The introduction to this book, the last part to be completed, was sent to the printer in New York City only days before the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and was first published in October 2001 in Monthly Review. Since then the world has witnessed a continuing war by the United States for control of the oil-rich Middle East and an acceleration of the global ecological crisis—symbolized above all by global warming. The opening years of the twenty-first century can therefore be viewed as marking a new stage in the war of capitalism on the planet.
In this war on nature ecological problems are treated even by many “green” thinkers as mere barriers to be surmounted, usually by technological means, with the primary object of sustaining capital accumulation. Ecology has increasingly given way to ecological modernization, in which the object is simply the more rational and efficient exploitation of nature. This inevitably leads to catastrophic consequences for the interdependent life processes of the planet, ultimately threatening human survival itself.
A genuine solution to today’s global ecological crisis requires that emphasis be placed on promoting sustainable human development and a restorative relation to the earth. Yet, such a revolutionary socio-ecological approach is almost entirely absent in those countries at the center of the world system that for centuries have plundered the resources of the earth as the counterpart to a global system of human exploitation.
Those radical ecologists seriously seeking a way out of this iron cage are therefore increasingly drawing their inspiration from ongoing third world socio-ecological revolutions in Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia, and from ecological transformations taking place in Curitiba and Porto Alegre in Brazil, and Kerala in India. It is here that struggles for ecological sustainability, substantive equality, and collectivist social organization are merging into wider movements for sustainable egalitarian communities.
In all of this South Korea stands in a unique position. A society of late capitalist development, still subject to the external hegemony of global monopoly-finance capital and the domination of the U.S. imperial state, it contains within it the possibility of a radically divergent path. Its uniqueness is tied to its history of militant labor struggles, to its strong ecological movement (symbolized today by opposition to the Saemangeum Reclamation Project), and to its centrality in the struggle against imperialism (inextricably tied to the problem of Korean unification). South Korea is therefore of critical global importance in the formation of a socialist ecology for the twenty-first century.
I would therefore like to take the opportunity offered by this preface to dedicate this edition of Ecology Against Capitalism to all those Korean activists who have chosen to dedicate their lives to the struggle for humanity and the earth—and against what Rachel Carson once called the “the gods of profit and production.”