REAPING THE WHIRLWIND: agribusiness and environmental destruction

Protest against Monsanto

Agrochemical companies are responsible for massive environmental degradation; their actions also make a major contribution to global warming, second only to the energy sector. 13% of carbon emissions come from agriculture, of which 65% comes from two sources: cattle rearing and the addition of natural or synthetic fertilisers and wastes to soils. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.


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As the world burns, profit is king


For at least 20 years there has been scientific consensus that human-made climate change is happening and is a serious threat. Yet 2018 broke all records for greenhouse gas emissions, and 2019 will be even higher. The world is warmer now than at any point in the last 5,000 years. From heatwaves and wildfires to melting ice sheets and permafrost, the tangible effects of climate change are now apparent for anyone to see.


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British mining monopolies: looting and destruction

Miners in South Africa demand better pay and conditions from Anglo American

Within 10-11 years humanity must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, halt biodiversity loss and rapid ecological breakdown, and move away from the current extractive model of economic development. Extractivism, the extraction of finite natural resources such as metals, minerals, fossil fuels, land and water, relies on the exploitation and forcible displacement of local communities, mainly in underdeveloped nations, to produce raw materials for commodities and profit, mostly by multinational corporations based in imperialist countries. This imperialist plunder is accelerating climate change, and is responsible for increasing inequality, poverty and human rights violations. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.


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Imperialism relentlessly driving climate change

Youth Strike 4 Climate, Glasgow 24 May 2019

On 1 May, the House of Commons passed a Labour Party motion to declare a climate emergency, thus meeting one of the demands made by Extinction Rebellion (XR) and UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) which organises the monthly Youth Strike 4 Climate school strikes. The motion also called on the government to aim to achieve net-zero emissions before 2050 and for ministers to outline urgent proposals to restore the UK’s natural environment and deliver a ‘zero waste economy’ within the next six months. Within a few days the government had shown exactly what it thought of such a non-binding declaration by announcing the quadrupling of VAT on solar panels and their associated battery storage systems. ROBERT CLOUGH, HEIDI GRACE and SAM VINCENT report.


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Climate protests – a breath of fresh air

‘We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.’

– Greta Thunberg, founder of the Global Youth Strike for Climate

According to a report published by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018, global emissions will need to reduce by 50% within 12 years if temperature rises are to be kept below the tipping point of 1.5°C. The UN Paris agreement requires signatory states to keep the global temperature increase ‘well below’ 2°C (3.6°F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Crucially, however, there is no mechanism that forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date. The only requirement is that each target should go beyond previously set targets. The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions has inspired millions of people, many of them young and completely new to politics, to protest on the streets as it becomes clear that traditional politics has failed. Sam Vincent reports.


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RCG joins Youth Strike 4 Climate - 15 March

Youth Strikers at Downin Street, London, 15 March 2019

On 15 March, more than a million school and college students, along with teachers and other supporters joined the second global Youth Strike 4 Climate (click for background on the strike, and a report of the first protest). The Youth Strike mobilised around three key demands: enfranchisement (by lowering the voting age to 16), for the government to declare climate change an emergency and to systematically educate young people about the urgency of the climate crisis. Comrades from RCG branches across the country joined the protests with a clear message that only socialism can solve the environmental crisis.


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World has 12 years to solve climate change

RCG comrades at the Extinction Rebellion event, 17 November 2018

On 8 October 2018, the world’s leading climate scientists warned in a report for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that there are only 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5ºC – the target limit agreed at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference – beyond which even half a degree will ‘substantially’ worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Brian Henry reports.

Previously it had been thought that a 2°C rise would be safe. This would have required a cut in carbon pollution of 20% by 2030 and then to zero by 2075. To keep to 1.5°C, however, carbon pollution must be cut by 45% by 2030 and then to zero by 2050. The report says this would require carbon prices three to four times higher than for a 2°C target, but that the economic costs of doing nothing would be far higher.


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Discussion article: Why technological determinism, ‘degrowth’ and ‘green populism’ cannot stop capitalism’s runaway destruction of nature

'The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many.’ – Michael Parenti, Against Empire

The latest environmental studies show that capitalism is devouring Earth’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes. As climate change threatens to make the planet uninhabitable, movements for ‘degrowth’ and ‘green populism’ are forming on the utopian left. But as BRIAN HENRY explains, the laudable goals they promote can only be achieved with socialist central planning.


