Saving The Planet Essays

Yet, even as we fight to hold onto the few gains we’ve made, today, the engine of global capitalist development has thrown up a new and unprecedented threat, an existential threat to our very survival as a species.

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Nevertheless, we seem inexplicably hell-bent on racing to collective suicide, cooking the planet, and wiping out the ecological bases of human life on Earth.

It’s not that we don’t know what we have to do to save ourselves: a recent poll of forty countries found that large majorities of their peoples supported placing limits on , 71 percent in China.1 And it’s not that we lack the technical means to apply the brake on the race to collapse. Mostly what we have to do is just stop doing what we’re doing.

This paper by Richard Smith, published alongside three others, is one of many proposals for a systemic alternative we have published or will be publishing here at the Next System Project. We have commissioned these papers in order to facilitate an informed and comprehensive discussion of “new systems,” and as part of this effort we have also created a comparative framework which provides a basis for evaluating system proposals according to a common set of criteria.

From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, workers, trade unionists, radicals, and socialists have fought against the worst depredations of capitalist development: intensifying exploitation, increasing social polarization, persistent racism and sexism, deteriorating workplace health and safety conditions, environmental ravages, and relentless efforts to suppress democratic political gains under the iron heel of capital.

There’s a scene early on in Stanley Kramer’s great post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama (1959), where young men are hurtling their race cars around a course at faster and faster speeds seemingly oblivious to danger.

Indeed, as one by one they crash and burn, the others just race on determined, apparently, to commit suicide by crashing their cars at top speed. Because in Kramer’s film, set in Australia, thermonuclear war has just obliterated the northern hemisphere. If your thing is racing cars, why not die doing what you love instead of slowly succumbing to radiation poisoning?

So long as we live under this system, we have little choice but to go along with destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes.

The only alternative—impossible as this may seem—is to overthrow this global economic system and the governments of the one percent that prop it up.

From the dawn of settled agriculture some ten millennia ago until the rise of capitalism beginning in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, most people lived in completely or largely self-sufficient village farm communities.

Peasant families grew their own food, built their own houses, fabricated most of their own crude tools, made their own clothes, and made do with animal power for farm work and transportation.


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