Sunday, 16 June 2019

Karl Marx: Communist, Revolutionist… Environmentalist? – Interview with Kohei Saito

First published at Left Voice

You write in the introduction to your book, “Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism,” that for many years, environmentalists—and even many Marxists—believed that Marx held a Promethean viewpoint and that he was uncritical of the technology developed under capitalism. Where did this idea come from, and why has it persisted until recently?

One obvious reason is that Marx did not finish “Capital.” Marx eagerly studied natural sciences in his late years, but he was unable to fully integrate his new findings into “Capital.” Although he planned to elaborate on ecological issues in volume 3, especially in rewriting his theory of ground rent, he never made it very far, and even volume 2 of Capital was not published during his lifetime. Instead, Marx left only a number of notebooks on natural sciences. Unfortunately, no one really paid attention to them—and not many people read them today either—and they were not even published for a long time, although now the “Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe” (MEGA) publishes them in its fourth section.

Why did this neglect happen? I think that so-called traditional Marxism treated Marx’s materialist project as a closed dialectical system that explains everything in the universe, including human history and nature. In this sense, Marxists did not pay enough attention to his economic manuscripts and even less to his notebooks, which document the incomplete character of Marx’s “Capital.”

Of course, there were Marxists who rejected this omnipotent reading. They are known today under the banner of “Western Marxism.” When they rejected traditional Marxism, however, they harshly reproached Engels as the misleading founder of traditional Marxism, who wrongly expanded Marx’s dialectical critique of capitalist society to the scientific system of the universe. Consequently, when Western Marxists expelled Engels and his dialectics of nature, they also excluded the sphere of nature and natural sciences from their analysis. Consequently, Marx’s serious engagement with natural sciences was ignored by both traditional and Western Marxists.

But today, no one really believes in this all-encompassing omnipotence of Marx’s theory, and the “MEGA” makes Marx’s engagement with natural sciences clearly visible. Thus, we need to find an alternative approach to Marx’s texts, and it is a chance to utilize the openness of Marx’s project in a productive way with new materials. In other words, by looking at his economic manuscripts as well as his notebook on natural sciences, we can learn from Marx how to develop ecological critique of capitalism in the 21st century. This is an urgent practical and theoretical task for today’s left, as humans are now facing a serious global ecological crisis under neoliberal capitalism.

Your book is dedicated to rescuing Marx’s ecological critique of capitalism, continuing the work undertaken by ecosocialists like Paul Burkett and John Bellamy Foster. Why do you think Marx’s ecological analysis is so important to the left and to environmentalists today?

Yes, my approach is a clear continuation of the “metabolic rift” theory advocated by Foster and Burkett, and one of the aims of my book is to defend the concept of metabolic rift against recent criticism raised by Jason W. Moore. It is quite apparent today that mass production and consumption under capitalism has tremendous influence upon global landscape and causes ecological crisis. Marxist theory thus also needs to respond to the situation with a clear practical demand to envision a sustainable society beyond capitalism. Capitalism and material conditions for sustainable production are incompatible. This is the basic insight of “ecosocialism.”

I think Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” has provided a very convincing and concrete analysis of how the regeneration of the Marxist idea of metabolic rift can open up new imagination for an ecosocialist project in the 21st century. She shows that such radical movements are already emerging, and their goals are actually worth striving for. As she argues, it is necessary to reduce a large amount of carbon emission every year starting from now on in industrial countries, if increase of average global temperature in 2100 should be contained within 2 degrees Celsius. But it is not possible for capitalist global elites and companies to accept this demand because they know that such project is incompatible with necessary conditions of capital accumulation.

This is why the Paris agreement is insufficient to achieve the required reduction of carbon emissions, but Trump cannot accept even that level of carbon reduction. We have been too often witnessing global elites’ total incompetence to take any serious measure against climate change in the last decades. We should realize that the problem is not simply neoliberalism but capitalism as such. This is why Klein also now clearly advocates ecosocialism, “a new form of democratic eco-socialism, with the humility to learn from Indigenous teachings about the duties to future generations and the interconnection of all of life, appears to be humanity’s best shot at collective survival.” The antagonism between red and green needs to be dissolved.

The first half of your book focuses on Marx’s idea of a metabolism between human beings and nature. Can you tell us about how ecosocialists are applying the theory of metabolic rift to the various ecological crises we are currently witnessing? How does Marx’s theory differ from other strains of ecological theory?

Marx clearly and critically recognized the destructive power of capital and argued that disruptions in the universal metabolism of nature inevitably undermine material conditions for free and sustainable human development. The robbery character inherent to the capitalist development of productive forces does not bring about progress that leads to the future society. Marx attempted to analyze how the logic of capital diverges from the eternal natural cycle and ultimately causes various disharmonies in the metabolic interaction between humans and nature. Famously enough, he analyzed this point with reference to Justus von Liebig’s critique of modern “robbery agriculture (“Raubbau”),” which takes as much nutrition as possible from the soil without returning it. Robbery agriculture is driven by profit maximization, which is simply incompatible with the material conditions of the soil for sustainable production. Thus, there emerges a grave gap between the logic of capital’s valorization and that of nature’s metabolism, which creates “metabolic rifts” in human interaction with the environment.

Though Marx in “Capital” mainly discusses this problem of metabolic rift in relation to soil exhaustion, it is not at all necessary to limit the scope to it. In fact, Marx himself also tried to apply this theoretical concept to various issues in his late years, such as deforestation and stock farming. Therefore, Marx would be happy to see that today there are various attempts to apply this theoretical framework as a tool to analyze ongoing environmental crisis. To name a few, Longo’s marine ecology, Ryan Gunderson’s livestock agribusiness, as well as Del Weston’s climate change are excellent examples for ecosocialist application of Marx’s theory of metabolic rift.

One obvious difference between the ecosocialist approach and that of other strands of ecological theory is the insight that as long as the capitalist system persists, there is an inevitable tendency toward the degradation of material conditions of production. In other words, the market cannot function as a good mediator for the sustainable production in contrast to the persistent liberal belief that green capitalism is somehow possible in the near future. The time left for us is very short. Under these conditions, liberal’s hope that carbon trade or other market transactions can solve climate change only functions as an ideological tool to distract us from confronting the real danger and threat, as if the market could automatically solve the problem without our conscious engagement to radically change the existing mode of production. Liberals are very dangerous in this sense.

