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Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 10:07 By Richard Smith, Truthout | News Analysis
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(Photo: Aristocrats-hat)(Photo: Aristocrats-hat)

Since the 1990s, climate scientists have been telling us that unless we suppress the rise of carbon dioxide emissions, we run the risk of crossing critical tipping points that could unleash runaway global warming, and precipitate the collapse of civilization and perhaps even our own extinction. To suppress those growing emissions, climate scientists and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have called on industrialized nations to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050. (1)

Despite ever more dire warnings from the most conservative scientific, economic and institutional authorities, and despite record heat and drought, superstorms and floods, and melting ice caps and vanishing glaciers, "business as usual" prevails.

But instead of falling, carbon dioxide emissions have been soaring, even accelerating, breaking records year after year. In May 2013, carbon dioxide concentrations topped the 400 parts per million mark prompting climate scientists to warn that we're "running out of time," that we face a "climate emergency" and that unless we take "radical measures" to suppress emissions very soon, we're headed for a 4-degree or even 6-degree Celsius rise before the end of the century. And not just climate scientists have made warnings, but also mainstream authorities, including the World Bank, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others. In 2012, the IEA warned that "no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if we hope to prevent global warming from exceeding more than 2 degrees Centigrade." (2) In September 2014, the global accounting and consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that

For the sixth year running, the global economy has missed the decarbonisation target needed to limit global warming to 2˚C . . . To avoid two degrees of warming, the global economy now needs to decarbonise at 6.2 percent a year, more than five times faster than the current rate, every year from now till 2100. On our current burn rate we blow our carbon budget by 2034, sixty-six years ahead of schedule. This trajectory, based on IPCC data, takes us to four degrees of warming by the end of the century. (3)

Yet despite ever more dire warnings from the most conservative scientific, economic and institutional authorities, and despite record heat and drought, superstorms and floods, and melting ice caps and vanishing glaciers, "business as usual" prevails. Worse, every government on the planet is pulling out all the stops to maximize growth and consumption in the effort to hold on to the fragile recovery. (4)

Extreme Extraction, Extreme Consumption and the "Great Acceleration"

Around the world, governments are pushing "extreme extraction" - fracking, horizontal drilling, deep-ocean drilling and so on. In the United States, President Obama congratulates himself for suppressing coal emissions and boosting auto mileage. But what do these trivial gains matter, really, when he's approved drilling under the Arctic Sea, reopened the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Delaware (closed since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill), approved new and deeper drilling in the Gulf of Mexico even after the BP blowout and brags that he's "added more oil pipeline than any president in history, enough to circle the earth and then some"? (5)

"Saudi America" has once again, after a 40-year hiatus, become an oil exporter.

In fact, Obama has approved so much new oil and gas extraction that even Americans can't consume it all, so "Saudi America" has once again, after a 40-year hiatus, become an oil exporter. Canadians are doing their bit to cook the planet faster by extracting tar sands bitumen, the dirtiest of the dirtiest. China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia are scrambling to suck out the oil under the South China Sea. Even Ecuador is opening its previously off-limits Yasuni Biosphere Reserve to drilling by Chinese oil companies. Around the world, we're consuming oil like there's no tomorrow. And not just oil, everything. Industrialized and industrializing nations are ravenously looting the planet's last resources - minerals, forests, fish, fresh water, everything - in what Michael Klare calls "the race for what's left" in his eponymous book. (6)

Extreme extraction is driven by extreme production and consumption. Around the world, resource consumption is growing at several multiples the rate of population increase, driven by the capitalist engines of insidious commodification, incessant invention of new "needs," daily destruction of existing values by rendering more and more of what we've already bought disposable and replaceable, and, of course, by the insatiable appetites of the global 1%. Today, the global rich and the middle classes are devouring the planet in a kind of après-moi-le-déluge orgy of gluttony. Russian oligarchs party on yachts the size of naval cruisers. Mideast oligarchs build refrigerated cities in the middle of baking deserts. China's newly rich consume not the usual baubles only, but also the world's last tigers, rhinoceroses, elephants, bears, pangolins and other rare exotic creatures, along with the last tropical forests - on an industrial scale. (7) Consumption by the global rich is beyond obscene, but given its size, global middle-class consumption has vastly more impact on the planet's environment. For every Rolls Royce, there are thousands of Mercedes Benz cars. For every Learjet, hundreds of Boeing 777s.

Just look at China: Once China joined the capitalist world market, it has had to generate steady growth, at least 8 percent per year, just to keep up with its population which is still growing by around 7 million people per year, the equivalent of adding another Hong Kong every year. Further, given seething public anger and open, often violent protest against corrupt, crony capitalist Communist Party officials, the government has desperately sought to push growth and consumption to placate the opposition and to coddle middle-class supporters. So it has built entire completely unnecessary industries, including the world's largest automobile industry that China has no oil to fuel, which only adds layers to the country's gasping pollution, and which has brought transportation to a standstill in China's cities. In the 1980s, Beijing had a few thousand (rather vintage) cars, trucks and buses, but one could bicycle across the whole city in half an hour and not have to wear a gas mask. Today, with 5 million cars on the city's streets, that journey can take hours by car, while on many days attempting that cross-town ride on your bicycle will put you in the hospital. (8)

Americans are said to use more electricity just for air conditioning than the entire continent of Africa uses for all purposes.

China is now consuming half the world's coal, more than half the world's steel, cement, copper and vast quantities of other resources, to build unnecessary industries, unnecessary and dangerous dams, forests of useless vanity skyscrapers, to blanket the country with nearly empty high-speed rail networks and empty national expressways systems. (9) It has built millions of empty apartment blocks, even entire cities complete with shopping malls, universities, hospitals and museums - but no people. By one estimate, China's builders have put up more than 64 million surplus apartments, enough new flats to house more than half the US population, and they're adding millions more every year. (10)

It's not so different here. In the United States, no one even talks about resource conservation anymore. That's so quaint, so 1970s. So "small is beautiful" and all that. Since the Reagan revolution it's been all about the "me" generation, about ever more consumption, about "living very large" as The Wall Street Journal puts it. American houses today are more than twice the size on average of houses built in the 1950s - even as families are shrinking. Most come with central air, flat-screen TVs in every room and walk-in closets the size of 1950s spare bedrooms. And those are just average houses. McMansions offer breathtaking extravagance and waste: swimming pools in the basement next to the bowling alleys next to the home theater next to the gym, the bar lounge and game rooms. And those are just the basements. Upstairs there are the Elle Décor floors and furnishings of tropical hardwoods, Architectural Digest kitchens in marble and stainless steel, Waterworks bathrooms, "bedroom suites" the size of small houses, lighting and audio "systems" and on and on. (11)

Americans are said to use more electricity just for air conditioning than the entire continent of Africa uses for all purposes. Middle-class Americans don't even drive "cars" much anymore. They drive behemoth gas-hog SUVs and luxury trucks with names to match: giant Sequoias, mountainous Denalis and Sierras, vast Yukons, Tundras, Ticonderogas and Armadas. Many of these are more than twice the weight of US cars and pickup trucks in the 1950s. There goes Obama's plan to reduce US global warming emissions by boosting fuel economy. (12) Americans used to vacation at the nation's incomparable national parks and seashores. Now, increasingly, they jet off to far corners of the globe, or drift about the seas on 20-story high cruise ships bashing coral reefs.

Globalization and the advent of "The China Price" has also enabled industrialists to boost consumption by dramatically lowering the cost of light-industrial consumer goods production, so much so that they could finally annihilate most remaining "durable" goods categories - from refrigerators to shoes, and substitute cheaper, throwaway replacements. (13) Thus, "fast fashion" (or "trashion fashion") from H&M, Target, Zara and others now rules the women's apparel market with clothes so cheap it's not worth the cost of dry-cleaning them.

"While population has risen fourfold in the last century, water use has gone up sevenfold."

As fashion industry insider Elizabeth Kline relates in her recent book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, (14) "seasonal shopping patterns have given way to continuous consumption." Zara delivers new lines twice a week to its stores. H&M and Forever 21 stock new styles every day. In Kline's words: "Buying so much clothing and treating it as if it is disposable, is putting a huge added weight on the environment and is simply unsustainable." To say the least. The US cotton crop requires the application of 22 billion pounds of toxic weed killers, every year. Most fiber is dyed or bleached, treated in toxic chemical baths to make it brighter, softer, more fade resistant, water proof or less prone to wrinkles. Upholstery fabrics and children's pajamas are treated with ghastly chemicals to make them stain resistant or fireproof. These toxic baths consume immense quantities of chemicals and water and it goes without saying that in China, the chemicals are routinely just dumped in rivers and lakes, untreated. Then after all the chemical treatments, the fabrics have to be dried under heat lamps. These processes consume enormous quantities of energy.

The textile industry is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and it's growing exponentially. In 1950, when there were around 2.5 billion people on earth, they consumed around 10 million tons of fabric for all uses. Today, we are 7 billion, but we consume more than 70 million tons of fabric annually, nearly three times as much per person as we consumed in the 1950s (hence those walk-in closets). Producing 70 million tons of fabric consumes astounding quantities of resources, including more than 145 million tons of coal and between 1.5 and 2 trillion gallons of fresh water, every year. Synthetic fibers like polyester and such (now 60 percent of the market) are the worst: They consume between 10 and 25 times as much energy to produce as natural fibers. (15) In short, "fast fashion" is speeding the disposal of planet earth. And that's just one disposables industry.

Shortly after the great People's Climate March in September, the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) issued its latest Living Planet Index detailing how human demands on the planet are extinguishing life on earth. According to the report, the world has lost more than half of its vertebrate wildlife in just the last 40 years - 52 percent of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and mammals. Read that again: HALF THE WORLD'S VERTEBRATE WILDLIFE HAS BEEN LOST IN JUST THE LAST 40 YEARS. "The decline was seen everywhere - in rivers, on land and in the seas - and is mainly the result of increased habitat destruction, commercial fishing and hunting," according to the report. The fastest decline among animal populations were found in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have plummeted by 75 percent since 1970. "Rivers are the bottom of the system," said Dave Tickner, WWF's chief freshwater adviser. "Whatever happens on land, it all ends up in the rivers." Besides pollution, human overconsumption for industrial purposes is massively straining the world's freshwater systems: "While population has risen fourfold in the last century, water use has gone up sevenfold." (16) All these trends are driving what scientists are calling "The Great Acceleration" of consumption that took off after World War II and has sharply picked up speed in the last three decades as China industrialized. Like some kind of final planetary going out of business sale, we're consuming the world's last readily accessible natural resources in a generation or two, in a geological blink of an eye.

Capitalist Priority to Growth and Profits Over People and Planet

What's more, given capitalism, we're all more or less locked into this lemming-like suicidal drive to hurl ourselves off the cliff. Whether as CEOs, investors, workers or governments, given capitalism, we all "need" to maximize growth, therefore to consume more resources and produce ever more pollution in the process - because companies need to satisfy the insatiable demands of investors and because we all need the jobs. That's why at every UN Climate Summit, the environment is invariably sacrificed to growth.

So long as we live under capitalism, today, tomorrow, next year and every year thereafter, economic growth will always be the overriding priority till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

As George H.W. Bush told the 1992 Climate Summit, "The American way of life is not negotiable." Barack Obama is hardly so crude and arrogant, but his dogged refusal to accept binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions comes to the same thing. And Chinese president Xi Jinping is certainly not going to sacrifice his "Chinese Dream" of great-power revival and mass consumerism on a hitherto unimagined scale, if Obama refuses to negotiate the planet-destroying "American way of life."

In short, so long as we live under capitalism, today, tomorrow, next year and every year thereafter, economic growth will always be the overriding priority till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

Where Are the Radical Solutions?

