Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why Nature Has Rights

Brecht Forum
New York, N.Y.
April, 2011
Vandana Shiva with Maude Barlow, Cormac Cullinan & Pablo Solon. Moderated by David Harvey.

David Harvey and the co-authors of the new book, The Rights of Nature , discuss how to transform our relationship with the environment to address climate change and related problems like natural disasters.

The rights-based approach to nature they advocate is beginning to discussed at the UN. Available for purchase: the edited volume, The Rights of Nature, and a new edition of Cormac Cullinan’s book, Wild Law .• Vandana Shiva is an Indian philosopher, environmentalist, and feminist • Maude Barlow is a water activist and Chair of The Council of Canadians • Cormac Cullinan is an environmental lawyer based in South Africa • Pablo Solon is the Ambassador of Bolivia to the UN • David Harvey is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center

Co-Sponsors: The Center for Place, Culture and Politics at CUNY Graduate Center, the Brecht Forum, Global Exchange, The Council of Canadians & the Mission of Bolivia to the UN.

Ecosocialist Videos - Ian Angus

PJMORA Channel

Ian Angus explain the green shift of the left and/or the red shift of the greens.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Capitalism’s war on the planet

Climate Change, Social Change
April 20, 2011

Climate change is often called the greatest environment threat facing humanity.

The threat is very real. Unless we cut carbon pollution fast, runaway climate change will worsen existing environmental and social problems, and create new ones of its own.

But it’s no longer enough to simply refer to the climate crisis. Climate change is one part of a broader ecological disaster, brought about by an economic system that relies on constant growth, endless accumulation and ever-deepening human alienation.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reflections On The Way From Cochabamba To Durban

Climate and Capitalism
April 26, 2011

Speech by Elizabeth Peredo Beltran, Director of Bolivia’s Solon Foundation, to the closing session of the Cochabamba+1 Conference in Montreal, April 17, 2011

Elizabeth Peredo Beltran
There is a rebellious movement growing across the planet protesting the unfair impacts of climate change and environmental crisis. A global intuition was being formed on the real causes of climate crisis, and on that we must listen to the voices of peoples and listen to the voice of nature herself reminding us that something is really very wrong in how we do inhabit the planet. More and more people are realizing that this is one of the most challenging crisis that we humans have ever faced. It forces us to question both capitalism and colonialism. The crisis reflects the harmful results of greed and over-consumption, on the dominant paradigms for human life on this planet. This situation have lead us to a juncture between life or death. We have never made such an important choice before. There is no doubt.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Capitalism bad for the environment, says book

By Alan Wright
People's World
April 27 2011

Book Review: Red Roots, Green Shoots
By Virginia Brodine, edited by Marc Brodine
International Publishers, 2007

In 2007, International Publishers released Red Roots Green Shoots. Since then, we have experienced another global financial crisis (April 2007 - present), the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (March 2010) and the ongoing nuclear fiasco at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan (March 2011 - present). These events highlight the need for us to reconsider our economic and environmental practices. This collection of Marxist environmentalism provides that opportunity. The book expands our timeline and looks back on the work of communist activist Virginia Brodine from 1976 to 1999. These essays, articles, speeches, conference papers and newspaper columns provide a detailed chronological account for this segment of the modern U.S. environmental movement.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Rights of Nature

The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

The Right of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth is published jointly by The Council of Canadians, Fundación Pachamama and Global Exchange (2011).

About the Book

In April 2010, Bolivia hosted a gathering for civil society in the wake of the failed December 2009 United Nations Copenhagen climate summit (COP 15). It was clear to millions of climate activists, scientists and environmentalists around the world that the UN process had been sidelined by a deal, the Copenhagen Accord, which represented a major step backward in the search by the UN for a binding, comprehensive agreement that would protect humanity and the Earth from the ravages of climate chaos. When more than 32,000 participants from around the world gathered for the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, it was evident that a counter message had to be sent to the UN and the world that a far stronger commitment was needed if humanity is to successfully move to a safe and sustainable future.

Out of this World People’s Conference came a call to protect nature differently by recognizing the Rights of Nature, or as expressed by others, the Rights of Mother Earth. The UN General Assembly proclaimed April 22, 2010, Mother Earth Day, and the Declaration was introduced to the G-77 countries and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon several weeks later. It is the intention and hope of the drafters and supporters that this groundbreaking Declaration will take its place alongside the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a guide for the future of humanity.

This book brings together the voices of acclaimed authors, progressive thinkers, political leaders and environmental and community activists from around the world who share their passion and insights about the Declaration, the Rights of Nature and the urgent need to recognize the unbreakable link between respecting ourselves and respecting the planet – Mother Earth – on which we all live and depend. The authors all reflect on the important question: What would our world look like if nature had rights?

With distinguished contributors such as Maude Barlow, David Suzuki, Margaret Atwood, Eduardo Galeano, Nnimmo Bassey, Pat Mooney, Shekhar Kapur, Susan George, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and more, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth in meant to inform and inspire others about the need to create and ratify a binding instrument to protect the rights of the Earth and all living things upon it.

