The fact that human beings are causing great damage to life on the planet is not up for debate. Even if one doesn’t buy anthropogenic climate change, it’s all too clear that we’re making a big mess with pesticides, air pollution, plastic in the oceans, nuclear waste, genetic modification, top soil loss, aquifer depletion, urban sprawl, wildlife extinctions, and more.
There’s a word for our collective behavior: ecocide.
We live under the reign of capitalism, so it’s easy to pin the blame there. Some have gone so far as to describe climate change as “capitalogenic” as opposed to “anthropogenic” or to suggest renaming the “Anthropocene” era as the “Capitalocene.”
But though the evils of capitalism are truly terrible, the original and underlying perpetrator of ecocide is civilization, which predates capitalism by millennia. Whereas capitalism goes back to the 16th century (give or take), civilization arose with the ramping up of the agricultural revolution, 8,000-10,000 years ago. One could say that yes, capitalism is indeed problematic but it isn’t the problem.
Why does the distinction matter?