Klimatet och kapitalismen

av Janne Wass

Den internationella klimatveckan förra månaden samlade miljontals ungdomar (och vuxna) världen över till vad som antagligen var den största politiska manifestationen på decennier. Den mediala uppmärksamheten var enorm, och i fokus stod föga­ överraskande den 16-åriga aktivisten Greta Thunberg. Många är de som – med rätta­ ­­– hyllat Thunbergs engagemang och den roll hon tagit – eller fått – som språkröret för en ung generation med krav på aktion och förändring.

Vid sidan av hyllningarna har det ändå funnits röster som inte höjts lika entusiastiskt i ovationer för Thunberg eller den ungdomliga klimatrörelsen. Till den del som dessa kritiska röster koncentrerat sig på Greta Thunberg som person eller hävdat att hon är nickedocka för något slags klimatkonspiration, kan kommentarerna lämnas åt sitt eget värde. Det samma gäller de bastioner som fortfarande försöker hävda att vetenskapen inte skulle vara klar och tydlig och övertygad om att klimatförändringen är verklig och till stora delar orsakad av människan. Däremot är det ingen som vinner på att massrörelser ställs över granskning och kritik, allra minst massrörelserna själva i det långa loppet.

Som både Fredrik Sonck i Hbl 27.9 och kolumnisten Axel Vikström i detta nummer av Ny Tid påpekar är det få som tagit fasta på ett av de centrala elementen i Greta Thunbergs budskap, nämligen tillväxtkritiken. I Ny Tid har vi upprepade gånger uppmärksammat den nyliberala – och i förlängningen den kapitalistiska – ordningens inkompatibilitet med en effektiv klimat- och miljöpolitik. Det är inte bara insnöade kommunister som står för denna tolkning. Till och med affärstidningen Financial Times, ett av nyliberalismens starkaste fästen, gick i september ut med en ”ny ideologisk linje”. Tidningen hävdade i ett specialnummer att kapitalismen är ”trasig” och måste ”startas om”. Sorry, FT, men det är som man säger too little, too late.

Hur väl insatt Greta Thunberg själv är i samhällsteori är det svårt att veta, och hon har, antingen på grund av ointresse eller taktiskt övervägande, avhållit sig från starka politisk-ideologiska ställningstaganden. Det är delvis detta som har gjort att hennes budskap gått hem över både samhällsklasser och partigränser. Problemet är naturligtvis att det är svårt att komma åt det underliggande problemet utan att ärligt definiera det. Jag har en känsla av att en del av demonstranterna som kräver politiska åtgärder snabbt skulle skingras om Thunberg började skandera för förstatligande av produktionsmedlen.

Med detta sagt finns ändå ingen orsak att nedvärdera vikten av den klimatrörelse som i dag kräver förändring – det torde vara den största globala ungdomsrörelsen sedan 70-talets vänster- och fredsrörelse. Men som Thunberg säger: Vi ska inte vända oss till ungdomarna för hopp, utan följa deras uppmaningar. Den praktiska lösningen på klimatkrisen finns, om vi är redo att lyssna på vetenskapen. Det som saknas, vilket FN:s klimatmöte var en smärtsam påminnelse om, är den politiska viljan. Och däri ligger kruxet: hur få ett kapitalistiskt system att vidta antikapitalistiska åtgärder?