This new way forward would inspire a new model of governance that places the Rights of Nature – the Rights of Mother Earth – at the heart of existence, recognizing that there is no such thing as a human right unless the natural world is protected now, and for all time.

For information on obtaining a copy of The Right of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, please e-mail or call The Council of Canadians at 1-800-387-7177.

The Battle of Chernobyl

The Battle of Chernobyl
A Film by Thomas Johnson 

It’s a documentary which analyzes the Thursday 26th April 1986 that became a momentous date in modern history, when one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine, exploded. It was the most significant reactor failure in the history of nuclear power, a Maximum Credible Accident (MCA). The plant, just 20 km away from the town center, was made up of four reactor units each generating an output of 1,000 megawatts. The reactor in question exploded due to operational errors and inadequate safety measures and the meltdown was directly linked to routine testing on the reactor unit’s turbine generators.

The test required reactor activity and the thermal reactor output to be run down to a lower level. During the procedure, however, the reactor plummeted to an unexpectedly low and unstable level of activity. At this point, it should have been shut down; as the operators chose to continue with the test, the events subsequently proved to be catastrophic.

More than 200 people died or were seriously injured by radiation exposure immediately after the explosion. 161,000 people had to be evacuated from a 30 kilometer radius of the reactor and 25,000 square km of land were contaminated. As time went on millions of people suffered radiation related health problems such as leukemia and thyroid cancer and around 4,000 people have died as a result of the long-term effects of the accident.

Nobody was prepared for such a crisis. For the next seven months, 500,000 men will wage hand-to-hand combat with an invisible enemy – a ruthless battle that has gone unsung, which claimed thousands of unnamed and now almost forgotten heroes. Yet, it is thanks to these men that the worst was avoided; a second explosion, ten times more powerful than Hiroshima which would have wiped out more than half of Europe. This was kept secret for twenty years by the Soviets and the West alike.

Watch the full documentary below.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two Reports on Montreal Cochabamba +1 Conference

Climate and Capitalism
Below are two reports at Climate and Capitalism. The first is from John Riddell, a member of Toronto Bolivia Solidarity. The second is from Matthew Brett, a student and contributor to Canadian Dimension magazine and the Socialist Project. He can be reached through his website at

Montreal Meeting Shows Growing Support for Climate Justice 

Conference organizer: “This is the first chance in twenty years for such a political discussion embracing forces from both Quebec and [English] Canada”
By John Riddell

Bolivia marked Earth Day (April 22) this year by formulating the Law of Mother Earth, which — when adopted — will establish eleven new rights for nature, including the rights not to be polluted and to continue vital cycles free from human interference.

On April 20, the United Nations General Assembly debated a proposal introduced by Bolivia, with support of other South American countries, to adopt a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature. The proposed global treaty says that “Mother Earth has the right to exist, persist, and to continue the vital cycles … that sustain all human beings.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s political and media establishment have organized an election campaign in which the world’s ecological crisis is barely mentioned.

But a conference with more than 300 participants, held in Montreal April 15—17, showed that Bolivia’s bold approach to ecology is gaining increased support in Canada.

The event was jointly sponsored by Alternatives, a Quebec-based social justice organization, and Canadian Dimension. Supporters included the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and major union groups: CAW, CSN, CSQ, CUPE, CUPW, FTQ, and PSAC.[1]

Read more HERE

Some Reflections on the Montreal Conference

Patrick Bond from South Africa
Discussions at the Cochabamba+1 meeting posed a critical question: how can we build a truly inclusive network that incorporates voices from across the climate justice spectrum? 

By Matthew Brett

Organizational tensions emerged during the Cochbamba+1 conference on climate justice in Montreal last weekend that merit addressing. My concern is that important messages conveyed during the conference will be eclipsed by these disputes.

The conference ran from April 15 to 17, bringing activists and intellectuals together from Indigenous communities, from across Quebec, the rest of Canada and abroad. The clear message was that environmental degradation is the crisis of our time.

“There are laws in nature that we must respect,” said Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solón, during the opening address. “We are not God.”

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

**Book Launch**

Council of Canadians

One Year After the BP Oil Spill, Renowned Authors, Scholars and Activist Gather to Consider The Question: What if Mother Earth Had Rights?

NEW YORK – This Thursday prominent scholars and experts on the environment and human rights from around the world will gather at the City University of New York Graduate Center to launch two new books, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth and Justice, Second Edition.

The event comes a day after the UN General Assembly will discuss implementing new international standards that afford rights and legal standing not just to individuals and businesses adversely affected by the exploitation and damage to natural resources, but to nature and ecosystems themselves.

“The case for acknowledging the Rights of Nature cannot be understated,” says Maude Barlow, former Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the UN General Assembly, chairperson of the Council of Canadians and lead contributor to The Rights of Nature. “Every now and then in history, the human race takes a collective step forward in its evolution. Such a time is upon us now as we begin to understand the urgent need to protect the Earth and its ecosystems from which all life comes. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth is a crucial link in this process and will one day stand as the companion to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of the guiding covenants of our time.”

