Dateline Australia — Governments fiddle while ozone shrinks and weather wobbles

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“I love a sunburnt country,” begins an Australian patriotic poem. The words are more apt than the poet knew. Since the early 1980s Australians have been exhorted to “slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.” The “ozone hole” looms overhead, and the sunburnt country threatens to turn into a radiation-scorched wasteland.

The government responds by down playing the crisis or promoting inadequate personal solutions, because its main concern is to protect the rights of business to untrammeled exploitation — of resources and people both.

The sky is falling. Ozone tomorrow’s share prices. Like a gas in the stratosphere filters ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight; it is the world’s sunshade. UV radiation causes cancer, eye diseases and immune system deficiencies in mammals and it attacks plankton, which forms the basis of the ocean food chain.

The ozone layer is shrinking. Normally, it averages 3mm thick, or one-tenth inches, but in the far south this year it will be just 0.1mm, or 4/1000 inches. This rarified region will cover five percent of the earth’s surface.

Ozone depletion will lead to an increase in human deaths from skin cancer. Other species, particularly domestic livestock, will suffer similarly, and the ocean’s plant life will be debilitated. A catastrophe is literally “in the air.”

Apart from announcing token “targets” for reducing the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — chlorine-based compounds which destroy ozone — governments have done nothing to avert disaster.

CFCs also contribute to what is now a continuously rising average air temperature. But there is a bigger Greenhouse Effect villain — unprecedented quantities of carbon dioxide released through the burning of fossil fuels. And the mass destruction of the world’s forests and the attack on ocean plankton, which both productively use up carbon, weaken the capacity of the environment to deal with the excess.

Capitalism is smothering the planet.

Ain’t the weather strange? Global warming, floods in Europe, and record numbers of windstorms across the planet may foreshadow the climate of the future. Disruption of the ocean currents in the South Pacific threatens to make Australian cities uninhabitable and wipe out Peru’s fisheries.

January’s Earth magazine shows the fragility of the world’s climate. Ice cores from Greenland have revealed a period between ice ages where weather patterns were wildly unstable. In one event, the average temperature fell by 25 degrees in ten years, rising again 70 years later.

Our heedless industrial activities today are affecting climate in complex ways scientists are only beginning to investigate, let alone understand. Research is needed urgently, but governments won’t provide the money.

A canker on the globe. Industry requires renewable energy supplies to maintain growth. Yet the quest for a fast buck means that corporations worry only about where the next load of coal comes from — not the one after. Energy efficiency would be profitable in the long term, but the long term extends just as far as The sky is falling. Ozone tomorrow’s share prices. Like a cancer, capitalism eats up resources and spits out toxins.

World economy pivots around the war industry, which produces only death, misery and pollution. It returns the raw material ripped from the earth to the population as bombs, bullets, or toxic clouds. It buys our labor at rock-bottom prices, and then uses our work against us. We are discarded like industrial waste when no longer required, to scavenge for existence in rotting cities and ruined forests.

A workingclass issue. Vilification of ecological activists is routine whenever contamination of the environment makes the front pages. Working people are fed the lie that conservation costs jobs. Crap! Proper management of the world’s natural resources would create jobs which capitalism will not provide, such as forest regeneration, urban renewal and soil restoration.

Our environment is not only “nature.” It’s the factory floor strewn with chemical waste; the office saturated with radiation from computer screens; the chemically loaded air in the cities. Indigenous Brazilians flee as the bulldozers raze their forests, only to see their young people murdered by death squads in Rio — to “clean up the streets” for wealthy tourists!

Concern for the environment is not just an issue for a few committed green activists. It’s an integral part of the struggle of Labor against Capital.

Not limits, but a planned economy. Some environmental lobbyists call for limits on technological change and population growth. But the technology we working people have created is a powerful force for liberation, if only we gain control of it.

Workers in every country have fought hard for the comforts technology can bring. The task is to raise everybody’s living standards to those currently enjoyed by the wealthy few. With careful planning and environmental management, this can be achieved now. But we must move from “conserving” the status quo to demolishing it. We must get rid of an economic system which turns beauty into defilement, and abundance into scarcity.

Capitalism has now poisoned sunshine. Enough! Time for the ultimate workingclass cleanup: a global socialist society.

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