Monday, May 31, 2010

Bolivarian Ecosocialism

By Sam McGill

In March 2010 I attended a national meeting in Caracas held by the forum for Bolivarian Ecosocialism. This conference developed plans and proposals for the Forum for Indo-Bolivarian Ecosocialism, which formed a part of the World People’s Summit on Climate Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2010. Natalie Lázaro Barrios presented the work of ANROS (National Association of Social Networks and Organizations) at this event and agreed to tell us more about her project.

Can you explain a little of the history of Indo Bolivarian Ecosocialism Forum? How did it begin and what are the projects and achievements so far?

The Forum for “Ecosocialismo Bolivariano Indoamericano” (Indo-American Bolivarian Ecosocialism) was organized as part of the World Peoples summit on Climate Change in Cochabamba in April 2010. The forum arose from our interest to demonstrate internationally that there has been work in Venezuela to strengthen socialism. For us “Bolivarian ecosocialism” is a term that is synonymous with 21st Century Socialism. This socialism is ours, endogenous, and is based on transforming collective consciousness to establish new relationships within society and with the environment.

Ag Diversity Best Option for Cuba, Says Prizewinner

Patricia Grogg interviews Humberto Rios, Cuban winner of the 2010 ‘Green Nobel’


Cuban biodiversity scientist Humberto Ríos, one of the six recipients of the 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize, probably won’t be able to collect the 150,000 dollars in prize money, though that setback is unlikely to cause him to lose any sleep — or keep him from singing.

“I’m preparing my second album, with my children,” he told IPS in this interview. In his April trip to the United States to receive the award, widely known as the “Green Nobel”, Ríos visited the White House and the U.S. Congress as part of the itinerary for the six laureates, who came from Cambodia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Poland, Swaziland, and United States.

New nuclear plants vastly more dangerous: report

GreenPeace Canada

A Greenpeace report shows that newly designed reactors Ontario proposes to build at the Darlington nuclear facility would produce long-lived waste two to 158 times more radioactive than waste from existing reactors in Canada, increasing costs and dangers to health and the environment.

“Our report documents how the nuclear industry and governments are hiding the true costs of new reactors by turning a blind eye to the legacy of highly toxic waste they would produce,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace nuclear analyst.

Feds Undercut BC's Oil Spill Prevention Panel

Tories rewriting safety regs with no input from their own expert panel, says member.

By Mitchell Anderson

Many British Columbians watching the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are wondering what safeguards are in place to ensure such a disaster does not happen here. What they don't know is that the federal government recently made sweeping changes to the primary advisory panel put in place to ensure that a major oil spill does not occur on the B.C. coast.

Those changes have weakened the panel's power to prevent a disaster, according to one current member, as well as other sources interviewed by The Tyee.
View full article and comments here.

Moving to a Green Economy with Good Jobs

Investment in Transit and Passenger Rail

Andrew Jackson
Canadian Labour Congress

A major medium- to long-term government investment in public transit would make a significant contribution to reduction of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, and would also create literally tens of thousands of new jobs. Such an investment would also more than pay for itself in narrow economic terms.

Rising energy prices have already promoted greater use of public transit in Canada in recent years, with a 20% increase to 1.82 billion trips per year between 2003 and 2008.1 However, Canada is one of very few advanced industrial countries which lacks a national transit strategy, and federal investments fall far short of what is needed to build an optimal transit infrastructure in major urban centres. On top of low investment, very heavy reliance on passenger fares to finance operating costs compared to other countries works against the optimal development of public transit.

Read more - Download the PDF

Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Much Oil Has Leaked Into the Gulf of Mexico? Live ticker feed...

Live ticker feed below.

Columbian Greens come in distant second in first round

Jack Kimball

Former Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos will enter a presidential runoff in a strong position after voters gave him a comfortable lead in the first-round vote on Sunday

With no candidate securing more than 50 percent of the votes needed to avoid the June runoff, Santos, an ally of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, will face off with former Bogota Mayor Antanas Mockus on June 20. He led Mockus by 47 percent to 22 percent with most polling stations counted.

Whoever takes the helm of the Andean nation will inherit a waning, cocaine-fuelled insurgency, a boom in the expansion of the commodities' sectors and increased appetite for Colombian assets.

* Santos' commanding lead against his main rival, Mockus, defied the trend of recent opinion polls, which showed the two deadlocked in the first round and likely headed for a tie in the runoff. Santos won every state, except for one province, according to electoral results. He will also enter second-round campaigning bolstered by his U Party's dominant role in Congress.

* Mockus, who surged in opinion polls before the vote due to his push for clean government and more jobs, will have to take a tough look at his campaign in the next round after getting only about a fifth of the national vote. His party has only a few seats in Congress and lacks the political machinery of the U Party. That may make beating Santos insurmountable in the runoff.

* Alliances in the second round will be key to winning the presidency. Santos will seek support from the Conservative and Cambio Radical parties, while Mockus will try to claim the moderate, middle ground. The leftist Democratic Pole Party will also play a role in any grouping to oppose a pro-Uribe candidate.

* Colombia's peso currency and local TES bonds are not expected to react on Monday due to a holiday in the United States and since the June runoff was widely expected. The two candidates are seen continuing Uribe's pro-investment policies. Market players generally see Santos as more favourable due to the expected continuity of Uribe's policies and strong presence of his party in Congress. Mockus -- whose party is weak in Congress -- would have a tougher time pushing through legislation.

* Santos' strong showing in the first round may irk neighbours Ecuador and Venezuela. They have had strained ties with Colombia, the main U.S. ally in the region, since an attack against Colombia's FARC guerrillas on Ecuadorean soil -- an operation that occurred while Santos was defence minister. Late last week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he hoped Colombia's next leader would want dialogue.

Andre Gorz: Ecology as Utopistics

by Richard Burke
Synthesis/Regeneration 51 (Winter 2010)

About 30 years ago, South End Press published Ecology as Politics by Andre Gorz, compiled from two earlier books released in 1975 and 1977. In this work Gorz, a French socialist whose friends included both Jean-Paul Sartre and Herbert Marcuse, came to terms with the capitalist division of labor and the nature of the technology used in production. He recognized the revolutionary changes that would be needed in these areas in order for the ideals of self-management he supported (in works of the 1960s such as Strategy for Labor) to succeed.

