Toward Democratic Eco-socialism
as the Next World System

20. Conclusion

Book cover: Global Capitalism and Climate Change: The Need for an Alternative World System by Hans A. Baer

The transitional steps that I have delineated constitute loose guidelines for shifting human societies or countries toward democratic eco-socialism. I do not purport that my suggested guidelines are comprehensive because undoubtedly others could be added to the list. As humanity enters an era of increasingly dangerous climate change accompanied by tumultuous environmental and social consequences, we will have to consider alternatives that hopefully will circumvent dystopian scenarios caused by ongoing socioeconomic, ecological, and climate crises if business continues more or less as usual. This essay proposes the imagining and creating of a democratic eco-socialist world system as a real utopia, not just as a vehicle for creating a safe climate, but a more socially just, democratic, and generally environmentally sustainable world society, as well.

As noted earlier, democratic eco-socialism rejects the capitalist treadmill of production and consumption, and its associated growth model. Instead, it recognizes that humans live on an ecologically fragile planet with limited resources that must be sustained and renewed as much as possible for future generations. While at the present time or for the foreseeable future, the notion that democratic eco-socialism may eventually be implemented in any society, developed or developing, or in a number of societies, may appear absurd. However, history tells us that social changes can occur very quickly once social, structural, and environmental conditions have reached a tipping point.

As humanity proceeds ever forward into the twenty-first century, our survival as a species appears to be more and more precarious, particularly given that the impact of climate change looms on the horizon in a multiplicity of ways. I often hear climate activists in Australia say that we do not have enough time to transcend global capitalism to be able to create a safe climate for humanity. Thus, they argue that climate activists need to collaborate with more supposedly progressive corporate leaders and politicians in tackling the climate crisis within the parameters of the existing global political economy. In my view, combatting climate change and global capitalism go hand-in-hand. While the more enlightened corporate elites and their political allies may permit some measures that contribute to climate change mitigation, they will certainly not consciously permit the eventual demise of global capitalism and the emergence of a democratic eco-socialist world system. As I [Baer: 2012] argue in Global Capitalism and Climate Change, green capitalism and existing climate regimes are not sufficient to mitigate climate change in any serious vein. How can we expect the system that created the problem to solve the problem?

My own sense is that overall things will get worse, before they get better, and there is no guarantee that they will get better. Nevertheless, while the capitalist world system appears to be well entrenched, there are numerous cracks in the system. In his Commentary No. 205 of March 15, 2007, Immanuel Wallerstein argues that in terms of the foreseeable future:

I do not believe that our historical system is going to last much longer, for I consider it to be in a terminal structural crisis, a chaotic transition to some other system (or systems), a transition that will last twenty-five to fifty years. I therefore believe it could be possible to overcome the self-destructive patterns of global environmental change into which the world has fallen and establish alternative patterns. I emphasize however my firm assessment that the outcome of this transition is inherently uncertain and unpredictable.

[Wallerstein 2004: 27/4: 273–83]

Book cover: Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism by Victor Wallis

Presenting a precise timeline of transition from the existing capitalist world system to a democratic eco-socialist world system is extremely difficult, probably impossible. It seems to me, however, that stabilization of the Earth's climate system needs to occur within the next two or three decades lest large swathes of land become uninhabitable for human beings as well as nonhuman species.

Despite the daunting difficulties that much of humanity currently faces and will continue to face over the course of this century, I think it is important that progressive people keep plugging away at challenging the system in their conversations, teachings, and writings while staying involved in anti-systemic movements by: struggling to create new left parties, pointing out alternative ways of organizing the world along democratic eco-socialist principles, and listening to critical input from other progressive perspectives, including eco-anarchism, eco-feminism, and indigenous voices, to mention only a few. Hopefully, as humanity finds itself in an increasingly critical situation, counter-hegemonic voices will receive a greater reception than they do now and will inspire ordinary people to become more politically involved in creating a much-needed new world.

Humanity is obviously at a crossroads, or perhaps more aptly put, at several crossroads: one being business-as-usual; another a shift to some variant of green capitalism that has gained much support among people somewhere left-of-center; and, finally, an eco-socialist vision that while muted at this point in time will become stronger as the need for it becomes more apparent to the masses of humanity.

Copyright © 2016

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