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What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism Paperback – June 1, 2011
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About the Author
Fred Magdoff taught at the University of Vermont in Burlington, is a director of the Monthly Review Foundation, and has written on political economy for many years. He is most recently the author (with John Bellamy Foster) of The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (Monthly Review Press).
John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review. He is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and author of The Ecological Revolution, The Great Financial Crisis (with Fred Magdoff), Critique of Intelligent Design (with Brett Clark and Richard York), Ecology Against Capitalism, Marx’s Ecology, and The Vulnerable Planet.
Top customer reviews
Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster (professors from University of Vermont and Oregon respectively) very clearly and realistically explain environmental impacts and disasters (man made and natural) and our collective consumerism in a way that even this Texan that didn't grow up recycling can "get it." The urgency in which something MUST change has forced me to really look at my waste, purchases, and growth desires to replace the mantra of MORE MORE MORE with Enough Enough Enough.
I feel that the accessibility and practical nature of the science, demographics, statistics, and data allowed me to face my personal responsibility of environmental impact in a way that doesn't lead me to buying a Starbucks and pretending not to notice. Literally, it doesn't matter what I do - in some ways it is what I stop doing that helps the most.
Living Better creates this competition that is rooted in growth and consumption. Living Well is about enough get to everyone as a personal responsibility. It isn't just about buying more recycled products, are placing old light bulbs with new ones, but leaving the lights on longer. Living Well is about doing less with less. Literally - think smaller - bigger has only caused us problems.
I have created a few simple steps to help make this change in my own life.
1) BUY LESS S***... I mean s*** here on purpose. In 2012, I vowed to not buy anything. I don't mean food or office supplies, I mean s***. Stuff - meaningless stuff. In 2012, I have purchased a few things that were not necessary - but I actually can name thme - I remember them. I never noticed how mindless I spend money. I have purchased 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of shoes, some clothes, and a necklace. That is pretty much it. For the records, I sold 3 pairs of shoes to buy those 2 pairs so I consider that a draw.
2) DON'T UPGRADE... You don't need the new gizmo just because their is a new gizmo. I kept my crappy cell phone for a year longer than I needed to. I am still typing this on a 3 year old lap top that is covered in duct tape. My color print prints in one color now - black seems to work. If you keep everything one year longer than you think you need to - you just left a small footprint.
3) WORK IT OUT... Repair, tape up, glue, fix, whatever is broken instead of just buying a new one. Make it work for as long as possible. If that doesn't work - make it work for a little bit longer that you usually would. This really matters.
4) SHARE... Donate items to others and borrow or share what you have with others. Even with the Do It Yourself movement, we don't all need our own table saw - borrow a neighbors, rent one, share yours, etc. Warning - this may involve communicating with other humans in a live manner and could lead to more personal relationships and community building.
5) TALK... What if we actually had conversations with each other about how much waste or how little waste we produce. We could talk about window shopping, or repair tips; we could talk about books we have checked out from the library or lent to a friend. We could reuse tote bags, cups, utensils. We could take one napkin or replace unused ketchup packets.
It is the little things - Little things got us where we are today and little things turn into big things. This is just as true now as it has always been. What little things can you do today that are different? Doing something different will lead to a different result.
Jessica Pettitt is the "diversity educator" your family warned you about. Through teaching, writing, and facilitating tough conversations, she has figured out how to BE the change she wants to BE. Now it is your turn!
As she travels around the country, you can catch up with Jessica on: Facebook: [...]
1. Capitalism is a system of profit. The goal of capitalism is to take limited resources and limited labor-time and transform them into maximum profit.
2. Capitalism always grows in size. In order to maintain "economic health," capitalist economies need to grow at a significant rate so that they become larger and larger as part of a continual process.
3. 3. The need for economic growth and profit-creation trumps all other concerns within a capitalist society. All other possible societal concerns, such as ecological sustainability and social justice, if they are to be pursued within the confines of capitalist logic, must be subsumed under the profit-motive. They cannot exist "alongside" the profit-motive, or change the nature of the profit-motive in any meaningful way. All other societal needs are forced to obey the profit-motive in order to ensure that they are not destroyed by it.
4. Technological solutions to ecological problems are usually invalidated by the capitalist system. Improvements in technological efficiency usually, in the eyes of corporations, represent a means by which to increase production and gain a competitive edge.
5. Organic and Green capitalist firms will never change the ecologically destructive nature of capitalism. They are small by nature. They can only be green as far as they can cater to a niche market. In every instance a green or organic firm has grown to a national or multi-national level, they have been forced to abandon their ethical vision in order to stay competitive.
Because of these traits, capitalism will ruin the earth as we know it- that is, unless we choose to oppose the logic of capitalist accumulation entirely. Magdoff and Foster spend the first part of the book sharing statistics and observations about the accelerating rate of ecological decline across the world. This information is probably familiar to most environmentally conscious people, but the conclusions that the authors draw are highly unorthodox, even amongst hard-line environmentalists. The middle section explains the contradictions of capitalism that cause ecological destruction, and why social inequality and imperialism stem from the same laws of capitalist accumulation. These sections also assess and critique writings by other ecological thinkers.
The final section is the most explicitly Marxist in content. Here, the authors discuss Marx, Engels, Lebowitz, Harvey, Sweezy, Mike Davis, Evo Morales, and other writers in order to provide a sketch of what an eco-socialist revolution would look like. An eco-socialist revolution will involve state planning, which will be necessary in order to overcome the tremendously powerful and dexterous nature of accumulationist logic. Capitalists will need to be dispossessed of their power, and the citizenry will control how wealth is distributed and created. Many aspects of the economy will become localized, and one of the major challenges of a possible eco-socialist society lies in its ability to balance local democratic control and local economies with centralized planning.
As is usually the case with Magdoff-Foster books, this one covers a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of space. Because this book focuses on anti-capitalist ecologism in relation to modern politics, I would highly recommend that it be read alongside Foster's The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment (Cornerstone Books) which is also a brief argument for radical ecologism, but focuses on the history of capitalist development. Together, these books make for a powerful case for the importance of Marxian economics for the political ecologism movement.
Overall, I would say that this book is a good place for curious environmentalists to investigate what Marxist theory has to offer ecological activism. However, this book does not really familiarize the reader with Marxism as a social-scientific approach to political analysis, instead of just as a political position. They argue for socialism using arguments tailored for an environmentalist audience, but they do not really show how the Marxist perspective works. Don't get me wrong though- Given its objective and persuasiveness, this is an important book for environmentalists to read. I just personally suspect that political ecologists could also benefit from fostering an understanding of Marxian analysis itself. For this reason, I would also recommend reading The Enigma of Capital: and the Crises of Capitalism by David Harvey in order to gain a better understanding of Marxism as a means to interpret political, ecological, and social problems.
In *The Ecological Riftt: Capitalism's War on the Earth*
the authors take a group's eye view on evolution and
natural selection, which is rather obsolete.
But the arguments in both works are precise, concrete, and
quite clear. These books are what you need to know what
the matter with Climate Change is all about: Economic Growth.