Gorz also began to recognize the importance of ecological issues for the socialist movement. In particular he became influenced by the work of Ivan Illich, a penetrating critic of industrialism who argued against the civic religion of production and limitless growth. Gorz addressed these themes in Ecology as Politics, as well as in books such as Farewell to the Working Class: An Essay in Post-Industrial Socialism and Paths to Paradise: On the Liberation from Work. His later books, such as Critique of Economic Reason and Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology, written in a cooler, drier style are extended meditations on themes he explored in his previous books, while Reclaiming Work: Beyond the Wage Based Society returns to the more passionate style of his earlier works. Gorz died in 2007, at age 84, in a suicide pact with his wife Dorine. She had terminal cancer, and they both agreed that neither wanted to live without the other.

Bolivia: Evo Morales calls for global mobilization for the planet

(AFP) Bolivian President Evo Morales on Saturday called on social organizations in the world to mobilize in defense of the planet in the event that the climate summit in Cancun does not take into account the resolutions of an alternative forum held in April in Bolivia.

If the organizers of the Cancun summit, scheduled for December, do not take into account the requests raised by the alternative forum to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases "of course again we have an obligation to speak out, organize, mobilize," he proposed Morales.

"I want to appeal to all social movements in the world (to) be alert, pending, and if not taken into account, obviously again we have an obligation to speak out, organize, mobilize because it is about defending life, humanity , saving the planet Earth, "he said.

This call is also relevant "to the environmentalists, who defend the so-called green environment, the humanists, scientists who did many studies to defend the Mother Earth," he said.

Morales, prompting the Peoples' Conference on Climate Change, delivered on 7 May to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon to the conclusions of the meeting to be taken into account in Cancun.

Among the findings, calling on industrialized countries to halve their emissions of greenhouse gases and global referendum on how to tackle climate change, and the creation of an international court for environmental crimes.

Confronting the climate crisis

Socialist Worker

Activists gathered in Cochabamba, Bolivia, this April for a conference on climate change, just months after world leaders met in Copenhagen, Denmark, at a summit sponsored by the United Nations. Both conferences claimed to take on issues of global warming and environmental devastation, but the differences between them wouldn't have been more stark.

Jonathan Neale is the author of several books, including Stop Global Warming: Change the World, as well as a recent article in International Socialism titled "Climate politics after Copenhagen." He was in Copenhagen for the protests of the UN--and in Cochabamba for the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

Neale spoke with Chris Williams, author of the forthcoming Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis about the prospects for a new environmental movement.
Read the interview here.

About the book, Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis

Around the world, consciousness of the threat to our environment is growing. The majority of solutions on offer, from using efficient light bulbs to biking to work, focus on individual lifestyle changes, yet the scale of the crisis requires far deeper adjustments. Ecology and Socialism argues that time still remains to save humanity and the planet, but only by building social movements for environmental justice that can demand qualitative changes in our economy, workplaces, and infrastructure.

Chris Williams is a longtime environmental activist, professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University, and chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute. He lives in New York City.

Order here.

The Malthus Myth: Population, Poverty and Climate Change

By Ian Angus, editor of Climate and Capitalism, author of The Global Fight for Climate Justice, Anti-capitalist Responses to Global Warming and Environmental Destruction. Ian is also Associate Editor of Socialist Voice.

This was recorded at the Socialism 2010: Socialism or Barbarism Conference in Toronto.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Exploring the moral dimensions of climate change

Canadian Baha'i News Service

About fifty participants gathered in Toronto in mid April to explore Climate Change and Environmental Decline as a Moral Issue. The two-day retreat was organized by the University of Calgary faculty of social work and a group of Canadian faith-based, development and environment NGOs.

Dr. Mishka Lysack, assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary, co-convener of the retreat, facilitated an exploration of the latest scientific issues surrounding the climate change challenge, the current political realities, and the emerging actions by faith-based communities to engage with climate change. In his opening remarks, Lysack reminded the participants that “climate change is about social justice on a planetary scale”.

BP announces 'top kill' has failed to stop Gulf oil leak

McClatchy Washington Bureau
Erika Bolstad | McClatchy Newspapers
May 29, 2010 08:01:17 PM

BP has abandoned its most recent “top kill” effort to contain its runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, a company official announced Saturday evening.

"After three full days, we have been unable to overcome the flow," said the company's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles at a news conference in Robert, La. “. . . This scares everybody, the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, or the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far.”

Green light for seismic oil search in pristine Arctic waters

A Nunavut government review board has turned aside objections from Inuit leaders and environmental groups and recommended the territory give the green light to seismic tests to search for oil and gas in the eastern Arctic.


A noisy search for oil should go ahead in the eastern Arctic’s Lancaster Sound despite objections the seismic tests will endanger sealife in the proposed marine park, a Nunavut review panel says.

The federal Geological Survey of Canada plans to use powerful blasts from underwater air guns, towed by a German research vessel, to look for oil and natural gas fields at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage this summer.

Gulf Oil Photo Essay

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Rise of the Green Left

Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement

By Derek Wall

Climate change and other ecological ills are driving the creation of a grassroots global movement for change. From Latin America to Europe, Australia and China a militant movement merging red and green is taking shape.

Ecosocialists argue that capitalism threatens the future of humanity and the rest of nature. From indigenous protest in the Peruvian Amazon to the green transition in Cuba to the creation of red-green parties in Europe, ecosocialism is defining the future of left and green politics globally. Latin American leaders such as Morales and Chavez are increasingly calling for an ecosocialist transition.

Drawing on the work of key thinkers such as Joel Kovel and John Bellamy Foster, Derek Wall provides an unique insider view of how ecosocialism has developed and a practical guide to focused ecosocialist action. A great handbook for activists and engaged students of politics.

About The Author

Derek Wall is the author of six books including Babylon and Beyond: The Economics of Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Globalist and Radical Green Movements (Pluto Press, 2005) and, with Penny Kemp, A Green Manifesto for the 1990s (Penguin, 1990). He teaches Political Economy at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Hugo Blanco, a contemporary of Che Guevera, led a peasant revolution in 1961. A former leader of Trotsky’s Fourth International (USFI), he is today a prominent ecosocialist and publishes the newspaper Indigenous Struggle.

