Saturday, July 31, 2010

Learning from Socialists: Agroecology in Cuba

Written by Michael Spohn
Freedom Road Socialist Organization

In 2006, my wife and I were fortunate to travel to Cuba with an international Agroecological delegation from Mexico, Venezuela, Mozambique, North Korea, Japan, Ireland and other countries, as well as the United States.

In the face of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U. S. economic blockade, the Cubans were forced to move quickly during the 1990s "special period" into agroecological (versus petrochemical)approaches to raise food to feed the people. At the time of our trip, urban agriculture-using bio-fertilizers and bio-controls-provided more than 384,000 good paying jobs and 4 million tons of vegetables each year using only 67,000 hectares of land.
Read more here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Break

Ecosocialism Canada is taking a break. Back later this summer - NYC.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Must-read article on ocean impacts by ocean scientists

By John Cook
Skeptical Science

I highly recommend everyone read this great article by coral reef and oceanography experts, John Bruno and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The article is In the oceans, the heat is really on, published at Here are a few excerpts but don't use them as an excuse not to read the full article. Here's one putting the Gulf oil spill into perspective:

The world is saturated by coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet the impacts of this tragedy are localized, short-term and trivial compared to the broader effects of climate change. The oil spill has damaged the lives and businesses of many innocent people. Remarkably, however, every day we are releasing several thousand times as much carbon as the Gulf spill by driving, flying and consuming and by heating and cooling our energy-inefficient houses. Hundreds of years from now, when BP is forgotten and the gulf wetlands have healed, ocean life will still be affected by the fossil fuels we are burning today.

I don't see this as diminishing the devastating impact of the oil spill. It brings home to me the strong visual impact of the oil spill hence the strong public reaction. Climate change is not so easy to process visually, dealing in long-term trends and impacts that stretch on decades and centuries into the future. At the talk on climate change at the University of Qld, Ove explained the problem with climate change was it's like littering and the litter not turning up until a decade later. The irony is the impacts from our CO2 emissions will dwarf the impacts of the oil spill.

One value of the Gulf spill is that it has highlighted how tightly coupled the health of ecosystems and human economic well-being really are. In retrospect, the costs of preventing the spill by installing more reliable safety systems are paltry in comparison to the economic losses in the tourism and fisheries sectors. The same is true for mitigating climate change. Responses that cost less than 1 percent of GDP growth over the next few decades are matched against massive impacts on people and industry, especially in coastal areas of the world.

Here's another example where the oil spill can teach us a thing or two about how a relatively small investment now will stave off great expenses into the future. Anyway, there were a few other highlights I would like to excerpt but just go read the article.

Indigenous Struggle, Ecology, and Capitalist Resource Extraction in Ecuador

The B u l l e t
Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 391
July 13, 2010

An Interview with Marlon Santi
Jeffery R. Webber

On July 5, I sat down with Marlon Santi, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), in his office in Quito. We discussed the increasing contradictions between the demands of the indigenous movement, on the one hand, around water rights and anti-mining resistance, and the positions of the government of Rafael Correa, on the other, which has labelled indigenous resistance to large-scale mining and oil exploitation as “terrorism and sabotage.”

Can you describe you political formation and personal political trajectory?

Before becoming president of CONAIE I was from a very small indigenous community that is called Sarayaku. In this community, since about 1996, I was involved in the struggle against Chevron and other oil companies. In that period, we successfully drove these companies out of our territory. After that I was involved in organizing in my community at a very local level, not even at the provincial or regional levels. So, it's been a huge jump from being a representative in a community to a national representative of CONAIE.

Can you briefly describe the history of CONAIE, and your role today inside the organization?

CONAIE began to organize itself in the 1970s. It had to do so clandestinely, because in this period indigenous movements were considered allies of communism, and communism was seen as a threat by authorities throughout Latin America. By the 1980s CONAIE took its form as an indigenous movement.
Read more here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Putting the heat on climate change's 'bikini babes'

Are swimsuit specials a thoughtful, clever way of arousing interest in climate change? Or are they little more than sexist idiocy?

