To save the planet, get rid of capitalism!
Published Jun 21, 2010 8:18 PM
Following are excerpts from talks given by Teresa Gutierrez and Jen
Waller at a Workers World Party/Fight Imperialism, Stand Together forum on June
11 in New York. Both Gutierrez and Waller attended the World People’s
Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held from April
20-22 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Capitalism’s war on the environment argues for the overturning of
capitalism and imperialism. The future of humanity is at risk.
Scientists have warned that urgent action is required on the climate crisis. It
is well documented how extreme weather events are directly linked to global
In August 2007, at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, scientists
and government officials stated that the window of opportunity to prevent
catastrophic changes to the planet’s climate is narrowing rapidly. The
U.N. conference called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent to
40 percent by 2020, or, it warned, many animal and plant species could become
extinct and economic havoc caused around the world.
The biggest polluter has been the United States. Yet, the U.S. won’t
agree to reduce emissions and undermines all attempts to reach
Mother Earth, yes; capitalism, no
The fundamental questions of “how we got to this point” and
“how we can get out of it” were asked at the historic Cochabamba
conference. Workers World Party and FIST representatives were honored to
This working-class conference gave political and revolutionary answers to this
crisis; it called for an end to capitalism. A key slogan was “Pachamama
si, capitalismo no” (“Mother Earth, yes; capitalism, no”).
The leaders concluded that only socialism could resolve the environmental
The Cochabamba conference put fear into the ruling class here, even more so
because it took place in Latin America, which has a rich history of militant,
anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles and is today the center of
The election of Evo Morales, the first Indigenous president in Bolivia, was
itself a huge step forward, striking a blow against racism and colonialism and
advancing the struggle for self-determination.
That the Cochabamba conference took place and that the environmental crisis was
elevated was because of socialist Cuba’s impact on the world
Nicaraguan leader Tomas Borge urged everyone to stand with Cuba. He stressed
that without Fidel, without Cuba, neither President Hugo Chávez of
Venezuela nor President Morales could have surfaced and thrived.
For 50 years, Cuba has withstood imperialist aggression and remained the beacon
of revolutionary inspiration. Imperialism has not been able to defeat Cuba.
Cuba is the number-one sustainable country in the world, says Global Footprint
Network. This is another reason why the world movement must defend Cuba.
Socialist Cuba has provided the material basis for the advancement of a
revolutionary movement in Latin America. It has provided critical Marxist
thinking and analysis on every burning question.
It has shown that not only a movement but also a class can stand up to
imperialism, and it can win if there is political will, a class understanding
BP: A crisis of capitalism
The BP oil spill is a tragedy of epic proportions. In the 53 days since its rig
exploded, 90.1 million gallons of oil may have spewed. No one really knows what
the environmental consequences will be — the loss of animal life, of
jobs, of income and the effects on the ecosystem. It is another rapacious crime
of capitalism, perpetrated by one of the world’s largest oil
BP repeatedly disregarded safety problems and attempted to silence anyone who
tried to tell the truth about the spill. This disaster exposes the true nature
of capitalist corporations: Profits come before the workers, before safety,
before environmental concerns.
Another hazard is the existence of 80,000 chemicals used in the U.S., of which
only about 200 have been tested. This was raised in a recent CNN series,
“Toxic America,” which told how more children are experiencing
Who is doing the testing?
Who spends millions to lobby the government to support a chemical? Isn’t
the Environmental Protection Agency ineffective and in the corporations’
pockets? Who pays for research at universities if it isn’t the same
Although the government passed the Toxic Substance Control Act, even a
congressperson admitted that it would have little effect in protecting
An American Chemistry Council representative told CNN that his industry
doesn’t want a system that sets high barriers for new products but one
“that allows our industry to maintain its competitive edge.”
They want capitalism, the free market system where they have free rein to make
profits at the cost of humanity.
