In recent years we, as a collective, have witnessed the ever-growing emergency of the climate crisis from Antarctica’s melting ice caps to Australia’s bushfires and, evidently, the earth is in dire need of radical change before we reach the point of no return. This is just one issue that we are facing today. On the other side of the coin, we are able to notice the fast-approaching recession which is building itself as a partial result of the ongoing pandemic we are facing.
The collapse of the free market and plummeting economy (within the timespan of approximately 9 months) has proven the capitalist system unworthy and undesirable to many.
With both the climate and economic crises looming onto the horizon, many political theorists have conjured up potential solutions to these, in which we could resolve these horrid and indeed life-threatening issues. One of which seemed to stand out to me in particular; eco-socialism. This is a term based on three key principles, according to John Molyneux and Jess Spear, they are as follows:
i.) Although products of human nature, the crises are not a result of our individual ignorance or behaviour, but of the economic and social capitalist system which dominates the world to a large extent.
ii.) The climate crisis cannot be solved in isolation as it also encompasses larger effects such as the exploitation and oppression of the working classes as well as colonial, racial and gender oppression. The fight for climate change also includes the fight for equality, in regards to intersectionality.
iii.) The solutions to these crises are interconnected and inherently socialist. They are based upon ecological stability and public ownership as well as the democratic will of the people rather than the profit and greed of the ruling class.
With these three points in mind, we may start to picture a way in which both issues could be combatted, or at the very least, improved. Although there are many hurdles to jump over when planning to achieve the goals on such a large scale, there is one obstacle in particular that stands in the way; the monopolies and corporations of the bourgeoisie. COVID-19 has highlighted the disastrous nature of capitalism in many ways; just one example of which being that on the subject of a vaccine for the virus as we are not watching organisations cooperating in search of one but rather watching 99 corporations compete instead. Is the health of the general population that trivial that market competition must come before it?.
When the entire world came to a complete standstill in March of 2020, the capitalist system had shown itself to be weak and vulnerable to any sort of halt in the laws of supply and demand. The competitive market had ceased to exist as non-essential commodities were temporarily unavailable. However, not only this, but in the course of the same lockdown, the environment had started to re-generate itself in natural ways; just one example of this being Venice’s canals producing clearer waters, the first time in 60 years.
Only months later the UK had, and still arguably has, the worst approach to the virus in all of Europe. Whilst attempting to boost the economy with the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme during the month of August, the pandemic worsened coming into the Autumn months, leading to thousands more cases and deaths as a result of the virus. In the heat of this it seems that the UK government has to pick their own red or blue pill. One being to ‘save the economy' and the other, to save people’s lives.
As the general nature of capitalism is surplus, the so-called ‘free market’ would not survive without it on the basis that commodities are bought and sold. We recognise that this is a huge flaw in the capitalist system as those who benefit from it may have their only priority being that the economy will boom, regardless of the environmental disaster or the exploitation by which the capitalist comes to possess this surplus as theirs. This is the biggest reason why capitalism cannot coexist with the prospect of the healthy environmental future that we strive for. A socialist system, on the basis of ecological and social intersectionality, is the best way to save our planet from both the detrimental climate crisis and the disastrous economic one.
The concept of competition rather than cooperation takes the driver’s seat in the decision-making process on the ideal that the capitalist will possess some form of profit as their end goal. This process causes the economic boom as well as the recession which comes directly after. This cycle repeats itself over and over for the capitalist’s accumulation of their commodities, completely disregarding any concept outside of expansion, production and competition, such as the ecological emergency which the world is facing, as well as the ongoing pandemic.
To put it simply, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism as we have no choice but to play into the capitalist’s game of supply and demand because even our necessities in life are sold as such commodities for their profit and greed. In order to combat this, eco-socialism can be the only feasible way forward to both actively work to save our planet as well as stop the cycle of economic based depression and recession, and to prevent capitalists sacrificing our livelihoods for their own personal gain.
Alannagh Doherty is a 21 year old from Derry and is a final year student studying Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast.