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<TITLE>Section E - What do anarchists think causes ecological problems?</TITLE>
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<p>

<H1>Section E - What do anarchists think causes ecological problems?</h1>
<p>
Anarchists have been at the forefront of ecological thinking and the green
movement for decades. Murray Bookchin in particular has placed anarchist
ideas at the centre of green debate, emphasising the <B>social</B> nature of
the ecological problems we face and arguing that humanity's domination of
nature is the result of domination <B>within</B> humanity itself. (See, for 
example <B>Toward an Ecological Society</B>). The ecological implications 
of many anarchist ideas (such as decentralisation, integration of industry 
and agriculture, and so forth) has meant that anarchists have quickly
recognised the importance of ecological movements and ideas.
<p>
Precursors of eco-anarchism can be found in Peter Kropotkin's writings.
For example, in his classic work <B>Fields, Factories and Workshops</B>,
Kropotkin argued the case for "small is beautiful" 70 years before E. F.
Schumacher coined the phase. Through his investigations in geography and
biology, Kropotkin discovered species to be interconnected with each other
and with their environment. <B>Mutual Aid</B> is the classic source book on
the survival value of co-operation within species, which Kropotkin regarded
as the chief factor of evolution, arguing that those who claim competition
is the chief factor have distorted Darwin's work. So, while a specifically
"eco" anarchism did not develop until the revolutionary work done by
Murray Bookchin from the 1950's onwards, anarchist theory has had a
significant "proto-green" content since at least Kropotkin's time.
<p>
This section of the FAQ expands upon section D.4 <a HREF = secD4.html>
("What is the
relationship between capitalism and the ecological crisis?")</a> in which we
indicated that since capitalism is based upon the principle of "growth or
death," a "green" capitalism is impossible. By its very nature capitalism
must expand, creating new markets, increasing production and consumption,
and so invading more ecosystems, using more resources, and upsetting the
interrelations and delicate balances that exist with ecosystems. 
<p>
Takis Fotopoulous has argued that the main reason why the project of
"greening" capitalism is just a utopian dream <I>"lies in a fundamental
contradiction that exists between the logic and dynamic of the growth
economy, on the one hand, and the attempt to condition this dynamic with
qualitative interests" </I>on the other [<I>"Development or Democracy?"
</I>, p. 82,
<B>Society and Nature</B> No. 7, pp. 57-92]. Under capitalism, ethics,
nature and humanity all have a price tag. And that price tag is god. This
is understandable as every hierarchical social system requires a
belief-system. Under feudalism, the belief-system came from the Church,
whereas under capitalism, it pretends to come from science, whose 
biased practitioners (usually funded by the state and capital) are
the new priesthood. Like the old priesthoods, only those members who
produce "objective research" become famous and influential -- "objective
research" being that which accepts the status quo as "natural" and produces
what the elite want to hear (i.e. apologetics for capitalism and elite
rule will always be praised as "objective" and "scientific" regardless of
its actual scientific and factual content, the infamous "bell curve" and
Malthus's "Law of Population" being classic examples). More importantly,
capitalism needs science to be able to measure and quantify everything
in order to sell it. This mathematical faith is reflected in its politics 
and economics, where quantity is more important than quality, where 5 
votes are better than 2 votes, where $5 is better than $2. And like all 
religions, capitalism needs sacrifice. In the name of "free enterprise," 
"economic efficiency," "stability" and "growth" it sacrifices individuality, 
freedom, humanity, and nature for the power and profits of the few.
<p>
Besides its alliance with the ecology movement, eco-anarchism also finds
allies in the feminist and peace movements, which it regards, like the
ecology movement, as implying the need for anarchist principles. Thus
eco-anarchists think that global competition between nation-states is
responsible not only for the devouring of nature but is also the primary
cause of international military tensions, as nations seek to dominate each
other by military force or the threat thereof. As international
competition becomes more intense and weapons of mass destruction spread,
the seeds are being sown for catastrophic global warfare involving
nuclear, chemical, and/or biological weapons. Because such warfare would
be the ultimate ecological disaster, eco-anarchism and the peace movement
are but two aspects of the same basic project. Similarly, eco-anarchists
recognise that domination of nature and male domination of women have
historically gone hand in hand, so that eco-feminism is yet another aspect
of eco-anarchism. Since feminism, ecology, and peace are key issues
of the Green movement, anarchists believe that Greens are implicitly
committed to anarchism, whether they realise it or not, and hence that
they should adopt anarchist principles of direct political action rather
than getting bogged down in trying to elect people to state offices. 
<p>
Here we discuss some of the main themes of eco-anarchism and consider a
few suggestions by non-anarchists about how to protect the environment,
including the false free market capitalist claim that the answer to the 
ecological crisis is to privatise everything, the myth that population 
growth is a <B>cause</B> of ecological problems rather than the <B>effect</B> of deeper
root-causes, and why green consumerism is doomed to failure. The issue of
electing Green Parties to power will be addressed in section J.2.4
<a HREF=secJ2.html#secj24>("Surely voting for radical parties will 
be effective?")</a> and so will be
ignored here, as will the question of "single-issue" campaigns (like
C.N.D. and Friends of the Earth), which will be discussed in section J.1.4
<a HREF=secJ1.html#secj14>
("What attitude do anarchists take to 'single-issue' campaigns?")</a>.
<p>
For anarchists, unless we resolve the underlying contradictions within
society, which stem from domination, hierarchy and a capitalist economy,
ecological disruption will continue and grow, putting our Earth in
increasing danger. We need to resist the system and create new values
based on quality, not quantity. We must return the human factor to our
alienated society before we alienate ourselves completely off the planet. 
<p>
Many greens attack what they consider the "wrong ideas" of modern society, 
its "materialistic values" and counter-pose <B>new</B> ideas, more in tune with
a green society. This approach, however, misses the point. Ideas and 
values do not "just happen", but are the <B>product</B> of a given set of social
relationships. This means that it is not just a matter of changing our values 
values in a way that places humanity in harmony with nature, but also of 
understanding the <B>social</B> and <B>structural</B> origins of the 
ecological crisis. 
Ideas and values <B>do</B> need to be challenged, but unless the authoritarian 
social relationships, hierarchy and inequalities in power, i.e. the material 
base that produces these values and ideas, is also challenged and, more 
importantly, <B>changed</B> an ecological society is impossible. So unless 
ecologists recognise that this crisis did not develop in a social vacuum 
and is not the "fault" of people as <B>people</B> (as opposed to people in a 
hierarchical society), little can be done root out the systemic causes 
of the problems that we and the planet face.
<p>

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