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environment

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.



About the Photographer

Cooling a fevered planet: economics, policy and vision for fighting global warming

By Gar Lipow

July 1 2008 -- Nobody, except for a small lunatic fringe, still disputes that human-caused climate chaos endangers all of us. Further, most serious scientific and technical groups that have looked at the question have concluded that we have the technological capability today to replace greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels with efficiency improvements and clean energy — usually at a maximum cost of around the current worldwide military budget, probably much less. The question therefore is: what's stopping us?

To answer that we need to look at the causes of global warming — not the physical causes, but the economic and political flaws in our system that have prevented solutions from being implemented long after the problem was known.

If socialism fails: the spectre of 21st century barbarism

By Ian Angus

July 27, 2008 -- From the first day it appeared online, Climate and Capitalism’s masthead has carried the slogan “Ecosocialism or Barbarism: there is no third way.” We’ve been quite clear that ecosocialism is not a new theory or brand of socialism — it is socialism with Marx’s important insights on ecology restored, socialism committed to the fight against ecological destruction. But why do we say that the alternative to ecosocialism is barbarism?

Marxists have used the word “barbarism” in various ways, but most often to describe actions or social conditions that are grossly inhumane, brutal, and violent. It is not a word we use lightly, because it implies not just bad behaviour but violations of the most important norms of human solidarity and civilised life. [1]

The slogan “Socialism or Barbarism” originated with the great German revolutionary socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, who repeatedly raised it during World War I. It was a profound concept, one that has become ever more relevant as the years have passed.

The coming economic & environment meltdowns ... and the possibilities for fighting back

July 15, 2008 --The planet is facing a meltdown -- from the global financial system to the unprecedented environmental crisis. Almost everyone from stockbrokers to scientists to economists agree the situation is dire.

Yet Wall Street banks are given hundred-million-dollar bailouts, while millions face home foreclosures. In the Third world it's worse -- crops are used to provide fuel for thirsty rich-world SUVs, while 100 million more people face starvation due to the growing food crisis. The disregard for the hardship of the majority has seen food riots and strikes hit over 30 countries.

Forests and climate change – examining the spin

By Susan Austin

Tasmania, Australia -- It’s easy to get confused about the issue of forests and climate change. Climate scientists say that preserving our forests is a quick, easy and cheap way to prevent further global warming, and Australia’s previous federal government allocated A$200 million towards preserving forests in South-East Asia. Yet both the federal government and the Tasmanian state government are overseeing the continuing destruction of Tasmania’s old-growth forests to feed a profitable wood-chip export industry and a soon-to-be-built pulp mill. And what’s more, they say that the industry is carbon-positive and sustainable. What’s really going on?

Ecology: The moment of truth—an introduction

By John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York

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The July-August 2008 (Volume 60, Number 3) edition of the influential US socialist journal Monthly Review is a special issue on ``Ecology: The Moment of Truth”, edited by Brett Clark, John Bellamy Foster and Richard York. The issue is devoted to the planetary environmental emergency. It is essential reading for all socialists and environmentalists. With permission from Monthly Review, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal here posts the introduction by the editors, and urges Links' readers to purchase the issue and/or subscribe to Monthly Review.

* * *

G8: Rich countries retreat from action on climate change

G8 Action Network statement

July 9, 2008 -- The G8's communique regarding their action on climate is actually inaction being masked as movement. It is a great fraud being perpetrated on the global community that would significantly reduce its capacity to contain climate change. We fully agree with the statement of the Government of South Africa that "[W]hile the Statement may appear as a movement forward, we are concerned that it may, in effect, be a regression from what is required to make a meaningful contribution to meeting the challenges of climate change." [Click pic for BBC footage of G8 protests.]

Retreat from Bali

Political activism, class struggle -- not markets -- will save the planet

July 5, 2008 -- A political economist and activist who directs the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, Patrick Bond was a featured guest speaker at the Green Left Weekly Social Change — Climate Change conference held in Sydney, Australia, in April.

Author of a range of books, including Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society, Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation, and Walk Left, Talk Right: South Africa’s Frustrated Global Reforms, Bond is a long-time advocate for radical solutions to the climate and social catastrophe wraught by global capitalism.

Lauren Carroll Harris spoke to Bond at the conference about responses to climate change.

* * *

What has been the response of the market to the crisis of climate change and what role does carbon trading play?

Towards climate action in Copenhagen 2009: International planning meeting in Copenhagen 13-14th of September 2008

Towards climate action in Copenhagen 2009
Climate Network 09 | 23.05.2008 23:39 | Climate Chaos | Ecology

We invite you to join the 1st international planning meeting in Copenhagen from
the 13-14th of September 2008. The meeting aims at preparing a large
mobilisation for direct action against the root causes of climate change in
Copenhagen and throughout the world during the UN Climate Conference (30 Nov-11
Dec 2009).

