Translated from Argumente gegen “Umwelt” und “Ökologie” (1986), GegenStandpunkt, Munich
In its own way, capitalism takes the biblical commandment “subdue the earth” very seriously. It has the required means – the natural sciences and modern technology – and a social interest: business. But here already it is clear that only limited consideration is given to the land and its people, precisely in line with business. Faced with results ranging from acid rain to the slaughter of baby seals, a part of civilized humanity has discovered a passionate love of nature. The state can live with it; “environmental policy” is guaranteed not to sin against profit.
The environmental problem
What nature is and what laws it is subject to can be found in textbooks on physics, chemistry, and biology. What nature becomes, how the living and inanimate inventory of the earth changes, is determined by completely different laws. Namely, those of the mode of production and the political power which decides by force and monitors how nature is used. Wherever the state commands a free market economy and promotes the accumulation of a wealth measured in money, nature is also the means of property. Its freedom in business-minded interaction with nature is just as exclusive as its effects are universal. What nature provides as a means of use, it loses as a means of subsistence. This is the whole secret of the “environmental problem.” Capital can’t flout the inner laws of natural substances and the processes that take place between them, nor does it want to: It uses them to increase itself. In its production process, it uses all sorts of natural substances, setting in motion physical, chemical, or biological processes by means of work done by people who it employs to make products that can be sold for a profit. In doing so, the owner of the production process and its results is not interested in the effects of the natural substances and processes used in production, nor in the natural properties of his products as such. He uses them solely from one point of view: business.
Labor as a production factor
First of all, this calculated treatment of nature has very direct consequences for those who are dependent on the sale of their labor power because they need wages to live. In the capitalist production process, what matters is the availability and productivity of the “production factor labor,” not the lives and health of the workers. It is considered normal that their physical integrity is strained to an extent that is known to everyone as wear and tear from the duration and intensity of the work demanded of them. If capital takes into account the limits to physical performance or direct damage to the health of its workers, then it does so only if, and to the extent that, it directly affects the production process. If changes in production are accompanied by a reduction in noise, dust, heat, etc., it is for the sake of an increase in labor productivity. Many a company, after completing rationalization, announces that it has once again made an outstanding contribution by creating “clean” and “humane” jobs.
Incidentally, the most cost-effective way for capital to deal with the health-destroying effects of the production process is still to put the onus for avoiding these effects on the workers themselves by means of warnings, etc., and otherwise to provide a financial incentive by paying noise, dirt, heat, and hazard allowances. As a result of this production relation, hearing loss, early disability, and reduced life expectancy are assigned their price, quantified in marks and pennies. In order to earn a living, which can be obtained in no other way than by allowing one’s labor power to be exploited, workers “voluntarily” accept the destruction of their health in the capitalist production process. That’s why no environmental movement has been sparked by this everyday damage to human life in the factories. It’s points of reference are different effects of the capitalist mode of production, admittedly not as such.
Unavoidable side effects
Wherever the handling of natural substances, their treatment and processing, their use and consumption, is subject to one principle – how much does it cost to use this or that useful natural property for private wealth to increase itself? – the (surrounding) world is not entirely spared. Nature cannot be transformed into an “immense collection of commodities” without the useful, because profitable, qualities and effects of the products also being accompanied by a quick list of – by no means beneficial – “side” effects. And these are quite universal in scope.
The branch of production that produces food, capitalist agriculture, with its increased yields in crops and livestock, not only ruins its own basis of production, the soil. Excessive use of fertilizers, which are meant to make the business independent of the soil’s insufficient earning power in comparison with the competition’s, spoils the quality of drinking water. And substances that are administered to animals and plants in order to make them marketable as quickly and for as long as possible turn them into “foodstuffs” of a highly dubious quality hardly conducive to healthy living. Some people get food poison due to a business practice that requires cattle be fattened up for sale within a short period of time and then offered for sale as fresh goods for six weeks thereafter.
