Capitalism and the new mass extinction

15 November 2020

According to a UN report published in 2019, one million species (out of a total of around 8 million) are currently threatened with extinction. However this is far from the full picture – as these organisms exist within dynamic ecosystems, the disappearance of even one species can have a catastrophic impact on others within the system. 

Scientists believe that we are currently in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history, which could result in the elimination of between 60 and 95 percent of all species on earth. Of course, such an event would not only impact the animal and plant population, but humanity as well. 

Biodiversity is the mechanism through which the essentials of human life on Earth are produced, including clean air, fresh water, and our food supply. Healthy ecosystems also act as counterweights to climate change through the growth of plant life and carbon capture within healthy soil.

Unfortunately for humanity and all living organisms on our planet, we live in a capitalist system which is incapable of preventing the loss of biodiversity. Capitalism causes species loss not just through rampant fossil fuel use and the resulting pollution and climate change, but also through its ravenous hunger for raw materials such as timber and agricultural land.

According to a 2017 report by scientists at the University of Maryland,158,000 square kilometres of rainforest were chopped down in 2017 alone, and the rate of deforestation is only increasing. These rainforests are often replaced with palm tree monocultures for use in the production of palm oil, or for agricultural use. Such monocultures cannot provide the environments necessary for the maintenance of diverse animal populations. Forests are being cut down solely to generate profit for capitalists.

Additionally, years of pollution and overfishing have left the world’s oceans near collapse. Chemical pollutants often end up high up in aquatic food webs, leading to disastrous consequences. An example of this is the insecticide DDT, an ocean pollutant which ended up so high in the food chain that it caused the bald eagle to be placed on the endangered species list.

Due to the capitalists’ endless drive for profits and disregard for the natural environment, capitalism is simply incapable of preventing species loss on a massive scale. While the anarchy of the market reigns over humanity, the best attempts of environmental agencies and regulatory bodies to protect our planet from mass extinction will be in vain.

Only a global socialist economy, committed to planning on a rational and sustainable basis, can hope to prevent this crisis. We need a radical solution to protect our remaining biodiversity and help our planet to recover. We need a global socialist revolution to save the Earth. Protect our planet! Down with capitalism!

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