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Ecosocialism III

M. Spector
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M. Spector
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Ecosocialist International Network: What’s Next?

- an important discussion paper by Joel Kovel 


M. Spector
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M. Spector
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George Victor
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Wish I'd had the pieces and following comments on overpopulation a year or so back. 

But does Monbiot get the cold shoulder, go unmentioned,  for some purely  political reason?  Seems to me his math isn't  bad. Scary and demanding, but far more acceptable than the endless discussion on rallying sector participation to save our species.


Boom Boom
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Thanks for that info, M.


N.Beltov
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Previous threads ...

Ecosocialism One

Ecosocialism Two

 

Looking back on babble's old format ... I prefer the old format.


N.Beltov
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Fred Magdoff in Monthly Review wrote:
As we consider the prospects of a destabilized climate in the future, we should keep in mind that dramatic climate anomalies such as those of the late nineteenth century-like nothing that has occurred since-can devastate large regions of the world. All the more reason to do whatever we can to help educate people about the environmental harm being done to the planet by a system whose only driving force is profits, a system that must grow continually to avoid recession or depression, that views resources as infinite, and that assumes that the earth can permanently absorb all the waste we generate.

current capitalism:

- driving force of profits

- must grow continually to avoid crisis

- views the finite resources of Earth as infinite

- treats the Earth as a limitless garbage can

That's not a bad summary of some of the key ecological problems with capitalist civilization and why an alternative way for humanity to interact - the MR crowd uses the biological idea of a metabolic relationship very helpfully here - with nature must be found.

Notes from the Editors - January 2011

Edited to add: This is also handy (from March 2010) ...

What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

 


NDPP
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I truly think that this will end up being one of the quickest and most effective means of persuading the average person, if they don't already think it, that either capitalism goes or we do.


N.Beltov
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Using a metaphor of addiction ... the first step for a serious addict is to recognize that he has a problem. Then the search for a solution is more determined and more likely to be successful. That first step is difficult.


Boom Boom
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These two excerpts are interesting.

excerpt:  

In theory, cap and trade is supposed to stimulate technological innovation to increase carbon efficiency. In practice, it has not led to carbon dioxide emission reductions in those areas where it has been introduced, such as in Europe. The main result of carbon trading has been enormous profits for some corporations and individuals, and the creation of a subprime carbon market.  There are no meaningful checks of the effectiveness of the "offsets," nor prohibitions for changing conditions sometime later that will result in carbon dioxide release to the atmosphere.

excerpt:  

A carbon tax of the kind proposed by James Hansen, in which 100 percent of the dividends go back to the public, thereby encouraging conservation while placing the burden on those with the largest carbon footprints and the most wealth, could be instituted.


M. Spector
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Quote:
An ecosocialist differs from an ecologist in that he analyzes the "ecological crisis" not as a crisis of the relationship between humanity in general and nature but as a crisis of the relationship between an historically determined mode of production and its environment, and therefore in the last analysis as a manifestation of the crisis of the mode of production itself.

In other words, for an ecosocialist, the ecological crisis is in fact a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism (not to overlook the specific crisis of the so-called "socialist" societies, which aped capitalist productivism). A result is that, in his fight for the environment, an ecosocialist will always propose demands that make the connection with the social question, with the struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a redistribution of wealth, for employment, etc.

Daniel Tanuro


Boom Boom
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Quote:

 

In other words, for an ecosocialist, the ecological crisis is in fact a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism (not to overlook the specific crisis of the so-called "socialist" societies, which aped capitalist productivism). A result is that, in his fight for the environment, an ecosocialist will always propose demands that make the connection with the social question, with the struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a redistribution of wealth, for employment, etc.

Words worth preserving!

N.Beltov
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Fred Magdoff has another MR article - this time the lead article - in which he outlines what an ecological civilization would look like. In terms of getting your head around ecological issues and trying to organize your thinking on the issues it is a very good read.

 

Magdoff puts it like this:

Fred Magdoff wrote:
There are numerous ways to approach and think about the enormous harm that has been done to the environment. I will discuss the following: (1) the critical characteristics that underlie strong ecosystems; (2) why societies are not adequately implementing ecological approaches; and (3) how we might use characteristics of strong natural ecosystems as a framework to consider a future ecological civilization.

intro
1. Ecological Principles: Learning from Nature

- Metabolism and Metabolic Connections
- soil-plant-animal-atmosphere metabolic connections
- Strong Natural Ecosystems: Diversity, Efficient Natural Cycles through Closely Linked Metabolic Relationships, Self-Sufficiency, Self-Regulation, Resiliency through Self-Renewal
- Are There Lessons to Learn From Bees?

