Nature – Part 2

– Lonnie Barnes

The most interesting chapter for this week was “The Disunited Colors of Nature,” specifically the section nature, capitalism and socialism.

Coates cites some interesting arguments about the validity of the claim that Marx was an environmentalist. Though it is common nowadays to attribute anthropogenic climate change to capitalistic growth, Coates uses other authors to point out that in his critique of capitalism, Marx “lambasted capitalism for its use of raw materials,” but only based on the view that these raw materials should belong to everyone, not just the capitalists (148). Furthermore, “Marx’s labor theory of value–that matter has no value aside from that imparted by the human labor needed for purposes of extraction and processing–denied nature any intrinsic worth as surely as did capitalist commodification” (150). He reinforces this argument by discussing how the Soviet Union effectively dried up the Aral Sea–an act that could have also happened had the USSR been capitalist–though he does acknowledge that it was not a truly Marxist state.

Another section I found intriguing was considerations of the earth as “aging” or “old.” Even though it is six billion years old, I don’t really think of the planet in that way. Those signs of aging are probably caused by changes to the earth, whether they are caused by humans or not.

I was surprised to learn that as early as the third century there were people concerned with overpopulation of the earth: “Everything has been visited, everything known, everything exploited…everywhere people, everywhere communities, everywhere life” (175). Though Tertullian may have been somewhat right, he probably had no idea how large the world was and how many more resources there were to be used, whether on the ground, underground or in the ocean. He also had no idea how many people there were on the earth at that time. Fast forward 1800 years, and here we still are (a lot more of us), and this argument is more true now than it was then.

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