The International Response to Climate Change

By Richard Douthwaite
Download the PDF (1 MB)

Even if its concentration of greenhouse gases was stabilized at the current level, Earth’s lower atmosphere would continue to warm.

The nations of the world have agreed that climate change is the most serious threat facing humankind. Before they can develop a joint plan to deal with the problem effectively, however, they must agree on the maximum level of greenhouse gases they should risk allowing in the atmosphere.

The Challenges We Face

The world has warmed by approximately 0.7 degree Celsius in the 200 years since fossil fuels began to be used on any significant scale—but the warming has not been uniform. The biggest temperature rises have been around the North Pole, and some worrying self-reinforcing feedbacks have already developed. For example, the Arctic ice has been melting unexpectedly rapidly, increasing the rate at which the planet is warming because the white ice that reflected solar energy back into space has been replaced by dark, heat-absorbing sea. Similarly, the melting of the permafrost in Russia is now releasing large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

Energy-starved future looms, military warns

By Mike De Souza
Postmedia News
April 18, 2011

The Canadian military drew up four possible scenarios about the world's energy supplies.

The planet is running out of oil and heading toward a future that could trap Canada in a violent spiral of decline in the economy and the environment, a special research unit within the Canadian military is predicting.

This "global quagmire" is one of four possible future scenarios advanced by the six members of the team who are developing a plan for the army of tomorrow based on existing scientific research and analysis.

Monday, April 18, 2011

South Africa: As Durban climate summit approaches, industrial policy hits green wall

By Patrick Bond
April 18, 2011

Patrick Bond
Hosting the Durban COP17 – let’s rename it the “Conference of Polluters” – starting in late November puts quite a burden on the African National Congress government in Pretoria: to pretend to be pro-green.

Embarrassingly, last week’s US Export-Import Bank loan of US$805 million to South Africa will feed huge profits to the notorious US corporations Black & Veatch so that a vast coal-fired power plant, “Kusile”, can be constructed, mainly on behalf of huge smelters run by BHP Billiton and Anglo American Corporation – whose profits soar away to Melbourne and London.

Life’s Too Short to Remain Powerless

By Members of the Vancouver Media Co-op
The Dominion -

VANCOUVER—It is clear that the environmental movement is against everything from cars to logging to the tar sands—but what is it in favour of?

Apart from industry-backed government reforms and massive “climate summits,” and despite considerable anxiety among affected populations about immediately combating climate change, little has been done to institute systemic, lasting change. The need to address the root causes of ecological crises is widely perceived, though. A November 2010 Environics poll showed that 85 per cent of Canadians “agree the root cause of climate change is too much focus on economic growth and consumerism” and want “an economy that is in harmony with nature, which recognizes and respects the planet.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay

By Yves Engler and Bianca Mugyenyi
Fernwood Books
Buy Now!
In North America, human beings have become enthralled by the automobile: A quarter of our working lives are spent paying for them; communities fight each other for the right to build more of them; our cities have been torn down, remade and planned with their needs as the overriding concern; wars are fought to keep their fuel tanks filled; songs are written to praise them; cathedrals are built to worship them.

In Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay, authors Yves Engler and Bianca Mugyenyi argue that the automobile’s ascendance is inextricably linked to capitalism and involved corporate malfeasance, political intrigue, backroom payoffs, media manipulation, racism, academic corruption, third world coups, secret armies, environmental destruction and war. When we challenge the domination of cars, we also challenge capitalism. An anti-car, road-trip story, Stop Signs is a unique must-read for all those who wish to escape the clutches of auto insanity.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pablo Solon opens Montreal Conference on the environment: Cochabamba +1

By Roger Rashi
April 15, 2011

Fresh from ongoing international climate negotiations in Bangkok, the Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, will attend and speak at next week-end's Montreal Conference on Climate Justice. The conference titled Cochabamba +1 : Climate Justice and Ecological Alternatives will feature no fewer than 30 speakers and nine panels, spread over three days, starting on the evening of April 15th and ending at midday April 17th.

Joining Ambassador Solon will be many well-known speakers and activists. From Canada, Maude Barlow, Judy Rebick and Tony Clarke. From Quebec, Daniel Breton, Louise Vandelac and Amir Khadir. There will also be several international guests : Patrick Bond from South Africa, Vinod Raina from India, and Elyzabeth Peredo from Bolivia.

Surviving car culture

Film Pick: To Costco and Ikea Without a Car

By Ezra Winton
Art Threat
April 15, 2011

This week’s Friday Film Pick is a zesty little short about surviving without a car, whilst surrounded by cars. To Costco and Ikea Without a Car (Peter Tombrowski, Canada, 2007) was chosen from the Hot Docs online library in anticipation of the upcoming 2011 edition which kicks off in Toronto on April 28th (look for coverage of that festival here on Art Threat). The film’s synopsis:

Peter Tombrowski sets off-on foot-pushing his children’s double jogger and carrying a large backpack from his downtown apartment to shop at suburban big box stores. Set to Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance in C, this short documentary is both an epic journey and a humorous comment on our car-dependent society.