11. Why are Societies Not Applying Ecological Knowledge?

- Rifts in Nutrient Cycles (lotsa good diagrams)
- Rifts in the Circulation of Organic Matter and the Carbon Cycle
- Disruption of the Hydrologic (Water) Cycle
- Rifts in the Interactions Among Organisms
- Intervention to Try to Bridge Metabolic Rifts - Or Transfer the Problem Elsewhere
- The Complexity of Ecological Disruptions
- The Wider Metabolic Rifts Engendered by Industrial Production/Consumption (including a really good table on the Consequences of Degradation or Rift in Metabolic Relationships)


III Creating an Ecological Civilization

- Self-Regulation
- Diversity
- Efficient Natural Cycles through Closely Linked Metabolic Relationships
- Self-Sufficiency
- Resiliency through Self-Renewal

 

Ecological Civilization

It's a very rich piece, lots of material to absorb, but also very helpful in organizing one's thinking about ecological issues and, therefore, invaluable.

 


Lord Palmerston
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Boom Boom, thanks for highlighting those two excerpts.   It sure beats the partisan nonsense we heard around here about the NDP's cap and trade plan being somehow less "capitalistic" than the carbon tax during the 2008 election.


M. Spector
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An important new article by Richard Smith of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, London:

Green Capitalism: The God That Failed

Outline:

I. Saving the earth for fun and profit

II. Delusions of "Natural Capitalism"

A. The folly of cap & trade and carbon taxes
1. Cap and trade: the market solution to Kyoto's failed voluntary limits solution
2. Carbon taxes: the market solution to the failed cap and trade market solution
3. The inevitable failure of market solutions

B. The economics vs. the science on the scope of the problem

C. Natural limits to "greening" any economy
1. Certified organic: green gone wrong
2. Fantasies of de-coupling and dematerialization
3. The electric/hybrid car solution to what?
4. The clean, green energy solution to what?
5. Green resource extraction?
6. Green manufacturing?
7. Saint Ray Anderson and the limits of the possible
8. Tax the polluters but let them pollute?

III. Capitalism without consumerism?

IV. Climate Change or System Change?

 


M. Spector
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It's not ecosocialism (more like anarchism), but nevertheless a damn good documentary film about the environment and late-stage capitalism that challenges the viewer to act. And it's got lots of Canadian content:

Quote:
END:CIV examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations. Based in part on Endgame, the best-selling book by Derrick Jensen, END:CIV asks: “If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air, and contaminated the food supply, would you resist?”

The causes underlying the collapse of civilizations are usually traced to overuse of resources. As we write this, the world is reeling from economic chaos, peak oil, climate change, environmental degradation, and political turmoil. Every day, the headlines re-hash stories of scandal and betrayal of the public trust. We don’t have to make outraged demands for the end of the current global system — it seems to be coming apart already.

But acts of courage, compassion and altruism abound, even in the most damaged places. By documenting the resilience of the people hit hardest by war and repression, and the heroism of those coming forward to confront the crisis head-on, END:CIV illuminates a way out of this all-consuming madness and into a saner future.

Backed by Jensen’s narrative, the film calls on us to act as if we truly love this land. The film trips along at a brisk pace, using music, archival footage, motion graphics, animation, slapstick and satire to deconstruct the global economic system, even as it implodes around us. END:CIV illustrates first-person stories of sacrifice and heroism with intense, emotionally-charged images that match Jensen’s poetic and intuitive approach. Scenes shot in the back country provide interludes of breathtaking natural beauty alongside clearcut evidence of horrific but commonplace destruction.

Watch it in full on YouTube (75 min).


M. Spector
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Esther Vivas wrote:
The starting point for today’s debate is to note that humanity is in a global ecological crisis that is an intrinsic part of the systemic crisis of capitalism. And one of the differences from past economic crises, from that of the 1970s or the crash of 1929, is precisely its ecological aspect.

Indeed, we cannot analyse the global ecological crisis separately from the crisis in which we are immersed or the critique of the economic model that has led us into it. It is also necessary to reject outright the logic of profit maximization of the capitalist system and the productivist orientation which takes no account of the limits of planet Earth.