In industry, the various “side effects” of the capitalist handling of nature can be summarized under the keyword “waste disposal.” Substances that are no longer suitable for profitable use are removed in every physical state from the production process in the most cost-effective way possible: into the air, into rivers and oceans, onto some kind of waste dump. From there, the effects that impair human life and other natural life processes fall outside the company’s own business calculations.
These effects have now, through the beneficial development of the “world market,” reached a point where whole areas have become unusable – for the people who want to live there. While in the home countries of capital, its crap lends itself to many a near-scandal and causes a series of “diseases of civilization,” in the backyards of the world, the freedom of business has been much more thoroughly exploited. It does not even remotely take into account the nature existing there as a means of life for the various natives who happen to live there.
A thing called public health
The state is not indifferent to the effects caused by property in its free use of nature. It registers the damages caused according to its economic system’s basic method of accounting: as costs – which arise for it and the property whose increase it subscribes to. The bourgeois state pursues environmental policy from this point of view, in the interest of quantifying the deeds done to nature in monetary terms and economically offsetting their management. The negative impact on the measurable economic success serves as its guide for detecting “cases” which in its opinion are intolerable. It then views them as a law maker who is just as familiar with the category of compensation after the offense has been committed as it is with the expenses of a thing called public health.
The fact that new harmful effects are constantly being detected, with more or less public attention, despite two hundred years of modern natural science – which knows quite a bit about the laws governing the relevant occurrences – indicates that they were never systematically researched because under the given economic conditions there was no interest in stopping or preventing such things. Even the state, the regulatory power of “society,” does not resort to putting brakes on the private property which it protects and promotes in its economic use of nature. After all, it is the effects of active free property, the kind of wealth for which the political power sees itself responsible and which serves as its own source. If the state takes offense at something here, then it is a matter of limiting these effects and the interference with production emanating from them, making them manageable without seriously restricting the freedom of property.
Protecting the nature of the workers
And the state has long obeyed this principle in its “environmental policies,” as new as the name for it may be. With its labor protection laws, it sides with the principle of exploitation against its destructive practice: in its concern for safety in the workplace and protection from hazardous substances, it is not concerned with making wage labor a harmless and healthy thing. It is about preventing capital from exploiting its source of wealth, the commodity labor power, in a way that turns the nation’s available wage workers into an unemplyable mass of invalids. The standpoint of public health sees an excess of ruin as a danger and is compatible with many workers whose “lot in life” is characterized by incapacity and illness – so long as enough of a working population remains and grows. The relevant statistics provide impressive evidence of this, especially for the progressive 20th century. Since legal regulations such as the ban on child night work, on the maximum work duration per piece, on the permissible degree of damage to workers from toxic substances (maximum permissible concentration values), on safety precautions against the ever-present dangers in the handling of work equipment, etc., not only restrict the freedom of capital in its use of labor, but also the freedom of wage workers to make themselves as useful as possible for capital, transgressing these rules is the recognized rule. The corresponding state institutions take them into account in an appropriate way. The factory inspectors are not there to remedy the normal extent of such transgressions; their task, in the name of a level playing field, is to punish transgressions that go beyond the normal extent because of the distortion of competition they entail. Their staffing is also geared to this limited assignment. And in the workers compensation boards, to which every “employer” is legally obliged to belong, the health hazards of working life and the measures necessary to keep the working class fit are taken into account from the outset in the form of accounting for them as a cost factor. Ironically, it is the business calculations of those who are professionally concerned with the productivity of the labor power under their control who are given the honor of keeping the damage within operational bounds in these organizations. On the basis of the cost development of the compensation payments to the employees for accidents at work, occupational diseases, disability and incapacity to work, which have to be paid from the contributions of the companies, they keep these calculations up to date and react with inexpensive initiatives for containing costly health-damaging effects wherever the compensation payments due begin to significantly exceed the calculated average level.
