Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Ecological Crisis is a Political Crisis

I suggest reading the whole article.


By Kevin MacKay, originally published by MAHB
September 25, 2018


Stopping the destructive effects of industrial, capitalist civilization has now become the defining challenge of our age. If we don’t radically change our society’s course within the next 30 years, then a deep collapse and protracted Dark Age are all but assured. In order to confront this challenge, we need to understand what is causing civilization’s crisis, and most importantly, how the crisis can be resolved. At stake is nothing less than a viable future on this planet.


The tendency for societies to collapse under excessive energy demands is an important insight. However, what Tainter and Diamond failed to appreciate is how oligarchy is an even more fundamental cause of civilization collapse.

Oligarchic control compromises a society’s ability to make correct decisions in the face of existential threats. This explains a seeming paradox in which past civilizations have collapsed despite possessing the cultural and technological know-how needed to resolve their crises. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t understand the source of the threat or the way to avert it. The problem was that societal elites benefitted from the system’s dysfunctions and, prevented available solutions.


A 2014 study by American political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page revealed that the great majority of political decisions made in the United States reflect the interests of elites. After studying nearly 1,800 policy decisions passed between 1981 and 2002, the researchers argued that “both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.”

Today, oligarchic control over decision-making, and its catastrophic ecological effects, have never been clearer. In the U.S., Donald Trump and his billionaire-dominated cabinet are seeking to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, to question climate science, and to pursue a policy of “American energy dominance” that will dramatically expand production of fossil fuels.


To create a sustainable future, we must first learn the lessons of the past, and what archaeological research shows is that throughout history, civilizations that have been captive to the interests of an oligarchic elite have all collapsed. Today’s industrial, capitalist civilization is trapped in this same deadly cycle.


Radically transforming industrial, capitalist civilization won’t be easy. It will require movements for environmental sustainability, social justice, and economic fairness to come together, and to realize their common interest in dismantling the system of oligarchy and building a democratic, eco-socialist society.24 This “movement of movements” must put aside sectarian squabbles, and finally realize that the goals of economic justice, human rights, and ecological sustainability are all intrinsically linked.


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