Friday, March 11, 2011

Utopia: A Sustainable Environment

In my recent statement on the winding-down of Climate Camp in favour of more economy-focused actions, I argued that "the only way to create a sustainable future for our species is to have a working class-led revolution."

I firmly believe this to be the case. As indeed the internal functioning of climate camps demonstrated, enough technology has already been developed to provide for our energy needs, without burning any more fossil fuels.

Unfortunately for our chances of surviving as a species, capitalism can't be run like a climate camp. It constantly seeks out short term profit, and can't look beyond the bottom line, to a future where climate chaos has been unleashed due to carbon emissions. Locked into global competition by the nation state system, politicians won't do anything they can't make a buck off. Capitalism is the pursuit of infinite growth, on a finite planet.

Only in a communist society - where we were free from the shackles of the profit motive - could we start rationally planning production and consumption, in such a way that simultaneously provides for human needs, and respects the environment.

That might seem paradoxical. After all, in a world of free access to goods and services, surely we would all use far more resources than we currently do. Perhaps that would be true at first. But things would be shared far more than they are now. They would also be built to last.

This is something I think about every time I buy a pair of shoes, which is about every four months. Obviously, because I walk around outside, I need shoes. Sadly, I can't ever seem to afford a good pair, which might last years, but would likely cost more than a hundred pounds. So I buy a cheap pair for £20 or less. When that pair breaks down, I need to get another one. This is economic and environmental madness, but it's a cycle that I - and many others - are trapped in. And whereas now these shoes are shipped from the sweatshop economies of Asia all the way to my high street, they would instead be made by local people who actually enjoyed the process - even the art - of making shoes.

I think this is quite a powerful example, because it is a metaphor that could be expanded to so many areas of consumer goods. We need local production of durable consumer goods, made of the most environmentally-friendly (rather than the cheapest) components. All this is unimaginable under capitalism, but it is a very realistic prospect in my utopia.
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