Protecting property in nature
The fact that the use of nature for the increase of property is not only unhealthy for those who are forced to put themselves in its service, but that it also destroys the basis for the profitable activity of other property owners by consuming general conditions of production and life beyond the reach of exclusive private appropriation, has brought the state into action, even without a great struggle on the part of those affected. In the Civil Code, it takes these negative effects into account – consistently, in the form of a guarantee of the freedom of property:
SS 906. (Impacts from the neighboring property).
(1) The owner of a plot of land may not prohibit the introduction of gases, vapors and odors, smoke, soot, heat, noise, vibrations and similar effects emanating from another plot of land insofar as the effect does not or only insignificantly interferes with the use of his plot of land.
(2) The same shall apply insofar as a substantial impairment is caused by a customary use of the other property and cannot be prevented by measures which are economically reasonable for users of this type. If the owner has to tolerate an encroachment under this provision, he may demand appropriate compensation in money from the user of the other property if the encroachment impairs a customary use of his property or its yield beyond what is reasonable.
It is thus made clear as a matter of law that the use of nature by property is to be measured by no criteria other than by property itself: The economic use of nature as property and its obstruction is the measure of the damage which can be quantified in money, and freedom in the use of nature must conform to the “local” standards already set by property-holders: In the middle of Duisburg or Oberhausen [industrial districts with heavy air pollution – translator], anyone who wants to use his property and capital to open up an air therapy spa is certainly free to do so – as in the usual quip on this subject – but to then demand that the neighboring steel plant take measures to produce a suitable air quality or provide it with financial compensation for its lack of profitability would probably be somewhat absurd. Proving and quantifying the property damage caused by an industrial plant, a power station, an airfield, etc., in disputes over “significant impairment,” “customary use,” and “economically reasonable” is a lucrative field of legal ventures when those affected decide to take legal action. If an agreement is reached between the citizen groups and the electricity company to “gold plate” the acceptance of the new coal-fired power plant with the “appropriate monetary compensation” of a few thousand marks per affected person,, as was the case a few years ago with a STEAG coal-fired power plant in the Rhineland, then this may be considered treasonous by fans of nature and as abusive blackmail by fanatics of free property. But it is entirely within the spirit of the state and the law.
Only later does the determination, assessment, and compensation of damage to life and property become an “environmental problem.”
The impairment of the usability of water and air, soil and food must lose the character of a “side” effect of capitalist industry and agriculture. This is the case when the impairment starts threatening important general conditions for which the state is “responsible” and which it administers for the sake of life in a market economy. Where the continuity of production and the simple living conditions of the population of a region are in question, where soil, air and water take the form of an acute cause of disease, the state can no longer simply stand by and watch. Then it notices through its expenses on sewage treatment plants and the loss of forests that it is “challenged” by “environmental policy.”
The criteria for the assessment due here remain the familiar ones. Since the expenses for the measures taken or ordered by the state to remedy, reduce, or compensate for such harmful effects are, in one way or another, negative costs in relation to the wealth produced, to the fruits of property, their necessity must be examined very carefully. And even if that is certainly beyond doubt, it is still necessary to be economically responsible when dealing with measures that impair the free development of property, even if they are only there to preserve it. The laws and ordinances that reconcile nature and capital with each other are all in keeping with this – in the form of the Emission Control Act, the Technical Instructions on Air Quality, the Ordinance on Large Combustion Plants. These set a new framework of conditions for “environmentally compatible” future businesses and, in the interests of ongoing capital ventures, the requirements are also suitable for being “relaxed” from time to time. With the “economic right of continuity,” the state prohibits itself from thwarting business calculations that have already been carried out by changing the legal and economic data and thus possibly making them unprofitable. With the terms “state of the art,” “economically sensible” and “proportionality,” it defines the general criteria for the new production conditions. “State of the art” in terms of “environmentally friendly production” means instruments and processes of production whose application is already considered profitable by capital and which is therefore “winning the market.”
