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The ecology of consumption -- excerpt from John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York's `The Ecological Rift'

October 20, 2010 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, with the permission of Monthly Review Press, is excited to offer its readers an excerpt from the The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth, an important new book by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York. Links' readers are urged to purchase the book. Please click here to order your copy. You can download (in PDF) the chapter, "The ecology of consumption", below the following introduction, or read it on screen.

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The new climate-change denialism: Who promotes it, and how to answer it

Cartoon from IVAN3MAN.

By Renfrey Clarke

October 15, 2010 – You remember the scandal provoked by the errors and exaggerations in the 2007 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? And you know all about the even bigger “Climategate” scandal last year, when stolen emails revealed that leading climate scientists were manipulating data to fit their alarmist political agenda? Now we have the next instalment. In a new Guide to the Science of Climate Change the world’s top science body, Britain’s Royal Society, has quit playing politics and stopped peddling its claims of looming disaster.

The limits to energy efficiency under capitalism

By Simon Butler

October 9, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- It is close to an article of faith among environmentalists that using less energy is a big part of the solution to climate change. Energy efficiency is often said to be the “low hanging fruit” of climate policy. On face value, the benefits seem obvious.

The knowledge needed to make big gains in efficiency already exists. Using less energy will save consumers and industry money, whereas other policies will be costly. And most importantly, lower energy use could make a big dent in global greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency both promote energy efficiency as an important climate measure.

However, strong evidence has emerged that new energy efficient technologies alone won’t do much to cut emissions. Indeed, in a capitalist economy, it’s very likely that energy efficiency gains will lead to higher energy use, not less.

Hugo Blanco urges Greens: End capitalism before it ends us

September 16, 2010 -- via Socialist Resistance -- Hugo Blanco, a longstanding leader of Peruvian peasant struggles and fighter for Indigenous people's rights is touring Britain as a guest of Socialist Resistance and Green Left [an ecosocialist group within the Green Party of England and Wales].

On September 11, 2010, Blanco spoke at the successful Green Left/Socialist Resistance fringe meeting at the Green Party conference. Blanco started by criticising "biblical Marxism" -- adhering to Marxist works as if they were holy scripture. He talks about his long personal struggle for social justice and against oppression. In a comment at a meeting at the Venezuelan consulate in London, he explained that we need to put an end to capitalism before it puts an end to us.

Did consumers cause the BP oil disaster? Debunking the `consumer sovereignty' superstition


“So said Tony Hayward” is a music video featuring imagery dredged from the internet, based on a song written by William Carroll of the Department of Sociology at University of Victoria, Canada. It's a tango about the BP oil spill (April 20-July 15, 2010) and its disastrous impacts, focused around the story of BP CEO Tony Hayward's hapless efforts to spin and manage a massive, and televisually spectacular, environmental catastrophe (to learn more, visit http://www.socialistproject.ca/leftstreamed/ls65.php).

By Ian Angus

South Africa: Communist youth leader -- `Black economic empowerment becomes Zuma economic empowerment'

By David Masondo, Young Communist League chairperson

September 5, 2010 -- City Press -- There was cautious optimism among many leftists in the African National Congress (ANC) that the ousting of Thabo Mbeki in Polokwane [the ANC's 2007 national conference] might mark a shift towards a much more egalitarian economic policy, including "Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

Instead, BEE is increasingly becoming too narrow, amounting to ZEE – that is, Zuma Economic Empowerment.

The recent ­multibillion-rand Arcelor-Mittal BEE deal involving Duduzane, President Jacob ­Zuma’s son, is another example of how BEE has become too narrow.

To crown it all, the president’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, seems to have suddenly become an African imperialist, amassing oil resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mike Marqusee: Behind cricket's latest scandal -- Pakistan cricket and its discontents

By Mike Marqusee

September 3, 2010 -- MikeMarqusee.com -- On top of floods, war, bombs, a corrupt and incompetent government with a much feared military in the wings, the long-suffering people of Pakistan have now been betrayed, once again, by their cricketers. Most will not be shocked or will profess not to be shocked: over the last 15 years there has been a steady erosion of faith in Pakistan cricket, which has come to be held in the same low esteem as many of the country’s other institutions. It’s one of the reasons cited, along with exorbitant ticket prices, for the low turn-out from the Pakistani diaspora at this summer’s test matches in England.

