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How war and climate change are wired to the same engine destroying the planet

Catastrophic climate change is imminent, as the world's rulers rearm for new wars and plunge the mass of humanity deeper into poverty.


THE GLOBAL crisis is getting worse. Climate change, poverty, and war are tearing our world apart. These are not separate issues; they are not ‘single issues’. They are connected. They are part of a system of rival states and corporations. The driver of the system is competition for profit.

The carbon machine

The crisis can be imagined as a set of machines all wired to the same engine. A carbon machine is pumping pollution into the atmosphere and fast warming the planet.

Climate change is not some future threat: it is already happening. Floods temporarily covered 65% of Bangladesh in 1998, destroying villages, farms, and infrastructure. Half the island of Bhola, home to 1.6 million people, had been permanently washed away by 2004. The worst bushfires in Australia’s history ravaged the continent in 2011.

Around 20 million people were displaced by the effects of climate change in 2008 alone, and 150,000 people a year are now dying from its effects as diseases spread faster at higher temperatures.

The profit machine

The world is now more class-divided than ever before in history. The 80 richest people on Earth – who would fit on a double-decker bus – now have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity (3.5 billion people).

The top 1% as a whole own half of all global wealth, while the bottom 80% own just 5.5%. These levels of inequality are unprecedented.

The fast growing gap between rich and poor is driven by a profit machine. Corporate power, privatisation, and austerity are tearing societies apart to enrich a tiny minority. Everything from housing to health to urban space is being commodified – turned into new sources of profit.

Democracy is hollowed out by technocratic regimes serving the rich, the banks, and the corporations. Society is hollowed out by poverty, debt, and fear.

The war machine

Our rulers spend $1.7 trillion on armaments every year. Armies are becoming ever more high-tech, ever more deadly and destructive.

Today’s wars – all fed by the same global arms conglomerates – are of two kinds. Some are imperialist wars waged by great powers for control of resources, especially oil and gas. Others are sectarian wars waged by right-wing militias filling the vacuum when societies are torn apart by poverty and violence.

Both types of war are rooted in the same system: the war machine – like the carbon machine and the profit machine – is hard-wired to the engine of capital accumulation.

A self-expanding and competitive system

Capitalism is a system of self-expansion. No bank or corporation invests without expecting to make a profit. Capital investment is always about making money: getting more out than you put in. It is therefore about uncontrolled, unlimited, unending growth.

There is no such thing as ‘steady-state’ capitalism. The idea of ‘green capitalism’ is therefore a pipedream.

The fossil-fuel economy – oil and gas corporations, mining companies, car manufacturers – represents the second biggest concentration of capital in the world (the biggest of all is the banks). Trillions of dollars worth of capital investment is at stake. All of it is geared to growth.

What drives the engine of growth is competition. The world is divided into competing banks, corporations, nation-states, and armies. The struggle between them is a struggle for energy, minerals, markets, and contracts. It is therefore a struggle for power.

Competition drives the engine of growth. And that engine powers the carbon, profit, and war machines. We live in a joined-up world: one system, one crisis.

One big movement

The system cannot concede either social justice or climate justice without imperilling its own existence. The profiteers and warmongers who run the system will not allow change which threatens their wealth and power.

Time has now run out. Catastrophic climate change is imminent. The rulers of the world are rearming to fight new wars. And they and their system are plunging the mass of humanity ever deeper into poverty.

We need to build a united mass movement against war, poverty, and global warming; a movement for total system change; one big movement fighting for equality, democracy, and sustainability.

Neil Faulkner is an archaeologist, historian, and activist. He was one of the organisers of the This Changes Everything gathering in London on 28 March 2015.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

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