Man as perpetrator – environment as victim
Meanwhile, the moral of the story is provided by two figures characterized by strange qualities. First, they are fictional subjects and, second, they are very abstract. But this does not detract from their popularity – their names are Man and Environment. “Man” is the victim of his own sin, and he has committed it against “the environment.” If he wants to survive, he has to make some sacrifices for the sake of “the environment,” who wants to be saved.
In the enlightened 20th century, this not only counts as a plausible explanation for the waste products of capital, but also as a bad conscience which one only has to propagate enough to be seen as a good person. Unfortunately, with the discovery that a ruthless use of nature by capital is taking place, the overdue alarm was already decided. The protest movement, which arose after a few hundred scandals had been publicized, calls itself “green”; and it has not joined the anti-capitalist minority in the country to strengthen it. On the contrary. From the beginning, this movement has been very critical of those who want to identify the root of the evil now dubbed “pollution” in the free growth of capital. With the consciousness of having raised something much more fundamental as a program than the “social conflicts” that make the world of freedom and equality so unpleasant, an interpretation of the constitutionally approved workings of capital has been produced that first of all thoroughly sweeps away any economic findings. Marx had explained how the peculiar progress of the capitalist mode of production follows from its purpose:
“Capitalist production only develops the technique and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker.”
This does not seem “sufficient” to citizens of the 20th century who notice that elementary living conditions have become nothing but health risks. Where “life” and “survival” are in question, it cannot possibly and must not be a problem of wealth – that’s the first green decision. They also know that the abundance quantified in money is happily growing, while the mere prerequisites for all modern life activities – the nature-given means of existence – are no longer any good. But they don’t want to see this as exclusion from wealth, and certainly not as a result of the only kind of wealth that matters. Conversely, they see the extensive use of nature as its improper use. From the excessive demands of capital which transform all working and living conditions into dangers and damages because of its growth, they deduce the ideal of a nature that is suitable as a condition of life because and as long as it is preserved. It is not the quality of dealing with nature that is the object of critique, although it is its starting point, but an offense against it, which is characterized as “destruction.”
“Economically reasonable” measures are those that do not impede profit-making with capital investments. And “proportionate” measures are those that do not represent an expropriation-like encroachment on property, i.e. do not result in a devaluation of the invested capital – measured in reduced profitability – see “economically reasonable.”
Where the reasons for the crud are certain, but overall political responsibility dictates that nothing be done, bans on swimming in rivers, lakes and sea beaches, smog warning systems in cities, or the ban on eating vegetables in one’s own garden ultimately prove to be both effective and inexpensive “protective measures” which also forcefully remind “all of us” about the “seriousness of the situation.” And responsible citizens also want to discover this. However, their view of things has turned into a worldview that is characterized by the consistent absence of a political-economic critique.
However, this is not an abbreviated name for the fact that essential components of nature have been rendered unusable and detrimental to health. In all seriousness, the committed critics of the crud take sides with the “damaged environment.” They equate missing usability with inviolability, and through this they become advocates of “the” environment. From its requirements, which they give voice to, they derive rules and prohibitions for dealing with nature; and the standards for what is permissible do not arise in ecological thinking from the needs of the people who capital is showering with dirt, but from imagined necessities of nature itself which deserve respect.
This characterization of the “wrong” supposedly being committed against the principles of nature, which we owe to ecology, does not disavow its moralism in its second section, the question of guilt. In accord with the arch-bourgeois custom of seeing nothing as more reprehensible than a particular interest being carried out against others, the public prosecutors of dirt and poison have from the beginning set out to include themselves in the circle of the guilty. As if the general dismay caused by the wrecking of nature would also suggest the conclusion that an equally general subject is to be held responsible for renouncing the “abuse” of nature, for this philosophy human beings have stood in the center from the very beginning. It puts this figure in the dock because it makes no distinctions – neither between rulers and ruled, or between operators of a nuclear power plant and those who have to pay for the electricity and get the radiation free of charge – and has only one sin to atone for: He has violated the laws of the “environment” by shamelessly treating it as a means for himself. The ecological movement, in its effort to quite credibly demonstrate the honorableness of its cause, has become very fundamentalist. As if the major and minor catastrophes that sparked its protest did not prove the exact opposite – namely, that the treatment of nature being implemented is not the means of everyone, but of capitalist business – it always speaks in the name of the species. Its theorists easily come up with sentences like the following:
“For man himself is a part of the natural ecosystem, and if he destroys this system, he destroys himself.” “If, however, the realization does not prevail that man himself is subject to the laws of nature, he also endangers himself.”