Towards climate action in Copenhagen 2009

First international planning meeting

We stand at a crossroads in history. The facts are undeniable. Global climate
change, caused by human activities, is happening. We all know that, world over,
we're facing a manifold and deepening crisis: of the climate, energy, food,
livelihoods, and of political and human rights. Scientific, environmental,
social and civil society movements from all over the world are calling for
action against climate change.

Massive consumption of fossil fuel is one of the major causes of global
warming, a problem that threatens the lives of hundreds of millions of people

Nationalise big oil, enemy of the planet and its people

By Dick Nichols

June 17, 2008 -- The latest surge in the spot price of crude oil (to US$139 a barrel—87.4 cents a litre) dramatises the urgent need for society to wean itself off “black gold”. The longer we remain hooked the greater the devastation both to our environment and to the living standards of billions, especially the poorest peoples of the planet.

The challenge is huge. The response must combine defence against the threat to livelihoods from price rises with a plan to restructure economies and ways of living so that oil-intensive production and transport becomes a thing of the past.

From Marx to Morales: Indigenous socialism and the Latin Americanisation of Marxism

By John Riddell

June 16, 2008 -- Over the past decade, a new rise of mass struggles in Latin America has sparked an encounter between revolutionists of that region and many of those based in the imperialist countries. In many of these struggles, as in Bolivia under the presidency of Evo Morales, Indigenous peoples are in the lead.

Latin American revolutionists are enriching Marxism in the field of theory as well as of action. This article offers some introductory comments indicating ways in which their ideas are linking up with and drawing attention to important but little-known aspects of Marxist thought.

Scottish Socialist Party: Free public transport for all: travel doesn't have to cost the Earth

 

The Scottish Socialist Party’s campaign for free public transport is an ``audacious, eye-catching idea'' according to Douglas Fraser, political editor of The Herald newspaper.

In the Belgian city of Hasselt, which covers an area double the size of Dundee, congestion was eliminated in the late 1980s after the introduction of a totally free public transport system.

Free public transport would be the biggest single pro-environment policy enacted by any national government anywhere on the planet, dramatically slashing car use and CO2 emissions.

Free fares would represent a major shift of wealth in favour of the many thousands of people who currently pay sky-high fares to subsidise the transport companies.

Cuba's vice-president: `We can confront the food crisis'

Address by José Ramón Machado Ventura, vice-president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, to the high-level conference on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy.

(English translation by Climate and Capitalism, from Juventud Rebelde, June 4, 2008)

Two years ago, in this very hall, the international community agreed to eradicate world hunger. It adopted a goal of halving the number of malnourished people by 2015. Today that modest and inadequate goal seems like a pipe-dream.

The world food crisis is not a circumstantial phenomenon. Its recent appearance in such serious form, in a world that produces enough food for all its inhabitants, clearly reveals that the crisis is systemic and structural.

Germany: Climate camp in Hamburg - August 15-24, 2008

Let's change the climate!

Climate Camp in Hamburg, 15th-24th August 2008


It's too hot! - The climate is changing!

The atmosphere is getting hotter. Even the most sinister prognoses of the World
Climate Council of the United Nations of the year 2007 in the meantime appear
to have been too optimistic. Climate change is more than melting polar caps,
drowning polar bears and hurricans of up to now unknown magnitudes. Climate
change is a social catastrophe. The global changes of the ecosystems are
exacerbating social contrasts world-wide. Because the effects of warming are
unequally distributed - between North and South, but also within societies,
between rich and poor.

The warming of the atmosphere is not an accident, but the result of an economic
system relying on profit and growth. Due to this higher-faster-forward logic,
capitalism burns enormous amounts of mineral ressources, for instance for the
production and selling of products with the help of a world-encompassing
logistics network. And even though almost everybody in the meantime wants to

Cuban VP: `Sustainable development requires a revolution in our values'

May 18, 2008

Address by José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President of Cuba’s Council of State, at a session on ``Sustainable Development: the Environment, Climate Change and Energy'', during the 5th EU/LAC (European Union/Latin America and Caribbean) summit meeting in Lima, Peru, May 16-17.

Your Excellency:

At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro 16 years ago, Fidel Castro issued a prophetic warning, stating that ``an important biological species is at risk of disappearing as a result of the rapid and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: humanity''.

Time has proven him right.

Let us not mince our words: we won’t attain sustainable development, the negative impacts of climate change will not be halted or reversed, and the environment will not be preserved for future generations, if the irrational patterns of production, distribution and consumption imposed upon us by capitalism prevail. The globalisation of neoliberal policies has drastically exacerbated the crisis.

A brief socialist history of the automobile

By Rob Rooke

No single commercial product in the history of capitalism has had a greater effect on the economy and politics than the automobile. No other product has been such a lever to increase consumption and increase markets in the developed world. It could be argued that the car, more than any other product, was at the very heart of the 20th century’s economic expansion. In US society, for over a century, the car has been raised on a cultural pedestal worshipping individuality and defining big business’ vision of freedom.

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