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Wits University Press

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Read: Vishwas Satgar discusses The Climate Crisis with the Daily Maverick

Capitalism’s addiction to fossil fuels is heating our planet at a pace and scale never before experienced.

Extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels and accelerating feedback loops are a commonplace feature of our lives. The number of environmental refugees is increasing and several island states and low-lying countries are becoming vulnerable. Corporate-induced climate change has set us on an ecocidal path of species extinction. Governments and their international platforms such as the Paris Climate Agreement deliver too little, too late.

Most states, including South Africa, continue on their carbon-intensive energy paths, with devastating results. Political leaders across the world are failing to provide systemic solutions to the climate crisis.

This is the context in which we must ask ourselves: how can people and class agency change this destructive course of history?

Volume three in the Democratic Marxism series, The Climate Crisis investigates ecosocialist alternatives that are emerging. It presents the thinking of leading climate justice activists, campaigners and social movements advancing systemic alternatives and developing bottom-up, just transitions to sustain life.

Through a combination of theoretical and empirical work, the authors collectively examine the challenges and opportunities inherent in the current moment. This volume builds on the class-struggle focus of Volume 2 by placing ecological issues at the center of democratic Marxism. Most importantly, it explores ways to renew historical socialism with democratic, ecosocialist alternatives to meet current challenges in South Africa and the world.

Vishwas Satgar is a democratic ecosocialist and has been an activist for over three decades. He is an associate professor of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He edits the Democratic Marxism series for which he received the distinguished contribution award from the World Association of Political Economy.

Kevin Bloom recently discussed this necessary work with Satgar for the Daily Maverick:

I. Collusion

What’s a techno-fix?

For starters, according to The Climate Crisis, a new book that exposes (among other things) how the United Nations is committing the most egregious act of ecocide in the history of our species, a techno-fix is not a change in the status quo. It is not a system change, a foundational change, or in any way an authentic change. A synonym for techno-fix, in this context, would be “carbon trading”. Another would be “offset mechanism”. At the far end of the scale, there would of course be “greening”.

A techno-fix, in other words, is a clever way of deflecting blame for the collapse of the natural world.

“So, contrary to Anthropocene theory, which suggests that we are all responsible for the climate crisis,” writes Vishwas Satgar, the editor and compiler, in the book’s introduction, “it is actually the capitalist system and its class champions that are responsible for the climate crisis. A system that has produced a systemic problem cannot solve the problem, given that this is a carbon-based capitalist civilisation. Nothing short of the fundamental decarbonisation of production, consumption, finance and every life world on this planet will save human and non-human nature.”

If the first two sentences of this passage betray the book as a socialist’s take on the approaching catastrophe, that’s because it is. The title, in fact, is The Climate Crisis: South African and Global Democratic Eco-Socialist Alternatives. For the elite South African reader, this double publishing faux pas (i.e., the ideology and the inelegance of the title) will most likely be seized upon as a reason not to bother. But the elite South African reader, not for the first time in his life, will be missing out. Because, as this book makes clear, while the elite are busy consoling themselves with techno-fixes, the world’s (and South Africa’s) eco-activists are attempting to give us a fighting chance.

Satgar, an associate professor at Wits University and a leading voice in the burgeoning South African food sovereignty movement, has assembled a list of local and international contributors who are well-equipped to divide this “problem” into tolerable, digestible chunks. He opens the volume by acknowledging the “failures of twentieth century socialism”, most notably the anthropocentrism of Marxism – which has led directly to the poisoning of vast swathes of Russia and China – and goes on to note, provocatively, that a renewed democratic eco-socialism faces squarely the suicidal logic of capitalism “through a radical practice and conception of democracy as people’s power, mediated by an ethics to sustain life.”

How this plays out in real terms is the subject of the book’s cascading series of essays.

Continue reading here.

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