The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Toxic Smoke over East and Midwest:
Capitalism Is Taking Us to Total Disaster

Jun 12, 2023

In large parts of the Northeast and Midwest, from Minneapolis to Detroit to New York, from Boston to Baltimore, there was literally no air to breathe—only smoke. The sky was covered with an orange/brownish tint that, by now, residents of arid western states are familiar with: the toxic smoke from wildfires that no one can escape completely—not even indoors.

For several days last week, millions of people in the lush, green East and Midwest have also inhaled that noxious wildfire smoke, and a lot of it. For one particular day, New York and Philadelphia actually registered the WORST air quality of all major cities in the whole world!

The smoke was coming from the many large, out-of-control forest fires in Canada. The winds carried tons and tons of smoke down south, and then also east and west across many U.S. states.

Experts say that, of all types of particulate air pollution, wildfire smoke is one of the most toxic. People with certain respiratory ailments, such as asthma, suffer the worst. For them, and for people with heart disease and high blood pressure, this kind of pollution can be deadly. But in healthy people also, particulate pollution can cause cancer, miscarriages and premature births. It makes everybody’s life less healthy, and shorter.

The huge, long-lasting wildfires that cause this deadly pollution are a sign of our times. As the earth’s average temperature rises, extreme weather events become more severe, and more frequent. Hotter, drier air causes more wildfires.

It’s the climate change that scientists predicted, and warned about, decades ago. There will be more catastrophic weather events for us in the future. A warmer earth will give us more hurricanes, more floods, more droughts, more wildfires. And the warmer the earth gets, the more severe, the more catastrophic these weather events are becoming.

There is no doubt that the ongoing warming of the earth is driven by human activity—by the increased amount of carbon dioxide gas in the earth’s atmosphere, a result of burning coal, oil and natural gas for energy. Just this last week, scientists at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration announced that the carbon dioxide levels in the air are now higher than they have been in more than four million years.

Wildfires and the air pollution they cause—and behind them climate change—are not the problem of one city, one region, one country. Air moves unhindered across neighborhoods, cities, the countryside, and across national borders.

So, climate change is a problem that concerns all of us, ALL human beings. But it’s obvious that today’s world leaders are simply incapable of solving this problem.

For half a century now, governments have been organizing yearly climate conferences, pretending to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But carbon dioxide levels in the air have only kept increasing. And the increase has in fact been happening even faster in recent years.

It’s not that we don’t know what needs to be done. We, today’s human society, have the knowledge and technology to develop solutions to the warming of the earth and to carry them out. But we don’t even get to work on this problem, because today’s decision-makers on how energy is generated, distributed and used—big capitalists—are concerned with only one thing: their own profit.

We no longer can wait. How many more suffocating wildfires, destructive hurricanes, devastating floods can we suffer through? Not to mention all the other disasters this capitalist society throws workers into: unemployment, poverty, addiction, wars.

Today’s ruling class, the capitalist class, is only capable of leading us down the path to total catastrophe. The power to make the decisions affecting society’s future has to be taken away from them.

There is a social class that’s capable of doing that: the working class. It’s because workers produce all the society’s wealth. The wealth that the capitalist class grabs only for itself, which it uses to establish its control over the whole society.

Workers can take back the wealth we ourselves produce and use it to begin to solve the dire problems we all face. But we can do that only when we, collectively as a class, step up and take the lead—to run society for the benefit of all human beings, not just a tiny, privileged minority.