Monday, 29 August 2011

The Whole Earth delusion

In a recent Guardian article environmentalist author Mark Lynas suggested that the green movement had lost its way. He had apparently experienced a 'eureka moment' reading hostile comments to an article he had written criticising GM foods. This was reinforced when he later read Stewart Brand's book Whole Earth Discipline. Like Brand, Lynas now argues that the green movement is actually a barrier to combating climate change and feeding the world. This, in a nutshell, is because we oppose nuclear power and GM technology.

Environmentalists such as Brand and Lynas have 'seen the light' and embraced capitalism as the mechanism to solve the worlds environmental problems. They believe that technology is the answer. I've read Whole Earth Discipline. Its a well argued and well written book, but it left me cold, so much so that I admit I didn't quite finish it, but by then I didn't need to. Of course it is full of hope, telling stories of how mobile phones, for example, have helped the poor to build businesses and make themselves better off. Does this mean that mobile phones are a good thing? Are they going to eliminate poverty? No, just that humans will use whatever tools at their disposal to help them overcome adversity. If it wasn't mobile phones it would be something else.

What Lynas and Brand want is for the green movement to embrace capitalism much like the way New Labour embraced the market. Lynas even talks about the green movement having its "clause four moment". New Labour tried to use market mechanisms to reduce inequality and poverty. It failed because those same mechanisms are the drivers of inequality and poverty. The proof of failure came in the fact that after 13 years of a New Labour government inequality in the UK had increased. Capitalism is the driver of environmental degradation and loss in biodiversity - see this recent example. It is capitalist accumulation that is devouring our planet. You cannot use the same mechanisms which are destroying the world to save it. Not only that but the green movement isn't just about saving our environment, its also about social justice, something which is incompatible with capitalism.

What Brand and Lynas in their naivety have failed to understand is that what GM food and nuclear power are about is profit for the big corporations, and not making a better environment, or feeding the world. There are millions hungry all over the world. They need access to land, cheap loans, basic tools and fair markets for their produce. The key solutions are low tech, not high tech. There would be no hunger if the existing food supply was distributed fairly. The big driver behind GM technology is that corporations like Monsanto can control the food chain and make massive profits - forever. Corporations like Monsanto want to control and monopolise all the food we eat - not feed the world - see here.

If we are going to save the planet for ourselves we need to build a socially just and sustainable society. We can build prosperous sustainable societies without growth. Capitalist accumulation based on endless debt fueled growth is the problem, not the answer. There are alternatives as I've shown in this blog. We have to get on with that task and leave Lynas and Brand to their delusions and play with their technological toys.

1 comment:

George Kaey said...

We agree with your analysis and have added your link to our VFU ThinkTank study "The Subtlety of Techno-Fascism":