Given the multiple existential threats to our very survival, you might expect that our leading environmental thinkers and activists would be looking into those "radical" solutions, and especially be thinking "beyond capitalism." Don't hold your breath. From the perennial boosters of "green capitalism" and tech-fixits like Lester Brown, Al Gore, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman, (17) to the apostles of "degrowth" like Tim Jackson, the New Economic Foundation's Andrew Simms, and Serge Latouche, for decades, mainstream debate has been confined to hopelessly discredited, self-contradictory and empirically implausible save-the-planet strategies - held in check by their protagonists' fear of challenging the principal driver of global ecological collapse, capitalism. Thus, speaking for the mainstream, the United Kingdom's Jonathon Porritt, former Green Party co-chair and director of Friends of the Earth, and Tony Blair's environment czar, wrote in 2005 that "Logically, whether we like it or not, sustainability is therefore going to have to be delivered within that all-encompassing capitalist framework. We don't have time to wait for any big-picture successor." (18) Thus, even as his own studies demonstrate how (market-driven) out-of-control growth is burning up the planet, the world's preeminent climate scientist-turned-activist James Hansen can't bring himself to associate with the left, to think outside the capitalist box, to abandon his doomed-to-fail carbon tax scheme and join the struggle against the economic system that is destroying the future for his grandchildren. (19) And even as he cites ever more dire warnings from climate scientists, Bill McKibben, the world's premier climate protest organizer, won't touch the third rail of capitalism because he's not a socialist and because he doesn't want to alienate his liberal base and wealthy foundation funders. (20)

"The Problem Isn't Climate Change, It's Capitalism" - Naomi Klein

With her impassioned and eloquent new blockbuster, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, (21) Naomi Klein has finally broken open the mainstream discourse, cataloguing the failures, contradictions and corruptions of so-called green capitalism and raising anew the question of "big-picture successors." Klein nails climate change squarely on the door of capitalism with a withering indictment: "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war." Climate scientists tell us that "our only hope of keeping warming below . . . 2 degrees Celsius is for wealthy countries to cut their emissions by somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 percent a year." "The 'free' market simply cannot accomplish this task." In bold, almost Marxist eco-socialist phraseology, she tells us that "What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity's use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered growth . . ." (p. 21). In one of many vivid paragraphs in this powerful book she writes:

Extractivism is a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking. It is the opposite of stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continue. Extractivism is the mentality of the mountaintop remover and the old-growth clear-cutter. It is the reduction of life into objects for the use of others, giving them no integrity or value of their own - turning living complex ecosystems into "natural resources," mountains into "overburden" (as the mining industry terms the forests, rocks, and streams that get in the way of its bulldozers). It is also the reduction of human beings either into labor to be brutally extracted, pushed beyond limits, or, alternatively, into social burden, problems to be locked out at borders and locked away in prisons or on reservations. In an extractivist economy, the interconnections among various objectified components of life are ignored; the consequences of severing them are of no concern. (p. 169)

Klein presents a devastating critique of capitalism. But for all of that, it's not clear that she has an alternative to capitalism. Since she doesn't call for "system change" to, say, eco-socialism, it's hard to see how we can make the profound, radical changes she says we need to make to prevent ecological collapse. Klein calls for "managed degrowth" of the "careless" economy of fossil-fuel "extractivism" - offset by the growth of a "caring economy" of more investment in emissions reduction, environmental remediation, the caregiving professions, green jobs, renewable energy, mass transit and so on (p. 88-95). I couldn't agree more. But how can we change these priorities when the economy remains in the hands of huge corporations who want to keep the priorities just as they are?

Klein rejects "the reigning ideology," the "economic model" of "market fundamentalism" and "neo-liberalism." But that's not the same thing as rejecting capitalism.

Here and there she argues for economic planning and democratic control of the economy. She says we need a "comprehensive vision for what should emerge in place of our failing system, as well as serious strategies for how to achieve those goals (p. 9-10)," "we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet" (p. 25). She says the "central battle of our time [is] whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market" (p. 40), and "a core battle must be the right of citizens to democratically decide what kind of economy they need" (p. 125). But since she does not explicitly call for abolishing capitalism, socializing the economy and instituting society-wide, bottom-up, democratic economic planning, how is society supposed to democratically decide what kind of economy they want?

Under capitalism, those decisions are the prerogative of corporate boards. We don't get to vote on the economy, but we need to. She calls for "slapping the invisible hand" of the market and "reining in corporate greed" (p. 120, 125). But she does not call for nationalizing or socializing the major corporations, for abolishing private property in the major means of production (the institutional basis of corporate greed) and replacing it with socialized property. She rejects "the reigning ideology," the "economic model" of "market fundamentalism" and "neo-liberalism" (p. 19-21). But that's not the same thing as rejecting capitalism. "Slapping the invisible hand" of the market system is not the same thing as replacing the invisible hand of the market with the visible hand of generalized economic planning. She rejects the "free" "unfettered" market (p. 21), but she does not reject the market system per se.

So, for example, she supports feed-in tariffs "to ensure that anyone who wants to get into renewable power generation can do so in a way that is simple, stable, and profitable" (p. 131). She calls for reviving industrial planning to prioritize public transit and smart grids, returning some utilities to the public sector, taxing the rich to pay for more public spending, and decentralizing and localizing control over utilities, energy and agriculture (p. 21, 120, 130-134, and chapter 4 passim). And she supports decentralized local planning and state industrial policy to generate "green" jobs (p. 127, 133). But this is all within the framework of a standard capitalist economy. She does not call for generalized economic planning.

In her vision of the future, it appears that corporations will still run the world's economies and capitalist governments will still run politics. Thus: "Since the [oil] companies are going to continue being rich for the foreseeable future, the best hope of breaking the political deadlock is to radically restrict their ability to spend their profits on buying, and bullying, politicians . . ."the solutions are clear. Politicians must be prohibited from receiving donations from the industries they regulate, or from accepting jobs in lieu of bribes, political donations need to be both fully disclosed and tightly capped . . ." (p. 151-152). And the way to do that, she says, is for popular mobilization to force companies and governments to accept reforms: "[i]f enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one, and the political class will have to respond, both by making resources available and by bending the free market rules that have proven so pliable when elite interests are in peril." (p. 6, 152, 450). In short, it's all a bit confusing and somewhat contradictory, at least in my reading.

Unless we can come up with an alternative economic system that will guarantee reemployment for all those millions of workers in industries around the world that will have to be retrenched or shut down to get that 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, we won't be able to mobilize them to fight for the radical changes they and we all need to save ourselves.

It would be good if Klein could be pressed to clarify whether she thinks the climate crisis, and the broader "extractivist" ecological crisis we face, is intrinsic to the nature of the capitalist system or just market fundamentalism. And if it's inherent to capitalism, then what would she replace it with? Because otherwise, given her ambivalence and lack of clarity, the message of her book can read like Occupy. When New York bankers replied to the Occupy movement in 2011, "Don't like capitalism? What's your alternative?" for all its audacity and militancy, Occupy had no alternative to offer. We can't build much of a movement without something to fight for, not just against. Klein herself says, "saying no is not enough. If opposition movements are to do more than burn bright and then burn out, they will need a comprehensive vision for what should emerge in the place of our failing system, as well as serious political strategies for how to achieve those goals." (p. 9-10). Yet as far as I can see, Klein doesn't articulate a vision of an alternative economic system to replace our failing system, capitalism.

As to strategy, Klein says, "Only mass social movements can save us." She hopes that mass mobilizations, protests and blockades will be enough to "bend the rules of the market," to force corporations to change enough to save the humans. But these problems are not going to be solved just by protests and "blockadia." They require completely different institutional arrangements: the abolition of private property in the major means of production, the abolition of the market domination of the economy, the institution of generalized, direct economic planning, and the institution of economic democracy across the entire economy not just local communities, because at the end of the day, corporations can't "bend the rules of the market" enough to save the humans, and still stay in business in a competitive market economy.

Moreover, unless we can come up with an alternative economic system that will guarantee reemployment for all those millions of workers in industries around the world that will have to be retrenched or shut down to get that 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, we won't be able to mobilize them to fight for the radical changes they and we all need to save ourselves. If Naomi Klein really means to call for a mass movement to degrow the economy within the framework of capitalism, that sounds like a non-starter to me. Three hundred thousand people came out into the streets of New York to demand that the powers that be do something about climate change. But they were not demanding "degrowth" or industrial shutdowns. Given capitalism, how could they?
 
The Necessity of Economic Planning and Public Ownership of the Major Means of Production

The only way we can brake fossil fuel-driven global warming is to socialize the fossil fuel industries, buy them out if necessary, but nationalize them, socialize them one way or another, so we can phase them out, conserve the fuels we absolutely can't do without, at least for a transition period, and reallocate their resources to things society does need. And not just the fossil fuel industries and electric utilities. We would have to socialize most of the rest of the industrial economy as well because if we suppress fossil fuel production by anywhere near 90 percent, then autos, petrochemicals, aviation, shipping, construction, manufacturing and many other industries would grind to a halt. Naomi Klein quotes a top UN climate expert who remarked, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, that given all the failed promises to date, given the backsliding and soaring carbon dioxide emissions, "the only way" climate negotiators "can achieve a 2-degree goal is to shut down the whole global economy." (22) Well, I don't know if we need to shut down the whole world industrial economy, but it's difficult to see how we can halt the rise in greenhouse gas emissions unless we shut down a whole lot of industries around the world.

The Imperative of Deindustrialization in the North

The "degrowth" people are right in part. But there are two huge problems with their model. First, given capitalism, any degrowth serious enough to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions would bring economic collapse, depression and mass unemployment before it brought sustainability. That's why pro-market décroissance fantasists like Serge Latouche call for degrowth but then, quelle surprise, don't want to actually degrow the GDP, let alone overthrow capitalism. (23) But there is just no way around this dilemma. With no way to magically "dematerialize" production so we can keep growing the economy without growing emissions, then cutting carbon dioxide emissions by even 50 percent, let alone 90 percent, would require retrenching and closing large numbers of large and small corporations around the world and that means gutting the global GDP - with all that implies.

The only way to get "managed degrowth" without ending up in another Great Depression, is to do so in an entirely different, nonmarket or mostly nonmarket economy.

With most of the capitalist world economy on the verge of falling back into recession, even the slightest hint of any slowdown in plundering the planet sends markets tumbling. Even the thought that Ebola could slow the growth of trade sends jitters through the markets. (24) That's why, given capitalism, no one except (securely tenured) professors would ever take the idea of "degrowth" seriously. (25) And yet, given that we live on a finite planet, the fact remains that we can't save humanity unless we radically degrow the overconsuming economies in the North. So we do need degrowth. But the only way to get "managed degrowth" without ending up in another Great Depression, is to do so in an entirely different, nonmarket or mostly nonmarket economy.

The second problem is that we don't need to "degrow" the whole economy. We need to completely abolish all kinds of useless, wasteful, polluting, harmful industries. Yet we also need to grow other parts of the economy: renewable energy, public health care, public transit, the bicycle-industrial complex, durable and energy efficient housing, durable vehicles, appliances and electronics, public schools, public services of all kinds, environmental remediation and reforestation - the "caring economy" Naomi Klein talks about and about which I have also written. But the problem for Jackson, Klein and the rest of the degrowth school, is that - given private property in the means of production, given the anarchy of production for the free market, given the "iron law" of priority to profit maximization and given the imperatives of competition - there is just no way to prioritize people and planet over growth and profits in a market economy.

Global sustainability thus requires selective deindustrialization in the North combined with sustainable industrialization in the South.

The only way to rationally reorganize the economy, to deemphasize the "careless" industries and emphasize the "caring" industries, is to do this ourselves, directly, by consciously, collectively and democratically planning most of the industrial economy, even closely coordinating most of the world's industrial economies. To do this, we would have to socialize virtually all large-scale industry (though, as I've said elsewhere, this does not mean we need to nationalize mom-and-pop restaurants, small-scale owner-operator businesses, worker cooperatives, small farms and the like, though even some of those would need to be tightly regulated). Naomi Klein is rightly skeptical about "energy nationalization on existing models," because Brazil's Petrobras or Norway's Statoil are "just as voracious in pursuing high-risk pools of carbon as their private sector counterparts." (26) But that's because the "existing model" they operate in is the capitalist world economy - so even if they're state-owned, they still need to abide by the rules of the market. This only underlines the eco-socialist argument that the only way we can stop global warming and solve our many interrelated environmental crises is with a mostly planned, mostly publicly owned, mostly nonmarket economy. (27)

Contraction and Convergence

Given the state of the planet right now, the only way we can move toward sustainability is if the industrialized nations and China impose an emergency contraction: radically suppress, and in many cases close down all kinds of useless, superfluous, wasteful, polluting industries and sectors. At the same time, most of the global South is far from overconsuming the planet; they're underconsuming most everything. Four hundred million Indians lack electrical service. Most of the developing world still lacks basic infrastructure, schools, health care, decent housing, jobs and much else. So the South certainly needs "development," but if the South develops on the basis of capitalism, like China, this will only wreck the world faster. Global sustainability thus requires selective deindustrialization in the North combined with sustainable industrialization in the South - a global contraction and convergence centered on a sustainable (and hopefully happy) medium that will put the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions and enable the whole world to live in tolerable comfort while conserving resources for our children, and set aside sufficient resources for the other species with whom we share this planet to live out their lives.

If you listen to mainstream environmentalists like Bill McKibben and 350.org, what you hear is that the solution to the climate crisis is "to get off fossil fuels and switch to renewables." But while electricity generation is a big part of the problem, it is by no means all or even most of it. That's because greenhouse gas emissions are produced across the entire economy, not only or even mainly by electric generating stations. As the table below shows, in the United States, electricity generation (including heat) accounts for 32 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. (Subtracting heat from this total, electricity generation likely accounts for about a quarter of all US emissions.) Transportation is a close second, accounting for 28 percent, industry, 20 percent, agriculture, 10 percent and so on. (28) In China, electricity and heat account for 50 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, industry, 31 percent, transportation, 8 percent (2011). (29) In France, electricity accounts for a trivial share of the country's carbon dioxide emissions because nearly 80 percent of France's electricity is produced by nuclear power plants.

Table: Total US Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector in 2012

Electricity Generation 32 percent
Transportation 28 percent
Industry 20 percent
Commercial and Residential 10 percent
Agriculture 10 percent

Source: US EPA "Sources of greenhouse gas emissions."

Thus, the first thing to be noted from this table is that even if we shut down every coal, oil and gas-fired electric generating plant in the United States tomorrow and replaced them all with solar and wind, that would reduce US carbon dioxide emissions by less than one-third. That means that if we want to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent in the next 35 years, we would have to drastically suppress emissions across the rest of the economy. We would have to drastically retrench and even close down not only fossil fuel companies like Peabody Coal and ExxonMobil, but the industries that are based on fossil fuels - autos, aircraft, airlines, shipping, petrochemicals, manufacturing, construction, agribusiness, refrigeration and air conditioning and so on - and companies like GM, Boeing, United Airlines, FedEx, Cargill, Carrier and so on.

If we have to decarbonize by 6 to 10 percent per year, to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 to contain global warming, how can we do that without radically retrenching and closing down large numbers of power plants, mines, factories, mills, processing and other industries and services from the United States to China?

If we're going to stop the plunder of the planet's last accessible resources, then we would also have to retrench or close down lots of mines, lumber companies, pulp and paper and wood products companies, industrial fishing operations, industrial farming, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), junk food producers, private water companies, disposable products of all sorts, packaging, retail and so on - companies like Rio Tinto, Georgia Pacific, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Tyson Foods, H&M, Walmart etc.

And if we're going to stop fouling our nest, poisoning our fresh water, soil, the oceans and atmosphere with myriad toxic chemicals, then we would have to shut down, or at the very least, drastically retrench and rigorously regulate the world's worst toxic producers - chemicals, pesticides, plastics etc., companies like Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and others.

I know this sounds completely crazy. But I don't see what other conclusion we can draw from the scientific evidence. If we have to decarbonize by 6 to 10 percent per year, to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 to contain global warming, how can we do that without radically retrenching and closing down large numbers of power plants, mines, factories, mills, processing and other industries and services from the United States to China? An unpleasant thought. But what other choice do we have? If we don't radically suppress greenhouse gas emissions, we're headed for global ecological collapse. And if we don't stop looting the world's resources and poisoning the air, land and water with every manner of toxics, what kind of world are we going to leave to our children?

Besides, these industries and companies are hardly immortal. Most of the worst environmentally destructive industries in the United States are businesses that have been built or massively expanded since World War II. Most of China's resource-wasting and polluting industries and coal-fired power plants have all been built in the last 20 to 30 years. Why can't these be dismantled or repurposed, if we need to do so to save the humans? This will cause dislocation for sure. But that's nothing compared to the dislocation we will face when droughts bring on the collapse of agriculture in the United States, when Shanghai and the Shenzhen sink beneath the waves, if we don't suppress carbon dioxide emissions, now.

The only way to save the planet is to stop converting so much of it into "product."

In the last analysis, the only way to save the planet is to stop converting so much of it into "product." Leave the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the gas under the grass - but also leave the trees in the forests, the fish in the sea, the minerals in the mountains, and find ways for our billions to live lightly on the earth.

I'm no Luddite (though as a skilled craftsman, I'm a sympathizer). I'm not suggesting we abandon modernity and go back to living in some pre-industrial state. After all, Europeans currently generate barely half the greenhouse gas emissions as Americans and they're not living in caves. Actually, they live a lot better than Americans, though they consume less, in large part because they don't fetishize individualism; they provide much more for each other through collective social services, publicly funded health care, and so on, so they don't need to earn as much to live better than Americans.

Even so, West European consumption is still far from sustainable. Europeans still need to suppress carbon dioxide emissions, curb many other pollutants and end useless consumption as well. Much is made, for example, of Germany's increasing use of renewable energy. But what difference does it make, really, if the Germans get 30 percent or even 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, if what they use that electricity for is to power huge factories producing an endless waste stream of oversized, over-accessorized, designed-to-be-obsolesced Mercedes Benz global warmers? What kind of "sustainability" is that?

I'm for modern technology - up to a point. I imagine any modern ecological society will still have some cars, planes, chemicals, plastic, cell phones and so on, though much less and many fewer of them. The problem is that so much of what we produce today is so unnecessary, harmful and unsustainable. Even though an ecological society would still need some cars and trucks, for example, to supplement expanded public transportation, it would not need hundreds of millions of new models every year. That's just such a waste. Cars could easily be built like my old '62 Volkswagen Beetle. That car can last practically forever since it was simple, built to be easily rebuilt, and every part is still in production. Why can't we make the few cars and trucks we need to be equally rebuildable and upgradeable, so they can last for decades, if not practically indefinitely, instead of the seven to 10 years they typically last these days? And why can't we share them, in public car-sharing collectives, instead of having millions of privately owned cars parked on the streets most of the time?

The endless production of disposable phones, clothes, houses, appliances, cars and more is killing the planet. So which is it to be? We save Apple or we save the humans (and the whales)?

The same goes for many other industries. China's Ministry of Housing admits that many of the "tofu" and "fast food" apartment blocks that builders have thrown up in the building boom of recent years are so shabby "they can only last 20 or 30 years." (30) Disposable housing? Why can't we build housing to last centuries, like the gorgeous cities of Europe, or as China's own cities used to be built before the current government demolished Ming and Ch'ing era neighborhoods to build tofu apartment blocks and useless vanity skyscrapers? This would save mountains of stone, steel, aluminum and glass, and Malaysian forests of wood flooring. China could close most of its coal-fired power plants, clear the air and replace them with nothing if they simply gave up manufacturing the export junk we don't need, and stopped building disposable housing and useless skyscrapers, roads and cars they don't need either.

Or again, Apple's brilliant engineers could easily design iPhones to last decades, to be upgradeable and completely recyclable. If we need smart phones in an ecological society, fine, but they need to be built like those Beetles. This would save lakes of petrochemicals, heavy metals, rare earth metals, not to mention the lives of Foxconn workers who jump out of their dormitory windows to their deaths in despair over the insane pace of production, the boredom of 8 to 16 hour days of repetitive work, and the hopelessness of their assembly-line future. Of course, Apple would go out of business tomorrow if it couldn't sell millions of "new" iThings every year. But the endless production of disposable phones, clothes, houses, appliances, cars and more is killing the planet. So which is it to be? We save Apple or we save the humans (and the whales)?

Jobs vs. Environment Is No Myth
 
The huge difficulty with this, aside from the other huge difficulty of how to get rid of capitalism, is that if we have to deindustrialize to save the environment, then this is going to cost jobs, not just a few coal-mining jobs, but millions of jobs across the industrialized and industrializing world from the United States to Europe, South Africa, Australia and China. Environmentalists often casually assert that "jobs vs. environment is a myth." I beg to differ. This is by far the biggest dilemma the environmental movement faces - and there are no simple "green jobs" "win-win" solutions - at least not within the framework of capitalism.

In China's Guangdong Province alone, there are something like 40 million manufacturing workers (that is, by comparison, more the three times the size of the entire US manufacturing workforce), the bulk of them dedicated to producing unsustainable, designed-to-be-obsolesced, disposable products, from plastic toys, shoes, clothes, flimsy appliances, short-lived tools, Christmas junk, to the highest tech iPhones, laptops, Panasonic flat-screen TVs, automobiles and more. As China opened up to become the workshop of the world, with its bottomless supply of ultra-cheap labor, many of the world's dirtiest, most wasteful and least sustainable industries migrated to its coastal enclave export zones. This production is poisoning Guangdong's rivers, aquifers, farm fields, food supplies and the air people breathe. A recent survey found that 40 percent of the rice served in Guangzhou restaurants was tainted with cadmium, a highly toxic heavy metal with serious health implications. Why? Because industrial plants including battery makers for those electronic devices and vehicles, the source of the cadmium, have been built right next to rice paddies. This is everywhere in China.

We're riding a global engine of ravenous resource consumption. We all know this can't go on forever, but the thought that it might come to a stop is so terrifying to all of us that most of the time we just want to live in denial.

Public water supplies throughout the region and most of China are, by government standards, "severely polluted" with industrial chemicals, heavy metals and myriad other toxics. A recent government survey found that 64 percent of urban drinking water supplies were unfit for human consumption. (31) Croplands are heavily polluted with pesticides, heavy metals, arsenic and other toxics. Already 20 percent of farmland has been declared too toxic to farm and that is widely thought to be an underestimate. The food is so polluted, the middle classes try to import as much as they can from the West, clearing out shelves of baby formula from New Zealand to Holland. Then there's the air pollution. Most of this pollution comes from the factories where those tens of millions of workers are laboring day and night producing all these unnecessary, short-lived, throwaway, disposable products, mostly for export. What kind of "miracle" is this?

I just do not see how China can put the brakes on its own ecological self-destruction, the destruction of the health of its people, and rein in the country's surging carbon dioxide emissions without closing down most of those industries. That is a problem. Forty million unemployed workers would be a big problem. And that's just Guangdong. (32) But undrinkable water, unsafe food, unbreathable air, polluted farmland, the cancer epidemic, rising temperatures and rising seas along coastal China are bigger problems. So there's just no way around this very inconvenient truth. Making bad stuff has to stop; stopping it will unemploy vast numbers of workers, and other, non-destructive, jobs have to be found or created for them. We're riding a global engine of ravenous resource consumption. We all know this can't go on forever, but the thought that it might come to a stop is so terrifying to all of us that most of the time we just want to live in denial. No wonder even many eco-socialists resist accepting the need to "degrow" the economy because, under capitalism, that would mean not just austerity, but starvation. That's a hard sell.

From Pennsylvania to Colorado, the surge in oil and gas production has brought the first good paying jobs many workers in those states have seen in decades and revived steel mills, abandoned industries and downtrodden towns across the industrial heartland - thanks to fracking. (33) In Canada, tar sands mining companies and pipeline companies have posted paying jobs to impoverished native Canadians. Indigenous resistance has powered the fight back against extreme extraction, tar sands, pipelines and polluted landscapes from Nigeria to Ecuador, and Canada to the United States, because these practices destroy their land, water and communities, and doom their children's futures.

Corporations can't change much and can't afford to put themselves out of business to save the humans, but society can afford to socialize those costs. It has to.

But indigenous communities are often split because they're so poor and so desperately need the jobs. Naomi Klein notes that, while many courageously and selflessly resist these extractive industries, "many indigenous people would view the extractive industries as their best of a series of bad options" in communities with no other economic development, and no other jobs or training. "As the offers from industry become richer . . . those who are trying to hold the line too often feel they have nothing to offer their people but continued impoverishment." A longtime Northern Cheyenne opponent of coal development told Klein, "I can't keep asking my people to suffer with me." (34)

This is the tragedy of capitalism versus the environment. What we need to do to save the humans tomorrow means economic collapse and mass unemployment today. Given that threat, unless workers are offered other jobs at comparable pay, not just "retraining" and a few months of unemployment insurance, it will be difficult if not impossible to win over many of them, and their unions, to support the sorts of radical changes we need to make to save them, us and the planet. That's why we have to fight for a full-employment economy, and that means an eco-socialist economy.

Green jobs are fine, as far as they go. But I don't see many millions of jobs polishing solar panels. And when I've visited windmill farms, there's no one around. We certainly can't save the world by producing millions of electric cars instead of millions of gasoline cars because they're both polluting and both consume too many resources. Given a finite planet, we don't need to produce green cars so much as massively fewer cars, fewer airplanes, fewer ships, fewer buildings, fewer iPhones, much less electricity in the North (though much more in the South), fewer processed foods, and lots of other things we currently take for granted. We need to do a whole lot less manufacturing, less mining, less drilling, less production, less "value added" processing, especially in the North. In Naomi Klein's words: "Humanity has to go a whole lot easier on the living systems that sustain us, acting regeneratively rather than extractively." That means we need to create a completely different kind of economy in which "work" does not necessarily mean turning natural "resources" into product so much as living, as Klein says, "reciprocally" with nature.

