By Lucía Villa
What does Ecosocialism propose?
I have argued for a long time that we cannot think of a society that is truly sustainable and that continues to be capitalist. If we want societies that can last over time, that are durable, there is no way around the question of the system and anti-capitalist ruptures. We have to focus more on something that, although it was already present in Marx's Capital, has not been of much importance in the historical attempts to advance socialism: the idea that the productive forces are, at the same time and inseparably, destructive forces. And that destructive part has been increasing with respect to the productive part as industrial societies have been deployed.
I believe that a central issue in our time is the collision of industrial societies with the biophysical limits of the planet. According to the calculations of the ecological footprint of humanity as a whole, we are living as if we had a planet and a half at our disposal. It is an aberrational situation that can only be maintained for a time. We are literally living as if there is no tomorrow ... and that is highly problematic. And what ecosocialism says is that the main force behind this clash against the biophysical limits of the planet is the self-expanding dynamics of capital.
And how do you turn around a system, the capitalist, which is not only political or economic, but also cultural and of values, which is permeated in everyone?
I believe that this is a very important dimension that has even gained weight due to the cultural processes of recent decades. It is true that each society generates the objects it needs, or the objects congruent with that social order. That, in fact, is a looping process. People are generated by society, society generates subjects and subjects reproduce, produce and change society. It is a feedback loop. But what is new, which is very tremendous in this situation in which we find ourselves, is that as the neoliberal version of capitalism has taken hold, it enters much more deeply into the constitution of subjectivity. There is a phrase, one of these immortals produced by Margaret Thatcher, that came to say something like: "The economy doesn't really matter that much, actually where we stake everything is in the human soul." This Margaret Thatcher and other theorists of neoliberalism were very clear.
And what has been taking place is a process in which this dynamic of expansion of the mercantile society has been increasingly introduced into people. So of course, thinking in those terms gives us an idea of the difficulty of this matter, that you cannot in fact consider that your adversary is something external that you have in front of you, thus, clearly delimited, but that you have incorporated it, it is a part of what you too are.
A somewhat humorous image that I have sometimes used to try to tell this is that character in Central European fables, the Baron of Münchhausen. In one of the famous events of his life, Münchhausen falls into a swamp with his horse and is sinking into the quicksand. And then to get out, what he comes up with is to pull his own ponytail and he manages to get out of the swamp. What we have to do is something similar to that. I think you have to think about it from the collective self-construction.
What do we expose ourselves to? Scientists already speak that the sixth great extinction of species has started, the first that would be caused by man and the first that would affect man ... society does not seem very conscious.
No. That is dramatic. The difference between the world of beliefs that the average person in this society is living in and the objective situation as we can refer to it through science is enormous. We are incapable, as a society, of taking charge of what is happening and of seeing how close we are to falling down an abyss whose dimensions we cannot fully gauge. Yes, researchers do, and that is why they have been crying out increasingly desperate cries of alarm for a long time.
One of the coup generals in Brazil in the first of those dictatorships that were implanted in Latin America in the 1960s said: "The country was facing an abyss and we decided to take a step forward." Our societies are on the brink of an abyss and are advancing at full speed. Not step by step, but motorized without realizing what that represents.
If only three areas of the dimension of this ecological-social crisis had to be pointed out, they would be climate warming, the crisis of resources and the massive extinction of biological diversity. There are three processes that are, literally, removing the ground from under our feet. Continuing to do things more or less as we are doing now leads us to an ecocide, accompanied by a genocide, which if we are not able to change will take, I believe, the majority of the human population in the decades that follow. And that's what is being talked about when we talk about climate change.
All hopes for curbing climate change are pinned on the Paris summit in December this year. Is a protocol that replaces the Kyoto protocol enough?
Everything indicates that, as things are raised, it will not be enough. What conventionally, with a scientific basis, has been established as a more or less safe level is the two degrees Celsius increase in the average temperature with respect to pre-industrial levels, and many scientists think that it should not be exceeded 1, 5 degrees. However, Paris is important to the extent that it can suppose a change in trend at least, because the situation now is that we are emitting more and more, faster and faster. It is not that we are in a balanced situation, but that emissions continue to grow and faster and faster. And Paris can serve as the beginning of a turning point in that regard. But I am convinced that without anti-capitalist ruptures, without moving clearly towards another model of production and consumption, there is no way to avoid this very dramatic outcome.
You are a member of the Citizen Council of Podemos in the Community of Madrid. Do you see environmental values represented in the party?
Very insufficiently. It is not just a problem for Podemos, it is a problem for most of our political forces. There is one thing that a Brazilian activist from those involved in the Porto Alegre World Social Forum, Chico Whitaker, stressed a couple of years ago, referring to movements such as 15-M or Occupy Wall Street, which used the slogan of “we are 99%, compared to 1% ”. If we think in ecological and social terms, this distribution is not like that. Chico Whitaker said that we should rather think of 1% of people who have some awareness of the real world in which they live and who are trying to alert another 98% of the dramatic situation in which we find ourselves to join forces and cope the remaining 1% who is at the top of the pyramid of wealth and power. But the level of consciousness in that 98% of the population is nowhere near what would be required.