The second part of your book focuses on Marx’s view of the possibilities of achieving “rational agriculture” under capitalism and how that view changed over time as he continued his research. Did Marx conclude that the ecological destruction caused by capitalism cannot be resolved within the limits of capitalism?

Young Marx was still quite optimistic about the capitalist development of technologies and natural sciences. Thus, he thought that it would prepare conditions for sustainable agriculture in socialism. However, as he was writing “Capital,” he started to emphasize that the main aim of capitalist production is not sustainable production but the valorization of capital. Marx realized that, ultimately, it does not matter even if a large part of the planet becomes unsuitable for life, as long as capital accumulation is still possible. Correspondingly, Marx realized that technological development is organized as “productive forces of capital,” which lead to the full realization of negative aspects of technologies, so they cannot function as a material foundation for socialist society.

The problem is discernible in the fact that capital can profit even from environmental disaster. This tendency is clearly visible in what neoliberal “disaster capitalism” has done in the last decades, as Klein documents in detail. If this is the case, then it is wrong to assume that the end of cheap nature would impose a great difficulty on the capital accumulation, as James O’Connor indicated with his theory of the “second contradiction of capital.” Consequently, capital can actually continue to make profit more from the current ecological crisis by inventing new business opportunities, such as geoengineering, GMOs, carbon trade and insurances for natural disasters. Thus, natural limits do not lead to the collapse of the capitalist system. It can keep going even beyond those limits, but the current level of civilization cannot exist beyond a certain limit. This is why a serious engagement with global warming simultaneously requires a conscious struggle against capitalism.

You point out that, toward the end of his life, Marx became aware of the danger of climate change as a result of society’s irrational management of nature—an incredible insight given that he was writing a century and a half ago. How did Marx understand climate change?

Foster argues that Marx might have attended John Tyndall’s lecture on the greenhouse effect, so he knew about the cause of today’s global warming. My argument is somewhat different, as there is no direct evidence to prove Marx’s familiarity with this topic. Rather, I examined his notebook on Carl Fraas’s “Climate and Plant World over Time,” which Marx read in the beginning of 1868. The book discusses climate change, as a result not of greenhouse gas emissions but of excessive deforestation, which changes the local air circulation and precipitation. Fraas’s analysis expanded Marx’s interest in the robbery character of capitalist production beyond soil exhaustion, and in some sense, he evaluated Fraas’s theory even more than Liebig’s.

Even if Marx did not know the exact causes of today’s global warming, it is not a major deficit because Marx did not claim to have explained everything. Until the last moment of his life, he was very eager to integrate new findings in the natural sciences into his analysis of metabolic rifts. He was unable to fully achieve this aim, and “Capital” remained unfinished. But his critique of political economy is elastic enough to incorporate recent scientific progress. Since his critique of metabolic rift provides a methodological foundation to a critical analysis of the current global ecological crisis, it is our task today to substantiate and update Marx’s ecology for the 21st century by developing the synthetic analysis of political economy and natural sciences as a radical critique of capitalism. This is exactly what people like Brett Clark and Richard York as well as other people already mentioned are conducting now.

Using the example of the exhaustion of Irish soil due to British colonialism, Marx showed how the expansion of capital around the world is directly linked to ecological crisis in the colonial countries. What lessons can we draw from this example, and what does it tell us about overcoming the worldwide ecological crises today, which are far greater in scale?

In the key passage to the concept of the metabolic rift, Marx wrote that the capitalist mode of production “produces conditions that provoke an irreparable rift in the interdependent process between social metabolism and natural metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of the soil. The result of this is a squandering of the vitality of the soil, and trade carries this devastation far beyond the bounds of a single country (Liebig).” With an expansion of capitalist accumulation, the metabolic rift becomes a global issue.

Marx’s theory proves correct, as this is exactly what we are witnessing today, especially with climate change. As I said, climate change will not put an end to the regime of capital. In any case, capitalism is much more elastic in that this social system is likely to survive and continue to accumulate capital even if ecological crisis deepens to destroy the entire planet and to produce a mass environmental proletariat all over the world. Rich people would probably survive, while the poor are much more vulnerable to climate change, even though they are much less responsible for the crisis than the rich. The poor do not possess effective technological and financial means to protect themselves from the catastrophic consequences of climate change to come. Fighting for climate justice clearly includes a component of class struggle, as was the case in British colonialism in Ireland and India.

While climate change could change everything about our life, changing climate change will change capitalism. This is how ecosocialism comprehends ecological crisis and metabolic rifts as the central contradiction of capitalism. Marx was one of the first ecosocialists, since he recognized this point when he found a “socialist tendency” in Carl Fraas’s warning against excessive deforestation and climate change. Thus, to overcome alienation from nature is a central task for both red and green, which can be realized only beyond capitalism, and not within “green capitalism.”

Kohei Saito is an associate professor of political economy at Osaka University and author of “Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism,” winner of the 2018 Deutscher Memorial Prize. He is also an editor of the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), which includes many of Marx’s previously unpublished notebooks on natural science.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

We Need To Overthrow the Present Political System

Written by Eric Schechter and first published at Dandelion Salad

This morning an acquaintance of mine emailed me a link to Jem Bendell’s article “Deep Adaptation.” Following is a slightly revised copy of the reply I sent to him:

That “Deep Adaptation” article really seems to be getting around — I get the impression that a lot more people are reading it. I read it when I first ran across it half a year ago, and again a couple of months ago when a friend of mine sent it to me. I agree with only a little of it:

It says, among other things, that our climate problem is much more dire and urgent than most people have previously realized. I agree with that, and I’m glad to see that more people are realizing that now.

However, I find its distinction between “collapse” and “catastrophe” confusing. And I am doubtful that any kind of “adaptation” — deep or otherwise — is possible.

Here are the two paths that I see before us:

(1) Worldwide ecosocialist revolution within the next couple of years, changing everything, and fixing the climate to some degree. That requires waking up most of humanity to an understanding vastly different from anything they have ever imagined. It’s not likely that we’ll follow this path, but I’m still advocating for it; I haven’t given up hope yet.

(2) The capitalists retain their grip on power. They continue to block any changes that would cut into their short-term profits, regardless of how this destroys everyone’s future including their own. And the destruction is coming much bigger and faster than most people realize.

