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Half-Earth Socialism

Drew Pendergrass and Troy Vettese

Verso Books


More information on the book, along with the accompanying video game, related essays, interviews, and events are available on the book website. Order from the publisher here or through Bookshop.


Without revolutionary change, humanity confronts a dystopian future of global heating, epidemics, and mass extinction. Yet, the mainstream ‘solutions’ on offer are either too modest or too risky, such as toothless cap-and-trade programmes, dangerous geoengineering schemes, luxury electric cars, and wildlife conservation bankrolled by billionaires. None of these half-measures suffice to undo the damage that five centuries of capitalism has inflicted upon the biosphere. The mainstream discussion on the environmental crisis is predicated on the belief that a few painless reforms would allow business as usual in our capitalist society to continue. It can’t.

Half-Earth Socialism criticizes such tepid solutions and offers instead a countervailing vision for the future. Yet, if these quick fixes are not enough to solve the crisis, then we must confront a series of difficult questions. What does a just and ecologically-stable society actually look like? If capitalism leads inevitably to environmental crises, how can we organize production and distribution without markets? If we engage in economic planning, what are the planetary boundaries that constrain our interchange with nature? In Half-Earth Socialism, we demonstrate that thinking through such questions allows us to imagine a new kind of society that is not only desirable, but also feasible and necessary.

The title from our book comes from EO Wilson's 'Half-Earth' concept, which he developed during the course of his ecological studies on land-area and biodiversity. This research made clear that more ecosystems must be protected if the worst of the Sixth Extinction is to be avoided. We have appended 'socialism' to Wilson's concept because such large-scale environmental goals can only be achieved in a socialist society because it would be impossible to leave half the Earth uncommodified under capitalism. Moreover, by making the Half-Earth socialist it makes clear the need for a new kind of conservation that will be democratic and support Indigenous sovereignty (biodiversity is higher on native lands than on nature preserves, after all).

Half-Earth Socialism draws on ecology, energy studies, epidemiology, biogeography, Chilean cybernetics, history, eighteenth-century philosophy, Soviet mathematics, the socialist calculation debate, Hayekian epistemology, cutting-edge climate modelling, feminist sci-fi, and the forgotten tradition of utopian socialism. To encourage the democratic spirit we argue for in the book, we even made a video game where you can play the role as a planner overcoming the environmental crisis!

Half-earth socialism cover