Post Scarcity Anarchism, p.24-25
I think he is speaking about turning all of nature into commercial commodities that are bought, sold, traded, and consumed. A modern example of this would be the proposed carbon tax where carbon emissions are turned into a commodity. It seems that if the need to turn nature into commodities, rather than an environment with an intrinsic worth of its own for the sake of its own self, that humanity is on an inevitable crash course with ecological catastrophe.
Most of these socialists are the socio-economic equivalent of MJA.
The notion that man must dominate nature is a biological fact. Men who attempt and succeed at dominating nature are more evolutionary fit.
Every creature that better exploits its environment will be evolutionary successful.
The part that really bugs me is the "competitive nature" of modern capitalism, and how it "pits man against man". This line of thinking is endemic within socialists, and its about as subtle as Green Day lyrics. Market relations, and the division of labor it allows breeds a spontaneous cooperation. The farmer cannot support his current lifestyle on his own, so he tends his fields exclusively with the understanding that he will be able to trade his crops for furniture from a carpenter or clothes from a tailor.
It may not be the glorious social revolution that many utopian socialists want, but it is cooperation, it is the understanding that two can be their own ends simultaneously by freely consenting to be each others means.
- The passage seems to place, at the feet of the capitalist, the sole blame for over consumption. I'm not sure any economic system does any better or worse - environmentally. Consumption is an matter-of-existence for most lifeforms on our planet; it isn't endemic to any particular system, per say.
So clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and access to resources have no intrinsic worth?
There are ways to "exploit" the environment without wasting it. There are good and bad ways to do anything.
Now that is just blatant use of poisoning the well. Sure, many socialist may be off base, but so are many anarchists or others from other socio-economic thinking. The point is drawing on good ideas wherever they may come from.
You are correct, but the species that over exploit their environment fail from an evolutionary perspective because they no longer have the resources to evolve.
The funny thing about your post, is that Murray Bookchin was a libertarian socialist that called for a society be built upon the ideas of division of labor and cooperation by rebuilding the notion of community. He saw the importance of socialism at the community level, not the ridiculous notion of being able to legislate social concerns at the national level. It is a mistake to equate bureaucratic socialism with libertarian socialism.
We are a species on earth like any other, endowed, like any other, with specific capacities and powers that are put to use to modify environments in ways that are conducive to our own sustenance and reproduction. In this we are no different from all other species (from termites to beavers) that modify their environments while adapting further to the environments they themselves help construct.
This is the fundamental conception of the dialectics of social and ecological change. It is, as Marx put it, "the nature imposed condition of our existence" that we are in a metabolic relation to the world around us, that we modify it at the same time as we modify ourselves through our activities and labors. But, we like all other species, have some very speciesspecific capacities and powers, arguably the most important of which in our case are our ability to alter and adapt to our forms of social organization--to create, for example, class structures and institutions--to build a long historical memory through language, to accumulate knowledge and understandings that are collectively available to us as guide to future action, to reflect on what we have done and do in ways that permit learning from experience, and, by virtue of our particular dexterities, to build all kinds of adjuncts (e.g. tools, technologies, organizational forms and communications systems) to enhance our capacities and powers.
I am working on a paper that looks compares and contrast social ecology and Marxist urban ecology theories, and I came across this interesting passage by geographer David Harvey about historical-geographic materialism:
I find myself agreeing more with Harvey on how to approach environmental change in that historical and geographic analysis are necessary to create a discourse that addresses societal change.
One of Harvey's biggest concerns is that proposals such as the carbon tax and pollution taxes commodify emissions and pollution into a consumer good with commercial value. This does nothing to address the core causes of environmental problems, which are manifestations of social problems.
Obviously, as you can tell, I am currently suffering from cognitive dissonance on this topic.
The commodity that we specifically looked at today was plastic bags. Here is a commodity that is not necessarily consumed, but rather fosters consumption. Typically, they are recyclable, but generally they are considered to be not cost effective to recycle. Here is a commodity that is obviously profitable for the manufacturers, is convenient for consumers, but generally has little use after it is used, although they could be reused, they typically are not. The producers have relatively little byproduct, and they are cheap to make, so the costs cannot really be reduced much for the producer.
The problem though, is that a plastic bag has a rather dubious history. First, much oil is essentially wasted in the manufacture and transport of the bags, so its past is rather costly. But its future is where the real costs of plastic bags come into play. The plastic bag does not degrade so it tends to hand around for a long time. It crosses property lines, and can lead to property destruction. Not to mention, there are severe ecological costs when they are not disposed properly. Wildlife dies when they ingest bags thinking that they are food by impacting their bowels. In poor regions of the world, they are a health risk. In India they cause property damage due to floods, and in Kenya they pose serious health risk due to malaria (plastic bags hold stagnant water--breeding grounds for mosquitoes) and the fact that plastic bags are known as "flying toilets," because people defecate in them and toss them aside. Here are byproducts of the producers goods that go unaccounted for because they are not seen as a part of the thing--in this case the plastic bag. Here is something that is seemingly free, but has enormous costs due to the byproducts that are not even figured into the cost of the commodity itself.
The commodity that we specifically looked at today was plastic bags. Here is a commodity that is not necessarily consumed, but rather fosters consumption. Typically, they are recyclable, but generally they are considered to be not cost effective to recycle.
It's a cycle I've seen over and over - I'm not sure there's any solution that'll come quick enough. Perhaps over time we'll see a gradual awakening to the pillaging of our world. I think that those that see and recognize it should continue to speak up.