(The reason the capitalists do this is because they are not some unified “Illuminati.” They are in cutthroat competition against each other, and each says “I just have to make a buck for myself right now, I’ll leave it to someone else to clean up the mess.”)

Already, climate change has begun to cause crop failures, rising food prices, and large numbers of refugees. Uncle Sam’s psychopathic foreign policies add to the number of refugees.

All that will increase, and within a few years we’ll see massive famines, and the end of any organized human society, i.e., “civilization.” Most humans will die. I’m estimating this catastrophe will happen by 2035, but I have no precise timetable or specific evidence — I’m just eyeballing what I see happening around me. Keep in mind that the processes are exponential, not linear.

Some “back to nature” idiots believe that the aforementioned catastrophe will stop global warming, and a few bands of roving humans will find a way to adapt. Those idiots are mistaken. We have set into motion some major feedback loops that no longer depend on the carbon emissions of a large number of humans. (For instance, the warming melts the ice, replacing white reflecting surface with darker non-reflecting surface, increasing the sunlight that the planet captures, hence more warming.) And it is unlikely that we can do anything to stop those feedback loops, once civilization has ended.

And so the warming will continue until all the ice has melted, all the forests have burned, and all the phytoplankton have died. By then all the wildlife will be dead, and all the humans too. I’m expecting this by 2045, though again I have no precise timetable or specific evidence. (I laugh ironically at all the newspaper headlines about cities flooding in the year 2100.)

Elon Musk dreams of flying to Mars, but there’s no need: Mars is coming here. And if he does get to Mars, and if his closed-ecosystem biodomes somehow are viable despite their severe lack of diversity, he is bringing to Mars the same capitalist mentality that is killing Earth — and that most people on Earth, even most climate activists, still don’t see.

Good luck to us all. Viva la revolución.

[Addendum: More people are talking about how to survive the coming collapse. But I am convinced that NO ONE will survive the coming collapse, and our only hope is to AVERT the coming collapse. And more people are talking about the fact that averting the coming collapse is impossible under the present political system, so I don’t know why they don’t realize that WE NEED TO OVERTHROW THE PRESENT POLITICAL SYSTEM.]

Sunday, 9 June 2019

I Work in the Environmental Movement - I Don’t Care if you Recycle

Written by Mary Annaïse Heglar and first published at Vox

I’m at my friend’s birthday dinner when an all-too-familiar conversation unfolds. I introduce myself to the man to my left, tell him that I work in the environmental field, and his face freezes in terror. Our handshake goes limp.

“You’re gonna hate me …” he mutters sheepishly, his voice barely audible over the clanging silverware.

I knew what was coming. He regaled me with a laundry list of environmental mistakes from just that day: He’d ordered lunch and it came in plastic containers; he’d eaten meat and he was about to order it again; he’d even taken a cab to this very party.

I could hear the shame in his voice. I assured him that I didn’t hate him, but that I hated the industries that placed him — and all of us — in the same trick bag. Then his shoulders lifted from their slump and his eyes met mine. “Yeah, ’cause there’s really no point trying to save the planet anymore, right?”

My stomach sank.

Sadly, I get this reaction a lot. One word about my five years at the Natural Resources Defense Council, or my work in the climate justice movement broadly, and I’m bombarded with pious admissions of environmental transgressions or nihilistic throwing up of hands. One extreme or the other.

And I understand why. Scientists have been warning us for decades that humans are causing severe and potentially irreversible changes to the climate, essentially baking our planet and ourselves with carbon dioxide. A 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we had roughly 12 (now 11) years to make massive changes that could stop the worst impacts of climate change.

Once upon a time, perhaps, we needed a strong grasp of science to understand climate change, but now all we have to do is look at the daily headlines — or out our windows. From the Camp Fire, a devastating California wildfire that was exacerbated by dry, hot weather, to Hurricane Michael, a storm that rapidly intensified due to increased sea temperatures, climate change is here.

I don’t blame anyone for wanting absolution. I can even understand abdication, which is its own form of absolution. But underneath all that is a far more insidious force. It’s the narrative that has both driven and obstructed the climate change conversation for the past several decades. 

It tells us climate change could have been fixed if we had all just ordered less takeout, used fewer plastic bags, turned off some more lights, planted a few trees, or driven an electric car. It says that if those adjustments can’t do the trick, what’s the point?

The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous. It turns environmentalism into an individual choice defined as sin or virtue, convicting those who don’t or can’t uphold these ethics. 

When you consider that the same IPCC report outlined that the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions come from just a handful of corporations — aided and abetted by the world’s most powerful governments, including the US — it’s victim blaming, plain and simple.

When people come to me and confess their green sins, as if I were some sort of eco-nun, I want to tell them they are carrying the guilt of the oil and gas industry’s crimes. That the weight of our sickly planet is too much for any one person to shoulder. And that that blame paves the road to apathy, which can really seal our doom.

But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. Climate change is a vast and complicated problem, and that means the answer is complicated too. We need to let go of the idea that it’s all of our individual faults, then take on the collective responsibility of holding the true culprits accountable. In other words, we need to become many Davids against one big, bad Goliath.

Greener than thou

When we think about climate change, we’re almost never looking at the whole picture. Generally, we talk about the impacts at a scale so macro, it’s almost impossible to fathom: rising sea levels, melting ice caps, acidifying oceans. In some perverse magic trick, it becomes both atmospheric and far, far away. Everywhere and nowhere.

But when we talk about the causes, the conversation suddenly narrows to our navels. In the aftermath of the 2018 IPCC report, the internet was awash in story after story after story about “what you can do about climate change.” Change your lightbulbs. Bring reusable bags. Cut back on meat.

If the answers are all in our hands, then the blame can’t be anywhere but at our feet. And where does that all lead?

A population beset with shame so heavy they can barely think about climate change — let alone fight it.

This is where the victim blaming takes hold. All too often, our culture broadly equates “environmentalism” with personal consumerism. To be “good,” we must convert to 100 percent solar energy, ride an upcycled bike everywhere, stop flying, eat vegan. We have to live a zero-waste lifestyle, never use Amazon Prime, etc., etc. 

I hear this message everywhere: the left- and right-wing media and within the environmental movement. It’s even been used by the courts and the fossil fuel industry itself as a defense against litigation. In fact, industries have redirected the environmentalist narrative to blame consumers since the ever-so-problematic “Crying Indian” ad campaign of the 1970s. I hear it from my friends and family, strangers on the street, random people in yoga class.