But while people in and from Pakistan may not be shocked they are bitterly aggrieved. And rightly so. The antics of the three players accused of spot-fixing in the Lord’s test have destroyed the little portion of relief cricket affords for millions coping with trying conditions.

Socialism and the right to daydream

By Billy Wharton

August 31, 2010 -- A recent study featured in the Los Angeles Times suggests that daydreaming or other such unstructured mental activities might play a key role in mental well being. Unknowingly, this study promotes a prime potential of a democratic socialist society – the right to free time. While capitalism, especially in its current neoliberal incarnation, stresses never-ending productivity, a human-centred socialist system would allow for more free time.

Studies have apparently demonstrated that unstructured thought allows the human brain to develop its default mode network. Daydreaming, for instance, is not an escape from brain activity, but a productive working out of society’s complex social rules that allows the brain to function more efficiently in normal mode. Conversely, tasks that require strict attention tend to use one part of the brain at the expense of the default mode.

Ian Angus: What next for ecosocialists?

By Ian Angus

August 30, 2010 -- Canadian Dimension via Climate & Capitalism -- Not long ago, most socialists had little to say about environmental issues, and the environmental movement was focused on individual (change your light bulbs) and capitalist (create a market for emissions) solutions to the ecological crisis.

In 2007, immediately after the founding of the Ecosocialist International Network, I wrote a Canadian Dimension article on the challenges facing ecosocialists. In it, I discussed two parallel trends that, though in their infancy, seemed to portend a new wave of anti-capitalist and pro-ecology action.

  • Some socialists were moving away from the left’s abstention from the environmental movement, and attempting to develop a distinctly socialist approach to the global environmental crisis.

Michael Lebowitz on the socialist alternative and real human development

Prof. Michael Lebowitz on the socialist alternative from Dangerous Minds at Vimeo.

August 30, 2010 -- Michael Lebowitz is a Canadian Marxist economist. He is the director of the “Transformative practice and human development” program at the Venezuela-based left-wing think tank, the Centro Internacional Miranda. He is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University and author of Build it Now: 21st Century Socialism and the 2004 Isaac Deutscher-prize winning Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class. His latest book is The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development.

Sport and capitalism -- Would Gramsci go to the footy?

Labor PM Bob Hawke laud's tycoon Alan Bond's victory in the 1983 America's Cup.

No Pain, No Gain? Sport and Australian Culture
By Dr Jim McKay
Prentice Hall, 1991. 189 pages.

Review by Phil Shannon

Sport tells lies. According to Jim McKay, sport is a social prop to the domination of capitalist ideas and values. Fundamental to the maintenance of this dominance are the mass media, which ``selectively articulate capitalist rationality, masculine hegemony, Eurocentric racism, militaristic nationalism and liberal values'' -- a toxic mix of ideological viruses.

iPhone 4: Capitalism, inbuilt obsolescence and `blood' phones

The high demand for coltan is helping fuel the bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo as rival armies fight over reserves.

By Stuart Munckton

August 1, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- “Yes, the notable features with iPhone 4 — both the device and the iOS4 — are mostly tweaks”, said a June 22 review on the popular site BoingBoing.net. “But what tweaks they are.”

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit I have no idea what “iOS4” means. But my eye was caught by the admission that the iPhone 4, launched in Australia on July 29, was almost the same as the iPhone 3.

Corporations use “inbuilt obsolescence” as part of artificially creating markets. This means the products they sell are deliberately made to break down — so we have to keep buying more.

In the case of products tied to ongoing innovations, the trick has a variation. Makers will hold back innovations in order to release, a short while later, a new version of the same product with a few extra features.