It takes indestructible humility and high regard for “creation” or “mother nature” to call upon oneself as a species to adapt – and thus to outright condemn the conscious alteration of nature on the basis of knowledge of its laws and for human purposes (which really can be found in nature!). And even more of a (nature-) religious attitude is needed to trot out the insight – probably gleaned from dioxin barrels, tons of sulfur compounds in the air, and vast quantities of rare metals in the water – that “man himself is subject to the laws of nature.” Because this can only serve as a prelude to the message to drop the “hubris” and to renounce the technical use of the identified laws of nature. To clarify: The damages to health which are made known on a daily basis as consequences of certain processes in agriculture and industry are quite certainly not the consequences of a heedlessness or “ignorance” of ecological insights, but are the not at all unknown effects of economic calculations which are by no means implemented “at the expense” of nature.
It is annoying that, of all people, those who are outraged by damages to their most elementary means of life come up with an attitude of renunciation, that is, an alternative to the damage they have suffered. It is as if they wanted to finally and irrefutably agree with such common bourgeois sayings as “everything has its price” and “poor but healthy.” A Green will casually say that “growth” is a bad purpose because it destroys the “environment” and takes its revenge on “humans,” without wasting even one second on what it is that is growing there. Of course, this would be a consideration that leads away from ecology and straight into economics. And in its popularity with 20th century citizens, the same goes for these two theories as with astrology and astronomy. In substance, by the way, too.
At the same time, missionary ecologists in particular notice the very unecological side of the substance:
“Unfortunately, this realization is gaining acceptance only very slowly against the resistance of politicians, authorities and industry, who do not want to lose their money, power and influence.”
But maybe there is no argument at all between green insights and well-established egoism – and a worldview is running up against political power and the business interests that are sacred to it. Because trying to convince those who are used to exploiting other “men” and nature as a legitimate means of business to take an ecological view of the duty of “man” to the “environment” is not even a declaration of hostility. Conversely, the ecological movement is in no way ready to turn the question of guilt in the dispute between man and nature into a principled attack on those who are responsible for violence and wealth –and according to the customs of democracy in this country it consistently looks for perpetrators abroad. According to the logic: If capital and its mode of production were the cause, then the “environment” in the East would not be similarly screwed up – making the story about “man & environment” once again plausible to them. They have not come to the conclusion that perhaps the legally protected economic standards of “real socialism” cause the construction of nuclear power plants over there, just as they have not realized the wrongness of their conclusion: that – because there is pollution over there too – capital and its “industrial state” can’t be the reason here …
The discovery that the “environment” is ill-treated won’t allow its advocates any rest. In elaborating their pleas, they have found physical science to be quite unsuitable and have added ecology to it. Wholly human and full of love for nature, this philosopher’s smash hit tries to prove laws of a new kind, against which their own species is said to have sinned. Their “findings” about the requirements of the “environment,” which is worthy of their reverence, are followed by appeals and self-sacrificng deeds in the form of an alternative lifestyle.
In the face of a natural science and technology that has proven its usefulness for money and has received quasi proof of its correctness by transforming all natural substances accordingly, it seems strange at first that there is a world view about a wrong treatment of nature. Because in the knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology there are certainly many laws which explain why the one or the other natural process runs precisely the way that it does. But the “canon” of accumulated knowledge does not contain a word about a purpose in nature which could claim validity for itself and which one could offend against. If good people or philosophers make out such things, they at best advise having the highest moral respect for life – which may amount to the purpose of the dear critters, but is of little concern to them, because they have no idea of it and no respect for it either.
