We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Anthropocene. The human era and how it shapes our planet

Click here to access a review of a book by the above title by reviewer Elaine Graham-Leigh posted on CounterFire (Britain). 

Graham-Leigh introduces her review with an interesting anecdote telling us how the label "Anthropocene" came about to describe our present era. She then credits the author, Christian Schwägerl, with the insight that capitalism stands in contradiction to a sustainable planet.
Schwägerl provides important reminders here of how in addressing the environmental damage caused under capitalism, we are faced not by a technological problem but a political one. There is no question but that we have or could develop the technologies necessary to make the Anthropocene the epoch in which we reversed the environmental problems of the end of the Holocene. The real issue is how to get these good ideas implemented on a sufficiently large scale to make a difference.

Schwägerl recognises that the principles he puts forward for a sustainable Anthropocene are antithetical to capitalism....
However, it's all down hill from there because, as she points out, Schwägerl's critique of capitalism, like many other current limited critics of capitalism, degenerates into an argument about how we can as moral consumers make capitalism work in a sustainable way.
The book makes clear that a sustainable future and capitalism are antithetical, but what is missing is an understanding of capitalism as a system, not simply as the collective sum of seven billion people’s consumption decisions. In order to change the system, what we need to do is not simply to change our minds, nor even those of our neighbours and Facebook friends as well, but to organise to fight for that change.

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