As the Copenhagen summit continued, a stunning example of the killing and devastating effects global warming and climate change is already having on humanity came out in a story from the UK Guardian newspaper. Reporters for the paper wrote a story about a 1,000 mile journey they had undertaken—from the Himalayan mountains in Nepal to the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh where the rivers that start in the Himalayas empty out. These reporters wanted to observe and witness the actual effects of global warming on the people and ecosystems in this region.
Their journey started in the high Himalayas—the roof of the world, a world of snow-capped peaks and awe-inspiring glaciers. But they found something else—evidence of immense changes that are occurring. They saw the Thulagi glacier—with a melted lake that has doubled in size in a few years and is held back by only a low wall of dead ice and earth. If the glacier continues to melt as it has, billions of gallons of water will burst through this dam and devastate villages and farmland below. Thulagi is just one of 20 growing glacial lakes in Nepal. Average temperatures in Nepal have risen 1.6 degees C in 50 years. But high in the mountains of Nepal, temperatures have risen 4 degees C and are expected to increase 8 degees C by 2050 at the current rate.
The story says the people of the area feel as if they are “living under a death sentence.” A local official in one town in the Everest valley region says, “They say they are not sure there will be a tomorrow… the snow used to come up to your waist in winter. Now children do not know what snow is. We have more flies and mosquitoes, more skin diseases. Communities are adapting by switching crops, but diseases are moving up the mountains.”
Farther down from the mountains people are not able to plant their crops because the winter snows are not heavy—they have always relied on snow and glacier melt to water their fields. As the journey continues into other regions of Nepal, rainfall is becoming more unpredictable and erratic. In some areas there is drought, in others, torrential monsoon rains. Nepal’s largest river, the Khosi, flooded hundreds of square kilometers of farmland, killing 1,500 people and displacing 3 million people in Nepal and India. When the water receded, people’s farmlands were buried in 6 feet of sand, making it impossible to grow anything.
Further along this journey in India, it is drought which has been growing worse and worse. In the poor state of Bihar, only about 22 percent of the usual rainfall has come. As a result, 63 million people are expected to go hungry next year. The droughts used to happen every 4-5 years, but now things are much more erratic—rainfall is unpredictable and sometimes heavy and very destructive, while some of the flood-prone areas are facing drought. In cities in India such as Kolkata, temperatures have risen significantly and there are more cases of disease such as dengue fever and malaria.
When the journey concluded in the Bay of Bengal, dual problems were encountered. A sea-level rise is eating away at people’s villages in some areas—and more powerful and frequent cyclones are also inundating islands and coastal villages with storm surges. Bangladesh will lose 20 percent of its land to sea level rise in the next 80 years if global warming is not reversed.
Think of all of this—of the effects on this entire region where 1 out of 4 people in the world live—all of them dependent on the Himalayas for water to drink, for irrigating croplands, for sanitation. What will it mean for decades more of global warming, melting off these glaciers until they are no more? Eliminating the natural beauty of these structures but even more devastating and destroying the lives where one-quarter of humanity live. And think of all the other changes brought by this warming drought, flooding and powerful storms already affecting so many people. And then multiply that again because that same thing is being repeated across the planet, with the poorest and the oppressed suffering by far the worst. The earth and humanity need revolution.
In most places around India, Maoists are an underground hit and run force... but in Central India's Bastar forests, they're well-entrenched. Join us today for an encore presentation of "Maoist India, the search for economic justice."
2009 witnessed a series of attacks by Indian Maoists on state security forces. Now, India's central government is hitting back with a counterinsurgency operation known in the media as "Operation Green Hunt". The official anti-Maoist campaign includes the deployment of some 75 thousand police and paramilitary forces across a swath of territory known as "The Red Corridor." Human rights activists fear the operation will largely target the indigenous rural poor who live in mineral rich areas. In fact, it could resemble the scorched earth campaign used by the Sri Lankan military to defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels. In 2006, FSRN's Vinod K. Jose traveled to the base areas of the Maoist rebels in Central India. Today, we bring you an encore presentation of the documentary, "Maoist India: The Search for Economic Justice."
AMY GOODMAN: At the heart of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions is a market-based system to trade carbon. Known as a “cap and trade,” the system sets carbon emissions limits of companies and doles out allowances that can be bought and sold to meet the emission targets.
In Washington, the House approved a cap-and-trade system earlier this year as part of the Waxman-Markey bill. The Senate is considering adopting a similar provision in the Boxer-Kerry bill.
But the issue of cap and trade has split the environmental and progressive movements. Last week in the pages of the New York Times, NASA scientist James Hansen published a piece called “Cap and Fade.” He argued carbon trading will do little to slow global warming or reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Hansen went on to say cap and trade will allow polluters and Wall Street traders to fleece the public out of billions of dollars. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman responded by describing cap and trade as the only form of action we have to take against greenhouse gas emissions before catastrophe becomes inevitable.
In a moment, we’ll host a debate on the subject. But first I want to turn to a new animated film that premiered here in Copenhagen, or at least it was played here. It’s called The Story of Cap and Trade. It’s directed by Annie Leonard, who’s best known for her web video The Story of Stuff.
ANNIE LEONARD: So how does cap and trade work? Well, pretty much all serious scientists agree that we need to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, if we want to avoid climate disaster. In the US, that means reducing our emissions by 80 percent, maybe even more, by 2050. Eighty percent?
Now, the problem is that most of our global economy runs on burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon: the factories that make all our stuff, the ships and trucks that carry it around the world, our cars and buildings and appliances, and just about everything. So how are we going to reduce carbon 80 percent and not go back to living like Little House on the Prairie?
Well, these cap-and-trade guys are saying that a new carbon stock market is the best way to get it done. The first step would be getting governments around the world to agree on a yearly limit on carbon emissions. That’s the cap. I think that part is great.
So, how do they want to ensure that carbon emissions stay under the cap? Well, governments would distribute a certain amount of permits to pollute. Every year, there would be fewer and fewer permits, as we follow the cap to our goal. Innovative companies will get on board building clean alternatives and getting more efficient.
As permits get scarcer, they would also become more valuable. So, naturally, companies who have extra will want to sell them to companies who need them. That’s where the trading comes in.
The logic is that as long as we stay under the cap, it doesn’t matter who pollutes and who innovates. We’ll meet our climate deadline, avoiding catastrophe, and, oh, yeah, these guys take their fee as they broker this multi-trillion-dollar carbon racket—I mean, market—save the planet, get rich. What’s not to like?
Some of my friends who really care about our future support cap and trade. A lot of environmental groups that I respect do, too. They know it’s not a perfect solution, and they don’t love the idea of turning our planet’s future over to these guys, but they think it’s an important first step and that it’s better than nothing. I’m not so sure. And I’m not the only one.
AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the online short, The Story of Cap and Trade by Annie Leonard. We’ll link to the full video on our website.
We’re joined now by two guests. Larry Lohmann is the author of the book Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatization and Power. He works at the British non-governmental organization, NGO, called The Corner House. We’re also joined by Frank Ackerman. He’s an economist at the Stockholm Environment Institute. He’s part of Tufts University, author of Can We Afford the Future?: [The] Economics [of] a Warming World.
The Story of Cap and Trade that Annie Leonard did is very critical of cap and trade. Professor Leonard, you are for cap and trade—or Professor Ackerman, you’re for cap and trade. Explain why, and do it in basic terms.
FRANK ACKERMAN: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re used to teaching students.
FRANK ACKERMAN: No, no, I’m—
AMY GOODMAN: Think of us as all your students.
FRANK ACKERMAN: I’m not exactly for it. I don’t think either Hansen or Krugman got it right. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly not the only thing that we need. There’s undoubtedly a role for having a price on carbon, which can be done either through a tax or through cap and trade.
The big mistake in this debate, I think, is to pretend that a price on carbon is all that we need. Any time a price incentive like this has worked, it has needed many, many other things to be working with it. The image of a level playing field that economists sometimes suggest is exactly wrong. We need to be doing everything we can to tilt the playing field in the direction we want it to go. Then a price, either through cap and trade or through a tax, might actually make it a little easier. But no chance at all it’ll do the job alone.
AMY GOODMAN: Larry Lohmann, you’re opposed to cap and trade, so you feel strongly about this. Why?
LARRY LOHMANN: For some of the same reasons, actually, that Frank was referring to. I agree completely with Frank that there is no magic bullet in terms of a carbon price which is going to solve the climate problem.
What we need is massive reinvestment away from fossil fuels, putting subsidies—instead of putting subsidies into fossil fuels, putting them into renewable energy. We need to overcome our addiction to fossil fuels in industrialized societies.
And the problem with cap and trade is, is that it stands in the way of doing that, in many ways. It’s a way of providing pollution rights to some of the worst polluters, so that they can delay the kind of structural change that’s necessary.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how that works.
LARRY LOHMANN: Well, it happens in—it happens in a number of ways. First of all, the cap and trade proper is a system by which those who are unable or do not want to reinvest in the long term away from fossil fuels—I’m talking about big industries like electricity generators highly dependent on fossil fuels, chemicals, steel, cement, and so forth—instead of investing in structural change away from their dependence on fossil fuels, they can simply buy pollution credits or pollution rights from other sources.
Now, there are two sources, two sources of pollution rights they can buy to keep doing business as usual. One of those sources is to buy pollution rights from other companies in the same country who have reduced their emissions beyond, beyond the requirements, and they have extra pollution rights to sell. Another and very dangerous source of pollution rights that they can buy in order to continue business as usual is from so-called carbon offset projects instituted abroad. For example, you might invest in a tree plantation, which supposedly absorbs your pollution abroad, and that enables you to continue business as usual. The problem with this is that it enables industrialized countries to continue their addiction to fossil fuels.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to this issue of carbon offsets and then get Frank Ackerman’s response and play another clip from Annie Leonard’s online video called The Story of Cap and Trade.
ANNIE LEONARD: Devil number two is called offsetting. Offset permits are created when a company supposedly removes or reduces carbon. They then get a permit, which can be sold to a polluter who wants permission to emit more carbon. In theory, one activity offsets the other.
The danger with offsets is it’s very hard to guarantee that real carbon is being removed to create the permit, yet these permits are worth real money. This creates a very dangerous incentive to create false offsets, to cheat. Now, in some cases, cheating isn’t the end of the world. But in this case, it is.
And already there’s a lot of cheating going on, like in Indonesia, Sinar Mas Corporation cut down indigenous forests, causing major ecological and cultural destruction. Then they took the wasteland they created and planted palm oil trees. Guess what they can get for it. Yep, offset permits. Carbon out? No. Carbon in? You bet.
Companies can even earn offsets for not doing anything at all, like operators of a polluting factory can claim they were planning to expand 200 percent, but reduce the plans to expand only 100 percent. For that meaningless claim, they get offset permits, permits that they can sell to someone else to make more pollution. That is so stupid.
The list of scams go on and on, and many of the worst ones happen in the so-called third world, where big business does whatever it wants to whomever it wants. And with lax standards and regulations on offsets, they can get permits for just about anything.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Annie Leonard’s Story of Cap and Trade. Frank Ackerman, are you concerned about this?
FRANK ACKERMAN: Sure. I think any policy can be done well or badly, and there’s plenty of reason to worry about the US doing things badly in this area. The three things I can think of you could do wrong with cap and trade is you could give a fixed cap that doesn’t go down—that was the problem with the sulfur emissions cap and trade in the ’90s, that there was a fixed cap guaranteed forever instead of a declining cap—
AMY GOODMAN: And that was particularly related to acid rain.
FRANK ACKERMAN: Exactly. That was the poster child for the success of cap and trade. It’s always quoted. That was a big mistake in that case. That’s the one mistake that I think we have made progress on, that the Waxman-Markey, all those bills, have a declining cap.
Problem number two, where we don’t get nearly as good a grade, is giving away the allowances to the incumbent polluters. If you give away allowances to the companies which are already emitting pollution, you give a huge transfer of wealth to the people who were already causing the problem. The sulfur trading in the ’90s did that. Waxman-Markey mostly does that, with sort of gradually phasing it out. The much superior alternative of auctioning the permits so that the money returns to the public to be used for environmental purposes, for income redistribution, for whatever, is what’s been advocated, the Cantwell bill that was mentioned earlier—
AMY GOODMAN: Which is sort of being called “cap and dividend.”
FRANK ACKERMAN: Yeah, the cap-and-dividend idea returns the money to the taxpayers, rather than giving it to the original polluters. So Waxman-Markey and those bills start out giving most of it to polluters, with a promise that it will gradually decline.
And the third big problem is the offsets. That has happened. What that film described has happened with a lot of offsets. On the other hand, if they were verified, if you actually did honestly prove that somebody else had reduced carbon somewhere else, what’s wrong with that? Carbon is completely fungible. It’s the same commodity. You emit carbon in Brazil, Bangladesh, Boston, it doesn’t matter; it’s the same carbon in the atmosphere. So if you can confirm that you honestly did reduce it in Brazil or Bangladesh or Boston, it’s the same reduction. The question of dishonesty in the offsets is obviously a real problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Larry Lohmann, what about that?
LARRY LOHMANN: I agree it’s—I agree that dishonesty is rife throughout the carbon offset market. I mean, our experience in the Durban Group for Climate Justice in studying dozens of these carbon offset projects around the world, in countries like Uganda, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, and so forth, is that this is just a universal aspect of carbon offset—carbon offset projects.
I think the problem goes a bit deeper, though. And that is that, actually, it’s not possible to distinguish between fraud and non-fraud in this market. It’s not possible to prove that you’re actually saving carbon. I mean, the example from Annie Leonard’s film, I think, shows this, where the factory owner simply says, “Well, I was planning on expanding 200 percent, but now I’m telling you that I’m going to expand only 100 percent, and therefore I’m saving 100 percent. Therefore, I should be allowed to sell pollution rights to the industrialized countries in the North, so that they can continue business as usual.” Obviously there’s no way of verifying the claim of the factory owner, whether that was going to be business as usual or not. The consultants who come into this system to make that claim actually can say pretty much anything they want to and claim that they’re making any carbon savings they want to. So I would go a little bit further than Frank in saying that the system is not only open to abuse, the abuses cannot be corrected, even in principle.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Larry Lohmann, about a figure that’s being thrown around here, 17 percent, that the US is pushing for, a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Explain.
LARRY LOHMANN: Well, I think that that claim has been flying around, but there are two really misleading things about that claim. First of all, under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, emissions reductions are generally reckoned from 1990 levels. So, under the Kyoto Protocol—
AMY GOODMAN: So, for the rest of the world, they’re using 1990 standards.