COSATU leader on SACP's 89th anniversary: `Mass power is the best defence'

By Zwelinzima Vavi

August 1, 2010 -- July 29, 2010, marks the 89th anniversary of a revolutionary organ of the working class, the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Being the only communist party in the African continent, the SACP (or Communist Party of South Africa as it was known then) has been a wagon that advanced and carried working-class struggles in the country and also in the continent. The formation of the CPSA is inseparable from the history of the Great October Revolution of 1917 and the launch of the Communist International in 1919.

Is `de-growth' compatible with capitalism?

Photo by Twaize/Flickr.

By Alejandro Nadal

July 15, 2010 -- TripleCrisis -- A serious campaign in favour of “de-growth” has been going on for some time and has made important contributions. This movement has opened new avenues for debate and analysis on technology, credit, education and other important areas. It’s an effort that needs support and attention, and we must applaud their initiators and promoters for their boldness and dedication.

False food choices under capitalism

Below is the editorial of the Socialist WebZine, online magazine of the Socialist Party of the United States. Following that is an article by Dan La Botz, SPUSA's Ohio candidate forthe US Senate. Both appear in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.

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July 17, 2010 -- Socialist WebZine -- How can we change the world? This is the question that socialists face in the 21st century. It certainly offers more possibilities than the one presented in the mid-1990s that asked whether we had reached the end of history. However, capitalism is also attempting to provide an answer to this question by offering individualised ways to change the world. Food is an important arena for this project – corporations insist that eating the right food or drinking the right coffee can really make a difference in the world.

Tackling climate change: Is putting `a price on carbon' enough?

An absract `price on carbon' is the favoured solution of supporters of business-as-usual. Photo by Lauren Carroll Harris.

By Simon Butler

July 18, 2010 -- Pressure is now bearing down on the Australian climate movement because there has been so little forward progress in the federal government’s climate policy. The pressure is for the movement to accept, support and campaign for weak or inadequate climate policies on the grounds that something is better than nothing.

This is plain from looking at the new, media-driven “consensus” about the need for a “price on carbon”.

Putting a price on carbon is not the best way to deal with climate change, but a growing chorus of media commentators, NGOs and politicians are nonetheless plugging it as the key solution.

Many who advocate a price on carbon would agree that we face a dire climate emergency. The problem is that they are willing to let the emergency response be privatised.

Markets

Climate action now! Socialist Alliance releases latest Climate Change Charter

Photo by Martina Popovich, Green Left Weekly.

By the Socialist Alliance (Australia)

July 2010 -- For years, climate scientists have warned us that we need to act on climate change. Now, science is saying that climate change is taking place more rapidly than everyone previously thought.

The warning signs are obvious. April and May were the world’s hottest months since records began. This year’s Arctic ice sheet melt is taking place at a pace never seen before.

Scientists say carbon pollution has made the world’s oceans more acidic than they have been for at least 20 million years.

There is already too much carbon in the atmosphere. The warming already in the system risks the crossing of various natural “tipping points” that would raise temperatures further and faster.

If these points are crossed, it would bring average temperatures to levels that have not existed for millions of years, and to which today’s nature is simply not adapted.

South African soccer: For the love of the game or of money and power?

South African soccer star, the late Pule "Ace" Ntsoelengoe: “Soccer in South Africa needs to go back to where it was … the love of the game needs to be restored, especially in the administration. Soccer fans want to see us serve much better than we do today. The challenge is not how much money I leave behind when I die but to leave a legacy for my children and the youth of this country.”

By Dale T. McKinley, Johannesburg

July 7, 2010 -- The sun has almost set on the soccer World Cup and its seeming suspension of our South African "normalcy". No doubt, many will try their best to continue to bask in its positively proclaimed "developmental legacy"; but, as sure as the sun will rise on the morning after, so too will the reality of that "normalcy" bite us like an unhappy dog. Nowhere will this be more apparent than in the world of South African soccer itself.

Mozambique's `recolonisation'

Frelimo poster for its third congress in 1977.

[The following article first appeared in AfricaFile's At Issue Ezine, vol. 12 (May-October 2010), edited by John S. Saul, which examines the development of the southern African liberation movement-led countries. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

By John S. Saul

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