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environment

John Bellamy Foster: Ecology and the transition from capitalism to socialism

Walk Against Warming, Sydney, 2006.
Photo by Alex Bainbridge/Green Left Weekly

By John Bellamy Foster

[This article, which first appeared in the November 2008 issue of Monthly Review, is a revised version of a keynote address delivered at the “Climate Change, Social Change” conference, Sydney, Australia, April 12, 2008, organised by Green Left Weekly. It is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission. Watch and listen to Bellamy Foster's presentation HERE. For more articles on Marxism and the ecology, click HERE.]

Is the climate crisis caused by overpopulation?

By Simon Butler

November 12, 2008 -- Many environmentalists believe that environmental destruction is a product of “overpopulation”, and that the world is already “full up”. So are population reduction strategies essential to solving the climate crisis?

At best, population control schemes focus on treating a symptom of an irrational, polluting social and economic system rather than the causes. In China, for instance, such measures haven’t solved that country’s environmental problems.

At worst, populationist theories shift the blame for climate change onto the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Third World.

They do not address the reasons why environmental damage, or even instances of overpopulation, happen in the first place and they divert attention away from the main challenge facing the climate movement — the urgent need to construct a new economy based on environmentally sustainable technologies and the rising of living standards globally.

For at least 200 years, “overpopulation” has been used to explain a host of social problems such as poverty, famine, unemployment and — more recently — environmental destruction.

Once again on ‘The myth of the Tragedy of the Commons’: a reply to criticisms and questions

A reply to criticisms and questions about my article on Garrett Hardin’s influential essay.

By Ian Angus

November 3, 2008 -- The response to my recent article “The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons” (also posted at Links at http://links.org.au/node/595) has been very encouraging. It prompted a small flood of emails to my inbox, was reposted on many websites and blogs around the world, and has been discussed in a variety of online forums.

The majority of the comments were positive, but many readers challenged my critique of Garrett Hardin’s very influential 1968 essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons”. A gratifying number wrote serious and thoughtful criticisms. While they differed in specifics, these responses consistently made one or more of these three points:

John Bellamy Foster on climate change: `Demand solutions based on necessity, not wealth and profits'

John Bellamy Foster: We need to go down to 350 parts per million [of carbon dioxide], which means very big social transformations on a scale that would be considered revolutionary by anybody in society today -- transformation of our whole society quite fundamentally. We have to aim at that, and we have to demand that of our society.

Forget about capitalism, forget about whether the system can do it. Don't let that be your barometer. Say this is necessary for the planet, for human survival, for justice, for environmental justice, and we just have to do it.

We demand that be done, and we work out the operating system of the world economy, we work out our social relations of production, in accordance with necessity, in accordance with what is necessary for the planet, not in accordance with what is necessary for the accumulation of wealth and profits for a very few.

Evo Morales: Ten commandments to save the planet

By Evo Morales Ayma, president of the Republic of Bolivia

Message to the Continental Gathering of Solidarity with Bolivia in Guatemala City

October 9, 2008 -- Sisters and brothers, on behalf of the Bolivian people, I greet the social movements of this continent present in this act of continental solidarity with Bolivia.

We have just suffered the violence of the oligarchy, whose most brutal expression was the massacre in Panda, a deed that teaches us that an attempt at power based on money and weapons in order to oppress the people is not sustainable. It is easily knocked down, if it is not based on a program and the consciousness of the people.

We see that the re-founding of Bolivia affects the underhanded interests of a few families of large landholders, who reject as an aggression the measures enacted to favour the people such as a more balanced distribution of the resources of natural gas for our grandfathers and grandmothers, as well as the distribution of lands, the campaigns for health and literacy, and others.

Don't pay for a failed system

US$700 billion dollars is twice the combined debt of the world’s poorest 49 countries.

By Tony Iltis

October 11, 2008 -- “Meltdown” is a word that one hears a lot on the news these days.

Despite the US$700 billion government bailout of banks in the US, similar (albeit smaller) bailouts in Europe, and various forms of state intervention in the finance industry on both sides of the Atlantic, sharemarkets worldwide are in free fall. Comparisons with the Great Depression of the 1930s are common. Homelessness and unemployment are rising and are set to increase dramatically.

Meanwhile, more quietly but even more relentlessly, another meltdown is occurring: that of the polar icecaps. According to the Western world’s establishment politicians and corporate media, the way to avert catastrophic climate change lies in setting up elaborate emissions trading schemes and carbon markets: that is, relying on precisely the mechanisms that have created the economic meltdown!

Global warming - No more business as usual: This is an emergency!

