The Earth came into the doctor's surgery, looking very green and blue. "Doctor," it said, "My temperature is going up, my ice sheets are melting, my forests are being cut down, my deserts are spreading, my topsoil is eroding, my atmosphere is polluted, my fisheries are depleted, many of my species are dying out and my mineral resources are running dry. What is wrong with me?"

The doctor saw the problem immediately. "I'm afraid you're suffering from an advanced case of capitalism. It appears to have already metastasized across most of your land area."

"Oh no," said the Earth. "Is there a cure?"

"Yes," said the doctor. "The cure is revolution."

"I already revolve once every 24 hours," said the Earth. "I don't think I could manage any more revolution."

"No," said the doctor patiently. "This is a different kind of revolution which involves one of your species, the humans. Sometimes humans develop social systems based on uncontrollable accumulation and expansion, which is what you are experiencing now. These social systems have to be replaced with healthy ones using revolution."

"What is the prognosis?" said the ailing planet.

"The good news is that capitalism cannot possibly last forever. But the longer it continues, the harder it will be to restore you to health."

"We'd better get started as soon as possible. How can the humans go about creating revolution?"

"Well," said the doctor, brushing away a GPS satellite. "Keep reading."

My Perspective

  1. The goal is to solve systemic problems: the ecological crisis, the economic crisis and the system's susceptibility to further economic crises, poverty, resource depletion, alienation, oppression, exploitation and many others.

  2. A problem is 'systemic' if its provenance is tied into the structure of our economic, cultural and/or political systems. For this reason, such a problem cannot be solved by adjusting, tweaking or bolting on extra elements. Systemic problems require systemic solutions.

  3. A systemic solution is a vision of new economic, political and cultural systems that do not suffer from the problems we are attempting to solve.

  4. The process of moving from the 'problematic state' of the world to the 'solution state' is a process of social transformation which I will often refer to with the loaded term revolution.

When something is suffering from a disease, you might be motivated to help them either 'negatively', by the desire to remove their symptoms, or 'positively', by the desire to see them in a healthy state. Similarly, social change is motivated, under this view, by the desire to eliminate suffering and/or by the desire to see our ecosystems in a state of health. With this perspective, some concepts are redundant. For example, I do not think it is necessary to invoke the notion of class, or its implications in terms of 'struggle' or 'war'. This perspective has no room for goodies and baddies. The problem is a system suffering from some kind of disease. The point about economic, cultural and political systems is that they determine the sort of behaviour that is possible within them, leaving no room for personal blame or responsibility. I do not believe that economic, cultural and political systems completely determine behaviour; they do so as part of an interaction with the genetically coded subsystems of the individual organism. But this view leaves no room for free will or volition. These concepts are illusory. We can understand the world without them.