Order from Pluto Press


Foreword by Hugo Blanco
1. Why Ecosocialism?
2. The real climate change swindle
3. An ecosocialist manifesto
4. The ecosocialist challenge
5. Ecosocialism in Latin America
6. Slow the train!
7. Resources for Revolution
Appendix 1. The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration
Appendix 2. The Headcorn Declaration from Green Left

Four Principles for Climate Justice


“Industrialized society must redefine its’ relationship with the sacredness of Mother Earth”

1. Leave Fossil Fuels in the Ground
Leave the coal in the hole – the oil in the soil – the tar sand in the land. Offshore accidents prove oil and water don’t mix. Climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels. Stop it at the source. Limit people’s consumption. Efficiency is meaningless without sufficiency. The transition to a low-carbon economy is not just about technology but about re-distributing economic and ecological space. In recognizing the root causes of climate change, people of the world must call upon the industrialized countries and the world to work towards decreasing dependency on fossil fuels. Demand a call for a moratorium on all new exploration for oil, gas and coal as a first step towards the full phase-out of fossil fuels, without nuclear power, with a just transition to sustainable jobs, energy and environment.

2. Demand Real and Effective Solutions
End the promotion of false solutions such as carbon trading, carbon offsets, using forests and agriculture as offsets, agro-fuels, carbon storage and sequestration, clean coal technologies, geoengineering, mega hydro dams and nuclear power. These allow the rich industrialized countries to avoid their responsibility to take major changes. False solutions allow polluting corporations to increase their profits; allow Northern countries to disregard their high levels of consumption and expand production and release of greenhouse gas emissions and conduct “business as usual” practices. Promote a just transition to a low-carbon society that protects people’s rights, jobs and well-being.

What to Do When the Earth Warms Up?


Given humankind's lackadaisical response to climate change, a museum in Hamburg is presenting fanciful visions of how humans might adapt to disaster. "Climate Capsules," an exhibition starting Friday, imagines people of the future in oceangoing cities and other artificial, self-contained environments.
Click here to view the exhibition.

U.N. Biodiversity Plan Demands Voice for Women

By Stephen Leahy
NAIROBI, May 27, 2010 (IPS)

Women provide up to 90 percent of the rural poor's food and produce up to 80 percent of food in most developing countries, and yet they are almost completely ignored when policy decisions are made about agriculture and biodiversity.

That's about to change thanks to a United Nations agreement on biodiversity that will ask countries to ensure women are involved in decisions regarding biodiversity - including agriculture.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Watch the oil leak on live video

Watch the success of BP's efforts to block their oil leak live at their own site...

BP live feed here.

Is there another leak in the Gulf?

Council of Canadians Cherrypicks the Peoples Agreement from Cochabamba

Joan Russow 
Global Compliance Research Project

What was significant in the Cochabamba conference was that there was a final comprehensive People’s Agreement, emerging from the seventeen group discussions. In a recent release, the Council of Canadians has misrepresented the Peoples Agreement by asking the Canadian government to do less than was asked for at the conference, and by cherrypicking parts of the agreement.

While in the section in the COC release, “What happened in Cochambamba”, the Council of Canadians reported the following:

“On April 17‐19, [April 19 – 22] 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the Bolivian government hosted a conference called The World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth, bringing together more than 34,000 participants (with 10,000 registered from countries outside of South America) for a dialogue on alternative proposals to the climate crisis. Government representatives from 147 countries were present, and at least 45 were active participants. The process included 17 working groups that met and discussed key issues relating to climate justice. There were also main plenary panels and working group events.”

Polar bear population in Canada could fall by 30 per cent in a year

Lesley Ciarula Taylor

A mathematical analysis for the first time has uncovered the prospect of a sudden, dramatic decline among Canadian polar bears as they starve to death.

“This is much, much different. This is not a gradual change,” said Dr. Andrew Derocher, one of the world’s leading polar bear authorities and co-author of the study. “We’re looking at a decrease by 20 or 30 per cent or even much more in a year.”

The study was released this week just as Environment Canada is meeting to decide, also for the first time, whether polar bears should be declared a species at risk.

“The key thing is that this allows us to look forward better and more accurately,” said Derocher of the study, which combined his expertise as a University of Alberta professor who has studied polar bears for 28 years with that of two biomathematicians.

“You can go a reasonable period of time without seeing major effects. But once you look at the data, you start to see sudden, dramatic changes.”

Scientists factored in the shrinking sea ice, which affects how many seals the bears can eat before they hibernate and how easily they can find mates. Without enough food or opportunity, mating is less successful, fewer, less robust cubs are born, and teenage bears spend longer “wandering around trying to find something to eat.”

All of that information can be subjected to “some fairly advanced math” to create data tables that chart the estimated time of death by starvation for adult male polar bears.

Typically 120 days in the 1980s, the time polar bears have to spend fasting has increased by about seven days per decade and is continuing to increase.

While 3 to 6 per cent of polar bears in the Western Hudson Bay die during a 120-day summer fast, 28 to 48 per cent would die if it reached 180 days, the study found. The fast occurs because polar bears depend on frozen sea surface to cover distances.

There are about 900 polar bears in the Western Hudson Bay now.

The government advisory group Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada labelled polar bears “of special concern” in its 2008 review. Environment Canada uses that recommendation to decide whether to change the status of polar bears, which now have no protection in Canada.

“The concept of a tipping point is very real,” said Dr. Justina Ray, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada and co-chair of the committee study group that includes polar bears.

“The minister is in a difficult political situation,” the other co-chair, Dr. Mark Brigham, acknowledged, stressing he spoke for himself and not the committee. “When it comes to big mammals, the minister dawdles.”

Defending the committee’s controversial rating, Brigham said the polar bear population in 2008 was the largest it had been in 50 years. While scientists knew climate change would affect them, it hadn’t started yet.

“A major conservation failure” is how Derocher brands the committee’s polar bear recommendation. The U.S. has already designated polar bears as “threatened” – a higher degree of risk – while Canada has yet to act.

“We are past the point where we can couch this in cautious terms,” he said. “Canada doesn’t take the threat of climate change seriously.”

Derocher, who first wrote about the warming Arctic and its threat to polar bears in 1993, admitted he never expected then that the deadly changes would happen in his lifetime.

“I thought this was something for the generation coming after me. Now I’m very certain we’re going to see very serious changes in the near future.”

