In October 2007, 60 activists from thirteen countries met in Paris to discuss the future of ecosocialism. They founded the Ecosocialist International Network (EIN), and elected a steering committee to prepare for a larger meeting in Belem, Brazil, in January 2009, in conjunction with the World Social Forum.
Three members of the committee — Ian Angus, Joel Kovel, and Michael Löwy — were assigned to prepare a manifesto for discussion at that meeting. With assistance from Danielle Follett, they produced a draft in mid-2008. It was discussed by email during 2008, and then in Belem. By June 2009, it had been endorsed by over 400 ecosocialists in 37 countries, and several hundred more added their names informally in the following year.
Although the EIN no longer exists, the Belem Ecosocialist Declaration remains an important consensus statement of ecosocialist principles and goals. Climate & Capitalism is pleased to mark its tenth anniversary by republishing it in full.
THE BELEM ECOSOCIALIST DECLARATION
“The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change,
and the disease is the capitalist development model.”
— Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, September 2007
Humanity today faces a stark choice: ecosocialism or barbarism.
We need no more proof of the barbarity of capitalism, the parasitical system that exploits humanity and nature alike. Its sole motor is the imperative toward profit and thus the need for constant growth. It wastefully creates unnecessary products, squandering the environment’s limited resources and returning to it only toxins and pollutants. Under capitalism, the only measure of success is how much more is sold every day, every week, every year – involving the creation of vast quantities of products that are directly harmful to both humans and nature, commodities that cannot be produced without spreading disease, destroying the forests that produce the oxygen we breathe, demolishing ecosystems, and treating our water, air and soil like sewers for the disposal of industrial waste.
Capitalism’s need for growth exists on every level, from the individual enterprise to the system as a whole. The insatiable hunger of corporations is facilitated by imperialist expansion in search of ever greater access to natural resources, cheap labor and new markets. Capitalism has always been ecologically destructive, but in our lifetimes these assaults on the earth have accelerated. Quantitative change is giving way to qualitative transformation, bringing the world to a tipping point, to the edge of disaster. A growing body of scientific research has identified many ways in which small temperature increases could trigger irreversible, runaway effects – such as rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet or the release of methane buried in permafrost and beneath the ocean – that would make catastrophic climate change inevitable.
Left unchecked, global warming will have devastating effects on human, animal and plant life. Crop yields will drop drastically, leading to famine on a broad scale. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced by droughts in some areas and by rising ocean levels in others. Chaotic, unpredictable weather will become the norm. Air, water and soil will be poisoned. Epidemics of malaria, cholera and even deadlier diseases will hit the poorest and most vulnerable members of every society.
The impact of the ecological crisis is felt most severely by those whose lives have already been ravaged by imperialism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and indigenous peoples everywhere are especially vulnerable. Environmental destruction and climate change constitute an act of aggression by the rich against the poor.
Ecological devastation, resulting from the insatiable need to increase profits, is not an accidental feature of capitalism: it is built into the system’s DNA and cannot be reformed away.Profit-oriented production only considers a short-term horizon in its investment decisions, and cannot take into account the long-term health and stability of the environment. Infinite economic expansion is incompatible with finite and fragile ecosystems, but the capitalist economic system cannot tolerate limits on growth; its constant need to expand will subvert any limits that might be imposed in the name of “sustainable development.” Thus the inherently unstable capitalist system cannot regulate its own activity, much less overcome the crises caused by its chaotic and parasitical growth, because to do so would require setting limits upon accumulation – an unacceptable option for a system predicated upon the rule: Grow or Die!
If capitalism remains the dominant social order, the best we can expect is unbearable climate conditions, an intensification of social crises and the spread of the most barbaric forms of class rule, as the imperialist powers fight among themselves and with the global south for continued control of the world’s diminishing resources.
At worst, human life may not survive.
Capitalist Strategies for Change
There is no lack of proposed strategies for contending with ecological ruin, including the crisis of global warming looming as a result of the reckless increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The great majority of these strategies share one common feature: they are devised by and on behalf of the dominant global system, capitalism.
It is no surprise that the dominant global system which is responsible for the ecological crisis also sets the terms of the debate about this crisis, for capital commands the means of production of knowledge, as much as that of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Accordingly, its politicians, bureaucrats, economists and professors send forth an endless stream of proposals, all variations on the theme that the world’s ecological damage can be repaired without disruption of market mechanisms and of the system of accumulation that commands the world economy.
But a person cannot serve two masters – the integrity of the earth and the profitability of capitalism. One must be abandoned, and history leaves little question about the allegiances of the vast majority of policy-makers. There is every reason, therefore, to radically doubt the capacity of established measures to check the slide to ecological catastrophe.
And indeed, beyond a cosmetic veneer, the reforms over the past thirty-five years have been a monstrous failure. Isolated improvements do of course occur, but they are inevitably overwhelmed and swept away by the ruthless expansion of the system and the chaotic character of its production.
One example demonstrates the failure: in the first four years of the 21st Century, global carbon emissions were nearly three times as great per annum as those of the decade of the 1990s, despite the appearance of the Kyoto Protocols in 1997.
Kyoto employs two devices: the “Cap and Trade” system of trading pollution credits to achieve certain reductions in emissions, and projects in the global south – the so-called “Clean Development Mechanisms” – to offset emissions in the highly industrialized nations. These instruments all rely upon market mechanisms, which means, first of all, that atmospheric carbon dioxide becomes a commodity under the control of the same interests that created global warming. Polluters are not compelled to reduce their carbon emissions, but allowed to use their power over money to control the carbon market for their own ends, which include the devastating exploration for yet more carbon-based fuels. Nor is there a limit to the amount of emission credits which can be issued by compliant governments.
Since verification and evaluation of results are impossible, the Kyoto regime is not only incapable of controlling emissions, it also provides ample opportunities for evasion and fraud of all kinds. As even the Wall Street Journal put it in March, 2007, emissions trading “would make money for some very large corporations, but don’t believe for a minute that this charade would do much about global warming.”
The Bali climate meetings in 2007 opened the way for even greater abuses in the period ahead. Bali avoided any mention of the goals for drastic carbon reduction put forth by the best climate science (90% by 2050); it abandoned the peoples of the global south to the mercy of capital by giving jurisdiction over the process to the World Bank; and made offsetting of carbon pollution even easier.
In order to affirm and sustain our human future, a revolutionary transformation is needed, where all particular struggles take part in a greater struggle against capital itself. This larger struggle cannot remain merely negative and anti-capitalist. It must announce and build a different kind of society, and this is ecosocialism.
The Ecosocialist Alternative
The ecosocialist movement aims to stop and to reverse the disastrous process of global warming in particular and of capitalist ecocide in general, and to construct a radical and practical alternative to the capitalist system. Ecosocialism is grounded in a transformed economy founded on the non-monetary values of social justice and ecological balance. It criticizes both capitalist “market ecology” and productivist socialism, which ignored the earth’s equilibrium and limits. It redefines the path and goal of socialism within an ecological and democratic framework.
Ecosocialism involves a revolutionary social transformation, which will imply the limitation of growth and the transformation of needs by a profound shift away from quantitative and toward qualitative economic criteria, an emphasis on use-value instead of exchange-value.
These aims require both democratic decision-making in the economic sphere, enabling society to collectively define its goals of investment and production, and the collectivization of the means of production. Only collective decision-making and ownership of production can offer the longer-term perspective that is necessary for the balance and sustainability of our social and natural systems.
The rejection of productivism and the shift away from quantitative and toward qualitative economic criteria involve rethinking the nature and goals of production and economic activity in general. Essential creative, non-productive and reproductive human activities, such as householding, child-rearing, care, child and adult education, and the arts, will be key values in an ecosocialist economy.
Clean air and water and fertile soil, as well as universal access to chemical-free food and renewable, non-polluting energy sources, are basic human and natural rights defended by ecosocialism. Far from being “despotic,” collective policy-making on the local, regional, national and international levels amounts to society’s exercise of communal freedom and responsibility. This freedom of decision constitutes a liberation from the alienating economic “laws” of the growth-oriented capitalist system.
