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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 11:34 PM CDT

Green Capitalism: Why it can’t work

Climate Change

Roughly speaking, there are four schools of thought about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert climate catastrophe. The consumer behavior school wants individuals to travel less, recycle more, eat locally-grown food and have fewer babies. The economic reform school proposes taxes, trading schemes, and sometimes regulations. The technology substitution school calls for new kinds of equipment. And the social change school advocates changes in the dominant system of producing and distributing material goods.

Green Capitalism: Why it can’t work

Review: Ian Angus says Daniel Tanuro’s book is an important contribution to the fight against climate change and for ecosocialism, but parts of it are open to challenge

Tanuro Green CapitalismDaniel Tanuro
Green Capitalism: Why it can’t work
translated by Jane Ennis
(London: Merlin Press, 2013)

reviewed by Ian Angus

Roughly speaking, there are four schools of thought about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert climate catastrophe. The consumer behavior school wants individuals to travel less, recycle more, eat locally-grown food and have fewer babies. The economic reform school proposes taxes, trading schemes, and sometimes regulations. The technology substitution school calls for new kinds of equipment. And the social change school advocates changes in the dominant system of producing and distributing material goods.

The four schools include many subdivisions. Advocates of social change, for example, include anarchists, autonomists, social ecologists, Marxists, and more, and there are debates within and between each of those currents. This is entirely positive: frank discussion of different views is an essential part of building an effective movement for radical social and environmental change.

Green Capitalism: Why it can’t work, by the noted Belgian ecosocialist Daniel Tanuro, is an important contribution to these ongoing discussions. Originally published in French as L’impossible capitalisme vert (La Découverte, 2009), it speaks to two separate audiences, challenging greens to recognize that environmental destruction cannot be stopped so long as capitalism continues, and challenging Marxists to change their views and behavior, to take into account limits to growth.

Tanuro is most successful in his challenge to mainstream greens. He rebuts the common view that pollution is caused by humanity in general — “it would be infinitely more accurate to refer to capitalist climate change instead of ‘anthropogenic’ climate change.”(43) Then, in an effective argument that mostly avoids abstract economic theory, he demonstrates the practical impossibility of stopping the climate crisis by carbon taxes, emissions trading, green subsidies, or any other means short of radical social change.

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