Urgent Alert: Albert Pizango arrested and under threat!

New Update

Lima, Peru -- Indigenous peoples in Peru are celebrating a victory today, as their leader Alberto Pizango has been released from detention. Pizango was arrested yesterday at the Lima airport, immediately upon his return after nearly a year of exile in Nicaragua, on the basis of charges widely regarded as politically motivated and unsubstantiated.

At a private hearing this morning, the Peruvian court granted Pizango’s request to reverse the capture order and to release him on his own recognizance pending trial. The judge placed a series of conditions on his release including that he is not allowed to leave the country and he must report to the court each week, among others. Read more here.


Albert Pizango, the leader of Aidesep, the indigenous network in the Peruvian Amazon, spent a year in exile after a government militia massacred local people protesting at Amazon destruction.

This week he returned to Peru after a year in Nicaragua and was arrested yesterday.

He is accused of formenting violence. When the violence occurred in Bagua, it involved the Peruvian authorities first shooting and killing over a hundred protesters. And Pizango was hundreds of miles away in Lima.

Aidesep have done a wonderful job preventing the Amazon from being taken by oil and gas companies. Because they protect the environment, they face imprisonment and death.

Please protest.....letter to Peruvian President Alan Garcia here. (the link is in spanish but you can write in English and use google translate if you need to!)

For background please look here.

And please spread the word, if you care about your planet the most effective thing you can do is to support Aidesep.

People's Voices Must Be Heard in Climate Negotiations

Negotiating Text UNFCCC Official World Ignores People's Conference Solutions

In April 2010 More Than 35.000 people from 140 Countries Gathered in Cochabamba, Bolivia and the historic Developed Cochabamba People's Accord, A consensus-based document solutions to Substantive Reflecting the climate crisis. We, the undersigned Organizations, Both Participate in and / or Support This historic process.

Reflecting the voices of Global Civil Society and the agreements Reached in 17 working groups, the Plurinational State of Bolivia made an official Proposal, Comprise of the core components of the Cochabamba People's Accord, to the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action ( AWG-LCA) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since then, the accord has Gained Recognition and support by regional and teddies Various nations Including ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of Our Americas) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations).

Therefore We Are Deeply Concerned That the Proposed new text in the AWG-LCA as a basis for climate change Does Not Reflect Negotiations Any of the main Conclusions Reached in Cochabamba.

The Chair and the Vice Chair of the AWG-LCA (from Zimbabwe and the United States respectively) INSTEAD Have incorporated all of the Proposals of the Copenhagen Accord, Which Have Not Even does the consensus of the United Nations.

We urge the UNFCCC to Embrace the Conclusions Reached by Social Movements, Indigenous Peoples and International Civil Society in Cochabamba. Both It is non-transparent and undemocratic to exclude particular proposals from the Negotiations, and it is imperative That the United Nations listens to the global community on this critical issue to Humanity.

We call on all country clubs in the United Nations, and in particular the President and Vice-President of the AWG-LCA, to include the core Cochabamba Conclusions of the People's Accord in the Negotiations in the run-up to Cancun. These life-and earth-saving Proposals include:

1. A 50% reduction of domestic greenhouse gas Emissions by Developed Countries for the Period 2013 to 2017 under the Kyoto Protocol, domestically and Without reliance on market mechanisms.

2. The Objective of Stabilizing Greenhouse Gas Concentrations at 300 ppm.

3. The Need to begin the process of considering the Proposed Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth to reestablish harmony with nature.

4. The obligation of Developed Countries to honor Their climate Toward Developing Countries Debt and Our Mother Earth.

5. The provision of financial resources equal to 6% of GDP by Developed Countries to help Confront the climate change crisis.

6. The creation of a Mechanism for the comprehensive management and conservation of forests That, unlikable REDD-plus, Respects the Sovereignty of states, guaranteed the rights and participation of indigenous peoples and forest dependent Communities, and is Not on the carbon market based regime.

7. The Implementation of Measures for Recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples must be secured in accordance "with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and universally applicable human rights instruments and agreements. This includes Knowledge and Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples; Their rights to lands, territories and resources, and Their full participation and Effective, With their free, prior and informed consent.

8. The incentivizing of models of agricultural production are That and That Environmentally Sustainable Food Sovereignty and guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers.

9. The Recognition and protection of the rights and Needs of forced climate migrants.

10. The promotion of the establishment of an International Climate and Environmental Justice Tribunal.

11. The consideration of a referendum on Climate Change World That Allows the people to decide What will be done about this issue, Which Is of vital Importance to the future of Humanity and Mother Earth.

We demand That the Conclusions Established by the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Which Protect life and Mother Earth, be incorporated Into The Negotiating text During the Negotiations in Bonn, Germany, from May 31st to June 11th, 2010 .

There can not be an equitable, transparent, and inclusive negotiation process, rules true solutions to the Urgency of the climate crisis, if the AWG-LCA Negotiating text ignore the voices of the peoples of the World That should be Representing the negotiators.

The people's voice must be heard in climate negotiations
Official Text of the UNFCCC negotiation ignores the solutions of the Global People's Conference

In April 2010 over 35,000 people from 140 countries met in Cochabamba, Bolivia and developed the historical Peoples Agreement, A document based on consensus, reflecting the substantial solutions to the climate crisis. We, the undersigned organizations, we participate and / or support this historic process.

Reflecting the voice of global civil society and the agreements reached in 17 working groups, the State Plurinational of Bolivia made a formal proposal, consisting of the central components of the Agreement of the People of Cochabamba, the Special Working Group on Long-Term Cooperation (AWG-LCA) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since then, the deal has won support and recognition from many nations and regional bodies such as the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of Our America) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations).

We are therefore deeply concerned that the proposed new text in the AWG-LCA as a basis for climate negotiations does not reflect any of the major conclusions reached in Cochabamba.

The Chair and Vice Chair of the AWG-LCA (of Zimbabwe and the United States, respectively) have been incorporated in place, all the proposals of the Copenhagen agreement, which does not even have the consensus of the United Nations.

We urge the UNFCCC to take the conclusions reached by the social movements, indigenous peoples and international civil society in Cochabamba. It is both undemocratic and opaque exclude certain proposals in the negotiations, and it is imperative that the United Nations to listen to the world community on this critical issue for humanity.

