“Manufacturing Dissent”: the Anti-globalization Movement is Funded by the Corporate Elites, The People’s Movement has been Hijacked – Michel Chossudovsky
“Everything the [Ford] Foundation did could be regarded as “making the World safe for capitalism”, reducing social tensions by helping to comfort the afflicted, provide safety valves for the angry, and improve the functioning of government (McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson (1961-1966), President of the Ford Foundation, (1966-1979))
“By providing the funding and the policy framework to many concerned and dedicated people working within the non-profit sector, the ruling class is able to co-opt leadership from grassroots communities, … and is able to make the funding, accounting, and evaluation components of the work so time consuming and onerous that social justice work is virtually impossible under these conditions” (Paul Kivel, You Call this Democracy, Who Benefits, Who Pays and Who Really Decides, 2004, p. 122 )
“Under the New World Order, the ritual of inviting “civil society” leaders into the inner circles of power –while simultaneously repressing the rank and file– serves several important functions. First, it says to the World that the critics of globalization “must make concessions” to earn the right to mingle. Second, it conveys the illusion that while the global elites should –under what is euphemistically called democracy– be subject to criticism, they nonetheless rule legitimately. And third, it says “there is no alternative” to globalization: fundamental change is not possible and the most we can hope is to engage with these rulers in an ineffective “give and take”.
While the “Globalizers” may adopt a few progressive phrases to demonstrate they have good intentions, their fundamental goals are not challenged. And what this “civil society mingling” does is to reinforce the clutch of the corporate establishment while weakening and dividing the protest movement. An understanding of this process of co-optation is important, because tens of thousands of the most principled young people in Seattle, Prague and Quebec City [1999-2001] are involved in the anti-globalization protests because they reject the notion that money is everything, because they reject the impoverishment of millions and the destruction of fragile Earth so that a few may get richer.
This rank and file and some of their leaders as well, are to be applauded. But we need to go further. We need to challenge the right of the “Globalizers” to rule. This requires that we rethink the strategy of protest. Can we move to a higher plane, by launching mass movements in our respective countries, movements that bring the message of what globalization is doing, to ordinary people? For they are the force that must be mobilized to challenge those who plunder the Globe.” (Michel Chossudovsky, The Quebec Wall, April 2001)
The term “manufacturing consent” was initially coined by Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky.
“Manufacturing consent” describes a propaganda model used by the corporate media to sway public opinion and “inculcate individuals with values and beliefs…”:
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda. (Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky)
“Manufacturing consent” implies manipulating and shaping public opinion. It establishes conformity and acceptance to authority and social hierarchy. It seeks compliance to an established social order. “Manufacturing consent” describes the submission of public opinion to the mainstream media narrative, to its lies and fabrications.
In this article, we focus on a related concept, namely the process of “manufacturing dissent” (rather than “consent”), which plays a decisive role in serving the interests of the ruling class.
Under contemporary capitalism, the illusion of democracy must prevail. It is in the interest of the corporate elites to accept dissent and protest as a feature of the system inasmuch as they do not threaten the established social order. The purpose is not to repress dissent, but, on the contrary, to shape and mould the protest movement, to set the outer limits of dissent.
To maintain their legitimacy, the economic elites favor limited and controlled forms of opposition, with a view to preventing the development of radical forms of protest, which might shake the very foundations and institutions of global capitalism. In other words, “manufacturing dissent” acts as a “safety valve”, which protects and sustains the New World Order.
To be effective, however, the process of “manufacturing dissent” must be carefully regulated and monitored by those who are the object of the protest movement.
How is the process of manufacturing dissent achieved?
Essentially by “funding dissent”, namely by channelling financial resources from those who are the object of the protest movement to those who are involved in organizing the protest movement.
Co-optation is not limited to buying the favors of politicians. The economic elites –which control major foundations– also oversee the funding of numerous NGOs and civil society organizations, which historically have been involved in the protest movement against the established economic and social order. The programs of many NGOs and people’s movements rely heavily on both public as well as private funding agencies including the Ford, Rockefeller, McCarthy foundations, among others.
The anti-globalization movement is opposed to Wall Street and the Texas oil giants controlled by Rockefeller, et al. Yet the foundations and charities of Rockefelleret al will generously fund progressive anti-capitalist networks as well as environmentalists (opposed to Big Oil) with a view to ultimately overseeing and shaping their various activities.
The mechanisms of “manufacturing dissent” require a manipulative environment, a process of arm-twisting and subtle cooptation of individuals within progressive organizations, including anti-war coalitions, environmentalists and the anti-globalization movement.
Whereas the mainstream media “manufactures consent”, the complex network of NGOs (including segments of the alternative media) are used by the corporate elites to mould and manipulate the protest movement.
Following the deregulation of the global financial system in the 1990s and the rapid enrichment of the financial establishment, funding through foundations and charities has skyrocketed. In a bitter irony, part of the fraudulent financial gains on Wall Street in recent years have been recycled to the elites’ tax exempt foundations and charities. These windfall financial gains have not only been used to buy out politicians, they have also been channelled to NGOs, research institutes, community centres, church groups, environmentalists, alternative media, human rights groups, etc. “Manufactured dissent” also applies to “corporate left” and “progressive media” funded by NGOs or directly by the foundations.
The inner objective is to “manufacture dissent” and establish the boundaries of a “politically correct” opposition. In turn, many NGOs are infiltrated by informants often acting on behalf of western intelligence agencies. Moreover, an increasingly large segment of the progressive alternative news media on the internet has become dependent on funding from corporate foundations and charities.
The objective of the corporate elites has been to fragment the people’s movement into a vast “do it yourself” mosaic. War and globalization are no longer in the forefront of civil society activism. Activism tends to be piecemeal. There is no integrated anti-globalization anti-war movement. The economic crisis is not seen as having a relationship to the US led war.
Dissent has been compartmentalized. Separate “issue oriented” protest movements (e.g. environment, anti-globalization, peace, women’s rights, climate change) are encouraged and generously funded as opposed to a cohesive mass movement. This mosaic was already prevalent in the counter G7 summits and People’s Summits of the 1990s.
The Anti-Globalization Movement
The Seattle 1999 counter-summit is invariably upheld as a triumph for the anti-globalization movement: “a historic coalition of activists shut down the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, the spark that ignited a global anti-corporate movement.” (See Naomi Klein, Copenhagen: Seattle Grows Up, The Nation, November 13, 2009).
Seattle was an indeed an important crossroads in the history of the mass movement. Over 50,000 people from diverse backgrounds, civil society organizations, human rights, labor unions, environmentalists had come together in a common pursuit. Their goal was to forecefully dismantle the neoliberal agenda including its institutional base.
But Seattle also marked a major reversal. With mounting dissent from all sectors of society, the official WTO Summit desperately needed the token participation of civil society leaders “on the inside”, to give the appearance of being “democratic” on the outside.
While thousands of people had converged on Seattle, what occurred behind the scenes was a de facto victory for neoliberalism. A handful of civil society organizations, formally opposed the WTO had contributed to legitimizing the WTO’s global trading architecture. Instead of challenging the WTO as an an illegal intergovernmental body, they agreed to a pre-summit dialogue with the WTO and Western governments. “Accredited NGO participants were invited to mingle in a friendly environment with ambassadors, trade ministers and Wall Street tycoons at several of the official events including the numerous cocktail parties and receptions.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Seattle and Beyond: Disarming the New World Order , Covert Action Quarterly, November 1999, See Ten Years Ago: “Manufacturing Dissent” in Seattle).
The hidden agenda was to weaken and divide the protest movement and orient the anti-globalization movement into areas that would not directly threaten the interests of the business establishment.
Funded by private foundations (including Ford, Rockefeller, Rockefeller Brothers, Charles Stewart Mott, The Foundation for Deep Ecology), these “accredited” civil society organizations had positioned themselves as lobby groups, acting formally on behalf of the people’s movement. Led by prominent and committed activists, their hands were tied. They ultimately contributed (unwittingly) to weakening the anti-globalization movement by accepting the legitimacy of what was essentially an illegal organization. (The 1994 Marrakech Summit agreement which led to the creation of the WTO on January 1, 1995). (Ibid)
The NGO leaders were fully aware as to where the money was coming from. Yet within the US and European NGO community, the foundations and charities are considered to be independent philanthropic bodies, separate from the corporations; namely the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, for instance, is considered to be separate and distinct from the Rockefeller family empire of banks and oil companies.
With salaries and operating expenses depending on private foundations, it became an accepted routine: In a twisted logic, the battle against corporate capitalism was to be be fought using the funds from the tax exempt foundations owned by corporate capitalism.
The NGOs were caught in a straightjacket; their very existence depended on the foundations. Their activities were closely monitored. In a twisted logic, the very nature of anti-capitalist activism was indirectly controlled by the capitalists through their independent foundations.
In this evolving saga, the corporate elites whose interests are duly served by the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, will readily fund (through their various foundations and charities) organizations which are at the forefront of the protest movement against the WTO and the Washington based international financial institutions.
Supported by foundation money, various “watchdogs” were set up by the NGOs to monitor the implementation of neoliberal policies, without however raising the broader issue of how the Bretton Woods twins and the WTO, through their policies, had contributed to the impoverishment of millions of people.
The Structural Adjustment Participatory Review Network (SAPRIN) was established by Development Gap, a USAID and World Bank funded NGO based in Washington DC.
Amply documented, the imposition of the IMF-World Bank Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) on developing countries constitutes a blatant form of interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states on behalf of creditor institutions.
Instead of challenging the legitimacy of the IMF-World Bank’s “deadly economic medicine”, SAPRIN’s core organization sought to establish a participatory role for the NGOs, working hand in glove with USAID and the World Bank. The objective was to give a “human face” to the neoliberal policy agenda, rather than reject the IMF-World Bank policy framework outright:
“SAPRIN is the global civil-society network that took its name from the Structural Adjustment Participatory Review Initiative (SAPRI), which it launched with the World Bank and its president, Jim Wolfensohn, in 1997.
