February 16, 2008

[Comment] Ecosocialism

There's a name for those of us who see the destruction of our planet as a byproduct of capitalism, those of us who see the ties between climate change and our global political economy, those of us who are both staunch environmentalists and Marxists: We are Ecosocialists. Ecosocialism sees the coming together of left and green perspectives into a unified ideology. There is an interesting article about the challenges to ecosocialists in the Canadian Dimension. Read it Here. The following is my response to that article:

By far our biggest challenge as ecosocialists is reconciling the interests of labour with those of the environment - particularly within the industrial sector.

Whether it be the tar sands or the automobile industry, we’re talking about tens of thousands of workers, many of whom are members of our most effective unions, who are involved in industries which are killing our planet.

Your answer of insisting “upon comprehensive retraining programs and fully subsidized relocation programs — at full union pay, with no loss of benefits or pensions” is one that I support and often tout myself, though we have to admit to ourselves that this is an incredibly idealistic (and complex) solution!

As an environmentalist (living in Alberta) I want to see the tar sands shut down entirely - forget trying to make oil extraction practices more “green”! As an environmentalist I have trouble condoning any automotive industry no matter how “green” it could become (it’s the very idea of our society being centered around small individual travel pods that I’m opposed to - a societal structure that breeds hyperindividualist, consumerist suburban lifestyles).

Yet as a socialist I feel equally troubled about the repercussions of shutting down these industries which employ thousands of every day Canadians. And yet, if we call for these industries to go, we must have an honest and concrete answer for our brothers and sisters in the workforce.

Where are we going to relocate these workers? Do they even want to relocate? Even if their unions are successful in forcing their employers to adopt “green” production methods, will they be green enough? These are the hardest questions facing the ecosocialist movement in my opinion…

At heart we’re talking about ending the era of the industrial revolution. This is a huge task - we’re talking about a state-society structure that has been consolidating some form of consensus since the advent of the steam engine (both in capitalist countries and in the former Soviet Union). It’s going to take time (perhaps too much time) to confront this issue given the massive amount of change required.

My answer lies in localism. We need to make communities more sustainable and self sufficient. If we can work towards these goals, we’d be setting ourselves up for positive change:
- Each community should strive to produce as much food as it requires.
- Each community should strive to provide enough jobs for its citizens.
- Each community should strive to produce all of the energy it requires, and try to offset the amount of CO2 it produces in the process.

Complement these three daunting goals with a solid public transit infrastructure, including low emissions transportations linking communities (like efficient trains) and clean energy sources, and a REDUCTION IN CONSUMPTION, and voila, things will start looking up.

I know, it’s all talk, but let’s keep talking about this and work out some concrete answers!

1 comment:

  1. This may be of interest