The environment

For scrupulous reviews

I’ m grateful to Stuart Jordan for alerting comrades to the RS21 pamphlet on ecology (Solidarity 619). We certainly should evaluate what the rest of the revolutionary left says on these important matters. I’ve not read the RS21 pamphlet, so I trust Stuart’s criticisms are warranted. However I think he is far too casual about Marx and Engels, the founders of our tradition and where our assessments often begin. There is nothing “so-called” about Marxist metabolism. For two decades this term has been used as shorthand for Marx’s approach to ecological questions in his mature political economy...

RS21 climate pamphlet: revealing the need for debate

Reading the new RS21 pamphlet, We Only Want the Earth by Gus Woody, is a bit like a salvage operation after a hurricane. There is the odd thing worth saving but even the good stuff is a bit tarnished and in need of loving restoration. Overwhelmingly it is a mess. Alongside some basic factual errors (Evo Morales is not a Peruvian!) it exposes a poverty of understanding of both ecological science and Marxist theory. The pamphlet is written with a folksy familiarity, but is full of unexplained Trotskisant jargon that makes it fairly inaccessible. For example, he tells us a “communism is not a...

The invention of tradition on Marxist ecology

In his influential book The Invention of Tradition, Eric Hobsbawm explained the process by which historians seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, attempting to establish continuity with a suitable historic past. Marxism is not exempt from the manufacture of tradition. In fact the battle of ideas is often fought around the legitimacy of decisions made by individuals and parties at crucial times in the past. Thus we openly proclaim our affinity with the methods, theories and practices of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, Luxemburg and Gramsci, the foremost...

More environment reading

I want to add some books that we’ll be covering in our upcoming Workers’ Liberty reading groups to Stuart Jordan’s “Reading on environment emergencies”, Solidarity 617. In Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Influenza, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science, the evolutionary epidemiologist Robert G. Wallace gives vital accounts of how capital is driving our age of pandemics. Large-scale and international agriculture, organised in pursuit of profit and coupled with ecosystem destruction, leads to spill over of ever-scarier pathogens from animals to human: and with increasing regularity. This...

Lithium for batteries: how?

Thousands of environmentalists in Serbia have forced a small government u-turn in a battle over mining giant Rio Tinto’s claim to the Jadar valley. 130,000 people, 2% of the Serbian population, have signed a petition against Rio Tinto’s plan to open the biggest lithium mine in Europe. The government has ditched proposed law changes that would make it easier to expropriate land. As an essential ingredient in car batteries, lithium is a key resource of the green tech revolution. The EU wants to produce 30 million electric vehicles in the next few decades to meet its climate pledges. Demand for...

Pandemics, the environment, big agriculture, and capitalism — Readings

One epidemic after another, at increasing frequency, is not a purely "natural" phenomenon. Our age of pandemics is driven by widespread environmental destruction, big agriculture, and insatiable pursuit of profit. Our monthly socialist environmental reading group will be looking at the origins and driving forces behind pandemics. This page lists various readings, and will be updated as more are added. More info about the reading group session here. The main reading is Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Influenza, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science by Rob Wallace, an evolutionary...

Reading on environment emergencies

In his thought-provoking book on the pandemic, The Revenge of the Real, Benjamin Bratton argues that human society has a “sensing layer”: an infrastructure of technology and a knowledge base that allows us to know what is going on with increasing accuracy Effective socialist organisations and the workers movement in general also need a “sensing layer”. Our efficacy is based in part on our ability to describe reality squarely. With this in mind, and with the prospect of long winter nights ahead and Christmas stockings that need to be filled, I want to suggest a few books of popular science...

Nationalise water to stop sewage dumping

Water companies in the England and Wales have been found to be illegally dumping raw sewage directly into Britain’s waterways and seas at staggering rates. An investigation from the Environment Agency (EA) found that in 2020 alone water companies had discharged sewage into rivers more than 400,000 times, for a total of more than three million hours. Companies are legally allowed to discharge raw sewage this way but only in exceptional situations where it would otherwise threaten to overwhelm the sewer system, such as after prolonged periods of rain. Then discharging allows fluid to move...

Developing carbon drawdown via algae

Franziska Elmer is a marine biologist working on a project to boost the growth of algae in the oceans as a carbon draw-down technique. She spoke to Stuart Jordan from Solidarity. We are working on a research and development project that investigates how the macroalgae Sargassum fluitans and natans can be grown in parts of the ocean that have very little nutrients in the surface water. A few hundred metres below the surface there is very nutrient-rich water that is currently not used by any organisms as there is no light for photosynthesis. By bringing this water up through artificial upwelling...

1888: Río Tinto and Spain’s first climate strike

In 1888 thousands of miners and farmers, along with their families, marched through the streets of Ríotinto, in the province of Huelva, and stood against the most powerful company in Spain. Led by anarchist trade unionists, this was Spain’s first climate strike and the beginning of a nascent environmental movement, demanding better pay, conditions, and, crucially, an end to open air copper refining (calcination). The valley of the Río Tinto river in southern Spain has been used for ore mining for approximately 5000 years. Sections of the river flow bright red and orange due to the presence of...

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