We call upon all countries of the United Nations and particularly the Chair and Vice Chair of the AWG-LCA, to include the key findings of the Agreement of the People in the negotiations in the run up to Cancun. These proposals for preservation of life and the land include:

1. A 50% reduction in domestic emissions of greenhouse gases by developed countries for the period 2013-2017 under the Kyoto Protocol at national level without reliance on market mechanisms.

2. The goal of stabilizing concentrations of greenhouse gases at 300 ppm.

3. The need to initiate the process of considering the proposed Universal Declaration on the Rights of the Mother Earth to restore harmony with nature.

4. The obligation of developed countries to honor their climate debt to developing countries and our Mother Earth.

5. The provision of financial resources equivalent to 6% of GDP of developed countries to help address the climate change crisis.

6. The creation of a mechanism for integrated management and conservation of forests, unlike REDD-plus, to respect the sovereignty of States, guarantees the rights and participation of indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities, and not this regimen based on the carbon market.

7. The implementation of measures to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples must be guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the tools and universal human rights agreements. This includes respect for the knowledge and the rights of indigenous peoples, their rights to lands, territories and resources, and its full and effective participation, with their free, prior and informed.

8. The models encourage agricultural production that are environmentally sustainable and to ensure food sovereignty and the rights of indigenous peoples and small farmers.

9. The protection and recognition of the rights and needs of forced migrants due to bad weather.

10. The promotion of the formation of an International Court of Environmental Justice and Climate.

11. The consideration of a Global Referendum on Climate Change which the people decide what to do about this problem, which is of vital importance for the future of humanity and Mother Earth.

We demand that the conclusions reached by Global People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, protecting life and Mother Earth, are incorporated into the negotiating text during the negotiations in Bonn, Germany from May 31 to 11 June 2010.

There can be no negotiation process fair, transparent and inclusive, not real solutions to the urgency of the climate crisis, if the negotiating text of the AWG-LCA ignores the voices of the world's people whose negotiators should represent.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NUPGE asks PM for Arctic drilling moratorium

'At a minimum, we ask that no exemptions from regulations be awarded to BP or any oil and gas company.' - James Clancy.'

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is calling for a moratorium on Arctic drilling and for stronger oil and gas regulations in the wake of the devastating British Petroleum (BP) oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis and members of the National Energy Board (NEB), NUPGE president James Clancy says the environmental crisis in the Gulf has come as a shock to union members and to Canadians.

"This disaster is expected to be catastrophic for the land and people in the gulf," he writes.

"Of equal concern, though, are reports that BP and other oil companies are pressuring our Canadian regulator, the National Energy Board, to drop a requirement stipulating that companies operating in the Arctic must drill relief wells in the same season as the primary well," he adds.

"Environmental protection and conservation is in the public interest and so we ask that the federal government not compromise our fragile Arctic ecosystem to attract environmentally destructive industry," Clancy writes.

"We would hope that regulations are, in fact, strengthened for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. At a minimum, we ask that no exemptions from regulations be awarded to BP or any oil and gas company looking to do business in Arctic waters," he says.

"In addition, since there are no regulations which can guarantee that an accident will never happen, we urge Canada to consider a moratorium on Arctic drilling."

Clancy notes that BP "more than doubled" its first quarter profits for 2010 to $5.65 billion.

He also says NUPGE, as an advocate of "strong regulations" in the public interest, has been pleased "to hear that the federal government, as well as a number of provincial governments, are reviewing offshore-drilling regulations" as a result of the Gulf disaster.

BP logo: GreenPeaceUK

Logo creativity in action!
See the rest here.

Murray Bookchin on Growth and Consumerism

Climate and Capitalism

Perhaps because he was an anarchist, the works of Murray Bookchin are rarely read by ecosocialists today. That’s a pity, because he was one of 20th century’s most insightful writers on environmental politics.

The following are excerpts from his article “Death Of A Small Planet,” originally published in The Progressive in 1989. The full text of the article is online here. - Ian Angus

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Perhaps the most obvious of our systemic problems is uncontrollable growth. I use the word “uncontrollable” advisedly, in preference to “uncontrolled.” The growth of which I speak is not humanity’s colonization of the planet over millennia of history. It is rather an inexorable material reality that is unique to our era: namely, that unlimited economic growth is assumed to be evidence of human progress. We have taken this notion so much for granted over the past few generations that it is as immutably fixed in our consciousness as the sanctity of property itself. …

It’s not enough, however, to blame our environmental problems on the obsession with growth. A system of deeply entrenched structures — of which growth is merely a surface manifestation — makes up our society. These structures are beyond moral control, much as the flow of adrenaline is beyond the control of a frightened creature This system has, in effect, the commanding quality of natural law. ….

Unless growth is traced to its basic source — competition in a grow-or-die market society — the demand for controlling growth is meaningless as well as unattainable. We can no more arrest growth while leaving the market intact than we can arrest egoism while leaving rivalry intact.

In this hidden world of cause-and-effect, the environmental movement and the public stand at a crossroads. Is growth a product of “consumerism” — the most socially acceptable and socially neutral explanation that we usually encounter in discussions of environmental deterioration? Or does growth occur because of the nature of production for a market economy? To a certain extent, we can say. both. But the overall reality of a market economy is that consumer demand for a new product rarely occurs spontaneously, nor is its consumption guided purely by personal considerations.

Today, demand is created not by consumers but by producers — specifically, by enterprises called advertising agencies that use a host of techniques to manipulate public taste. American washing and drying machines, for example, are all but constructed to be used communally-and they are communally used in many apartment buildings. Their privatization in homes, where they stand idle most of the time, is a result of advertising ingenuity.

One can survey the entire landscape of typical “consumer” items and find many other examples of the irrational consumption of products by individuals and small families – “consumer” items that readily lend themselves to public use.

Another popular explanation of the environmental crisis is population increase. This argument would be more compelling if it could be shown that countries with the largest rates of population increase are the largest consumers of energy, raw material, or even food. But such correlations are notoriously false. Often mere density of population is equated with overpopulation in a given country or region. Such arguments, commonly cynical in their use of graphics — scenes of congested New York City streets and subway stations during rush hours, for example — hardly deserve serious notice.

