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  • Red Flag: Capitalism caused this drought


Red Flag: Capitalism caused this drought

Go to any park in Berlin, and you'll see parched brown lawns. This is the worst drought since records began. Yet nothing is being done.

Tempelhofer Feld has become an “endless sea of death”. Photo: IMAGO / Sabine Gudath

If you want to see history in the making, go to any park in Berlin. Summer in this city should be green. Instead, everything is brown and dusty. Tempelhofer Feld in particular is an endless sea of death. Meteorologists say this is the worst drought Berlin has seen since records began in 1908. 

It’s like this all over Europe. The EU says no summer has been this dry for at least 500 years. In reality, it’s probably much worse.

Every day, Germany’s evening news has been full of natural catastrophes: record heat, massive forest fires, and dryness. The constant increase of the earth’s temperature, caused by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, is leading to all kinds of extreme weather.

I am willing to sacrifice Christian Lindner’s Porsche. I am willing to sacrifice all the Porsches in the world.

A year ago, I wrote that the biblical floods in Western Germany were caused by capitalism. The irony of the Anthropocene: climate change is causing floods but also droughts — heat waves but also cold spells. Yet while everyone knows what is happening, life continues pretty much as normal. This reminds me of something V.I. Lenin wrote in late 1917, as famine was approaching Russia:

“The danger of a great catastrophe … is imminent. All the newspapers have written about this time and again. A tremendous number of resolutions have been adopted by the parties … resolutions which admit that a catastrophe is unavoidable, that it is very close, that extreme measures are necessary to combat it, that ‘heroic efforts’ by the people are necessary to avert ruin, and so on.

Everybody says this. Everybody admits it. Everybody has decided it is so.

Yet nothing is being done.”

Doesn’t that sound like today? Everyone can see the fires burning. Most politicians agree we urgently need to put out the flames. Yet every day, corporations just keep adding fuel.

The only people who appear to be taking things seriously are the young activists of the Letzte Generation — as their name suggests, they believe themselves to be the last generation with a chance to prevent a catastrophe. In order to bring attention to the madness of our suicidal moment, the are supergluing themselves to highway onramps and blocking traffic. And all the reports talk about how inconvenient this is for car drivers. They might have to wait 30 minutes — 30 minutes! — before they can maneuver their deadly, multi-ton machines through the city.

You think that’s inconvenient? What about a future full of fires, floods, and droughts? Won’t that also be… you know… slightly annoying for commuters? Fire tornados can also make people late to work.

You don’t need to be a climate scientist to understand what needs to be done: immediate and radical cuts in carbon emissions. An easy first step would be to stop the production of cars, right this second. Germany already has 48,248,584 cars — that’s more than enough. This kind of thing can be done. On February 22, 1942, the U.S. automobile industry was forced to stop producing cars in order to switch to war production. The climate catastrophe is no less of an emergency than World War II.

Der SPIEGEL, a propaganda organ for the automobile industry, has a one-sentence rejoinder to such a simple and obvious plan: “If tomorrow cars could no longer be built, then 786,000 people in Germany would immediately lose their jobs.”

This is a truly dumb argument. There are over 300,000 people working for public transport companies in Germany. The Deutsche Bahn alone has over 200,000 employees in this country. Hundreds of thousands more are indirectly employed by buses, trams, and railways. But when was the last time you heard politicians worrying about these jobs when cutting budgets for public transport? 

But more generally, there is no reason that discontinuing a specific product would lead to unemployment. Industrial workers are highly trained. They can build other, more useful, things: electricity grids, trains, and e-bikes — while keeping their jobs and their benefits.

Won’t a future full of fires, floods, and droughts be slightly annoying for commuters? Fire tornados can also make people late to work.

All we would really lose if we got rid of cars is the profits of the automobile industry. The heirs of Nazi billionaires who run Germany have sunk billions into planet-destroying technologies. Capitalism requires them to increase their capital every single quarter, so they have no choice but to keep churning out ever more cars. That’s why they push the scam of electric cars, which will do nothing to stop the climate crisis, while actively blocking effective solutions like public transport.

This week, a politician from the hyper-neoliberal FDP has told us “we will all need to make personal sacrifices” in order to defend freedom and democracy. Ok, then. I, for one, am willing to sacrifice. I am willing to sacrifice Christian Lindner’s Porsche. I am willing to sacrifice all the Porsches in the world. I am willing to sacrifice private jets and even private rocket ships. Most importantly, I think we should be willing to sacrifice a system in which the economy is controlled by a handful of billionaires. This drought is yet another sign: we need democracy to address the crisis.