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Marxism & ecology

Mauritius: Marxism, ecology and the contribution of John Bellamy Foster

By Lalit de Klas

June 2011 – Lalit [the revolutionary socialist party in Mauritius] sees the natural universe, whether it be the air above us, the sea around us or the Earth we walk upon, and all that lives upon it, and even outer space, as being our collective heritage as human beings. We are part of it, and also the guardians of it. This natural universe, our Mother Earth, is now endangered.

Our planet is already suffering irreversible damage, damage so serious as to threaten the very existence of the totality of human civilisation in all its varied forms. We humans have the minds to know this.

The threat is posed by our own human-made forms of agricultural and industrial “development”. This is serious because it is our way of survival that has become this destructiveness.

The main damage has been done in the past 250 years. Increasingly serious damage is being done. And yet most of us are oblivious to it, and once we know, we are “helpless”. We sit and watch a potential meltdown of a nuclear plant in Japan, as the capitalists who run it admit their own helplessness.

Marxism has an ecological heart

Credit: Galen Johnson/Canadian Dimension.

By Ash Pemberton

August 13, 2011 -- Green Left Weekly -- We all know there’s a big problem with the environment and it needs drastic action to fix it. So does a Marxist analysis of the problem bring anything new to the table?

Marxism redefines the terms of the mainstream environmental debate. Instead of seeing the problem as one of humans versus nature, the problem is framed as one where humans and nature are intrinsically linked and ecological crises arise in which the relationship between the two is thrown into imbalance.

I think a Marxist analysis best describes the connection between human society and the rest of nature in a historical perspective. From this we can better understand the current crises and humanity’s task for the foreseeable future.

Capitalism

First, a few things to keep in mind about capitalism. Under the laws of the capitalist system, profits must continually expand or the system will collapse. This expansion has taken new forms over history, involving different combinations of exploitation of people, the environment and a fair share of economic trickery and speculation.

Aotearoa/New Zealand: Building an eco-socialist network in New Zealand

Statement by Socialist Worker central committee

August 11, 2011 -- Unityblog -- The crises of global capitalism, coupled with catastrophic climate change and peak resources, is going to bring about profound social, ecological and political upheavals.

There is evidence of this happening globally already. We can point to the Arab revolts that have toppled US-backed regimes and the emergence of anti-neoliberal movements of workers and young people in a number of European countries. Part of the context for these revolts is the global financial crisis, which is ongoing and will unravel further, impacting severely on the lives of grassroots people around the world.

While the current political situation in New Zealand is a big step away from mass revolt, the forces at work in this country are similar. Masses of ordinary people are hurting, there’s simmering anger towards politicians and other corporate elites, and there’s growing concern at the ecological catastrophe that humanity faces. The political quietism will not last indefinitely.

What can eco-socialists do today to prepare our forces for the historic challenges in front of us?

Fred Magdoff & John Bellamy Foster: 'What every environmentalist needs to know about capitalism' (exclusive excerpt)

August 1, 2011 -- Monthly Review Press has kindly given permission to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal to publish "The growth imperative of capitalism", an exclusive excerpt from Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster's just released What every environmentalist needs to know about capitalism. You can download the excerpt HERE (PDF), or read it on screen below.

John Bellamy Foster will be a featured international guest at the second World at a Crossroads: Climate Change – Social Change Conference, Friday, September 30 – Monday, October 3, 2011, Melbourne University.

Marxism and ecology: World at a Crossroads conference background readings

July 22, 2011-- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Climate and Capitalism -- The second World at a Crossroads; Climate Change, Social Change conference will be held in Melbourne Australia, September 30-October 3, 2011. Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is proud to be one of the co-sponsors of the conference and urges all its readers to attend, if at all possible. Click here to register.

The conference aims to contribute towards understanding and collective action, in Australia and internationally, to urgently address the climate and social emergencies that we must overcome if humanity and the planet are to not only survive, but thrive.

Aotearoa/New Zealand: Greed is good, as long as it's green

Greens Party co-leader Russel Norman sees the big business Pure Advantage group as "being an important ally for the Green Party’s vision of smart green prosperity".

[Sue Bradford will be a speaker at the World at a Crossroads II: Climate change: social change conference, in Melbourne, Australia, September 30-October 3, 2011.]

By Sue Bradford

Deep ecology versus ecosocialism: A letter on population, wilderness and ecosocialism

"If ecosocialists support wilderness clearances and population reduction they will be on the wrong side of some of the most important struggles in the world today." -- Ian Angus
[Ian Angus will be a feature speaker at the World at a Crossroads II: Climate change: social change conference, in Melbourne, Australia, September 30-October 3, 2011.]

July 4, 2011 -- The following is Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus’s response to "Saral Sarkar on Malthusianism and Ecosocialism" and Sarkar’s "Reply to some points made by my critics and sympathizers". It is part of a continuing discussion taking place on Climate and Capitalism (see the links at the end of the article).