LARRY LOHMANN: That’s the conventional baseline here. So, you know, the question is, you know, by 2020, how much are you reducing from your 1990 levels? The US is being a little slippery by saying, “OK, well, actually, we’re reducing 17 percent.” But what they don’t mention is they’re reducing that from, not 1990 levels, but from 2005 levels.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Frank Ackerman, the equivalent in 1990 terms of 17 percent?
FRANK ACKERMAN: I think it’s something like four percent.
AMY GOODMAN: So it’s actually four percent. And Larry Lohmann, is it actually even cutting four percent?
LARRY LOHMANN: No, it’s actually worse than that. Even the four percent figure is misleading, because that four—those four percent of reductions probably would not be made within the United States itself. In other words, the fossil fuel polluters in the United States would continue business as usual. What they would do instead would be buy pollution rights from outside the country, from these carbon offset projects outside the country. I think the International Rivers organization in Berkeley has calculated that, actually, under the Waxman-Markey bill, the US would not have to reduce its own fossil fuel emissions until 2026 under the Waxman-Markey provisions.
AMY GOODMAN: Frank Ackerman?
FRANK ACKERMAN: I think there are all kinds of things that ought to be fixed, that certainly offsets should be limited, but the problem is that the debate about setting a price on carbon has been set up as cap and trade versus tax. And we’ve had thirty years of teaching Americans to froth at the mouth when taxes are mentioned. And so, there’s no chance whatsoever that a carbon tax will be passed. I think some of the big companies that are advocating a carbon tax are probably conscious of that and doing it with dishonest intent in the attempt to destroy the entire idea of climate legislation. From that, I deduce that, sadly enough, we’ll have to figure out how to patch up the holes in cap and trade, of which there are many. There are a lot of things to patch up.
AMY GOODMAN: What if the carbon market collapses?
FRANK ACKERMAN: I could tell the world how to reduce carbon emissions. People seem even more allergic to the idea of command and control. The problem is not describing how to reduce American carbon emissions; the problem is creating incentives that will make people feel like they have been allowed to do it in a free market way. It’s the inefficiency of making this all happen through the market, rather than simply saying we’re not going to drive cars like that, we’re not going to waste electricity like that. It would be very easy to tell people how to reduce emissions. But if you want to do it through the market so people make choices, you have to set a carbon price.
AMY GOODMAN: Goldman Sachs have a big role here, Larry Lohmann?
LARRY LOHMANN: I’m afraid so. In fact, just last month, JPMorgan, another firm like Goldman Sachs, actually bought one of the biggest carbon offset consultancy and accumulator firms, EcoSecurities. And I think that indicates the interest of Wall Street in buying—in getting into this market, so that they can speculate, so that they can make money out of it.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us. Larry Lohmann, researcher at the NGO The Corner House, he’s based in Britain, editor of the book Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change. And Frank Ackerman, he is an economist at the Stockholm Environment Institute at Tufts University. His book, Can We Afford the Future?: [The] Economics [of] a Warming World.
December 3, 2009 Statement by the (new)Italian Communist Party Central Committee Preparatory Commission
Let’s lead mankind out of the cultural and moral chaos, of the economic and political crisis and of environmental disaster in which the bourgeoisie and the clergy bogged it down!
On December 7 to 18, the leaders of most of about 200 countries and major world and regional organizations established on the Planet will gather in Copenhagen. The vast majority of them are individuals promoted to the position they occupy in their country and in the world and stay there as they are useful to ruling classes whose primary role in society is to increase capital. Each their member must raise its money and the one he manages. His morals, his mentality and the rest of his social relations are formed primarily by this social role.
Among the personalities who will gather in Copenhagen, very few are not so. They are the spokesmen of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, North Korea’s governments and of few other countries. Not by chance the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and of other countries of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative) gathered in late November in prospect of the conference in Copenhagen which they would participate in, and, synthesizing their position in relation to the themes that would be on the agenda, drafted a statement entitled “Let’s save the planet from capitalism.”
So, with few exceptions, the people who gather in Copenhagen are delegates, representatives and members of the class responsible for the path that humanity followed up to here. In particular, they are also responsible of the environmental disaster. But they will carefully refrain from honestly show their responsibilities and indicate the reasons.
The environmental crisis is not an accident in humanity’s history. It does not happen by chance. It is not even a natural disaster. It is the result of human behavior, but not the result of error or of ignorance, of personal, strange, isolated behaviors by single individuals who can correct it changing their conduct. On the contrary! It is the necessary, so to speak the natural result of the mercantile system and of capitalist social relations, that is to say the system that more and more extensively has regulated the conduct of mankind for centuries until today and that has led humanity to the current level of civilization. It is the system that creates and benefits the classes that keep in office the celebrities who will gather in Copenhagen and that they impose and defend by all means, by cunning and violence in every corner of the world and in every field of activity. The privatization of water and of waste treating just now decreed by Berlusconi’s gang is only one among many examples.
To clearly understand the nature and origin of the environmental crisis is a practical issue of crucial importance in order to address it effectively. For putting an end to the environmental crisis we must clearly understand its nature and cause: what generated and what worsens it, with which other aspects of human behavior it is connected, what effect it has on each of the actions did to address the crisis environment, who is interested in the course of events that generated and worsens it, who instead is interested to change the course of things without reservation, and who has something to lose by changing such present course of things.
In this regard, there are different and opposing views. We are interested in making them clear. Who tries to forget the differences has something to hide.
Some say that the causes of environmental decline are the limits of resources (land, water, minerals, oil, and energy sources) available on the Planet. From another point of view, this thesis means that men are too many or that they grow too much, or that men are using too many resources. From this conception of the cause of environmental crisis there start thousands of more or less coherent and radical proposals to stop growth or even decrease it: men should return to a more primitive life.
Firstly, it does not matter whether the person who supports such a view really believes it, if he has good or bad faith, if he is sincere and consistent to them in his personal conduct: let’s not care of such priestly ways to discuss. What matters is that the ruling classes of bourgeois society have put forward such theories for the last two centuries.
The first one who systematically did it (in 1798) was the priest and English economist Thomas Malthus (1766-1834). At the height of the period of “human faced capitalism“, in the late Sixties, such theories were drawn up and presented again on a large scale by the Club of Rome sponsored by Aurelio Peccei (The Limits of Growth). Who examines these conceptions easily sees that they are inconsistent and unilateral, and that they are closely linked to problems that the bourgeoisie and other ruling classes deal with for justifying and maintaining their dominance over the popular masse. When they had to tell why a great part of the population is condemned to poverty, the answer was: “Because there are too many men and there is not enough for everybody.” Implicit meaning: if poor men will disappear, there would be no problem; there would be no more poverty. Poverty is fault of the poor: if they will take their leave ...
Socialists and communists, spokesmen of the workers from long time, objected: the misery of the workers and of the rest of the other masses is the other side of wealth, luxury and waste of bourgeoisie, clergy and other ruling classes. And it is not just misery. Close to it there are also social marginalization, exclusion from cultural and spiritual heritage of society, the condemnation of so much of humanity (particularly women, peoples of the colonies, national and religious minorities, etc.) to perform only purely executive tasks, to “obey and fight”. There is the monopoly of culture and power in the hands of a privileged and rich minority. The bourgeoisie uses the extreme poverty of the population as a weapon of threat and blackmail to make docile the part which it “allows” to work. A British conservative and unscrupulous bourgeois, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), said: “In England there are two nations living side by side and ignoring each other. For our safety we must also take care of the other.” It is true, there are two nations, the socialists replied, but they do not ignore each other. One is formed by a handful of rich and parasites and rules the other. The other shoulders it and is the mass of the population. Oppression and exploitation are responsible for and source of misery for the workers and the rest of the masses, for all other social unrests and the resulting individual diseases and perversions. In order to eliminate poverty, we need to eliminate oppression and exploitation, to eliminate the division of mankind in classes, to introduce a new and different system of social relations. The progress achieved by humanity until today can finally eliminate the division of humanity into social classes. It is not true that what we have is not enough for everybody. It is true that it is badly distributed and so it is because it is produced under capitalists’ direction and initiative. We produce what is worth for them, if and when something is worth for them. In order to eliminate poverty, we must eliminate the capitalist private ownership of productive forces, that is to say, we need to eliminate capitalism and mercantile production that is its base. This is the prerequisite to eliminate many if not all the other ills that beset mankind.
Today men are about ten times what they were two hundred years ago, 6 billions in front of 600 million. Obviously there are resources to ensure a vastly higher standard of living than that of two hundred years ago for a ten times greater number of people. And the standard of living did not grow thanks to god or to kindness of the rich. It grew because workers organized themselves, created a conscious and organized communist movement, carried out any kind of claiming struggles and even created the first socialist countries. So Malthusian theories have been disproved by the facts.
But today their supporters present them again with renewed energy and with some new arguments. Not only poverty, hunger, lack of food, clean water, education, health care, other conditions for a dignified life (that is to say the ills that even worse affected part of humanity two hundred years ago) still affect more than one third of humanity, more than 2 billion people to 6, but there are new and serious problems such as water pollution, soil and air pollution, global warming, the cementing of the soil, deforestation, reduction of the variety of plant and animal species, etc. And oil, uranium, etc. sooner or later will end up, and natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, etc.) are increasing. So they say. The end of the world hangs over. These are the new problems that, according to them, put the limits of planet’s resources on the foreground, regardless of the system of social relations.
We communists say to these new advocates of the old Malthusian theory: everything you say is true, but you confuse the nature of the world with the nature of capitalism and the end of the world with the end of capitalism. All the ills that you denounce are true. The advanced workers, their spokesmen, the communists, the true democratic people have denounced them for a long time. There are indeed other ills that you ignore or overlook: the misery of so many people, lack of conditions for a dignified life, social exclusion, unemployment, racial, religious and gender (against women) oppression, exclusion of the mass of the people from power and knowledge, from a spiritual life equal to today possibilities, the reduction of any good to a commodity available only to those who have money to pay for it, the consumerist brutalization of part of the popular masses, ignorance, crime, the systematic violation of conquered rights, of laws and constitutions signed after the victory over fascism, the arrogance and violence of the Authorities, of the clergy and the rich, repression, oppression, military bases, militarism, the political and military secret, aggressions and war, the undeclared war of extermination the bourgeoisie is leading against the masses all over the world. But the causes of these ills are not the limited resources or the quantity of the population. It is in the nature of capitalism. It is because of capitalism that men can not adopt appropriate solutions to current problems, and that they cannot even know or look for appropriate solutions.
Environmental crisis, economic crisis, cultural crisis and political crisis are closely connected. They have the same source: the limits of capitalism. The system of social relations based on commercial production and capital has come to its end. Humanity must change the system of social relations; otherwise capitalism would drag all humanity to its ruin. Somebody says: “But number of men cannot at all indefinitely grow”. We reply him: “This is not the problem. Today we face with environmental, economic, cultural problems, of 6 billion people who will probably be 9 billion in 15 or 20 years. All these problems can be solved by establishing socialism. The problems that will arise the day after tomorrow will be faced by men of tomorrow, with the means and the knowledge that they will have.
And experience shows us that men’s means and knowledge grow exponentially with the number of men who spend their time looking for them and setting them up. Imagine that men of a thousand years ago had put the issues that we deal with and that we can solve today: it would be hopeless. Essentially you tell us today: “It is unnecessary to establish socialism, because sooner or later we will be too many, sooner or later the world will end.” Whether you realize it or not, essentially you are defending the status quo, the bourgeoisie, the clergy and other ruling classes who are all willing to chat, on condition that nobody actually decides to establish socialism.”
These are the two fundamental ways in the face of environmental crisis, the two lines and the two conceptions. They refer to two different and opposing classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
Today we are not dealing with limited resources. We are dealing with ruling classes expressing the capitalist market system of social relations, for which they pollute and pillage the planet, deprive a great part of humanity of food and drinking water, force people to painful labor, unemployment, migration and degradation and relegate the vast majority of men and women to ignorance and superstition, cover great part of their activities with political and military secret, impede research and applications that do not produce money. These ruling classes are expression, beneficiaries and defenders of a system of social relations that forces the vast majority of men and women to use their intelligence, their energy and most of the time of their lives to get to live on, as if humanity was still at the age of the caves. All what men produce and also the natural resources are properties of these ruling classes. They make produce also the natural resources to sell and offer them for sale: everything is directed to raise money. Money is the beginning and end of each activity. Nothing is done without money, and any activity that increases the amount of money is good. Activities that do not make money should be stopped. It is a system of social relations that they impose everywhere, in every country and in every field of human activity. And they defend it tooth and nail, with the power and ferocity of the instruments of repression and control and of the weapons that not by chance they constantly increase and improve.
So today the environmental crisis arises. The Conference in Copenhagen is in this context. From here we start to understand what we can expect from this Conference and how to get it.
Obviously we are not talking about the intentions, aspirations, ideas and personal beliefs of single personalities who will gather in Copenhagen. Talking about personal beliefs and aspirations of this or that personality is a diversion: it makes lose time, confuse ideas and divert attention from the substance of things. Still less we speak of their statements. We’re talking about what they do, about the role they have and that are going to carry out in Copenhagen, what we should and we can expect from them after Copenhagen, and finally about what we can force them to do.
Any and every ruling class needs of two social functions to maintain its dominance: that of the military and that of the priest. The military must suppress or prevent by force the indignation and protest of the oppressed. The priest has to console the oppressed, let them hope for a better future within the framework of class rule and thereby to reconcile them with this rule, to keep them away from revolutionary action, to prevent revolutionary action. The ruling classes today needs people who play these roles more than in the past, for great is the contradiction between the painful situation in which they force humanity and what humanity can do, the productive forces and the knowledge they have today, the experience and the consciousness that the first wave of world proletarian revolution has widely spread among the masses.
In Copenhagen, the delegates of the ruling classes meet themselves in the guise of priests. Even those who have their hands stained with still fresh blood, even Barack Obama who has just announced (on Thursday 1st December) that he will send another 30 thousand soldiers to massacre and terrorize in Afghanistan and has just asked its allies, partners and satellites to send troops in their turn, they go to Copenhagen to make promises of a better future. So certainly from Copenhagen they will come out with so many promises and good words, even though the contrasts between them are very keen and each of them wants to take something away from the other. It is the show the same governments performed at the “Convention Against Hunger in the World” organized by FAO few weeks ago (16th to 19th November) in Rome.
