ecology

To save nature, we must destroy capitalism

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The struggle for the natural world has always pitted the left against the right, now it’s become a battle for survival, argues Sarah Ensor

In the 19th century some scientists tried to understand the work of the ‘creator’, while others wanted knowledge to improve people’s lives. Chemist Justus von Liebig was trying to solve capitalism’s developing crisis of soil fertility in farming. His research into nitrates and chemical interactions in soil began to show that declining soil fertility was caused by the processes of capitalism, and was not natural. This work was deeply influential on Marx and Engels’s ecological thinking in relation to metabolic rift and the dialectics of nature.

The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark Monthly Review Press £25

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The Robbery of Nature draws on and develops the theories of Marx and Engels to understand why capitalism has such a destructive influence on the natural world. Central to Fosters and Clark’s argument is that, under capitalism, human beings and the natural environment are the original sources of wealth, but it is only the labour of workers that generates value. Workers are exploited in that they sell their labour power to produce goods and services and receive wages that represent less than the value of what they produce.

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