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Food waste and anarchic capitalist production

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted or lost every year.

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted or lost every year. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), this amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tons. And yet, in 2014-2016, around 795 million people around the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment. States have tried to stem the flow of waste through regulation and charities have launched food redistribution schemes to help people living in poverty. But their efforts are mostly in vain. This criminal absurdity flows from the anarchic production inherent to the capitalist mode of production. BRIAN HENRY reports.


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Only socialism can reverse global pollution crisis

Air pollution in Delhi, India

Almost everyone on the planet is breathing ‘dangerously polluted air’, causing millions of premature deaths every year. The deaths attributed to pollution are triple those from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Pollution levels are said to be spiralling because of industrialisation, urbanisation and globalisation, but – as with the rising emissions fuelling runaway global warming – the dynamics of capitalism play an underlying role. BRIAN HENRY argues that it will take socialism, a planned economy serving human need instead of private profit, to reverse the crisis.


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Plastic world: the manifestation of anarchic capitalist production

 plastic pollution crisis

It sounded like a grand and radical plan, and not before time. On 11 January 2018 Prime Minister Theresa May launched a 25-year war on plastic waste, calling it ‘one of the great environmental scourges of our time’. It is, of course, a global crisis. The amount of plastic produced each year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. 8.3bn tonnes have been produced since the 1950s, with the majority ending up in landfill or the ocean. One study warns that the plastic crisis threatens the ‘near-permanent contamination of the planet’. Plastic takes hundred of years to decompose but ‘microplastic’ particles are already contaminating our food and drinking water. Imperialist nations export the after-effects of throwaway consumerism to poor countries, where impoverished children scavenge for valuable recyclables. As Pope Francis said in 2015, ‘the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth’. Urgent and sustained action is required. But predictably, for Britain’s part, May’s plan barely touches the surface. Brian Henry reports.


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Welsh Labour welcomes EDF’s radioactive waste

Welsh Labour Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths

When the French energy corporation EDF needed somewhere to dump radioactive mud from the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, Welsh Labour was only happy to oblige, permitting it to dump 300,000 tonnes in the Severn estuary near Cardiff. True to form, this was after explicitly stating in 2015 that this would never happen on their watch.


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Video: Ecosocialism or ecocide!

The pollution the imperialist nations pour into the atmosphere is fuelling runaway global warming.
The average US citizen emits more carbon than 500 citizens of Ethiopia, Chad, Afghanistan, Mali, or Burundi.
And just 100 companies, mainly multinational corporations, are responsible for 71% of all emissions.
The growth in global carbon emissions has accelerated from 1% a year in the 1990s to 3% a year in the 2010s.
Even if the Paris Accord is honoured, annual CO2 emissions would rise from 50bn tonnes to 55-60bn tonnes by 2030.


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The ‘sixth mass extinction’ is a product of capitalism – not population growth

capitalism killing the planet

‘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.


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In Memory of Richard Levins

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.  


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Climate change crisis - not a natural disaster

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.


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New reports warn global warming threatens human extinction

Latuff CapitalismGlobalWarming

“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’.


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London can’t escape water scarcity crisis that affects four billion people

A new study has revealed that over four billion people – two-thirds of the world’s population – live with severe water scarcity for a total of at least one month over the course of each year. The crisis is far worse than previously thought, with 500 million people living in places where water consumption is double the amount annually replenished by rain.


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We only want the Earth - environment pull-out - FRFI 125 (1995)

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 125 - June/July 1995

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! has produced this pull-out feature because we recognise the importance of the struggles for social and environmental justice that are taking place in many parts of Britain. People are protesting against the endless encroachments of the car; against the methods and effects of intensive agriculture; the criminalisation of youth culture and protest itself. Through this supplement we support and give a voice to those struggles. We identify the enemies of this movement and answer their slurs.


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Fight for the Forest - review

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 90 - October 1989

Fight for the forest. Chico Mendes in his own words, Latin America Bureau, £2.95, 96pp.

At 5.45pm on Thursday 22 December 1988, Chico Mendes was assassinated in the doorway of his home in Xapuri, Acre, north west Brazil.

Chico Mendes was President of the Xapuri Rural Workers Union, member of the National Council of Rubber Tappers, member of the national council of the Trade Union Congress (CUT), an activist in the Workers' Party (PT), and commit-ted to the defence of the Amazonian eco-system. At the time of his death he was 44 and married with two young children. Fight for the forest is the last major inter-view given by Chico Mendes just weeks before his death.


