How will we reach an ecological civilization and who will build it?

Chris Williams
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

[An important article: "I would argue that it's much more likely to come from social protest than from the eventual exhaustion of natural resources."- says Chris Williams - read the full article - Editors]

We are now officially living amid the sixth great extinction, according to scientists, but the global economy has still not shifted to prevent climate change's existential threat to human civilization and much of the biosphere.

Will transnational corporations and the political leaders that cater to them realize that it is in their own interest of self-preservation to address the problem of global climate change by halting the unrelenting use of fossil fuels? What would it take for the capitalist economy to prioritize ecological concerns? Perhaps, when 10 of the largest oil and gas companies sign a letter calling on world leaders to sign an effective deal at the international climate negotiations in Paris in December, progress is being made. In a statement that will likely surprise many, the CEOs of these 10 giant fossil fuel corporations state that, "we will continue in our efforts to help lower the current global emissions trajectory," as they apparently commit themselves to ensuring a "2°C future."

. . . 

Concerns about climate change, loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification and pollution are not sufficient to catalyze changes in the global economic order. Changes to capitalism are the most likely to come about internally through shifts in profitability that force shifts in economic practices; through class warfare, which makes some forms of production or social relations unacceptable; through profitable technological innovation; or through the political influence of corporations that identify and act on the geopolitical and economic interests of the capitalist class as a whole.

. . . 

. . . pollution and waste are not really a concern for capital until and unless they become a significant drain on overall profitability  - which could come from social protest, undermining their "social license to operate," as much as it comes from ecological limits. Indeed, I would argue that it's much more likely to come from social protest than from the eventual exhaustion of natural resources. Productivity demands and speed-ups become too great to bear, degrading people's work lives (in the workplace or the home), particularly in such an unequal world, and drive people to organize and protest. Or, the degradation of life caused by the polluting activities of capital on health and reproduction becomes too blatant. We are seeing both these trends around the world, in country after country. This is where the hope lies.