Except for the few exceptions we mentioned, people who will gather in Copenhagen are the leaders that tyrants, exploiters, parasites, jailers and the clergy have put and keep at the head of each country. They are the promoters of the business that led humanity to the economic and environmental disaster and to the intellectual and moral chaos in which we are or, at best, they are individuals for various reasons resigned to put this business before masses’ interests. The main task they have and for which they were appointed and are kept at the head of the respective states is to ensure the conditions for the capitalists to continue their business away from the protests and riots by workers and the masses and ensure the rich and the clergy to continue to enjoy their privileges.
Everything they will decide, whatever they say, however they show it, the substance will be how to continue to keep people quiet while they keep on doing the business that has done the disaster which they led us in, while they squeeze from workers the privileges and wealth they have squeezed so far. The experience we have behind us, against which no one can make any serious objection based on reality and not on empty hopes, confirmed this a thousand times. Only if we know this and we base ourselves on it we can go further. On one side we can understand why those leaders organized Copenhagen Conference with such uproar. On the other we can seriously think about what we should and can do. Those who expect such people to make decisions which put an end to the environmental crisis are either fool or coward. They delude themselves and who listens them.
The spokesmen and representatives of those responsible for environmental disaster and economic crisis cannot stop the environmental crisis. So, why are they meeting in Copenhagen, and doing so much fuss about it?
Because the discontent and indignation of the masses in the face of environmental disaster and economic crisis are great and going to be greater. Because in many countries these discontent and indignation have become instruments of blackmail that each group of the ruling class uses against each other. Because the ruling classes fear that revolutionary orientation, actions, movements and organizations grow among the masses. So they must do something to create illusions and hopes greater than the nothing or little they will do: they make a little fire for creating lots of smoke, saving time and disperse revolutionary understanding and rush.
Just levering on this fear of the ruling classes, we can get some concessions from them, force them to patch up the disaster they did and are doing, to eliminate some of the harshest misdeeds, to refrain from some of the most unjust and criminal initiatives. The more we can do, the more we can get, the more we shall scare them, the more the revolutionary movement is strong, the more they will be afraid of losing everything. On this basis we communists can and must do temporary agreements with those who do not want revolution, but put the defense of the environment above their own interests, prejudices, and links with the ruling classes. We can exploit the contrasts between groups of ruling classes.
But even the little the current ruling classes will do will be contrary to their nature. Then each group will try to do it at the expense of other groups. It will try to take advantage of it to assert its interests against other groups, because the economic crisis also destroys the wealth of some of them. Even in crisis, every capitalist seeks to grow at the expense of other capital. Mergers and acquisitions are going on. When a capitalist is in trouble, the others capitalist jump up at him. The capitalists, the financiers, speculators, the rich and the clergy are torn by two kinds of contradictions: those between all of them and the masses and those that put them in competition. This makes them weaker and strengthens us. But at the same time makes them dangerous, because they will try to involve the masses in their struggles.
The environmental crisis will go on and worsen so as the economic crisis, until the bourgeoisie and the clergy will rule. Facing masses’ intolerance, each group will try to present others as responsible for the crisis and to mobilize the masses against them. War is the outlet to which the bourgeoisie and the clergy inevitably lead humanity, if we do not take away their power. The more the economic and environmental crisis worsens, the more the alternative becomes pressing: either revolution or war. Who merely watch what happens today will be overtaken and overwhelmed by events. It is the fate of the people who stay in the rear of what happens.
The environmental crisis and the economic crisis unimaginably aggravate the suffering of the masses. They also create the conditions so that the masses could finish once and for all with the system of mercantile and capitalist social relations we inherit from history and that brought us to a dead end. The ruling classes are in trouble, they do not know what to do, and they fight each other. Even if they are armed to the teeth and have amassed huge arsenals, their weakness is greatest. They have everything to lose. They are also taking away from the masses even the little they had, and so the masses will have everything to gain from a general upheaval. It’s up to us communist to show and pave the way, because the political and social upheavals humanity needs cannot be improvised. By its nature the socialist revolution does not break out. The Communist Party must build it, step by step.
But what we want to do, and how we shall do it?
We are not starting from scratch. The situation which we must now face is not a strange and unexpected event. It is the culmination of the mercantile and capitalist system, and his agony. It is the outlet of a course of events going on for over 150 years. The communist movement has mobilized and organized the popular masses for a long time, and primarily the proletarians and the workers for building the new society for which this society has the prerequisites. It got and accumulated a great experience from its successes and also from its defeats. Humanity today has sufficient knowledge and productive forces to face all the problems that capitalism has created and cannot solve.
None of the ills that afflict us is unsolvable. Our sufferings are not due to the limits of planet’s resources. The bourgeoisie and the clergy confuse the end of their system with the end of the world, the limits of their system of social relations with the limits of the resources and of what humanity can do. So always the ruling classes have done when their end came. What is finished, what can no longer be endured is the mercantile and capitalist production. The effort to make it last is the main cause of environmental crisis, of the economic crisis and of the cultural and moral chaos which humanity is struggling in.
The organized workers are quite able to stop the environmental crisis, the economic crisis and the cultural and moral chaos in which the bourgeoisie and the clergy have led us. There are the productive forces and the knowledge to do so. Today men can produce the food needed by a population far greater than the present one. Each year the sun evaporates water from the seas and on land we can have the necessary amount of fresh water for a population much greater than the present. We can produce houses, clothing and any kind of good things for everyone. There are renewable energy sources from which we can extract more energy than that necessary to all humanity, but make them work is not compatible with the mercantile system and capitalist social relations. It is the system of production and mercantile distribution and the capitalist system of social relations connected to it that prevents all this from working. Communism is no longer just a project. It is a necessity to get out of the impasse in which the bourgeoisie and the clergy have driven us. The former socialist countries have shown us the way with their successes and their failures.
The first wave of proletarian revolution which took place in the first part of last century has shown the way to end the general crisis of capitalism. The former socialist countries and Soviet Union firstly, have shown that organized workers can free themselves from the capitalists and the clergy, can build a socialist system and move towards communism. That is why the bourgeoisie and the clergy denigrated the experience of the first socialist countries in any way, after having resorted to any means to derail them and to nip them in the bud.
In fact, throughout the first part of their even short lives the first socialist countries showed on a large scale that workers can build a different world that bears in mind the experience and knowledge that humanity has accumulated in its long history and uses it to generate a higher level of civilization. To do this, the most generous and advanced workers must unite themselves in the communist party, create mass organizations, mobilize the masses on a large scale to cope effectively with the bourgeoisie, the clergy and other reactionary classes who by all means try to keep and restore the status quo. The crisis in which the bourgeoisie has bogged down the whole of humanity creates more favorable conditions than in the past to awaken the masses to take action on a historic scale greater than that they did in the first wave of proletarian revolution, that historical action from which the bourgeoisie has so far diverted them: to establish socialism in the major imperialist countries.
The bourgeoisie, the clergy and their followers say that the former socialist countries collapsed, that they were economically inefficient countries, that they were dictatorships. In fact, socialism and communism require mobilization, organization and participation of the masses of people in social life that never existed and that can only be created step by step, based on experience, and fairly resolving all the problems that arise along the way and finding the right solution, always based on experience. The system of exploitation and oppression is at the height for centuries, is based on well known and tested concepts and relations, but now has led us to a standstill. Men already did the good that could be done in this system. The new system has to be created. As with any new enterprise, some things are clear from the beginning, but others get ready on the way.