We want a system that puts workers before profits, that protects the earth and
turns back the clock on the ravages made on the earth. The capitalists have
ravaged the world’s forests and drilled in the earth for profit,
disregarding the consequences. In order for humanity to survive, capitalism
must be abolished.
These crises powerfully illuminate the need for workers’ control of the
means of production. It cries out for a revolutionary and socialist
transformation of society.
What other government but one like socialist Cuba’s can replace much of
its energy needs with solar power and environment-friendly resources, and do so
The environmental crisis is a struggle for socialists.
WW photos: John Catalinotto
U.S. environmental movement must
I feel that the most important thing about the Cochabamba conference is that it
represents a growing anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist climate
justice movement. The spirit of the conference looks at the environmental
crisis as a result of this capitalist system of exploitation and constant
growth for the sake of profit for few at the expense of many. The U.S. climate
justice movement must learn from this model.
Making the connections between environmental destruction and capitalism is not
the norm here. Take the BP oil spill. If it had been going on when the
conference took place, everyone would have been relating it to capitalism. But
here, people talk about it as though it is a cross between an inevitable
reality and a freak accident. The idea that it is an unnecessary tragedy that
is typical of corporations within this system is not even considered by most in
One of the main messages of the conference was that the climate justice
movement must include all oppression. Demanding climate justice must mean
demanding an end to all injustices. This includes freedom of movement for
We can’t separate the climate crisis from immigration, as the issue of
climate migrants is all about racism and exclusion. One meter of water rise
could wipe out 20 percent of Bangladesh. Where are those people going to go? We
all have to think about how we are going to support climate migrants. Many
migrants are already climate migrants. Many of the world’s conflicts in
recent years are due to the environment — for example, the war in
Afghanistan or the conflict in Darfur must both be thought of as wars over
The structural causes of climate change and climate migration are due to
capitalism. It’s a globalized economy, which is based on intensive
development reliant on the consumption of carbon and the exploitation of the
natural resources of the entire planet. But people aren’t allowed to move
like capital, because the only thing this system attempts to sustain is
capital. Right now we’re controlling migration as determined by economy,
but it needs to be based on human rights and needs, not on the economic needs
of governments and corporations.
Even the so-called “solutions” to climate change that the U.S.
government promotes, such as reforestation and carbon trading, are causing
displacement. The way the U.S. and other powerful countries are dealing with
climate change is not in any way going to solve the problem. The decision has
already been made that the people of the world are going to be sacrificed
because the rich and powerful do not want to lose their power and
We will all be affected by climate change, but not at all equally. Last
year’s Copenhagen summit truly signed a death warrant for countries.
President Obama threatened poor countries, saying they would only get aid if
they signed the Copenhagen accord. Who would sign their suicide? Some did. The
Ethiopian leader may have sold out his people by signing it — but was the
alternative better? The leaders of other countries refused to sign the accord,
such as Ecuador and Bolivia. At the Cochabamba conference, the foreign minister
of Ecuador claimed that the U.S. cut off $2.5 million in aid after Copenhagen;
he stated that he would send $2.5 million to Obama if he would sign the Kyoto
In Cochabamba I was around so many people who truly understand the enormity of
this crisis. Meeting people from Latin America and from all over the world who
are facing the destruction of climate change was a humbling experience. We
shared our thoughts and agreed on so much. They were excited and surprised to
meet someone from the U.S. who agreed with and understood their views —
and I was overjoyed to speak to everyday people who didn’t think my
anti-capitalist views about the environment were completely crazy.
And then I came back here to so much waste. So many wasted resources and a
climate “justice” movement that is willing to discuss consumerism
but refuses to mention capitalism. We have to talk to our people. This is our
people, whether we like it or not, and we have to change their hearts.
It became clear in Cochabamba that the people of the world are demanding that
capitalism be discussed as the root cause of this crisis. Very few of us are
facing climate change head on, so who are we to deny that? We have no right.
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