This short was also chosen to commemorate the launch of a new book on car culture by Bianca Mugyenyi and Yves Engler, Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism, On the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay (published by Fernwood). To watch the film, follow the link, press play and enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Union leaders: World climate meet must include green, decent jobs

April 14 2011

International trade union leaders meeting April 12 in Madrid with the UN Panel on Sustainability and business and NGO representatives are calling for decisive and ambitious climate action in the lead-up to the Durban climate summit at the end of this year, and the "RIO+20" meeting in 2012. The union proposals are centered on a tax on financial transactions, a universal social protection floor, doubling the number of green and decent jobs and ensuring a just transition to a greener future.

RIO+20 is the nickname for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that will take place in Brazil, June 4-6, 2012, marking the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

China's green progress leaves US red-faced

Jonathan Watts
April 12, 2011

When it comes to responding to climate change, the contrast between China and the United States is stark.

It has been clear for some time that the Asian powerhouse is moving more rapidly on renewable technologies. A recent report by Pew Charitable Trusts shows China led the world last year with a $54.4bn investment in clean technology, about 40% higher than third-placed America.

More surprisingly, the Communist government in Beijing is also showing a greater willingness to adopt market-based approaches that were once considered preferable only by capitalist economies.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Social Ideology of the Motorcar

By André Gorz
Le Sauvage
September-October 1973

The worst thing about cars is that they are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people. Unlike the vacuum cleaner, the radio, or the bicycle, which retain their use value when everyone has one, the car, like a villa by the sea, is only desirable and useful insofar as the masses don't have one.

That is how in both conception and original purpose the car is a luxury good. And the essence of luxury is that it cannot be democratised. If everyone can have luxury, no one gets any advantages from it. On the contrary, everyone diddles, cheats, and frustrates everyone else, and is diddled, cheated, and frustrated in return.

Fueling Climate Injustice

Tar sands, emissions and US-Canadian militarization

"The greatest contribution that I appreciate from the Dominion is that one feels the energies, the focus of a new generation of Canadians taking stock of Canadian reality as it is." --Jooneed Khan

TORONTO—Over half of Alberta’s tar sands oil goes to the US, making Canada the single largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States. As popular uprisings unfold across the Middle East, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to facilitate oil exports to the US by making them tax-free, arguing that the US needs “secure” oil from its stable northern allies. Over the past forty years, exploration and production of crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands have spiked in tandem with various wars and occupations involving Canadian and US military.

“[Former US Vice-President Dick] Cheney’s National Energy Policy identified expanding Canadian tar sands production as critical to US security,” says Ricardo Acuna of the Parkland Institute, an Edmonton-based progressive think tank. “Reduced tar sands production would force the US to reduce growth in energy consumption, including for their military.”

Acuna has chronicled spikes in Alberta’s oil production in 1973 and throughout the last decade, which correlate to US (and in some cases Canadian) military involvement in the Yom Kippur war, the Iraqi oil embargo and the ongoing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Pressure from the US has prevented Canada from developing any type of climate change policy, says Acuna, because an ever-expanding imperial military force in turn requires an expanding source of fossil fuels.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Documentary: Defending Mother Earth

An educational film about Bolivia and climate change

More info HERE.

Defending Mother Earth is a community documentarythat inspires us to find out what one of the poorest countries on Earth is doing to defend the planet. Launched at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Bolivia in April 2010 with 35,000 delegates from all around the world, the film portrays Bolivia’s call for an alternative to the failures of the Copenhagen summit.

Filmed mainly in Bolivia in some of the world’s most stunning and remote countryside, “Defending Mother Earth” links the massive political changes that have taken place in Bolivia in recent years with the country’s new determination to take a lead on tackling climate change. Uniquely, the new Bolivian Constitution adopted in 2009 recognises the Earth’s rights. President Evo Morales, from an indigenous heritage himself, has been able to unite the interests of industrial workers, traditional farmers and agricultural labourers and their families to begin a transformation of the poorest country in Latin America. Respect for Pachamama (Mother Earth) has become central to the country’s identity.

Maria Eugenia works voluntarily for a community radio station and we follow her as she goes to visit her ancestral village where the traditional language and customs are still alive and well. Her uncle gives us an insight into a community living in close harmony with the land, joining together to celebrate the dead and the living. Back in the city Maria Eugenia talks to her mother at her street stall who explains how the drought conditions were too difficult for her to survive in the countryside. The massive migration of people from the countryside to the cities is one of the direct consequences of climate change that often goes unnoticed.

We also meet Cristian Domínguez, Bolivia’s representative to the Copenhagen climate change summit, explaining to Gill Emslie who lives in an eco-village in Scotland, why Bolivia has taken a radical position on climate change. What emerges is a loving and fearless declaration of love for Mother Earth, inspired by the Bolivian landscape and its spiritual connections.

