I have not flown since 2012 and I intend not to fly again. Decreasing air travel is a positive step, but only one of many changes necessary to achieve a sustainable planet. As important as they are, only so much can be accomplished through individual actions like these, in comparison to broader systemic changes. The time is long overdue to recognize that global capitalism, with its grow-or-die imperative, is incompatible with sustainability.
Capitalism is waging a war against nature. This war includes exploding mountain tops for the cheapest possible extraction of coal. It includes expanding dead zones in the ocean, poisoning, flooding, and burying vast swaths of the biosphere for the extraction of fossil fuels and minerals, as well as increased air travel. The ever-increasing efficiency in waging this war serves to lower costs, increase consumption, and accelerate global warming and environmental devastation of the planet.
The economic, political, and cultural strands of capitalism are so integrated into our thinking that real intellectual effort is required to recognize it as a threat to survival and to acknowledge the possibility of sustainable alternatives. We need to change this.
David Klein is a mathematical physicist and professor of mathematics at California State University, Northridge, where he is also director of the Climate Science Program, a NASA funded educational program designed to prepare students for careers or graduate work in climate science and related fields. He is the author of the free ebook, “Capitalism and Climate Change: The Science and Politics of Global Warming.”