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Ecology and Socialism

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 90 - October 1989

This article continues FRFI's discussion of the rise of environmentalism and the attitude of socialists to this. ALWYN TURNER raises some of the fundamental questions which the left must deal with. For this reason we are pleased to publish it, although FRFI does not share all of the views expressed.

The seemingly irresistible rise of environmentalism both in Britain and elsewhere, concretised by the Green performance in the European Community elections in June, has thrown all established political organisations into some confusion. The issues themselves are nothing new - ecology has been moving to the forefront of radical politics for two decades - but the last year has seen them gain a new urgency. For many on the Left, the emergence of a radical party to the left of Labour that is capable of gaining a mass vote has offered a temptation to jump the green bandwagon alongside the Tories, the Labour policy reviewers, even the National Front (who now have their own 'ecological' group, Greenwave). Despite all the talk of a new agenda based on green socialism, however, there remains a fundamental and irreconcilable difference of philosophy between ecology and socialism.


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How the demands of capital denuded Britain of its natural flood defences

All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility. The more a country starts its development on the foundation of modern industry, the more rapid is this process of destruction. Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the labourer.’ Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1

Much analysis of the most recent flooding in Britain – although you won’t hear any of it from the government – has centred on the effects of climate change. And not before time. Long-ignored climate experts have warned for the past quarter of a century that Britain would see more high winds, higher temperatures, dramatic variations in rainfall, and more flash flooding. Indeed, the Met Office confirmed that it was both the wettest and warmest December on record with 351mm of rainfall and temperatures 2.7C above average. A recent study published by Oxford University found that global warming made the floods caused by Storm Desmond 40% more likely.


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Tories can’t hide indifference after Storm Desmond floods

Britain’s increasing vulnerability to extreme weather was exposed in December after Storm Desmond inflicted havoc and misery on tens of thousands of people. Barnaby Phillips reports.

Records in rainfall and river levels culminated in the flooding of more than 16,000 properties in England alone. Many were devastated. Cumbria, parts of Lancashire and the Scottish Borders were the worst affected areas while severe downpours and flooding also hit Northumberland, north Wales and Yorkshire. In Ireland, the worst hit areas were in the Shannon River Basin in the west and Irish midlands. Two people lost their lives, in Cumbria and the Republic of Ireland. In the North Yorkshire village of Newton-on-Ouse, fire-fighters rescued 26 school children by boat from a bus that began to fill with water after being swept off the road. Damage to roads, bridges and buildings will cost millions of pounds and take months to repair.


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Paris Climate Conference: World leaders commit to crimes against humanity

On 13 December 2015 world leaders claimed to have reached a vital and historic deal at the Paris Climate Conference after 195 countries agreed to on-paper commitments to limit potentially catastrophic global warming. In reality, their vainglorious self-congratulation masks a fraud amounting to world-historic crimes against humanity, with the indigenous peoples of the world once again suffering the most from capital’s predatory self-interest. The unexpected headline aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade is absurdist hype of the highest order, designed only to burnish the legacies of French and US Presidents François Hollande and Barack Obama. Not only has the first degree already been exceeded, the deal is only legally binding in part and does not kick in until 2020. Vague commitments by rich countries to reach peak emissions by 2030 expose this fantasy figure entirely. The UN’s own research suggests we are on course to emit enough carbon to make a 1.5C rise certain in as little as six years and the dreaded 2C in the next 17-33 years. Even if the pledges made in Paris are fulfilled against all odds, they would only limit global warming to a still disastrous 2.7 degrees. But even that is starting to sound like an outlandish best-case scenario. While claims about the ‘end of the fossil fuel era’ come from the mouths of media pundits who are at best self-deluded, the deal’s final draft does not even mention the words ‘fossil fuel’, ‘oil’ or ‘coal’ – thanks to successful lobbying from private industry which leading governments refuse to tame. On day one of the talks, Australia, one of the world's biggest polluters, refused to commit to reducing fossil fuel subsidies. At least they were honest.