Production Details

* Director: Jeni Vine
* Running Time: 22mins
* Year of production: 2009
* Languages: Spanish & English
* Subtitles: English
* Country of production: UK / Bolivia
* Format: DVD

Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth

Law of Mother Earth expected to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South American nation

John Vidal in La Paz
10 April 2011

John Vidal reports from La Paz where Bolivians are living with the effects of climate change every day. Link to the video.

Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job

New York Times
April 9, 2011

KAZO, Japan — The ground started to buck at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and Masayuki Ishizawa could scarcely stay on his feet. Helmet in hand, he ran from a workers’ standby room outside the plant’s No. 3 reactor, near where he and a group of workers had been doing repair work. He saw a chimney and crane swaying like weeds. Everybody was shouting in a panic, he recalled.

Mr. Ishizawa, 55, raced to the plant’s central gate. But a security guard would not let him out of the complex. A long line of cars had formed at the gate, and some drivers were blaring their horns. “Show me your IDs,” Mr. Ishizawa remembered the guard saying, insisting that he follow the correct sign-out procedure. And where, the guard demanded, were his supervisors?

“What are you saying?” Mr. Ishizawa said he shouted at the guard. He looked over his shoulder and saw a dark shadow on the horizon, out at sea, he said. He shouted again: “Don’t you know a tsunami is coming?”

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know about Capitalism

John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff
Monthly Review Press
What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know about Capitalism
Paperback, 160 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-58367-241-9
Cloth (ISBN-13: 978-1-58367-242-6)
Forthcoming June 2011; $13.95 
There is a growing consensus that the planet is heading toward environmental catastrophe: climate change, ocean acidification, ozone depletion, global freshwater use, loss of biodiversity, and chemical pollution all threaten our future unless we act. What is less clear is how humanity should respond. The contemporary environmental movement is the site of many competing plans and prescriptions, and composed of a diverse set of actors, from militant activists to corporate chief executives.

This short, readable book is a sharply argued manifesto for those environmentalists who reject schemes of “green capitalism” or piecemeal reform. Environmental and economic scholars Magdoff and Foster contend that the struggle to reverse ecological degradation requires a firm grasp of economic reality. Going further, they argue that efforts to reform capitalism along environmental lines or rely solely on new technology to avert catastrophe misses the point. The main cause of the looming environmental disaster is the driving logic of the system itself, and those in power—no matter how “green”—are incapable of making the changes that are necessary.

What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know about Capitalism tackles the two largest issues of our time, the ecological crisis and the faltering capitalist economy, in a way that is thorough, accessible, and sure to provoke debate in the environmental movement.

(Praise for Foster and Magdoff’s The Great Financial Crisis)

In this timely and thorough analysis of the current financial crisis, Foster and Magdoff explore its roots and the radical changes that might be undertaken in response…. This book makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing examination of our current debt crisis, one that deserves our full attention.
Publishers Weekly

Fred Magdoff is professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont. His most recent books include Agriculture and Food in Crisis (edited with Brian Tokar), The ABCs of the Economic Crisis (with Michael Yates), and The Great Financial Crisis (with John Bellamy Foster). John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review. He is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and author of The Ecological RevolutionThe Great Financial Crisis (with Fred Magdoff), Critique of Intelligent Design (with Brett Clark and Richard York), Ecology Against CapitalismMarx’s Ecology, and The Vulnerable Planet.

Interview With Bill McKibben And Gregory Vickrey

By Mickey Z
27 February, 2011

Interview With Bill McKibben, Winner of Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and Gregory Vickrey, Winner of International Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize

Bill McKibben, Schumann distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, is the author of a dozen books about the environment, including “The End of Nature” (1989), regarded as the first book for a general audience about global warming. He is also founder of the global grassroots climate movement, which organized what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Most recently, he was the recipient of the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Of this honor, McKibben said: 

“I’m a beginner as an organizer; it’s a great honor to be included on this list of people who have changed America for the better. I am deeply grateful to The Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute for this recognition of my work. I am even more appreciative that this award is representative of a shared conviction that now is a singular moment in our history for all people of good conscience to come together in defense of the planet. Our work has never been more urgent.”

New Figures Show Developing Countries Are Leading Rich Countries on Cutting Emissions

From the Plurinational State of Bolivia:

BANGKOK, 8 April 2011 – Today, as the UN climate talks came to a close in Bangkok, Ambassador Pablo Solon of the Plurinational State of Bolivia released UN statistics that showed, contrary to conventional wisdom, that developing countries are taking more climate action than developed countries.

Ambassador Pablo Solon of the Plurinational State of Bolivia

“What’s on the table in these negotiations is that 65% of emission reductions happen in developing countries and just 35% happen in developed countries, even though it is they who caused the problem of climate change. This is like someone burning down your crops, making you do all the work to replant them and then acting like a hero when they give you a tiny discount on the seeds . “Ambassador Solon said.

