Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A constructive dialogue for change

John Bellamy Foster's critique of capitalism's ecologically destructive nature is sound, writes Ted Benton, but we need to think less vaguely about bringing together a coalition for change.

From Red Pepper

Bellamy Foster has played a leading role in the US in arguing for the realignment of socialist and ecological politics. In a series of path-breaking writings he has demonstrated the centrality of Marxian materialism as a philosophical basis for this, and has provided readings of Marx’s own work that show not only its compatibility with radical ecologism, but also its crucial theoretical contribution to it. The central idea that Bellamy Foster and his associates derive from Marx is the ‘ecological rift’: a destructive dislocation between capital accumulation and the cycles and processes of nature that is endemic to capitalism. It is this dynamic that is driving the global economy to overshoot the boundaries set by the carrying capacity of the planet to sustain not only human but all life.

Canada sweeps Fossil of the Day awards in Cancun


Back again as Canada's environment minister, John Baird wins an unprecedented three Fossil of the Day awards on the first day of UN climate talks in Cancun.

Ottawa (30 Nov. 2010) - The Canadian government, led by reincarnated Environment Minister John Baird, has kicked off United Nations (UN) climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, by winning three Fossil of the Day awards - first, second and third place simultaneously!

With three consecutive Colossal Fossil of the Year awards behind them, it appears that Canada's Conservative government is certain to continue its reckless approach to climate change and win even more dubious awards in future.

Canada won its first Colossal Fossil at Bali in 2007 – also under the leadership of Baird.
The award is decided by a vote among 400 leading international organizations and awarded to the country that has done the most to disrupt or undermine the UN climate talks.

FoE and Greenpeace slam REDD

By Ricardo Sequeiros Coelho
Cool the Earth

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has just issued a report (PDF) showing case studies that show how REDD schemes, generating carbon credits from forest preservation, is merely a way for big polluters to evade their emissions reductions obligations, while profiteering from carbon trading. The report states that:

Although REDD may benefit some communities and biodiversity in certain specific areas, overall it is emerging as a mechanism that has the potential to exacerbate inequality, reaping huge rewards for corporate and other large investors whilst bringing considerably fewer benefits -or even serious disadvantages- to Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities. In addition, if
governments focus on REDD in isolation, it could become a dangerous and ineffective distraction from the business of implementing real and effective policies for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

FoE is, unfortunately, the only big international NGO that opposes carbon trading, having issued a press report to call on governments to reject carbon markets (Climate Justice Now!). Nnimo Bassey, its president, also wrote a great article on what’s wrong with the idea of allowing polluters to trade emissions rights (FoE).

Greenpeace is more enthusiastic about REDD but still it has been quite critical of its developments. In another recent report (link) it denounces how palm oil, paper and pulp industries, the main drivers of deforestation, are set to profit from a REDD deal between Norway and Indonesia. The deal is going to be presented at Cancun as an example of how REDD could work to encourage forest protection but its assertions hardly conform to reality. This is because industrial groups, supported by the government, are in fact using REDD payments to destroy the forests.

The scam is quite simple. The Indonesian government categorizes a large part of its territory as “degraded land”, allowing the industry to tear down the forests existing in those lands. Then, the industry plants huge monocultures of palm or eucalyptus and receives money from REDD projects for “restoring” forests.

Yes, this is the brave new world of carbon trading, to use the now famous expression from Clive Spash (link).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dirty Oil, Dirty Money: Who is Funding the Tar Sands Resistance?

By Sandra Cuffe
Vancouver Media Co-op

"We have ENGOs that are coming in and making decisions on our behalf," said hereditary chief Toghestiy from the Wet'suwet'en First Nation during the opening panel of the fourth annual Everyone's Downstream (EDS) conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

"Where do these decision-making powers come from?" he asked, echoing similar questions from conference participants at yesterday's inaugural event.

This evening, at 5pm PST / 8pm EST, a 'Following the Money Upstream' panel will be broadcast live online, focusing on foundation funding, ENGOs, secret deals, and proposed alternatives. Links to video recordings of all EDS events are also posted on the home page of the conference website and can be viewed at any time afterwards.

People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice to take place across Canada

Council of Canadians

Ottawa - Over a dozen communities across Canada are holding People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice during the UN climate negotiations starting today in Cancun, Mexico.

“People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice emerged during the failing Copenhagen negotiations as a vehicle for people to come together and talk about real and false solutions to the climate crisis,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The assemblies taking place across Canada are in keeping, bringing people together on a community basis to have a dialogue on climate justice and how to transform this into local action.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Critiquing Primitivism, Anarcho-Primitivism and General Anti-Civilisationism

By Rowland Túpac Keshena
Ideas Ecogreen 
February 8, 2009

This piece was originally written by me after I had been discussing the pitfalls of so-called “primitivist” ideology with some local left-wingers. I feel it is very important to confront psuedo-leftist (or in the case of primitivism, “post-leftist”) reactionary political philosophies like the current primitivist, anarcho-primitivist and general anti-civilizationist movement. Most of the left, both Marxist and anarchist, seem to steer clear of things like primitivism and the works of its primary spokesmen, such as John Zerzan and Derrick Jensen as they find it to be absurd, and I am not without sympathy for this position, but in not confronting it we are creating a situation where many young, and energetic people, especially from the eco/green movement, who are looking for radical, if not revolutionary, solutions to current global issues are being enthralled and mislead by life-stylist philosophers preaching reactionary and psuedo-mystic doctrines.

Read more HERE.

Pocket-sized guide for green activists

Review by Matt Ward
Green Left

The Rise of the Green Left: Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement
By Derek Wall
Pluto Press, 190 pages, paperback

As the threat of climate catastrophe looms ever larger, Derek Wall has written what he calls "an explicit call to non-violent arms".

The prolific British author and activist starts by outlining the case for ecosocialism. He says questioning economic growth is viewed as an act of lunacy, yet a dedication to continual growth of production and consumption for its own sake threatens the human species.

“The myth of growth has failed us”, says Wall. “It has failed the 2 billion people who still live on less than $2 a day. It has failed the fragile ecological systems we depend upon for survival. It has failed spectacularly, in its own terms, to provide economic stability and secure people's livelihoods.”

Burns on CAPP

Fan photos from Put a CAPP on Tar Sands Greenwashing

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Margaret Atwood's wisdom would be welcome at Cancún

As heads of state gather in Mexico to discuss global warming, they would do well to dwell on the wise words of Margaret Atwood

The Observer
Sunday 28 November 2010

World leaders preparing to gather in Mexico for a climate summit anticipate deadlock. Eco-activists are braced for outrage. Concerned onlookers teeter on despair. All could do worse than ponder the inspiration offered by the Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, interviewed in today's Observer magazine. Ms Atwood's bleak dystopic masterpiece, The Handmaid's Tale, celebrating its 25th anniversary, was published when Al Gore was still just a moderate US senator. She has, meanwhile, fused literature and the future of the planet in a sequence of "speculative fictions" that both sound an alarm bell for humanity, but also celebrate the power of human agency to effect change. She has done this in prose that gives the lie to George Orwell's gibe that political writing is almost always made from "prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's Meccano set". Ms Atwood has provided the rare example of a writer addressing urgent, non-literary themes without inducing cringes.

Her example has been to apply concentrated original thought to the issues surrounding global warming, and not to shy away from painful conclusions about mankind's capacity for self-destruction. A bracing realism about the finite wonder of life on Earth derives from her childhood in the Canadian wilderness. Physics and chemistry, she contends, have their own remorseless logic. So she knows the planet's vulnerability, and its essential durability, too: "The planet will be OK, in its own way. The problem is us." Ms Atwood's candour, unflinching intellectual clarity, and sardonic optimism are not the only skills delegates of Cancún will need, but they might help.

