“Six Theses on Capitalism and the Destruction of Life on Earth” by Richard Smith

haiyan

Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), Eumetsat

This is an excellent, lengthy essay by economic historian Richard Smith on the severe environmental crisis induced by capitalism and radical solutions to such.  It first appeared in issue 64 of the Real World Economics Review (July 2013), and was just recently republished on Truthout.

Some excerpts from Smith’s practical call for dealing with the profound ecological predicament include the following tasks:

“[to] drastically retrench and in some cases shut down industries, even entire sectors, across the economy and around the planet – not just fossil-fuel producers, but all the industries that consume them and produce GHG emissions – autos, trucking, aircraft, airlines, shipping and cruise lines, construction, chemicals, plastics, synthetic fabrics, cosmetics, synthetic fiber and fabrics, synthetic fertilizer and agribusiness CAFO operations, and many more.”

  1. [To] Put the brakes on out-of-control growth in the global North – retrench or shut down unnecessary, resource-hogging, wasteful, polluting industries like fossil fuels, autos, aircraft and airlines, shipping, chemicals, bottled water, processed foods, unnecessary pharmaceuticals and so on. Abolish luxury-goods production, the fashions, jewelry, handbags, mansions, Bentleys, yachts, private jets etc. Abolish the manufacture of disposable, throw-away and “repetitive consumption” products. All these consume resources we’re running out of, resources that other people on the planet desperately need and that our children and theirs will need.

  2. [To] Discontinue harmful industrial processes like industrial agriculture, industrial fishing, logging, mining and so on.

  3. [To] Close many services – the banking industry, Wall Street, the credit card, retail, PR and advertising “industries” built to underwrite and promote all this overconsumption. I’m sure most of the people working in these so-called industries would rather be doing something else, something useful, creative and interesting and personally rewarding with their lives. They deserve that chance.

  4. [To] Abolish the military-surveillance-police state industrial complex, and all its manufactures because this is just a total waste whose only purpose is global domination, terrorism and destruction abroad and repression at home. We can’t build decent societies anywhere when so much of social surplus is squandered on such waste.

  5. [To] Reorganize, restructure, reprioritize production and build the products we do need to be as durable and shareable as possible.

  6. [To] Steer investments into things society does need, like renewable energy, organic farming, public transportation, public water systems, ecological remediation, public health, quality schools and other currently unmet needs.

  7. [To] Deglobalize trade to produce what can be produced locally; trade what can’t be produced locally, to reduce transportation pollution and revive local producers.

  8. [To] Equalize development the world over by shifting resources out of useless and harmful production in the North and into developing the South, building basic infrastructure, sanitation systems, public schools, health care, and so on.

  9. [To] Devise a rational approach to eliminate or control waste and toxins as much as possible.

  10. [To] Provide equivalent jobs for workers displaced by the retrenchment or closure of unnecessary or harmful industries, not just the unemployment line, not just because workers cannot support the industry we and they need to save ourselves.”

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