A chase for infinite profits will lead to environmental and societal collapse.
Amazon says its carbon pollution is 44.4 million metric tons per year. That’s the sum of their shipping center, products they produce, and so on About 600,000 semi-trucks worth. Amazon pledges a fix. There’s no reason to believe them. They have greedy reasons not to.
While Amazon says they’ll reduce their own carbon pollution, look at the division their cloud computing business set up. They have contracts with every large multinational to “Energize the Oil & Gas business”.
One area that Amazon failed to report: planned obsolescence. A tablet or phone gets slower over time. If it doesn’t break, it stops receiving updates. You then get forced into a new, shinier Kindle. Or Echo. Or Fire Stick. Cycle repeats itself.
Amazon makes things appear inexpensive but also wants you to buy it as often as possible. In order to make both demands work, something gives way. Sometimes that means children’s toys are contained with lead. Or their batteries causes toxic chemicals to be released into communities and poison the workers. It can take the form of someone’s grandmother getting run over and killed by an Amazon contractor trying to make too many rush shipments in too little time. Amazon even destroys new or unopened goods that get returned because it’s cheaper than reselling.
Amazon’s business model deliberately hide these real costs from the people who buy from Amazon. Most won’t see the wasted resources and energy that made a product sitting in an unopened box in a landfill. Most don’t see the people who get cancer. It wasn’t your grandmother. But if this harm continues to grow unchecked, it will. Every day, Amazon grows more and more powerful, using up more and more resources. This disconnect between what’s sustainable long term and what is being done is what Marx called “metabolic rift”.
Capitalism organizes and destroys the two means by which we meet human needs: human beings and the environment. Take Apple. Apple brags of its environmental “rightness” much like Amazon does. Apple often sabotages phones, tablets, and so on. Foxconn workers gasped as bosses installed nets to prevent suicide as they forced people to work 100 hour work weeks. These factories made Kindles and iPhones and Xboxes. Apple fights right-to-repair bills to make technology last longer. They suck precious metals out of the ground that make soon-to-be-obsolete phone batteries and hardware, and then very few are actually recycled. This rift will ruin lives and the planet. We’re all connected, to each other and the environment we live in.
As we’ve seen with Apple, if Jeff Bezos doesn’t do it, Mark Cook will. One vampire dives in when another’s caught sucking blood. That’s just how the system works. The incentive is to suck out as much money as fast as you can, and to take on as little cost as you can. .
Technology can be amazing. But it can be amazing without such a heavy cost. Your life is worth more than a widget for some vampires to get richer. Our planet is worth more than a widget for some vampires to get richer.
When tv news and ads scold the public: “Buy healthier, be more productive, and buy this latest environmentally-friendly option,” it preserves entire industries that disrupt nature in irreversible ways. It took Intel five years and a dedicated staff team to fully understand its own supply chain enough to know where its mineral components were coming from. Asking a person to research an entire supply chain to buy a loaf of bread is absurd. There’s no guarantee that you can find a loaf of bread that doesn’t have a problem with its farming, baking, packaging, and transit to the store, on top of the store itself. Individual people can’t eat and walk their way out of a system that only offers degrees of unsustainable choices
The vampires of industry will tell you it’s not their fault, “it’s the market.” Or worse, tell you that you can fix their greed through the power of your individual consumption decisions alone. Baloney. The exploitation is intentional. It is baked into the design.
Capitalism eventually turns toward displacement and more obvious theft. Climate refugees flee uninhabitable regions. Capitalist pick the land like a vulture does roadkill. Or capitalists play a direct role: like the US war in Iraq for Big Oil. There’s also “green violence” in business-backed coups like those seizing lithium mines in Bolivia. Amazon’s pledge of 100,000 electric vehicles will rely on those pillaged mines.
This is imperialism. Capitalists from one country take what they want, when they want from another country. All for endless speculation and growth. It’s not enough for them to twist your arm and say “do this or you don’t get what you need to live.” It becomes “do this or die.”
The US military, in its own cycle of endless growth, is one of the worst polluters. Up there with the kind of chemical plants that poisoned Flint, Michigan’s water. Even the military is in the poisoning water business. The military creates more pollution and waste than the world’s poorest produce in their lifetime.That’s the military though. Where is Amazon in all this? Amazon sued the US government because it didn’t get as much war business as they hoped. Vampires like Jeff Bezos aren’t satisfied being the richest man with the largest monopoly possible. Capitalist growth seeks growth, consequences be damned.
Let’s go back to that metabolic rift. Think of humanity. All of it. What we need and what it takes to get it under capitalism. Those endless cycles of chasing the dollar for its own sake: wealth divorced from value. Capitalism’s course is unsustainable– it is taking so much, so quickly, and so wastefully. In the near future, our needs will go unmet. Capitalism succeeds by making us feel isolated and powerless to enact change. Yet we need rapid, systemic changes: clean energy, clean water, abolishing endless cycles of war, community and indigenous sovereignty over how natural resources will meet our needs in the future.
Gifts of nature (land, plants, animals, air and water cycles) don’t exist for abuse. Abuse them and the earth on which we depend will become barren. Ordinary people will not be able to survive, much less thrive, unless we make these systemic changes today.
But making these changes is also a way to give ordinary people a greater control of what their lives look like. No one person, no matter how intelligent or wise, can make a decision as thoroughly-examined as the collective wisdom of many people. We need as many people as possible to share their experiences and knowledge as we build a sustainable way to thrive.
Join Seattle DSA’s Green New Deal Committee to:Fight for and win a Green New Deal, nationally and locally
- Win progressive taxation locally to fund expanded and electrified Free Mass Transit, per the 10/1/19 vote of Seattle DSA’s general membership
- Democratize the energy utilities starting with signature gathering for an East King County PUD No.1 ballot initiative. See https://www.ekc-pud.org/ and East King County PUD on facebook
- Support Amazon workers’ actions in pursuit of reducing carbon emissions.
Join Seattle DSA’s Ecosocialism Caucus for self-education and incubating new ideas for action.