One million species are threatened with extinction, 23% of all land has suffered degradation, hundreds of millions of people are at greater risk of floods and hurricanes due to loss of coastal habitats, and a huge proportion of global food production is at risk due to pollinator loss.
“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever [is] eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” A report released on 6 May by IPBES, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, shows “unprecedented” declines in biodiversity and ecosystem health, “accelerating” rates of species extinction, and “insufficient” current global response.
“Fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors” is needed to restore and protect nature”. This can be brought about: “[o]pposition from vested interests can be overcome for public good”. The most significant factors impacting nature globally, in descending order, are ranked as: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species. For more sustainable future policies, the report calls for “the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.”
Recall who wrote the report. It isn’t from a left-wing, let alone socialist or anti-capitalist body. It is the most extensive and in-depth research into a crucial topic, by a collective of researchers organised through a “platform” established by the large majority of the world’s (capitalist) states. And yet its conclusions, as with various other environmental reports, point straightforwardly in the direction of radical conclusions. Capitalism is the dominant global economic and political system today.
That is, small numbers of individuals – the ruling class — own and control companies in pursuit of their own profit, with the work that actually makes them function being performed, for the most part, by the rest of us – the working class. This how most industries are run, and most services and goods are produced, and it shapes the functioning of our society. The ruling class, through accumulating wealth, has incredible power, not just within this or that company, but over governments and more widely. This power helps them protect their “vested interests”.
On 12 May, an IMF report shows that world governments spent $5.2 trillion – that is, $5.2 million million – on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, up from $4.7 trillion in 2015. Individual capitalists’ endless pursuits of profit, collectively constitute unlimited pursuit of economic growth, to the detriment of humanity and the environment. Limiting harm to biodiversity and ecosystems requires us to limit the short-term profits of the agriculture and food industries; largely end the meat, fish, and fossil fuel industries; dedicate large swathes of land to promoting these aims which could otherwise be used to accrue private wealth; and prevent or transform many other activities which could be highly lucrative.
On top of this, to fund such transformations, we will need to take control of a lot — or all — of the wealth of the rich and in the banks. This can and would all be done by economies and societies run genuinely democratically by workers and communities, and organised rationally in the interest of humanity as a whole. To make such limits happen from the world as we find it in 2019, requires, at the very least, serious confrontations with capital, if not the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.