It is true that the former socialist countries collapsed. The Soviet Union, the Republic of China, the other socialist countries aroused the interest, hope, enthusiasm and the mobilization of the oppressed and exploited classes throughout the world. They were the flagship of the new world, the dawn of an era of freedom and civilization for the exploited classes and oppressed peoples around the world. It seemed they have finally paved the way for everybody. Precisely for this reason the bourgeoisie and the clergy have used every means, each and every cunning and brutality to nip them. “Stifling child in the cradle,” was the line enunciated by Winston Churchill (1874-1965) and applied by Mussolini, Hitler, the Vatican, the governments of all the imperialist powers after the birth of the first socialist countries. They attacked them by repeated wars. In every socialist country, sparing no means and in any way, they helped the dispossessed classes for making them mobilize the still backward population and creep back. Even today, for nearly 50 years, the most powerful imperialist country’s government, the U.S.A., tries to stifle with the economic embargo a small country like Cuba and organizes infiltrations, assassinations, sabotage and other criminal operations to clear the infectious example that Cuba gives to other nations, in particular in Latin America. No wonder that in the just created socialist countries there were the remnants of the old privileged dispossessed classes, that part of the masses not agreed immediately with conscience and conviction and enthusiasm to a new way of life, that dispossessed classes were trying to restore their system of privilege by relying on the most backward of the masses and using the relationships, the experience of organization and command that were part of their old ruling class inheritance, that the promoters of the new society had doubts and hesitations on the way to follow, that the old world influenced to some extent also a more or less large part of them, that in running in the face of new difficulties they were tempted to resort to methods and systems used for centuries by the ruling classes.
When the bourgeoisie and the clergy do great scandal of repressive systems used by the first socialist countries, they carefully hide that even in the worst cases in which the socialist countries used systems and methods of repression, they were the ones that the bourgeoisie, the clergy and other ruling classes of the even more civilians countries always applied and still apply today (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Wagram). They hide that, even facing a class struggle led by the bourgeoisie and the clergy with no scruples and no holds barred, in every socialist country the repression hit a small part of the population, while the bulk of the masses was enjoining freedom, culture and power, for the first time in the history of humanity, through the mass organizations and the Communist Party.
Experience has shown that the socialist countries, as long as were guided by real communist parties, have made great economic and cultural progress and have successfully resisted every aggression and attempt at infiltration. But communism is not a cookbook, a manual of directions, a set of rules nice and ready to be applied. It is a world view and a method of knowledge and action. Communism is a system of social relations that men must find out in detail and develop in a particular way in every particular country and on the international level. Communism is international by its nature. It starts with revolutions in single countries but can only stand out as a world system, with the understanding among the peoples of all countries. During the first great general crisis of capitalism in the early part of last century, the communist movement was able to take over the reactionary classes only in relatively backward countries (Russia, China), which were oppressed in the world imperialist system. It failed to establish socialism in the advanced countries, in the imperialist countries (USA, Europe) where the bourgeoisie’s power was stronger and more consolidated and strengthened by the exploitation of oppressed countries. All these factors have made life difficult for the first socialist countries, and created uncertainty and division on the way forward to strengthen and generalize the triumph of socialist revolution throughout the world to get out all of humanity from the barbarism of capitalism.
The decay of the first socialist countries started from the mistakes made by the communist parties that directed them. The Soviet Union has begun to lose momentum in the Fifties, when the Communist Party headed by Khrushchev and his cronies gave bourgeois solutions to development problems of socialism. The PRC has ceased to be a beacon of proletarian revolution in the world in the late Seventies when the Chinese Communist Party, headed by an old admirer of the bourgeoisie, Teng Hsiao-ping, put China on the path of capitalism. It was not strange that in creating a new system of social relations mistakes are possible, that for various reasons many people could believe to can and must face difficulties taking a lead from the old countries, without taking into account that some things will inevitably drag others. It is inevitable that the old society, the old ruling classes and the system of prejudices and habits formed over the centuries exert influence over the new society. The new world is born struggling with the old world, but is also born on the assumptions that the old world has made: what to keep and what to throw and when, is a matter to be resolved on the basis of the concrete practical situation. We communists take advantage of the more advanced conditions, forms and results of the struggle of classes and oppressed peoples against the bourgeoisie, the clergy and other residual ruling classes. But we were cheats if we should hide that we ignore many things and that we have to learn them basing on experience, trying again and again.
But is the world better because the former socialist countries have gone astray, and collapsed after a relatively long period of decline?
The bourgeoisie and the clergy rejoiced and made a great clamor firstly for the drift and then for the collapse of the first socialist countries. But today the popular masses around the world suffer the results of the freedom of movement and exploitation that U.S. imperialism and the Vatican have regained two decades ago with the disappearance of the first socialist countries.
In reality, the communist movement has truly suffered a period of decline because of its limits of comprehension of the conditions, forms and outcomes of class struggle, but it is far from dead. It is indeed rising all over world guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and where has not yet risen in strength, the resistance of the masses to the atrocities of imperialism find other provisional ways by which unfolding. The fierce campaign of encirclement and annihilation that the governments of India and Pakistan, backed by American advisers and Zionists, are leading in these days in their country against the revolutionary forces, the campaigns conducted by the criminal Zionists of Israel, by U.S. government and NATO in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, the counter-revolutionary manoeuvres that Zionist groups and U.S. Government lead in Latin America show by contrast the vitality of the communist movement. The revolution of new democracy going on in Nepal already gives great lessons to communists all around the world.
Certainly, the establishment of a new social system requires deeds that no individual alone can do when he realizes that they are is the required solution of the present evils. This is not a matter of the good will of some individuals who change their behavior. The matter is to establish a new social system.
Everyone who understands that this is possible and right, to implement it must join the others who also are convinced and have decided to implement it.
Straightaway, the more we are organized and determined, the more we can impose on the Authorities to take the necessary measures to immediately address the most serious consequences of the crisis of their system of social relations. In the world today there is a huge amount of money. Between cash, bank accounts and financial stocks, money is at least 50 times the world global gross product of a year and banks and financial institutions can create it even in unlimited quantities. The governments of major countries can draw from it in a virtually unlimited extent and in fact they never lack money for the purposes they think necessary. There are therefore no financial limits to the actions we can force them to do. But the monetary system is inherently a house of cards, by its nature is unstable because it depends on the behavior of the capitalists and the rich and to use the money to meet the needs of the masses is the most unnatural thing one can impose on a capitalist and on people educated in their school.
So, even if kindly or harshly we succeed in making them implement the measures urgently needed to address the most serious situations, the present Authorities will try to do as little as possible, to return back as soon as possible, using every means to prevent us from imposing them to perform actions so contrary to their nature. They will use every trick to divide the workers and put each of them against each other. That’s what they already do. This is true both for the economic crisis and for the environmental crisis.
That is why it is not enough to claim this or that from the masters. We need to establish an emergency government formed by Workers and Popular Organizations, a government made by people who want to implement the aspirations of the popular masses, constituted and supported by organizations that want use the productive forces and knowledge to meet the needs of the masses: a People’s Bloc government.
The more we are determined to form such a government, the more we have straightaway the strength to impose ourselves on and their Authorities and force them to implement immediately the more urgent measures. The stronger also the claiming struggles will be.
Let’s impose at all cost and by any means, the urgent measures needed to cope with the worst effects of the economic crisis and environmental crisis on the authorities and masters!
Let’s create the conditions to establish an emergency government formed by Workers and People’s Organizations!
