To celebrate World Water day, Hugo Chavez took aim at a planet that has none.
Hugo Chavez, the intellectually intrepid leader of Venezuela, has always had a penchant for conspiracies and a way with words. And like all good conspiracy theorists, his latest theory has a kernel of plausibility buried deep within its outer layers of ostensible absurdity.
An avowed worrier about global water supplies, Chavez acknowledged World Water Day yesterday by taking aim at a planet that has none: Mars. Chavez suggested that Mars likely did, at one point, have not only water but also civilization, and that its civilization, and eventually water, were destroyed by capitalism.
“I have always said that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet,” he said in a speech yesterday, the implication being that capitalist societies, with their impetus for growing material wealth, consume resources at unsustainable rates. And we’re not talking about Earthling capitalism, here—we’re talking about capitalist Martians, who eventually eventually destroyed Mars like a planetary fall of Rome.
On the surface it sounds about as plausible as Scientology—which is to say, not at all. But it seems a little less crazy when you think that scientists like Stephen Hawking have warned that man-made climate change on Earth could eventually make it uninhabitable, and that NASA recently made it a priority to research the trajectory of life on Mars for clues about our own fate. “Careful,” Chavez admonished, “here on planet Earth where hundreds of years ago or less there were great forests, now there are deserts. Where there were rivers, there are deserts.” He went on to describe the U.S. wars in the Middle East as a fight for the world’s few remaining oil resources—a situation that could, at least in one’s plausible imagination, lead to a planetary fall of Rome.
Of course, there are are some major holes in Chavez’s theory: First, there are all kinds of reasons why species disappear and planets become inhospitable to life. Dinosaurs didn’t need Best Buys to go extinct, and a planet’s atmosphere doesn’t necessarily, either. Pinning the absence of Martian life on capitalists is highly speculative, to say the least.
Second, on Earth, Capitalism in its earliest forms of trading predated what we think of as Communism, at least as practiced in Chavez’s Venezuela, by at least a few millennia. Earthling civilization was built on trade, and prerequisite to Marxist-style societies. So if Chavez wants to blame Martians for the demise of life on that planet, he should probably blame Martian Communists for not doing a good enough job of convincing Capitalists that their consumer societies were eventually going to wipe out life there.
The same quandary holds true on Earth: as much as we know that consumption is problematic and is leading to climate change, it doesn’t seem that Communist countries, like China for instance, have any answers.
[Image via Time]