Since last year's fudged Copenhagen summit, the political will to combat climate change has drained away alarmingly. The urgency of the cause is undiminished, but prospects for global action are shrinking. In such circumstances, writers and artists that can fire the imagination, and inject hope, perform a profound service to humanity.

Bolivia: Cancun should not be Copenhagen Part II

Cross-posted from Censored News

Cancun Climate Summit: Even before the summit begins, the World Bank and corporate governments are scheming, targeting forests for carbon credit scams and the Earth for more pollution

By World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth
Photo 1: IEN Bolivia: Photo 2: Michelle Cook, Navajo/Bolivia 2010

CANCUN, Mexico -- (November 27, 2010) – At the next meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16), which begins November 29th in Cancun, Mexico, the 192 member states must agree on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

However, on November 24th, the President of the Ad-Hoc Working group on Long-Term Action issued a new document that attempts to legitimize the “Copenhagen Accord,” which the United Nations merely “took note of” last December in Denmark.
This new document put forth by the President of the Ad-Hoc Working Group, instead taking into account the proposals of all the parties put forth during the process of negotiations, downplays the need for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It was developed under no mandate from the parties, and promotes emissions reductions by all countries without clearly distinguishing between developed countries and developing countries, leaving aside the fundamental principle of “common but differentiated responsiblities” among nations.

New "Ecosocialists Unite" website and blog

U.K. activist and ecosocialist Martin O'Beirne has set up a new website and blog: Ecosocialists Unite.

Visit HERE to find out more and sign up.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Beyond Parts Per Million: Voices from the frontlines of climate justice

Climate Justice Montreal Releases First Edition of "Beyond Parts Per Million: Voices from the frontlines of climate justice"

This first edition highlights community struggles and makes the links between climate and social justice.

Edmonton - At the fourth annual Everyone's Downstream conference, Climate Justice Montreal and members of the provisional comittee for the foundation of the Climate Justice Co-op, launched a new publication entitled Beyond Parts Per Million: Voices from the Frontlines.

Featuring accounts from frontline communities around the globe and connecting climate and social justice struggles, this project aims to amplify the voices of those people most impacted by environmental destruction and a changing global climate.

The Crisis This Time

Socialist Register 2011
(now available HERE)


Crises have a way of clarifying things. Remember when we were told, again and again, by Wall Street whiz kids and Ivy League economists, that freeing up the economy was the road to stability? That the solution to market instability was – to free up the markets even more? That the obscene salaries and perquisites being handed to CEOs and financial analysts were worth it because they were bringing prosperity to all? To question these nostrums, however mildly, was to invite ridicule and abuse. Then, after those fateful weeks in Autumn 2008, as one Wall Street titan after another came to the brink of collapse or collapsed altogether, we witnessed the impossible. Virtually overnight, the warm embrace of the market turned into a suffocating incubus. As workers lost jobs by the hundreds of thousands, pensions went up in a puff of smoke, life savings vanished, families lost their homes, the grim reality of capitalism, the remorseless logic of the profit motive, became impossible to ignore. The major capitalist economies fell into an abyss, the like of which had not been seen since the Great Depression. And for the first time in decades, the mountainous piles of books, essays, and stories produced to defend the free-market mania started to appear as nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Advertising Is a “Serious Health Threat” - to the Environment

By Michael Löwy
Monthly Review, January 2010

Climate change has brought the global environmental crisis to its crux. The primary point that must be noted is that the pace of climate change is accelerating much more rapidly than had been forecast. Accumulation of carbon dioxide, rising temperatures, melting of the polar ice caps and of the “eternal snows,” droughts, floods: all are speeding up and previous scientific analyses, the ink scarcely dry, turn out to have been too optimistic. More and more, in projections for the next one, two, or three decades, the highest estimates are becoming accepted minima. And to that must be added the all-too-little-studied amplifying factors that today pose the risk of a qualitative leap in the greenhouse effect leading to runaway global warming.

There are still some 400 billion tons of carbon dioxide confined in the permafrost, that frozen tundra that extends through Canada and Siberia. But how can the glaciers melt without the permafrost melting too? There are few depictions of the worst-case scenario, in which global temperatures rise by 5-6°C: scientists steer clear of painting catastrophic pictures. But we already know what looms: rising sea levels flooding, not only Dacca and other Asian coastal cities, but also London, Amsterdam, Venice, New York; desertification on an enormous scale; shortages of drinking water; repeated natural catastrophes. The list goes on. At a temperature 6°C higher, it becomes questionable whether the planet will still be habitable for our species. We have, alas, no other planet to move to.

Battlelines drawn for Cancun climate summit: `Nature has no price!'

By Simon Butler
Green Left Weekly
November 22, 2010

Protesters in Newcastle,Australia, December 20, 2009.
Photo by Rising Tide.
If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success. This phrase has become the unofficial motto of this year’s United Nations climate conference in Cancun, Mexico. Just out from Cancun, which runs over November 29 to December 10, there is little hope of meaningful progress. Yet key players have sought to throw a shroud of official optimism over the looming failure.

Few Western politicians want a repeat of last year’s Copenhagen climate conference. They consider it a public relations disaster.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

CUPE prepares for climate change conference in Cancun

Canadian Union of Public Employees

CUPE delegates will be attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference which will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010. In preparation for the conference, CUPE has prepared a fact sheet outlining our proposals and demands, and why it is important for CUPE to be present.

CUPE's main proposals and demands in Cancun
CUPE, as a partner and affiliate, participated in the development of the environmental positions and demands of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Public Services International (PSI), which we strongly support.

We support these global goals for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction:

- Limit global warming to an increase of two degrees Celsius.
- Compared to 1990 levels, achieve an 85 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.
- Establish mechanisms to ensure that targets are legally binding and that states respect their commitments.
- Ensure fairness between poor and rich countries, so that the latter do their fair share.

We also request specific actions from our own government in Canada:

  • Show good faith and become a part of the solution rather than remaining a part of the problem. Canada must adhere to international targets and stop its strategy of obstruction.
  • Respect the will of the majority of Canadians (and the majority of Canadian Members of Parliament!) who want to see the adoption of concrete targets and actions on GHGs.
  • Strengthen and develop clean energy production, under public ownership, control and delivery.
  • Gradually eliminate public subsidies to the oil industry, and invest in green energy alternatives.
  •  Implement incentives that would encourage workplaces and industries to act responsibly on environmental issues and climate change.
  • Invest in training and just transition programs for affected workers and their communities, thereby maintaining and creating jobs in the new green economy.

Why is it important for our union to be present at this conference on climate change?
The majority of Canadians recognize that climate change is a problem and want strong actions taken — both domestically and internationally — to address the issue. Sadly, the current government of Canada does not represent the will of the majority. The minority Conservative government of Canada must drastically change its course. We are here to contribute to that objective.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents over 600,000 workers in Canada, particularly in municipal services, energy, health and transportation sectors.

Our members are workers. But they are also global citizens. Protecting the planet from irreversible environmental degradation and climate change is part of our mission as a union.

As the largest union in Canada, we believe that it is our responsibility to put pressure on our own federal government to do what is required – both domestically and internationally – to tackle the problem of climate change in good faith.

As a strong public services and public interest advocate, we want to propose a broader vision to the issues facing our society. Environment, energy, local services, water and health are all closely related.

Working alongside governments, civil society and employers, CUPE believes that unions can play a positive role in creating greener workplaces and modes production. You can download our brochure “A Workers’ Action Guide to a Greener Workplace” from our website.

Download a printable copy of the fact sheet.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fighting Doom: The New Politics of Climate Change

By Brendan Smith
Common Dreams

I am not an environmentalist. But all I think about these days is the climate crisis.

