- Created: Tuesday, 29 August 2017 11:10
- Written by Barnaby Philips
‘Every particular mode of production has its own special laws of population, which are historically valid within that particular sphere. An abstract law of population exists only for plants and animals and even then only in the absence of any historical intervention by man’ – Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 25, pp783-784
‘You don’t need to be a scientist to know what’s causing the sixth mass extinction,’ began Professor Paul R Ehrlich in a Guardian article on 11 July. Given the ‘developed’ imperialist world’s throwaway consumerism and the well-documented destruction of the environment by multinational corporations, it should indeed be fairly obvious. Ehrlich however names one main culprit: population growth. His solution? Some unspecified form of ‘humane’ population reduction. Apparently the reason you don’t need to be a scientist is because the pseudo-science of eugenics suffices. Ehrlich must be refuted with science – the science of Marxism. It is capitalism’s need for infinite economic growth that is destroying life on earth. BARNABY PHILIPS reports.
Professor Richard Levins died one year ago on the 19 January 2016, aged 85. Levins was a renowned dialectical materialist, Marxist biologist and political activist. He spent 40 years working at Harvard University where he was John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at T H Chan School of Popular sciences. He was renowned for his specialisation in ecology.
Levins wrote many papers and essays, as well as books, including The Dialectical Biologist (1985) and Biology Under the Influence (2007) both of which were compilations of his own and co-author and fellow Marxist biologist, Richard Lewontin’s essays. The pair compiled their essays collectively and neither scientist's name is put to any essay where it appears in the books. Both scientists were influenced by Friedrich Engels’ natural science works. They dedicated The Dialectical Biologist to Engels. They dedicated Biology Under the Influence to the Cuban 5 and ‘to the people all over the world struggling for their release’ at the time of publication the 5 where still imprisoned by the US.
Of the Cuban 5 they said ‘From their cells they have been active both in helping to make prison life more bearable for the other inmates in their immediate community and continuing to be full participants in the life of the Cuban revolution. We admire their steadfastness and creativity in resistance’. As well as this dedication they pay tribute to the Vietnamese communists and the late Black Panther Fred Hampton.
Levins played a crucial role in combating the bourgeois scientific concept of Cartesian reductionism through development of and advocacy of dialectical materialism as a useful tool in gaining understanding of nature. He praised Cuba’s approach to ecology and science highly while others chose to ignore or deliberately obscure it. On this the first anniversary of Levin’s death, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! honours his memory and his contribution to the world. His death was a loss to progressive science.
Climate talks collapse as thousands die in man-made floods, drought and forest fires
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 158 – December 2000/January 2001
‘It is no longer a question of whether the earth's climate will change but rather when, where and by how much.'
The world is getting warmer and the consequences are already showing. In mid-November, 180 governments met in The Hague, Holland under serious pressure to act. Yet despite the recognition that a severe crisis is imminent, the polluting nations, led by the United states, refused to cut carbon emissions and the talks collapsed. Meanwhile, time is running out for planet earth.
At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio Janeiro, Brazil, world leaders signed the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as recognition that climate change posed a serious threat to the earth. The treaty did no more than request that signatories draw up proposals to limit carbon emissions. The world returned to a dream state and little change took place.
It had a serious awakening in 1996. The Inter-Government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), made up of 2,000 scientists and climate specialists from around the world, revealed that 'there is a discernible human influence on the global climate'. They concluded that 'world-wide cuts in carbon dioxide of at least 60-70% are necessary to guarantee no further increase in atmospheric concentrations'. Climate change was back on the agenda.
In 1997 the world's governments agreed to the Kyoto Protocol which required them to protect the climate system and called for a reduction in carbon emissions from the industrialised countries by the year 2012. The agreed targets would be legally binding.
There is good reason for this. The twentieth century's 10 warmest years were all within the last 15 years. 1998 was the warmest year since records began and 1999 was not far behind.
Weather records show that the average global temperature has risen 0.3 to 0.6 °C since 1890. The IPCC states that 'small changes in the mean climate can produce relatively large changes in the frequency of extreme events'
Natural disasters over the past year alone include:
Kyoto promises forgotten
Three years after the Kyoto conference, only 30 governments have ratified the protocol. No major industrial nations have legally bound themselves to the targets. Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialised nations would be committed to reducing their overall emissions by 5.2% over the next decade. Given that emission reductions of 60-80% are needed, the Kyoto target is a vital first step that is being ignored.