Eco-Socialism, "Sacrifice" and Slow Food

Contraction and convergence, and eco-socialism based on planning, democracy, equality and sharing are, I think, the only path to a sustainable economy and society. Corporations can't change much and can't afford to put themselves out of business to save the humans, but society can afford to socialize those costs. It has to. And only society can reorganize production to provide those alternative jobs. There's plenty of work to be done. It's just work that's never profitable to capitalists. Instead of building a disposable world, we need to build a durable world. Instead of producing junk we don't need, we need to produce the things we're not producing now, especially those "caring industries." We need to construct universal public health care, universal high-quality public education, universal organic farming, and environmental remediation. We need to retrofit, upgrade and restore existing housing, build eco-housing, co-housing, reforestation, and create more cultural and recreational opportunities. Instead of consuming the planet as fast as possible, we need an entirely different mode of life based on minimizing, not maximizing resource consumption, on living lightly on the planet, on conserving resources for future generations and sharing them with each other and with other species. (35)

Far from austerity and sacrifice, an eco-socialist society would free us from the endless treadmill of consumerism.

Does this mean that we have to "sacrifice," and accept a lower standard of living? Well, if by "standard of living" we mean American-style instant gratification and insatiable consumerism, then yes. Goodbye to all that. Limitless free choice is great. But there are costs to that, unbearable costs if we want to preserve a world worth living in. I'm sure we'll have to give up new cars and new iPhones every year, jet flights whenever we like, and ever-wider screen TVs. Do we really need those to be happy? We'll have to make do with bicycles and public transit for most getting around. But it turns out people are healthier and happier when we walk, bike and don't have to drive. (36) We'll have to give up FedEx overnight book deliveries from Amazon. But wouldn't the revival of local bookshops be worth the "sacrifice?" We'll have to give up fossil fuel-powered leaf blowers and riding lawnmowers. I'll vote for that. We'll have to radically reduce international trade and reproduce most of what we need - and used to produce - locally, instead of by semi-slave labor in China. We'll have to get used to seasonal crops again, to give up fresh raspberries air-freighted to my local New York supermarket in the middle of winter from Chile because that's just ridiculously unsustainable. On the other hand, seasonal crops - asparagus in March, strawberries in May and June, apples and peaches all summer long, blackberries in September, squash in October, were one of the great joys of my childhood growing up in the Northwest. I could suffer those again.

Actually, I expect we'll have to give up meat and become vegetarians or mostly vegetarians because the environmental cost of feeding billions of people a meat-based diet is just wildly unsustainable. (37) It's not so nice for the critters we eat either. But we'll be healthier for it. We'll have to make do with "slow food," "slow fashion" and "slow travel." But what's the rush? As Carl Honoré, a founder of the slow movement puts it, the slow philosophy "is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It's about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting." (38) The trade-offs are more than worth it.

As a professional carpenter-builder, I can't wait to "sacrifice" by turning my attention to building, rebuilding, retrofitting, upgrading and restoring homes for people who need them, public buildings for the common good, restoring our cites and so on, instead of building penthouse condos for bankers. There's plenty of relatively low-carbon work for us builders to do - plowing under the worst suburbs, converting the best shopping malls to retirement communities, converting McMansions to co-housing, converting Citibank branches, nail salons and retail stores to community centers, schools, libraries, theaters, workers' housing, tearing down the commercial blight of US cities and towns and restoring historic architecture, urban gardens, expanding urban transit and much more. More than a century ago, long before the word "ecology" and phrase "slow food" were coined, William Morris summed up my ideal of the sensuous pleasure of social and creative work, of living better, not higher, in the following words:

I think that to all living things there is a pleasure in the exercise of their energies, and that even beasts rejoice in being lithe and swift and strong. But a man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of the human race, he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our days will be happy and eventful. Signs of Change (1896)

And we could retrain those liberated ex-bankers and "mad men" in useful skills so they can take pride in creating beauty instead of horror and no longer have to be ashamed to tell their kids what they do for a living. The possibilities are endless. Indeed, far from austerity and sacrifice, an eco-socialist society would free us from the endless treadmill of consumerism, the rat race of competition, the mindless drudgery of commodity production, the 24/7 work-life of multitasking, enabling us to take pleasure in unalienating work for our own enjoyment, and for the good of society, to develop our many capacities and talents in our work lives and also to shorten the work day and year so that we can enjoy the leisure once promised but never delivered by capitalism.

This paper is based on talks I gave at Hofstra University and the Climate Convergence at St. John's College in New York City on the eve of the great People's Climate March. I would like to thank the audiences and professors Martin Melkonian and Phil Gasper for their thoughtful comments and criticisms. I also want to thank my wife, Professor Nancy Holmstrom, for her helpful insights and ruthless editing.

Footnotes

1. See eg. James Hansen et al., "Target atmospheric carbon dioxide: where should humanity aim?" Open Atmospheric Science Journal 2 (2008), p. 217, at http://www.bentham.org/open/toasci/openaccess2.htm

2. IEA, World Energy Outlook, November 2012.

3. PWC, "Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality: low carbon index 2014," (September 2014), quote from the Foreward, at www.pwc.co.uk/assets/pdf/low-carbon-economy-index-2014.pdf.

4. Ian Talley et al., "Global slowdown threatens recovery," The Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2014. Landon Thomas Jr. and Liz Alderman, "IMF calls on cash-rich countries to step up large public investments," The New York Times, October 5, 2014.

5. "Obama says he's added pipeline ‘to circle Earth and then some,'" The Hill, March 22, 2004 at http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/217607-obama-says-hes-added-enough-pipeline-to-encircle-earth-and-then-some-defends-position-on-keystone-pipeline.

6. Michael Klare, The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources (New York: Picador 2012). See also, Ugo Bardi, Extracted (White River Junction: Chelsea Green 2013).

7. Craig Simons, The Devouring Dragon (New York: St. Martins 2013). David Smith, "Elephant killings in Mozambique happening on 'industrialised' scale," The Guardian, September 23, 2014. On China's ravenous consumption of global minerals, oil, natural gas etc. see Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi, By All Means Necessary (Oxford: OUP 2014).

8. Li Jing and Nectar Gan, "Orange pollution alert raised as Beijing smog reaches 'hazardous' level," South China Morning Post, October 9, 2014. Idem, "Factories shut and buildings sites suspended as Beijing fights back against 'hazardous' smog," South China Morning Post, October 10, 2014. I discussed China's auto craze, and other missed opportunities, in my "Creative destruction: capitalist development and China's environment," New Left Review no. 222 (March/April 1997), p. 1-41; and in "New problems for old: the institution of capitalist environmental irrationality in China," Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No.2 (1999) p. 249-274.

9. In June 2011, visiting NYU economist Nouriel Roubini told Reuters: "I was recently in Shanghai and I took their high-speed train to Hangzhou," he said, referring to the new Maglev line that has cut traveling time between the two cities to less than an hour from four hours previously. The brand new high-speed train is half-empty and the brand new station is three-quarters empty. Parallel to that train line, there is also a new highway that looked three-quarters empty. Next to the train station is also the new local airport of Shanghai and you can fly to Hangzhou," he said. There is no rationale for a country at that level of economic development to have not just duplication but triplication of those infrastructure projects." Kevin Lim, "'Meaningful probability' of a China hard landing: Roubini," Reuters, June 13, 2011.

10. Eg. "Housing oversupply causing major crisis for Chinese economy, NTD.TV, May 16, 2014 at http://www.ntd.tv/en/programs/news-politics/china-forbidden-news/20140516/143998-housing-oversupply-causing-major-crisis-for-chinese-economy-.html "China's real estate bubble," CBS 60 Minutes, August 11, 2013 at http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/chinas-real-estate-bubble/. Robin Banerji and Patrick Jackson, "China's ghost towns and phantom malls," BBC News Online, August 13, 2012 at http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19049254. Vincent Fernando, CFA, "There are now enough vacant properties in China to house over half of America," Business Insider, September 8, 2010 at http://www.businessinsider.com/there-are-now-enough-vacant-properties-in-china-to-house-over-half-of-america-2010-9

11. Eg. "Living very large," The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2012.

12. Joseph White, "Fuel efficiency slows as SUV sales rise," The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2014.

13. Alexandra Harney, The China Price (New York: Penguin 2008).

14. New York: Penguin 2013.

15. Elizabeth Kline, op cit. p. 3, 124-125. Energy consumption: FAO, cited in "Fabric and your carbon footprint, O Ecotextiles, March10, 2013, at http://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/fabric-and-your-carbon-footprint/

16. WWF, The State of the Planet at http://www.wwf.org.uk/about_wwf/other_publications/living_planet_report_2014/#.VC_kNlbrPRp
The quotations are from Damian Carrington, "Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF," The Guardian, September 29, 1014. See also George Monbiot's blog commentary: "It's time to shout stop on this war on the living world," The Guardian, posted October 1, 2014 at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/oct/01/george-monbiot-war-on-the-living-world-wildlife

17. See his New York Times column of September 20, 2014.

18.Capitalism as if the World Matters (London: Earthscan 2005) p. 84.

19. On the contradictions of Hansen's "carbon tax and dividend" scheme, see my "Green capitalism: the god that failed," Real-World Economics Review no. 56 (2011) www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue56/Smith56.pdf, reprinted in truthout.org. Cf. James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren (New York: Bloomsbury 2009)

20. Vivian Krausse, "Rockefellers behind ‘scruffy little outfit,'" Financial Post, February 14, 2013 at http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/02/14/rockefellers-behind-scruffy-little-outfit/?__federated=1

21. New York (Simon & Schuster 2014)

22. Klein, op. cit. p. 87.

23. Serge Latouche, Farewell to Growth (Malden MA: Polity Press 2009), p. 66, 91 and passim.

24. Eg. "Global growth fears send markets tumbling," BBC News, October 7, 2014. "Dow tumbles as Ebola fears, in part, rattle markets," NBC News, October 15, 2014.

25. "Beyond growth or beyond capitalism," Real-World Economics no. 53 (2010) at http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue53/Smith53.pdf, reprinted in Truthout.org [http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21215-beyond-growth-or-beyond-capitalism].

26. Klein, op. cit. p. 130.

27. See my "Capitalism and the destruction of life on earth: six theses on saving the humans," Real-World Economics Review no. 64 (2013)

28. U.S. EPA, "Sources of greenhouse gas emissions 2012" at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources/electricity.html. http://cait.wri.org/cait.php?page=sectors

29. IEA, "carbon dioxide Emissions from fuel combustion 2013," (OECD/IEA 2013), p. 26-27 at http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/co2emissionsfromfuelcombustionhighlights2013.pdf.

30. Quoted in Lu Chen, "China's apartments built 'fast food' style starting to crumble," Epoch Times, April 10, 2014.

31. Cecilia Torajada and Asit K. Biswas, "The problem of water management," China Daily, March 5, 2013. Gong Jing and Liu Hongqiao, "Half of China's urban drinking water fails to meet standards," China Dialogue, June 6, 2013 at https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/6074-Half-of-China-s-urban-drinking-water-fails-to-meet-standards.

32. China has more than 104 million manufacturing workers - about twice the number of manufacturing workers in the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the UK combined. Harney, op. cit. p. 8.

33. Nelson Schwartz, "Boom in energy spurs industry in rust belt," The New York Times, September 8, 2014.

34. This Changes Everything, p. 86.

35. Adam Parsons, "Sharing as the new common sense in a post-growth world," Share the World's Resources, August 29, 2014 at http://www.sharing.org. The website has a number of other excellent articles on this and related topics.

36. Ian Johnston, "Taking public transport instead of driving to work makes people happier, study suggests, The Independent, September 15, 2014.

37. Eg. Tony Weiss, The Ecological Hoofprint (London: Zed Books 2013).

38. Eg. Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness (New York: HarperCollins 2004).

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Richard Smith

Richard Smith is an economic historian. He wrote his UCLA history Ph.D. thesis on the transition to capitalism in China and held post-docs at the East-West Center in Honolulu and Rutgers University. He has written on China, capitalism and the global environment and on related issues for New Left Review, Monthly Review, The Ecologist, the Journal of Ecological Economics, Real-World Economics Review, Adbusters magazine and other publications. He is presently completing a book on China's communist-capitalism and ecological collapse.

