From Socialist Voice, December 2006

Consumerist capitalism is killing our planet

Our society is addicted to carbons. Every time we turn on gas-fired or oil-fired central heating, jump into the car to go 200 yards to the shops or drop the children to school, or even travel from Mullingar to Dublin to work every day, we use carbons.
    Every one of us plays our part. But people in the developed capitalist world use more carbons than the majority of our planet’s people, who are eking out a mere existence in the countries of the majority world.
    There are 430 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; before the Industrial Revolution there were 280 parts per million. 24 per cent of this comes from power generation, 14 per cent from industry, 14 per cent from transport, and 18 per cent from land use (mainly deforestation).
    This concentration has already caused the earth’s temperature to rise by 0.5° Celsius. If we stand by and do nothing, the earth’s temperature will rise by 2 to 3 degrees in the next fifty years.
    What are the possible implications of this? At 2 degrees,
• there would be catastrophic effects on the environment;
• there would be 30 per cent less water in South Africa and the Mediterranean;
• 60 million more people would be exposed to malaria;
• the Greenland ice shelf would melt, raising sea levels by 7 metres.
    At 3 degrees,
• there would be serious droughts in southern Europe;
• 3 million more people would die from malnutrition;
• 40 per cent of all species would disappear;
• the number of environmental refugees would grow; this is already happening as the spread of desertification goes unchecked.
    In Ireland the rise in sea level would affect large parts of our towns and cities. It would mean more extreme climate variations, with warmer summers, stormy winters, and heavier rainfall. Given the widespread corruption within the planning system, there has been extensive building on river flood-plains, which would experience increased flooding. This would have serious implications for water reserves and must bear heavily upon the future of urban planning.
    Our consumerist society is leading us into very turbulent waters, and if we don’t do something to end these ever-increasing illusions and false needs, our very survival is in danger.
    Capitalism is incapable of producing a civilised society. It abhors such concepts as social solidarity, community cohesion, global solidarity and the sharing of resources in a mutually beneficial way but instead elevates greed and consumption to the level of abiding virtues.

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