And all this raises the price of admission to the climate movement to an exorbitant level, often pricing out people of color and other marginalized groups.

While we’re busy testing each other’s purity, we let the government and industries — the authors of said devastation — off the hook completely. This overemphasis on individual action shames people for their everyday activities, things they can barely avoid doing because of the fossil fuel-dependent system they were born into. In fact, fossil fuels supply more than 75 percent of the US energy system.

If we want to function in society, we have no choice but to participate in that system. To blame us for that is to shame us for our very existence.

Renowned shame researcher Brené Brown describes shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love or belonging.” This is not to be confused with guilt, which can actually be useful because it holds our behavior against our values and forces us to feel psychological discomfort. Shame, on the other hand, tells us that we are bad people, that we are beyond redemption. It paralyzes us.

As Yessenia Funes, a reporter at Earther, wrote, “I refuse to believe people should be shamed for living in the world we’ve built.”

Consumer actions aren’t enough

So what can we actually do about climate change? Well, to be crystal clear: I’m not advocating for any throwing in of towels. The worst thing you can do about climate change is nothing. Climate change is a huge problem, and to face it, we have to be willing to make personal sacrifices we can feel. It’s our responsibility not only to future generations but also to each other — right here, right now.

Furthermore, given the United States’ outsize contribution to global warming, we have an ethical obligation to shrink our carbon footprints. The United States is the world’s second largest emitter, only recently having fallen from first place. And our historical contribution is even more appalling. The United States is responsible for more than a third of the carbon pollution that has warmed our planet today — more than any other single nation.

Given our enormous footprints, Americans’ personal consumption choices are some of the most powerful in the world. So for us as Americans to say that our personal actions are too frivolous to matter when people died in Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, a country whose carbon footprint is barely visible next to ours, is moral bankruptcy of the highest order.

At the same time, though, the more we focus on individual action and neglect systemic change, the more we’re just sweeping leaves on a windy day. So while personal actions can be meaningful starting points, they can also be dangerous stopping points.

We need to broaden our definition of personal action beyond what we buy or use. Start by changing your lightbulb, but don’t stop there. Taking part in a climate strike or showing up to a rally is a personal action. Organizing neighbors to sue a power plant that’s poisoning the community is a personal action.

Voting is a personal action. When choosing your candidate, investigate their environmental policies. If they aren’t strong enough, demand better. Once that person is in office, hold them accountable. And if that doesn’t work, run for office yourself — that’s another personal action.

Take your personal action and magnify it into something bigger than what kind of bag totes your groceries.

I don’t care

Here’s my confession: I don’t care how green you are. I want you in the movement for climate justice.

I don’t care how long you’ve been engaged in the climate conversation, 10 years or 10 seconds. I don’t care how many statistics you can rattle off. I don’t need you to be all-solar-everything to be an environmentalist. I don’t need you to be vegan-er than thou, or me, for that matter. I don’t care if you are eating a burger right this minute.

I don’t even care if you work on an oil rig. In some parts of the country, those are the only jobs that pay enough for you to feed your family. And I don’t blame workers for that. I blame their employers. I blame the industry that is choking us all, and the government that is letting them do it.

All I need you to do is want a liveable future. This is your planet, and no one can advocate for it like you can. No one can protect it like you can.

We have 11 years — not to start but to finish saving the planet.

I’m not here to absolve you. And I’m not here to abdicate you. I am here to fight with you.

Mary Annaïse Heglar is a climate justice essayist and the director of publications at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York. Find her on Twitter or Medium.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Climate Crisis - Which Transitional Demands Should Ecosocialists Campaign For?

The concept of transitional demands will be familiar to traditional socialists, particularly those followers of Leon Trotsky’s theories of socialism, although, I hasten to add, Trotsky was no ecosocialist. These demands are designed to appear to sound reasonable to the average citizen, and not directly lead to the overthrow of capitalism, but instead to create a pathway to socialism. They are more than just asking for reforms to the capitalist system, although they would be reforms, but they are not ends in themselves.

Much as I would like to see the overthrow of the capitalist system, and as an ecosocialist, I believe that this is necessary if we are to solve the climate crisis and the many other bad effects, both ecological and social, that capitalism creates. But there just isn’t enough time left.

If we are brutally honest with ourselves, a revolution to replace capitalism with ecosocialism is not on the horizon, and the well-being of the earth and all those (human and non-human) who inhabit it are in such deep peril now, we really can’t afford to wait until those conditions arise, as they surely will at some stage. We need mitigating action now.

So, which sort of demands should ecosocialists be making? Given the urgency of the situation on climate change particularly, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest assessment saying that we need to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, to avoid catastrophic changes to the environment, this is the main goal that we need to pursue. But not the only one.

The IPCC is infamously conservative in its estimates though, so I would suggest that we need to be more ambitious than the 45% reductions by 2030 recommended. A more effective target would be something like a 70% reduction within the same timeframe.

The symptoms of the ecological crisis are likely to be more: drought, floods, increasingly strong hurricanes, species loss, deforestation, rising sea levels, bleached coral reefs, ocean acidification and pollution of the air, land and sea, with plastic waste becoming an even greater problem than it is now. 

The knock on effects that all of this will have on the earth’s delicate ecosystems is incalculable, but is likely to be severe, and maybe lead to the extinction of much of life on the planet, including human beings. The stakes are high.

A starting point for a transitional demand is the Green New Deal, which found favour first with Green Parties in the US and UK, and has now been a adopted in the UK by the Labour Party, and there are moves in the US for the Democratic Party to take the idea on board.

The exact nature of the plan may differ in the UK and US, especially if elements of the Democrats manage to water down proposals, but basically it calls for massive investment in a move to build renewable energy capacity and an equally massive programme of insulating homes and workplaces. The practice of carbon trading used in the European Union should be ended and replaced with real reductions, alongside the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal, on its own, is not enough to get to where we need to be. Nevertheless, it would lead to a cut in the burning of fossil fuels, which is needed, with the added advantage of providing well paid employment, which is likely to gain the support of the public. As ecosocialists we know that if we are to be successful we need to take the people with us, and the Green New Deal has the potential to do this.