We have yet to determine how many people the planet can sustain without complete ecological disruption. The data are far from conclusive, but they are surely highly biased — generally along economic, racial, and social lines. Demography is far from a science, out it is a notorious political weapon whose abuse has disastrously claimed the lives of millions over the course of the century.

Finally, “industrial society,” to use a genteel euphemism for capitalism, has also become an easy explanation for the environmental ills that afflict our time. But a blissful ignorance clouds the fact that several centuries ago, much of England’s forest land, including Robin Hood’s legendary haunts, was deforested by the crude axes of rural proletarians to produce charcoal for a technologically simple metallurgical economy and to clear land for profitable sheep runs. This occurred long before the Industrial Revolution.

Technology may magnify a problem or even accelerate its effects. But with or without a “technological imagination” (to use Jacques Ellul’s expression), rarely does it produce the problem itself. Indeed, the rationalization of work by means of assembly-line techniques goes back to such patently pre-industrial societies as the pyramid-builders of ancient Egypt, who developed a vast human machine to build temples and mausoleums.

To take growth out of its proper social context is to distort and privatize the problem. It is inaccurate and unfair to coerce people into believing that they are personally responsible for present-day ecological dangers because they consume too much or proliferate too readily.

This privatization of the environmental crisis, like New Age cults that focus on personal problems rather than on social dislocations, has reduced many environmental movements to utter ineffectiveness and threatens to diminish their credibility with the public. If “simple living” and militant recycling are the main solutions to the environmental casts, the crisis will certainly continue and intensify.

Ironically, many ordinary people and their families cannot afford to live “simply.” It is a demanding enterprise when one considers the costliness of “simple” hand-crafted artifacts and the exorbitant price of organic and “recycled” goods. Moreover, what the “production end” of the environmental crisis cannot sell to the “consumption end,” it will certainly sell to the military. General Electric enjoys considerable eminence not only for its refrigerators but also for its Gatling guns. This shadowy side of the environmental problem — military production — can only be ignored by attaining an ecological airheadedness so vacuous as to defy description.

Public concern for the environment cannot be addressed by placing the blame on growth without spelling out the causes of growth. Nor can an explanation be exhausted by citing “consumerism” while ignoring the sinister role played by rival producers in shaping public taste and guiding public purchasing power. Aside from the costs involved, most people quite rightly do not want to “live simply.” They do not want to diminish their freedom to travel or their access to culture, or to scale down needs that often serve to enrich human personality and sensitivity.

Rambunctious as certain “radical” environmentalist slogans like Back To The Pleistocene! (a slogan of the Earth First! group) may sound, they are no less degrading and depersonalizing than the technocratic utopias issued by H.G. Wells early in this century. …..

New Age environmentalism and conventional environmentalism that place limits on serious, in-depth ecological thinking have been increasingly replaced by social ecology that explores the economic and institutional factors that enter into the environmental crisis.

In the context of this more mature discourse, the Valdez oil spill is no longer seen as an Alaskan matter, an “episode” in the geography of pollution. Rather it is recognized as a social act that raises such “accidents” to the level of systemic problems-rooted not in consumerism, technological advance, and population growth but in an irrational system of production, an abuse of technology by a grow-or-die economy, and the demographics of poverty and wealth. Ecological dislocation cannot be separated from social dislocations.

The social roots of our environmental problems cannot remain hidden without trivializing the crisis itself and thwarting its resolution.

Canadian cities need to accelerate green transportation and urban design

Pembina Institute

May 26, 2010 — Canada's six largest urban areas are making efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but they must do more to promote green urban design and low-carbon transportation choices, according to a report released today by the Pembina Institute.

The report, Canada's Coolest Cities, examines what the urban areas of Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are doing to encourage low-carbon transportation choices, such as walking, cycling, taking public transit and travelling shorter distances.

The study found that cities have clear targets for fighting climate change and are taking action, but urban areas are continuing to sprawl. The majority of population growth is occurring in low-density suburbs, where people need to travel further and are less likely to walk, bike or take transit.

"While cities have set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, they need to step up their actions on personal transportation to meet these goals," said report co-author Alison Bailie. "Each city has taken positive steps, but they're struggling to keep pace with urban sprawl."

The amount of energy consumed for personal transportation in cities depends largely on urban design and the accessibility of low-carbon transportation choices.

"Local governments have the opportunity and responsibility to take action on reducing emissions, especially those from transportation within their boundaries," Bailie said. "Smart urban design not only decreases energy consumption and environmental impacts, but it also saves money and can make communities more livable."

Provincial and federal governments also have a strong role to play in supporting municipalities by providing clear directions and funding for developing compact communities and low-carbon transportation choices.

For detailed findings on each city, view the one-page results summary or view the full case studies .

Good news turns out to be too good to be true

Canadian Forestry Firms’ Agreement Fails on Caribou, Boreal Protection

Wilderness Committee Manitoba
The Media Co-op

A recent announcement by a 21-corporation forestry consortium that led Canadians to believe that huge swaths of boreal forest and caribou habitat were no longer going to be logged turned out to good to be true, as 9 times more caribou habitat is being targeted for logging than is being temporarily preserved over the next three years.

“An analysis of the announcement on forestry and caribou can come to only one conclusion: the logging companies do not plan to preserve anything near the amount of woodland caribou habitat that their recent news release appeared to promise,” said Eric Reder, the Wilderness Committee’s Manitoba Campaign Director.

Three-year protection was announced on 29 million hectares of caribou habitat, but a close examination of the forest companies' agreement reveals only one-fortieth of the forest was ever going to be logged in the next three years. Of the areas at risk, logging is only being deferred on 72,000 hectares. Over the next three years alone, logging is going ahead on 684,000 hectares of caribou habitat.

Moreover, logging is not being deferred for caribou in any boreal forest in Ontario, and there is no voluntary logging deferral in BC, Saskatchewan, or Newfoundland-Labrador.

Recently the Wilderness Committee has gained access to a full copy of the agreement.

The bulk of the 72,000 hectares of forest lands that are supposedly being deferred from logging is 40,000 hectares in Manitoba in logging corporation Tolko’s forestry lease. Doug Hunt, Tolko’s Operations Manager in Manitoba had previously told the media that the agreement would not affect Tolko’s operations. On Friday, Mr. Hunt said the 40,000 hectares set aside are part of an agreement with the province of Manitoba that has been in the works for several years, and not a volunteer deferral related to last week’s announcement. The Manitoba Endangered Species Act and Manitoba’s Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy require a large amount of caribou forest habitat in Manitoba to be left undisturbed.