The Guardian

Up Here magazine: The July-August issue features 10 women posing in their swimwear in the Canadian wilderness to 'raise awareness' of climate change. Well, it got your attention, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this now. And that was precisely the point, claim the editors.

Up Here, a Canadian magazine focused on "northern culture, lifestyle, arts and travel", has produced a climate-change special this month featuring its first-ever swimsuit photo spread. Ten women are snapped in their swimwear posing in the Canadian wilderness. And it's all in the name of, er, raising awareness about the threat climate change presents to Canada's northern landscapes. The magazine explains its logic in the editor's introduction:

Canada’s Largest Environmental Lawsuit a Victory

Ontario court rules Vale must pay $36 M to Port Colborne residents

By Tracy Glynn
The Dominion -

Fredericton—Almost 10 years after Wilfred Pearson, a retired truck driver from Port Colborne, Ontario, signed his name as the lead plaintiff to the largest environmental class action lawsuit filed in Canadian history, the verdict is in—and it is in his favour.

Port Colborne residents claim that their property values were diminished by the levels of nickel emitted from Inco's refinery. On July 6, 2010, Ontario Supreme Court Justice J.R. Henderson sided with the residents and awarded more than 7,000 households in Port Colborne a total of $36 million. Households in the Rodney Street area, in the shadow of the nickel refinery, were each awarded $23,000 while those living on the east side of Port Colborne were each awarded $9,000, and the west side, $2,500. Vale Inco (formerly Inco) has said the company will appeal.
Read more here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nature's bottom line

Ecological collapse is all around. But faith in economic growth as the only path to prosperity shows no sign of fading. Wayne Ellwood examines the folly of endless growth on a finite planet.

New Internationalist

Charles Darwin was a consummate scientist – meticulous and rigorous. He spent nearly 20 years sifting his research, honing his analysis and polishing his prose before publishing his groundbreaking work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.1

Darwin’s slim volume was what we would call a ‘game changer’; a revolutionary work that fundamentally altered the way human beings see themselves and the natural world. Today most of us are familiar with his theory of ‘natural selection’ – the foundation of modern evolutionary biology. But 150 years ago, Darwin was sailing into choppy waters. The Church of England set rigid boundaries and his thesis was clearly offside – a challenge to the orthodox view that humans were a separate, unique part of God’s creation and that all life was divinely concocted and unchangeable.

The establishment mocked him. There was intense public debate. But Darwin was unflinching. Today his core idea that all animals and plants evolve and adapt through natural selection is the bedrock of modern life sciences. He opened the door to a new world – a door which religious fundamentalists and ‘intelligent design’ proponents are still trying to close.

There Once Was An Island

Film Trailer.

2010 the warmest year on record - Welcome to the future

Socialist Aotearoa

Last year was the second warmest on record, and this year could be the planet's hottest, according to a forecast from the [Australian] Bureau of Meteorology, which says uncharacteristically warm conditions are being felt across the northern hemisphere. ABC Online

Sure, it seems pretty cold right now in New Zealand, but as Britain is engulfed in a heat wave we should consider the fact that if we fail to deal with climate change, “Australian scientists have warned half the planet could "simply become too hot" for human habitation by the year 2300.”
So in three hundred years half the planet will have been written off because of humanity’s need to drive luxury 4WDs and holiday on the other side of the world and failure to invest in renewable energies and transition to a low carbon economy.
Read more here.

Popular Left University to be held in Montreal in August

By Pierre Beaudet

The popular movement in Quebec remains a sleeping giant. It was able to organize powerful mobilizations in the last decade and put tens of thousands of people in a fighting mood. It is still able to bring the labor movement, the vast feminist community and youth organizations together. It is now working with a new political "animal," Quebec Solidaire, which is progressing as a mass political/electoral party.

All for the good one could say.

At the same time, the movement is ambiguous on many fronts. The growing part of the population, growing out of the formal labor market, is often left out. This includes many immigrants. The movement has yet to establish a convergent strategy with First Nations who are still suffering from the process of colonization. Many on the left are still hesitant politically as they are tempted to support the "least worst" which means voting for the much-transformed on the right PQ. More fundamentally, the popular movement is not yet a counter-hegemonic force, able to move the agenda from the critique of neoliberalism to sustainable and achievable alternatives. One could say, give time to time …

Faced with these huge challenges, there is a lot of thinking and talking happening. Many new collectives have been set up to reflect, animate, learn, educate, and link intellectuals and activists. It is noticeable in the growth of new left publications and initiatives (including the monthly À Bâbords, the web journal Presses-toi à gauche and many others). In addition, the network established back in 2007 with the Quebec Social Forum is still functioning.

