(Pt. I, ‘the 100% ‘renewable’ energy capitalist climate saviors’ is here.)
First, let’s start with ‘Memo to Jacobin: Ecomodernism is not ecosocialism’, Sep 25, 2017 by Ian Angus, monthly review online (Originally published: Climate & Capitalism): ‘Ian Angus challenges a left-wing magazine that promotes geoengineering, nuclear power, carbon storage and other techno-fixes as solutions to climate change.’
‘To say that ‘science and technology can solve all our problems in the long run,’ is much worse than believing in witchcraft.
~ István Mészáros, in memoriam
Angus points to Jacobin Magazine’s (dead tree, not online) recent special edition on climate change, the lead article claiming that “climate change … has to be at the center of how we mobilize and organize going forward. From now on, every issue is a climate issue.”
Excellent news, says Angus, given that a magazine calling itself a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, culture, and economics “ought to be a leader in the fight against capitalism’s deadly assault on the earth’s life-support systems.” But no, he says, if this issue is any indication, Jacobin’s heading in the wrong direction.
“…there is nothing in this issue resembling an ecosocialist analysis or program. There’s not a word about stopping coal or tar sands mining, and no mention of shutting down the world’s biggest polluter, the US military. Instead we are offered paeans to technology in articles that advocate nuclear power, geoengineering, new power grids, electric cars and the like.
But despite their technophilia, the authors display little understanding of the technologies they support. Take, for example, the piece by Christian Parenti. He has written elsewhere that the U S government can resolve the climate crisis without system change by supporting clean technologies, so “realistic climate politics are reformist politics.” This article says much the same, that “state action and the public sector” can solve climate change by implementing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). He tells us that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is “fairly simple,” because it has been done in submarines for years, and because Icelandic scientists recently developed a safe method of injecting CO2 into underground basalt, where it becomes a limestone-like solid within two years.”
He notes the absurdity of Parenti’s too-credulous massive scaling up comparison with submarines, when even the Navy has called for new proposals, new materials…as the ones online are too energy intensive, and need frequent replacements by techs wearing…hazmat suits. But on to carbon sequestration:
“There is only one commercial plant in the entire world that captures CO2 directly from the air. According to the journal Science, it takes in just 900 tons of CO2 a year, roughly the amount produced by 200 cars. The company that built it says that capturing just one percent of global CO2 emissions would require 250,000 similar plants. “Fairly simple” just doesn’t apply.
As for the Icelandic experiment in storing CO2 in basalt, Parenti doesn’t seem to have read beyond the gee-whiz headlines. Geophysicist Andy Skuce reports in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the experimenters only buried 250 tonnes of CO2, and the gas had first to be dissolved in “almost unimaginable amounts of water” — 25 tonnes of H2O for every tonne of CO2. Not only is that unsustainable, “it is unknown how well the results in Iceland can be applied at large scale in other locales.”
Never mind if all of that would work, Angus writes, but where is the $24 trillion Parenti imagines…going to come from?
“The views expressed in this issue of Jacobin are similar to those promoted in the Ecomodernist Manifesto, which claims that “meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a technological challenge,” and that “knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene.”
Let’s jump to the 32-page (pdf) Manifesto. Of the authors, only one was familiar to me: Stewart Brand, author/editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, the back-to-the-landers’ Bible.
“As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene. A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.
In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse. [snip and holy hell!]
Human civilization can flourish for centuries and millennia on energy delivered from a closed uranium or thorium fuel cycle, or from hydrogen-deuterium fusion.”
It’s hard to want to search for more like this in a pdf, so I turned to cheat-sheet critiques.
The Manifesto was the end product of the Breakthrough Institute, formed in 2003 (the Wiki) ‘Can we love nature…and let it go?’ ‘Senator Lisa Murkowski our top award recipient’? Their ‘time to embrace geoengineering’ tab seemed like dubiously historical word salad to me… cool graphic, though. ;-)
‘Climate change and geoengineering are two faces of the same coin, and our responses to them bring competing views of the future into sharp focus. We can live forever within planetary boundaries set by nature, or we can transcend boundaries and flourish into the deep future.’
Well, even George Monbiot shredded that bullshit: ‘Meet the ecomodernists: ignorant of history and paradoxically old-fashioned; The people behind a manifesto for solving environmental problems through science and technology are intelligent but wrong on their assumptions about farming and urbanisation’
“With the help of science, technology and development, they maintain, human impacts on the natural world can be decoupled from economic activity. People can “increase their standard of living while doing less damage to the environment.” By intensifying our impacts in some places, other places can be spared. Through reduced population growth, the saturation of demand among prosperous consumers and improved technological efficiency, we can become both rich and green.” [snip]
“Of course, such processes are happening anyway, but the ecomodernists make it clear that they would wish away almost the entire rural population of the developing world. The US trajectory is the ideal to which they aspire: “Roughly half the US population worked the land in 1880. Today, less than 2 percent does.”