The reality is that we are witnessing a crisis of civilization that has multiple dimensions: a crisis of ecology, food, care, finance, and as José Saramago says, ethics and morality.

Speech at a conference to commemorate José Saramago at the University of Granada, 28 April 2011.


M. Spector
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That article is now the title of a book by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster. Here's an interview with Magdoff about the book. Excerpt:

Quote:
Q. Why did you decide to write a book like this, and why now?

Magdoff: In the fall of 2008 I attended a conference where discussion of the environment was prominent, although not the only subject.  As people talked about the variety of problems facing the earth and humanity I had the feeling that they were constantly "beating around the bush." ...

They were very interesting and innovative people -- many would be considered "out of the box" thinkers.  But, I realized that they, and those in the environmental movement in general, were unable to think outside of capitalism.  It appears inconceivable to most of the people I spoke with that somehow there might be a future economic system that wasn't capitalist.  It seemed to me that this was the critical issue.  I thought that, if they fully understood the role of the normal workings of the capitalist system in causing environmental havoc, people with such great concern for the environment might begin to understand that another social/economic/political system is not just possible, but essential.


lagatta
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Thanks to you all. I'm a member of the Ecosocialist International Network and know almost all the people you have cited above. I'll make sure to visit these threads when I'm on a computer that allows me access to rabble/babble, and hopefully after I've replaced my clunker.

As for anarchism, I think ecosocialists can find many points of convergence with certain anarchist currents. One of the main issues will be how we approach planning. Certainly ecosocialists favour democratic, "from below" socialism - certainly not Stalinist type authoritarian planning, but there is also a very centralised social-democratic planning history (mostly in Europe) that requires critique. That said, I think socialism does require some kind of planning, and does developing Ecocities and towns.

We are very much in discussion with the "décroissance" (degrowth) current, but there are problems in terms of countries exploited and "underdeveloped" by capitalism where a different form of development (one might prefer a different term) is imperative to end glaring global inequalities. Moreover, reducing our footprint does require investment in terms of urban planning and public/active transport infrastructure.


Unionist
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Renowned ecosocialist Gary Doer works hard to promote nonrenewable energy sales to U.S.:

Gary Doer sells oils sands from coast to U.S. coast

 


Boom Boom
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Doer really is a prick, isn't he? Frown


Northern Shoveler
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He is a disciple of Tony Blair. He is a social democrat in the European and British tradition.  They are bowing to big finance and the military industrial complex. When he was a Premier he didn't speak much on foreign affairs but his support for the tar sands is no surprise.  His "legacy" in Manitoba on other fronts appears to be debatable. Here is a link to thread from 2009.  The man is no more progressive than that other NDP Premier, Bob Rae.

 

http://rabble.ca/babble/national-news/gary-doer-defends-alberta-oilsands


M. Spector
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ikosmos
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hmm. Marx took 11 theses to get around to the important one about going beyond interpreting the world to changing it. Gonick managed this idea in only 10 theses. This is a nice ecology of effort from Cy Gonick. :)

Recycle Reuse Reduce


ikosmos
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John Bellamy Foster has, yet again, provided an excellent essay on the topic of what every environmentalist needs to know about capitalism.

Strongly recommended.

J B Foster wrote:
It is no secret today that we are facing a planetary environmental emergency, endangering most species on the planet, including our own, and that this impending catastrophe has its roots in the capitalist economic system. Nevertheless, the extreme dangers that capitalism inherently poses to the environment are often inadequately understood, giving rise to the belief that it is possible to create a new "natural capitalism" or "climate capitalism" in which the system is turned from being the enemy of the environment into its savior.1 The chief problem with all such views is that they underestimate the cumulative threat to humanity and the earth arising from the existing relations of production. Indeed, the full enormity of the planetary ecological crisis, I shall contend, can only be understood from a standpoint informed by the Marxian critique of capitalism.

The author makes some interesting observations: that Marx's introduction to politics, before he was a communist, was in relation to an environmental issue. Foster also outlines the importance of understanding the difference between value in use (use-value) and value in exchange (exchange-value) as critical for a critique of capitalist political economy and in understanding how capitalism, inherently, comes into conflict with natural production and how public wealth is undermined by the private wealth of capital. It's all very clear and readable.