One of these collectives is the Collectif d’analyse politique (CAP), who is more known for its journal, Les Nouveaux cahiers du socialisme (NCS), published twice a year. Cap and NCS are as the word says socialist, pluralistic, composed of young "lions" and "old" timers, working on theoretical directions (capitalism, post-capitalism, ecosocialism) and popular analysis and education. This fall, NCS will publish its 4th journal focusing on women's organizations and struggles. (The first three issues were on class, crisis and State.)

On August 24-25-26, CAP and NCS are organizing a three day popular university. This is a different format that the Social Forums as it is based on an organized program within an organic perspective, with well-prepared sessions. It is complementary to the WSF. The first day will focus on capitalism and state. On the second day, the discussion will turn towards social movements. And finally the last day will open post capitalist and ecosocialist perspectives. Attendance will be mixed: "young in age" and "young at heart" activists, feminists and trade unionists, left academics (they are still there) and popular educationists.

For more information and interested activists (who can function in French), check out the web page of CAP/NCS:

Note: NYC uses google translate to read many international articles. Try it!

Groups demand release of parliamentary findings on tar sands and water

Council of Canadians

The Indigenous Environmental Network and the Council of Canadians are calling on the Federal government to immediately release the findings of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development regarding the impacts of Tar Sands operations on Alberta water resources.

The Committee had been working on a report after an 18 month investigation, but according to a Canwest article yesterday drafts of the committee's final report have been destroyed and no further notice has been given about the future of the investigation.

"It's clear that by destroying these findings, the Canadian government has trampled democratic processes in order to protect and promote the environmentally devastating Tar Sands operations in Northern Alberta," says Maude Barlow National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "At a time when the world is dealing with a global water crisis, it is unconscionable for Canada to sanction the continued destruction of the Athabasca-Mackenzie watershed, while destroying all evidence of the extent of the damage.”

So far, both the federal and provincial governments have failed to acknowledge extensive evidence gathered by Indigenous and environmental groups exposing the health impacts on First Nations and Métis communities living downstream in Fort Chipewyan. Groups watching the Committee had hopes this investigation would expose this issue.

“The encroachment of Tar Sands development into the lands of Cree and Dene First Nations is a violation of their fundamental human rights,” says Clayton Thomas Mueller, Tar Sands Campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Treaty 8 guarantees access to clean water for First Nations in the Athabasca region. The Harper government’s decision to tear up the draft water contamination study tells us that environmental racism is alive and well in Canada, and only certain communities and their ecological and human health matter under this regime.”

"The long overdue parliamentary review of the impacts of the Tar Sands on ground and surface water in Northern Alberta was conducted with public funds," says Meera Karunananthan, national water campaigner at the Council of Canadians. "The government has a moral obligation to make public its findings and to take necessary action."

Both organizations are calling for a transition towards a tar sands-free future.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Greenpeace criticizes CPP investment in tar sands

'CPP's investment in the tar sands involves pensioners in a toxic legacy when they should be able to rely on an ethical, sustainable retirement plan.'


The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has drawn criticism from environmentalists for a decision to invest $250 million in an Alberta tar sands company.
Canada's largest pension plan has purchased 8,333,333 shares in Laricina Energy Ltd. for $30 per share in a private placement. The sale will give the plan a 17% ownership level in the company.

"We are pleased to be making an investment that we believe will deliver attractive returns over the long term," says André Bourbonnais, the board's vice-president of private investments.

Though not currently commercially active, the project is expected to process 5,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

The announcement has been slammed by Greenpeace, which criticizes the CPP for associating itself and Canadian pensioners with "one of the most destructive industries on the planet."

"CPP's investment in the tar sands involves pensioners in a toxic legacy when they should be able to rely on an ethical, sustainable retirement plan," says Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema.