By David Spratt

October 10, 2008 -- A year ago I was researching what was intended to be a short submission to the Garnaut review [commissioned to advise the Australian federal government of Labor Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd], when events in the polar north turned the world of climate policy upside down. It was found that eight million square kilometres of sea-ice — an area the size of Australia — was melting, in the immortal words of one glaciologist, "a hundred years ahead of schedule".

Yet the international policy debate carried on as if this had not happened. Out-of-date scenarios, research and observations were being used to propose emission reduction targets that would still lead to catastrophe even if fully implemented.

And so a short submission became a long detour into how the climate debate is being constructed, and the result, with Philip Sutton,  was a book we did not intend to write, Climate Code Red.

Climate change -- the case for public ownership

Photo by Alex Bainbridge.
By Trent Hawkins

Arising out of the UK Climate Camp in August 2008 there has developed an interesting debate between Ewa Jasiewicz, an activist in Britain, and well-known radical columnist George Monbiot about the role of so-called “state solutions” to climate change. Jasiewicz’s article, published on the Guardian website[i] and entitled “Time for a Revolution”, was an attack on Monbiot for a “controversial presentation [at climate camp] … in which he endorsed the use of the state as a partner in resolving the climate crisis”. It was also prompted by a debate between Monbiot and former National Union of Mineworkers’ leader and head of Britain’s Socialist Labour Party Arthur Scargill about what is more polluting: nuclear or coal energy.

Jasiewicz stated:

Australia’s Socialist Alliance urges a 10-point plan to cut atmospheric CO2

Sydney climate emergency rally, October 3, 2008. Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

Climate action now!

September 25, 2008 -- The Australian federal government’s climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, has released his recommendations for medium-term cuts to Australian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

He calls for reductions by 2020 of just 5% if there is no comprehensive international agreement on emissions reductions, or reductions of 10% if there is an agreement. At the Bali climate summit in December 2007 many developed countries expressed support for goals of 25-40% reductions.

Cuba: Climate change, disaster and collectivism

By Susana Hurlich

September 17, 2008 -- Havana -- The TV coverage here in Cuba on the impact of hurricanes Gustav and Ike is very instructive, not just in showing clearly the extent of damage, but in giving a sense of the feelings and spirit of the people through many, many different testimonies. I notice that in much of the reporting outside the country, there's not much commentary on this aspect, which is as important -- if not more so in the long run -- as the statistics on damage.

Cuban workers work with heavy machines to remove debris infront of a house in Havana, Cuba on September 9, 2008, after the passing of Hurricane Ike. EPA/ALEJANDRO ERNESTO.

South African and Zimbabwe politicos join global financiers in self-destruction

By Patrick Bond

September 21, 2008 -- The past week has been a wild roller-coaster ride in and out of Southern African ruling-party politics, down the troughs of world capitalism, and up the peaks of radical social activism. Glancing around the region and the world from those peaks, we can see quite a way further than usual.

Looking first to South Africa, September 20's dumping of state president Thabo Mbeki by Jacob Zuma -- president of the African National Congress (ANC) -- and his temporary replacement (until next April 2009's election) by ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, was an excellent reflection of ruling elite fragility in neoliberal regimes. Some of Mbeki's main supporters, including Mbhazima Shilowa, the former trade union leader and now premier of Gauteng province, in the economic heartland of Johannesburg -- are apparently considering the launch of a competing party.

Celia Hart's last essay: A revolutionary fight against the demon

On September 9, 2008, supporters of the Cuban Revolution were saddened to learn of the sudden deaths of Celia Hart Santamaría and Abel Hart Santamaría, the daughter and son of Armando Hart Dávalos and Haydée Santamaría, in a car accident in Havana on September 7, possibly caused by the conditions resulting from Hurricane Gustav. Below is the last essay written by Celia, on the topic of hurricanes, global warming and the Cuban Revolution's and Cuban society's ability to protect its people from devastating storms like hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. (Click HERE to watch Celia Hart discuss the politics of Latin America in a video recorded in May 2008. A selection of Celia Hart's essays, It’s never too late to love or rebel, was published in 2006 by Socialist Resistance.)

* * *

 Celia Hart Santamaría

Sustainable capitalism?

By David Travis

September 9, 2008 -- On the fringe of the green movement, one always hears the following phrases coming from the mainstream with great regularity: "green capitalism", "sustainable capitalism", "social entrepreneurs", "green entrepreneurs", etc. None of these terms tend to mean anything specific, and no one who uses them is in a great hurry to spell out, for example, how a green entrepreneur is different in any fundamental way from some other kind of entrepreneur, or how capitalism could be driven toward sustainability rather than profit. So you can imagine my pleasure at meeting the author of a book called Sustainable Capitalism: A Matter of Common Sense.

