MONUMENTAL SHIFT: Creating a New Economy with Genuine Democracy
By: Chaitanya Davé
We have already exceeded carrying capacity of the Earth, as environmentalists affirm. Capitalism, in its wake, is devastating the world’s ecosystems and forests. The planet’s oceans, rivers, lakes, and atmosphere are polluted beyond imagination. Oil companies are digging and diving for more oil around the planet. Mining companies are destroying the forests and lands, predominately in the third world. Coal companies are cutting mountain tops and throwing the debris in the surrounding areas in America while the multinational logging companies are cutting swathes of forest in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Russia. How much can the earth tolerate? It is already saturated with pollution. The atmosphere is increasingly saturated with billions of tons of carbon, adding to climate change. The Earth is telling us to stop it all and is warning us with increased frequency and enhanced strength of storms all over the planet. We have witnessed thousands of people (mostly the elderly) dying in France in 2003 in the worst heat wave in that country. We saw massive flooding in Pakistan, unheard of forest fires in Russia, once in a hundred year flooding in South India, and the once in a lifetime storm Katrina hit New Orleans. Recently we experienced nationwide drought in America that covered most of the country. We saw Sandy storm hitting the East coast. Do we need more tragic reminders that the Earth has had enough? Only the fools could ignore such warnings at their own peril.
It should be obvious that capitalism is a huge contributor to the climate crisis. It is squarely on a collision course with Mother Earth. Unless humanity changes course drastically and globally, the Earth will force us to do it. Planet Earth will cleanse itself. Then the consequences will be devastating. Hundreds of millions will then die due to starvation, flooding, and homelessness. Millions will have inadequate water to drink or food to eat. The air will be unbreathable as we see it in some cities of China frequently.
Few people realize that by extracting raw materials, multinationals are exploiting the resources of what in environmental jargon is referred to as ‘commons’. They are taking away the resources that belong to all the common people whether it is water, fossil fuel, minerals, and soil, or forest products. It is the average citizen of the world along with all the non-human living creatures who should be the rightful owners of this ‘commons’. Unfortunately, the powers that be are myopic and not capable of the foresight to change their country’s ways. They are only concerned about next GDP growth report, employment report, and election.
Unlike what Mahatma Gandhi has voiced, “Local production for local consumption”, the slogan of capitalism is “mass production by the few.” In Britain which was the biggest empire at the time, the 19th century became the century of ‘coal.’ Coal was vastly used everywhere. Being a major maritime power, all its ships were powered by coal; so were its factories. But by the beginning of the 20th century, coal was replaced by oil, another fossil fuel. Capitalism was being fueled by another fossil fuel, oil which was easy and cheap to extract. Little did the leaders of Europe and America realize at the time that their industrialization and capitalism powered by oil was an intoxication for which ultimately the whole world would pay dearly. Before the industrial revolution and before the discovery of oil, coal and natural gas, the atmosphere contained about 280 ppm of CO2. Since then, because of the fossil fuel based capitalist economy adding tremendous quantities of CO2 that number stood at 387 to 390 ppm in 2009. Today, it has surpassed 400 ppm. 3
Many misguided benefactors and other blind followers of capitalist theory might argue that capitalism has given us so much progress. But at what cost to the planet? Was it worth it? Does humanity really need that so called progress? As a result of that ‘progress’, we have become lazy. Instead of walking for which the human body was designed by nature, we travel by cars and scooters. Instead of growing our own vegetables, wheat and rice, we buy ready-made mass produced, often genetically modified food. Most of us have never seen from where our food purchased in the grocery store comes from. There is an epidemic of obesity in America, and many other countries. There is an epidemic of heart disease and diabetes. Most people in wealthy countries get too little or no exercise. This is the result of this so called ‘progress’. Few people realize the price our Earth, the planet that belongs to all of us—the rich and poor, powerful or weak, young and old, the citizens of each and every country—has to pay for this technological progress. Few realize how many billions of gallons of water, tons of steel, copper and aluminum, billions of gallons of harmful chemicals and paints, and tons of plastics and glass are gobbled up in the manufacture of millions of cars, computers, airplanes, smartphones, and TVs. Have they given men great happiness? Were men unhappy when he didn’t have any of these but had a family, clean and pure water in the rivers, lakes and oceans? Was he unhappy surrounded by immense natural beauty of trees, plants and wide varieties of animals? Of course he was equally happy or happier. At least he was eating pure food and drinking water uncontaminated with chemicals. Technology has not made us any happier. One can argue the progress in medical technology has made humans healthier and offered them longer lives. This is true. But this is the only progress which could be justified. Otherwise humans were very happy without this so called ‘progress’. There were no weapons of mass destruction such as atomic bombs, fighter jets, missiles, tanks or people-killing drones. There were no superpowers or regional hegemons controlling and exploiting resources, labor, and the lives of millions of people around the world.
