Is non-extraction the answer?


In response to growing discussion of ‘zero growth’ ideas among some environmentalists, Alan MacSimoin asks Is non-extraction the answer?

In recent years, with climate change dominating headlines regularly, it has become popular among some environmentalists to propose non-extraction of fossil fuels as a viable way to reduce the effects climate change. But if this idea was taken up what would be the result? Less oil & gas being processed means what is available will rise in price. That’s the logic of capitalism. And having to pay even more for home heating and cooking is not going to change the habits of the wealthy but would have a big impact on most of our pockets. Making things even more expensive than they are at present will not exactly endear environmentalists to most people.
What is needed is a plan that deals with the root cause of the problem, which is the system that puts the profits of the few before the welfare of the many. A regular and reliable free public transport system would be a great way to reduce car usage. A rebuilding of the once extensive rail networks would lessen our dependence on air and road travel.

How about an end to the ‘market logic’ where goods (cars, washing machines, fridges, etc.) are deliberately designed to only last so long, so that we have go out and buy new ones every few years. Or stopping the massive diversion of resources to military use? I don’t think this can be done on a big enough scale under capitalism. A system based on endless accumulation of wealth does not take a long view, it knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

This doesn’t mean we just sit on our hands until a majority agree with overthrowing our rulers. Some useful changes can be achieved, like a switch to low energy light bulbs or changing the building regulations to force builders to insulate to a very high standard.

But this will not be enough and the working class will be expected to pay the bill (as we already see with the bin tax, and as will happen with proposed carbon taxes). A revolutionary change to a system which is run by the majority in their own interests is the only guarantee of sorting out climate chaos.

If a rich minority can buy their way out of the worst effects of climate change, why should they get too worried about the rest of us? They certainly don’t show much concern for those of us depending on a crumbling public health service or even about the needless deaths of so many in the less developed countries.

This article is from
Workers Solidarity 101, January - February 2008