Why green capitalism can’t work

Book review: Green Capitalism: Why It Can’t Work by Daniel Tanuro from Resistance Books • by Norman Lockhart • I was glad I invested £10 for this book, even though the first third of the book seemed to be a bit intense.

This was because he was bringing us up to date with all the scientific evidence about so called global warming and making it understandable by putting it into context but at the same time not making it simplistic.

While it is now three years since this was first published in English it is refreshing to see the rubbishing of carbon trading by countries or manufacturers as any kind of solution.

What is important later in this book is that the link between red and green approaches is explained in detail and Tanuro makes several examples both recent and from Karl Marx’s original writings.

He also points out that the record of the left has not always been good either as almost no organisations took up environmental issues in the 1960s and ’70s.

Until recently there was also a simple repetition by the left of the vision of a future society with unlimited production. However, now the debate must be about real use values not just ever more consumption.

green-capitalism-why-it-cant-work-by-daniel-tanuroWhile some of the emergency measures necessary are not themselves alone anti-capitalist when they are combined with an
alternative plan, they make up the start of an eco socialist society.

In case we thought eco socialism was something new or being green was not really part of the struggle for social justice today, there is a reference to the fight of the German peasants’ revolt in 1525.

They were defending the links of our limited planet to their daily concerns when they demanded free access to the forests after consulting their own elected local committee but not having to pay their monopoly of feudal overlords.

This is very different to the image of something that only concerns middle class hippies!

Tanuro’s guiding principles for measures with an eco-socialist approach are:
1. Satisfying real social needs
2. Reducing global production by reducing the length of the working week and eliminating the production of useless and harmful goods thus reducing the amount of transport used by a substantial amount [which implies the relocation of production]
3. A radical increase of energy efficiency and complete transition to the use of renewables, regardless of cost
4. The creation of political and cultural conditions for collective responsibility for production and consumption, through a democratic process

While rejecting the return to some sort of primitive society as unnecessary, as well as un helpful, he does remind us that all our energy sources are originally from the sun so for example, coal and oil are the most concentrated [and therefore useful] form of energy but they are not renewable in the short term taking millions of years to develop that we do not have.

Tanuro deals with the apparently more energy efficient, therefore less polluting, but undemocratic capitalism with the very negative record of those countries that were once controlled by a Stalinist bureaucracy by identifying & defining a common feature of both societies that I was not aware of called ‘productivism’.

He also deals with Malthus’ old ideas about increasing population contrasting with agricultural productivity as it is still used today by some people trying to confuse the real issues but I can only refer in an inadequate sentence to some important points he makes comprehensively in whole chapters.

Clearly our society has the technical means to reverse some of the damage to our environment however what is obviously missing is the political will for a society that does not make its investment decisions based only on the source of the highest rate of profit.

The problem with partial positive emergency measures such as:
1. Planting trees etc. and therefore increasing the replacement of CO2 with Oxygen is the damage done to local, often African or Latin American economies
2. Photovoltaic energy could be very good example of what our society can do but with no plan to reduce our overall energy consumption it will still lead to the illogical destruction of society

It might be comforting to think the best greens are active reds but mobilising the necessary change in society to use the technical resources we have will require some very creative political decisions. Now I am going to read it all again for a third time!

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