It is precisely this materialism of the natural sciences, which has nothing to do with either hunting and its selection pressures or with animal protection – it provides the relevant knowledge suitable to projects – that ecology sees as a decisive deficiency. Anyone who thinks that nature is being acted against in the truest sense of the word does not want to be content with explanations of the troubling effects of interventions in and changes to nature. He is serious about the search for laws of a new type in which nature is the subject – even if it is so abstract a “system” that its intention is its own preservation. And the will to find such a thing also finds it. Since then, there are equilibria of the most marvelous kinds, for whose non-existence “man” is, of course, to blame. A meadow on which frogs and grasses, worms and mosquitoes once casually frolicked appears in the corrected natural history as a model of the wonderfully arranged cycle: a biotope! And this does not mean the connections between species that depend on each other, but rather a purpose of the whole which governs this to and fro of growth and decay, eating and being eaten. Whereby the plants and animals become nothing but parts.
For those who need to criticize “humans,” this new type of nature philosophy’s theoretical idealism helps them believe that the natural sciences substantiate a mistreatment of nature which is supposed to result from (only) a wheezing pensioner! It’s also a way to dress up shallow warnings to honor God’s creation (“Do you know how many little mosquitoes play ...?”) in the garb of Latin scientific jargon! The conclusions that practically emerge from the doctrine could leave one cold – if they were not officially recognized on the one hand, in fact as a business resource, and on the other hand, if they didn’t come across as the lived morality of a minority who has anything else in mind than stepping on the toes of those who are destroying their beautiful “environment.” The first section is not restricted to a little bit of nature protection, which has always been done when forests and vermin have to make room once again. As if the doctrine about the scarcity of nature, which is part of ecology along with the official theory of price, should suddenly have been proven right, everything is due and payable, from money collection up to the exhibition with admission. Here for 12 deutsch marks humanity can admire a recreated meadow from the 1950s at the horticultural show – with a sign saying “biotope.” The fact that many common food products do not really taste right and others are good for wiping out entire families is a capitalist custom. However, the fact that an extra business is flourishing under the title “health food” serves less for good taste and health than for a gang of cutthroats. Then the competition of the established chemical foodstuff industry reports sardonically that organic products – after all, the dear “environment” is affected very generally – contain the same amounts of harmful toxins.
Notwithstanding this, devout ecologists are putting on their rubber boots, living an “alternative lifestyle,” and starting “alternative farms.” Modesty is certainly a prerequisite for this kind of rural economy – and, unfortunately, it is also the message that resounds from the green parlors. People who have to economize when shopping and buy the cheaper stuff are criticized for consuming, and their little bit of food and drink is given a very disparaging appraisal. The “demands” of citizen consumers appears to be a reason for the “suffering of the environment” that today’s protesters have embraced. Of course, a few tons of sulfur dioxide and the workload in the factory will be easy enough to handle once smoking in public is banned!
With this militancy toward the few pleasures of other assholes, it is easy to live for the state and capital, which have long known who makes too many unbearable demands on “the economy.” And a “realistic environmental policy” can be pursued. It can even be sold as “insight” into the justified warnings of any party called “green” that uses its “political capability” to recognize the real national “we” and serves its time as an opposition. Championing the cause of “humans” and “survival,” whether in issues of poison or peace, is really a bad program for people. Politics is already about something more when it honors this modesty.
The democratic state, on the other hand, practices a somewhat different kind of ecology. As the appointed advocate of the “humans” whose capitalist coexistence it is responsible for, it has the scientists in its service accurately calculate the metrics of all the damages they know of – and the values are “realistic” because they are compatible with the costs that are used in dealing economically with the important “factors.” The highest commandment of the “environmental protection” done like this is: “Environmental policy cannot be made in opposition to the economy, but only with it!” So there is at least still one authority which does not lose sight of its economic basis in all the ideological reappraisals of the facts. This state and its representatives know that they are not responsible for the imaginary “human” and his “environment,” but for the business of capital.
