Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Rioting against climate change?

There is a connection between climate change and last year’s English riots. Both are the result of a socio-economic system that is out of control. That system – you might call it capitalism though I don't find that helpful myself – demands constant growth. It's the nature of that growth to drive consumption, waste and inequality. Naomi Klein (in The Shock Doctrine) has pointed out that prior to the end of 'communism' some of this – especially the growth in inequality – was restrained by the need for the West to compete with communism for the allegiance of the third world and its own working class. So, at risk of gross over-simplification, consumption grew but the benefits were spread widely.

After the end of 'communism' the West no longer felt that need – hence accelerating inequality, etc. since 1990. And, of course, recession and the cuts make social conditions worse. (By contrast, notice how well luxury brands are doing? Even Waitrose which is hardly the preserve of millionaires.)

We MUST tame this system, humanise it – even if that reduces average consumption.

That’s an easy conclusion for a retired management in a London suburb but how can it be reconciled with social justice? How can we expect members of the Tottenham underclass – let alone the poor in countries such as Somalia – to accept it?

The Old Left answer is redistribution from the rich to the poor and that must be part of the answer. The other part is to recognise that the poor, both nationally and globally, are the greatest victims of the current socio-economic system.

The West wants to grow the economic cake. The Left wants to divide it equally. Greens want produce a better cake – one that will not so degrade our planetary environment that our grandchildren starve.

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