6 kommentarer

Ernst Mecke 10 oktober, 2019 - 01:50

Certainly one can say that the political will to seriously fight climate change is lacking, but it is such a question whether this is the consequence of a strong belief in capitalism (and if so, in which form of it – the capitalism described by Marx is really not quite the same as nowadays’ capitalism of Big-and-Fast money). What I suspect is rather technological ignorance and mental laziness (perhaps also some corruption, based on hopes of a good job in industry once one’s political mandate is over …) – the ignorance resulting in insecurity, which, together with the preachings of neoliberal advisers, results in the opinion that it may be safer to go on as up to now … . Of course it is often also claimed that the necessary technology is already there, but if one looks at the details this claim is a bit very sweeping and more development work quite desirable (nothing which would take decades, rather some adaptation work which could be done in, say, 2 to 3 years). In this context one could/should mention that Jan Vapaavuori was writing during last summer a column in HBL in which he announced for this autumn a competition of ideas how to make Helsinki carbon neutral by 2035, also mentioning international participation and 1 million as the first prize. But, on the few occasions when I mentioned this matter to some Helsinki politician the answer was (a) that they had not heard of the matter, and (b) a warning to me that one should not rely on Jan Vapaavuori. Well, his secretary was anyway claiming twice to me that there would indeed be that competition ”this fall”, but on the other hand the fall is already here, but so far no competition … . And if the matter should be handled the usual way we could expect that only firms are admitted to participate, that some firm with good contacts to Kokoomus would get that million, and that after a few years the firm would confess that in spite of all their efforts it has turned out to be impossible to achieve the promised results (there IS experience with Finnish firms and deadlines …). But if one would REALLY and HONESTLY organize such a competition (which should be possible even in capitalism – after all the winning suggestions might well result in patents, and those again in profits) then there might rather soon be a fitting technology, which afterwards could also rather fast spread to other countries, with good consequences for the climate. This much for technological ignorance. As to mental laziness, there seems to be a (pretty disastrous) belief around that anybody who is able to come up with good ideas should ”of course” also be able to build up some profitable enterprise on the basis of the ideas. And this is simply wrong – one can take as examples Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, the grand old men of science fiction, who knew quite a bit about technology, had also new and good ideas, but really did not make millions by turning entrepreneurs. Whereas we have the example of very successful raisers of money for the Tallinn tunnel, who are obviously very good at running a profitable campaign, but neither technologically impressive nor aware of the rather obvious risks with the whole enterprise – in short, not very helpful as problem solvers … . Altogether, there REALLY should be an HONEST competition, and if Vapaavuori does not organize it then somebody else should (what about Vänsterförbundet?). I anyway would not need the promise of a million for handing in my suggestions (which may well be not as good as somebody else’s – may the best one win …).

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Ny Tid 10 oktober, 2019 - 10:56

Jo, nu menade jag inte heller ”tro” på kapitalismen som samhällsteori, utan snare det du påpekar, nämligen en viss ignorans om och ointresse för politiska teorier, samt den egennytta som kommer dels med den kortsiktiga kvartalsekonomin och det strupgrepp som business har på politiken. Många som i sig motsätter sig rovkapitalismen och nyliberalismen är likaledes avogt inställda till den disruption av status quo som en övergång till ett mer socialistiskt baserat samhälle skulle medföra; mer på ett vardagligt och omedelbart plan än på det teoretiska.
/Janne

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Ernst Mecke 13 oktober, 2019 - 21:40

In a way I am grateful for getting some comment on my piece, but after having read it twice, I somehow am not very happy with it. I do agree with a description of ”capitalism” as just something like a system of established practical and also mental routines. But when thinking about solutions to the climate problem, I do not really see very much hope in a (presumably very time-taking) ”övergång till ett mer socialistiskt baserat samhälle” – whatever that means in detail. Rather, I was suggesting that it might be good to be less mentally lazy in that meaning that the politicians , when seeing a climate problem, just wait for some entrepreneurs to queue up with some ready solutions (by which those entrepreneurs hope to make a good profit). Instead, my idea was to separate the provision of (hopefully promising) ideas from the later stages of developing them and, finally, organizing a large scale production and application. Thus, one should BEGIN with inviting ideas from just anybody (so-to-say ”the people”), THEN give them to experts (of whom the government has in fact quite a number available) for evaluation, after which one can give the promising ideas for further development to teams at, e.g., technical high schools and universities, etc. .This way a VASTLY larger number of ideas would get a chance to contribute to the solution of, e.g., the climate problem – and of course also any other larger public problem. But it would demand from the politicians to overcome their mental laziness & tunnel vision. And as to the discussion whether this means to overcome capitalism (and which form of it), I leave it – at least for now – to others.