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VW emissions scandal – capitalists falsify green reputations

Cheating and fraud have become an increasingly prevalent feature of capitalism in deep crisis, so it will have come as little surprise to readers of FRFI when German automotive giant Volkswagen (VW) was exposed in September to be using special software in its cars to cheat nitrogen oxide emissions tests. These ‘defeat devices’ were fitted to vehicles to keep costs low, and performance high, whilst appearing to comply with environmental legislation. VW, like other corporations, is fighting for market share in a deepening crisis of capitalism. Subsequent revelations about other companies across the automotive industry also cheating in emissions tests revealed the truth of the words of an anonymous investment banker on a secret banking chatroom for the coordination of market manipulation: ‘if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying’.

The VW scandal

In 2014 the irregularity of VW emissions became apparent to researchers at the University West of Virginia who informed US authorities. In May 2015 the California Air Resource Board (CARB) undertook tests and then informed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On 3 September, VW admitted to EPA and CARB that it had installed software to deliberately understate emissions in its vehicles. The EPA and CARB waited until 18 September before going public, coinciding with VW’s launch of its latest vehicle at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt.


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Exxon Mobil’s climate change cover-up

In a demonstration of capitalism’s incapacity to act beyond its vested interests – even with humanity itself at stake – the world’s biggest oil conglomerate, Exxon Mobil, has been exposed as having concealed proof from its own scientists that climate change was real and manmade since 1978.

Two investigations, one from the Pulitzer prize-winning website Inside Climate News and another from the Columbia Journalism School, both found that Exxon ignored warnings from its own scientists. Instead it used the information to buy oil leases in the areas where it knew ice would melt and waged a global marketing campaign to promote climate change denial.


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Last chance for world leaders at Paris Climate Conference

Governments from 196 nations met at the Paris Climate Conference (COP) that began on 30 November with the urgent need to commit to global emissions reductions over the next decade and beyond. Climate scientists warn, unequivocally, that the global temperature must not exceed a rise of more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels to avoid irreversible ecological catastrophe. With 2015 set to be the hottest year on record, the planet is already more than halfway there. Despite over 20 years of alarm, negotiation and debate, projections based on current emissions put the Earth joyriding towards a rise of six degrees by the end of the century – a similar difference to that between today’s world and the last ice age. World leaders insist Paris will succeed where the debacles of Kyoto and Copenhagen failed. Barny Phillips reports.


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Government threatening councils over fracking

Following large scale public opposition to planned fracking - the extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing - at two sites in Lancashire at the start of the year, approved by the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council rejected planning permission in June. The council was responsible for giving the final stage of approval required for Cuadrilla, Britain’s biggest fracking firm, to begin mining at the sites of Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. These would be the first commercial fracking projects in Britain. As was to be expected, Cuadrilla immediately launched an appeal, showing complete disregard for public opinion. The appeal process is expected to take at least 16 months.


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EU food industry is entirely unsustainable

The European Union (EU) set three objectives for 2020 known as the 20-20-20. This PR gimmick promises a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, a raise in the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%, and a 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency. No commitment was made however to reduce its role in the unnecessary global trade web of food products. An analysis of the Britain’s food trade with other EU nations highlights the utter disregard for the planet by capitalists, particularly those of imperialist countries. While the concept of ‘food miles’ is widely discredited as being too simplistic to be useful for determining environmental damage through greenhouse gas emissions, the figures of imports and exports, between countries for the purpose of food as a commodity, indicate an unnecessary and destructive trade web – rational only under the anarchic logic of capitalism.


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Shell capitalises on climate change

For Royal Dutch Shell, the melting of ice sheets in the Arctic seas, driven by man-made climate change, is just another opportunity to be exploited. The company has lucrative plans to drill in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea this summer.

The US government has given the go ahead for Shell to resume exploratory Arctic drilling operations for the first time since 2012 when its tow boat lost control of the ‘Kulluk’ rig due to a failure of the towing equipment, threatening an oil spill. The rig settled off the shore of an uninhabited Alaskan island. The incident happened as the rig was being removed at the end of the drilling season. An incident similar to BP's Deep Water Horizon disaster would be much more catastrophic in the Arctic if it could not be stopped before the close of the season when the sea refreezes.


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European imperialists scramble for new energy sources

TuNur project

Fossil fuels are becoming increasingly difficult to access both in terms of technical requirements and cost as well as politically. Nations are competing for access to resources, and the trail of destruction left by imperialist intervention in North Africa and the Middle East has caused political instability. The European imperialists are desperate for new energy sources for themselves in an attempt to navigate this global energy crisis.


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