To avoid global warming and other dangers threatening human and ecological survival, entire sectors of industry and agriculture must be suppressed, reduced, or restructured and others must be developed, while providing full employment for all. Such a radical transformation is impossible without collective control of the means of production and democratic planning of production and exchange. Democratic decisions on investment and technological development must replace control by capitalist enterprises, investors and banks, in order to serve the long-term horizon of society’s and nature’s common good.
The most oppressed elements of human society, the poor and indigenous peoples, must take full part in the ecosocialist revolution, in order to revitalize ecologically sustainable traditions and give voice to those whom the capitalist system cannot hear. Because the peoples of the global south and the poor in general are the first victims of capitalist destruction, their struggles and demands will help define the contours of the ecologically and economically sustainable society in creation. Similarly, gender equality is integral to ecosocialism, and women’s movements have been among the most active and vocal opponents of capitalist oppression. Other potential agents of ecosocialist revolutionary change exist in all societies.
Such a process cannot begin without a revolutionary transformation of social and political structures based on the active support, by the majority of the population, of an ecosocialist program. The struggle of labour – workers, farmers, the landless and the unemployed – for social justice is inseparable from the struggle for environmental justice. Capitalism, socially and ecologically exploitative and polluting, is the enemy of nature and of labour alike.
Ecosocialism proposes radical transformations in:
- the energy system, by replacing carbon-based fuels and biofuels with clean sources of power under community control: wind, geothermal, wave, and above all, solar power.
- the transportation system, by drastically reducing the use of private trucks and cars, replacing them with free and efficient public transportation;
- present patterns of production, consumption, and building, which are based on waste, inbuilt obsolescence, competition and pollution, by producing only sustainable and recyclable goods and developing green architecture;
- food production and distribution, by defending local food sovereignty as far as this is possible, eliminating polluting industrial agribusinesses, creating sustainable agro-ecosystems and working actively to renew soil fertility.
To theorize and to work toward realizing the goal of green socialism does not mean that we should not also fight for concrete and urgent reforms right now. Without any illusions about “clean capitalism,” we must work to impose on the powers that be – governments, corporations, international institutions – some elementary but essential immediate changes:
- drastic and enforceable reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases,
- development of clean energy sources,
- provision of an extensive free public transportation system,
- progressive replacement of trucks by trains,
- creation of pollution clean-up programs,
- elimination of nuclear energy, and war spending.
These and similar demands are at the heart of the agenda of the Global Justice movement and the World Social Forums, which have promoted, since Seattle in 1999, the convergence of social and environmental movements in a common struggle against the capitalist system.
Environmental devastation will not be stopped in conference rooms and treaty negotiations: only mass action can make a difference. Urban and rural workers, peoples of the global south and indigenous peoples everywhere are at the forefront of this struggle against environmental and social injustice, fighting exploitative and polluting multinationals, poisonous and disenfranchising agribusinesses, invasive genetically modified seeds, biofuels that only aggravate the current food crisis. We must further these social-environmental movements and build solidarity between anticapitalist ecological mobilizations in the North and the South.
This Ecosocialist Declaration is a call to action. The entrenched ruling classes are powerful, yet the capitalist system reveals itself every day more financially and ideologically bankrupt, unable to overcome the economic, ecological, social, food and other crises it engenders. And the forces of radical opposition are alive and vital. On all levels, local, regional and international, we are fighting to create an alternative system based in social and ecological justice.
We, the undersigned, endorse the analysis and political perspectives outlined in the Belem Ecosocialist Declaration, and support the establishment and building of an Ecosocialist International Network.