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Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 10:07 By Richard Smith, Truthout | News Analysis
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(Photo: Aristocrats-hat)(Photo: Aristocrats-hat)

Since the 1990s, climate scientists have been telling us that unless we suppress the rise of carbon dioxide emissions, we run the risk of crossing critical tipping points that could unleash runaway global warming, and precipitate the collapse of civilization and perhaps even our own extinction. To suppress those growing emissions, climate scientists and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have called on industrialized nations to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050. (1)

Despite ever more dire warnings from the most conservative scientific, economic and institutional authorities, and despite record heat and drought, superstorms and floods, and melting ice caps and vanishing glaciers, "business as usual" prevails.

But instead of falling, carbon dioxide emissions have been soaring, even accelerating, breaking records year after year. In May 2013, carbon dioxide concentrations topped the 400 parts per million mark prompting climate scientists to warn that we're "running out of time," that we face a "climate emergency" and that unless we take "radical measures" to suppress emissions very soon, we're headed for a 4-degree or even 6-degree Celsius rise before the end of the century. And not just climate scientists have made warnings, but also mainstream authorities, including the World Bank, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others. In 2012, the IEA warned that "no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if we hope to prevent global warming from exceeding more than 2 degrees Centigrade." (2) In September 2014, the global accounting and consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that

For the sixth year running, the global economy has missed the decarbonisation target needed to limit global warming to 2˚C . . . To avoid two degrees of warming, the global economy now needs to decarbonise at 6.2 percent a year, more than five times faster than the current rate, every year from now till 2100. On our current burn rate we blow our carbon budget by 2034, sixty-six years ahead of schedule. This trajectory, based on IPCC data, takes us to four degrees of warming by the end of the century. (3)

Yet despite ever more dire warnings from the most conservative scientific, economic and institutional authorities, and despite record heat and drought, superstorms and floods, and melting ice caps and vanishing glaciers, "business as usual" prevails. Worse, every government on the planet is pulling out all the stops to maximize growth and consumption in the effort to hold on to the fragile recovery. (4)

Extreme Extraction, Extreme Consumption and the "Great Acceleration"

Around the world, governments are pushing "extreme extraction" - fracking, horizontal drilling, deep-ocean drilling and so on. In the United States, President Obama congratulates himself for suppressing coal emissions and boosting auto mileage. But what do these trivial gains matter, really, when he's approved drilling under the Arctic Sea, reopened the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Delaware (closed since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill), approved new and deeper drilling in the Gulf of Mexico even after the BP blowout and brags that he's "added more oil pipeline than any president in history, enough to circle the earth and then some"? (5)

"Saudi America" has once again, after a 40-year hiatus, become an oil exporter.

In fact, Obama has approved so much new oil and gas extraction that even Americans can't consume it all, so "Saudi America" has once again, after a 40-year hiatus, become an oil exporter. Canadians are doing their bit to cook the planet faster by extracting tar sands bitumen, the dirtiest of the dirtiest. China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia are scrambling to suck out the oil under the South China Sea. Even Ecuador is opening its previously off-limits Yasuni Biosphere Reserve to drilling by Chinese oil companies. Around the world, we're consuming oil like there's no tomorrow. And not just oil, everything. Industrialized and industrializing nations are ravenously looting the planet's last resources - minerals, forests, fish, fresh water, everything - in what Michael Klare calls "the race for what's left" in his eponymous book. (6)

Extreme extraction is driven by extreme production and consumption. Around the world, resource consumption is growing at several multiples the rate of population increase, driven by the capitalist engines of insidious commodification, incessant invention of new "needs," daily destruction of existing values by rendering more and more of what we've already bought disposable and replaceable, and, of course, by the insatiable appetites of the global 1%. Today, the global rich and the middle classes are devouring the planet in a kind of après-moi-le-déluge orgy of gluttony. Russian oligarchs party on yachts the size of naval cruisers. Mideast oligarchs build refrigerated cities in the middle of baking deserts. China's newly rich consume not the usual baubles only, but also the world's last tigers, rhinoceroses, elephants, bears, pangolins and other rare exotic creatures, along with the last tropical forests - on an industrial scale. (7) Consumption by the global rich is beyond obscene, but given its size, global middle-class consumption has vastly more impact on the planet's environment. For every Rolls Royce, there are thousands of Mercedes Benz cars. For every Learjet, hundreds of Boeing 777s.

Just look at China: Once China joined the capitalist world market, it has had to generate steady growth, at least 8 percent per year, just to keep up with its population which is still growing by around 7 million people per year, the equivalent of adding another Hong Kong every year. Further, given seething public anger and open, often violent protest against corrupt, crony capitalist Communist Party officials, the government has desperately sought to push growth and consumption to placate the opposition and to coddle middle-class supporters. So it has built entire completely unnecessary industries, including the world's largest automobile industry that China has no oil to fuel, which only adds layers to the country's gasping pollution, and which has brought transportation to a standstill in China's cities. In the 1980s, Beijing had a few thousand (rather vintage) cars, trucks and buses, but one could bicycle across the whole city in half an hour and not have to wear a gas mask. Today, with 5 million cars on the city's streets, that journey can take hours by car, while on many days attempting that cross-town ride on your bicycle will put you in the hospital. (8)

Americans are said to use more electricity just for air conditioning than the entire continent of Africa uses for all purposes.

China is now consuming half the world's coal, more than half the world's steel, cement, copper and vast quantities of other resources, to build unnecessary industries, unnecessary and dangerous dams, forests of useless vanity skyscrapers, to blanket the country with nearly empty high-speed rail networks and empty national expressways systems. (9) It has built millions of empty apartment blocks, even entire cities complete with shopping malls, universities, hospitals and museums - but no people. By one estimate, China's builders have put up more than 64 million surplus apartments, enough new flats to house more than half the US population, and they're adding millions more every year. (10)

It's not so different here. In the United States, no one even talks about resource conservation anymore. That's so quaint, so 1970s. So "small is beautiful" and all that. Since the Reagan revolution it's been all about the "me" generation, about ever more consumption, about "living very large" as The Wall Street Journal puts it. American houses today are more than twice the size on average of houses built in the 1950s - even as families are shrinking. Most come with central air, flat-screen TVs in every room and walk-in closets the size of 1950s spare bedrooms. And those are just average houses. McMansions offer breathtaking extravagance and waste: swimming pools in the basement next to the bowling alleys next to the home theater next to the gym, the bar lounge and game rooms. And those are just the basements. Upstairs there are the Elle Décor floors and furnishings of tropical hardwoods, Architectural Digest kitchens in marble and stainless steel, Waterworks bathrooms, "bedroom suites" the size of small houses, lighting and audio "systems" and on and on. (11)

Americans are said to use more electricity just for air conditioning than the entire continent of Africa uses for all purposes. Middle-class Americans don't even drive "cars" much anymore. They drive behemoth gas-hog SUVs and luxury trucks with names to match: giant Sequoias, mountainous Denalis and Sierras, vast Yukons, Tundras, Ticonderogas and Armadas. Many of these are more than twice the weight of US cars and pickup trucks in the 1950s. There goes Obama's plan to reduce US global warming emissions by boosting fuel economy. (12) Americans used to vacation at the nation's incomparable national parks and seashores. Now, increasingly, they jet off to far corners of the globe, or drift about the seas on 20-story high cruise ships bashing coral reefs.

Globalization and the advent of "The China Price" has also enabled industrialists to boost consumption by dramatically lowering the cost of light-industrial consumer goods production, so much so that they could finally annihilate most remaining "durable" goods categories - from refrigerators to shoes, and substitute cheaper, throwaway replacements. (13) Thus, "fast fashion" (or "trashion fashion") from H&M, Target, Zara and others now rules the women's apparel market with clothes so cheap it's not worth the cost of dry-cleaning them.

"While population has risen fourfold in the last century, water use has gone up sevenfold."

As fashion industry insider Elizabeth Kline relates in her recent book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, (14) "seasonal shopping patterns have given way to continuous consumption." Zara delivers new lines twice a week to its stores. H&M and Forever 21 stock new styles every day. In Kline's words: "Buying so much clothing and treating it as if it is disposable, is putting a huge added weight on the environment and is simply unsustainable." To say the least. The US cotton crop requires the application of 22 billion pounds of toxic weed killers, every year. Most fiber is dyed or bleached, treated in toxic chemical baths to make it brighter, softer, more fade resistant, water proof or less prone to wrinkles. Upholstery fabrics and children's pajamas are treated with ghastly chemicals to make them stain resistant or fireproof. These toxic baths consume immense quantities of chemicals and water and it goes without saying that in China, the chemicals are routinely just dumped in rivers and lakes, untreated. Then after all the chemical treatments, the fabrics have to be dried under heat lamps. These processes consume enormous quantities of energy.

The textile industry is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and it's growing exponentially. In 1950, when there were around 2.5 billion people on earth, they consumed around 10 million tons of fabric for all uses. Today, we are 7 billion, but we consume more than 70 million tons of fabric annually, nearly three times as much per person as we consumed in the 1950s (hence those walk-in closets). Producing 70 million tons of fabric consumes astounding quantities of resources, including more than 145 million tons of coal and between 1.5 and 2 trillion gallons of fresh water, every year. Synthetic fibers like polyester and such (now 60 percent of the market) are the worst: They consume between 10 and 25 times as much energy to produce as natural fibers. (15) In short, "fast fashion" is speeding the disposal of planet earth. And that's just one disposables industry.

Shortly after the great People's Climate March in September, the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) issued its latest Living Planet Index detailing how human demands on the planet are extinguishing life on earth. According to the report, the world has lost more than half of its vertebrate wildlife in just the last 40 years - 52 percent of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and mammals. Read that again: HALF THE WORLD'S VERTEBRATE WILDLIFE HAS BEEN LOST IN JUST THE LAST 40 YEARS. "The decline was seen everywhere - in rivers, on land and in the seas - and is mainly the result of increased habitat destruction, commercial fishing and hunting," according to the report. The fastest decline among animal populations were found in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have plummeted by 75 percent since 1970. "Rivers are the bottom of the system," said Dave Tickner, WWF's chief freshwater adviser. "Whatever happens on land, it all ends up in the rivers." Besides pollution, human overconsumption for industrial purposes is massively straining the world's freshwater systems: "While population has risen fourfold in the last century, water use has gone up sevenfold." (16) All these trends are driving what scientists are calling "The Great Acceleration" of consumption that took off after World War II and has sharply picked up speed in the last three decades as China industrialized. Like some kind of final planetary going out of business sale, we're consuming the world's last readily accessible natural resources in a generation or two, in a geological blink of an eye.

Capitalist Priority to Growth and Profits Over People and Planet

What's more, given capitalism, we're all more or less locked into this lemming-like suicidal drive to hurl ourselves off the cliff. Whether as CEOs, investors, workers or governments, given capitalism, we all "need" to maximize growth, therefore to consume more resources and produce ever more pollution in the process - because companies need to satisfy the insatiable demands of investors and because we all need the jobs. That's why at every UN Climate Summit, the environment is invariably sacrificed to growth.

So long as we live under capitalism, today, tomorrow, next year and every year thereafter, economic growth will always be the overriding priority till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

As George H.W. Bush told the 1992 Climate Summit, "The American way of life is not negotiable." Barack Obama is hardly so crude and arrogant, but his dogged refusal to accept binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions comes to the same thing. And Chinese president Xi Jinping is certainly not going to sacrifice his "Chinese Dream" of great-power revival and mass consumerism on a hitherto unimagined scale, if Obama refuses to negotiate the planet-destroying "American way of life."

In short, so long as we live under capitalism, today, tomorrow, next year and every year thereafter, economic growth will always be the overriding priority till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

Where Are the Radical Solutions?