"The domination of exchange value over use value in capitalist development and the ecological impact of this can also be seen in Marx's general formula of capital, M-C-M′."

Foster is the thinker who, more than any other author, has RESCUED Marx's brilliant idea of "metabolic rift".

Quote:
Marx's most pointed ecological contribution, however, lay in his theory of metabolic rift. Building on the work of the great German chemist Justus von Liebig, Marx argued that in shipping food and fiber hundreds and thousands of miles to the new urban centers of industrial production, where population was increasingly concentrated, capital ended up robbing the soil of its nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which instead of being returned to the earth created pollution in the cities. Liebig called this "Raubbau" or the robbery system.... For Marx this capitalist Raubbau took the form of "an irreparable rift" within capitalist society in the metabolism between humanity and the earth-"a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself"-requiring its "systematic restoration as a regulative law of social production."

Finally,

Quote:
In order to understand the significance of this ecological critique for Marx's overall critique of capitalism, it is necessary to recognize that the labor and production process was itself designated, in his analysis, as the metabolic relation between human beings and nature. Marx's primary definition of socialism/communism was therefore that of a society in which "the associated producers govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way...accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy." Along with this, he developed the most radical conception of sustainability possible, insisting that no one, not even all the countries and peoples of the world taken together, owned the earth; that it was simply held in trust and needed to be maintained in perpetuity in line with the principle of boni patres familias (good heads of the household). His overall ecological critique thus required that instead of the open rifts developed under capitalism, there needed to be closed metabolic cycles between humanity and nature. This allowed him to incorporate thermodynamic conceptions into his understanding of economy and society.

This conception of Marx is identical to what is often considered a FN spiritual principle, viz, that Mother Earth is sacred and cannot be owned by anyone. The more we read Marx the more we re-discover what an astonishing genius he really was.

The Ecology of Marxian Political Economy

 


M. Spector
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Foundations of an ecosocialist strategy
by Daniel Tanuro

[excerpt]

Quote:
Contrary to the false but extremely popular Easter Island metaphor advanced by Jared Diamond, the environmental deterioration we are now observing is not at all comparable to the damage that may have occurred in previous historical periods. The differences are not only quantitative (the seriousness and global scale of ecological problems) but also and above all qualitative. While all the environmental crises of the past stemmed from social tendencies to chronic under-production, hence the fear of shortages, the current problems originate in the converse tendency to over-production and over-consumption, which is specific to generalized commodity production.

Consequently, the expression “ecological crisis” is inappropriate. It is not nature that is in crisis, but the historically determined relationship between humanity and its environment. This crisis is not due to the intrinsic characteristics of the human species but to the mode of production that became dominant about two centuries ago — capitalism — and the modes of consumption and mobility that it entails. The serious damages to ecosystems (climate change, chemical pollution, swift decline in biodiversity, soil degradation, destruction of the tropical forest, etc.) constitute one dimension of the global systemic crisis. Together, they express the incompatibility between capitalism and respect for natural limits.


Policywonk
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M. Spector wrote:

Foundations of an ecosocialist strategy
by Daniel Tanuro

[excerpt]

Quote:
Contrary to the false but extremely popular Easter Island metaphor advanced by Jared Diamond, the environmental deterioration we are now observing is not at all comparable to the damage that may have occurred in previous historical periods. The differences are not only quantitative (the seriousness and global scale of ecological problems) but also and above all qualitative. While all the environmental crises of the past stemmed from social tendencies to chronic under-production, hence the fear of shortages, the current problems originate in the converse tendency to over-production and over-consumption, which is specific to generalized commodity production.

Consequently, the expression “ecological crisis” is inappropriate. It is not nature that is in crisis, but the historically determined relationship between humanity and its environment. This crisis is not due to the intrinsic characteristics of the human species but to the mode of production that became dominant about two centuries ago — capitalism — and the modes of consumption and mobility that it entails. The serious damages to ecosystems (climate change, chemical pollution, swift decline in biodiversity, soil degradation, destruction of the tropical forest, etc.) constitute one dimension of the global systemic crisis. Together, they express the incompatibility between capitalism and respect for natural limits.

How is a an extinction event like the one we are currently in not nature in crisis? I don't disagree that there is an incompatibility between capitalism and respect for national limits, but the relationship between humans and the environment is essentially human ecology; hence there is by definition an ecological crisis.


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