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Socialism gives us a chance to build a sustainable world

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A socialist society would allow people to plan for the needs of people and planet, not the profits of the few, argues Sarah Bates
Issue 2645
Multinational corporations saw melting ice caps as an opportunity to drill for oil in the Arctic
Multinational corporations saw melting ice caps as an opportunity to drill for oil in the Arctic (Pic: Flickr/Chas Redmond)

Many in the climate strike movement call for a radical overhaul of a system that allows the rich to pollute our world—but what might that look like?

A socialist society would have sustainability, democracy and the needs of ordinary people at the heart of it. New ways of organising society would open up possibilities for fighting climate change.

We could use the technological advances made under capitalism to meet the needs of people and planet.

Some try to discredit socialist solutions by claiming they would mean an end to scientific development. They argue that there wouldn’t be an incentive to make innovations without a profit.

But the opposite is true. There would likely be huge advancements in science and technology.

Experts could share knowledge rather than producing identical things in secret laboratories for competing companies.

And the development of new technologies wouldn’t be constrained by what’s profitable or not.

We could tackle the problem of how to stop the Earth’s oceans from filling up with rubbish. A huge amount of that rubbish is plastic—a material that could last forever but is sold as disposable to keep up profits.

There is growing awareness about how damaging fossil fuels are to the environment.

Yet, instead of acting on it, multinational corporations pour billions into finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal. They actually saw melting ice caps as an opportunity to drill for oil in the Arctic.

That’s because under capitalism production is based on what’s profitable for bosses. But in a socialist society we would make things because they are useful for humanity as a whole.

There would be democratic planning on a system-wide scale. People could instead decide to use their experience, time and resources developing renewable energies rather than extracting fossil fuels.


This would facilitate the energy transition that will be needed to dramatically curb carbon emissions. It would be an end to a system where the wealthy guzzle up resources while the rest of us struggle to get by.

What is socialism and can it work?
What is socialism and can it work?
  Read More

The rich and powerful who benefit from capitalism are the ones most responsible for climate change. Just 15 percent of the population take 70 percent of all international and domestic flights in Britain.

In a socialist society there would need to be huge infrastructure projects. It’s likely these would involve the development of sustainable transport systems and energy efficient house building programmes.

With the stranglehold of profit broken, humans’ relationship with work would change too.

It would see an end to an illogical job market that sees some work three jobs to survive while others get by on zero hour contracts.

Workers wouldn’t have to commute long distances by car, racking up carbon emissions and making their lives miserable.

The rich like to say that climate change can be tackled through small changes by individuals or through vaguely worded political treaties.

But these “solutions” won’t tackle what’s keeping serious action on climate change off the agenda—the logic of profit. Only a revolutionary movement with workers at the centre of it would be able to overthrow their rule.

Fighting for a socialist world gives us a chance of a sustainable future.

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