Our problems do not end with producing clean energy for homes and workplaces though, we need to tackle the carbon emissions from transport, specifically private cars and trucks, air transport and shipping. The solutions in this area will be most easily achieved by a kind of back to the future plan. With shipping for example, we need to return to using wind power together with solar power, and perhaps an emergency engine to be used only when strictly necessary. This could quite easily be done.

Aviation is more problematic in that simple solutions are not readily available, but a return to propeller planes, maybe electrically powered, could be used for all short haul flights, but long haul will need to be rationed, with more use, particularly by business of video conferencing. Airport expansion should be stopped completely. This is a more difficult sell, but with the environmental crisis worsening, can probably be achieved.

Cars and trucks can instead be electrically powered relatively easily, but it is doubtful enough power can be generated from renewable sources for the numbers of vehicles currently in use, so a massive public transit programme is needed to get people out of cars and onto public transport. Again an added advantage to this is it will provide jobs.

We also need to campaign against imperialist wars, where the US military in particular is a huge user of fossil fuels and the resultant carbon emissions that are produced. This, of course, is a big ask. I have campaigned myself for years against these imperialist interventions without success, but it has only been in more recent times that I've made the connection to climate change. Might that be a game changer, perhaps it will with our very existence at stake?

The problem of plastic pollution also has a solution from the past. The current vogue, if we can call it that, for recycling needs to be increased, but some plastics are unrecyclable. We need to use less, certainly of these types of plastics. In fairly recent times, such as my childhood, there wasn’t anywhere near the amount of packaging used. This needs to be reduced significantly, and deposit returnable glass bottles need to make a comeback. That plastics are made from oil or coal exacerbates this problem.

We need a massive reforestation effort, to enlarge habitats for wildlife and to take existing carbon out of the atmosphere. Farming should be returned to organic methods, and we should stop the use of pesticides which are over used at present. We need to eat much less meat, especially beef and dairy products, and fish, and to eat more vegetables and fruit. This would need to be voluntary though, as I can't see legislation on the issue working.

All of this has to be done on a global scale to have the required effect, and quickly, but is not that difficult to achieve, once the will is there, or forced to be there. These are eminently reasonable demands, but will it set us on a pathway to ecosocialism? I think it may well do so.

Even though this is all feasible, there will be resistance from the capitalists, at which point it will become obvious to most people that it is the system which is obstructing progress and therefore will increasingly be seen as the villain here. If they were to comply, it would be the beginning of the end for capitalism, because it needs ever increasing amounts of energy to fuel the growth it needs to survive, so they won’t.

Once this realisation dawns on the mass of the population who do not do so well out of the system anyway, we will have arrived at our revolutionary moment. It will be fertile ground for the toppling of the regime of capital and the move to ecosocialism. The logic of the system will be exposed, and logic of replacing it unstoppable, if we want a future worth living.           

Monday, 3 June 2019

How can we prevent Climate Catastrophe?

Written by Phil Gasper and first published at International Socialist Review

It’s not hyperbole to say that the accelerating climate emergency, which is getting closer to spiraling out of control, is the most serious crisis that humanity has faced in its entire history. Two reports came out at the end of 2018 that ought to have put aside any doubt that we are facing an existential crisis that threatens the continued survival of advanced human societies and possibly even our continued existence as a species.

The first report was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October.1 The IPCC was set up by the UN to provide an overall assessment of the state of scientific knowledge about the climate and to make broad policy recommendations. 

It consists of climate experts, but because most of its members are appointed by governments, and because it must issue reports acceptable to those governments, it has tended to make the most conservative assumptions about what is happening to the climate.

The IPCC predictions for how rapidly climate change would develop have consistently proved to be too optimistic.2 So when the IPCC reports we have twelve years to get carbon emissions under control or we are going to face a climate catastrophe, this is not some wild worst-case scenario—it is the sober assessment of an extremely cautious body. If the IPCC concludes that we are in serious trouble, we are almost certainly in even greater trouble than it says.3

For anyone who hasn’t being paying attention, the twelve-year deadline may be startling, but it is based on a new scientific consensus that global warming must be kept to 1.5°C above the average pre-industrial global surface temperature to keep the consequences within manageable proportions. 

Since the 1980s, 2°C has been the widely accepted goal, and it was the target adopted by nearly every government on the planet at the Paris climate talks in late 2015. But even in Paris there were governments and climate researchers saying that the goal should be 1.5°C.

Earth’s average surface temperature has already increased by about 1°C since the pre-industrial period in the eighteenth century. But even with one degree of warming we’re seeing major climate disruptions: the polar ice caps are melting, and some areas are experiencing severe and prolonged drought, creating the conditions for events like the devastating and unprecedented wildfires in California last year. We are experiencing more and longer heat waves.

Hurricanes are getting more intense as a result of an increase in ocean surface temperature. There are record floods, soil loss, and coastal erosion. Ocean acidification is increasing because more carbon dioxide is being absorbed. The world’s coral reefs are beginning to die. And the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history has begun.

With an additional degree of warming the consequences will get far worse, including major disruptions to agriculture and food supplies. This is why the IPCC says we now have to keep warming to 1.5°C.4

But in order to meet that target, we have to stop emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. More precisely, according to the IPCC, global net carbon emissions need to be zero by 2050, which requiring a 45 percent reduction in net carbon emissions by 2030. 

Even if we (meaning human societies across the globe) began working toward that goal today, it would be a steep hill to climb. But at the moment, we’re moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions rose in 2017 and increased to an all-time high in 2018.

A second major study came out in November 2018—the US National Climate Assessment, a report mandated by Congress that the Trump administration tried to bury by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving. But the findings of the report were too dramatic to be ignored.

The report concludes that “neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the US economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”5 

If current trends continue, we’re on track not for 1.5°C of warming, but for 5°C or more by the end of the century. The cost to the US economy would be enormous, but the consequences for large parts of the Global South would be even more devastating.

Without any question, our species is in dire straits. For the last 12,000 years, humans have been living in the Holocene epoch, characterized by very small fluctuations in overall global temperatures. This is the environment in which settled agriculture and human civilization developed. We are now pushing the climate system out of this relatively stable set of parameters.