SAPRI is designed as a tripartite exercise to bring together organizations of civil society, their governments and the World Bank in a joint review of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) and an exploration of new policy options. It is legitimizing an active role for civil society in economic decision-making, as it is designed to indicate areas in which changes in economic policies and in the economic-policymaking process are required. (http://www.saprin.org/overview.htm SAPRIN website, emphasis added)
Similarly, The Trade Observatory (formerly WTO Watch), operating out of Geneva, is a project of the Minneapolis based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), which is generously funded by Ford, Rockefeller, Charles Stewart Mott among others. (see Table 1 below).
The Trade Observatory has a mandate to monitor the World Trade Organization (WTO), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). (IATP, About Trade Observatory, accessed September 2010).
The Trade Observatory is also to develop data and information as well as foster “governance” and “accountability”. Accountability to the victims of WTO policies or accountability to the protagonists of neoliberal reforms?
The Trade Observatory watchdog functions does not in any way threaten the WTO. Quite the opposite: the legitimacy of the trade organizations and agreements are never questioned.
Table 1 Minneapolis Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) largest donors
(for complete list click here)
|Ford Foundation||$2,612,500.00||1994 – 2006|
|Rockefeller Brothers Fund||$2,320,000.00||1995 – 2005|
|Charles Stewart Mott Foundation||$1,391,000.00||1994 – 2005|
|McKnight Foundation||$1,056,600.00||1995 – 2005|
|Joyce Foundation||$748,000.00||1996 – 2004|
|Bush Foundation||$610,000.00||2001 – 2006|
|Bauman Family Foundation||$600,000.00||1994 – 2006|
|Great Lakes Protection Fund||$580,000.00||1995 – 2000|
|John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation||$554,100.00||1991 – 2003|
|John Merck Fund||$490,000.00||1992 – 2003|
|Harold K. Hochschild Foundation||$486,600.00||1997 – 2005|
|Foundation for Deep Ecology||$417,500.00||1991 – 2001|
|Jennifer Altman Foundation||$366,500.00||1992 – 2001|
|Rockefeller Foundation||$344,134.00||2000 – 2004|
The World Economic Forum. “All Roads Lead to Davos”
The people’s movement has been hijacked. Selected intellectuals, trade union executives, and the leaders of civil society organizations (including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace) are routinely invited to the Davos World Economic Forum, where they mingle with the World’s most powerful economic and political actors. This mingling of the World’s corporate elites with hand-picked “progressives” is part of the ritual underlying the process of “manufacturing dissent”.
The ploy is to selectively handpick civil society leaders “whom we can trust” and integrate them into a “dialogue”, cut them off from their rank and file, make them feel that they are “global citizens” acting on behalf of their fellow workers but make them act in a way which serves the interests of the corporate establishment:
“The participation of NGOs in the Annual Meeting in Davos is evidence of the fact that [we] purposely seek to integrate a broad spectrum of the major stakeholders in society in … defining and advancing the global agenda … We believe the [Davos] World Economic Forum provides the business community with the ideal framework for engaging in collaborative efforts with the other principal stakeholders [NGOs] of the global economy to “improve the state of the world,” which is the Forum’s mission. (World Economic Forum, Press Release 5 January 2001)
The WEF does not represent the broader business community. It is an elitist gathering: Its members are giant global corporations (with a minimum $5 billion annual turnover). The selected non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are viewed as partner “stakeholders” as well as a convenient “mouthpiece for the voiceless who are often left out of decision-making processes.” (World Economic Forum – Non-Governmental Organizations, 2010)
“They [the NGOs] play a variety of roles in partnering with the Forum to improve the state of the world, including serving as a bridge between business, government and civil society, connecting the policy makers to the grassroots, bringing practical solutions to the table…” (Ibid)
Civil society “partnering” with global corporations on behalf of “the voiceless”, who are “left out”?
Trade union executives are also co-opted to the detriment of workers’ rights. The leaders of the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the AFL-CIO, the European Trade Union Confederation, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), among others, are routinely invited to attend both the annual WEF meetings in Davos, Switzerland as well as to the regional summits. They also participate in the WEF’s Labour Leaders Community which focuses on mutually acceptable patterns of behavior for the labor movement. The WEF “believes that the voice of Labour is important to dynamic dialogue on issues of globalisation, economic justice, transparency and accountability, and ensuring a healthy global financial system.”
“Ensuring a healthy global financial system” wrought by fraud and corruption? The issue of workers’ rights is not mentioned. (World Economic Forum – Labour Leaders, 2010).
The World Social Forum: “Another World Is Possible”
The 1999 Seattle counter-summit in many regards laid the foundations for the development of the World Social Forum.
The first gathering of the World Social Forum took place in January 2001, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This international gathering involved the participation of tens of thousands of activists from grass-roots organizations and NGOs.
The WSF gathering of NGOs and progressive organizations is held simultaneously with the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF). It was intended to voice opposition and dissent to the World Economic Forum of corporate leaders and finance ministers.
The WSF at the outset was an initiative of France’s ATTAC and several Brazilian NGOs’:
“… In February 2000, Bernard Cassen, the head of a French NGO platform ATTAC, Oded Grajew, head of a Brazilian employers’ organisation, and Francisco Whitaker, head of an association of Brazilian NGOs, met to discuss a proposal for a “world civil society event”; by March 2000, they formally secured the support of the municipal government of Porto Alegre and the state government of Rio Grande do Sul, both controlled at the time by the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT)…. A group of French NGOs, including ATTAC, Friends of L’Humanité, and Friends of Le Monde Diplomatique, sponsored an Alternative Social Forum in Paris titled “One Year after Seattle”, in order to prepare an agenda for the protests to be staged at the upcoming European Union summit at Nice. The speakers called for “reorienting certain international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO… so as to create a globalization from below” and “building an international citizens’ movement, not to destroy the IMF but to reorient its missions.” (Research Unit For Political Economy, The Economics and Politics of the World Social Forum, Global Research, January 20, 2004)
From the outset in 2001, the WSF was supported by core funding from the Ford Foundation, which is known to have ties to the CIA going back to the 1950s: “The CIA uses philanthropic foundations as the most effective conduit to channel large sums of money to Agency projects without alerting the recipients to their source.” (James Petras, The Ford Foundation and the CIA, Global Research, September 18, 2002)
The same procedure of donor funded counter-summits or people’s summits which characterized the 1990s People’s Summits was embodied in the World Social Forum (WSF):
“… other WSF funders (or `partners’, as they are referred to in WSF terminology) included the Ford Foundation, — suffice it to say here that it has always operated in the closest collaboration with the US Central Intelligence Agency and US overall strategic interests; the Heinrich Boll Foundation, which is controlled by the German Greens party, a partner in the present  German government and a supporter of the wars on Yugoslavia and Afghanistan (its leader Joschka Fischer is the [former] German foreign minister); and major funding agencies such as Oxfam (UK), Novib (Netherlands), ActionAid (UK), and so on.
Remarkably, an International Council member of the WSF reports that the “considerable funds” received from these agencies have “not hitherto awakened any significant debates [in the WSF bodies] on the possible relations of dependence it could generate.” Yet he admits that “in order to get funding from the Ford Foundation, the organisers had to convince the foundation that the Workers Party was not involved in the process.” Two points are worth noting here. First, this establishes that the funders were able to twist arms and determine the role of different forces in the WSF — they needed to be `convinced’ of the credentials of those who would be involved. Secondly, if the funders objected to the participation of the thoroughly domesticated Workers Party, they would all the more strenuously object to prominence being given to genuinely anti-imperialist forces. That they did so object will be become clear as we describe who was included and who excluded from the second and third meets of the WSF….
… The question of funding [of the WSF] does not even figure in the charter of principles of the WSF, adopted in June 2001. Marxists, being materialists, would point out that one should look at the material base of the forum to grasp its nature. (One indeed does not have to be a Marxist to understand that “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.) But the WSF does not agree. It can draw funds from imperialist institutions like Ford Foundation while fighting “domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism” (Research Unit For Political Economy, The Economics and Politics of the World Social Forum, Global Research, January 20, 2004)
The Ford Foundation provided core support to the WSF, with indirect contributions to participating “partner organizations” from the McArthur Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the European Commission, several European governments (including the Labour government of Tony Blair), the Canadian government, as well as a number of UN bodies (including UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, ILO and the FAO) .(Ibid).
In addition to initial core support from the Ford Foundation, many of the participating civil society organizations receive funding from major foundations and charities. In turn, the US and European based NGOs often operate as secondary funding agencies channelling Ford and Rockefeller money towards partner organizations in developing countries, including grassroots peasant and human rights movements.
The International Council (IC) of the WSF is made up of representatives from NGOs, trade unions, alternative media organizations, research institutes, many of which are heavily funded by foundations as well as governments. (See Fórum Social Mundial). The same trade unions, which are routinely invited to mingle with Wall Street CEOs at the Davos World Economic Forum (WSF) including the AFL-CIO, the European Trade Union Confederation and the Canadian Labor Congress (CLC) also sit on the WSF’s International Council (IC). Among NGOs funded by major foundations sitting on the WSF’s IC is the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) (see our analysis above) which oversees the Geneva based Trade Observatory.
The Funders Network on Trade and Globalization (FTNG), which has observer status on the WSF International Council plays a key role. While channelling financial support to the WSF, it acts as a clearing house for major foundations. The FTNG describes itself as “an alliance of grant makers committed to building just and sustainable communities around the world”. Members of this alliance are Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers, Heinrich Boell, C. S. Mott, Merck Family Foundation, Open Society Institute, Tides, among others. (For a complete list of FTNG funding agencies see FNTG: Funders). FTNG acts as a fund raising entity on behalf of the WSF.
