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Brexit: Right Choice for the Wrong Reasons?

My first response to the Brexit vote was “good.” No, I haven’t become a Trump supporter or a right-wing nationalist with immigrantophobia. I liked the result for environmental reasons. The European Union is a key element of globalized capitalism that puts profit ahead of people and ecological concerns, consumption before of conservation, and is rapidly depleting the world’s resources. As a radical environmentalist I believe that de-globalizing or re-localizing the world’s economies is necessary to avoid climate change tipping points that will decimate the productive capacity of the planet before the end of the century. Anti-globalization sentiment was at least in part responsible for the pro-exit vote and that is a good thing.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. Nationalism and xenophobia also played a role, and preventing global warming had little to do with Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Those who voted to leave did the right thing, at least in part, for the wrong reasons. That’s not surprising and it parallels the seemingly contradictory path the world must take to insure our species’ continued existence.

Our survival depends upon replacing the world-spanning networks of financial institutions, extractive corporations, agribusiness, the military-industrial complex, and the governmental entities that enable them, with localized, egalitarian, self-governing communities that not only produce sufficient food, clothing and shelter sustainably, but also provide cultural and intellectual sustenance. However, since we face a planetary crisis, a successful 180-degree turnabout of this nature will require worldwide coordination and cooperation. A globally coordinated plan of localization almost seems like a contradiction in terms, but it won’t work if it is done in a random or patchwork quilt-like manner.

Such localization can’t be achieved by pandering to nationalism or racism. It won’t produce the desired ecological result as long as one nation acts more entitled than the next, one race exploits, or attacks another, or one religion knows it has a god-given right to impose its beliefs on all others. Such attitudes are antithetical to the viability of our species; the survival of more than a fragment of the human race over the next hundred years will also require an equitable redistribution of resources.

This is a new kind of globalization. Some on the left think we can utilize multi-national impulses such as the European Union to move in this direction. However, any institution dominated by neo-liberal capitalism will impede rather than facilitate global environmental progress, even if it becomes somewhat greener within its borders. Capitalism’s regulations and structures are designed to serve the 1% by facilitating growth and consumption. It can never be transformed from within into the collective green savior we need.

While it is a mind-boggling task, we must reconstitute all major, top down, neo-liberal entities from the bottom up. To paraphrase the revolutionary chant of the 1970’s, we need “one, two, many Brexits,” but we need them for the right reasons.  Read More 
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