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Attack of the Space Cadets. Offworld Colonies, Racist Repression and ‘Nature-Based Solutions’

World Rainforest Movement

Posted on May 18, 2021. Included in Bulletin 255

For the world’s richest and most powerful men, the global environmental crisis has finally arrived. But what it means for them is not what it means for most people.

Take the examples of Jeff Bezos (Executive Chair of e-commerce giant Amazon), Elon Musk (CEO of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla), Larry Fink (CEO of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock), Mark Carney (former governor of the Bank of England and Bank of Canada) and Bill Gates (co-founder of technology giant Microsoft).

For these men, ecological crisis doesn’t mean a planet warming so fast it is threatening their own civilization. It doesn’t mean the worldwide decline of insect life that is now undermining human subsistence. It doesn’t mean dangerous pandemics emerging out of industrial agriculture, deforestation and globalization. (1) It doesn’t even mean the deteriorating vitality of ordinary workers, who have seen so much of their wages, benefits and living conditions stolen by the rich over the past 50 years.

What ecological crisis means to these men, as capitalists, is the effect it has on investment. Ecological crisis means popular rebellion, as livelihoods are ruined and workers get fed up. Rebellion means pressure on governments to regulate and repress. To do either has a cost. Worse, to do either can result in further reductions in the living work that living things can be induced to donate to corporations to ensure profits. Fewer handouts to corporations mean fewer destinations for profitable investment.

A Science-Fiction Solution

Bezos and Musk (the two richest men in the world) have one colourful solution to the difficulty. If environmental catastrophe and the popular movements that result from it have become a problem for capital accumulation, then we must move to outer space. We must mine the moon and the asteroids, devastate Mars, or put the earth’s inhabitants in colonies in orbit. Both Bezos and Musk are investing billions in such schemes. Bezos calls it “going to space to save the earth.” (2)

To normal people, this might seem like what logicians call a reductio ad absurdum (an argument whose impossible conclusion demonstrates the absurdity of one of its premises). If capitalist assumptions ultimately require shifting the earth’s people into space to exploit nature there, there must be something wrong with the assumptions.

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