November 2020Spectacle

The Global Commons and Solar Energy: A Review of David Schwartzman’s New Book

The need to defeat Donald Trump is our immediate order of business. So, too, we have an immediate need to address the environmental disaster looming because of climate change. Or more precisely, address the looming environmental disaster created by the capitalist system, a system which itself needs to be challenged. And each step in this process, from defeating Trump to moving away from a fossil fuel-dependent global economy, is rooted in understanding that an alternative is possible and is realistic. This set of interrelated theses are at the heart of David Schwartzman’s The Global Commons, the Future That Is Still Possible: A Guide for 21st Century Activists – a brief, incisive look at the nature of the crisis we face and both the technical feasibility and political possibility of creating an alternative.

Schwartzman examines the politics of class struggle needed to win the Green New Deal and overcome the military-industrial complex, which is critical to maintaining the fossil fuel industry and maintaining the capitalist system. He also examines the science that uncovers the reality that solar power is sufficient to generate the renewable energy that would enable sustainable growth – thereby rejecting the pessimism of those who assert that nothing can be done or that global warming will only be averted by keeping the world’s poor locked into poverty.

This  may seem utopian – and indeed it is – but not in the sense of wishful “pie-in-the-sky” thinking. Schwartzman reviews the history of socialism/communism, giving full weight to past achievements and failures as the basis upon which our movement can currently grow, and then calls for the creation of a “solar commons.” Solar energy is the key to building an economy that meets the needs of people for work, for culture, for trade, even for growth without the destructiveness inherent in fossil fuels or the dangers of nuclear industry. Even though the work of building such a society needs to be rooted locally, change itself needs to be worldwide – hence, his positing of global solar communism as the answer.

What might that look like? This short book concludes with a view of our capitalist present from an imagined future (much as William Morris provided in his News from Nowhere) – a prefigurative view of what might be that serves as a call to action in the here and now.

This book – a shorter, more accessible version of The Earth Is Not for Sale, which he co-authored with Peter Schwartzman – is available as a free download (donations welcome).

Donations of any amount welcome to the Green Eco-Socialist Network

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