“Two weeks ago, we knew a large amount of forest land needed to be set aside for the preservation of woodland caribou. This week we find that a large amount of forest land still needs to be protected. We are continuing to call on governments across Canada to step up and protect caribou habitat in our boreal forests, including the forest under lease to logging, mining, or oil-and-gas corporations,” said Reder.

“This forest company agreement looks like all talk and no action to us. Now, the result of this phony good news announcement is that the forest industry has garnered some sort of green reputation which they have not earned. My concern is that as a result there will be less people paying attention and holding the forest companies accountable,” said Reder.

“The Wilderness Committee and other environmental groups are going to have to step up investigating logging operations on the ground, making sure caribou habitat is not logged, and working on a massive public awareness campaign,” said Reder.

For more information please contact:
Eric Reder, the Wilderness Committee’s Manitoba Campaign Director, (204) 997–8584

Oceans' Fish Could Disappear by 2050

Discovery News
May 17, 2010

The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 without fundamental restructuring of the fishing industry, UN experts said Monday.

"If the various estimates we have received... come true, then we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish," Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Program's green economy initiative, told journalists in New York.

A Green Economy report due later this year by UNEP and outside experts argues this disaster can be avoided if subsidies to fishing fleets are slashed and fish are given protected zones -- ultimately resulting in a thriving industry.

The report, which was opened to preview Monday, also assesses how surging global demand in other key areas including energy and fresh water can be met while preventing ecological destruction around the planet.

UNEP director Achim Steiner said the world was "drawing down to the very capital" on which it relies.

However, "our institutions, our governments are perfectly capable of changing course, as we have seen with the extraordinary uptake of interest. Around, I think it is almost 30 countries now have engaged with us directly, and there are many others revising the policies on the green economy," he said.

Collapse of fish stocks is not only an environmental matter.

One billion people, mostly from poorer countries, rely on fish as their main animal protein source, according to the UN.

The Green Economy report estimates there are 35 million people fishing around the world on 20 million boats. About 170 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on the sector, bringing the total web of people financially linked to 520 million.

According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed, meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential, while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050.

The main scourge, the UNEP report says, are government subsidies encouraging ever bigger fishing fleets chasing ever fewer fish -- with little attempt to allow the fish populations to recover.

Fishing fleet capacity is "50 to 60 percent" higher than it should be, Sukhdev said.

"What is scarce here is fish," he said, calling for an increase in the stock of fish, not the stock of fishing capacity."

Creating marine preservation areas to allow female fish to grow to full size, thereby hugely increasing their fertility, is one vital solution, the report says.

Another is restructuring the fishing fleets to favor smaller boats that -- once fish stocks recover -- would be able to land bigger catches.

"We believe solutions are on hand, but we believe political will and clear economics are required," Sukhdev said.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oil spill in Arctic waters could have "catastrophic" impact

By Andrew Mayeda
Canwest News Service

A worker contracted by British Petroleum scrapes oil from a beach after it was inundated by the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon spill in Port Fourchon, Louisiana May 23.

William Adams, a former scientist at Environment Canada, was one of the researchers in a joint government-industry study of the impact of an oil spill in the Canadian portion of the Beaufort Sea. The Beaufort Sea Project, which began in 1976 and lasted nearly a decade, remains the only "comprehensive" study of its kind, says Adams.

Adams told the House of Commons natural-resources committee on Tuesday that a similar study in deeper waters should be conducted before Canadian regulators approve exploratory drilling in the Beaufort. The Beaufort project simulated an oil spill of roughly 1,000 barrels per day in water about 10 metres deep.

Currently, there are no offshore oil rigs operating in Canada's Arctic waters, but exploratory drilling proposed by companies such as BP is expected to take place in depths of several hundred metres.

"I do believe that there should be a moratorium, because if you look at the leasing that has been done in the Beaufort Sea, it . . . extends out into the moving pack ice. I believe drilling in that area would be extremely risky," Adams told the committee, which is studying whether offshore-drilling regulations are tough enough to safeguard against a spill on the scale of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The Gulf spill, caused by an explosion last month at BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, is believed to be dumping about 5,000 barrels per day into the sea.

The Beaufort project found that the presence of oil accelerated the melt of sea ice in the spring, partly by causing the ice to absorb more radiation from the sun. Surprisingly, the study also found that the oil encouraged the growth of simple organisms such as algae and plankton.

Adams said the behaviour of a big oil spill in deeper Arctic waters is difficult to predict without more field research. However, he said such a spill would inflict significant damage on bigger organisms, such as mammals and seabirds. It could also exacerbate the impact of climate change by speeding the melt of pack ice. A major spill likely would take at least a year to clean up, he added.

"It could potentially be quite catastrophic should there be a blowout in the moving ice . . . in the Beaufort Sea," Adams said. "It's possible a major blowout could have severe impacts on the stability of the sea ice, and that could have a major climatic impact."

Meanwhile, an Arctic expert with the World Wildlife Fund told the committee that Canada's offshore-drilling regulations are much looser than those in the United States. The U.S. Minerals Management Service conducted an extensive environmental assessment of the risks of offshore drilling in the Beaufort before granting a lease to energy giant Shell, noted Craig Stewart, director of the Arctic program at WWF-Canada. By contrast, the granting of exploratory leases in Canada is less transparent and "subject to ministerial discretion," he said.

On Tuesday, a Nunavut review agency approved controversial federal plans to use seismic testing in a proposed Arctic marine sanctuary to probe for possible offshore oil and gas deposits this summer. The ruling will enable the Geological Survey of Canada to scan for petroleum in Lancaster Sound — an area at the western entrance to the Northwest Passage that is slated to become a National Marine Conservation Area.

Chris Debicki, Nunavut project director for Pew Environment Group's Oceans North, called for an "unambiguous statement" from the federal cabinet that there is "no intention" to develop Lancaster Sound in ways that would threaten its planned protected status.

Three rigs off Newfoundland are the only offshore drilling projects now operating in Canada. Last week, the Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board announced it is putting on hold a deep-sea drilling project proposed by Chevron Canada, until the company proves it has the right safeguards in place.

The head of the Newfoundland board told the committee that the agency's job is to reduce the risks of a big spill "to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable."