Some geologists now say we have already moved from the Holocene to the Anthropocene, in which the biggest impact on the earth’s ecosystems is the result of human activity. The consequences are already so dramatic that some environmentalists are saying that it is too late to prevent climate catastrophe. A report in Britain’s Observer newspaper last December was headlined, "Portrait of a Planet on the Verge of Climate Catastrophe."7

The following day, Truthout published an article by Dar Jamail, who has reported extensively on climate disruption, in which he announced, “I have . . . surrendered and accepted the inevitability of our situation: that we will live the rest of our time, however long each of us might have left, on an irrevocably changed planet, while the Sixth Mass Extinction event continues apace. We will daily walk further into that frontier.”8

The next day the Washington Post es to reduce the spheadlined “‘A Kind of Dark Realism’: Why the Climate Change Problem is Starting to Look Too Big to Solve.”9

It is easy to see where the despair comes from. We need to be rapidly reducing carbon emissions, but instead they are rising. And the response of Trump, his administration, and virtually the entire Republican Party has been to reject the reports and the overwhelming scientific consensus, and to accelerate the development, use, and export of fossil fuels. 

Trump is withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, continuing as if nothing important is happening. He says he has a feel for these issues and his gut tells him that the reports are wrong. In November, he tweeted that cold weather refuted global warming.10

How it is possible for the dominant faction of the ruling class in the world’s biggest economy to succumb in this way to complete irrationalism? Suffice it to say here that in periods of severe crisis, anti-scientific and irrational ideas can spread among all classes of society. If we add to this the dominance of fossil capital in the economy (with powerful economic interest to protect its investments and future profits), the ground is fertile for the dissemination of various brands of climate denialism.

Meanwhile, the rise of the far right around the world—whether of the populist or neo-fascist variety—has created a major new problem for anyone who wants to avoid climate disaster. 

While Trump encourages increased production of fossil fuels in the United States, the newly elected neo-fascist president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro (another climate change denier) is promising to increase logging in his country’s Amazon rain forests, the world’s biggest land-based carbon sink. 

In India, the far-right BJP government has encouraged a sharp increase in the use of coal—one of the reasons why global carbon emissions increased over the past two years.

But it isn’t just the far right that is the problem. The Paris climate accord was itself totally inadequate.11 Even if every country was on target for meeting its voluntary goals in reducing emissions (which they are not), we would still be heading toward at warming of at least 3°C by the end of the century. 

Even Germany, which has greatly increased its use of renewable energy sources over the past decade, continues to mine large quantities of coal for export.12

In the United States, the Democratic Party had virtually nothing to say about climate change during the last election.13 According to some environmentalists, Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House, is bringing a water pistol to fight a forest fire.

But it’s actually worse than that. While Democratic Party leaders favor the development of renewable energy sources, they have also been in the forefront of increasing production of fossil fuels. In 2018, the United States became the world’s biggest oil and natural gas producer. In November, Barack Obama spoke at Rice University and boasted that he was responsible for this:

“American energy production, you wouldn’t always know it, but it went up every year I was president. And you know . . . suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer. . . . that was me, people.”14 While Obama’s official position was that the United States should reduce its use of fossil fuels, in his 2013 State of the Union address he advocated an “all-of-the-above” energy plan that would “keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.” 

In 2015 he signed legislation lifting a forty-year ban on oil exports. The reality is that the Democrats are coming to the forest fire with a water pistol in one hand and a can of gasoline in the other.

Climate and capitalism

That is all depressing. But there is one piece of good news: headlines that say we are past the point of no return are not true. There are no insuperable technological barriers to doing what the IPCC calls for—reducing carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and eliminating them completely by 2050. What we have to do is stop using fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy sources.

A transition to 100 percent wind, water, and solar power for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) could be achieved in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055,16 according to a study published in 2015 by a group of researchers at Stanford led by Mark Jacobson.

The group followed that up with a 2017 report charting a path to 100 percent renewable energy in 139 countries by 2050.17 While other researchers criticized the earlier Jacobson study, they did concede that 80 percent of energy needs could be fulfilled by renewables by 2050.18

Let’s accept that lower number. The Jacobson plan is based on replacing current energy use. But hand in hand with a transition to renewables, we need massive gains in efficiency and conservation.

The United States is by far the most wasteful user of energy on the planet. Energy consumption per capita in the US is double that in Western Europe. We could halve our energy consumption and still have a standard of living as good as the rest of the advanced capitalist world. One big reason for the difference is the US dependence on cars and trucks for transportation, rather than mass transit and high-speed trains.

If we had a massive expansion of such options—powered, of course, by renewables—we could see a huge reduction in energy consumption in this country. And there are so many other steps that we could take, for example, constructing energy-efficient homes and buildings, or redesigning cities to reduce the sprawl that requires people travel long distances to get to work, shop, or do other things necessary to survive.19

But while the technical problems can be solved, there are enormous political and economic obstacles in the way. Reducing emissions will require reducing the size of the global economy, and that runs headlong into the way that capitalist economies are organized. The dynamic of capitalism is based on production for exchange, not for use.

In capitalist economies, a small minority, driven by competition and the search for ever-greater profits, controls the means of production. The system imposes on individual capitalists a drive to accumulate, and this results in a focus on short-term gains that ignore the long-term effects of production, including its consequences for the natural environment. Here’s how Frederick Engels explained it:

As individual capitalists are engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results must first be taken into account. As long as the individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers. The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions.

What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertilizer for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees—what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock! 

In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the immediate, the most tangible result; and then surprise is expressed that the more remote effects of actions directed to this end turn out to be quite different, are mostly quite the opposite in character.20

The measure of success for capitalists is growth and accumulation. If any individual corporate executive tries to buck the trend, they will either be replaced, or their company will go out of business. Endless growth is built into the system. The problem is that endless growth is impossible on a finite planet. Sooner or later the process of accumulation will run into planetary boundaries. 

Not so long ago, many people believed that the boundaries were so far in the distance that it would be centuries or longer before we reached them. Some people still believe that. Unfortunately, they are wrong.

Capitalism has opened up what Marx called a “metabolic rift” between human societies and the rest of nature––a disruption between social systems and natural systems.21 The processes necessary to sustain capitalist society put it at odds with the natural world. As one commentator puts it:

The essential problem for the Earth—for us—is that there is a mismatch between the short timescales of markets and the political systems tied to them, and the much longer timescales that the Earth System needs to accommodate human activity. The climate crisis is upon us not because markets aren’t working well enough but because the market system is working too well in accelerating global energy and material cycles.”22

Since the industrial revolution, capitalism has been entwined with the extraction and use of fossil fuels. From the late eighteenth century coal was used to power steam engines, first for cotton mills, and then for railroads and coal-powered ships. From the late nineteenth century, after the invention of the internal combustion engine, oil became dominant. These innovations drove not just production, but also military expansion and war. 

