[Marxism] From socialism to eco-socialism. (Was: Investment, investment, investment)
ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu
ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu
Tue Feb 23 05:48:19 MST 2016
Ralph, thanks for your clarification and apologies for mis-interpreting
your passage where you counterposed the possible versus the impossible.
A reduction in the consumption of stuff and a return to a simpler life
closer to nature can be promoted on several different levels. For this,
some anecdotal evidence:
When I was teaching Marx's Capital to undergraduate students, it seemed
to me that they felt as bad about being too much in love with consumer
goods as about being exploited. I tried to explain that Marx's concept
of commodity fetishism is not the same as modern consumerism. They
simply didn't believe me and said, yes commodity fetishism (as they
understood it, i.e., consumerism) is bad, and they are guilty of too
I inherited some money and am using it to subsidize local young people,
many from working class families, whose passion is urban farming. I
live an easy bike ride away from downtown in a working class area of
Salt Lake City where the lots happen to be big and real estate prices
low. I purchased old houses with big lots near my home when they became
available and am renting some of this real estate at low rates to young
farmers, who happily grow vegetables and chickens and meat rabbits on
their half acre lots while enjoying the easy commuting distance to
downtown and the University. In two cases now I gave bridge loans so
that young families could purchase a run-down house with a big lot, then
fix up the house and then re-finance. (Banks will not give mortgages on
run-down houses.) Some of them work for a CSA, or grow vegetables for
high-end restaurants, others work for the bicycle collective which
promotes sustainable transportation and makes, among others, refurbished
old bicycles available for the homeless. I discovered to my surprise
that almost everybody lived for some time in the Anarchist Boing!
collective in SLC, that is how they knew each other and how they
congregated on this particular area of the city. Some of them go on
intercontinental airplane trips in winter, which of course effaces all
their carbon savings. Things are self-contradictory, but for most of of
them the environmental catastrophe is an issue.
The popularity of Niko Paech among students in Germany, Switzerland, and
Austria, and the entire de-growth movement in Europe, originally coming
from France, are also signs that the lifestyle which you call
self-immolation has appeal to today's youth. If you look at the Videos
of the De-Growth conference in Leipzig in 2014, it was organized and
attended by people who look like students (over 3000 people attended).
Religion is also important here, the pope's encyclical is amazingly
radical. Also the Unitarians and other religions say that a lifestyle
which damages the planet is immoral. If you really think that all
humans are equal then you must live with a carbon footprint of 2.3 tons
of CO2 per year or similar.
Also the entire transition town movement.
Even in my own community, a cohousing community, retired people or empty
nesters are passionate about gardening. They love working the soil and
seeing things grow.
These are all examples of movements promoting frugal lifestyles.
This cannot be the whole solution, we also have to make political
changes. But living on a leaner carbon footprint is something almost
everybody can do and activists must be able to give guidance how to do
it. It is radical because it requires a break with the culture and the
ideas of a good life and even the self-identity of many people, based on
the expectation that we can continue to live with dozens so-called
energy slaves. Instead of dreaming to be astronauts, people have to
dream about sustainable year-round urban farming systems with
It is already happening in subcultures, the question is how to
generalize it quickly enough.
There are also efforts to make coalitions between the labor movement
and the environmental movement. This is a different important area of
Hans G Ehrbar
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