Western Governments Fund the Counter-Summits and Repress the Protest Movement
In a bitter irony, governments including the European Union grant money to fund progressive groups (including the WSF) involved in organizing protests against the very same governments which finance their activities:
“Governments, too, have been significant financiers of protest groups. The European Commission, for example, funded two groups who mobilised large numbers of people to protest at EU summits at Gothenburg and Nice. Britain’s national lottery, which is overseen by the government, helped fund a group at the heart of the British contingent at both protests.” (James Harding, Counter-capitalism, FT.com, October 15 2001)
We are dealing with a diabolical process: The host government finances the official summit as well as the NGOs actively involved in the Counter-Summit. It also funds the anti-riot police operation which has a mandate to repress the grassroots participants of the Counter-Summit, including members of NGOs direcly funded by the government. .
The purpose of these combined operations, including violent actions of vandalism committed by undercover cops (Toronto G20, 2010) dressed up as activists, is to discredit the protest movement and intimidate its participants. The broader objective is to transform the counter-summit into a ritual of dissent, which serves to uphold the interests of the official summit and the host government. This logic has prevailed in numerous counter summits since the 1990s.
At the 2001 Summit of the America in Quebec City, funding from the Canadian federal government to mainstream NGOs and trade unions was granted under certain conditions. A large segment of the protest movement was de facto excluded from the People’s Summit. This in itself led a second parallel venue, which some observers described as a “a counter-People’s Summit. In turn, with both the provincial and federal authorities that the protest march would be move towards a remote location some 10 km out of town, rather than towards the historical downtown area were the official FTAA summit was being held behind a heavily guarded “security perimeter”.
“Rather than marching toward the perimeter fence and the Summit of the Americas meetings, march organizers chose a route that marched from the People’s Summit away from the fence, through largely empty residential areas to the parking lot of a stadium in a vacant area several miles away. Henri Masse, the president of the Federation des travailleurs et travailleuses du Quebec (FTQ), explained, “I deplore that we are so far from the center-city…. But it was a question of security.” One thousand marshals from the FTQ kept very tight control over the march. When the march came to the point where some activists planned to split off and go up the hill to the fence, FTQ marshals signalled the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) contingent walking behind CUPE to sit down and stop the march so that FTQ marshals could lock arms and prevent others from leaving the official march route.” (Katherine Dwyer, Lessons of Quebec City, International Socialist Review, June/July 2001)
Security Perimeter, Quebec City 2001
The Summit of the Americas was held inside a four kilometer
“bunker” made of concrete and galvanized steel fencing. The
10 feet high “Quebec Wall” encircled part of the historic city
center including the parliamentary compound of the National
Assembly, hotels and shopping areas.
Quebec City, April 2001
Quebec City 2001, Building the Security fence
Quebec City April 2001
Toronto G20 Security Fence $5.5 million, June 2010
NGO Leaders versus their Grassroots
The establishment of the World Social Forum (WSF) in 2001 was unquestionably a historical landmark, bringing together tens of thousands of committed activists. It was an important venue which allowed for the exchange of ideas and the establishment of ties of solidarity.
What is at stake is the ambivalent role of the leaders of progressive organizations. Their cozy and polite relationship to the inner circles of power, to corporate and government funding, aid agencies, the World Bank, etc, undermines their relationship and responsibilities to their rank and file. The objective of manufactured dissent is precisely that: to distance the leaders from their rank and file as a means to effectively silencing and weakening grassroots actions.
Funding dissent is also a means infiltrating the NGOs as well as acquiring inside information on strategies of protest and resistance of grass-roots movements.
Most of the grassroots participating organizations in the World Social Forum including peasant, workers’ and student organizations, firmly committed to combating neoliberalism were unaware of the WSF International Council’s relationship to corporate funding, negotiated behind their backs by a handful of NGO leaders with ties to both official and private funding agencies.
Funding to progressive organizations is not unconditional. Its purpose is to “pacify” and manipulate the protest movement. Precise conditionalities are set by the funding agencies. If they are not met, the disbursements are discontinued and the recipient NGO is driven into de facto bankruptcy due to lack of funds.
The WSF defines itself as “an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and inter-linking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neo-liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a society centred on the human person”. (See Fórum Social Mundial, accessed 2010).
The WSF is a mosaic of individual initiatives which does not directly threaten or challenge the legitimacy of global capitalism and its institutions. It meets annually. It is characterised by a multitude of sessions and workshops. In this regard, one of the features of the WSF was to retain the “do-it-yourself” framework, characteristic of the donor funded counter G7 People’s Summits of the 1990s.
This apparent disorganized structure is deliberate. While favoring debate on a number of individual topics, the WSF framework is not conducive to the articulation of a cohesive common platform and plan of action directed global capitalism. Moreover, the US led war in the Middle East and Central Asia, which broke out a few months after the inaugural WSF venue in Porto Alegre in January 2001, has not been a central issue in forum discussions.
What prevails is a vast and intricate network of organizations. The recipient grassroots organizations in developing countries are invariably unaware that their partner NGOs in the United States or the European Union, which are providing them with financial support, are themselves funded by major foundations. The money trickles down, setting constraints on grassroots actions. Many of these NGO leaders are committed and well meaning individuals acting within a framework which sets the boundaries of dissent. The leaders of these movements are often co-opted, without even realizing that as a result of corporate funding their hands are tied.
Global capitalism finances anti-capitalism: an absurd and contradictory relationship.
“Another World is Possible”, but it cannot be meaningfully achieved under the present arrangement.
A shake-up of the World Social Forum, of its organizational structure, its funding arrangements and leadership is required.
There can be no meaningful mass movement when dissent is generously funded by those same corporate interests which are the target of the protest movement. In the words of McGeorge Bundy, president of the Ford Foundation (1966-1979),“Everything the [Ford] Foundation did could be regarded as ‘making the World safe for capitalism'”.
“If the periodic stress on strong central institutions – in tension with the emphasis on
decentralization elsewhere – is removed, then what Naess does begin to outline of
Deep Ecological social arrangements is anarchistic in character.”
Richard Sylvan and David Bennett
The Greening of Ethics: From Human
Chauvinism to Deep-Green Theory (1)
Activists sympathetic to anarchism associate this perspective with concepts and ideas like
the personal freedom to live your own life; direct action; support for the good but not the
comfortable life; hostility to the state and to taking part in the electoral process; hostility to
large centralized organizations; mutual aid and free co-operation through voluntary communal
organizations; social reforms before political reforms; decentralization and some form of
bioregional confederation controlled by and accountable to a citizen base; hostility to
“property” and support for distribution of wealth according to need; a belief that humans are
social and tend naturally towards ‘goodness’ and that governments negate this; support for
the organizational principle that “nothing should be done at a higher level than can be done
at a lower level;” etc. However attractive, these are all social, not ecological, ideas and belief
in them illustrates criticism of the social dysfunctionality of industrial capitalist society and
contemporary civilization. How humans interact with the Earth is both a social and an
ecological question. (I would also say that many of the listed ideas are common to both
radical supporters of deep ecology and of social ecology.) Those with an ecological
understanding see that this same dysfunctional society has led most humans from being
part of Nature, as in animistic societies, to the belief of many that our species is no longer
part of it.
Questions arise as to whether ‘anarchist’ ideas reflect in some way the biological/natural/
universal world out there, and whether these ideas are useful to activists, in their fight
against the industrial mega machine, and for an ecological, organizational, and political
alternative to this Earth-consuming industrial society.
This essay is an examination of the interrelation of anarchism and ecocentrism. It was
precipitated in part by reading the article “Ecocentric Anarchy” by Daktari, in the 20th
Anniversary Edition of the Earth First! Journal. (2) The article by Daktari concluded by
stating, “For all the internal stress it can bring, eco-anarchy is EF!’s greatest strength
and the best hope for a future ecotopian society.” I felt this article, marking 20 years of
Earth First!, was laying out an apparently uncontested philosophical future, previously
represented in more fragmentary form in past articles. But rather than taking this for granted,
the fundamental question which this essay attempts to address is whether or not anti-
industrial activists who try to follow deep ecology can or should also be raising the anarchist
The deeper green movement builds on a history of thinkers that have gone before. Of the
major published deep ecology theorists/philosophers that I am aware of, only one, the late
Australian Richard Sylvan (1935-1996), a brilliant and iconoclastic critic, “bad boy” of the
deep ecology philosophical community and advocate of “Deep Green” theory, identified
publicly with anarchism. (3) Sylvan was also associated editorially with the journal
Others, such as the German green philosopher Rudolf Bahro, called for the setting up of a
network of spiritually-inspired communes as Liberated Zones, as an alternative to the
industrial mega machine. Bahro’s vision was extra-parliamentary, that is, Greens should
focus their organizing outside of parliament. He was called an “ecoanarchist theorist” by
Robyn Eckersley, a green writer and deep ecologist. (4) But Bahro himself, in his last
major book Avoiding Social & Ecological Disaster, did not discuss anarchism except to
say “totalitarianism and anarchism have been far too intimately interwoven with each other.”
He also wrote, of “individualism extreme to the degree of anarchism.” (5)
The late Earth First! organizer Judi Bari, towards the end of her too short life, was
actively developing a left theoretical position based in deep ecology. She was critical of
right-wing tendencies within this philosophy, but also influenced by Marxism and expressed
support for anarcho-syndicalism (the Wobblies) and ecofeminism. (6)
Robyn Eckersley, in her 1992 book Environmentalism And Political Theory:
Toward An Ecocentric Approach, extensively discussed ecoanarchism, including the
hierarchy-focussed social ecology of Murray Bookchin. (She ultimately comes out against
ecoanarchist political forms of organization as a primary focus and upholds the role of what
is called the “enabling State.”)
A number of other writers who have influenced green and environmental thinking have
been linked to anarchism, e.g. Ed Abbey, E. F. Schumacher, Kirkpatrick Sale and
Christopher Manes. Some of the members of the internet discussion group “left bio” are
also supporters of anarchism.
