The sheer enormity of the Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the news cycle with a seeming tsunami of bad news. There’s the actual medical crisis, the devastation caused as tens of millions of people lose their jobs, the politicians trading charges, anti-China racism, the stark exposure of capitalism as a system floundering to address basic needs, and the scientific drama as dedicated scientists struggle to find answers.
The stories leave little room for anything else. Things like the melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, rising carbon dioxide levels, melting permafrost, increasing wildfires, and other ominous signs of the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced.
Much has been written about climate change, but few writers examine the central role that capitalism plays in the crisis. Tina Landis brings light to this connection in “Climate Solutions: Beyond Capitalism,” a book that offers a clear-eyed acknowledgement of the enormity of the challenge but offers a path forward based on science rather than profit-driven high-tech schemes and wishful thinking. Her book calls on readers to organize, steering focus away from the “doomers” who preach that there is no way out of this.
Abby Martin, a journalist who has been doing important work on the Empire Files, describes it as an “Essential guide to averting climate catastrophe that takes the most important, and most ignored approach — complete systemic change.”
Landis, a long-time organizer in the environmental and social justice movements, works in air quality regulation and climate protection, and holds a certificate in Sustainable Management. Her writing on environmental and other issues appears in Liberation News.
It should be obvious to all of us that infinite growth on a finite planet is not a logical way to organize a society. All the high-tech innovation in the world will not help if people are still encouraged to constantly buy new products, food waste runs rampant, and the Pentagon maintains the capitalist order around the globe with an enormous carbon footprint on our future. As Landis describes capitalism: “It is an enormously wasteful system where maximizing quarterly returns takes priority over a livable planet.” She continues, looking to solutions: “To solve the crisis, we need a planned economy where resources go to things that benefit society and the planet simultaneously.”
Wide range of people working on solutions
In addition to its clear critique of capitalism and the damage it has wrought, “Climate Solutions: Beyond Capitalism” offers a wealth of fascinating scientific information that celebrates a wide range of people working on solutions. Much of this is within a context Landis describes in an early chapter on agriculture and land use: “To restore the ecological system as a carbon capture and oxygen-producing mechanism for the planet, we need to shift our perspective to the holistic health of the ecosystem.” This includes reforestation to allow the Earth to heal itself, rather than massive destruction for mono-crop agriculture.
We meet fascinating scientists along this journey. A father-son team that has learned that re-introducing herds of native grazing animals will reduce permafrost melt on Siberia’s Mammoth Steppe. Animals from Canada, Alaska, and other parts of Russia have joined the project, called Pleistocene Park, happily grazing while helping to restore the planet.
She introduces readers to Paul Stamets, a researcher who has shown the restorative powers of mycelium, an extraordinary natural resource that can reduce toxins and radiation from soil in addition to generating delicious and nutritious mushrooms.
Landis also cautions, in ways that hint at the current pandemic, which was not yet known when she was writing: “Destruction of ecosystems has repercussions beyond just carbon capture capacity and species loss. Deforestation has been linked to the rise of diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease that greatly impact public health globally.”
Readers might wonder why we hear so little about promising and well-documented methods to heal the environment. Landis gets to the heart of the dilemma in her Preface: “U.S. mainstream media outlets are controlled by just six companies and represent the viewpoint of the ruling class — which wants to maintain ‘business as usual’ so they can continue to enrich themselves. If the population is not aware that there are solutions, they are less likely to demand action.”
This grim fatalism and surrender to the ruling class is best attacked from a perspective of revolutionary optimism. Such a view recognizes that we have the tools and insights needed to build an eco-socialist system that does not harm people or the environment. The way forward is not possible within the current capitalist system.
“Climate Solutions: Beyond Capitalism” opens with a Foreword in which Jodi Dean describes evolving acknowledgement of climate change. Major banks, financial analysts, oil and gas companies, the Pentagon, and other decidedly non-socialist organizations understand the threat it poses.
Rather than examine the system at the root of the problem, they have focused attention on personal responsibility. “We” workers are chastised as the guilty party, destroying the planet if we don’t recycle, bicycle to work, or buy expensive electric cars. Futuristic schemes are proposed for carbon capture and other high-tech methods that would further enrich capitalists. Likewise, dangerous alternative energy sources like fracking and nuclear power are promoted.
Landis examines and basically shreds each of these proposed solutions in the pages that follow. As just one example, carbon capture technology, if utilized at the necessary scale, would actually increase carbon emissions when all the processes involved are taken into account. As for nuclear power, just consider Fukushima, plus the constant need for cooling water on a heating plant.
Landis makes clear that “Climate Solutions: Beyond Capitalism” does not offer the final word on the threats our changing climate poses, the obstacles we face, and potential solutions. The scientific understanding is evolving as is the environment itself. The book gives a solid understanding of the basic factors at play, including a chapter describing the impact the oceans have on our climate. She also discusses a broad range of topics and the ways they are influenced by climate change. These include environmental racism, the murder of Berta Caceres and many others who defend the environment, the global impacts of imperialism, and the massive impact of the Pentagon war machine, which rarely receives the scrutiny it warrants.
It is a small book, but expansive in outlook in a way that echoes the holistic eco-socialist society we will need to build to effectively address the threat. Different facets are interconnected, not atomized and individual in the way our current system would have us view the world.
Climate Solutions: Beyond Capitalism” ends with “Humanity is at Risk,” a speech given by Fidel Castro Ruiz on June 12, 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Cuba has been at the forefront of environmentally healthy policies since the revolution, and it is renowned around the world for its health missions. His call for environmental justice rings ever more powerfully after all these years: “Enough of selfishness. Enough of schemes of domination. Enough of insensitivity, irresponsibility and deceit. Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.”
The current pandemic has exposed the flaws of capitalism, a system that says profits for the wealthiest people are more important than the safety of the workers, the truly essential people in society. Can anyone doubt that the owners, bosses and politicians will act with any less cruelty when climate change brings further disasters in the future?
As Landis tells us: “The time to act is now.”
Purchase the book here.