Environmentalism, population and Marxism

lause at att.net lause at att.net
Tue Dec 3 06:17:17 MST 2002

A question's been raised repeatedly as to whether Marxism is adequate to address
these kinds of issues.  It is rooted in those 19th century European assumpations
about progress and human mastery over processes longed deemed to be under divine
or  natural control.  On the other hand, I'd be at a loss to see anything
specifically Marxist in this recent discussion of environmental problems...other
than some of the gaps in what's under discussion.

Marxists, no less than Catholics, have ducked the entire issue of population by
quibbling with Malthus over his numbers.  The impact we have on the environment
increases exponentially.  More people use exponentially more resources.  More
people under capitalism, the more those exponentially used resources get wrapped
in non-bioderadable petrochemically produced green plastic with cute little
elves on it.  Capitalism exaccerbates the problem and makes its resolution more
urgent, but the problem transcends capitalism.

Human beings have always had wilderness.  Could we really be human without
having ocassional recourse to it, for one purpose or another?

How do we attain a collective planning of the economic life of the planet if we
can't individually plan parenthoods?  The figure I learned as a kid was that the
world's population was 2.5 billion.  By the best estimates, we hit 6,259,378,087
as of Dec. 1, 2002. Every second, there are 4.1 births and 1.7 deaths, giving us
a net increase of 2.3 persons.  (See the data linked on

True, we can deplore the fact that this represents a lot of Pepsi sales...and a
lot of paper cups--a lot of otherwise unnecessary petrochemical consumption.
But it's also a lot of food and resources, regardless of the economic system.

Can we realistically persuade people that they need to be involved in
democratically running a planned economy if they've not first decided to plan
their own families?

Mark L.

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