While the relationship between ecoanarchism and ecocentrism/biocentrism has only
recently become a major concern for myself, this has not been true for others within the
deep ecology movement. Sylvan, in the book he wrote with David Bennett, The Greening
of Ethics: From Human Chauvinism to Deep-Green Theory makes the point: “none
of non-violence, pacifism, and organized anarchism are compulsory fare for
supporters of deep-green theory.” (7)
To call for activists, and for the public, to rally to the black flag of anarchy, and not
to the deep green or some other flag, is a major ecological, political, economic, and
social statement. It is not something to be undertaken lightly. After all, we are saying that
this is the way forward for all of us, against Earth destruction and for a socially just
society, which deals with the complexities of life today.
Deep ecology provides us with a non-human-centred philosophical relationship to the
natural world. This is an interdependence of humans with other life forms, on a basis of
equality, with all of Nature – humans are not set apart from Nature. According to deep
ecology, the further people are removed from Nature, the more that humans value
themselves, the more Nature is devalued and/or treated as nothing but a commodity.
Deep ecology says that through a fundamental revolution in consciousness, we can change
existing human relationships of attempted dominance over the natural environment. This
is deep ecology’s profound and unique contribution to our time. But the most appropriate
social, political, cultural, and economic relationships for such a world are yet to be
determined. (There is a spectrum of social and political positions within deep ecology!)
While the reality of a deteriorating ecology will ultimately force all of us to accept an
Earth-centred value structure, is a belief in anarchism part of the way forward? Is the black
flag the future? The answer given to these questions will steer activists towards certain
political priorities, such as, for example, attempting to use or to boycott the State. A public
discussion on this question is needed within the radical environmental, green, and alternative
Role of the State
For socialists influenced by Marx, capitalism is the main enemy. As Marx and Engels said
in the Communist Manifesto: “The executive of the modern State is but a committee for
managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” Proudhon, who has been described
as the first man to call himself an anarchist, was said by Marx and Engels in the Communist
Manifesto to represent “conservative” or “bourgeois socialism.”
Engels did speak of a future time, after the dictatorship of the proletariat, when the State
would “wither away”. As the history of the Soviet Union and other ‘actually existing’
communist countries showed, this withering became replaced by a state socialism – actually
a strengthening of the State, personally oppressive and all-encompassing. Lenin, at an early
point of the Bolshevik revolution, advanced what could be an anarchist slogan, “All Power
to the Soviets.” Soon afterwards, direct control by workers was replaced by State control.
The reasons for this are still disputed within the Left.
For anarchists, a defining characteristic is that the main enemy is the coercive State. For
anarchists, the State equals war and you cannot have one without the other. An anarchist
theory of history would therefore make the State, with its own autonomy, the prime vehicle
of overall social change, not Capital. But this does not mean we can “use” the State from
an anarchist viewpoint. As Alan Carter shows in his 1999 book A Radical Green Political
Theory, States use their powers for the purposes of their own survival. In the process, they
“bear responsibility for the oppression and exploitation of the world’s poor and the
environmental degradation that accompanies this.” (8) The survival interests of the State may
be at variance with the interests of the bourgeois class. Interests such as increasing taxation
revenues (tied to growth economies and increasing supplies of consumer goods, growing
populations, strong militaries, and the personal lifestyle interests of the state regulatory and
political elites, etc.) all go against deep green sustainability.
Both Marxist and anarchist views (and the utopian socialist ideas of people like William
Morris and Robert Owen) have aspects of the truth, although anarchist views on the State
are much less well known. Left biocentrism as a theoretical tendency sees industrialism, not
Capital or the State, as defining for our time. But both Marxist and anarchist views are
needed for a relevant and contemporary theoretical fusion, although ecoanarchism is much
closer in spirit to ecocentrism than ecomarxism or ecosocialism. (Anarchism is bottom-up
Today, in countries with extremely destructive ecological footprints, like the United States,
Canada and Western Europe, it is not the State which seems to be the main oppressor for the
citizens, but business and capitalism, through “development” and the all-pervasive promotion
of consumerism which permeates formerly public spaces and the delivery of information. Such
a State seems headed for eventual dissolution, because it is incapable of effectively responding
to the pending ecological collapse, due to the entrenched power of business interests.
Capitalism exploits people, both as producers and increasingly as consumers. The State in
fact becomes an extension of business and, moreover, defines and defends property rights.
Business comes to control the society and the life of citizens, and not, as it should be, society
determining economic activity. (9) For the citizen, no television program can be watched, or
newspaper read, which is not accompanied by the promotion of unwanted consumer goods
and services. However, at times defined as national emergencies, (10) the power of the State
can still become all-encompassing for the citizen, and devastating environmentally on “target”
countries, as in the Gulf War and more recently in Kosovo. Yet within this outlined paradigm
in national States, ecocentric and social justice activists, even of anarchist persuasion, seek to
use the State in a social democratic interventionist sense, as a curb against business and
so-called market forces. How can an anarchist philosophy reconcile all this?
How also, for anarchist-driven organizing, can one reconcile the concept of “small is
beautiful” with the need for deep green interventions on global environmental issues, and for
taking on the transnational corporations? As many environmental activists can attest, “small”
as in local, may not be “beautiful” but reactionary. How also can one reconcile the traditional
anarchist anti-State focus with the anti-globalization struggle, where surely the main target is
a ‘Marxist’ one – Capital? As we have seen in the recent past, free trade facilitating
mechanisms like the NAFTA Tribunal, rule in favour of corporations, that is, Capital – not
national governments. We can see that it is transnational corporations – Capital – who are
the main enemy, not national governments.
Yet, as one anarchist left bio noted:
“Capital would not have had the needed spaces without the blessing of the State. The
state laws are paving the way for transnational capital, bypassing the people’s control.
The corrupted governmental structures bear the main responsibility for the anti-
ecological and anti-social activities of corporations.”
Anarchy means some type of stateless society, that is, a society without government, or
at least extremely limited government. Anarchy is not a justification for self-centredness. There
are many anarchisms, compatible with quite a variety of political arrangements. They span a
range, in economic terms, from capitalism or full privatization to some form of communism or
socialism, that is, no private ownership. Most anarchists are concerned with economic
equalization and social justice, not the private accumulation of wealth. Anarchism can stress
individualism, collectivism, or points in between. Forms of anarchism need not be democratic.
Majority decisions are not accepted by anarchists. Anarcho-syndicalism, that is, anarchist
trade unions (e.g. the Wobblies), seems to imply a commitment to industrial society. Yet
many anarchist writers have developed a critique of industrial civilization. Generally, anarchists
are on the left in the political spectrum.
Anarchism brings considerably historical anti-communist baggage with it – from the 19th
century within the emerging left working class revolutionary forces, and from the Russian
Revolution and the Spanish Civil War, even if many front line activists who now declare
themselves as “anarchists” seem unaware of this. I do not accept the position of some
anarchist contemporary theoretical spokespersons, that there is nothing positive about
Marxism or communism. I am often struck by mindless anti-communism, really part of a
United States Cold War culture, in some social ecology, anarchist, and Earth First!
Anarchists can potentially be part of a pluralistic left biocentric constituency, providing
they are committed to deep ecology. The key factor, to be classified as “anarchistic”, seems
to be the exclusion of coercive elements. The Canadian anarchist George Woodcock argued
that contemporary anarchists, rather than seeking revolutionary upheaval, “tend to be
concerned far more with trying to create, in society as it is the infrastructure of a
better and freer society.” (11)
This is how Richard Sylvan outlined some of the varieties of anarchism:
“There are several recognized varieties of anarchism, among them: individualistic
anarchisms, anarcho-capitalisms, anarcho-communisms, mutualisms, anarcho-
syndicalisms, libertarian socialisms, social anarchisms, and now eco-anarchisms.
These varieties are not particularly well-characterised. They are by no means at all
mutually exclusive. So far even a satisfactory classification is lacking.” (12)
As Sylvan has noted, European anarchisms are generally “socially oriented” whereas
US anarchisms are “typically highly individualistic.” (13) It would seem that a deep green
society, because of its stress on working within a binding set of limiting core beliefs (14),
must be hostile to an anarchism that stresses individualism.
Well known historical anarchist thinkers such as Kropotkin, Bakunin and Proudhon, like
Marx, Engels and Lenin, shared a human-centred view of material progress as both inevitable
and desirable. Kropotkin, a geographer and naturalist, was very ecologically aware and
perhaps the exception here. He was a scientist and conducted biotic surveys within Russia.
As he said: “Gradually the sense of man’s oneness with nature, both animate and
inanimate – the poetry of nature – became the philosophy of my life.” (15) An important
issue raised by Kropotkin, was that anarchist organizational forms should mimic what he saw
as the fundamental co-operation within a species, in opposition to a Darwinian struggle for
As one member of the Left Bio discussion group commented, regarding Kropotkin’s
book Mutual Aid:
“The premise is that the most sociable and cooperative species tend to survive and
multiply better. I believe this book is considered one of the foundations of anarchistic
thought, since without restraints on freedom organisms will tend towards sociable,
cooperative behaviour, to optimize survival. As a belief system this might provide a
kind of organic democracy and a shared willingness to respect, empathize and
accommodate other humans and other species.” (16)
The Russian-American anarchist Emma Goldman called the magazine she founded in the
USA, Mother Earth. She considered Thoreau the “precursor of anarchism in the United
States.” (17) Her autobiography, while personally inspiring, is however not particularly
Contrary to anarchist thinking, there cannot be very definite lessons drawn from Nature,
in how humans should organize themselves. Partly, this is because of the inference routinely
made from projecting human societies onto Nature, e.g. competition or cooperation. And
partly, this is because most humans lack both the knowledge and wisdom to understand fully
the organization of the natural world, and to draw the appropriate lessons for ourselves. (It
has been argued that competition ‘fits’ capitalism, and cooperation ‘fits’ socialism/
communism/anarchism.) All of us can, however, see how to minimize human impacts, and
here deep ecology and social ecology can both contribute.
