same coin – power. Governments keep track of property laws and enforce them where ‘necessary’. Capitalists own property and use it to control production. both groups exist for the expressed purpose of converting land and labour into cash value. This is especially true in Canada, with our massive unpopulated stretches of forest, plains and coastline, teaming with potentially valuable “resources”.

Our capitalist system objectifies both the natural world and nearly every human being that participates. Workers are an “expense” to be “minimized”. They need to be controlled, managed, watched. Customers on the other hand need to be lied to and manipulated, to convince them to spend money in ways they’d never consciously agree to. The only people who get basic regard as human beings are the very small class of owners.

Capitalists, Global Warming and the Climate Justice Movement. By James Herod (infoshop.org)