John Bellamy Foster answers five questions about Marxism and ecology
Can Marxism strengthen our understanding of ecological crises? The author of Marx’s Ecology replies to a critic on metabolic rift, sustainab

Foster, John Bellamy; Sarkar, Saral

Publisher:  Climate & Capitalism
Date Written:  27/03/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20558

In the Anthropocene, we are faced with the eventual prospect, if society continues to follow the path of business as usual, of the end of civilization (in the sense of organized human society) and even potentially of the human species itself. But well before that hundreds of millions of people will be affected by increasing droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events of all kinds.



The question of whether it is industrialism rather than capitalism that is the source of our "burning house" is an odd one for someone with a connection to ecosocialism to ask. The argument that Sarkal presents here is that because the Soviet Union too did damage to its environment, and it was industrialized but non-capitalist, that we should therefore move away from analysis of historically specific social formations, like capitalism (or formerly "actually existing socialism"), and instead we should just attribute the whole problem to the more general, abstract notion of industrialization.
The same logic if carried farther would lead one to argue that, since pre-industrial societies also destroyed their environments, industrialization is not a sufficient explanation. We should therefore attribute the environmental problem to human society in general. And, then, since humans are social animals, society itself can be considered an insufficient explanation, so we should attribute the ecological problem to the very existence of human beings. Ergo there are simply too many people. Such an approach is not very helpful in that it removes all the crucial historical elements of the problem, and also our ability to act in rational ways.

Subject Headings