Date: 15 March 2011 

On tonight’s program we’ll be talking about the concept of “ecosocialism,” which our guest Joel Kovel, argues is essential to saving the earth. Capitalism, he says, just won’t do it, because the profit motive drives the capitalist system to exploitation of the earth and its inhabitants.

Listen to the Program

Our Coversation with Joel Kovel:

Our guest tonight is Joel Kovel, who is editor of the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism; the title sums up or focus tonight. In 2001, he and Michael Löwy published The Ecosocialist Manifesto, and in 2002 he published a book (revised in 2007) called The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?. \

  • You’ve had a long career in medicine, psychiatry, education, and social and political activism. Please give us a little of your biography–how did you get to be an ecosocialist?
  • Your book subtitle puts the choice bluntly, “the end of capitalism or the end of the world.” In that book you also quote Rosa Luxemburg, who says we have a choice between “barbarism or socialism.” Please tell us about what you see as the role of capitalism in undermining the environment. Why is capitalism at war with nature? Can it bring an end to the world?
  • You argue that capitalism is not bound by absolute laws, but by traditions and conventions. Is capitalism incapable of green reform? (e.g. carbon cap-and-trade, wind power, solar power)?
  •  In fact, you are pretty hard on a number of current environmental movements. You write of faux good news, a “puerile mish-mash, of local cleanup efforts, greenwashings of one kind or another, the hucksterings, of green capitalists, various techno-fixes, and the noises made by government agencies.” Are well-meant individual green efforts pointless?
  • You are also critical of Kyoto, (and, we are assuming, Copenhagen). Can’t/won’t world governments save the world from capitalism?
  •  Here’s a question you ask yourself in the Manifesto: “But why socialism, why revive this word seemingly consigned to the rubbish-heap of history by the failings of its twentieth century interpretations?”
  • What are the major tenets of ecosocialism? (Perhaps you can describe some of them.)
  • How might/must the ecosocialist revolution come about? Who will lead it? What form will it take? Will it be violent? Might the actions Republicans in Wisconsin lead to a people’s rebellion? Might the health care crisis bring us to ecosocialism? What does Katrina teach us about the possibility for ecosocialism?
  •  Please describe your vision of an ecosocialist planet after the revolution. [Our program title is taken from Ernest Callenbach’s 1973 novel, Ecotopia. If you’re familiar with Callenbach’s vision, could you offer a few comments on Ecotopia as an ecosocialist kind of state?]
  • It’s difficult from your writing to see the precise role of the individual in bringing about ecological change. Please give our listeners (and us) some ideas about individual engagement. What can/should/might we be doing? Can you recommend additional sources or organizations for action?

You can also learn more about Joel Kovel and his work at his website (which also includes a copy of the Ecosocialist Manifesto) and at a detailed article on Wikipedia . 

Joel Kovel <>

Wikipedia < >

Nature Capitalism Socialism <>

Playlist for Ecotopia #128: Ecosocialism 1. Fast Paced World 3:52 The Duhks Fast Paced World
2. Revolution 1 4:16 The Beatles The Beatles (White Album)
3. It’s Money That I Love 3:43 Randy Newman It’s Lonely At The Top
4. The Penguin 2:50 Don Byron Bug Music
5. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary
6. Doctor My Eyes (LP Version) 3:20 Jackson Browne Jackson Browne
7. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall 6:57 Bob Dylan The Freewheellin’ Bob Dylan