Capitalism’s Unplanned Obsolescence

By Pedro Domínguez Gento on February 1, 2022

photo: ICCCAD

After centuries of atrocities against people including wars, massacres, slavery, exploitation, the destruction of the environment, pollution of ecosystems, extinction of flora and fauna, etc., this insensitive and insatiable system has brought us to the current critical situation, including pandemics. And if it were not for the environmental problems, more and more unsustainable, it would continue doing barbarities indefinitely, because people are easy to deceive (this is the only way to explain why the extreme right that caused the Second World War and 60 million deaths is growing again), but Nature cannot be deceived because it works with physics and chemical laws absolutely indifferent to publicity and lies of the great political, economic, religious, media leaders…

Corporate and state capitalism is reaching its expiration date, unplanned obsolescence, for at least three different reasons:

Climate emergency: the COP26 declared that during this decade we have to reduce greenhouse gases and therefore fossil fuels by 45% if we want to limit the global rise in temperatures to 35F, so that extreme climatic phenomena do not prove to be excessively destructive and we can withstand them.

However, the real commitments of governments are insufficient (some still subsidize airplanes, automobiles, mass tourism, weapons and want to expand airports, ports, roads, etc.) and lead us towards rises of 36F and 38F over the coming decades, with the danger that some phenomena such as melting Arctic ice, tundra and glaciers are self-sustaining and can irreversibly accelerate global warming. And if global temperatures rise this much, in Spain we will have summers with days of 122F and 140F, as in the Sahara .Are the governments, the owners of the big companies and the citizens aware that this is absolutely unsustainable and threatens the survival of millions of species, including our own?

Decline of natural resources: some strategic minerals are being depleted at a rapid rate, for example mercury of which we have already extracted 92%, silver 79%, gold 75%, tin 75%, arsenic 75%,  lead 72%, copper 59%, oil 48%, etc., and this is already beginning to generate serious problems before they are exhausted. Oil, in particular, still has half of its reserves left, but those of easy extraction have run out and every year it is more complicated and more expensive to continue extracting it, so that its production has passed peak oil 4 and is declining, especially diesel, fuel for heavy machinery… With the decline and depletion of natural resources, how long can a system based on continuous growth and abundant and cheap oil last?

System collapse: in the long run this system is unsustainable, but the question now is what will world leaders do in the short and medium term? In principle, they do not seem to want to solve the problems because for the moment they are doing well, they are getting richer and more powerful, the opposite of what is happening to the great majority of people. And they continue to do more of the same: speculation and financial bubbles, disconnection of the financial world and the real economy, privatization of public services and even pensions, automation of processes and reduction of human labor, growing unemployment especially among young people, maintenance of long working hours, lengthening of the retirement age, etc. etc.. They are so much carried away by the historical inertia that they are repeating the “solutions” that they already applied to the biggest previous crisis, the 1929 crash and the world depression of the 30’s; making those at the bottom pay for the crisis, hardening repression, encouraging extreme right-wing groups/parties/governments, specialists in lying and provoking, promoting a new arms escalation with NATO destroying oil countries, plundering them and besieging Russians, Chinese and others. We already know how that crisis ended and now it could be much worse because they have 13,000 thermonuclear missiles, much more destructive than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki… How would this civilization be left if World War III broke out? Would anyone survive?

Today there are already 7,921 billion human beings but the main problem is not overpopulation but over consumption. As Ghandi said, “the Earth has enough resources to sustain all mankind but not enough to satisfy the greed of a few”. In other words, there are not enough resources and regenerative capacity of the biosphere for our economy, consumption and waste to continue to grow ad infinitum; this insane pretension of capitalists and their economists is completely impossible and leads us humans and millions of species to the dustbin of history!

However, there are solutions to all problems and we have known them for a long time, but they all involve overcoming this system. Solutions such as those proposed by the 11,000 scientists generalizing savings, efficiency and renewable energies, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, helping poor countries to abandon them, protecting and restoring ecosystems, consuming more plant-based food and less animal-based food, stabilizing the world population while respecting human rights and on and on.

And by consuming less, in rich countries, we can even live better. For example, with regard to the climate emergency, we must reduce by half fossil fuels, which account for almost 90% of the energy we use, and we can do this perfectly well because right now there are people who maintain a good standard of living and quality of life by consuming much less energy and resources than the average of their fellow citizens. And they are equally or happier because, after covering basic needs, well-being and happiness no longer grow with consumption, and may even decrease due to the negative impacts of consumerism on health and the environment.

Inevitably we are going to decrease because we have exceeded the fundamental limits of the biosphere and this is unsustainable. We were warned because the authors of The Limits to Growth predicted it 50 years ago and numerous subsequent studies have corroborated it. The question now is how we decrease, if by the hard way, continuing as we are going until the uncontrollable collapse explodes uncontrollably, or by the good way, organizing and empowering ourselves as conscious people and leading it in a scientific, democratic, cooperative and in solidarity with one another.

This decade will be crucial, if we lose it uselessly as the previous ones, perhaps we will not be able to recover the climate balance, nor will we have enough resources for change or simply we will have burst in a new global deflagration… But the future is not written and if we do not let ourselves be deceived or lead like sheep to the slaughter, if we organize and fight, we can overcome this obsolete system and evolve towards a much better one…

Source: Cubadebate,  translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English