Aotearoa/New Zealand: Don Archer, Bronwen Beechey, Grant Brookes, Joe Carolan, Roger Fowler, Vaughan Gunson, Bernie Hornfeck, Peter Hughes, Greg Kleis, Daphne Lawless, James Mc Donald, Grant Morgan, Len Parker, Paul Piesse, Tony Snelling-Berg
Australia: Richard Bergin, Jamie Brown, Simon Butler, Ben Courtice, Felicity Crombach, Peter Cummins, John B. Ellis, Duroyan Fertl, Jepke Goudsmit, Stu Harrison, Dave Kimble, Serge Leroyer, Günter Minnerup, John Rice, Larissa Roberts, Stuart Rosewarne, Terry Townsend
Bangladesh: A.F.Mujtahid, Mohammad Basir-ul Haq Sinha
Belgium: Daniel Tanuro
Brasil: Eduardo d’Albergaria, Carlos Henrique Rodrigues Alves, Berlano Bênis França de Andrade, João Claudio Arroyo, Pedro Ivo de Souza Batista, Luiz Felipe Bergmann, Lucas Bevilaqua, Leonel da Costa Carvalho, Francisco Marcos Bezerra Cunha, Ricardo Framil Filho, Giuliana Iarrocheski, Iolanda Toshie Ide, Edson Carneiro Indio, Beatriz Leandro, Ivonaldo Leite, André Lima, Isabel Loureiro, Jorge Oliveira, Ricardo Oliveira, Marcos Barbosa de Oliveira, Maicon Fernando Palagano, Paulo Piramba, Fabio Mascaro Querido, Valdir Pereira Ribeiro Júnior, Carmen Sylvia Ribeiro, Fatima Terezinha Alvarenga Rivas, Marechal Cândido Rondon, Roberto Souza Santos, Dhyana Nagy Teodoro, Thierry Thomas, Carolina Kors Tiberio, Julio Yamamoto
Canada, Quebec: Greg Albo, Robert Albritton, Paul Anderson, Ian Angus, Roger Annis, Chris Arsenault, Charles-Antoine Bachand, Jean-Claude Balu, Rick Barsky, José Bazin, John R Bell, Shannon Bell, John L. Bencze, Karl Beveridge, Geoff Bickerton, Leigh Brownhill, David Camfield, William K. Carroll, John Clarke, Bill Clennett, Carole Condé, Phil Cournoyer, Paul R. Craik, Steve D’Arcy, Susan Kent Davidson, Diane Delaney, Kathleen Donovan, Kevin Doyle, Joseph Dubonnet, Susan E. Ferren, Richard Fidler, Blair Fix, Darrel Furlotte, Larry Gambone, Cy Gonick, Trevor Goodger-Hill, Joyce A. Green, Dave Greenfield, Ricardo Grinspun, John Grogan, Dr. J. Robert Groves, Adam Hanieh, Trevor Harrison, Henry Heller, Evert Hoogers, Pete Huerter, Catherine Hughes, Anton Oscar Iorga, Sean Isaacs, Darlene Juschka, Michael A. Lebowitz, Ian B. McKenna, Cindy Morrison, Vincent Mosco, Dan Murray, Sam Noumoff, Derrick O’Keefe, Joseph Roberts, Sheila Roberts, Leo Panitch, Tomislav Peric, Ursula Pflug, Roger Rashi, John Riddell, Rowland Keshena Robinson, Herman Rosenfeld, Rhoda Rosenfeld, Laina Rutledge, John Ryan, Kanchan Sarker, Bob Sass, Scott Schneider, Sid Shniad, Debra Scott, John Sharkey, John Shavluk, Dr. Christopher A. Shaw, Michael Stewart, Debra Tacium, Paul Francis Thompson, David Tremblay, Terisa E. Turner, Jesse Vorst, Bernadette L. Wagner, Len Wallace, John W. Warnock, Larry Watt, Barry Weisleder, Ian Whyte, Sarah Wilbur, Michael Wolfe, Paul York
Chile: Benjamin Leiva
Cyprus: Julian Saurin