Alan Carter, who has recently outlined a theoretically sophisticated, anarchist-inspired
critique of the State, defines radical green theory in a manner which is quite anthropocentric,
excluding other species, the Earth itself, and needed reductions in human populations:
“…the various aspects of radical green political theory – decentralization, participatory
democracy, egalitarianism, self-sufficiency, alternative technology, pacifism and
These kinds of social and organizational arrangements seem people-friendly, and can be
supported from a social justice perspective. Carter argues in his book for a green anarcho-
communist society. He also considers future generations, that we have a responsibility to
those who come after us. (We cannot have a genuine human democracy in a particular
country, if the country’s standard of living rests on the exploitation of other countries.)
Compared to Marxism, in these areas anarchism has much to contribute. However, such
arrangements totally ignore the rest of non-human life – Earth’s great diversity of organisms,
and the Earth itself.
The Earth and its non-human inhabitants do not have “standing” under anthropocentric
law. Human decision-making, democracy, etc., must be set in the context of the Earth and
its continuity. These interests, to which humans must be subordinate, have to have dominant
representation in any human social arrangements. Democracy must be Earth-centred and
people-centred. Humans must live within sustainable means, where “sustainable” includes the
interests of all other species. The overall and ultimate ethical community then, is not the human
community, but the ecological community. Anarchism and anarchist thinking does not seem to
address this. Carter for example, speaks of the speciesism of human society. Because of this,
he considers it “dubious” to defend other than human persons. He also comments, “a concern
for future humans seems to imply the preservation of as many species as possible.” (19)
A recent discussion took place on the internet group Left Bio about what “democracy”
means in an ecocentric and socially just society: One suggestion was that,
“In any public discussion (among humans, of course) of the definition, theory or
practice of biocentric/ecocentric ethics (including discussion of a left bio definition
of democracy) human beings would need to be appointed/delegated to speak for
the larger functioning whole and its parts (in addition to those speaking for
Present day reality is that no politician speaks for the Earth.
Social Ecology, Anarchism and Deep Ecology
Many movement activists, both in the radical environmental movement and in the social
justice and anti-globalization movements, now seem to declare themselves to be anarchists.
Social ecology also raises the anarchist banner, even though in the mid-eighties its founder
Murray Bookchin (and also George Bradford of the anarchist newspaper Fifth Estate),
bitterly attacked deep ecology (21), which most Earth Firsters support. Bookchin, despite
his important theoretical contributions, has become a symbol of intolerance. (More recent
published writings of Bradford, seem to indicate some rapprochement with deep ecology.
Other social ecology theorists critical of Bookchin, like John Clarke, also seem close in spirit
to deep ecology.)
Bookchin, who is the dominant social ecology theorist, believes that an anarchist society is
a “precondition” for a society based on ecological principles. This view is itself derived from a
more fundamental position of Bookchin that: “…the very concept of dominating nature stems
from the domination of human by human…” (22) For deep ecology supporters however,
humans do not have an ontological privileged status as evolutionary stewards. They are not,
as Bookchin claims, “nature rendered self-conscious.” (23) The social ecology bottom line
implies that ultimately social issues come first. As Robyn Eckersley points out, some
hierarchical societies, such as feudalism, some monastic communities, and some preliterate
societies, lived in relative harmony with the natural world. Also, as the Left Biocentrism
Primer notes, the ecological crisis cannot claim social hierarchy as its ultimate cause: “Left
biocentrism believes that an egalitarian, non-sexist, non-discriminating society, a
highly desirable goal, can still be exploitive towards the Earth.” (24)
Some Other Considerations
Unlike Marxism, anarchism does not seem to have an agreed-upon theoretical doctrine,
but only loosely clustered ideas. (Murray Bookchin has developed an extensively theoretical
position, which draws from anarchist ideas.) Yet although human-centred, organizationally
and from a lifestyle perspective, many anarchist ideas seem to have contemporary relevance
to many ecocentric and social justice activists. One can also find examples of historical and
more contemporary anarchists giving positions contradicting each other, such as: about taking
sides in the First and Second World Wars in support of their national governments; about
accepting government honours and political positions; about advocating both violence
(“propaganda of the deed”) and non-violence as anarchist positions, etc.
Anarchism, unlike Marxism, never came to “power” in a societal context, so it has not been
discredited or tarnished by “success.” Anarchists did put some of their ideas into practice in
rural and industrial areas, at the local level, in the Spanish Civil War, in Catalonia, Aragon,
and Andalusia. Bakunin’s ideas were particularly influential among Spanish anarchists. For
example: “The new world would be won only after the last king had been strangled in
the guts of the last priest” (25) and “There are not several religions of the ruling class;
there is one, the religion of property.” (26)
Anarchism today has a new social base. Historically, it appealed to peasants and workers,
but today anarchism’s main appeal seems to be to educated, ecologically and socially aware
(and alienated) young people in industrialized countries. Today’s anarchists are in the new
social movements, not the labour movement.
Social Environmentalism and Earth First!
The slogan Earth First! is quite brilliant, because it expresses what everyone’s priority
should be. Large numbers of people were inspired by this slogan to come forward and make
personal sacrifices for non-human life forms. But people can make contributions to the defence
of biodiversity, wildlife or wilderness, and yet not be theoretically aware. In general (there are
some exceptions), today the Earth First! Journal does not pay much attention to theoretical
issues within deep ecology, what the actual spectrum of positions are, and what this means for
the direction of a revolutionary movement against industrial civilization.
The article by Daktari, “Ecocentric Anarchy”, has a microscopic analysis focussed on the
EF! Journal. It does not deal with any of the larger issues or produce the evidence for why
ecoanarchism is necessary for an “ecotopian society.” I also do not believe it to be true that
the radical environmentalism of Earth Firsters is based upon their alleged anarchist beliefs.
Anarchist ideas are mainly an add-on.
There was an extended and lively critical discussion on anarchy in 1986-87, in the
EF! Journal, involving a number of writers and letters to the editor. One important focus of
discussion was whether or not there was a necessity for a State to combat ecological
destruction and social disorder – i.e. to protect humans, versus the anarchist dissent from such
a position. Dave Foreman and John Davis were then with the paper, and theoretical
discussions played a large role in the EF! Journal. Today a simplified anarchy is promoted as
a fait accompli.
The EF! Journal has shown little interest in examining what a left position within deep
ecology entails and what its contradictions are. The theoretical fusion that Judi Bari was
engaged in, for example, has not been seriously examined. Similarly for the work done by left
biocentrists. The work of people like Andrew McLaughlin, Richard Sylvan and Rudolf Bahro
is unknown to most Earth Firsters. Instead of such a theoretical discussion, there has been a
persistent flirtation with social ecology and anarchism, as if this would solve the non-ecological
questions. Coalitions with others are fine only if the defence of the natural world remains the
first priority. Deep ecology has to work out its own trajectory, not just “add on” anarchism or
social ecology. Even in adding on anarchism, while there is much to admire in it, there are
many contradictions which a serious, ecocentric revolutionary movement needs to examine.
Just as there is a spectrum of positions within deep ecology, the same is true for anarchism.
The theoretical tendency which is undermining Earth First! can be called “social
environmentalism.” (27) Essentially, social justice is upheld over environmental justice. Social
ecology, anarchist, and eco-feminist beliefs feed this position. Negative language is used to
promote social environmentalism, e.g. “white”, “privilege”, “white male”, likely to soften up
ecocentric activists and make them feel guilty about something they cannot change, that is,
their social origins. This is a psychological ploy to put ecocentric activists on the defensive
and make them uncritical of social environmentalism. With social environmentalism, aboriginal
interests are prioritized over wildlife and wilderness/park/old growth interests.
Of course, human social interests are important, but they must be secondary to Earth
preservation. My position on the events leading up to the eventual split in Earth First!, which
resulted in Foreman, Davis and quite a number of others disassociating themselves from the
EF! Journal, is given in a 1990 letter “Points of Consideration re The Earth First!
Debate.” (28) I did not see this as the triumph of anarchism in the EF! Journal, as does
Daktari. I said that social justice was only possible in a context of ecological justice, that the
United States was the contemporary imperial world power and, “what this means for the
soul and practice of Earth First! has to be a major concern, not dismissed as leftist
Contemporary Implications and Conclusion
“The ability to govern without overt coercion depends largely on the ability of those in
power to exploit systems of belief that the larger population shares.” – Gramsci (30)
This bulletin has been an examination of anarchism in regard to what should be its place
within deep ecology and the theoretical tendency left biocentrism. What should be the system
of beliefs of radical deep ecology supporters? My limited examination of anarchism has made
me much more sympathetic than when I started out. Yet the anarchism I am supportive of is
collectivist, not based on the supremacy of the individual. My support is not for property-
oriented individualistic anarchism, which has some social base in the United States. As one left
bio pointed out, “Certainly some of the right wing individualistic anarchists of today are
really libertarians who would/do endorse unfettered capitalism as the only road to
Left biocentrism has been influenced by two thinkers who have been described as anarchists:
Richard Sylvan and Rudolf Bahro. Therefore left biocentrism (and by extension deep ecology)
needs to see anarchism as contributing to its theoretical exploration. Support for anarchism
should be considered a non-antagonistic contradiction among left biocentrists. This is already
reality within the internet group Left Bio.
However, ecoanarchism is a concept which is more often a slogan, conveying an attitude of
opposition to industrial society, rather than something which has been theoretically worked
through and judged relevant for our frightening times. Part of its appeal is that it does seem to
speak to the “individualism” of activists in the United States and Canada. As I noted in a
comment on anarchism to Richard Sylvan back in 1987, while I support the small scale,
decentralized, basic democracy leanings of anarchism, anarchic individualism makes for a
bias against the need for a collectivist, ecocentric organization, with its necessary accountable
and delegated authority.