I admit I have arrived late to the party. Only recently have I begun to realize what others have known for decades: The climate crisis is not, at its core, an environmental issue. In fact it is not an "issue" at all; it is an existential threat to every human and community on the planet. It threatens every job, every economy in the world. It threatens the health of our children. It threatens our food and water supply. Climate change will continue to alter the world our species has known for the past three thousand years.

Read more HERE.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Capitalism and the Curse of Energy Efficiency

The Return of the Jevons Paradox

John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York
Monthly Review, November 2010

The curse of energy efficiency, better known as the Jevons Paradox—the idea that increased energy (and material-resource) efficiency leads not to conservation but increased use—was first raised by William Stanley Jevons in the nineteenth century. Although forgotten for most of the twentieth century, the Jevons Paradox has been rediscovered in recent decades and stands squarely at the center of today’s environmental dispute.

The nineteenth century was the century of coal. It was coal above all else that powered British industry, and thus the British Empire. But in 1863 the question was raised by industrialist Sir William George Armstrong, in his presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, as to whether Britain’s world supremacy in industrial production could be threatened in the long run by the exhaustion of readily available coal reserves.1 At that time, no extensive economic study had been conducted on coal consumption and its impact on industrial growth.

Read more HERE.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Understanding the UK Green Party

By Derek Wall  and Edward Lewis
New Left Project

Derek Wall is an economics lecturer and writer. He has been a member of the Green Party since 1980 and was Green Party Principal Speaker from 2006 to 2007. He is a founder of the Ecosocialist International and Green Left and has written widely on green politics. His latest books are The Rise of the Green Left and The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics.

 In this interview, he and Edward Lewis examine the nature and politics of the Green Party from a left perspective.

What are the origins of the Green Party? What are the circumstances that brought it about?

The Party was formed in the early 1970s, first called ‘PEOPLE’ and later the Ecology Party, it was inspired by reports such as Blueprint for Survival and the Limits to Growth, that drew attention to the environmental crisis.

The Party focussed on an ecological politics based on the assumption that we were ripping up the life support system of our planet.

It struggled and nearly disappeared during the 1970s. However, it tapped into the enthusiasm for the German Greens in the 1980s (then a radical social movement based party) and grew modestly. The late 1990s saw the Party gain two MEPs and three members of the Greater London Authority. And the number of councillors has since climbed past a hundred.

How does the party of today compare to how it was at its origins?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Road is Green and Red: Toward an Ecological Socialism

Written by Fernando Marti
Freedom Road Socialist Organization


1. The emerging global ecological crisis is the next fundamental crisis of capitalism;
2. Catastrophic climate change will affect the fate of millions of humans, with the greatest impacts on the poor and most oppressed;
3. As the ecological crisis sharpens, the ruling class will attempt to contain the crisis, exploit it for more profits, and maneuver globally for national and ruling class survival (ecological imperialism);
4. Ecology represents new terrain for the traditional Left, which is not clear on how (or whether, or how strongly) to engage with it;
5. The urgency of the crisis, and its effects on the poor, working class, and oppressed people of color, demands that the Left begin engaging the ecological crisis as one of its core projects, coequal with economic and racial justice;
6. The radical ecological approach, while sharing a similar critique of capitalism as the traditional Left, uses a framework that is very challenging for those from Marxist left traditions;
 7. Nonetheless, incorporating aspects of the radical ecological and eco-feminist approach offers a necessary voice in developing a socialism of the 21st Century, that, while maintaining the class struggle at the fore in overcoming capitalism, can develop a new vision and strategy for change that encompasses the survival of the human race.

1. The emerging global ecological crisis is the next fundamental crisis of capitalism.

Capitalism is characterized by recurring crises of overproduction. Capitalism constantly seeks more profits by producing more stuff, but it drives down wages so consumers are no longer able to buy the stuff. Mainstream economists call this the business cycle. Since the 70s, this crisis has been forestalled through finding new markets in developing countries through globalization, in the US by keeping consumption up through personal debt, despite falling real wages, by military Keynesianism (i.e., government spending), and by putting profits into new forms like derivatives instead of real production.