Denmark: Pelle Andersen-Harild, Ellen Brun, Jacques Hersh, Peder Hvelplund, Kjeld A. Larsen, Leif Leszczynski, Johannes Lund, Karolina Boroch Naess, Petter Naess, Teresa Naess, Carsten Pedersen
El Salvador: Ricardo Adan Molina Meza
England, Scotland, Wales: Tobias Abse, Keith Ames-Rook, Keith Baker, Oscar Blanco Berglund, Simon Boxley, Jane Burd, Katie Buse, Dr. Michael Calderbank, Ross Carbutt, James Doran, Ian Drummond, Jane Susanna Ennis, Dan Fredenburgh, Ed Fredenburgh, Nick Foster, Paul Frost, Colin Fox, Giorgos Galanis, Jay Ginn, Dr Joseph Healy, Dave Hewitt, Stuart Jeffery, Jane Kelly, Aaron Kiely, Richard Kuper, David McBain, Jade McClune, Sharon McMaster, Tony Medwell. Shosh Morris, Elaine Morrison, Jamie Murray, Brian Orr, Andy Player, Julian Prior, Matt Sellwood, Mike Shaughnessy, Andrew Stevens, Sally Thompson, Sean Thompson, Alan Thornett, Payam Torabi, Norman Traub, Mike Tucker, Derek Wall, Roy Wilkes
Finland: Marko Ulvila
France: Jean-Frédéric Baeta, Michel Benquet, Thierry Bonhomme, Richard Bouillet, Noelle Calvinhac, Nadège Edwards, Carole Engel, Hendrik Davi, Cedric Dulski, Armand Farrachi, Danielle Follett, Vincent Gay, Laurent Garrouste, Jacques Giraldou, Jacques Giron, Xavier Granjon, Richard Greeman, Bernard Guibert, Michel Husson, Raoul-Marc Jennar, Fahima Laidondi, Marianne Ligou, Michael Löwy, Marilou Mertens, Roxanne Mitrallias, Jean-Philippe Morin, Arno Münster, Jacques Muriel, Carsten Rank, André Rosevegue, Pierre Rousset, Michael Le Sauce, Peter Shield, Mohammed Taleb, Hugo Valls.
Germany (Deutschland): Ruth Birkle, Sebastian Gerhardt, Werner Hager, Angela Klein, Peter Schüren, Dr. Michael Rieger, Frieder Otto Wolf
Greece(Hellas): Mesrop Abelyan, Vasilis Andronis, Makis Choren, Spyros Diamantidis, Anneta Galtsioti, Krystalia Galtsioti, Giannis Galtsiotis. Konstantina Georga, Dimitris Georgas, Kostas Giannakakis, Hasan Mehedi, Manolis Kapadais, Andonis Krinis, Amjad Mohammad, Georgia Nikopolidou, Takis Pantazidis, Tasos Pantazidis, Eleni Pantazidou, Katerina Pantazidou, Mohammed Es Sabiani, Stefanos Sinaplidis
Haiti: Maxime Roumer
India: Debashis Chatterjee, Debal Deb, S. Susan Deborah, Sushovan Dhar, Mita Dutta, Merlin Franco, Saroj Giri, C E Karunakaran, Partha Majumdar, D.V.Natarajan, VT Padmanabhan , Bijay Panda, Sukla Sen, Babu lal Sharma
Indonesia: Yanuarius Koli Bau, Pius Ginting Ireland: Louis P. Burns aka Lugh, Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh, Vincent Doherty
Italy: Guido Dalla Casa, Moreno Esposto
Kenya: Arege Douglas
Malta: Michael Briguglio
Mexico: David Barkin, Gerardo Renique
Netherlands: Willem Bos, Suzanne de Kuyper, Peter Waterman
Panama: Sebastián Calderón Bentin, Antonio Salamaca Serrano
Peru: Hugo Blanco
Portugal: Ana Bastos, Rita Calvário, Ricardo Coelho, Ronaldo Fonseca, José Carlos Alves Loureiro, Ângelo Novo, Pedro Ramajal
Romania: Luisa Abram, Stella Dicu. Mario Festila
