Environmentalism, population and Marxism

Mike Ballard swillsqueal at yahoo.com.au
Tue Dec 3 08:32:28 MST 2002

--- lause at att.net wrote:
> A question's been raised repeatedly as to whether
> Marxism is adequate to address
> these kinds of issues.

Marxism can't address anything.  Humans can though.

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.

Our urge as humans towards freedom from domination are
rooted in our instincts.  This goes back further than
the 19th Century. We've developed our minds and with
them the tools which have pulled us out from under the
domination of nature for eons.

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.

We're discussing what science there is to understand
the problems.

> Marxists, no less than Catholics, have ducked the
> entire issue of population by
> quibbling with Malthus over his numbers.

Malthusian analysis forgets the nature of class
society because it sees same as eternal.  It is purely
a quantitative analysis without regard to the changing
class quality potential of societies.

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.

We need to transcend capitalism by consciously taking
hold of the products of our labour and consuming on
the basis of need.  For instance, we don't need to
live with, "non-bioderadable petrochemically produced
green plastic with cute little elves on it."  We
cannot decide that question without the power of
controlling and socially owning what we produce.

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

We could be human; but we wouldn't last as a species.
We need to develop a sensitivity to the way we 'make a
living' which includes a view to living in harmony
with the Earth.  Otherwise, we will perish.  We can do
that because we have proven that we are sensitive to
our instinct to survive.  The question is whether the
overwhelming majority of the humans--the workers--will
become sensitive to that issue before it is too late
to reverse the changes on the environment being
foisted on them through their subservience to the rule
of Capital.

> How do we attain a collective planning of the
> economic life of the planet if we
> can't individually plan parenthoods?

By promoting its advantages.

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
> <http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/world.html>.)
> 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.

This is the point I was trying to make about the
Malthusian analysis.  It ignores the quality of the
'economic system' under consideration.  If one really
wants to change population dynamics, one should be
promoting the class conscious control and ownership of
the the productive apparatus of society.  This change
will have a profound effect on notions of family.

Remember this quote, posted on this list a couple of
weeks ago?  I think it shows how a change in social
relations could effect notions of family and thus of

"When Jesuit missionaries from France first
encountered the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians of North
America in the sixteenth century, they were impressed
by the lack of poverty, theft, greed, and violence but
were horrified by the child rearing methods and the
egalitarian relations between husband and wife. The
Jesuits set out to introduce 'civilized' family norms
to the New World. They tried to persuade Naskapi men
to impose stricter sexual monogamy on the women of the
group by punishing them more harshly. One missionary
spent an entire winter in the Montagnais lodge,
recording in his journal both his efforts to impart
these principles and the unsatisfactory responses of
the Indians. At one point, having been rebuffed on
several occasions, the missionary obviously thought he
had found an unanswerable argument for his side. If
you do not impose tighter controls on women, he
explained to one Naskapi man, you will never know for
sure which of the children your wife bears actually
belong to you. The man's reply was telling: 'Thou hast
no sense,' said the Naskapi. 'You French people love
only your own children; but we love all the children
of our Nation.'" from THE WAY WE NEVER WERE, by
Stephanie Coontz.

> 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

We need to do both in an ongoing way as we build the
new society within the womb of the old.

Wobbly greetings,
Mike B)

"Man first begins to philosophize when the necessitites of life are supplied."  Aristotle

"determinatio est negatio"  Spinoza

"There are no ordinary cats."  Colette


Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Mail Plus - Powerful. Affordable. Sign up now.

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list