India's Katrina: Bihar floods -- criminal negligence, not divine deluge (+ emergency appeal)

By Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation

[See below for relief fund details.]

September 2, 2008 -- The regime of Nitish Kumar, which rules the Indian state of Bihar, boasts of ``Bihar Shining''. These claims are now submerged by the cries of ``Bihar Drowning''. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's claims of ``good governance'' have proved a washout in the face of the floods, and now the Chief Minister Kumar is trying to paint the floods as a ``natural'' calamity or divine ``deluge'' (Pralay).

Nothing could be further from the truth. The flood devastation was highly preventable – and is a direct result of callous negligence of basic flood-prevention strategies by the Bihar and central Indian governments. Despite the fact that every year breaches in embankments cause floods in the state, maintenance and repair of embankments have been rampantly neglected.

Class struggle and ecology -- An ecosocialist contribution to the discussion on revolutionary regroupment*

By Liam Mac Uiad

....we with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and... all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage of all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly -- Friedrich Engels.

Ecology as crucial as imperialism

For socialists in the 20th century imperialism was the great dividing line between those who accepted the logic of capitalist society and those who were willing to challenge it. In the first decades of the 21st century it is apparent that imperialism and war will remain inherent features of late capitalism. To these threats we must add the genuine and serious risks of severe ecological degradation and climate change caused by the capitalist economic model as factors that will shape socialist politics in the coming decades.

The biosphere and us

Slideshow: Ecology against capitalism

Debunking the `Tragedy of the Commons'

By Ian Angus

August 24, 2008 -- Will shared resources always be misused and overused? Is community ownership of land, forests and fisheries a guaranteed road to ecological disaster? Is privatisation the only way to protect the environment and end Third World poverty? Most economists and development planners will answer “yes” — and for proof they will point to the most influential article ever written on those important questions.

Since its publication in Science in December 1968, “The Tragedy of the Commons” has been anthologised in at least 111 books, making it one of the most-reprinted articles ever to appear in any scientific journal. It is also one of the most quoted: a recent Google search found “about 302,000” results for the phrase “tragedy of the commons”.

For 40 years it has been, in the words of a World Bank discussion paper, “the dominant paradigm within which social scientists assess natural resource issues” (Bromley and Cernea 1989: 6). It has been used time and again to justify stealing indigenous peoples’ lands, privatising health care and other social services, giving corporations ``tradable permits'' to pollute the air and water, and much more.

Video: The Carbon Connection -- The human impact of carbon trading

Two communities affected by one new global market – the trade in carbon dioxide. In Scotland, a town has been polluted by oil and chemical companies since the 1940s. In Brazil, local people's water and land is being swallowed up by destructive monoculture eucalyptus tree plantations. Both communities now share a new threat.

As part of the deal to reduce greenhouse gases that cause dangerous climate change, major polluters can now buy carbon credits that allow them to pay someone else to reduce emissions instead of cutting their own pollution. What this means for those living next to the oil industry in Scotland is the continuation of pollution caused by their toxic neighbours. Meanwhile in Brazil, the schemes that generate carbon credits gives an injection of cash for more planting of the damaging eucalyptus plantations.

The two communities are now connected by bearing the brunt of the new trade in carbon credits. The Carbon Connection follows the story of two groups of people from each community who learned to use video cameras and made their own films about living with the impacts of the carbon market.

Capitalism and the oceanic crisis: Turning the seas into a watery grave

By Brett Clark and Rebecca Clausen

The world ocean covers approximately 70 per cent of the Earth. It has been an integral part of human history, providing food and ecological services. Yet conservation efforts and concerns with environmental degradation have mostly focused on terrestrial issues. Marine scientists and oceanographers have recently made remarkable discoveries in regard to the intricacies of marine food webs and the richness of oceanic biodiversity. However, the excitement over these discoveries is dampened due to an awareness of the rapidly accelerating threat to the biological integrity of marine ecosystems.[1]

At the start of the twenty-first century marine scientists focused on the rapid depletion of marine fish, revealing that 75 per cent of major fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. It is estimated “that the global ocean has lost more than 90% of large predatory fishes”. The depletion of ocean fish stock due to overfishing has disrupted metabolic relations within the oceanic ecosystem at multiple trophic and spatial scales.[2]

Photo exhibition: Durban, South Africa, UKZN Centre for Civil Society from August 1-September 3, 2008

Photographs by Oliver Meth, from the exhibition 'Breathing Spaces



Breathing Spaces exhibition can be viewed at UKZN Centre for Civil Society from 1 August - 3 September 2008.



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