Let’s nip every trial of fascism in the bud! Let’s eliminate the outbreaks of fascist and racist infection from the popular areas!
The measures to prevent the more disastrous effects of the general crisis of capitalism and the establishment of a People’s Bloc government implementing them, open the way to the establishment of socialism and strengthen anti-imperialist struggle in every corner of the world!
The new Italian Communist Party fights for this! For this fight the new PCI asks the contribution of the most generous and honest, of the most forward part of the masses of our country!
Comrades, workers, proletarians, women, immigrants and young people, join up the (new) Italian Communist Party!
Let’s constitute a Party Committee clandestinely in every firm, in every zone and mass organization!
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison Chairperson, International League of Peoples' Struggle 7 December 2009
Human societies have created the bases of our survival, sustenance and advancement through the use of our natural resources in production with rudimentary tools and rising levels of science and technology. Yet in no time in history has environmental destruction been systematically brought about in most parts of the world.
The people of the world face today global poverty, economic wars and environmental crises. They are confronted by an escalating, more rapacious and vicious campaign of plunder by monopoly capitalism. This aggravates the already devastated and polluted natural environment.
The massive dumping of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere by the operations of monopoly capitalist firms in the energy industries, manufacturing, transportation, industrial agriculture, mining, construction, etc. is now generating climatic changes that are causing massive devastation and loss of human lives around the world.
The unprecedented rise in GHG emissions coincided with the onset of the capitalist system at the industrial revolution and its attendant intensive use of machines, fossil fuels for transportation and energy. The anarchic, wasteful and pollutive capitalist production for profit has put our world into the brink of destruction. Under a system where profit is the primary objective of social production, the environment and our ecosystems are reduced to being a source of raw materials and dumping grounds for wasters.
Plunder and pollution of the environment have made victims of poor communities many times over. These are the same communities that are also the most vulnerable to environmental backlashes, which come in the form of floods, droughts and other occurrences triggered or heightened by the prevailing imbalances in the ecosystem. Women and children shoulder the greater cost of these circumstances because of wider risks to their health, and added complications to their productive and reproductive functions.
The trend of rapid environmental changes both at the global and national level is expected to bring about even more massive devastation and loss of human lives in the future. It is clear from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, and subsequent studies, that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea levels.
The increase in global surface temperature has made the past decade and a half the warmest years since the 1850s. An increase of 0.75 degrees Celsius in the past century was observed over the world. Rates of sea level increase have leaped from an average of 1.8 mm annually (from 1961) to 3.1 mm/yr (from 1996). The rate of shrinking of ice cover in the Arctic was observed to be 2.7 % per decade, which more than double in summer to 7.4 %. Recently, the Northwest passage was clear throughout the Arctic circle. Increased incidence of intense tropical cyclones and sea level rise has been observed putting coastal areas at risk.
The climate has been altered by changes in greenhouse gases (GHGs), aerosols, land-cover and solar radiation input. It was clear in the Nobel Prize winning report of the IPCC that GHGs have increased due to human activities with an increase of 70% in the last 3 decades. CO2 emissions have increased 80% in the same period.
While global warming has already brought extreme impacts on livelihood and survival, especially on vulnerable communities, “free market” globalization policies have opened up the rest of the world to the unhampered entry, control and exploitation of raw natural resources and of people by monopoly capitalist banks and firms. Atrocious campaigns of wars of aggression have been waged especially by US monopoly capital to expand its economic territory and gain direct or tighter control of land and natural resources.
Systematic and unabated deforestation through rampant industrial logging has multiplied at ever increasing rates. The destruction of the world's forests has also led to the conversion of agricultural plantations for export-oriented crops, farms for cattle raising or monoculture tree plantations. The relentless extraction of mineral ores and wanton destruction by mining multinational corporations (MNCs) in Asia Pacific, Latin America and African countries that are naturally endowed with rich mineral deposits persists while they leave massive environmental destruction and pollution, widespread landlessness and displacement, loss of livelihood, distortion of local culture, and rampant human rights violations to the peoples of these regions in their wake.
Asia, which holds more than half of the world's population, has less than 36% of the world's water resources and almost half of the population in developing countries are exposed to polluted water sources. The contamination of air, water and land brought about by products and production processes mainly from the industrial and manufacturing plants of MNCs continue. These large-scale factories remain the top contributors of significant pollutants such as toxic and hazardous wastes in the world.
More and more underdeveloped countries (including India and China) have also become major dumping grounds for the wastes of industrial countries. The dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes are mounting and alarming. Additionally, chemicals and obsolete technologies proven to be harmful to the environment and/or human health and that are already banned in the industrial countries are continually foisted on underdeveloped countries.
The occupation of Iraq by the US (and the 'Coalition of the Willing') has given the latter direct control over the vast oil resources of Iraq and has consolidated US domination over the world's oil resources. After toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the US has gained more political foothold in Central Asia and South Asia and further access to the oil and gas resources in these parts of the world. The US launched its "second front against terrorism" targeting the Philippines, Indonesia and Southeast Asia-- a region known for its oil, natural gas and other natural resources. It has unceasingly undermined the government of Venezuela, which has the biggest oil resources in Latin America and is continuously expanding its influence in other Latin American countries (Colombia) and several African countries to tap potential oil and other mineral resources.
Foreign direct investments in energy all over the world are increasing and control over these resources are transferred from nations to a few energy companies. Even the technologies needed for the use of alternative energy in solar and wind are limited to industrialized countries. The drive for biofuels has raised concerns over its long term sustainability and actual contribution to climate change. Large tracts of forests have been lost in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia due to conversion of forests to oil-palm plantations and more biofuel plantations have been earmarked in other countries like the Philippines.
The recent wars of aggression of the US and its allies have not only increased the production, sale and use weapons of mass destruction but have also caused the massive destruction and contamination of human property, health and environment (i.e. use of depleted uranium, etc.) in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-ravaged countries. Forest clearings and land conversions necessitated by continued military exercises in different parts of the world led by the US pollute the environment and the destruction of natural habitats. Toxic wastes from current and previous US military bases continue to wreak ecological havoc in the surrounding areas. US military joint exercises bring with them not only direct US military aggression but the dangerous weapons and waste from these activities.
The United States is currently the number one producer of GHGs, emitting more than 28% of all the historical GHGs emitted since 1840 worldwide. About 84% of US GHG emissions arise from the petroleum related energy and electrical power sectors. The US is also the biggest processor and unregulated user of oil and petroleum products all over the world.
Yet the US government has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty signed by 169 countries which aims to reduce global levels of carbon dioxide and five other GHG emissions by 5.2% from their 1990 levels. It is also the US that remains adamant in refusing to commit to long-term and rapid reductions of emissions in the ongoing negotiations for new commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen.
Primary emitter countries such as the US and G8 countries have the principal responsibility to change their production activities and consumption of energy for genuinely sustainable solutions to the ecological crisis. At the same time, they must also bear the cost of reducing GHGs and building the capacity of vulnerable communities in poor countries to withstand climate change impacts which they have caused. Developing countries still require adequate energy and infrastructure for the basic needs and social development of their people, hence, should not be denied genuine sustainable development and must not be forced to carry the burden of meeting carbon emission reduction targets for the world while industrialized countries refuse to do so.
