History Knocked on Your Door Did You Answer

Naomi Klein closes her book “ This changes everything – Capitalism vs Climate“ with these words. What`s the challenge?

Climate scientists agree, climate change is happening here and now. About 97% of scientists have concluded that it’s a human-caused climate change.

We find the reason for this human-made development in the economy. The economical deal is cheap labor and dirty energy. This way maximum profit is guaranteed. Before the neoliberal era emission groth had been slown down to an annual increase of about 1 percent. But the millenium was the watershed. Between 2000 and 2009 the growth rate reached 3.4 percent a year, up to 5.9 percent in 2010. When China became the „workshop of the world“  it also became „the spewing chimney of the world“. The same logic that is willing to work labores to the bone for pennies a day, will burn mountains of dirty coal while spending next to nothing on pollution controls, because it`s the cheapest way to produce.

This connection between pollution and exploitation has been true since the earliest days of Industrial Revoltution. But in the  past when workers organized to demand better wages,  and the city dwellers organized to demand  cleaner air,  the companies were pretty much  forced to improve both,  working  and environmental standards. That changed with the advent of free trade. Thanks to the removal of virtually all barriers to  capital flows, corporations could pick up and leave every time labor costs started  rising.  That’s why many  manufacturers left  South Korea in the late 1990s and it’s why now many are leaving  China,  where wages are climbing,  for Bangladesh.

Naomi Klein looks  back to 2009 in her book, when a historical  change had been  possible.The  financial crisis had chattered public faith in  laissez-faire economics around  the world so much, that there was a tremendous  support even  in the US for breaking  long-standing  ideological  taboos against intervening in the market to create  good jobs. That  gave  Obama the leverage to design  a stimulus program worth  about 800 billions $ to get the economy  moving  again. The other extraordinary in this moment was  the weak state of the banks. In 2009 they  were  still on their knees,  depending  on trillions  in bailout funds  and loan guarantees.  And there was  a live debate unfolding  about how those banks should be restructured in exchange  for all that taxpayer  generosity.  The other factor at that time was, that two of the Big Three  automakers had so badly mismanaged their affairs, they landed in the hand of government. The US  government  had in those  days  the historical  chance to invoke its newly  minted mandate to build the new economy promised  on  the campaign trail. This chance has been  messed up.

What stopped Obama from seizing his historical  moment  to stabilize the economy  and the climate  at the same  time was not lack of resources  or lack  of power.  He had plenty of both.  What stopped him  was the  invisible  confinement of a powerful  ideology had convinced  him- as it has convinced  virtually all his political counterparts – that there is  something  wrong with telling large  corporations how to run their  businesses,  even if they are running  them into the ground.

Okay the game goes on. We have an economy with  powerful banks and corporations that are looking for nothing else  but the highest possible  short term profit and politicians standing helplessly aside. The next crisis  doubtlessly will come.  If there is any  hope for this world at all, it isn’t in climate  change rooms and tall government buildings. Hope is only in a broad  rethinking away from the stiffling  market  fundamentalism that has become the greatest enemy to planetary health. The book by Naomi Klein demands „nothing less than a political,  economical, social, cultural and moral  make over of the human world “ Mike Hulms, New Scientist,  in a review of this book.

I think  that’s  exactly what our world  does need.

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