This essay also argued that “democracy”, as discussed within the anarchist tradition, needs
a deep ecology transfusion, so that it is expanded to include not just humans, but the Earth’s
great diversity of organisms and the Earth itself. For humans, democracy is not only morally
just, but necessary for the widest possible discussion and contention of ideas. For left
biocentrists, there are some limiting core beliefs, which are prerequisites for a deep green
Some of the contradictions within anarchism have been pointed out. There is a friendly, but
substantive critique from our side of the barricades. I do not believe we can say with certainty
what the new organizational forms need to be for the future post-industrial Earth-centred
society, or that anarchism mimics in some way how the natural world is organized. There is also
the baggage that anarchism carries, both among the non-anarchist left, and more importantly,
among the public at large, where anarchy is mistakenly equated with chaos and disorder.
I do think we have to treat the existing institutions with disdain and work to create alternative
structures within industrial society. (31) Anarchist thinking contributes to this. Anarchism also
helps us understand that we cannot fundamentally change the State by marching through its
institutions. The green electoral road is therefore a cul de sac. Deep ecopolitics needs to be
entirely different from existing green electoral reformism.
State-organized societies, whatever their economic configurations, do not seem to be
ecologically sustainable in the long term. Anarchism helps us see this. Yet for left biocentrists, it
is a class-influenced industrial society, not the State or Capital, which is the main target of our
We do need to remember that political categories like the “market” and the “State” are not
tied to any particular economic formation such as capitalism. Thus Richard Sylvan, a deep
ecology anarchist, spoke of supporting “regulated markets without capitalism.” (32) It is
the increasing high-speed complexity of current industrialized societies, with their global
interlinkages and the globalization of Capital, which suggest that a single-minded anarchist
focus on opposition to the State, belongs to a time past.
I believe that anarchism should be part of the “left” in left biocentrism. Anarchists can be
left biocentrists and deep ecology supporters. But it would be wrong to say the future society
will definitely be ecoanarchist in organization, and that an ecocentric consciousness requires
this. It should remain as an open question. In this way, anarchists and non-anarchists can join
socialists, non-socialists and others, in helping define what a deep and pluralistic left biocentrism
should be for our times, and creatively respond to the unfolding future.
1. Richard Sylvan and David Bennett, The Greening of Ethics: From Human Chauvinism
to Deep-Green Theory, (Cambridge, UK: The White Horse Press, 1994), p. 128.
2. Daktari, “Ecocentric Anarchy” in the Earth First! Journal, Samhain 2000. I identify
with and for many years have considered myself part of Earth First! Over the years, I have
written a number of articles for this paper.
3. See in particular the essay by Richard Sylvan “Anarchism”, in Robert Goodwin and Philip
Pettit, A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, (Oxford, UK, Blackwell
Publishers, 1993), pp. 215-243.
4. Robyn Eckersley, Environmentalism and Political Theory: Toward an Ecocentric
Approach, (Albany, US: State University of New York Press, 1992), pp. 77 and 150.
5. Rudolf Bahro, Avoiding Social & Ecological Disaster: The Politics of World
Transformation, (Bath, UK: Gateway Books, 1994), p. 256.
6. See her essay “Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism & Deep Ecology”, available at
http://www.judibari.org/revolutionary-ecology.html Judi Bari sent me an early draft of her
essay in 1995 and asked me to comment on it. My response in a letter dated Feb. 12, 1995,
stressed our essential agreement on the centrality of deep ecology and its revolutionary
essence, and that we were on the same road, noted that I was already plagiarizing her article
in talks, but raised a number of friendly criticisms of her paper. Judi was struggling with the
same kind of theoretical questions from within deep ecology, with an overall Left viewpoint as
myself, but had not broken free of “workerism” or the influence of anarcho-syndicalism on her
new thinking. She did not see that loggers and fishers have a stake in industrial society and
cannot be a revolutionary social base. I raised in my letter that deep ecology goes beyond what
she called ancient native wisdom, which is ultimately human-centred – but can be characterized
perhaps as “deep stewardship”. I also criticized her position on ecofeminism and said I did not
think this was the same as ecocentrism. We needed a general theory, I wrote to Judi, that was
not gender-rooted and ultimately splitting.
7. Sylvan and Bennett, ibid., p. 152. I first contacted Richard Sylvan in 1987 and in a letter
dated July 30th, this is how I described my feelings about anarchism, with which Richard
identified: “I’m not an anarchist. Much of what anarchism stands for I can support –
emphasis on small scale, decentralization, basic democracy etc. But I find there is a bias
against organization, among conscious followers of anarchism. This makes it difficult to
divide up work, sustain an organization etc. I don’t have any trouble delegating
authority, providing the person/group is competent, accountable and trustworthy.
However, anarchism has a history, although one would never know this from reading
the various green publications. I do not support the anti-communism of anarchist
‘leaders.’ Personally, I have always felt that anarchism … appeals to the lack of discipline
of intellectuals and their unwillingness to work under a collective. One of the many
problems of the green/deep ecology movement is that the full theoretical/organizational
implications of an anarchist position are not discussed, but simply taken for granted.”
8. Alan Carter, A Radical Green Theory, (London and New York, Routledge, 1999),
9. In Nova Scotia, for example, what the forestry industry or the oil and gas industry want, the
provincial government usually provides, unless it is felt the State would be brought too publicly
into disrepute. (There is also a revolving door, for State regulatory officials who, often on
‘retirement’, move into influential positions with the businesses they were formerly regulating.)
10. In Canada the War Measures Act was applied in both World Wars but also in October
1970 in Quebec, when a state of “apprehended insurrection” was declared to exist by the
federal government and hundreds in the alternative and Quebec nationalist movement were
11. George Woodcock, Anarchism and Anarchists, (Quarry Press, 1992), p. 124.
12. Sylvan, “Anarchism”, p. 231.
13. Sylvan, “Anarchism”, p. 231.
14. See “Debate: A Commentary on Andrew Dobson’s Green Political Thought” by
D. Orton, in Socialist Studies Bulletin, Number 61, July-September 2000. In this
Commentary, I outline a partial list of ten core beliefs for dark green sustainability e.g.
opposing all increased economic growth policies, dismantling industrial society, major
reductions in human populations, an end to consumerism, etc.
15. George Woodcock and Ivan Avakumovic, Peter Kropotkin: From Prince To Rebel,
(Montreal, Black Rose Books, 1990), p. 34.
16. Comment by a participant in the internet discussion group Left Bio.
17. Emma Goldman, Living My Life, (1931), p. 585.
18. Carter, ibid., p. 251.
19. Carter, ibid., p. 332.
20. Comment by a participant in the internet discussion group Left Bio.
21. For example, Murray Bookchin dismisses Woody Guthrie as a “Communist Party centralist”
and uses the expression “Iron Curtain” is his reactionary attack on deep ecology, “Social
Ecology Versus ‘Deep Ecology’”, printed in Green Perspectives, Numbers 4 and 5,
Summer 1987. Or see the vicious anti-communism in the anarchist publication the Fifth Estate,
where the Bolsheviks are described as “the party of the firing squad”, Fall 1987 issue, Vol. 22,
No. 3. This is the same issue which contains George Bradford’s, long-winded, “know-it-all”,
human-centred, and ultimately reactionary attack, “How Deep Is Deep Ecology?”
22. Murray Bookchin, Toward An Ecological Society, (Montreal, Black Rose Books,
1980), p. 76.
23. See Murray Bookchin, “Social Ecology Versus ‘Deep Ecology’”, p. 10.
24. This is part of Point “8” of the Left Biocentrism Primer.
25. See Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, Third Edition, (Aylesbury, UK and New
York, Pelican Books, 1977), p. 62. The fundamental conflict between anarchists and
communists in Spain, were differences over whether to immediately implement the anarchist
social revolution or, to postpone this in the interest of building the widest coalition possible,
and a disciplined army, to defeat Franco and the generals who were in revolt against the
Republican government. As the Soviet Union became the overwhelming weapons supplier to
the Republicans, with Germany and Italy supplying the fascists in Spain, plus the alleged
“neutrality” of the bourgeois democracies, communist influence grew rapidly and anarchist
support declined. Forces outside of Spain, and the approaching Second World War, clearly
severely impacted the struggle within Spain.
26. Guy A. Aldred, Bakunin’s Writings, (US, Kraus Reprint Co., 1972), p. 18.
27. For a discussion of social environmentalism, see Green Web Bulletin #50, “Social
Environmentalism and Native Relations”, June 1996.
28. See, letter to the editor by D. Orton, “Points of Consideration re The Earth First!
Debate”, Earth First! Journal, Dec. 21, 1990, Vol. XI, No. 11.
29. Orton, ibid.
30. Gramsci as quoted by Sylvan in “Anarchism”, p. 236.
31. The problem with alternative structures is to see that they do not end up being
incorporated into the existing industrial paradigm or tolerated in some kind of mutual
acceptance. An alternative structure has to undermine not strengthen the existing social
32. Sylvan in “Anarchism”, p. 236.
Acknowledgements: I am indebted to the internet discussion group “Left Bio,” where many
discussions have taken place over a period of almost four years. Insights from such discussions
are part of this bulletin. I would also like to particularly thank the approximately ten left bios
who read a first draft and provided thoughtful comments. A number of their insights have been
incorporated into the final text.
For decades, anti-capitalists have rightly raised the question of the “redistribution of wealth” between the Global North and Global South. This idea has commonly been imagined to mean an end to the pillage of the Third World by the advanced industrialized powers, so that the people of the Global South are able to attain an equivalent level of development. This demand, put simply, means that the South should catch up to the North’s “standard of living.”
For decades, anti-capitalists have rightly raised the question of the “redistribution of wealth” between the Global North and Global South. This idea has commonly been imagined to mean an end to the pillage of the Third World by the advanced industrialized powers, so that the people of the Global South are able to attain an equivalent level of development. This demand, put simply, means that the South should catch up to the North’s “standard of living.”
