For centuries, capitalism has flourished at the expense of nature. For the capitalistic system, nature is one of two things: an “inexhaustible” source of resources that can be used to produce just about anything or a waste dump. And looking at the current state of our planet, it is clear that Mother Nature has had enough.
We exist in a complex natural cycle which has taken millions of years to develop to what it is now. But capital’s need to constantly expand has interrupted this cycle. The “metabolism” that exists between society and nature is fractured. The ongoing climate crisis speaks volumes in terms of just how much damage the human race blinded by capitalism has caused. Accelerated loss of biodiversity, disruption in ecosystems, acidification of oceans, changes in soil quality, light pollution, etc. is just a few of the examples of how we have and continue to wreck our home. The machine-like need to produce forever has corrupted our minds to the point where we do not even have the time to pause and think about the climate crisis that we caused.
It is a general scientific consensus that climate change is a product of the increase in greenhouse gases caused by human activity. However, the issue isn’t just human activity, it is the capitalist nature of these activities. Since the year 1880, the earth’s surface temperature has risen to about 1 degree Celsius. And this increase began when the Industrial Revolution took off in the neoliberal era. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average global surface temperature is projected to increase by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius in the upcoming years. They warn that because of the past, present, and future carbon dioxide emissions the planet is expected to keep warming for as long as a millennium. The carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have already exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) and are anticipated to rise to 500 ppm in the following decades.
Global warming is the most devastating expression of how destructive the capitalistic system truly is. Capitalism is the culprit for so many environmental crises like pollution, soil degradation, deforestation, as well as the destruction of biodiversity. A study revealed that the size of the vertebrate populations has gone down by about 60% from 1970 to 2014 and it is continuing to decrease. Our planet has been transformed into a dump yard for all the waste generated by capitalistic methods of production, distribution, and consumption.
I am not saying that capitalism has not helped our society prosper in terms of improving our standard of living. We have basic necessities like food, shelter, water, clothes, etc. because of capitalism, but there has to be a better way to retain the basics without compromising our home planet. It cannot be that we have to continue to function in a cut-throat capitalistic society to afford the basics while also killing our planet. And I am not going to propose that we all stop buying things and rebel against capitalism because that is not the proper way to solve this problem. We are too deep in the world of capitalism to just randomly switch it off one day out of nowhere. But there are small steps we can take to help limit the impact on the environment.
For example, purchase items only as needed. Every year we spend hundreds of dollars on things we don’t really need. Having lived in a capitalistic society for generations, we lack the ability to differentiate between want and need. Every purchase we make is not a necessity. Recycling, upcycling, second-hand shopping, etc. are all great alternatives to turn to before heading straight for the store. All of these options do not appease a majority of the population because then we have concerns of class and social standing. Which, I might add, is another byproduct of capitalism. Being at the top with the biggest house, the most expensive car, closets full of clothes, and furniture you never touch are all qualities many people aspire to reach. That is their big dream. How are we supposed to fight for change when mentally we are incapable of accepting the harsh reality of capitalism?
In the past few years, various strikes have taken place that has forced the hand of the government to actually stop, listen, and take action. Organizers are demanding governments to declare the climate crisis a global emergency and adopt measures that actively work to stop it from deteriorating.
From reducing greenhouse gas emissions to controlling global temperatures, the younger generation is doing everything in their power to save the only home we have. “Fridays for Future,” “School Strike for Climate,” and “Extinction Rebellion” are just a few examples of ongoing movements working hard for the environment. Most of these movements are led by members of the upcoming generation who are proposing viable actions such as abandoning fossil fuels for renewable energy, blocking construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, implementing non-nuclear energy models, etc. They are not just shouting, they are providing solutions. The thirst for profit is neverending in a land that is barely able to hold itself together for precisely that reason. So how long do we scream before the fires swallow us whole or the floods wash us away?