Before I begin, allow me to dispel some preconceived notions that the title may have given you. I am not a Marxist or a Communist, at least not politically. Being a Bowdoin student, I am a solid beneficiary of the bourgeoisie dominance, and odds are that if you are reading this, you are too. More academically though, I find much of Marx's writing to extremely reductive, and it consequently loses much of its value to a lack of nuance. However, from his many over-simplifications, one stands out not only as interesting, but also surprisingly relevant to the current issue of climate change. Marx views the past through a lens, largely ground by Hegel, that shapes history as a series of conflicts in which different parts of society fight. The result each time is a "revolutionary reconstitution of society" that changes not just the structure of society, but the very nature of the combatants within it. He cites the dramatic shifts from Roman society to feudal society and from feudal society to industrial society as examples of the near complete changes that these conflicts have wrought. He also explains how each time, the current society "forges" the very weapons that bring it down. Marx then continues to what is perhaps the most popularly known part of The Communist Manifesto: how we are currently in the process of social revolution, how workers are going to overthrow the current reign and make the communist state, blah, blah, blah, etc.

Well, history seems to show that that hasn't happened. Capitalism prevailed right? The Soviet Union failed, right? China is more totalitarian than communist. And what in the world does this have to do with the environment? Interestingly, about a decade later Marx wrote, "We cannot judge a period of transformation by its own consciousness." Admittedly, I am context quoting, for Marx goes on to write that we can understand it by different means. However, it seems apt to say that perhaps Marx did not understand the period of transformation that he was in, that he was part of its consciousness. The revolution after the industrial revolution has not happened, but I argue that the implications of global warming necessitate adding that frightful word: yet.

For me, the real issue behind global warming is a matter of resources. Yeah, Manhattan might be under a couple feet of water, and a few island nations might be devoured by the sea, but I never really liked cities anyway and I don't live on an island (yeah, I'm an a**hole). However, what happens when we lose mountain top snowpacks and sources of freshwater dry up? What happens to our fishing stocks when the salinity of the ocean changes? These worldwide depletions of vital resources are the true terror of global warming.

However, in reality, global warming only hints at larger, and if you can believe it, even more seemingly insurmountable environmental problems. Eventually, and perhaps sooner than we would like to think, the earth is simply going to run out of resources. Though this is perhaps an extreme conclusion, the logic of our current system economic system demands it. Industrial society (the distinction from post-industrial is irrelevant for this argument) demands constant growth in order to survive. Think about our current recession for example, one of the worst in recent history. In the depths of the recession the GDP shrunk only slightly, and not for very long. The rest of the time, it grew slower than normal. The economy does not even have to stop growing, let alone shrink, to be in bad shape. We could have a stagnant economy and still be growing, still consuming more resources. Combined with exponentially increasing population growth, modern economics promises to use up our resources at a faster and faster rate. In reality, our current economic system is merely a giant Ponzi scheme, and the down turn that will send it tumbling will be when resources dry up. We have what I will context quote Marx to describe: "the epidemic of over-production."

Consequently, I feel that environmentalists and communists should have something in common. The current trend in environmentalism is sustainability, and though I whole-heartedly applaud the effort, I feel that we are merely exchanging the switch-blade for a fruit knife, we are still cutting ourselves. Even if our lightbulbs are that much more efficient, our showers that much shorter, our waste that much more recycled, we still have to deal with the demands of rising populations and the necessity of economic growth. Those that put their faith in future technologies forget not only that present technologies put us in this mess, but also basic chemistry: the law of the conservation of matter. Economists seem to think that developing a country stabilizes its population. True or not, they forget that the United States, which is developed and has a stable population, consumes the lion's share of the world's goods. Imagine what would happen if every country consumed as much per capita as we do.

Instead, environmentalists need to be calling for an economic transformation, one that will undoubtedly drastically change society as it is organized now. Modern economics spells our eventual destruction. I laugh whenever I hear the seemingly universally popular buzz phrase, "market-based solution to global warming." The market and its demand for demand is the very cause of global warming. Perhaps if everyone drove a subsidized Prius, we would solve global warming. However, the larger problems of resource depletion cannot be solved in our current mode of economics and the society intertwined with it. Only a monumental change in the way we live, the way we structure our society, can truly solve environmental problems. In the mean time, we put off the inevitable with more efficient cars.

When Marx tells how each society "forges" the very weapons of its demise, he sees those weapons being wielded by the oppressed in a battle of classes. We have indeed already created the instruments that will end industrial society; however they will not be used by human hands. Instead we have thrust them into the unwilling hands of our mother, earth, who will have no choice but to turn them on her children. Marx writes that "mankind only sets itself tasks that it can solve," and though I agree with the seeming optimism of that statement, I feel that the solutions don't always looks like how we imagine they will. The world's continuing inability to deal with global warming portends something frightening, and perhaps revolutionary.

Chris Sanville is a member of the Class of 2012.