The real obstacle is the capitalist lobby, the multinationals and imperialist governments that represent them. Their only concern is profit. Imperialist governments protect their industries and evade responsibility for climate change. In Britain, representatives from multinationals are at the heart of government, determining policy and defending their business interests. This is what happened in The Hague.
Talks collapsed because, refusing to put checks on its national industry which is responsible for high carbon emissions, the US attempted to quota barter. This means buying up unused entitlements from countries where heavy industry is collapsing, such as Russia and the Ukraine. Even within countries companies have already started bidding for each others reduced emission. Furthermore the measurement criteria are corruptible. For example the US wants to avoid fines by buying up forests and not cutting them down, pumping carbon dioxide into oceans, or spreading iron solution across the surface of the Antarctic to simulate plankton growth. Such schemes shamelessly finance environmental destruction by hiding behind the Kyoto Protocol.
Meanwhile there is little recognition in the imperialist bloc that the poorest countries are suffering because of pollution. Tony Blair has the arrogance to say 'industrialised countries must work with developing countries to help them combat climate change'. Yet the reality is that while Britain emits 9.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, countries like Honduras emit just 0.7 per person. In fact:
Danger signals revealing the destructive effects of capitalism on the environment have been flashing for over 40 years. Capitalism should be jamming on the brakes but instead it pushes down harder on the accelerator. There will be no answer within a capitalist system. The latest failure to introduce even token carbon reductions, backs this up.
An alternative to destruction
Back in 1983 Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolutionaries published a pamphlet titled: The world economic and social crisis — its impact on the underdeveloped countries, its sombre prospects and the need to struggle if we are to survive. Describing the catastrophe unfolding in poor nations and the impact of multinational expansion, Castro states ‘man's actions on the environment, are increasingly causing changes in the stability, organisation, balance, interaction and even survival of the earth's main ecological systems.'
At the 1992 Rio Summit Fidel Castro gave his celebrated speech `Tomorrow is too late — development and the environment crisis in the Third World'. He warned the developed world to: 'Stop transferring to the Third World lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment ... Use science to achieve sustainable development without pollution. Pay the ecological debt instead of the foreign debt. Eradicate hunger, not humanity...Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.' He concluded: 'Humanity can still stop and reverse the destruction of the environment ... but time is running out.'
At the Millennium Summit this September, Castro warned: 'Nature is being devastated. The climate is changing under our eyes and drinking water is increasingly contaminated or scarce.' He continues: ‘There is nothing in the existing economic and political order that can serve the interests of humankind' and concludes 'the dream of having truly fair and sensible rules to guide human destiny seems impossible to many. However, we are convinced that the struggle for the impossible should be the motto ... '
The deadly hand of capital was present at The Hague. Greenpeace called it 'the moment when governments abandoned the promise of global co-operation to protect planet Earth'. It is clear that to combat climate change and its devastating effects, we must change the present world order, before it is too late.
What is climate change?
Solar energy from the sun drives the earth's weather systems, the climate and heats the earth's sur-face. Most of this energy is emitted back into space. Some is trapped in the Earth's atmosphere by a layer of `greenhouse gases', mainly carbon dioxide. Plants and animals absorb carbon dioxide and give out oxygen, maintaining the balance of gases in the atmosphere for the last 10,000 years.
However, the industrial revolution meant that human activity interfered with the natural cycle. Burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere.
Most man-made greenhouse gas emissions are carbon dioxide, released by burning fossil fuels for heat, electricity and transportation. Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by around 30% in the last 200 years.
Many recent 'natural disasters' are caused by climate change, in reality an entirely man-made disaster.
“An important biological species – humankind – is at risk of disappearing, due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat. We are becoming aware of this problem when it is almost too late to prevent it. It must be said that consumer societies – the offspring of imperial policies – are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction.” – Fidel Castro, Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 1992
A new climate change report has warned that humanity is heading towards extinction by ecocide if the required action to slash carbon dioxide emissions isn’t taken immediately. Drawing on a number of studies, How Climate Change is Tearing the Planet Apart,1 by Will Denayer for Flashback Economics, states that ‘we are currently experiencing change 200 to 300 times faster than any of the previous major extinction events’.