The CPPIB manages the pension assets of 17 million Canadians. At the end of March, the fund held $127.6 billion in assets, of which $22.8 billion was invested in private investments.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Present Targets for CO2 Emission Cuts Will Not Prevent a 4C Global Temperature Rise

Global emissions targets will lead to 4C temperature rise, and predict major extinctions and collapse of Greenland ice sheet with temperatures rising well above UN targets

By Juliette Jowit and Christine Ottery
The Guardian (London)
 July 6, 2010

The world is heading for an average temperature rise of nearly 4C (7F), according to analysis of national pledges from around the globe. Such a rise would bring a high risk of major extinctions, threats to food supplies and the near-total collapse of the huge Greenland ice sheet.

More than 100 heads of state agreed in Copenhagen last December to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C-2C (2.7-3.6F) above the long-term average before the industrial revolution, which kickstarted a massive global increase in the greenhouse gases blamed for warming the planet and triggering climate change.

But six months on, a major international effort to monitor the emissions reductions targets of more than 60 countries, including all the major economies, the Climate Interactive Scoreboard, calculates that the world is on course for a rise of nearly double the stated goal by 2100.
Read more here.

'Climategate' review clears scientists of dishonesty over data

'Rigour and honesty' of scientists not in doubt but Sir Muir Russell says UEA's Climatic Research Unit was not sufficiently open

The Guardian

The climate scientists at the centre of a media storm were today cleared of accusations that they fudged their results and silenced critics to bolster the case for man-made global warming.

Sir Muir Russell, the senior civil servant who led a six-month inquiry into the affair, said the "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the world-leading Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are not in doubt. They did not subvert the peer review process to censor criticism as alleged, the panel found, while key data needed to reproduce their findings was freely available to any "competent" researcher.
Read more here.
Q&A: 'Climategate'

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: False Solutions to Climate Change

Rising Tide North America and Carbon Trade Watch are pleased to announce the 2nd edition of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: False Solutions to Climate Change.

This 28-page booklet provides a close-to-comprehensive overview of false solutions to climate change. Fifteen concise articles—complete with photos and illustrations—cover more than 20 false solutions to climate change, from Clean Coal to Biomass incineration, providing an easy-to-read introduction to the ever expanding market place of climate crisis technofixes.

With the incredible pace of the climate policy debate, the 2nd edition provides key updates to crucial topics like REDD (a major new commodification of forests and lands), which was just emerging at the time of initial publication.

Equally important, the booklet expands to more technologies that are being branded as “green” despite the grave dangers associated with them, such as waste incineration, biochar, and genetically engineered “carbon sucking” trees. We’ve also included much more information on real solutions and positive steps communities can we can take to stop the climate crisis.

The booklet includes contributions from ETC Group, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Movement Generation, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and International Rivers as well as art and photography from across the movement for climate justice.

We invite you to download Hoodwinked from the Hothouse today!

You can also order these booklets *FREE* from Rising Tide.

We have many copies available for distribution and are now taking orders! (While the book is free, we request payment for postage whenever possible.)

Contact, let us know how many copies you’d like and we’ll get you a quote for postage.

If you’d like to order a large quantity, we’d be excited to discuss possibilities for getting you a box of Hoodwinked for your group or city—contact us for details.

And please feel encouraged to forward this announcement to local bookstores and other distributors that carry zines and short publications!

~Rising Tide North America and Carbon Trade Watch

Joel Kovel: Organizing the Ecosocialist International Network

Climate and Capitalism
July 6, 2010

Since its formation in 2007, Joel Kovel has been a leading figure in the Ecosocialist International Network. In this letter, Joel discusses where the EIN is going, including plans for forming chapters in the United States and Canada.

Joel’s comments were posted on July 5 in the EIN’s egroup. We encourage readers to join in the discussion of these issues there:

I am sorry to take so long in getting this out to you following my return from Detroit and the USSF; and I have appreciated the postings that a number of you have made in the interim. Richard Greeman, who was active in Detroit, has been the latest to do so. I am placing a copy of his letter at the end of this, along with a thread spun off by other members of that list.