Given the multiple existential threats to our very survival, you might expect that our leading environmental thinkers and activists would be looking into those "radical" solutions, and especially be thinking "beyond capitalism." Don't hold your breath. From the perennial boosters of "green capitalism" and tech-fixits like Lester Brown, Al Gore, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman, (17) to the apostles of "degrowth" like Tim Jackson, the New Economic Foundation's Andrew Simms, and Serge Latouche, for decades, mainstream debate has been confined to hopelessly discredited, self-contradictory and empirically implausible save-the-planet strategies - held in check by their protagonists' fear of challenging the principal driver of global ecological collapse, capitalism. Thus, speaking for the mainstream, the United Kingdom's Jonathon Porritt, former Green Party co-chair and director of Friends of the Earth, and Tony Blair's environment czar, wrote in 2005 that "Logically, whether we like it or not, sustainability is therefore going to have to be delivered within that all-encompassing capitalist framework. We don't have time to wait for any big-picture successor." (18) Thus, even as his own studies demonstrate how (market-driven) out-of-control growth is burning up the planet, the world's preeminent climate scientist-turned-activist James Hansen can't bring himself to associate with the left, to think outside the capitalist box, to abandon his doomed-to-fail carbon tax scheme and join the struggle against the economic system that is destroying the future for his grandchildren. (19) And even as he cites ever more dire warnings from climate scientists, Bill McKibben, the world's premier climate protest organizer, won't touch the third rail of capitalism because he's not a socialist and because he doesn't want to alienate his liberal base and wealthy foundation funders. (20)

"The Problem Isn't Climate Change, It's Capitalism" - Naomi Klein

With her impassioned and eloquent new blockbuster, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, (21) Naomi Klein has finally broken open the mainstream discourse, cataloguing the failures, contradictions and corruptions of so-called green capitalism and raising anew the question of "big-picture successors." Klein nails climate change squarely on the door of capitalism with a withering indictment: "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war." Climate scientists tell us that "our only hope of keeping warming below . . . 2 degrees Celsius is for wealthy countries to cut their emissions by somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 percent a year." "The 'free' market simply cannot accomplish this task." In bold, almost Marxist eco-socialist phraseology, she tells us that "What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity's use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered growth . . ." (p. 21). In one of many vivid paragraphs in this powerful book she writes:

Extractivism is a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking. It is the opposite of stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continue. Extractivism is the mentality of the mountaintop remover and the old-growth clear-cutter. It is the reduction of life into objects for the use of others, giving them no integrity or value of their own - turning living complex ecosystems into "natural resources," mountains into "overburden" (as the mining industry terms the forests, rocks, and streams that get in the way of its bulldozers). It is also the reduction of human beings either into labor to be brutally extracted, pushed beyond limits, or, alternatively, into social burden, problems to be locked out at borders and locked away in prisons or on reservations. In an extractivist economy, the interconnections among various objectified components of life are ignored; the consequences of severing them are of no concern. (p. 169)

Klein presents a devastating critique of capitalism. But for all of that, it's not clear that she has an alternative to capitalism. Since she doesn't call for "system change" to, say, eco-socialism, it's hard to see how we can make the profound, radical changes she says we need to make to prevent ecological collapse. Klein calls for "managed degrowth" of the "careless" economy of fossil-fuel "extractivism" - offset by the growth of a "caring economy" of more investment in emissions reduction, environmental remediation, the caregiving professions, green jobs, renewable energy, mass transit and so on (p. 88-95). I couldn't agree more. But how can we change these priorities when the economy remains in the hands of huge corporations who want to keep the priorities just as they are?

Klein rejects "the reigning ideology," the "economic model" of "market fundamentalism" and "neo-liberalism." But that's not the same thing as rejecting capitalism.

Here and there she argues for economic planning and democratic control of the economy. She says we need a "comprehensive vision for what should emerge in place of our failing system, as well as serious strategies for how to achieve those goals (p. 9-10)," "we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet" (p. 25). She says the "central battle of our time [is] whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market" (p. 40), and "a core battle must be the right of citizens to democratically decide what kind of economy they need" (p. 125). But since she does not explicitly call for abolishing capitalism, socializing the economy and instituting society-wide, bottom-up, democratic economic planning, how is society supposed to democratically decide what kind of economy they want?

Under capitalism, those decisions are the prerogative of corporate boards. We don't get to vote on the economy, but we need to. She calls for "slapping the invisible hand" of the market and "reining in corporate greed" (p. 120, 125). But she does not call for nationalizing or socializing the major corporations, for abolishing private property in the major means of production (the institutional basis of corporate greed) and replacing it with socialized property. She rejects "the reigning ideology," the "economic model" of "market fundamentalism" and "neo-liberalism" (p. 19-21). But that's not the same thing as rejecting capitalism. "Slapping the invisible hand" of the market system is not the same thing as replacing the invisible hand of the market with the visible hand of generalized economic planning. She rejects the "free" "unfettered" market (p. 21), but she does not reject the market system per se.

So, for example, she supports feed-in tariffs "to ensure that anyone who wants to get into renewable power generation can do so in a way that is simple, stable, and profitable" (p. 131). She calls for reviving industrial planning to prioritize public transit and smart grids, returning some utilities to the public sector, taxing the rich to pay for more public spending, and decentralizing and localizing control over utilities, energy and agriculture (p. 21, 120, 130-134, and chapter 4 passim). And she supports decentralized local planning and state industrial policy to generate "green" jobs (p. 127, 133). But this is all within the framework of a standard capitalist economy. She does not call for generalized economic planning.

In her vision of the future, it appears that corporations will still run the world's economies and capitalist governments will still run politics. Thus: "Since the [oil] companies are going to continue being rich for the foreseeable future, the best hope of breaking the political deadlock is to radically restrict their ability to spend their profits on buying, and bullying, politicians . . ."the solutions are clear. Politicians must be prohibited from receiving donations from the industries they regulate, or from accepting jobs in lieu of bribes, political donations need to be both fully disclosed and tightly capped . . ." (p. 151-152). And the way to do that, she says, is for popular mobilization to force companies and governments to accept reforms: "[i]f enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one, and the political class will have to respond, both by making resources available and by bending the free market rules that have proven so pliable when elite interests are in peril." (p. 6, 152, 450). In short, it's all a bit confusing and somewhat contradictory, at least in my reading.

Unless we can come up with an alternative economic system that will guarantee reemployment for all those millions of workers in industries around the world that will have to be retrenched or shut down to get that 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, we won't be able to mobilize them to fight for the radical changes they and we all need to save ourselves.

It would be good if Klein could be pressed to clarify whether she thinks the climate crisis, and the broader "extractivist" ecological crisis we face, is intrinsic to the nature of the capitalist system or just market fundamentalism. And if it's inherent to capitalism, then what would she replace it with? Because otherwise, given her ambivalence and lack of clarity, the message of her book can read like Occupy. When New York bankers replied to the Occupy movement in 2011, "Don't like capitalism? What's your alternative?" for all its audacity and militancy, Occupy had no alternative to offer. We can't build much of a movement without something to fight for, not just against. Klein herself says, "saying no is not enough. If opposition movements are to do more than burn bright and then burn out, they will need a comprehensive vision for what should emerge in the place of our failing system, as well as serious political strategies for how to achieve those goals." (p. 9-10). Yet as far as I can see, Klein doesn't articulate a vision of an alternative economic system to replace our failing system, capitalism.

As to strategy, Klein says, "Only mass social movements can save us." She hopes that mass mobilizations, protests and blockades will be enough to "bend the rules of the market," to force corporations to change enough to save the humans. But these problems are not going to be solved just by protests and "blockadia." They require completely different institutional arrangements: the abolition of private property in the major means of production, the abolition of the market domination of the economy, the institution of generalized, direct economic planning, and the institution of economic democracy across the entire economy not just local communities, because at the end of the day, corporations can't "bend the rules of the market" enough to save the humans, and still stay in business in a competitive market economy.

Moreover, unless we can come up with an alternative economic system that will guarantee reemployment for all those millions of workers in industries around the world that will have to be retrenched or shut down to get that 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, we won't be able to mobilize them to fight for the radical changes they and we all need to save ourselves. If Naomi Klein really means to call for a mass movement to degrow the economy within the framework of capitalism, that sounds like a non-starter to me. Three hundred thousand people came out into the streets of New York to demand that the powers that be do something about climate change. But they were not demanding "degrowth" or industrial shutdowns. Given capitalism, how could they?
 
The Necessity of Economic Planning and Public Ownership of the Major Means of Production

The only way we can brake fossil fuel-driven global warming is to socialize the fossil fuel industries, buy them out if necessary, but nationalize them, socialize them one way or another, so we can phase them out, conserve the fuels we absolutely can't do without, at least for a transition period, and reallocate their resources to things society does need. And not just the fossil fuel industries and electric utilities. We would have to socialize most of the rest of the industrial economy as well because if we suppress fossil fuel production by anywhere near 90 percent, then autos, petrochemicals, aviation, shipping, construction, manufacturing and many other industries would grind to a halt. Naomi Klein quotes a top UN climate expert who remarked, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, that given all the failed promises to date, given the backsliding and soaring carbon dioxide emissions, "the only way" climate negotiators "can achieve a 2-degree goal is to shut down the whole global economy." (22) Well, I don't know if we need to shut down the whole world industrial economy, but it's difficult to see how we can halt the rise in greenhouse gas emissions unless we shut down a whole lot of industries around the world.

The Imperative of Deindustrialization in the North

The "degrowth" people are right in part. But there are two huge problems with their model. First, given capitalism, any degrowth serious enough to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions would bring economic collapse, depression and mass unemployment before it brought sustainability. That's why pro-market décroissance fantasists like Serge Latouche call for degrowth but then, quelle surprise, don't want to actually degrow the GDP, let alone overthrow capitalism. (23) But there is just no way around this dilemma. With no way to magically "dematerialize" production so we can keep growing the economy without growing emissions, then cutting carbon dioxide emissions by even 50 percent, let alone 90 percent, would require retrenching and closing large numbers of large and small corporations around the world and that means gutting the global GDP - with all that implies.

The only way to get "managed degrowth" without ending up in another Great Depression, is to do so in an entirely different, nonmarket or mostly nonmarket economy.

With most of the capitalist world economy on the verge of falling back into recession, even the slightest hint of any slowdown in plundering the planet sends markets tumbling. Even the thought that Ebola could slow the growth of trade sends jitters through the markets. (24) That's why, given capitalism, no one except (securely tenured) professors would ever take the idea of "degrowth" seriously. (25) And yet, given that we live on a finite planet, the fact remains that we can't save humanity unless we radically degrow the overconsuming economies in the North. So we do need degrowth. But the only way to get "managed degrowth" without ending up in another Great Depression, is to do so in an entirely different, nonmarket or mostly nonmarket economy.

The second problem is that we don't need to "degrow" the whole economy. We need to completely abolish all kinds of useless, wasteful, polluting, harmful industries. Yet we also need to grow other parts of the economy: renewable energy, public health care, public transit, the bicycle-industrial complex, durable and energy efficient housing, durable vehicles, appliances and electronics, public schools, public services of all kinds, environmental remediation and reforestation - the "caring economy" Naomi Klein talks about and about which I have also written. But the problem for Jackson, Klein and the rest of the degrowth school, is that - given private property in the means of production, given the anarchy of production for the free market, given the "iron law" of priority to profit maximization and given the imperatives of competition - there is just no way to prioritize people and planet over growth and profits in a market economy.

Global sustainability thus requires selective deindustrialization in the North combined with sustainable industrialization in the South.

The only way to rationally reorganize the economy, to deemphasize the "careless" industries and emphasize the "caring" industries, is to do this ourselves, directly, by consciously, collectively and democratically planning most of the industrial economy, even closely coordinating most of the world's industrial economies. To do this, we would have to socialize virtually all large-scale industry (though, as I've said elsewhere, this does not mean we need to nationalize mom-and-pop restaurants, small-scale owner-operator businesses, worker cooperatives, small farms and the like, though even some of those would need to be tightly regulated). Naomi Klein is rightly skeptical about "energy nationalization on existing models," because Brazil's Petrobras or Norway's Statoil are "just as voracious in pursuing high-risk pools of carbon as their private sector counterparts." (26) But that's because the "existing model" they operate in is the capitalist world economy - so even if they're state-owned, they still need to abide by the rules of the market. This only underlines the eco-socialist argument that the only way we can stop global warming and solve our many interrelated environmental crises is with a mostly planned, mostly publicly owned, mostly nonmarket economy. (27)

Contraction and Convergence

Given the state of the planet right now, the only way we can move toward sustainability is if the industrialized nations and China impose an emergency contraction: radically suppress, and in many cases close down all kinds of useless, superfluous, wasteful, polluting industries and sectors. At the same time, most of the global South is far from overconsuming the planet; they're underconsuming most everything. Four hundred million Indians lack electrical service. Most of the developing world still lacks basic infrastructure, schools, health care, decent housing, jobs and much else. So the South certainly needs "development," but if the South develops on the basis of capitalism, like China, this will only wreck the world faster. Global sustainability thus requires selective deindustrialization in the North combined with sustainable industrialization in the South - a global contraction and convergence centered on a sustainable (and hopefully happy) medium that will put the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions and enable the whole world to live in tolerable comfort while conserving resources for our children, and set aside sufficient resources for the other species with whom we share this planet to live out their lives.