After World War II, fossil fuels became an even more central component of the world capitalist economy. As Andreas Malm puts it, coal, oil, and gas are “utilized across the spectrum of commodity production as the material that sets it in physical motion.” Fossil fuels “have now become the general lever for surplus value production.”23

The size of the fossil fuel industry is mind-boggling––there is more capital invested in it than any other industry. The major oil and gas companies make tens of billions of profits each year, and the total value of existing fossil fuel and nuclear power infrastructure is somewhere in the region of $15 trillion to $20 trillion.24

Most of this infrastructure has decades of possible further use. But in order to solve the climate crisis, we need to shut it down almost immediately and invest in renewable energy systems based on solar, wind, and tidal power.

The people who own and profit from the existing system obviously won’t let that happen without a huge fight. That’s why they’ve been funding climate denialism for decades, both through sponsorship of think tanks and through large campaign contributions to right-wing politicians.25 

That’s why oil corporations like Exxon and Shell, who knew about the threat of global warming as early as the 1970s, hid their research from the general public and adopted the strategy that the tobacco companies used for decades—deny, deny, deny.26

The tobacco companies ensured that millions of people died prematurely from smoking-related diseases. The oil companies have gone one further and put millions of species at risk.

A transition to an economy based on renewable, non-carbon fuels is physically quite possible, but it won’t happen while it is blocked by the petro-capitalists and their government supporters—from right-winger Donald Trump to liberal Justin Trudeau in Canada—who don’t want to give up the $50 trillion of known oil reserves still waiting to be extracted. The problem runs deep because the use of fossil fuels is so bound up with capitalism as it has historically developed, that it is no longer possible to separate the two. As the British Marxist Chris Harman put it:

High levels of carbon-based energy are central to virtually every productive and reproductive process within the system––not just to manufacturing industry, but to food production and distribution, the heating and functioning of office blocks, getting labor power to and from workplaces, providing it with what it needs to replenish itself and reproduce.

To break with the oil-coal economy means a massive transformation of these structures, a profound reshaping of the forces of production and the immediate relations of production that flow out of them.27

Focusing on lifestyle changes or on so-called green consumption by individuals is essentially a waste of time. If we want to prevent environmental catastrophe, we have to organize to change the system.

Reasons to be cheerful?

Does that mean that we have to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a society based on workers’ control of production and sustainable development and in the next twelve years? As much as I would like to see that happen, I think it’s going to take longer than that.

But the strategy of revolutionary socialists has always been to fight for immediate reforms while using those struggles as building blocks to create the kind of movement that can take on the whole system at some point in the future. That’s exactly the strategy that we need now.

We have to raise demands and be involved in grassroots struggles that can start shifting the economy away from fossil-fuel dependency as soon as possible. What is important to remember is that the form of the struggle matters just as much as its immediate goal. We want to mobilize the largest numbers of people possible.

Radical change can only come about through the action of mass movements, and participation in mass movements changes the people who are involved in them. They begin to develop the skills and the confidence for society to be run on a truly democratic basis, which is the defining characteristic of genuine socialism.

How can we go about building that kind of movement? People are already beginning to move into action, and it is this that should give us some hope and inspiration. Immediately after last year’s mid-term elections, activists in the Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington to demand progressive climate action, supported by newly elected member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.28

The young people involved may have all kinds of mixed ideas. Some of them no doubt have illusions about what the Democratic Party is willing to do. But much more important than that is the fact that they took direct action. It is through involvement in struggle that people’s ideas begin to change as they come to see that tinkering with the system isn’t enough and that we need a much more thorough-going transformation.

Another exciting development last year was the emergence of Extinction Rebellion, which is committed to acts of mass civil disobedience in support of a radical climate agenda. In November, thousands of activists blocked no less than five of the bridges that cross the River Thames in London, leading to many arrests.29 Since then there have been other actions in the UK and other countries, including the United States.

We can also draw inspiration from Greta Thunberg, the fifteen-year-old student in Sweden who has been organizing weekly climate strikes outside her school. Her activism got her invited to speak at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 24 meetings in Poland last December. COP 24 was the gathering at which the world’s governments were supposed to sort out the details of the Paris climate agreement, but it was even more useless than earlier meetings, with representatives from the US and Poland advocating for the increased use of coal.30 This is what Thunberg told the assembled world dignitaries:

Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago . . . [O]ur political leaders have failed us, because we are facing an existential threat and there’s no time to continue down this road of madness . . .

[W]e can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. . . . So, we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge.”31

There is also incredible inspiration to be drawn from the mass struggles against oil pipelines that have taken place in the US and Canada in the past few years, often led by Native American nations and organizations. Of course, these are all still small steps––they need to become part of a much bigger movement that can fight in a more unified way for its immediate demands. The ideas motivating those involved are mixed, to say the least. But this is the way that bigger movements start.

A crucial part of any movement that is capable of winning the kinds of changes we need is the organized working class. Workers not only can demonstrate in large numbers, but also they have the power to shut down sectors of the economy. It’s that power that gives us leverage against the entrenched economic and political privileges of the ruling class. One recent example of this power is the “Yellow Vest” movement in France, launched by truck drivers in opposition to a regressive fuel tax imposed by the Macron government.

In the mainstream media, Macron was typically presented as the responsible leader who was simply trying to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. But this narrative was rejected not just by the “Yellow Vest” movement, but also by the vast majority of the French population, who gave the movement overwhelming support. 

They point out that Macron cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy before imposing a fuel tax that hurts workers and the poor. The movement raised a set of progressive demands through popular assemblies that it has organized, which of course include taxing the rich.

French workers want the government to go after the big polluters instead of putting the burden on the backs of the poor. After weeks of protests, which turned into riots in Paris in November, the mayor of one district in the city announced, “We are in a state of insurrection, I’ve never seen anything like it.” Within twenty-four hours, the Macron government announced that it was suspending the fuel tax.32

What took place in France is an illustration of the incredible power that workers have if they are organized. The movement confronted both the government and the conservative trade union leadership. As the Marxist environmentalist Andreas Malm argues, an effective environmental movement “could learn a great deal from the methods and tactics of the gilets jaunes.”33 That’s why the demand for a Green New Deal that has been raised again recently by a handful of progressive Democrats is important.