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's not just BP's oil in the Gulf that threatens world's oceans

By Les Blumenthal
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A sobering new report warns that the oceans face a "fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation" not seen in millions of years as greenhouse gases and climate change already have affected temperature, acidity, sea and oxygen levels, the food chain and possibly major currents that could alter global weather.

The report, in Science magazine, brings together dozens of studies that collectively paint a dismal picture of deteriorating ocean health.

"This is further evidence we are well on our way to the next great extinction event," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia and a co-author of the report.

Read more:

BC’s carbon tax turns two

By Marc Lee
The Progressive Economics Forum
July 5th, 2010

With all of the attention focused on the HST implementation on July 1, most people seemed to miss the next increment of that other much-hated tax, BC’s carbon tax. As of July 1, the carbon tax is now $20 per tonne of CO2, or about 4.6 cents on a litre of gasoline. And like any two-year old, this toddling tax increase is set to wreak some havoc on the household.

What the carbon tax shares with the HST is a bigger hit to the bottom of the income distribution. When it was introduced back in 2008, the carbon tax dedicated about one-third of revenues to a low-income credit (the remainder going to personal and corporate income tax cuts). This was a big positive with households in the bottom 40% of the distribution slightly better off on average, with credits exceeding taxes paid.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Deep-sea mining adds to fears of marine pollution

China hopes to mine hydrothermal vents under the Indian Ocean for metals used in gadgets like mobile phones.

By Michael McCarthy
The Independent

Concerns about large-scale marine pollution, fuelled by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, are set to be heightened by a new development in exploitation of the oceans: deep-sea mining.

The Chinese government has just lodged the first application to mine for minerals under the seabed in international waters, in this case on a ridge in the Indian Ocean 1,700 metres (more than 5,000ft) below the surface.

The Chinese are hoping to recover valuable metals such as copper, nickel and cobalt – used in mobile phones, laptops and batteries – as well as gold and silver, in an area of currently inactive "hydrothermal vents", underwater geysers driven by volcanic activity.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Disappearances: Reflections on the collapse of honey bees and the Left

Andony Melathopoulos

"A bustling city at dawn. Industrious workers set out from their homes, coming and going in a perfect and productive ballet. But by evening the workers vanish. No trace of foul play. No bodies left behind. Mass disappearances like this have recently occurred across the globe, not of humans, but of millions of honey bees."

The ominously titled 2007 PBS documentary Silence of the Bees begins with a montage of the streets of a major U.S. city that had grown silent because its inhabitants vanished. The empty city, we are told, is not unlike the beehives afflicted by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a commercial honey bee syndrome that has resulted in massive apian losses. A few minutes into the documentary, however, we are informed that the metaphor should be considered more literally, as “the bees’ disappearance could have colossal repercussions for humans.”

Read more here.

USSF: Building EcoSocialism

Meeting at U.S. Social Forum in June in which ecosocialist activists discussed commoning, ecofeminism, the destruction of capitalism, strategy, convergence.

A Scientific Guide to the 'Skeptics Handbook'

Skeptical  Science

Not long ago, I read the Skeptics Handbook which displays some fundamental misunderstandings of how our climate works. I wondered whether a rebuttal of this document would be worthwhile but when I floated the idea to a few people, the general response was "been there, done that". It turns out there are a number of detailed rebuttals of the 'Skeptics Handbook'. Desmogblog wrote a 3 part series in 2008 (parts 1, 2 and 3). has a useful set of short rebuttals with links to longer answers. Tim Lambert also examined some of the arguments. So the 'Skeptics Handbook' had been rebutted on multiple occasions.

Nevertheless, there was something else that needed to be said. The 'Skeptics Handbook' begins by asking "what evidence is there that more CO2 forces temperatures up further?" It then lays out 4 arguments: the greenhouse signature is missing, CO2 lags temperature, it's not warming and the CO2 effect is saturated. The great irony of the 'Skeptics Handbook' is when you examine these 4 arguments and the full body of empirical evidence that goes with them, what you actually find is the evidence that more CO2 forces temperatures up further. Here's a brief description of how the Scientific Guide examines 4 human fingerprints on climate change: