What climate activists still haven’t learned

… is that CAPITALISM is driving climate change. The people blocking climate legislation are not doing that because they’re stupid or crazy. They’re doing it because they’re getting paid to do it. They’re getting paid by the oil companies, who must compete against each other for high profits.

And it’s not simply because the oil companies are run by evil people (though they are). If any of the oil executives stood up for the ecosystem, he’d be fired immediately, and replaced with someone more concerned with profit. Thus, by natural selection under capitalism, the ruling class evolves to contain only evil people.

Capitalism is not mentioned in any of the websites and literature of the climate activists. Not in Extinction Rebellion (XR), not in School Strike, and certainly not in 350 dot org.

Bill McKibben came close to seeing it. He lined up all the numbers, and showed that to save life as we know it, the oil companies would have to leave most of their assets in the ground. McKibben seems to blame the oil companies for not doing that. He just can’t quite get through the final step of reasoning, to realize that in our present economic system a company CANNOT voluntarily walk away from most of its assets.

Naomi Klein missed it, and that surprised me. She wrote a book titled “This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate,” and she had a big market and audience for it. There is a simple analysis* showing that capitalism is ecocidal. That’s inherent in the fundamental principles of capitalism, not just a consequence of superficial corruption, so it can’t be fixed through reforms; it must be ended. Klein was in a perfect position to explain that. She should have understood it, after all her attacks on “disaster capitalism.” But instead of analyzing capitalism, Klein just described some of its symptoms and recommended reform.

(*Here is the simple analysis: The market’s oft-praised “efficiency” only applies to measured costs. Every market transaction has enormous unmeasured side effects, paid for by the community and the environment rather than the buyer or seller. Those are called “externalized costs” or “externalities”; look it up. Studies have shown that no corporation would be profitable if it had to pay for its externalities. The externalities include, war, poverty, and ecocide.)

And by the way, all the news stories are vastly understating the size of climate change. They’re saying things like “economy reduced by 10% by the end of this century.” They’re looking at linear trends, i.e., extrapolating from the current rate of destruction. They’re overlooking tipping points. The clathrate gun has begun firing, and may accelerate any day now. And species depend on other species, and they’re all dying out now. The COLLAPSE of the ecosystem may be as abrupt as a gust of wind hitting a house of cards. That could mean extinction of our species and most other species on earth, as early as 2040. There is NO economy on a dead planet.

But the idiot corporate executives can’t see that, because each is in the position of “if I want to keep my expensive home, I just have to be concerned with making a quick buck right now; I’ll leave it to someone else to worry about saving the ecosystem.” That’s how capitalism works.

There is no reforming capitalism; it must be ended. Money IS influence, and it will always find a way around or through any legislation that tries to keep it out of politics. We are ruled by the wealthy, as Gilens and Page proved statistically in 2014. The only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not HAVE a wealthy class, and that requires a very different economic system. Indeed, trade increases inequality, by favoring the trader who was already in the better bargaining position. Thus, the only way to not have a wealthy class is to end trade — i.e., to share everything. That means returning to a way of life we haven’t seen in 10,000 years. But it’s time, for we also haven’t seen a major climate change in 10,000 years. Our old way of life is ending; we must live in a new way or not at all.

The first step is to get more people talking about it.


2019 April 3, version 1.02. (Original version: March 14, 2019.)