"Obviously, we would prefer to have no injuries or no spills, but we believe that the record for our offshore area is quite respectable," said board chairman Max Ruelokke, noting there have been no blowouts off the province's coast.

CoC warns of loopholes in new federal water legislation

The Council of Canadians is concerned with the newly introduced Bill C-26, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act.

“The Council of Canadians doesn’t see Bill C-26 as a ban on bulk water exports and while the federal government claims it will strengthen the IBWTA, the Act actually weakens certain important elements,” says Council of Canadians National Water Campaigner Meera Karunananthan. “This not something to be celebrated.”

“This legislation actually narrows the definition of bulk removals to exclude water in manufactured products such as beverages,” notes Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow. “Canada needs a comprehensive national water policy that bans on all bulk water exports, excludes water from NAFTA and recognizes water as a public trust in order to truly address competing commercial and public interests.”

“NAFTA still has the possibility, if one of the provinces disobeys the federal law, of extending the notion of water as a commodity,” says Council of Canadians National Water Campaigner Meera Karunananthan. “We need to make water a public trust if we truly want to address the fact that the public interest has been subservient to commercial interests, a situation which will worsen with climate change and increasing shortages.”

“It is highly problematic that the Act narrows the definition of water removals and diversions to bulk removals of 50,000 litres or more and exempts water in manufactured goods including beverages,” says Karunananthan. “Bill C-26 does not cover waters that are not boundary or transboundary waters.”

“Bill C-26 does not apply to water resources in the North, which have been the subject of the most recent proposals by right-wing think tanks GWest, the Frontier Centre, and the Montreal Economic Institute,” notes Barlow. “Therefore Bill C-26 is effectively not a ban on bulk water exports.”

For More Information:
Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685.

The Ecosocialist Challenge

By Arthur Mitzman
Winner of the 2007 Daniel Singer Millenium Prize

Downloadable PDF here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is Marxism relevant to environmentalism?

By Anna Pha,
People's Voice

How often have you heard it said that Marxism has no relevance to the environmental crisis or that the environment is not a class question? After all, Marx and Engels were writing 150 years ago, long before the current environmental crisis.

Marx and Engels certainly did not have the benefit of the scientific knowledge that we enjoy today, nor were there such imminent threats as climate warming or loss of biodiversity. For example, the study of ecology - the interdependence of the various components of nature - really only emerged as a widely accepted science in the 1960s.

Engels studied the historical processes of the material world, the constant changes taking place and the impact of each change on other aspects of that world. In the Transition from Ape to Man, he says:

"Animals ... change external nature by their activities just as man does, if not to the same extent, and these changes made by them in their environment ... in turn react upon and change their originators. For in nature nothing takes place in isolation. Everything affects every other thing and vice versa, and it is usually because this many-sided motion and interaction is forgotten that our natural scientists are prevented from clearly seeing the simplest things."

"The animal destroys the vegetation of a locality without realising what it is doing. Man destroys it in order to sow field crops on the soil thus released, or to plant trees or vines which he knows will yield many times the amount sown. He transfers useful plants and domestic animals from one country to another and thus changes the flora and fauna of whole continents.

"More than this. Under artificial cultivation, both plants and animals are so changed by the hand of man that they become unrecognisable. The wild plants from which our grain varieties originated are still being sought in vain. The question of the wild animal from which our dogs are descended, the dogs themselves being so different from one another, or our equally numerous breeds of horse, is still under dispute....

"But all the planned action of all animals has never resulted in impressing the stamp of their will upon nature. For that, man was required.

"In short, the animal merely uses external nature, and brings about changes in it simply by his presence; man by his changes makes it serve his ends, masters it...

"Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us. Each of them, it is true, has in the first place the consequences on which we counted, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first."

How true! Humans had no idea that the extensive use of fossil fuels and other producers greenhouse gas emissions would burn holes in the ozone layer, induce global warming and bring the human race to the brink of extinction. This is the same process that Engels is describing. Of course Engels had no means to foresee the extent of revenge that nature would take on humanity.

Engels continues in the same prophetic vein: "The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that they were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of these countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture.

"When, on the southern slopes of the mountains, the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, with the effect that these would be able to pour still more furious flood torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons..."

This analysis stands the test of time.

"Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature - but that we, with flesh, blood, and brains, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws."

Engels looked not just at the impact on nature but on the social consequences of human actions. He looked at the impact of primitive communal ownership of land and the barest means of subsistence and compared this with higher forms of production and the eventual division of the population into different classes - the capitalist mode of production.

"The individual capitalists, who dominate production and exchange, are able to concern themselves only with the most immediate useful effect of their actions. Indeed, even this useful effect - as much as it is a question of the usefulness of the commodity that is produced or exchanged - retreats right into the background, and the sole incentive becomes the profit to be gained on selling."

The manufacturer Engels says, is "not concerned as to what becomes of the commodity afterwards or who are its purchasers".

Engels asks: "What did the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertiliser for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees, care that the tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the now unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock?

"In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the first, tangible success; and then surprise is expressed that the more remote effects of actions directed to this end turn out to be of quite different, mainly even of quite an opposite, character."

That narrow focus on immediate outcomes, on profits, is what drives capitalism. The process described by Engels was accelerated by colonialism and continues unabated today.

The result is desertification, salination, river-beds drying up, extreme weather conditions and the many other forms of environmental crisis that people around the globe have experienced.

The result is global warming, irretrievable loss of biodiversity, millions of people facing starvation and many plant and animal species, including human beings, facing the threat of extinction.

Marx also recognised the relationship between humans and nature: "man himself is a product of Nature which has been developed in and along with its environment". (A criticism of the Hegelian Philosophy of Law). If only the full implications of their writings had been further studied.

Marxist theory is a living tool, a scientific approach to interpreting and understanding the universe. Marxism is the application of scientific method to social, economic and environmental issues. Scientific method is not static but continually undergoes change reflecting our knowledge of the material world around us.

Communists bring something to the environmental struggle that many other groups do not; that is their class analysis of the causes of the crisis - capitalism. Based on that analysis they also identify the only basis of a lasting solution - socialism. They have an important role to play in tackling the pressing questions of climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development. Marxism serves all environmentalists, including communists, well.
(The preceding article is from the May 16-31, 2010 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)