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Ny Tid 14 oktober, 2019 - 13:25

Well, Ernst, I personally do not think that it is the lack of ideas that is standing in the way of solving the climate crisis. I think it is PRECISELY this over-reliance on magical cure-all ”ideas” that will somehow render climate change null and void that stands in the way of solving the climate crisis. We already know how to solve the climate crisis. The problem is that it means implementing the solutions that are already available, and since these solutions would render a blow to the capitalist world order, there is a political resistance to them. Waiting for some ”great idea” that will somehow leave oil, coal, the military industrial complex, Wall Street, London City etc. unscathed while still capping emissions to a level required is unfortunately just wishful thinking.
/Janne

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Ernst Mecke 17 oktober, 2019 - 20:23

Be it far from me to wait for ONE GREAT IDEA (Naomi Klein was giving her answer to the belief in heroic problem solvers already in ”This Changes Everything”). On the other hand, having now the printed edition of Ny Tid in hand and having looked at the four pieces in it which have anything to do with the problem, I do not find ANY idea which would be a contribution to a solution. If you take your own contributions to this discussion, what do you think how long it might take to abolish capitalism so far that an acceptable solution would result? I think the effect would come too late BY FAR. Further, that ”förstatligande av produktionsmedlen” we had already in the Sovjet Union, and WITHOUT any positive consequences for the climate and the environment (which, according to a freudarxist analysis, is only logical: in capitalism an idea should anyway bring some money, in the Sovjet system it did not need to do even that – the way to get promoted in one’s career was ONLY via pleasing one’s superiors, however stupid their ideas might be). Implementing the solutions which are already available has shown to lead to trouble with the fact that letting the people have less of the things which they have already got used to will easily result in very angry reactions – think of the yellow vests and the recent demonstrations in Ecuador. I.e. it seems that even BEFORE beginning to cut down on their habits there should be already presentable alternatives around how to take care of their habits. But well, if you think that we have already sufficiently many and good ideas to take care of the climate, what about at least MENTIONING them (Tobin tax, carbon tax,, renewable energy – preferably in some detail -, the fight against ISDS, etc., just to remind the readers)? Anyway I do remember still with some horror that I had to invest 300 Euro in Tiger-shares to get three ”technical visions” published in Ny Tid (to which there did then – ”of course”? – not come any comment) … . But anyway and altogether: if you really think that the technical and political solutions are already there and on the table, please MENTION them, and be it just in order to turn the heads on.

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Ny Tid 17 oktober, 2019 - 21:07

I think you put your finger squarely on the problem here: ”Implementing the solutions which are already available has shown to lead to trouble with the fact that letting the people have less of the things which they have already got used to will easily result in very angry reactions”. Unfortunately this IS the solution, in my opinion — broadly generalised. Our chance is to somehow convince the leaders of the world to implement draconian measures on big energy companies, the transport sector, the farming industry, the tech industry, to force them to implement green practices, zero-emission policies, renewable energy, etc. We will need to essentially take control of big industry, even if I don’t promote a Soviet-style ”förstatligande av produktionsmedlen” (that was something of a pun in my article). Will this lead to the Average Joe ”having less of the things he is used to having?”. Yes, especially if we don’t do anything about the concentration of wealth and the rising inequality in the world. In a best-case scenario, those who will lose the most are the ones who already have more than they need – I’m speaking of billionaires, millionaires here. In order to combat climate change, we can’t strip the poor of what little they have left, and give nothing in return. But we can strip them of some things if we can substitute them with something else — but that requires a global redistribution of wealth. But the point is: we need to consume less and consume smarter, but this is not a choice we can leave to individual consumers in a neoliberal society. That is why, in my opinion, before any real change can take place, there has to be a substantial political change: now, call it communism or socialism or social democracy, but in essence toward a society where the maximising of profit and eternal growth is not the dominating ideology. Do I think that this is a REALISTIC projection for the future, with the small amount of time that we have left? Well, that’s another matter entirely … If I sound pessimistic, then it is because I am.
Now, of course, if someone invents a machine that can eat carbon and turn it into oxygen, then I stand corrected.
/Janne

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