For the state, the “preservation of ecological balance” is just a challenge to act in the name of this balance. And since this is not easy, as its natural scientists confirm, it requires even more readiness for responsibility on the part of environmental policy makers.
The acceptable level of damage
With respect to dead and dying forests, for example, scientists now agree that “new types of forest damage” are actually taking place whose causes need to be investigated. And there is even broad agreement that sulfur dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels, nitrogen oxides (from all combustion processes at higher temperatures above 800-900 C) in conjunction with ozone, also heavy metal industrial dust, are “contributing” to the premature dying of the trees. How these substances affect the trees’ biological processes is also known. But here begins the ambiguity: A responsible forestry biologist, for example, knows that the state won’t be content with this basic information about the harmfulness of industrial dusts. After all, serious (= costly) investment decisions are at stake. Statements must be made about the exact ratio between the various components of air pollution and the various “natural factors” (climate, pests, etc.) that are involved in causing the damage.
“Despite the high plausibility of an involvement of air pollutants in the cause-effect relationship of the new types of forest damage, it must remain open which pollutants play a role in the individual case and how high their contribution is estimated in quantitative terms, or how high is the contribution of natural causes of damage.” (Expert Council for Environmental Issues in the Bundestag Hearing on Dying Forests on October 24/25, 1983)
There is still a lot of measuring work to be done in order to eliminate the danger that one type of dirt will be reduced by “expensive mis-investments” that are greater than its share of the damage! Where ever many “factors” are known of, the “experts” feel challenged to emphasize the relativity and only conditional effect of this or that measure And in accord with economic “reason,” the practitioners of environmental policy proceed very “realistically” and sometimes distance themselves from measures that are as costly as they are “one-sided.” The need to hold back when introducing new requirements and regulations on the free development of property in nature, to limit them to what is “absolutely necessary,” is the generally accepted starting condition for the research done by natural scientists serving environmental policy. This research is not simply devoted to the harmfulness of the various substances produced and used in the capitalist production process, to their physical, chemical and biological modes of action. In determining the limit values of the harmful substances concentrated in the living spheres of plants, animals, and humans, natural scientists are responsible for determining the level of damage that is acceptable from the point of view of the economy and public health. It does not bother the “acting policy makers” very much that this undertaking, especially since it has very little to do with scientific research, leads to internal debates, in other words: to a cheerful pluralism of scholars. On the contrary, the need for them to act according to their criteria is impressively underlined. And after all, it is the state that makes the limits legally binding, without which they would remain controversial until doomsday.
The ecological point of view
The economy has long been committed to the state realism that is so prevalent in scientific “environmental research.” But while not so long ago it offensively put this forward against “the environmentalists” and made “the economy or the environment?" into a popular topic of discussion for true democratic controversies of the type “realism or idealism/utopianism?” today “politically adroit” greens and environmentalists, social democrats and trade unionists, economics professors and the house economists of industrial associations, prefer to argue about how “the economy can best meet the challenge of the environment” and which economic policy instruments are most suitable for environmental policy use in the market economy.
With the “Greens” solidly established as the fourth parliamentary party, the public “environmental debate” has become a normal topic of party competition and is ultimately about “concrete political possibilities for action” on the basis of serious economic cost calculations: Environmentalists are already warning industry against “long-term poor investment decisions” and, no longer just the other way around, the public. The representatives of the people’s will demonstrate to themselves and to the people how diverse the effects of environmental damage and environmental protection are with the beautiful instrument of public hearings with experts in the responsible committees of the Bundestag, as was recently the case on the topic of “dying forests and air pollution.” And since the awareness that “we all have to make sacrifices for a clean environment” is just as universally cultivated as the insight that the state is the authority that decides over the fair distribution of these sacrifices, no “environmental catastrophe” will stand in the way of the common good and its basis, the growth of capital.