“Developed countries have decided that a limitation of a 2 degree temperature rise should be the object of the climate negotiations, despite that goal being unsafe for millions of lives and livelihoods across the world.” Ambassador Solon said.

“Nevertheless, to achieve their inadequate goal, countries across the world would need to cut their emissions by 14 gigatonnes per year by 2020.” Ambassador Solon said.

“At best, countries of the world have currently pledged to do 8.7 gigatonnes of emission reductions and at worst 6.6 gigatonnes – which shows how far we are from achieving an outcome that reflects the science and preserves life.” Ambassador Solon said.

“Of these inadequate pledges, in the worst case scenario, only 3 gigatonnes are included in rich countries pledges, in contrast to 3.6 gigatonnes in developing countries- giving up the lie that it is developed countries which are “leading” emission reductions.” Ambassador Solon said.

“Rich country promises are even more hollow when the use of ‘offsets’ are included to their low pledges, those offsets transfer 1.1 gigatonnes of emission reductions from developed countries to developing countries.” Ambassador Solon said.

“In total this analysis shows that, with the use of offsets 3.6 gigatonnes of emission reductions will happen in developing countries in contrast to just 1.9 gigatonnes in developed countries.” Ambassador Solon said.

“To spend five days discussing an agenda seems insane but what is behind the discussion of the agenda is what kind of outcome we will have in South Africa.” Ambassador Solon added in answers to questions.

A copy of the presentation is available here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

EU Emissions Trading System: failing at the third attempt

Corporate Europe Observatory
7 April 2011

Emissions trading is the European Union’s flagship measure for tackling climate change, and it is failing badly. In theory it provides a cheap and efficient means to limit greenhouse gas reductions within an ever-tightening cap, but in practice it has rewarded major polluters with windfall profits, while undermining efforts to reduce pollution and achieve a more equitable and sustainable economy. The third phase of the scheme, beginning in 2013, is supposed to rectify the “teething problems” that have led to the failures to date.

This joint briefing from Carbon Trade Watch and Corporate Europe Observatory shows that:

- The EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) has failed to reduce emissions. Companies have consistently received generous allocations of permits to pollute, meaning they have no obligation to cut their carbon dioxide emissions. A surplus of around 970 million of these allowances from the second phase of the scheme (2008-2012), which can be used in the third phase, means that polluters need take no action domestically until 2017. Proposals to curtail this surplus were discussed in the context of the EU’s 2050 Roadmap, but have been watered down in response to lobbying from energy-intensive industries.

Utopia’s Steady State Economy

Chris Williams
March 22, 2011

Sir Thomas More’s Utopia was written almost 500 years ago, in the early 16th century. [1] The book has since influenced many a philosopher interested in the concept of Utopia, in theory or in practice. It is an attempt to outline the workings of an ideal state – in this case a small island state in the New World. Written originally in Latin, the book was dangerous in that it directly challenged the authority and wisdom of the ruling Crown – a standpoint that later resulted in the author’s execution by King Henry VIII.

As I began to read this book, I was startled by the early realisation that this book is nothing short of a 500 year old vision of a ‘Steady State Economy. In this article, I will review the book and show the many parallel aspects between the two visions; comparing Utopia with the vision of a Steady State Economy as outlined recently in the report from the steady state economy conference, Enough is Enough. [2] (The following headings are chapters from the report, followed by comparisons from Utopia).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Green Microfinance: It's Time To Clean Up The Bandwagon

Green microfinance is the link between good intentions and real results.

April 6, 2011

Muhammad Yunus
Microfinance is a business model focused on providing small loans to low-income clients, enabling them to develop small businesses. The model has become a hot topic in recent years, thanks in large part to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, joint winners of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus recently released a documentary, “To Catch A Dollar,” further raising awareness of microcredit loans.

While microfinance has lifted many people out of poverty, a job focused on environmentally damaging practices can actually worsen a loan recipient’s situation.

Toronto People’s Assembly: A New Approach to Climate Justice Organizing

By Brett Rhyno and Julien Lalonde
Climate and Capitalism
April 5, 2011

Building a movement with “radical horizontality”

Brett Rhyno and Julien Lalonde are independent climate justice community organizers who are helping to organize the 3rd People’s Assembly on Climate Justice in Toronto, April 23rd, 2011.

People’s Assemblies are a new organizational paradigm in the Climate Justice movement, based the dynamic process of radical horizontality. Climate Justice community organizing in Toronto has identified empowerment, self—sufficiency, and the creation of radical, sustainable alternatives as essential to strong local communities in confronting the climate crisis in the urban context.

In this article we trace its origins back to the Reclaim Power action in Copenhagen during COP 16, the World People’s Conference on the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and the G20 summit in Toronto.