Instead of pursuing comprehensive mitigation of their emissions by engaging in changes in social production, industrialized countries use carbon offset mechanisms and emissions trading projects that offload the burden of carbon mitigation and reduction towards developing countries. These distort development activities in these countries while maintaining the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production activities of industrialized countries. Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and carbon trading effectively marketize carbon emissions and essentially shuffles around responsibility to curb emissions.
International financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank (WB) and other regional banks are becoming more aggressive in pushing for “free market” and business-friendly false solutions to climate change related problems. Programs such as the Climate Investment Fund of the WB do not differ from their previous so-called development projects that have violated human rights, displaced communities, destroyed the environment and supported militarization in the past. These initiatives of the IFIs also give them leverage to influence the outcome of the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen to provide new opportunities for profit-making by monopoly capitalist firms who want to take advantage of the climate crisis.
These include proposals such as massive geo-engineering solutions that do not address the root cause of the emissions and instead push untested and unproven but potentially profitable technologies without due consideration of their ecological and social consequences. On the other hand, personal and individual reduction of carbon emissions such as shifts to compact fluorescent light bulbs, switching to biodegradable products are mere token responses and short sighted if they are not framed within larger political and economic conditions which have vastly accelerated the rate of global warming. In any case, poor communities would not have the capacity to engage in these actions unless their immediate economic and social problems are first addressed.
Indeed, climate change already aggravates other environmental problems that poor communities have to face as a result of imperialist globalization's ever increasing destruction of our ecology. It is no longer a question that human activity has produced dangerous climate interference but on how to avoid catastrophic effects that could affect more than half of the world's population that are most vulnerable to climate change. Industrialized countries should commit to real targets and not shift the burden to underdeveloped countries. The capacity of local communities to respond to disasters should be strengthened. Community-based disaster response, monitoring and mitigation should be undertaken and livelihood should be provided for those who are vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Great advances have been made in information technology, robotics, genetics, agriculture, and medicine, yet are not being applied towards solving fundamental problems of humankind, such as the breakdown of health systems, famine and hunger, ecological destruction, and social decay and disintegration. Instead, unbridled monopoly capitalist globalization has opened up third world resources for the use of TNCs extracting raw materials while leaving their pollution and emissions to the host communities.
The rapid destruction of the environment is a direct result of the rapid, unchecked appropriation of the world's resources for the benefit of a few. Increased pressure for the quest for wealth places increased pressure on the environment and environmental destruction. The poor, who are most vulnerable, are subjected to these environmental impacts while trying to provide subsistence level production for themselves. Existing environmental and social problems aggravated by global warming will not abate until the plunder of the world for monopoly capital's greed for profits end.
In order to preserve the world's intrinsic and practical value for human development, we need to fundamentally reorient production and consumption based on human needs rather than for the boundless accumulation of profit for a few. Society must take collective control of productive resources to meet the needs of sustainable social development and avoid overproduction, overconsumption and overexploitation of people and the environment which are inevitable under the prevailing monopoly capitalist system .
We have seen how communities throughout the world have remain resolute and determined to struggle for their rights and defend their natural resources because it is not only their present but also their future at stake. The oppressed peoples and nations are more determined than ever before to wage revolutionary struggles for national liberation and democracy and look forward to this socialist future. As the imperialist powers scrambling to preserve global capitalism, we, the people, must struggle harder and be more effective in waging militant anti-imperialist struggles for greater freedom, democracy, social justice, development, ecological sustainability, solidarity and peace.
To arrest climate change, we need to put an end to this systematic plunder of the environment for the superprofits of corporations in industrialized countries. To arrest climate change, we need to organize and defend our future against this parasitic and moribund system. To arrest climate change, we need to end monopoly capital's dominance over our lives and build a socialist future.###
From John Bellamy Foster, Marx's Ecology in Historical Perspective, Monthly Review.
MARX ON ECOLOGY
Marx's concept of the metabolic rift is the core element of this ecological critique. The human labour process itself is defined in /Capital/ as 'the universal condition for the metabolic interaction between man and nature, the everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence'.^10 It follows that the rift in this metabolism means nothing less than the undermining of the 'everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence'. Further there is the question of the sustainability of the earth--ie the extent to which it is to be passed on to future generations in a condition equal or better than in the present. As Marx wrote:
/From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of particular individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations as *boni patres familias* /[good heads of the household].^11
The issue of sustainability, for Marx, went beyond what capitalist society, with its constant intensification and enlargement of the metabolic rift between human beings and the earth, could address. Capitalism, he observed, 'creates the material conditions for a new and higher synthesis, a union of agriculture and industry on the basis of the forms that have developed during the period of their antagonistic isolation'. Yet in order to achieve this 'higher synthesis', he argued, it would be necessary for the associated producers in the new society to 'govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way'--a requirement that raised fundamental and continuing challenges for post-revolutionary society.^12
In analysing the metabolic rift Marx and Engels did not stop with the soil nutrient cycle, or the town-country relation. They addressed at various points in their work such issues as deforestation, desertification, climate change, the elimination of deer from the forests, the commodification of species, pollution, industrial wastes, toxic contamination, recycling, the exhaustion of coal mines, disease, overpopulation and the evolution (and co-evolution) of species.
After having the power and coherence of Marx's analysis of the metabolic rift impressed on me in this way, I began to wonder how deeply embedded such ecological conceptions were in Marx's thought as a whole. What was there in Marx's background that could explain how he was able to incorporate natural-scientific observations into his analysis so effectively? How did this relate to the concept of the alienation of nature, which along with the alienation of labour was such a pronounced feature of his early work? Most of all, I began to wonder whether the secret to Marx's ecology was to be found in his materialism. Could it be that this materialism was not adequately viewed simply in terms of a materialist conception of /human/ history, but also had to be seen in terms of /natural/ history and the dialectical relation between the two? Or to put it somewhat differently, was Marx's materialist conception of history inseparable from what Engels had termed the 'materialist conception of nature'?^13 Had Marx employed his dialectical method in the analysis of both?
I first became acutely aware of the singular depth of Marx's ecological insights through a study of the Liebig-Marx connection. In 1862 the great German chemist Justus von Liebig published the seventh edition of his pioneering scientific work, /Organic Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology/ (first published in 1840). The 1862 edition contained a new, lengthy and, to the British, scandalous introduction. Building upon arguments that he had been developing in the late 1850s, Liebig declared the intensive, or 'high farming', methods of British agriculture to be a 'robbery system', opposed to rational agriculture.^6 They necessitated the transportation over long distances of food and fibre from the country to the city--with no provision for the recirculation of social nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which ended up contributing to urban waste and pollution in the form of human and animal wastes. Whole countries were robbed in this way of the nutrients of their soil. For Liebig this was part of a larger British imperial policy of robbing the soil resources (including bones) of other countries. 'Great Britain', he declared:
/ ...deprives all countries of the conditions of their fertility. It has raked up the battlefields of Leipsic, Waterloo and the Crimea; it has consumed the bones of many generations accumulated in the catacombs of Sicily; and now annually destroys the food for a future generation of three millions and a half of people. Like a vampire it hangs on the breast of Europe, and even the world, sucking its lifeblood without any real necessity or permanent gain for itself./^7
NOW! Also available at Housemans Bookshop - London telephone orders contact the shop by phone (020 7837 4473), or e-mail email@example.com.
Marxism against Market Socialism available at Housemans from 10th April at 7 pounds per copy telephone orders or contact the shop by phone (020 7837 4473), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org