Reading Marx on ecology: “capitalism generates an unrepairable physical rift”

December 3, 2019

Today I am very pleased to publish Barbara Harriss-White’s discussion of Kohei Saito’s book, Marx’s Eco-socialism: capital, nature and the unfinished critique of political economy (Monthly Review Press, 2017) on People & Nature. It is based on her talk at a panel at the Historical Materialism conference in London, on 8 November 2019 that reviewed the book, which won the 2018 Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize. Please read and share!

 


“Where the fuck is the government?” ask the climate strikers

November 29, 2019

About 2000 school students marched through London today, marking the latest “Fridays for Future” strike. The demonstration was just one of a huge number internationally. You can see the giant crowds in cities across Asia, Africa and Europe at #Climatestrike or #Fridaysforfuture on twitter.

In London, “Where the fuck is the government?” was a popular slogan. Possibly because the prime minister, Boris Johnson, chickened out of the first ever televised debate between

The front of the students’ march in London today

political party leaders on climate change on Wednesday – and then had his Tory party friends threaten Channel 4, who staged it, with losing its licence.

The marchers also shouted “climate justice”, “Whose streets? Our streets. Whose planet? Our Read the rest of this entry »


Russia: a new wave of political repression

November 26, 2019

Some of the most recent protest movements in Russia – and the police actions in response to them – are summarised in this guest post from the PRAXIS CENTRE, MOSCOW (part of the Global Labour Institute network).

Dissatisfaction and moods of protest have again been gathering in Russia in recent years, in the period since the authorities repressed the wave of mass protests of 2011-13.

A powerful impulse for the protests came from the reform of the pension system, as a result

“Free our children”, says the poster on this single-woman picket by the Mothers Against Political Repression outside the presidential administration offices in Moscow. The group brings together the mothers of defendants in the “Moscow case”, the “network case” and the “New Greatness” case, of those accused of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the mother of Moscow student Azat Miftakhov. Photo from Arestanty 212 facebook page

of which the retirement age was raised by five years. As a result, in the autumn of last year, rallies and other demonstrations against the reform broke out across the whole country.

Dissatisfaction was also triggered by corruption, which runs through the whole Russian political system; ecological problems; and the absence of democracy or of any prospects for the overwhelming majority of the population.

In these conditions, the authorities toughened their policy of repression, not only against activists but also against anyone who was just not indifferent to the situation. There was pressure in the form of police action and fabricated legal cases.

At the same time new repressive laws were passed, the most striking of which was the recently adopted law on the “sovereign internet”, which if implemented could allow the state at any point – even this year – to cut Russia off from the world wide web.

Moreover, in Russia the freedoms of speech and assembly, and the legal immunity of people’s homes, has in effect been destroyed.

Despite all this, more and more people attempt courageously to insist on their rights, as was demonstrated very clearly by events in Moscow over the summer.

On 8 September 2019 there were elections to the Moscow city council. Forces opposed to the current regime decided to use the election campaign not only to get their representatives Read the rest of this entry »


“Network case” update: Arman Sagynbaev

November 26, 2019

The campaign group in Russia supporting the “network case” defendants – antifascists arrested and tortured by the security services, some of whom are now on trial – has withdrawn some forms of support from one of the defendants, Arman Sagynbaev.

The “network case” defendants are, and will continue to be, supported by an international campaign that has been featured on this blog e.g. here, here and here.

A statement on the Rupression web site said that campaigners in Russia would not collect money for Sagynbaev, or correspond with him, after the publication of a series of statements by women raped and/or violently attacked by him.

The Rupression site says that “we don’t have any reason not to believe” Sagynbaev’s victims; that he had always had “an unclear reputation”; and that campaigners thought their silence on this up to now had been a mistake. The statement added that Sagynbaev had “continued to deceive those with whom he corresponds, and to manipulate people” from jail. Read the rest of this entry »


Climate scientists are people too

November 19, 2019

Climate scientists understand potential climate disasters, but can not accurately predict the timescales or details of how they will unfold.

Some are more sceptical than others about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but all see it as an essential outlet for their research.

When pushed to question some of the IPCC’s ludicrous assumptions on negative emissions technologies, some are readier than others to criticise.

These were my impressions from an all day conference in London yesterday, where scientists presented the IPCC’s three recent reports – on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, on oceans and ice sheets, and on land and agriculture.

All the scientists who spoke had felt a shot in the arm from the school climate strikes and

Earth, from space. No land is visible because that is the Pacific Ocean. Corinne Le Quere showed this photo at yesterday’s conference: a reminder that the oceans cover 70% of the earth’s surface

Extinction Rebellion. “People now feel the urgency in a more visceral way”, Andy Challinor of Leeds university said, opening the event.