If you listen to mainstream environmentalists like Bill McKibben and 350.org, what you hear is that the solution to the climate crisis is "to get off fossil fuels and switch to renewables." But while electricity generation is a big part of the problem, it is by no means all or even most of it. That's because greenhouse gas emissions are produced across the entire economy, not only or even mainly by electric generating stations. As the table below shows, in the United States, electricity generation (including heat) accounts for 32 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. (Subtracting heat from this total, electricity generation likely accounts for about a quarter of all US emissions.) Transportation is a close second, accounting for 28 percent, industry, 20 percent, agriculture, 10 percent and so on. (28) In China, electricity and heat account for 50 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, industry, 31 percent, transportation, 8 percent (2011). (29) In France, electricity accounts for a trivial share of the country's carbon dioxide emissions because nearly 80 percent of France's electricity is produced by nuclear power plants.

Table: Total US Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector in 2012

Electricity Generation 32 percent
Transportation 28 percent
Industry 20 percent
Commercial and Residential 10 percent
Agriculture 10 percent

Source: US EPA "Sources of greenhouse gas emissions."

Thus, the first thing to be noted from this table is that even if we shut down every coal, oil and gas-fired electric generating plant in the United States tomorrow and replaced them all with solar and wind, that would reduce US carbon dioxide emissions by less than one-third. That means that if we want to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent in the next 35 years, we would have to drastically suppress emissions across the rest of the economy. We would have to drastically retrench and even close down not only fossil fuel companies like Peabody Coal and ExxonMobil, but the industries that are based on fossil fuels - autos, aircraft, airlines, shipping, petrochemicals, manufacturing, construction, agribusiness, refrigeration and air conditioning and so on - and companies like GM, Boeing, United Airlines, FedEx, Cargill, Carrier and so on.

If we have to decarbonize by 6 to 10 percent per year, to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 to contain global warming, how can we do that without radically retrenching and closing down large numbers of power plants, mines, factories, mills, processing and other industries and services from the United States to China?

If we're going to stop the plunder of the planet's last accessible resources, then we would also have to retrench or close down lots of mines, lumber companies, pulp and paper and wood products companies, industrial fishing operations, industrial farming, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), junk food producers, private water companies, disposable products of all sorts, packaging, retail and so on - companies like Rio Tinto, Georgia Pacific, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Tyson Foods, H&M, Walmart etc.

And if we're going to stop fouling our nest, poisoning our fresh water, soil, the oceans and atmosphere with myriad toxic chemicals, then we would have to shut down, or at the very least, drastically retrench and rigorously regulate the world's worst toxic producers - chemicals, pesticides, plastics etc., companies like Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and others.

I know this sounds completely crazy. But I don't see what other conclusion we can draw from the scientific evidence. If we have to decarbonize by 6 to 10 percent per year, to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 to contain global warming, how can we do that without radically retrenching and closing down large numbers of power plants, mines, factories, mills, processing and other industries and services from the United States to China? An unpleasant thought. But what other choice do we have? If we don't radically suppress greenhouse gas emissions, we're headed for global ecological collapse. And if we don't stop looting the world's resources and poisoning the air, land and water with every manner of toxics, what kind of world are we going to leave to our children?

Besides, these industries and companies are hardly immortal. Most of the worst environmentally destructive industries in the United States are businesses that have been built or massively expanded since World War II. Most of China's resource-wasting and polluting industries and coal-fired power plants have all been built in the last 20 to 30 years. Why can't these be dismantled or repurposed, if we need to do so to save the humans? This will cause dislocation for sure. But that's nothing compared to the dislocation we will face when droughts bring on the collapse of agriculture in the United States, when Shanghai and the Shenzhen sink beneath the waves, if we don't suppress carbon dioxide emissions, now.

The only way to save the planet is to stop converting so much of it into "product."

In the last analysis, the only way to save the planet is to stop converting so much of it into "product." Leave the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the gas under the grass - but also leave the trees in the forests, the fish in the sea, the minerals in the mountains, and find ways for our billions to live lightly on the earth.

I'm no Luddite (though as a skilled craftsman, I'm a sympathizer). I'm not suggesting we abandon modernity and go back to living in some pre-industrial state. After all, Europeans currently generate barely half the greenhouse gas emissions as Americans and they're not living in caves. Actually, they live a lot better than Americans, though they consume less, in large part because they don't fetishize individualism; they provide much more for each other through collective social services, publicly funded health care, and so on, so they don't need to earn as much to live better than Americans.

Even so, West European consumption is still far from sustainable. Europeans still need to suppress carbon dioxide emissions, curb many other pollutants and end useless consumption as well. Much is made, for example, of Germany's increasing use of renewable energy. But what difference does it make, really, if the Germans get 30 percent or even 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, if what they use that electricity for is to power huge factories producing an endless waste stream of oversized, over-accessorized, designed-to-be-obsolesced Mercedes Benz global warmers? What kind of "sustainability" is that?

I'm for modern technology - up to a point. I imagine any modern ecological society will still have some cars, planes, chemicals, plastic, cell phones and so on, though much less and many fewer of them. The problem is that so much of what we produce today is so unnecessary, harmful and unsustainable. Even though an ecological society would still need some cars and trucks, for example, to supplement expanded public transportation, it would not need hundreds of millions of new models every year. That's just such a waste. Cars could easily be built like my old '62 Volkswagen Beetle. That car can last practically forever since it was simple, built to be easily rebuilt, and every part is still in production. Why can't we make the few cars and trucks we need to be equally rebuildable and upgradeable, so they can last for decades, if not practically indefinitely, instead of the seven to 10 years they typically last these days? And why can't we share them, in public car-sharing collectives, instead of having millions of privately owned cars parked on the streets most of the time?

The endless production of disposable phones, clothes, houses, appliances, cars and more is killing the planet. So which is it to be? We save Apple or we save the humans (and the whales)?

The same goes for many other industries. China's Ministry of Housing admits that many of the "tofu" and "fast food" apartment blocks that builders have thrown up in the building boom of recent years are so shabby "they can only last 20 or 30 years." (30) Disposable housing? Why can't we build housing to last centuries, like the gorgeous cities of Europe, or as China's own cities used to be built before the current government demolished Ming and Ch'ing era neighborhoods to build tofu apartment blocks and useless vanity skyscrapers? This would save mountains of stone, steel, aluminum and glass, and Malaysian forests of wood flooring. China could close most of its coal-fired power plants, clear the air and replace them with nothing if they simply gave up manufacturing the export junk we don't need, and stopped building disposable housing and useless skyscrapers, roads and cars they don't need either.

Or again, Apple's brilliant engineers could easily design iPhones to last decades, to be upgradeable and completely recyclable. If we need smart phones in an ecological society, fine, but they need to be built like those Beetles. This would save lakes of petrochemicals, heavy metals, rare earth metals, not to mention the lives of Foxconn workers who jump out of their dormitory windows to their deaths in despair over the insane pace of production, the boredom of 8 to 16 hour days of repetitive work, and the hopelessness of their assembly-line future. Of course, Apple would go out of business tomorrow if it couldn't sell millions of "new" iThings every year. But the endless production of disposable phones, clothes, houses, appliances, cars and more is killing the planet. So which is it to be? We save Apple or we save the humans (and the whales)?

Jobs vs. Environment Is No Myth
 
The huge difficulty with this, aside from the other huge difficulty of how to get rid of capitalism, is that if we have to deindustrialize to save the environment, then this is going to cost jobs, not just a few coal-mining jobs, but millions of jobs across the industrialized and industrializing world from the United States to Europe, South Africa, Australia and China. Environmentalists often casually assert that "jobs vs. environment is a myth." I beg to differ. This is by far the biggest dilemma the environmental movement faces - and there are no simple "green jobs" "win-win" solutions - at least not within the framework of capitalism.

In China's Guangdong Province alone, there are something like 40 million manufacturing workers (that is, by comparison, more the three times the size of the entire US manufacturing workforce), the bulk of them dedicated to producing unsustainable, designed-to-be-obsolesced, disposable products, from plastic toys, shoes, clothes, flimsy appliances, short-lived tools, Christmas junk, to the highest tech iPhones, laptops, Panasonic flat-screen TVs, automobiles and more. As China opened up to become the workshop of the world, with its bottomless supply of ultra-cheap labor, many of the world's dirtiest, most wasteful and least sustainable industries migrated to its coastal enclave export zones. This production is poisoning Guangdong's rivers, aquifers, farm fields, food supplies and the air people breathe. A recent survey found that 40 percent of the rice served in Guangzhou restaurants was tainted with cadmium, a highly toxic heavy metal with serious health implications. Why? Because industrial plants including battery makers for those electronic devices and vehicles, the source of the cadmium, have been built right next to rice paddies. This is everywhere in China.

We're riding a global engine of ravenous resource consumption. We all know this can't go on forever, but the thought that it might come to a stop is so terrifying to all of us that most of the time we just want to live in denial.

Public water supplies throughout the region and most of China are, by government standards, "severely polluted" with industrial chemicals, heavy metals and myriad other toxics. A recent government survey found that 64 percent of urban drinking water supplies were unfit for human consumption. (31) Croplands are heavily polluted with pesticides, heavy metals, arsenic and other toxics. Already 20 percent of farmland has been declared too toxic to farm and that is widely thought to be an underestimate. The food is so polluted, the middle classes try to import as much as they can from the West, clearing out shelves of baby formula from New Zealand to Holland. Then there's the air pollution. Most of this pollution comes from the factories where those tens of millions of workers are laboring day and night producing all these unnecessary, short-lived, throwaway, disposable products, mostly for export. What kind of "miracle" is this?

I just do not see how China can put the brakes on its own ecological self-destruction, the destruction of the health of its people, and rein in the country's surging carbon dioxide emissions without closing down most of those industries. That is a problem. Forty million unemployed workers would be a big problem. And that's just Guangdong. (32) But undrinkable water, unsafe food, unbreathable air, polluted farmland, the cancer epidemic, rising temperatures and rising seas along coastal China are bigger problems. So there's just no way around this very inconvenient truth. Making bad stuff has to stop; stopping it will unemploy vast numbers of workers, and other, non-destructive, jobs have to be found or created for them. We're riding a global engine of ravenous resource consumption. We all know this can't go on forever, but the thought that it might come to a stop is so terrifying to all of us that most of the time we just want to live in denial. No wonder even many eco-socialists resist accepting the need to "degrow" the economy because, under capitalism, that would mean not just austerity, but starvation. That's a hard sell.

From Pennsylvania to Colorado, the surge in oil and gas production has brought the first good paying jobs many workers in those states have seen in decades and revived steel mills, abandoned industries and downtrodden towns across the industrial heartland - thanks to fracking. (33) In Canada, tar sands mining companies and pipeline companies have posted paying jobs to impoverished native Canadians. Indigenous resistance has powered the fight back against extreme extraction, tar sands, pipelines and polluted landscapes from Nigeria to Ecuador, and Canada to the United States, because these practices destroy their land, water and communities, and doom their children's futures.

Corporations can't change much and can't afford to put themselves out of business to save the humans, but society can afford to socialize those costs. It has to.

But indigenous communities are often split because they're so poor and so desperately need the jobs. Naomi Klein notes that, while many courageously and selflessly resist these extractive industries, "many indigenous people would view the extractive industries as their best of a series of bad options" in communities with no other economic development, and no other jobs or training. "As the offers from industry become richer . . . those who are trying to hold the line too often feel they have nothing to offer their people but continued impoverishment." A longtime Northern Cheyenne opponent of coal development told Klein, "I can't keep asking my people to suffer with me." (34)

This is the tragedy of capitalism versus the environment. What we need to do to save the humans tomorrow means economic collapse and mass unemployment today. Given that threat, unless workers are offered other jobs at comparable pay, not just "retraining" and a few months of unemployment insurance, it will be difficult if not impossible to win over many of them, and their unions, to support the sorts of radical changes we need to make to save them, us and the planet. That's why we have to fight for a full-employment economy, and that means an eco-socialist economy.

Green jobs are fine, as far as they go. But I don't see many millions of jobs polishing solar panels. And when I've visited windmill farms, there's no one around. We certainly can't save the world by producing millions of electric cars instead of millions of gasoline cars because they're both polluting and both consume too many resources. Given a finite planet, we don't need to produce green cars so much as massively fewer cars, fewer airplanes, fewer ships, fewer buildings, fewer iPhones, much less electricity in the North (though much more in the South), fewer processed foods, and lots of other things we currently take for granted. We need to do a whole lot less manufacturing, less mining, less drilling, less production, less "value added" processing, especially in the North. In Naomi Klein's words: "Humanity has to go a whole lot easier on the living systems that sustain us, acting regeneratively rather than extractively." That means we need to create a completely different kind of economy in which "work" does not necessarily mean turning natural "resources" into product so much as living, as Klein says, "reciprocally" with nature.