It makes clear that a transition away from fossil fuel use does not have to come at the expense of ordinary people. A Green New Deal means promoting an environmental agenda that offers well-paid jobs and fights against economic inequality. Some critics on the US left worry that the proposal is just a way to prop up capitalism. But it is not the content of the reform but the way it is fought for that will prove decisive.

Reforms can be used to strengthen the existing system (as was the intent of the original New Deal in the 1930s), but they can also be used as a stepping to stone to press for more radical changes, provided that there is a movement powerful enough to do this.34

There are other demands that could and should be raised, including a huge expansion of mass transit and a state-of-the art high-speed-train network across the country. Demands like these begin to challenge the logic of the capitalist market and give the opportunity to build campaigns and movements that can go on to fight for more.

The role of socialists is to participate in whatever struggles like this emerge, fighting for immediate victories, while making an argument about why we need to go much further with the goal of building an ecosocialist alternative to capitalism.

None of this is going to be easy. But it is possible, and it offers an inspiring vision. Most importantly, if we don’t fight for this alternative, capitalism will surely take us over the climate cliff.


1. “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
2. See Glenn Scherer, “Climate Science Predictions Prove Too Conservative,” Scientific American, December 6, 2012, and Ian Angus, Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016), chap. 6.
3. The report was immediately criticized by some climate researchers as too optimistic. For example, “Michael Mann: We Are Even Closer to Climate Disaster than IPCC Predicts,” The Real News, October 10, 2018,
4. Lorraine Chow, “Ten Grim Climate Scenarios If Global Temperatures Rise Above 1.5 Degrees Celsius,” Truthout, December 28, 2018,
5. “Fourth National Climate Assessment: Volume II, Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States,” US Global Change Research Program The report is issued every four years by thirteen federal agencies headed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and written by leading climate researchers. It assesses “current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.”
6. For the details, see Ian Angus, Facing the Anthropocene, part 1.
7. Robin McKie, “Portrait of a Planet on the Verge of Climate Catastrophe.” The Observer,
8. Dahr Jamail, “In the Face of Extinction, We Have a Moral Obligation,” Truthout, December 3, 2018,
9. Steven Mufson, “‘A Kind of Dark Realism’: Why the Climate Change Problem is Starting to Look Too Big to Solve,” Washington Post, December 4, 2018,
10. Nick Visser, “Scientists Slam Trump’s Clueless Climate Change Tweet: ‘He’s A Clown’,” Huffington Post, November 21, 2018
11. Tom Bawden, “COP21: Paris Deal Far Too Weak to Prevent Devastating Climate Change, Academics Warn,” Independent, January 8, 2016,
12. Melissa Eddy, “Why ‘Green’ Germany Remains Addicted to Coal,” New York Times, October 10, 2018,
13. Emily Holden, “‘Precious Little’: Democrats Lack Robust Climate Change Plan despite Global Crisis,” Guardian, November 1, 2018,
14. Tyler Stone, “Obama: Suddenly America Is the Biggest Oil Producer, That Was Me People,” Real Clear Politics, November 28, 2018,
15. Fiona Ferguson, “John Bellamy Foster: Still Time for an Ecological Revolution,” Rebel, August 24, 2018,
16. Mark Z. Jacobson et al., “Low-Cost Solution to the Grid Reliability Problem with 100% Penetration of Intermittent Wind, Water, and Solar for All Purposes,” PNAS, December 8, 2015,
17. Steve Hanley, “100% Renewable Energy for 139 Nations Detailed in New Stanford Report,” Clean Technica, August 23, 2017,
18. Christopher T. M. Clack, et al., “Evaluation of a Proposal for Reliable Low-Cost Grid Power with 100% Wind, Water, and Solar,” PNAS, June 27, 2017,
19. See Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams, Creating An Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation (New York: Monthy Review Press, 2017).
20. Frederick Engels, The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man (1876),
21. See John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), chap. 5.
22. Clive Hamilton, “Human Destiny in the Anthropocene: Speech to the Conference ‘Thinking the Anthropocene,’” Sciences Po, Paris, November 15, 2013. L’Institut Momentum,
23. Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (London: Verso, 2016), chap. 13.
24. This figure is from a 2011 United Nations report quoted by Ian Angus in Facing the Anthropocene, chap. 10.
25. See Naomi Orestes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (London: Bloomsbury, 2010) and Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), part 1.
26. Naomi Orestes, “Exxon’s Climate Concealment,” New York Times, October 9, 2015,; Benjamin Franta, “Shell and Exxon’s Secret 1980s Climate Change Warnings,” Guardian, September 18, 2018,
27. Chris Harman, Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx, (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010), chap.12.
28. Ryan Grim and Briahna Gray, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Joins Environmental Activists in Protest at Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Office,” The Intercept, November 13, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez’s brief appearance at the protest was notable, but so was the fact that she sees her role as steering the movement into the Democratic Party. She told the activists: “Should Nancy Pelosi become the next speaker of the House, we need to tell her that we’ve got her back in pursuing the most progressive energy agenda that this country has ever seen.” Whether the movement can remain independent of the Democrats, or whether it will be absorbed and neutralized by them, will be a key political fight in the months ahead. For relevant history see Lance Selfa, The Democrats: A Critical History (Haymarket Books, 2012), Ch. 5: Social Movements and the “Party of the People.”
29. Matthew Taylor and Damien Gayle, “Dozens Arrested after Climate Protest Blocks Five London Bridges,” Guardian, November 17, 2018,
30. For an analysis of what happened, see Nadja Charaby et al., “COP24: No Response to the Crisis,” The Bullet, December 24, 2018,

31. Jon Queally, “‘We Have Not Come Here to Beg World Leaders to Care,’ 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Tells COP24. ‘We Have Come to Let Them Know Change Is Coming’,” Common Dreams, December 4, 2018,

32. Leigh Thomas and Emmanuel Jarry, “‘State of Insurrection’ as Fuel Tax Riots Engulf Central Paris,” Reuters, November 30, 2018,

33. Andreas Malm, “A Lesson in How Not to Mitigate Climate Change,” Verso blog, December 7, 2018,

34. Naomi Klein, “The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal,” The Intercept,