Some time back, a political friend, who understands himself as an eco-anarchist but also sympathizes with eco-socialism, had a controversial discussion with an activist, who understands himself as an eco-socialist, on the question of the cleavages in the ecological left. My eco-anarchist friend requested me and some others to respond to the controversial discussion, which I gladly did because I thought at least the root causes of the cleavages must be understood if the latter cannot be overcome at present.
They did not want me to give the links to their own original contributions written in the form of letters, arguing that they did not write them with sufficient care.
I am publishing below my response to the controversy, putting down only a few points that are more important and ignoring the less important ones. The reader will easily understand which points made by the others I am referring to. They are colored red.
There indeed are some cleavages in, generally speaking, the ecological left movement. That does not necessarily mean that any group is sectarian. The differences are genuine and they might be overcome through further thinking, reading, discussion, and joint activities. I have identified four root causes of the cleavages.
1. The Energy Question
I think the most primary root cause of the cleavages lies in different understandings of the energy problematique. If one is an optimist, if one believes like Ongerth that 100% renewables is not only achievable, but it’s also EASILY achievable, then why should one at all object to further economic growth and advocate a steady-state economy as Ongerth and his anarchist and socialist friends do? After all, then there would be no CO2 emission any more, and if some are allowed for any reason, that would be reabsorbed soon, would not hang on in the atmosphere. Then the problem of global warming would not exist any more! Then there would not be any environmental pollution at all, for, with cheap and abundant renewable energy, any waste can be easily recycled. Hermann Scheer, until his death the high priest of solar energy in Europe, wrote:
Then the resource problem would also be solved! Then we can get by without extracting a single molecule more. And we can then even have further economic growth (why remain stuck up in steady state at the present level?). Then why shouldn't all the poor people of the world also enjoy each, individually, a swimming pool, a sailboat, skis, a big house and other wasteful luxuries? Why not for all at least a car powered by renewable energy? Or powered by electricity drawn from hydrogen fuel cells? (If they want to use a car collectively, then not because it would not be possible to own and use a car individually and without damaging the environment!).
2. Scientific and Technological progress
2. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas (1971/1981) The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. Cambridge. MA.
4. Sarkar, Saral (1999 ) Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? London.
5. Sarkar, Saral (2014) "Krugman's Illusion: We Becoming Richer, But Not Damaging the Environment": http://eco-socialist.blogspot.de/2014/04/krugmans-illusion-we-becoming-richer.html
6. There is a short presentation thereof in
Sarkar, Saral (2012) The Crises of Capitalism. Berkeley. PP. 286–290.
7. See Georgescu-Roegen (note 3).
8. Ehrlich, Paul, quoted in Weissman, Steve (1971) "Foreward", in
Meek, Ronald L. (ed.) (1971) Marx and Engels on the Population Bomb. Berkeley.
9. Sarkar, Saral (2012)http://eco-socialist.blogspot.de/2012/08/polemics-is-useless-proposal-for-eco.html
10. See Mandelbaum, Kurt (1974) Sozialdemokratie und Leninismus. Berlin.
11. Fromm, Erich (1982) To Have or To Be. London. P. 191.