But this old view is clumsy and over-simplified, since certain countries are already fully in the process of “taking their share” of the cake that is Planet Earth, and this is accelerating the destruction of the great ecological balances. The arrival of China and India as industrial, political and military powers obliges revolutionaries to rethink, from top to bottom, issues surrounding the model of development itself.
With a planetary ecological crisis on hand, it can no longer be denied that socialism will be incompatible with mass production and mass consumption. Indeed, even without returning to Malthusian catastrophe theories, we are forced to admit that the planet’s resources are not inexhaustible. These resources could provide for humanity’s needs, but only if they are used in a reasonable and rational way, i.e., in a manner directly opposed to capitalist logic, which in itself is a source of imbalance.
1. THE WORLD IS IN OVERDRIVE
According to the “Living Planet Report” put out by the World Wildlife Fund in 2002, the world population’s “ecological footprint” increased by 80% between 1961 and 1999, to reach 120% of the Earth’s biological capacity. Though the figures used in this report are disputed, including in ecologists’ circles, there is general agreement with the fundamental idea: “Natural resource consumption can exceed the planet’s productive capacity by depleting the Earth’s natural capital, but this cannot be sustained indefinitely.”
This “ecological footprint” is the surface area (calculated in hectares) necessary to meet the natural resource needs of a given individual or population, and to absorb their waste. The ecological footprint of the United States is the most important in the world, at 2.81 billion hectares, or approximately 9.7 hectares per inhabitant. The European Union follows with 2.16 billion hectares, or 4.7 hectares per inhabitant. China follows in third place, with 2.05 billion hectares and rising— but only 1.6 hectares per inhabitant. Finally, India uses only 0.8 hectares per inhabitant, for a total of 0.78 billion hectares, already surpassing Japan. The study’s conclusion is beyond doubt: if every country were to maintain a level of production and consumption equivalent to that of the United States, we would need six Planet Earths. Three Earths would be needed for a level equivalent to that of the EU. If we stick to the traditional vision of the South “catching up” with the North, there is still a long way to go before “the South catches up with the North”-—yet the regenerative capacities of the planet are already exhausted. This path of development, in which we can only race for control of increasingly scarce resources, burdens humanity with twin perils: the rise of imperialist wars on one hand, and ecological catastrophe on the other.
1.1 The ecological peril
Human activity is at the root of a set of extremely serious phenomena. Chief among these is global warming, which, according to current forecasts, could result in an increase of the average global surface temperature by as much as 5.8° C (10.4° F) by 2100. We have seen the first symptoms of this with a recent multiplication of natural disasters—the melting of Greenland’s glaciers and of the North Pole’s ice cap, the rise in sea level, desertification. Beyond climate change, other ecological perils threaten us: deforestation, reduction of the oceans’ resources, loss of biodiversity, and irreversible pollution by nuclear waste.
1.2 The imperialist peril
The sources of energy used today (oil, natural gas, uranium, etc.) are limited. The struggle for their control will lead to an exacerbation of imperialist rivalries, in particular that between the United States and China. After the Middle East, the new theatre of diplomatic competition and wars of influence lies in the oil-rich countries of Africa—Sudan, Gabon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Congo, Saõ Tom(c) and Prncipe, and Chad. But the competition can only become more violent, as resources become scarcer, and the appetite of the great powers for energy continues to grow.
2. CAPITALISM IS NOT THE SOLUTION
Capitalist society can be forced to evolve politically, through pressure from social movements on one hand, and on the other hand through the decisions that forge consensus among the ruling classes: In each country, at certain historical moments, the ruling classes can be brought to come up with a “doctrine,” to use their terms. The nerve centers of Capital, always tied up with the State apparatus, have a determining influence in the development of this doctrine: be it the nuclear lobby in France, the military-industrial complex in China, the oil multinationals of the United States, the natural gas and oil tycoons in Russia, etc.
At the world level, the “Who’s Who” of the capitalist oligarchy have for a long time given themselves forums where they devote themselves to futurology, such as the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, or the Bilderberg Group. The system’s self-questioning was expressed in the doctrine of “sustainable development,” drawn from the 1987 Bruntland Report, which recommended “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In compliance with this doctrine, the Western ruling classes are increasingly taking the route of new technologies, developing renewable energies, and promoting recycling and “clean” production, among other things. As a result, technological innovations are implemented, mainly in First World countries, to prevent greenhouse gases from increasing “too much.” But it is important to see that this route brings no solutions:
- Any pollution reduced in First World countries, particularly under pressure from ecological struggles, is simply transferred to the Global South. There has been no total progress on the planet since this process began—quite the contrary.
- In all cases, the corrective measures being taken remain insufficient to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint.
- In the final analysis, these proposals are put forward only to avoid a total reassessment of the model of development that is ruining the planet.
While the United States has, for the first time, felt the full force of the consequences of climactic breakdown, with the destruction of New Orleans, the capitalist oligarchy has been completely incapable of posing the questions necessary to stop the process of destruction of the planet. We can understand the causes of the capitalist system’s inability to anticipate and self-regulate, if we simply examine the way it functions. Capitalism is fundamentally an unequal society. Its internal logic compels it to flee, suicidally, forward. Its ideology, the conditioning it imposes on the human conscience (frustration and violence caused by the appropriation of wealth by a minority, absence of solidarity, need for unlimited consumption, lack of individual responsibility, etc.), and its need for exponential growth to preserve a pretense of stability, are major obstacles, making control of its activity impossible.
On the whole, far from providing a solution to the process of the destruction of the planet, “sustainable development” is content to propose a model in which capitalists can repaint themselves as eco-citizens, where ecological struggles happen to make this label profitable. Thus, [energy multinationals such as] Total or Cogema extensively sponsor “sustainable development” actions.
This class-blind vision is particularly perverse because it tends to put the blame for pollution on the consumer who does not recycle enough, to better mask the industrial responsibilities of the multinationals or of states, who alone assume the right to determine what is manufactured, and shape consumer behavior with their advertisements. There will never be a solution without breaking from the current logic of production in the service of profit accumulation, to reach a production organized in response to the needs of humanity, and in the service of our well-being.
To remedy the current destruction of the planet, we’ll need much more than the technological revolution imagined by the doctrines of “sustainable development.” We’ll also need a revolution in trade and in the model of consumption. Here, we touch upon the mainspring of the capitalist system—the necessity of expansion. This amounts to calling capitalism itself into question. To avoid the destruction of the planet, there are only two possible routes:
- either to prevent the countries of the Global South from catching up with the “standard of living” of the Global North;
- or to reconsider completely the economic model in both the North and the South.
The first route, as cynical as it is utopian, corresponds to the statement George Bush, Sr. made at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro: “Our standard of living is not negotiable.” In this view, since any revision of the level of consumption in one’s country is out of question, the only means would be to keep competitors at a distance, in particular by monopolizing energy resources to China’s detriment.
The second route implies a triple revolution: of the modes of production, of trade, and of consumption. Rather than an inevitable regression in everyone’s standard of living, what’s at stake is a reorientation of economic activity, in order to find an ecological balance.
3. THREE REVOLUTIONS ARE NECESSARY
We could be satisfied to say that only one revolution is necessary: the socialist revolution. This is, in itself, completely accurate. But “socialism,”even when libertarian, does not in itself resolve the question of the model of development. Beyond the question of owning the means of production and abolishing wage labor, socialism must raise the question of humanity’s ecological footprint. And this prospect invites us to “think” now about what revolutions in the modes of production, trade and consumption that the planet needs.
3.1 Revolution in trade: putting an end to globalization
Global warming is caused by the totality of human activities emitting greenhouse gases. There is still no study that identifies the world’s most-polluting sectors, from this point of view. Let’s agree, for the purpose of our discussion, that transportation, with the boom in air transportation, is first in line.
In 2003, according to the Interprofessional Technical Center for Studies on Atmospheric Pollution (CITEPA), France emitted 557 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) into the atmosphere. The branches of industry responsible are as follows:
Transportation 26.5% (up from 22% in 1996)
Manufacturing industries 20% (23% in 1996)
Agriculture 19.5% (18% in 1996)
Building/Housing 18.5% (18% in 1996)
Energy production 13% (8% in 1996)
Waste treatment 2% (3% in 1996)
Refrigerating Gases 5% (air conditioning)
The transportation sector is the principal pollutant by volume, and there is no doubt that on a planetary scale the problem is similar, because of the explosion of trade with capitalist globalization. Today, the de-localization of production is such that the various components of a product, over the course of its manufacture and distribution, travel tens of thousands of kilometers. Transportation thus plays a key part in capitalist globalization, and the class struggles going on in this sector are therefore all the more important. The questioning of capitalist globalization thus does not only have a social and anti-imperialist motivation, it also has a fundamentally ecological motivation: there will be no massive reduction of greenhouse gases without a questioning of the international division of labor, a re-localization of production, and economic independence for the various regions of the world. Of course, it is not about preaching the logic of a closed, autarkic economy, but of one with an autonomous capacity for development.
3.2 Revolution in the modes of consumption: the question of d(c)croissance (“de-growth”)
The concept of d(c)croissance is often associated with voluntary simplicity. Individual initiatives are on the increase, along with the awareness of the extent of the problem, but also with a feeling of direct responsibility (in particular through the mode of consumption). These initiatives form useful counter-examples, making it possible to develop a collective understanding of the problem, but are in no way a counter-power. It is useless to hope for a generalization of these kinds of practices; the true solution can only be collective, and involve a radical transformation of society.
In addition to being a system of exploitation, capitalism is also a carrier of an inherent death-logic for humanity. Any alternative to it will have to take an ecological dimension into account, contrary to the preceding experiments of authoritarian socialism (or state capitalism).
The concept of d(c)croissance, as such, does not bring any solution if it is not associated with a break with capitalism. Indeed, the U.S. economic crisis of 1929 and that of 1990 in Russia opened periods of strong economic “de-growth.” These “degrowths,” within the capitalist framework, only brought more misery for the poorest, without bringing any significant change in terms of “ecological progress.”
