It looked like the gates of hell would open in the Gulf of Mexico and any moment a flaming demon would rise out of the ocean. At least the exploded gas pipeline with the simmering embers looked more like something out of a fantasy film than a real accident. It is one of many incidents. There were similar images in 2010, when the “Deep Water Horizon” drilling rig also blazed in the Gulf of Mexico. In Navodari, Romania, on the Black Sea, there was also an explosion recently in the country's largest oil refinery. Here, too, the photos of the bathers walking on the beach and the gray cloud of smoke in the background went around the globe.
It is perfectly normal madness in a world where the capitalist mode of production is predominant. In search of profits, corporations dig deep into the earth, look for rare metals, consume vast amounts of water, clear forests or contaminate the ground. Countries and companies act aggressively to different degrees, but basically they work according to the same principle: It has to be worthwhile. And as long as it is worthwhile to drill for gas or oil in the sea, drilling will continue and accidents will continue to occur.
For some years now - and accelerated by the global climate movement - more and more people have come to realize that this type of capitalism, which is based on fossil fuels, cannot survive forever. The resources are finite. Companies include terms such as sustainability or climate neutrality in their portfolios. Even the CDU does it in its election manifesto. On the one hand for advertising, because it is worthwhile to appear responsibly and with foresight to customers or voters. On the other hand, from the insight that large parts of industrial production, be it cars or straws, have to be radically changed in order for it to continue to pay off. Fossil capitalism is coming to an end - and everyone knows it.
It is the rational part of an otherwise irrational and anarchic system. In order to continue to make profit, companies cannot avoid at least going green, if not actually converting their production. Because as soon as the struggle for finite resources comes to a head, nobody wants to be left behind. The blockade of the Suez Canal by a transverse tanker showed the vulnerability of this global delivery system in a wonderful way: If the bottleneck in logistics is blocked, in the end there will be no more products in the supermarket next door. For their own survivability alone, companies therefore also need regional or sustainable concepts that go beyond globally networked just-in-time production.
Nevertheless, neither individual companies nor individual consumers have the opportunity to change anything in this system through their own decisions. As long as there are buyers for crude oil or pork schnitzel, there will be a market that meets these needs. Only if a collective decision were made to largely forego it would the oil remain in the ground or factory farming would be abolished. However, this is unrealistic in a world that is not based on collective and rational decisions, but on the interests of a few.
Regulating prices is not enough
What those who rave about the holy land of green capitalism forget: The climate catastrophe cannot only be stopped by pricing CO₂, even if climate policy debates focus heavily on it. The same goes for the petrol price debate. Many are convinced that they can react to demand by regulating prices. It is in the interests of the beneficiaries of this economy to make everyone else believe that market mechanisms alone can solve the problem.
But even in the most positive scenario, in which adaptable capitalist regimes manage to stop blowing emissions into the air by 2030 or to achieve the 1,5 degree target (which is already unrealistic today, but let's assume it), if the catastrophe had not been stopped. Because the devastation of our livelihoods has far more causes than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is the garbage in the seas, the poison in the soil, monocultures and resistance to antibiotics, the extinction of species. You no longer have to be a climate researcher to know that we are approaching tipping points. In other words, points at which we have irreversibly damaged nature.
To become truly climate-neutral would mean a massive restructuring of industry and energy generation for industrial societies, a rethinking in agriculture, in transport, in living and in our entire way of life. Anyone who believes they can leave this mammoth task to market forces also believes in the trickle-down effect. In truth, however, it is the case that every social and climate-political achievement in capitalism must be fought hard. The Renewable Energy Sources Act, for example, had to be pushed through just as lengthy and under difficult conditions as demands for a Green New Deal are now. State projects of this kind do not yet abolish capitalism, but at best they are the access of the left to prevent the worst. Despite every effort that is right and necessary to protect our livelihoods, we cannot avoid overcoming the existing mode of production and replacing it with one that does not function according to the logic of profit maximization. Because in this logic the exploitation of humans and nature is firmly inscribed.
Karl Marx sums it up when he writes: "Capitalist production therefore only develops the technology and combination of the social production process, while at the same time it undermines the springs of all wealth: the earth and the worker." A capitalism that is not its own There is no such thing as undermining the foundations at some point. Therefore, green capitalism is a contradiction in terms, if it is not only meant to mean being painted green. If green is to really mean sustainable and viable, then that cannot be done under capitalism, even if we should leave fossil fuels behind us.
Avocados on toast
Indeed, then perhaps no more flaming gates of hell will open in the ocean, but people will continue to have to work under unworthy conditions. Perhaps the avocados that everyone in the global north wants to eat on their toasts will no longer be harvested, but a different fruit. Just because capitalism is changing doesn't mean it is giving up its foundation. The exploitation is shifting to other areas, but it will never be abolished or the system would collapse. And those who benefit from it will try to prevent this by all means.
As early as 2016, Naomi Klein therefore presented us with the decision: capitalism versus climate. Its escalation is based on the fact that we can only save the climate and thus ourselves if we stand against capitalism. Not clumsy, but with a plan that makes better use of existing resources and still focuses on people's needs. The name of this vision is secondary. It must be preceded by the insight that green capitalism is a lie.
Otherwise we will experience far more dystopian things than summer that is too dry. Almost every sci-fi film shows what planets look like when they become uninhabitable. There is then like in Blade Runner 2049 a world with flying cars and partners made of holograms, a world with uninhabitable deserts and underworlds of the proletariat in which slaves work. That seems exaggerated, but we don't mind the fact that the richest people are more likely to fly into space than to end global hunger. What should make us believe that the same people in green capitalism would make everyone better off? There is no way around taking it into your own hands. Otherwise green capitalism will also become a dystopia.