Technology gave the imperialist nations five hundred years ago the power to conquer Meso-America and many countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It gave them the opportunity to enslave and exploit millions around the globe. If it was not for their technological superiority, they could not have done this. Today’s capitalism along with globalization allows the United States and Europe to exploit the resources and cheap labor of developing countries while the people of these poor nations remain as poor as ever.
Years ago, chiefs and kings ruled over people. Then came the dictators and despots. Democracy finally evolved in Europe and America, followed by other countries of the world as they gained their independence from imperialist powers. Around early 20th century, communism emerged in Russia, then subsequently in China. Of course, as a system of economic development, capitalism was already getting stronger in the Western nations led by the United States in last 200 years. We saw around late 20th century the demise of communism as it was not good for the people and could not survive. It is through this book that I will attempt to encourage the reader to see what capitalism truly is and why it must also go. In later chapters, I have tried to describe the planetary devastation the global multinationals have caused and are still causing to ecosystems and forests in the vast corners of the world. I have tried to point out the mass poverty and inequality that capitalism and its arm called globalization is responsible for around the world.
After all, what is the purpose of a society? What is the goal of a country, especially a genuinely democratic one? Isn’t it to look after all its people and their welfare rather than a select few?
How can a civilized, genuinely democratic country allow millions of its people wallow in poverty while a few of its oligarchs get richer and richer day by day? How can any sensible and decent country allow that to happen? Well, it is happening right now in the United States.
Unless those of us who are aware and compassionate stop this “March of Folly”, this “Capitalism’s Crusade” as soon as possible, the consequences for this country and the world will be dire. We see every day, more and more evidence that capitalism which was once the basis for an unprecedented wave of creativity and liberation, has transformed itself into a force for decay, destruction, and death.
Capitalism, by exploiting resources of this planet and its people, has created vast oceans of poverty with a few islands of enormous wealth. More than a billion people live below two dollars a day and hundreds of millions more survive with a dollar a day while the Forbes List continues to proudly publish its list of billionaires every year.
Perhaps, the greatest threat to the survival of humanity and other innocent creatures of our planet today is climate change. Through continuous exploitation of the Earth’s resources, global capitalism is the main vehicle through which our Earth is continuously being exploited. Capitalism’s dogma of ceaseless growth foolishly measured through GDPs persists despite the earth’s devastation beyond its capacity to bear. Unless we realize that this planet has finite resources and that continuous, out of control growth through exploiting these finite resources is not only unsustainable but impossible and catastrophic, humanity and the earth itself are all doomed.
Capitalism is on a collision course with the wellbeing of Mother Earth. This planet is warming due to atmospheric carbon emissions. The greatest emitter of this carbon is uncontrolled production and trade of commodities encouraged, sustained, and perpetrated by global capitalism. Unless the world learns to live within its earthly means, unless we humans live within a sustainable growth structure, catastrophe for our planet is surely guaranteed. IF humanity survives, we will leave a horribly polluted and destroyed, hot burning planet to live for our children. Is this what we desire? Can we depend on our myopic and foolish politicians who only look forward to the next election and the next five years while our planet is hurtling towards a catastrophe created by out of control growth perpetrated by our economic system?