I am very pleased to publish today an interview with TORAB SALETH about the recent nationwide wave of protests in Iran. The interview puts the revolt that has spread across the country, last year and this, in the context of the Islamic republic’s deep political and economic crisis. It discusses the way that such movements can be confounded by reactionary politics, and casts a very critical eye on the “left” groups. Torab Saleth was a leading member of a large Trotskyist group in Iran at the time of the 1979 revolution. He left it in protest at its continued cooperation with groups that had collaborated with the Islamic dictatorship. He is active today in the Revolutionary Socialist Tendency of Iran. You can READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE.
Will a future Labour government perpetuate myths about monstrous techno-fixes for climate change? Or advocate radical policies to deal with global warming that don’t heap the pain on the global south, and industrial strategies to hasten the transition away from a fossil-fuel-centred economy?
This question was raised – by implication, anyway – at the Campaign Against Climate Change conference in London on Saturday. The 200 people present heard essentially opposing answers from
Barry Gardiner, Labour’s front-bench spokesman on climate change, and Asad Rehman, chief executive of War on Want.
The contrasting approaches were starkly evident when a question was asked from the floor about Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) – an untried technology on which the world’s most powerful governments are relying heavily to claim they are on course to meet their climate targets.
Basically, BECCS would involve growing plants, burning them in power stations, and then capturing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted and storing it somewhere. (See also “Quick technological catch-up” below).
Despite the fact that BECCS has never been used anywhere yet, the latest (fifth) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has included huge amounts of it in its scenarios that plot how the world economy could move away from dangerous global warming. To make the numbers add up, Read the rest of this entry »
Oil, gas and petrochemicals companies are responding to public revulsion about plastic waste in their own special way: by investing billions to INCREASE plastics production.
Thanks to their efforts, global output of ethylene and propylene, the two main raw materials for plastics production, is expected to RISE BY ONE-THIRD in the next seven years.
I am all in favour of campaigns to cut down the insanely wasteful use of plastic bottles, bags and
packaging. But let’s also make sure we understand the root of the problem: systems of production and consumption that aim only to raise output, and the mighty corporate interests that control them.
The trail from gas, oil and coal production, through petrochemicals plants, to manufacturing and trading companies thatgorge on needless mountains of plastic, has been well researched by campaigning NGOs, lawyers and journalists. Here is People & Nature’s handy guide:
Production: the US shale gas boom
Nearly all plastics are made from coal, oil or gas (see “Quick chemistry catch-up”, below). The recent boom in shale gas production has caused US gas supply to outstrip demand. That in turn has triggered a wave of investment in petrochemicals plants that make ethylene, the key raw material for several types of plastic.
In other words, it is the availability of cheap raw material – not any obvious human need – that is driving plastics production growth.
The US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report last month that three new ethylene plants (called “cracking” plants) had started up in 2017, and another six are due Read the rest of this entry »
Review of: Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: the Earth, history and us (London: Verso, 2017)
Think again, and differently, about the relationship between human society and the natural world. That is the challenge offered by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz.
They question accepted ideas about “environmental crisis” and “sustainable development”, and urge
us to subvert the “unifying grand narrative of the errant human species and its redemption by science alone”.
But this is not an iconoclastic rant. It is a scholarly discussion of the science behind the Anthropocene concept, and its implications for history, for the study of society, and for our ideas about the world in the broadest sense.
A central theme is the reflection of the terrifying accumulation of damage to the natural world by human activity over the past two centuries in the history of ideas. The dominant trends, to divide natural history from human history and to push the natural world out of economics, have been resisted.
The fact of the Anthropocene, Bonneuil and Fressoz argue, requires a new synthesis of forms of knowledge. They avoid offering any simplistic, pat “solution” to the disastrous rift between human society and the natural world. Instead, they point to new ways of looking at it that, collectively, may help us to change it.
This review summarises the authors’ explanation of the Anthropocene concept; considers their points Read the rest of this entry »