SETHNESS, Javier. Climate genocide shows naked abomination of capitalism

Javier Sethness  is an educator and libertarian socialist who currently lives in California (see: ).


Javier Sethness on climate genocide in reviewing Richard A. Koenigsberg's book “Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War” (October 2009): “As is well-known, climate change stands to threaten agricultural production across much of the globe, radically diminish the global supply of freshwater, inundate low-lying coastal settlements currently home to hundreds of millions of people, prompt widespread desertification, and literally eradicate some countries that today exist. The specter of such life-negating realities seems to find its genesis in capitalist society, a form of totalitarianism that essentially values profitability above all else. The response of nearly every advanced-capitalist country to the now well-established reality of climate change has been entirely inadequate toward the end of allowing much of humanity and life itself the chance to flourish or even survive the projected consequences of anthropogenic global warming; their lack of meaningful action on this question—a lack which results from the desire to hold existing society more or less unchanged—is systematic. It cannot merely then be stated that the mass murder—the rendering-impossible of human life—that follows from reformist inaction is a mistake, an unintended consequence, an ‘externality.' Such horrifying consequences are today essentially inevitable in contemporary capitalism; as such, dominant Western treatment of these questions bears much in common with other genocidal episodes of human history…What is currently occurring, then, is the mass-murder of the global South by much of the global North. There has of course been a marked tendency toward this dynamic now for some time in human history, but it seems climate genocide constitutes the most final of these historical denials…Just, then, in Koenigsberg's words, as “[t]he Holocaust depicts the ugliness, futility and meaninglessness of submission to the nation-state,” so does the prospect of climate genocide illustrate the naked abomination of capitalism. Dialectically, of course, it also holds out the necessity of the institution of eco-socialism: it demands that humanity cut the fuse, in Walter Benjamin's words, “[b]efore the spark reaches the dynamite.” [1].

Javier Sethness on climate genocide and "intent" (2012): “Dominant relations can hence be characterized as governed by what Chomsky calls “depraved indifference” to human life. Australian scientist Gideon Polya has termed the current situation “climate genocide” , while Bangladeshi climatologist Atiq Rahman similarly labels it “climatic genocide” (52). The phrases are accurate if the word genocide is to be understood as murder of persons belonging to particular classes and social groups, as originally formulated by Raphael Lemkin, the concept’s inventor (53). If the definition is extended to membership or residence in particular  geographic regions – a collective of sorts – the term fits better, even if the question of intent for such eventualities is left unresolved: under the internationally accepted definition, acts of genocide occur only if governed by conscious intent. Against this view, Chomsky is right to suggest that those concerned with such problems focus on “predictable outcome as evidence for intent” (54). Not to work to undermine global capitalism is effectively to be complicit with the  genocide of southern peoples. Jean-Paul Sartre put it well in a statement he issued as president of the International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam: “The genocidal intent is implicit in the facts. It is not necessarily premeditated (55).” [2].


[1]. Javier Sethness, “The Holocaust and Climate Genocide: an eco-socialist review of “Nations have the Right to Kill””, Countercurrents, 19 October 2009: .

[2]. Javier Sethness, “Imperiled life: revolution against climate catastrophe (Anarchist Intervention)”, AK Press, 2012, pp126-127: .and .