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Dear Saral Sarkar,

Excerpts from 'Environment, Capitalism and Socialism': Sources of modern environmentalism; Currents in ecological thought

The following are excerpts from Environment, Capitalism and Socialism, drafted for the  Democratic Socialist Party of Australia by Dick Nichols,and  published by Resistance Books in 1999. The book can be purchased from Resistance Books' website. The extensive footnotes are only available in the hard copy. (The DSP merged with the Socialist Alliance in January 2010.) Despite its age and inevitable flaws, this book was ahead of its time in many respects and was among the first serious attempts by a revolutionary party to apply a Marxist analysis to the environment question. It remains an essential document for socialists and ecologists alike.
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Deep ecology versus ecosocialism

[Ian Angus will be a feature speaker at the World at a Crossroads II: Climate change: social change conference, in Melbourne, Australia, September 30-October 3, 2011.]

By Ian Angus

June 19, 2011 --This article first appeared at Climate and Capitalism. It is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Some people believe that deep ecology is not just compatible with ecosocialism, but a way to improve it. That’s a profound misconception that ignores deep ecology’s anti-human core. The following was first posted on the online discussion group that was set up after the founding of the Ecosocialist international Network. I have added some suggestions for further reading.

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জলবায়ু পরিবর্তন : একটি মার্ক্সবাদী বিশ্লেষণ

মূল: টেরি টাউনসেন্ড
ভাষান্তর: হাসান মেহেদী

[Original English version (2007) at http://www.dsp.org.au/node/166. The Democratic Socialist Perspective has now merged with the Socialist Alliance of Australia. This translation into Bangla appeared at Bangladesh's monthly progressive online journal, Shojashapta, on April 14, 2011.]

‘The Ecological Rift’: a radical response to capitalism’s war on the planet

John Bellamy Foster, renowned US economist and ecologist, editor of the US socialist journal Monthly Review and author of The Ecological Rift, The Ecological Revolution, The Great Financial Crisis (with Fred Magdoff), Marx’s Ecology; Ecology Against Capitalism, and The Vulnerable Planet, will be a featured international guest at the second World at a Crossroads: Climate Change – Social Change Conference, Friday, September 30 – Monday, October 3, 2011, Melbourne University.

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Review by Simon Butler

The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth
John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York
Monthly Review Press, 2010
544 pages

Read an excerpt from The Ecological Rift HERE.

The futility of green capitalism: Interview with Daniel Tanuro

Interview with Daniel Tanuro, translated by Richard Fidler

January 17, 2011 -- Climate & Capitalism -- Daniel Tanuro’s new book, L’impossible capitalisme vert,or “The Futility of Green Capitalism”, is a major contribution to our analytical understanding of ecosocialism. Tanuro, a Belgian Marxist and certified agriculturist, is a prolific author on environmental history and policies.

Addressed primarily to the Green milieu, as the title indicates, this book is a powerful refutation of the major proposals advanced to resolve the climate crisis that fail to challenge the profit drive and accumulation dynamic of capital. Much of the book appears to be a substantially expanded update of a report by Tanuro adopted in 2009 by the leadership of the Fourth International as a basis for international discussion. That report was translated by Ian Angus and included in his anthology The Global Fight for Climate Justice.

Capitalism and degrowth: An impossibility theorem

By John Bellamy Foster

January 2011 -- Monthly Review -- In the opening paragraph to his 2009 book, Storms of My Grandchildren, James Hansen, the world’s foremost scientific authority on global warming, declared: “Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril…The startling conclusion is that continued exploitation of all fossil fuels on Earth threatens not only the other millions of species on the planet but also the survival of humanity itself—and the timetable is shorter than we thought.”1

Fred Magdoff: Creating an ecological civilisation

By Fred Magdoff

``It is inconceivable that capitalism itself will lead directly to an ecological civilization that provides the basic needs for all people. However, building an ecological civilization that is socially just will not automatically happen in post-capitalist societies. It will occur only through the concerted action and constant vigilance of an engaged population.''

January 2011 -- Monthly Review -- Given the overwhelming harm being done to the world’s environment and to its people, it is essential today to consider how we might organize a truly ecological civilization—one that exists in harmony with natural systems—instead of trying to overwhelm and dominate nature. This is not just an ethical issue; it is essential for our survival as a species and the survival of many other species that we reverse the degradation of the earth’s life support systems that once provided dependable climate, clean air, clean water (fresh and ocean), bountiful oceans, and healthy and productive soils.

`Productivism' or liberation? Socialists debate consumerism

By Ben Courtice, Melbourne

November 2, 2010 -- In a recent seminar on trade unions and the climate movement, I observed a surprising disagreement between some of the socialists present. It was started by a comment from Melbourne University academic (and Socialist Alliance activist) Hans Baer, who suggested that the “treadmill of production and consumption” had to be challenged, that we need to challenge consumerism and the alienation of work that makes people buy things to feel better.

Liz Ross of Socialist Alternative took umbrage at this, declaring that workers should create and enjoy wonderful technological products, tearing down a straw figure that Hans was supposedly arguing to stultify the creativity of the working class.

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 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.

Karl Polanyi provides `a vital intellectual resource' for ecosocialists

To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society. For the alleged commodity "labor power" cannot be shoved about, used indiscriminately, or even left unused, without affecting also the human individual who happens to be the bearer of this peculiar commodity. In disposing of a man's labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity "man" attached to that tag. Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed -- from Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation (1944)

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.

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