Eco-Socialism, "Sacrifice" and Slow Food

Contraction and convergence, and eco-socialism based on planning, democracy, equality and sharing are, I think, the only path to a sustainable economy and society. Corporations can't change much and can't afford to put themselves out of business to save the humans, but society can afford to socialize those costs. It has to. And only society can reorganize production to provide those alternative jobs. There's plenty of work to be done. It's just work that's never profitable to capitalists. Instead of building a disposable world, we need to build a durable world. Instead of producing junk we don't need, we need to produce the things we're not producing now, especially those "caring industries." We need to construct universal public health care, universal high-quality public education, universal organic farming, and environmental remediation. We need to retrofit, upgrade and restore existing housing, build eco-housing, co-housing, reforestation, and create more cultural and recreational opportunities. Instead of consuming the planet as fast as possible, we need an entirely different mode of life based on minimizing, not maximizing resource consumption, on living lightly on the planet, on conserving resources for future generations and sharing them with each other and with other species. (35)

Far from austerity and sacrifice, an eco-socialist society would free us from the endless treadmill of consumerism.

Does this mean that we have to "sacrifice," and accept a lower standard of living? Well, if by "standard of living" we mean American-style instant gratification and insatiable consumerism, then yes. Goodbye to all that. Limitless free choice is great. But there are costs to that, unbearable costs if we want to preserve a world worth living in. I'm sure we'll have to give up new cars and new iPhones every year, jet flights whenever we like, and ever-wider screen TVs. Do we really need those to be happy? We'll have to make do with bicycles and public transit for most getting around. But it turns out people are healthier and happier when we walk, bike and don't have to drive. (36) We'll have to give up FedEx overnight book deliveries from Amazon. But wouldn't the revival of local bookshops be worth the "sacrifice?" We'll have to give up fossil fuel-powered leaf blowers and riding lawnmowers. I'll vote for that. We'll have to radically reduce international trade and reproduce most of what we need - and used to produce - locally, instead of by semi-slave labor in China. We'll have to get used to seasonal crops again, to give up fresh raspberries air-freighted to my local New York supermarket in the middle of winter from Chile because that's just ridiculously unsustainable. On the other hand, seasonal crops - asparagus in March, strawberries in May and June, apples and peaches all summer long, blackberries in September, squash in October, were one of the great joys of my childhood growing up in the Northwest. I could suffer those again.

Actually, I expect we'll have to give up meat and become vegetarians or mostly vegetarians because the environmental cost of feeding billions of people a meat-based diet is just wildly unsustainable. (37) It's not so nice for the critters we eat either. But we'll be healthier for it. We'll have to make do with "slow food," "slow fashion" and "slow travel." But what's the rush? As Carl Honoré, a founder of the slow movement puts it, the slow philosophy "is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It's about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting." (38) The trade-offs are more than worth it.

As a professional carpenter-builder, I can't wait to "sacrifice" by turning my attention to building, rebuilding, retrofitting, upgrading and restoring homes for people who need them, public buildings for the common good, restoring our cites and so on, instead of building penthouse condos for bankers. There's plenty of relatively low-carbon work for us builders to do - plowing under the worst suburbs, converting the best shopping malls to retirement communities, converting McMansions to co-housing, converting Citibank branches, nail salons and retail stores to community centers, schools, libraries, theaters, workers' housing, tearing down the commercial blight of US cities and towns and restoring historic architecture, urban gardens, expanding urban transit and much more. More than a century ago, long before the word "ecology" and phrase "slow food" were coined, William Morris summed up my ideal of the sensuous pleasure of social and creative work, of living better, not higher, in the following words:

I think that to all living things there is a pleasure in the exercise of their energies, and that even beasts rejoice in being lithe and swift and strong. But a man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of the human race, he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our days will be happy and eventful. Signs of Change (1896)

And we could retrain those liberated ex-bankers and "mad men" in useful skills so they can take pride in creating beauty instead of horror and no longer have to be ashamed to tell their kids what they do for a living. The possibilities are endless. Indeed, far from austerity and sacrifice, an eco-socialist society would free us from the endless treadmill of consumerism, the rat race of competition, the mindless drudgery of commodity production, the 24/7 work-life of multitasking, enabling us to take pleasure in unalienating work for our own enjoyment, and for the good of society, to develop our many capacities and talents in our work lives and also to shorten the work day and year so that we can enjoy the leisure once promised but never delivered by capitalism.

This paper is based on talks I gave at Hofstra University and the Climate Convergence at St. John's College in New York City on the eve of the great People's Climate March. I would like to thank the audiences and professors Martin Melkonian and Phil Gasper for their thoughtful comments and criticisms. I also want to thank my wife, Professor Nancy Holmstrom, for her helpful insights and ruthless editing.

Footnotes

1. See eg. James Hansen et al., "Target atmospheric carbon dioxide: where should humanity aim?" Open Atmospheric Science Journal 2 (2008), p. 217, at http://www.bentham.org/open/toasci/openaccess2.htm

2. IEA, World Energy Outlook, November 2012.

3. PWC, "Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality: low carbon index 2014," (September 2014), quote from the Foreward, at www.pwc.co.uk/assets/pdf/low-carbon-economy-index-2014.pdf.

4. Ian Talley et al., "Global slowdown threatens recovery," The Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2014. Landon Thomas Jr. and Liz Alderman, "IMF calls on cash-rich countries to step up large public investments," The New York Times, October 5, 2014.

5. "Obama says he's added pipeline ‘to circle Earth and then some,'" The Hill, March 22, 2004 at http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/217607-obama-says-hes-added-enough-pipeline-to-encircle-earth-and-then-some-defends-position-on-keystone-pipeline.

6. Michael Klare, The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources (New York: Picador 2012). See also, Ugo Bardi, Extracted (White River Junction: Chelsea Green 2013).

7. Craig Simons, The Devouring Dragon (New York: St. Martins 2013). David Smith, "Elephant killings in Mozambique happening on 'industrialised' scale," The Guardian, September 23, 2014. On China's ravenous consumption of global minerals, oil, natural gas etc. see Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi, By All Means Necessary (Oxford: OUP 2014).

8. Li Jing and Nectar Gan, "Orange pollution alert raised as Beijing smog reaches 'hazardous' level," South China Morning Post, October 9, 2014. Idem, "Factories shut and buildings sites suspended as Beijing fights back against 'hazardous' smog," South China Morning Post, October 10, 2014. I discussed China's auto craze, and other missed opportunities, in my "Creative destruction: capitalist development and China's environment," New Left Review no. 222 (March/April 1997), p. 1-41; and in "New problems for old: the institution of capitalist environmental irrationality in China," Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No.2 (1999) p. 249-274.

9. In June 2011, visiting NYU economist Nouriel Roubini told Reuters: "I was recently in Shanghai and I took their high-speed train to Hangzhou," he said, referring to the new Maglev line that has cut traveling time between the two cities to less than an hour from four hours previously. The brand new high-speed train is half-empty and the brand new station is three-quarters empty. Parallel to that train line, there is also a new highway that looked three-quarters empty. Next to the train station is also the new local airport of Shanghai and you can fly to Hangzhou," he said. There is no rationale for a country at that level of economic development to have not just duplication but triplication of those infrastructure projects." Kevin Lim, "'Meaningful probability' of a China hard landing: Roubini," Reuters, June 13, 2011.

10. Eg. "Housing oversupply causing major crisis for Chinese economy, NTD.TV, May 16, 2014 at http://www.ntd.tv/en/programs/news-politics/china-forbidden-news/20140516/143998-housing-oversupply-causing-major-crisis-for-chinese-economy-.html "China's real estate bubble," CBS 60 Minutes, August 11, 2013 at http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/chinas-real-estate-bubble/. Robin Banerji and Patrick Jackson, "China's ghost towns and phantom malls," BBC News Online, August 13, 2012 at http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19049254. Vincent Fernando, CFA, "There are now enough vacant properties in China to house over half of America," Business Insider, September 8, 2010 at http://www.businessinsider.com/there-are-now-enough-vacant-properties-in-china-to-house-over-half-of-america-2010-9

11. Eg. "Living very large," The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2012.

12. Joseph White, "Fuel efficiency slows as SUV sales rise," The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2014.

13. Alexandra Harney, The China Price (New York: Penguin 2008).

14. New York: Penguin 2013.

15. Elizabeth Kline, op cit. p. 3, 124-125. Energy consumption: FAO, cited in "Fabric and your carbon footprint, O Ecotextiles, March10, 2013, at http://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/fabric-and-your-carbon-footprint/

16. WWF, The State of the Planet at http://www.wwf.org.uk/about_wwf/other_publications/living_planet_report_2014/#.VC_kNlbrPRp
The quotations are from Damian Carrington, "Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF," The Guardian, September 29, 1014. See also George Monbiot's blog commentary: "It's time to shout stop on this war on the living world," The Guardian, posted October 1, 2014 at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/oct/01/george-monbiot-war-on-the-living-world-wildlife

17. See his New York Times column of September 20, 2014.

18.Capitalism as if the World Matters (London: Earthscan 2005) p. 84.

19. On the contradictions of Hansen's "carbon tax and dividend" scheme, see my "Green capitalism: the god that failed," Real-World Economics Review no. 56 (2011) www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue56/Smith56.pdf, reprinted in truthout.org. Cf. James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren (New York: Bloomsbury 2009)

20. Vivian Krausse, "Rockefellers behind ‘scruffy little outfit,'" Financial Post, February 14, 2013 at http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/02/14/rockefellers-behind-scruffy-little-outfit/?__federated=1

21. New York (Simon & Schuster 2014)

22. Klein, op. cit. p. 87.

23. Serge Latouche, Farewell to Growth (Malden MA: Polity Press 2009), p. 66, 91 and passim.

24. Eg. "Global growth fears send markets tumbling," BBC News, October 7, 2014. "Dow tumbles as Ebola fears, in part, rattle markets," NBC News, October 15, 2014.

25. "Beyond growth or beyond capitalism," Real-World Economics no. 53 (2010) at http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue53/Smith53.pdf, reprinted in Truthout.org [http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21215-beyond-growth-or-beyond-capitalism].

26. Klein, op. cit. p. 130.

27. See my "Capitalism and the destruction of life on earth: six theses on saving the humans," Real-World Economics Review no. 64 (2013)

28. U.S. EPA, "Sources of greenhouse gas emissions 2012" at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources/electricity.html. http://cait.wri.org/cait.php?page=sectors

29. IEA, "carbon dioxide Emissions from fuel combustion 2013," (OECD/IEA 2013), p. 26-27 at http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/co2emissionsfromfuelcombustionhighlights2013.pdf.

30. Quoted in Lu Chen, "China's apartments built 'fast food' style starting to crumble," Epoch Times, April 10, 2014.

31. Cecilia Torajada and Asit K. Biswas, "The problem of water management," China Daily, March 5, 2013. Gong Jing and Liu Hongqiao, "Half of China's urban drinking water fails to meet standards," China Dialogue, June 6, 2013 at https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/6074-Half-of-China-s-urban-drinking-water-fails-to-meet-standards.

32. China has more than 104 million manufacturing workers - about twice the number of manufacturing workers in the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the UK combined. Harney, op. cit. p. 8.

33. Nelson Schwartz, "Boom in energy spurs industry in rust belt," The New York Times, September 8, 2014.

34. This Changes Everything, p. 86.

35. Adam Parsons, "Sharing as the new common sense in a post-growth world," Share the World's Resources, August 29, 2014 at http://www.sharing.org. The website has a number of other excellent articles on this and related topics.

36. Ian Johnston, "Taking public transport instead of driving to work makes people happier, study suggests, The Independent, September 15, 2014.

37. Eg. Tony Weiss, The Ecological Hoofprint (London: Zed Books 2013).

38. Eg. Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness (New York: HarperCollins 2004).

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Richard Smith

Richard Smith is an economic historian. He wrote his UCLA history Ph.D. thesis on the transition to capitalism in China and held post-docs at the East-West Center in Honolulu and Rutgers University. He has written on China, capitalism and the global environment and on related issues for New Left Review, Monthly Review, The Ecologist, the Journal of Ecological Economics, Real-World Economics Review, Adbusters magazine and other publications. He is presently completing a book on China's communist-capitalism and ecological collapse.

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