This hope appears to be informed by a crashing misconception. The ecomodernists talk of “unproductive, small-scale farming” and claim that “urbanisation and agricultural intensification go hand in hand.” In other words, they appear to believe that smallholders, working the land in large numbers, produce lower yields than large farms.
But since Amartya Sen’s groundbreaking work in 1962, hundreds of papers in the academic literature demonstrate the opposite: that there is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the crops they produce. The smaller they are, on average, the greater the yield per hectare.
So what happens to those who were working in “unproductive, small-scale farming”? The manifesto prescribes the following:
“A growing manufacturing base has long been a crucial way to integrate a large, low skilled population into the formal economy, and increase labour productivity. To grow more food on less land, farming becomes mechanised, relieving agricultural workers of a lifetime of hard physical labour.”
Well, of course it’s more mechanized, among other historical objections to their collective drivel, and they also tout GMOs as ‘feeding the world more easily on smaller acreage’. (a Breakthrough ReTweet):
“As Chris Smaje argues, in one of the most interesting essays I have read this year, published on the Dark Mountain website, “modernisation” of the kind they celebrate may have liberated many people from bondage, oppression and hard labour, but it has also subjected many to the same forces.
“A word you won’t find in the Ecomodernist Manifesto is inequality. … There is no sense that processes of modernisation cause any poverty. … There’s nothing on uneven development, historical cores and peripheries, proletarianisation, colonial land appropriation and the implications of all this for social equality. The ecomodernist solution to poverty is simply more modernisation.
“… From ancient Mesopotamia to modern China the evidence is clear: development implies underdevelopment, material wealth implies material poverty, freedom implies slavery and so on. These couplets are not two ends of a historical process, with modernisation ringing the death knell for the misery of the past, but contradictions within the modernisation process itself.”
In his ‘Dark Thoughts on Ecomodernism’ Chris Smaje addresses ecomodernism’s ‘decoupling from nature’ advice, which just bothers the hell outta me:
“The other kind of decoupling the EM advocates is a physical decoupling of people from nature through urbanisation, agricultural intensification and the restoration of wildlands, for in its words ‘Nature unused is nature spared’ (p.19). As noted earlier, the Eden myth, the notion of a pristine and uncorrupted nature, has such a deep currency in our ‘modernising’ culture that this sentence probably seems uncontroversial to many. But I find it strange and troubling. For uncivilised thought, its sentiments are unintelligible. ‘Nature’ is not something that goes ‘used’ or ‘unused’. And though humans can probably never escape entirely from a godlike differentiation of self from nature-other, our power lies not in ‘sparing’ nature but rather in moving purposefully within the realm of its power. Here the EM is caught in a morbid dialectic of capitalism, which first reduces everything in the world to a set of instrumental use values and then, abhorring what it’s done, tries to extricate a sacred wholeness from the consequences of its own ugliness. In contrast to the more anti-modern strands of radical environmentalism, ecomodernism is often characterised as an optimistic doctrine.” on the right sidebar of Dark Mountain:
‘The end of the human race will be that it will
eventually die of civilisation.’
Ralph Waldo Emerson
But fie, I know this is too long already, and I haven’t even gotten to Angus’s version of ecosocialism as promised. I know the Fourth International had one some time ago, but I couldn’t find it, dunno if I’d understand it better this time around.
Eve Ottenberg reviewed Ian Angus’s new book A Redder Shade of Green, (red for socialist revolution, green for ecological revolution) for Truthout on Sept. 26.
“Socialism traces the causes of this catastrophe to the destructive and chaotic growth model of capitalism and advocates for a different system. Meanwhile, sensing the source of danger to their profits, corporate and government reactionaries fuel disinformation campaigns to discredit science and confuse the public. This has been going on for years, with disastrous results.”
Angus has written previously about the “Anthropocene,” a name for our era that emphasizes the centrality of human-influenced climate change. He does not accuse humanity as a whole of environmental destruction, but only a small sliver of humanity — the capitalist class, which has left a gigantic, planet-sized carbon footprint. Angus repeatedly stresses that billions of people have a negligible impact on climate change and that the overpopulation argument — which blames humanity as a whole for climate change — has been used to distract and undermine an effective, ecosocialist movement. The US military has a hugely destructive impact on the environment. So does ExxonMobil. The many citizens of Bangladesh, reeling from climate-change-exacerbated flooding, do not.”
