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Solidarity Federation (SolFed)

The Big Green Con: Seeing Through the Sham of “Green” Capitalism

Raging deforestation, degradation of the soil, sea and atmosphere and rising greenhouse gas emissions. With current concerns over the environment and future of the planet, it seems every business under the sun is doing their utmost to jump on the green bandwagon and convince us of their sound ecological credentials.

Along with this, all sorts of consum-er products are advertised with buzz words like “ethically traded”, and “carbon neutral”. Magazines from The Ecologist to The Observer wax lyrical about how we can all be greener and do our bit to save the planet. The implication here seems to be that if we all buy the “right” products, recycle our rubbish and take a few steps to cut down on our energy emissions then, hey presto!, the planet will be magically saved.

The truth of the matter, of course, is that addressing today’s ecological crisis requires something more substantial than a few tokenistic lifestyle changes. It is now an established fact that levels of consumption in most advanced capitalist economies are way beyond what is sustainable. Nevertheless, “greenwash” – companies using advertising and PR to misrepresent or exaggerate their green credentials – is all the rage as corporations seek to cash in on new markets created by rising environmental consciousness. “Green” consumerism is about increasing consumption, not reducing it, or in Andrew Watson’s words “is largely a cynical attempt to maintain profit margins”. Watson eloquently sums up the con:

Environmental concern is commodified and transformed into ideological support for capitalism. Instead of raising awareness of the causes of the ecological crisis, green consumerism mystifies them. The solution is presented as an individual act rather than as the collective action of individuals struggling for social change. The corporations laugh all the way to the bank.

Green consumerism, like green capitalism, is a contradiction in terms. Just as capitalism exploits people, the natural world is one more resource to shamelessly exploit for profit. In predicting the current ecological crisis, Murray Bookchin, cited how the domination of the natural world emerged from the exploitation of human by human.

The Crisis Factory: the Roots of the Global Ecological Crisis

From Reykjavik to Rio, from Woolies to Whittards, the fall out from the economic downturn reverberates like a Mexican wave around virtually every inhabited corner of the globe. But this crisis, just as surely as it began, will eventually peter out – but not before wreaking misery and destitution upon millions. Alongside this latest recession is the environmental crisis, with far more irretrievable consequences, and a severity we are now only just waking up to.

Over 100 years ago Karl Marx foretold, how the inbuilt tendency of industrial capitalism to expand would give rise to not only continual cycles of boom and slump, but also the phenomenon we now call “globalisation”. More contemporary analysts, such as Murray Bookchin and the social ecology movement of the late 1960s and 70s, later warned of the profound ecological crisis that we now face.

The globalisation of the market economy in the last 30 or so years has been closely paralleled by the unprecedented rise of mega-corporations like Exxon-Mobil, ICI and Coca Cola that have successfully extended their influence around the world. Like all capitalist businesses, they are motivated by 2 key imperatives – the need to make profit and the need to increase market share and expand.

Furthermore, this drive to expand can only be fed by using up ever more resources to produce ever more commodities to generate ever more profits. Where there is economic growth, there is also mass consumption. But our capacity to consume, like the capacity of the natural world to fuel the commodity market, is to any rational mind, finite.

The Fine Print I:

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The Fine Print II:

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