Serbia: Dragoslav Danilovic
South Africa: Rasigan Maharajh, Karthie Mudaly, Trevor Ngwane, Berend Schuitema
Spain: Mauricio Blechman, Francisco Fernández Amador, Alberto Iglesias Lorenz
Switzerland: Juan Tortosa
Turkey: Ertugrul Akcaoglu, Nevra Akdemir, Levent Gürsel Alev, Binnur Aloglu, Rana Aribas, Ecehan Balta, Emre Baturay Altinok, Ugur Arigun, Arca Atay, Baris Avci, Erol Bayrakdar, Foti Benlisoy, Stefo Benlisoy, Elif Bozkurt, Emel Budak, Ozgur Bulut, Çaglayan Büyükçula, Nurgül Çanak, Esin Candan, Bilge Contepe, Gülsüm Coskun, Kadir Dadan, Fügen Dede, Evin Deniz, Yalim Dilek, Sinan Eden, Huseyin Eren, Fuat Ercan, Basak Ergüder, Bulent Erkeskin, Firat Genç, Emine Girgin, Canan Güldal, Ercan Gülen, Ibrahim Gundogdu, Kutlay Gürcihan, Muharrem Hunerli, Taha Karaman, Filiz Kerestecioglu, Olcay Halk Kiliç, Tarkan Kilic, Ekoloji Kolektifi, Sinem Meral, Özgür Müftüoglu, Evin Nas, Sebnem Oguz, Pinar Ongan, Kazim Özaslan, Merthan Özcan, Recep Özkan, Ali Murat Ozdemir, Gökçen Özdemir, Senem Pehlivanoglu, Inci Polat, Özge Savas, Hasan Sen, Ahmet Hamdi Seringen, Yavuz Selim Sertbas, Eren Deniz Tol-Gokturk, Dr. Ethem Torunoglu, Eylem Tuncaelli, Kemal Tuncaelli, Feriha Tugran, Mehmet Türkay, Derya Ülker, Tanay Sidki Uyar, Sanem Yardimci, Ertan Yilmaz, Gaye Yilmaz, Selim Yilmaz, Burçak Yilmazok, Hatice Yaşar,Kasim Yeter, Eylem Ozen Yorukoglu, Semih Yuksel, Kizilca Yurur
Uruguay: Alejandro Casas
USA: Anatole Anton, Matthew Brown, Joaquín Bustelo, Tim Casebolt, Suha Chari, Andrew P. Cheramie, Tom Collins, Stan Cox, Kevin Danaher, Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, Jennifer Dignazio, Daniel Faber, Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear], Craig Brozefsky, John Clark, Scott Davis, W. Alexander Durnan, Stefan Furrer, Phil Gasper, Dayne Goodwin, Sarah Grey, Anthony Gronowicz, Timoteo Jeffries, Eric W. Koch, Bill Koehnlein, Joel Kovel, Ed Laing, Larry Lambert, Saul Landau, James Lauderdale, Mark A. Lause, Richard Levins, Kevin Lewis, Timothy Norbert Malczynski, David Marcial, Michael Seth Martin, Stefan Mattessich, Bill McCormick, Coleman E. McFarland, Fred Mecklenburg, William Meurer, Curtis Moore, Jonathan Nack, Simeon Newman, Tony Nizzi, Ivan Olsen, Julia O’Neal, Wren Osborn, Dr. Marie-Claire Picher, Louis Proyect, Linda Ray, Idrian N. Resnick, Kat Rickenbacker, Christine J. Rodgers,Eugene Rodriguez, Christian Roselund, Kevin Ruffe, David Schwartzman, Javier Sethness, Barry Sheppard, Roger Sheppard, Laurence H. Shoup, Rick Sklader, Skip Slavik, James Smith, Mark E. Smith, Red Son, Anna Marie Stenberg, Carl Stilwell, Ted Stolze, Michael Tanzer, Idell Elaine Vogel, Richard Vogel, Sam Waite, Ron Warren Venezuela: Elías Capriles, Gustavo Fernández Colón, Carlos García, Dalia Correa Guía, Miguel Angel Contreras Natera, Jesus Pirela, Cesar Aponte Rivero,Isabel Villarte Zimbabwe: Chen Chimutengwende