G77+China, ALBA Back Bolivia in Climate Talks in Bangkok

World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth
April 5, 2011
Bangkok, Thailand

Pablo Solón
“We would like to express our profound worry due to the fact that two decisions were adopted in the framework of the Cancun climate negotiations despite the formal and explicit objection made by a Member State. We consider this a dangerous precedent that should not be repeated under the Framework Convention on Climate Change,” said Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela in the name of the regional group ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas) at United Nations climate talks in Bangkok today. The countries emphasized that “these illegal practices are affecting the Plurinational State of Bolivia, a country that has the same rights as all others, and tomorrow, any other country present here could be affected.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ghana: Jatropha biofuel push faces protests

By Suleiman Mustapha
African Agriculture
April 5, 2011

Women Lose Their Farms to Biofuel Production
In Ghana, whether the biofuel crop jatropha will pluck rural farmers from poverty and reduce carbon emissions or displace farmers and gobble up land that could produce food depends very much on who you ask.

For Iddrisu Issifu, who recently handed over his 10 acres to Norwegian-owned Biofuel Africa Limited for jatropha cultivation, the arrival of this drought-resistant tree that produces an oil that can be made into diesel represents a break from constant battles against the vagaries of maize production, particularly as weather patterns shift in response to climate change.

Green Party blues (and how to help save the country)

Murray Dobbin's Blog
April 5, 2011

Elizabeth May has lost her court challenge of the decision to exclude her from the party leaders’ TV debates. That’s too bad. I would like to see May in the debates – she is the most natural of all the leaders, actually answering questions like a normal human being would rather than the scripted, anal and cautious replies of all the other “leaders.”

But it is not as simple as enjoying Elizabeth score points in a debate. The Green Party has in fact been playing less and less of a role in Canadian politics over the past two years. You don’t often hear from the party or its leader on key issues. May seems to spend more of her time in her riding than in Ottawa where the press gallery is – no doubt part of her effort to get a seat in the election. Fair enough, I guess, as not having a seat is a huge problem for her and her party. But in other elections, the Greens have approached the dropping of the writ with polling in the 7% – 10% range, pretty good for a party with limited resources.

Monday, April 4, 2011

‘Beyond capitalism’? Québec solidaire launches debate on its program for social transformation

By Richard Fidler
Life on the Left
April 4, 2011

MONTRÉAL – At a convention held here March 25-27, Québec solidaire concluded the second round in the process of adopting its program. More than 350 delegates from party associations across the province debated and adopted the party’s stance on issues in relation to the economy, ecology and labour. And they reaffirmed their determination to build the party as an independent political alternative, rejecting proposals by QS leaders to seek “tactical agreements” with the capitalist Parti québécois and/or the Parti vert (Greens) that would have allowed reciprocal support of the other party’s candidate in selected ridings.

This was Québec solidaire’s sixth convention since its founding in 2006. Faced with two general elections within the party’s first three years, QS members had adopted election platforms in their first conventions addressed to major issues that could be dealt with in the course of a Quebec government’s term of office, but left the elaboration of a more sweeping program — outlining the party’s overall orientation and strategy “within a perspective of social transformation” — to a more prolonged process of debate.[1]

Energy and climate change review of Liberal Party platform

By Andrea Harden-Donahue
Council of Canadians
April 4, 2011

UPDATE: Budget 2011 meets (lowered) expectations

I blogged shortly after the budget was announced and provided some analysis on key priority areas of funding for actions addressing climate change; you can find my blog here.

Here are a couple of updates:

Will this budget see Canada prioritize green infrastructure spending? Will this budget decrease the gap between spending on defence and the environment?

Fair Weather Warning

By Climate Justice editorial collective
The Dominion
April 4, 2011

"The best old school journalism understood that its purpose was to challenge power with unassailable facts; the best activist journalism knows that constructive resistance is fueled by media we can actually use. The Dominion represents the vital fusion of these two traditions: it deserves massive support." --Avi Lewis

This is the opening editorial of our 2011 special issue, A People's Forecast: The Climate Justice Issue. We'll be posting articles from this issue every Monday & Friday throughout April. For more about the issue click here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bleeding Planet

July, 2010

Chris Williams, activist and author of "Ecology And Socialism", speaks to the recent BP ecological crisis at a public meeting presented by the ISO (International Socialist Organization) in New York City. He tackles the "how's" and "why's" of the policies that led to this crisis and examines the role that a democratic socialist society could play in an ecological restructure.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Should We Remain Silent About Climate Change?

By Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher
Labor Network For Sustainability
April 2011

To talk of climate change or not to talk of climate change — that is the question.

For the last several years many of the biggest players in the climate movement have argued that to save the planet we need to purge the words “global warming” and “climate change” from our talking points and educational materials. Poll-oriented groups like the Breakthrough Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund argue that public opinion surveys prove Americans care most about jobs and lack the capacity to act on some distant threat.

They maintain that instead of being prophets of doom, climate protection advocates should gather around a “good news” agenda that limits our messaging to green jobs, national pride, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. “Forget about climate change” Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, explained to a gathering of environmentalists last year. Just ask people “Do you love America?”

