While Earth Burned


While Earth Burned

from The People, June 4, 1988, page 4

Legend has it that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Not to be outdone, the present ruling class is fiddling about while almost unthinkable environmental disasters are in the making.

For example, there is the menace of acid rain.

A new draft report by the EPA says that acidification of fresh water in the East is far more widespread than previously thought, and agency officials say acid rain is the culprit.

They ought to say that capitalism's profit motive is the culprit. For the oxides of sulfur and nitrogen that become acid rain, snow, fog or dust in the atmosphere are emitted from coal-burning power plants, smelters, factories and motor vehicles for one reason: eliminating those emissions is far more costly than simply spewing them into the atmosphere.

Many adequate pollution control technologies are already known. But, tragically, those with a vested interest in keeping pollution-control costs to a minimum go about Reagan-like blaming trees for acidic pollution, saying it comes from rotting leaves and other natural organic matter.

Some acidification does come from natural causes. But the growing damage to freshwater and marine plant and animal life, forests, buildings and monuments ancient and modern, and human health is not of nature's doing. Study after study has indicted industrial pollutants.

Worse, acid rain is only one of several profit-induced environmental disasters in the making. The depletion of the Earth's ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals is proceeding apace, allowing ultraviolet radiation from the Sun to damage crops and increase cases of human skin cancer. The recent curbs are too little too late.

Similarly, many scientists have warned that the warming of the Earth due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already irreversible. The effects on climate and agriculture, unpredictable in detail, are likely to be chaotic, and massive engineering projects have been called for to hold back rising sea levels from low-lying coastal areas. Predictably, virtually nothing is being done, either about the profit-caused pollution and rampant destruction of rain forests that are creating this problem or to mitigate the effects.

The profit motive and capitalism are bringing civilization to the brink of disaster, and time is running out to take corrective actions where possible or to lessen the effects where the damage is already too advanced to be undone.

It ought to be clear that the system primarily responsible for bringing humanity such dangers and which even now continues to ignore the warnings of scientists is not about to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to avert or mitigate the dangers. And that is one more reason why capitalism must be destroyed. i