John Darroch has impeccable green/radical credentials.
He has been a leader of Auckland based anti-capitalist group, Radical Youth. He has also been active in the Green Party and Greenpeace and has studied sustainable horticulture at Unitec.
While more of an anarchist than a socialist, he is member of the Youth Advisory group of Sue Bradford’s Marxist “Kotare” training school, situated at Wellsford north of Auckland.
Not surprisingly, John does not think environmentalism and capitalism are compatible.
“sound environmental practices” hmmm it is not sound to burn non renewable fuels causing climate change, it is not sound environmental practice to fish species into extinction, it is not sound to build a society based on non renewable fuels, it is not sound to poison our land and water ways with fertiliser. But of course the soundness of these acts depends on timeframe.
Viewed from the perspective of a CEO chopping down a forest or fishing a species to extinction makes perfect sense. Indeed to not do so might cost the CEO their job. Viewed from the perspective of a farmer concerned about maximising profitibality using obscene amounts of fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides probably does make perfect sense.
Destroying the land we live on is not in our long term best interest but thats exactly what what our economic system is doing. I’m not a socialist and have written on several occasions about how socialists have no answers to the environmental problems facing us but neither do you.
Stopping the destruction of the planet is a moral act, laws that allow some to get rich by permanantly degrading the land seem rather stupid. I believe that “sound environmental practice” as you put it overrides “profit maximisation”
Basically John is saying that capitalism degrades the environment because of its short term focus and its lack of accountability.
I will quote another leftist environmentalist, who uses an arguement I have seen often.
The market system does not work well to handle environmental problems, partly because the costs of environmental impacts are seldom included in the costs of production. For example, there is no simple market mechanism to make automobile manufacturers pay for the costs of ill health due to vehicle emissions, traffic accidents, use of land for roads, greenhouse warming or wars fought to ensure access to cheap oil. These costs are borne by members of the public and the environment. So it can be said that the profits are privatised (captured by owners and users) and the environmental and health costs are “socialised” (borne by society as a whole).
This is the nub of the issue. So called “capitalism” can get away with degrading the environment because its negative effects are “socialised”.
Note that word-“socialised”
Capitalism does degrade the environment at times, because “capitalism” is not “capitalist” enough-it has a “socialist” element, which “capitalists” use as a way to avoid responsibility.
One obvious example is the explosive growth of dairy farming on the Canterbury Plains. Subsidised by huge amounts of “socialised” water, Canterbury dairy farming is making big profits for farmers, but has been accused of severely degrading some streams, lowering the water table and even poisoning some wells with nitrates.
While some of these claims may be exaggerated, there seem to be some genuine concerns.
What would happen if Canterbury “capitalism” was pure? What if there was no “free” water? What if farmers could be sued by neighbours for polluting streams or draining the water table?
My guess is that the dairy industry in Canterbury would be much smaller than it is now.
Would that mean an economic downturn?
I have been told that dairy farming uses 10 times the water that arable farming uses. If the water supply was “capitalised” rather than “socialised” as it is now, what would happen?
For a start we would see much more balanced and sustainable land use. The dairy industry would surely be smaller, but farmers and entrepeneurs would find far more efficient uses for the their precious water. To have a large geographic area dominated by one form of agriculture is unhealthy. “Socialism” encourages monoculture. “Capitalism” encourages balance and diversity.
To sum up-“capitalism” degrades the environment, only to the degree that elements of the system remain “socialist”.
Extend property rights into the air, the water table, the rivers, the lakes and the sea and the negative consequences of “capitalist” growth will largely be eliminated.
“Capitalism” does have the answer to environmental problems John-we simply have to eliminate the vestiges of “socialism” that are buggering things up.