Kivalina: A Climate Change Story

By Christine Shearer
Price: $16.00
ISBN: 9781608461288
Published: June, 2011
Type: Paperback

While corporate funded scientists continue their effort to spread doubt about global climate change, for one native village in Alaska the price for further denial could be the complete devastation of their homes and culture. Kivalina must be relocated to survive, but neither the oil giants nor the government have proven willing to take responsibility.


“Christine Shearer’s Kivalina: A Climate Change Story is a fast and bumpy ride that begins with the history of outrageous corporate deceptions through public relations and legal campaigns, continuing with building of the coal-and-oil empire to fuel progress in the United States, leading to the horrendous politics of climate crisis, and finally arriving at its destination, a ground-zero of climate refugee, Kivalina — an Inupiat community along the Chukchi Sea coast of arctic Alaska. I was angry when I turned the last page. I urge you to get a copy, read it, share the story, and join the now global climate justice movement.”
Subhankar Banerjee, writer, activist, and photographer of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land

“This story is a tragedy, and not just because of what’s happening to the people of Kivalina. It’s a tragedy because it’s unnecessary, the product, as the author shows, of calculation, deception, manipulation, and greed in some of the biggest and richest companies on earth.”
Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New 

About the author

Christine Shearer is a writer, journalist, activist, and academic. She is Managing Editor and regular contributor to the online progressive magazine Conducive, and a paid contributor for Coalswarm, a network of information on coal and climate change for grassroots activists that is part of the online corporate watch website Sourcewatch. She has an MA in Sociology and in Media Studies, and will receive her PhD in Sociology with a Global Studies emphasis in 2010 from UC Santa Barbara. Prior to UCSB, she worked as a field reporter for the KPFA Radio Evening News and as an Associate Reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting. Her research and work has been published in magazines, academic journals, science publications, and encyclopedias, including Newsweek, Conservation Letters, Ecological Applications, Spaces for Difference, and Mobilization.

Monopoly and Competition in Twenty-First Century Capitalism

By John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney and R. Jamil Jonna
Monthly Review
April 2011

John Bellamy Foster ( is editor of Monthly Review and professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. Robert W. McChesney ( is Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. R. Jamil Jonna is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Oregon. This is a chapter from Foster and McChesney’s Monopoly-Finance Capital: Politics in an Era of Economic Stagnation and Social Decline, forthcoming next year from Monthly Review Press.

A striking paradox animates political economy in our times. On the one hand, mainstream economics and much of left economics discuss our era as one of intense and increased competition among businesses, now on a global scale. It is a matter so self-evident as no longer to require empirical verification or scholarly examination. On the other hand, wherever one looks, it seems that nearly every industry is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. Formerly competitive sectors like retail are now the province of enormous monopolistic chains, massive economic fortunes are being assembled into the hands of a few mega-billionaires sitting atop vast empires, and the new firms and industries spawned by the digital revolution have quickly gravitated to monopoly status. In short, monopoly power is ascendant as never before.

This is anything but an academic concern. The economic defense of capitalism is premised on the ubiquity of competitive markets, providing for the rational allocation of scarce resources and justifying the existing distribution of incomes. The political defense of capitalism is that economic power is diffuse and cannot be aggregated in such a manner as to have undue influence over the democratic state. Both of these core claims for capitalism are demolished if monopoly, rather than competition, is the rule.

Read more HERE.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill

A searing look at the human face of BP's disaster in the Gulf

By Antonia Juhasz
(Wiley, April 2011)
Order it now from your local bookstore or online.

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded fifty miles off the coast of Louisiana, killing eleven men, and unleashing an 80,000 barrel a day oil gusher. It became the largest oil disaster in American history, and it could happen again.

It is more than a story of ruined beaches, dead wildlife, chemical dispersants, corporate spin, political machinations, and financial fallout. It is a riveting human drama filled with people whose lives will forever be defined as "before" and "after" the Gulf oil disaster.

Black Tide is the only book to tell this story through the perspective of people on all sides of the catastrophe, from those who lost their lives, loved ones, and livelihoods to those who made the policies that set the devastating event in motion, those who cut the corners that put corporate profits over people and the environment, and those who have committed their lives to ensuring that such an event is never repeated.

Bolivia and the birth of a movement for Climate Justice

March 31, 2011

One of the most important but too often neglected events of 2010, was the little country of Bolivia putting itself at the head of the Climate Justice movement. This report, written May 8, 2010, showed how that action galvanized Climate Justice activism in Toronto. Longer version of report published at (Part of a series of articles, “Reflections on 2010”) •

Yesterday, a lively crowd of between 200 and 250 piled into the Steelworkers hall in downtown Toronto in an event that brought together Latin American solidarity, First Nations and environmental activists. Toronto Bolivia Solidarity had helped sponsor a group travel to Cochabamba, Bolivia, for the April people’s summit, called by Bolivian president Evo Morales, as a response to the failed Climate Change talks in Copenhagen in December of 2009. What was clear to all in Cochabamba – and in the Steelworkers hall on May 7 – was that we are witnessing the birth of a new movement, a movement led by the Global South, calling for climate justice.