Speakers repeatedly urged political and social action, which they are convinced can avert the worst impacts of global warming. But there was no mention of radical social change: the appeals were, rather, for “joined-up government policy”.

The event was organised by the Royal Meteorological Society of the UK. It was free to get in and open to all. There was a deluge of useful information, clearly and thoughtfully explained. (The presentations and other relevant stuff are on its web site here.)

To be honest, I could not understand why it wasn’t over-booked, and was disappointed that there were empty seats. One scientist I talked to in a coffee break saw it differently: he had Read the rest of this entry »


Geoengineering: let’s not get it back-to-front

November 1, 2019

A response to After Geoengineering by Holly Jean Buck (London: Verso Books, 2019)

We need to talk about geoengineering. Badly. To do so, I suggest two ground rules.

First, when we imagine futures with geoengineering, whether utopian or dystopian, let’s talk about the path from the present to those futures.

Second, if society is to protect itself from dangerous global warming, it will most likely combine a whole range of different methods; there is no silver bullet. So we need to discuss geoengineering together with other actions and technologies, not in isolation.

In After Geoengineering, Holly Buck urges social movements and climate justice militants to engage with geoengineering, rather than rejecting it. She questions campaigners’ focus on

Civil society groups protesting at the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, in 2014, when fossil fuel companies organised sessions on carbon capture and storage. Photo by Carol Linnitt from the DeSmog Blog.

mitigation, i.e. on measures such as energy conservation and renewable electricity generation that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Buck offers a clear, jargon-free review of technologies, from afforestation and biochar that some climate campaigners embrace, to solar radiation management, the last word in technofixes that is broadly reviled. She intersperses her narrative with fictional passages, warning of the pitfalls of “mathematical pathways or scenarios, behind which are traditions of men gaming our possible futures” (p. 48).

But one of Buck’s key arguments – that we will reach a point where society will collectively “lose hope in the capacity of current emissions-reduction measures to avert climate upheaval”, and “decide that something else must be tried” (pp. 1-2) – cuts right across both my ground rules.

Buck asks: are we at the point […] where “the counterfactual scenario is extreme climate suffering” and therefore “it is worth talking about more radical or extreme measures [than mitigation]”, such as geoengineering? “Deciding where the shift – the moment of reckoning, the desperation point – lies is a difficult task” (p. 4).

This is a false premise, in my view, for three reasons.

First: we can not, and will not for the foreseeable future, perceive this “desperation point” as a moment in time. For island nations whose territory is being submerged, for indigenous peoples in the wildfire-ravaged Amazon, for victims of hurricanes and crop failures, the point Read the rest of this entry »


North Sea oil and gas: the elephant in the room

October 4, 2019

Next week Extinction Rebellion will start two weeks of protest in London, demanding government action to reach zero carbon emissions by 2025; to protect biodiversity; to tell the truth about climate change; and to set up “citizens’ assemblies” to address the climate and ecological emergency.

This post by NEIL ROTHNIE is addressed to the XR “rebels” and their supporters. Neil is active in Extinction Rebellion Glasgow. He is now retired, having spent his working life on the North Sea, in the oil industry

It’s not just Westminster! The Scottish government are also complicit in a strategy that will see the UK oil and gas industry continuing to explore and produce every single drop of the 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent (bbls) thought to be recoverable from North Sea oil and gas fields.

The plan, “business as usual”, comes from big oil and has been handed down to their clients in Government. And it drives a horse and carriage through government

Rigs operated by BP at the Clair Ridge oil field, west of Shetland in the North Sea, which started producing in November last year. Its peak output will be 120,000 barrels of oil per day, and BP reckons it has 640 million barrels of recoverable hydrocarbons

“climate emergency” declarations, and any chance of meeting our fair share of global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

It also sends out a clear message to other national governments collaborating with the very same oil corporations which operate globally.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Saudi Arabia, The Canadian Arctic, Nigeria, Sakhalin Island (Russia), everywhere else – industry and Governments will feel absolutely justified to exploit their reserves to the limit, just as UK Governments intend to do.  Produce every last drop until the planet burns or the people rebel.

Well, the rebellion starts here.

There must be non violent direct action aimed at big oil, and targeting oil production. There must be a Just Transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

That doesn’t just mean that oil workers in the global north get new jobs in a hugely expanded renewables sector.

It means that the global north takes the bulk of the responsibility for ending fossil Read the rest of this entry »


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