Noting that Ian Angus has tried to push back against the librul notion that overpopulation has been the chief cause of both plantetary environmental degradation and poverty/hunger in the global south, largely to prevent capitalism as the key culprit.
“It took the likes of Rachel Carson, Murray Bookchin and Barry Commoner to initiate an environmentalism rooted in radical social critique, he writes, adding, “Their analysis was rejected by the traditional conservationists, the wealthy organizations and individuals whose primary concern was protecting the wilderness areas for rich tourists and hunters.” Indeed, it was the Sierra Club that financed Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, a book heavily promoted by “liberal Democrats who correctly saw it as an alternative to the radical views of Carson, Commoner and Bookchin.” Angus adds that Ehrlich’s book “became a huge best-seller, and it played a central role in derailing radical environmentalism.” The population bombers faded away, but now they are back, shifting the environmental threat focus from corporations to people.
“The populationists’ error,” Angus writes, “is that they assume there is no alternative” to capitalism. They assume more people means more food means more modern agriculture, which is hugely ecologically destructive. But, Angus argues, there are other agricultural models; moreover, working with the food supply we already have, there are other ways to do things. “Existing food production is in fact more than enough to feed many more people.” Without current waste, it could feed billions more.
Angus observes that “too many people” is in fact “code for too many poor people, too many foreigners, and too many people of color.” According to Commoner: “pollution begins in corporate boardrooms, not family bedrooms.“
After noting that socialism hasn’t always been eco-friendly, Ottenberg writes:
“Since the 1990s, socialism has become much greener. Cuba and Bolivia have led the way. Bolivian President Evo Morales is quoted: “Competition and the thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system are destroying the planet. Under capitalism we are not human beings but consumers … It generates luxury, ostentation and waste for a few, while millions in the world die from hunger … ‘Climate change’ has placed all humankind before a great choice: to continue in the ways of capitalism and death, or to start down the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.”
Angus writes that how we build socialism “will be profoundly shaped by the state of the planet we must build it on.” This idea that, in order to create a socialist future, we must recognize how much damage capitalism will do to our planet dates back to Marx’s concept of a “metabolic rift” between capitalist society and nature, writes Angus. The damage is already severe. “Without radical economic change, it’s more likely that we will have a three degree [temperature] increase by the end of the century and maybe four,” Angus observes. “That … would be catastrophic … substantial parts of the earth … would be very difficult, even impossible to survive in.”
Now Angus’s timeline may be rather…generous, but still…and opinions differ.
There’s a longish section post-WWII and the Great Acceleration of the Anthropocene, and the epic fallacy of most economists seeing war as an anomaly given the fact that capitalist growth in the 20th century relied heavily on military production and spending. But here’s my favorite part:
“Late capitalist agriculture is a major factor in environmental degradation. The chapter “Third World Farming and Biodiversity” argues against industrial farming and for saving biodiversity by means other than nature preserves. It advocates peasant farming enhanced by technological advancements in sustainability. “Some forms of agriculture destroy life, others preserve and expand it,” Angus writes. Third world sustainable farming is much friendlier to biodiversity than large-scale “production of bananas, sugar cane, tea, technified coffee and cacao, soybeans, cottons, pastures.”
The struggle of peasant farmers for human rights, the struggle for sustainable agriculture and the efforts to preserve biodiversity are one. The umbrella organization, La Via Campesina, calls for “the conjoining of the rights of people to consume food to the rights of people to produce their own food.” According to the book Nature’s Matrix, which Angus quotes: “Joining the worldwide struggle of millions of small-scale farmers clamoring for food sovereignty is more likely to yield long-term biodiversity benefits than buying a patch of so-called ‘pristine’ forest.”
In other words, industrial farming is the problem. “Without an agro-ecological revolution,” Angus writes, “the Sixth Extinction cannot be stopped.”
Now as to this, cordelier’s characterization of this piece by the wrong kind of green collective may be true, but if it’s ‘exhaustive’, I’d add ‘exhausting’, as it’s too long to read at one or two sittings for most of us (okay, especially me), and the graphics of bidness relationships are confusing. The photos and captions are just about priceless, if nauseating. Some of what Morningstar and Palmer have included here has been reprised from earlier exposés, but ignore it, scan it, read it another day…at will. I’ll hush my mouth now, except to say that it’s highly relevant to this diary, and depressing as to the incestuous relationships of the faux greens and their profiteering projects. Oopsie; now I’ll hush my mouth.