We affirm that:
- D(c)croissance as an objective remains ridiculous if it is not tied to the collective appropriation of the means of production. A non-class-based vision of d(c)croissance is nothing but a new ideological flavor of the month, and libertarian communists can’t subscribe to it. It would lead, in the worst case, to a policy of rationing for the working class or, at best, to various individual solutions of “voluntary simplicity” with no global impact.
- D(c)croissance is one aspect, and not the totality, of the solution to climate change. It is necessary to associate it with a revolution in the modes of exchange and production.
- D(c)croissance cannot be an absolute objective: if the countries of the North consume too much, many countries of the South still need development—in the infrastructures of transportation, education, and health. And, within Northern countries, improved access to the same services for disadvantaged social groups is a necessity. As militant libertarian communists, we have no love for the exoticism which sees, in destitution and poverty, some “spiritual enrichment” in this heartless world. The revolution needed in modes of consumption can only be understood when differentiated according to the regions of the world. To simplify: it is necessary that the “rich” consume less so that the “poor” live better.
The “solution to the ecological challenge” means an economic upheaval implying a redefinition of:
- the purpose of production: organized only to satisfy the needs of humanity;
- the best possible use of technological innovations: to eliminate the most pollution, to spread the practice of recycling, and to produce practical goods, not designed to break down after a few years;
- the means of transportation (automobile, public transit system, road, rail, air);
- packaging and advertising;
- energy choices (fossil fuels, renewable energy, energy saving).
On the whole, we need to think about a general redefinition of what is necessary, and what is superfluous, in the economic system. Our objective is not an impoverishment of humanity, but a revolution in our ways of life: a drastic decrease in the consumption of material products and an enrichment of social and cultural life—a development of social relations, of culture, of art, and of knowledge.
3.3 Revolution in the modes of production: energy saving
The only positive aspect of the doctrine of “sustainable development”–and the exhaustion of fossil fuels–is to have on the agenda, for technological research, the questions of recycling, clean production, energy saving, green fuels, water saving in agriculture, renewable energies, ecological housing, etc. All these technological innovations should be claimed as our own, while we remain aware that they are only one aspect, and not the totality, of the solution to climate change. The question of energy will inevitably be at the center of the debate. And before the end of fossil fuels, the debate around nuclear power will start up again. But nuclear power is not a solution to the greenhouse effect. The share of nuclear power in the world’s consumption of energy is indeed marginal (3%). To imagine slowing down climate change with the construction of thousands of new nuclear power plants across the globe is completely foolish, because of the known health and environmental risks, and because current geopolitical tensions make power plants military targets of choice. Even if questions remain about how to end nuclear power in a country, such as France, which is ultra-dependent on the industry–and this should be the subject of a specific debate within Alternative Libertaire–we remain opposed to nuclear energy, which burdens our society with disproportionate health and social risks.
4. STRATEGIC CONCLUSION
The environment is not simply a “humanist” question deprived of political stakes. To act concretely, we must analyze it in connection with class struggles, capitalist strategies, relations of production, imperialist power struggles around the world, etc. This is why we must speak, systematically, of political ecology. At the same time, the solutions to this major challenge, which is the destruction of the planet, transcend any simple opposition between capitalism and socialism. If it is obvious that capitalism in itself has no solution, we can’t affirm, in a symmetrical way, that socialism answers everything.
On the one hand, such an assertion would have the effect of postponing any action to some post-revolutionary future, which we have no indication will occur before the capitalism completely destroys the planet. Thus, not “three” but “one” revolution is necessary: the socialist revolution.
On the other hand, socialism must ultimately integrate the ecological question. Socialist models of the past are outdated– both the productivist model so dear to Stalinists and the old anarchist model of “abundance” in which “take from the pile” was supposed to resolve the question of production and consumption. Libertarian communism will have to reach a point of balance between the capacities to produce, the needs of populations, and the limits of the biosphere. And beyond rational management of natural resources, the ecological question must lead us to fundamentally reconsider humanity’s place on the planet. In the face of our Judeo-Christian heritage, which encouraged men and women to dominate the planet, we need to become aware that our existence is closely related to that of the whole living world. We cannot build our future against that of the rest of life. Here, too, the ideology of domination must be broken, so that humanity can find a future.
In the immediate future, in the anti-globalization movement– slumbering in the countries of the North, but always virulent in the rest of the world—it is essential to bear in mind a political compass pointing toward these necessary “three revolutions” in the modes of production, in trade, and in consumption.
The comrades of Alternative Libertaire, in France, adopted this position paper on the current ecological crisis at their 2006 conference. Libertarian communist texts on ecology are all too rare, which is partly why we chose to publish it.
PART I: How Capitalism has created an Ecological, Energy, and Economic Crisis
The post-WWII boom was based on cheap oil. But oil is nonrenewable, polluting, and causes global warming. It was “cheap” because the capitalists did not pay to prepare for the day when it would be harder to access oil. We have reached that day, which is one aspect of the worldwide crisis of the return to the epoch of capitalist decay.
As I write this, the United States is suffering its worst ecological disaster since the Dust Bowl. Petroleum oil is gushing out of the ocean floor at BP’s drill site in the Gulf of Mexico. For it to be gotten under control may still take months, if it can be done at all. In any case, cleaning up the ecological and economic destruction in the region will take decades; some of the effects are irreparable.
There could be no greater illustration that the worldwide crises in ecology, in energy, and in the economy are not separate problems. They are aspects of one and the same crisis of industrial capitalism in its epoch of decay.
The Capitalist Economy Depends on Cheap Oil
Originally capitalism took off in the Industrial Revolution by using coal. Without coal,there might not have been any industrial capitalism. And coal burning was the beginning of the greenhouse effect.
Competitive (non-monopoly) capitalism reached its height in the 19th century. By the 20th century it was facing fundamental crises and limits to growth. (This was due to the growth of semi-monopolies throughout the economy interacting with the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall.) This was expressed through World War I, the Great Depression, defeated European and Asian revolutions, the rise of totalitarian fascism and Stalinism, and then World War II.
Economists of all schools expected WWII to be followed by, at most, a brief boom and then a return to depressive conditions. Instead there occurred the “post-war boom,” a “Golden Age” of capitalism—at least for the industrialized, imperialist, nations. It lasted from about 1950 to 1970. There were various reasons for this, including the reorganization of world imperialism, now centered in the U.S.; the history of working class defeats; and the expansion of “peacetime” military spending (the “Permanent Arms Economy” or the “military-industrial complex”).
But one major source of the boom after World War II was turning to the widespread use of cheap oil. Liquid petroleum oil is easier to transport and use than is coal, and, for a time, easier to get at. It became the basis for almost all forms of transportation, by land, sea, and air. It powers our machines in every area. Based on cheap oil, a whole new way of life developed after WWII: the suburbs. Today about half the U.S. population lives in suburbs. Cheap oil became the basis for the enormous automobile industry which in turn was the basis for the steel industry, while suburbization directly underlay the construction industry. The highly productive agricultural “industry” (i.e. farming) was dependent not only on oil-using tractors, etc., and trucks, but also on petroleum-based artificial fertilizers and artificial pesticides. And petroleum is used to make plastics. Plastic, chemicals, and artificial fibers are used in every aspect of our housing, clothing, and medical care.
In short, our entire way of life, our whole society, our food, clothing, and shelter, has been built on cheap oil. If petroleum became expensive and/or scarce, then all industry, the economy, and society would have to be reorganized. This is what we are now facing.
The Problems of Being Dependent on Cheap Oil
There are difficulties in being so completely dependent on petroleum oil. The first is that it is limited. Oil is a “nonrenewable resource.” Sooner or later we will run out of it. More significantly, sooner or later we pass the point of “peak oil.” This is the point where half the amount of oil in the ground has been used up. This point has been passed in the continental U.S. and we may be around it on a world scale. Meanwhile there has been an increase in the demand for oil as the world’s population increases and as oppressed nations (the “Third World”) attempt to industrialize.
That does not mean that there is no more oil. There is plenty still left. But it becomes harder to get at that oil. Once all that was necessary was to stick a pipe into the ground at the right place and oil would gush out. Now we have to set up huge floating rigs way out in the ocean and drill a mile down below the sea surface and then a mile or more below the sea floor. This was what was done at BP’s site in the Gulf of Mexico.
The second set of problems with dependence on oil is that it is polluting. Humans, other animals, and plants did not evolve to function in a world with oil and plastics in the environment. Burning it puts particles in the air. It poisons us, creates asthma and cancers. Plastics are “nonbiodegradable”; once “thrown away,” plastic materials last forever. Pesticide residue is poisonous to people and other animals. And right now we see the effects of releasing vast amounts of oil into the oceans—or rather we are just beginning to see the disasterous consequences.
Disasters are rationalized as “accidents,” such as the BP or the Exxon Valdez events or the Bhopal fire which spewed pesticides over a large area of heavily populated India. But human activities are never perfect and never will be perfect. No matter how many safety mechanisms are built into the processes, accidents will happen. (This is also true of attempts to make “safe” nuclear power as an alternative to burning fossil fuels. There is no safe nuclear power. Accidents will happen.)
Finally, there is the effect of “global warming,” climate change. More than just pollution, this throws the whole worldwide climate out of balance. It is melting polar ice and ice caps on mountains. It is raising the level of the sea and will drown islands and sea coasts and the peoples who live there. It will spread deserts and cause famines. It short, it will be a civilization-wide disaster.
Another difficulty is that oil, like many other natural resources, is not evenly distributed around the world. A few places have a lot and most places have none. This has played into imperialism, wars, and corrupt dictatorships. For example, right now the U.S. is fighting in Iraq (which has the world’s second largest oil deposits) and Afghanistan (which has pipelines for natural gas go through it).
What I have said about oil is also true about other fossil fuels, namely coal and natural gas. They are also nonrenewable, limited, resources. Getting at them causes destruction of the ecological environment (e.g. mountaintop removal for coal or fractioning natural gas-bearing ground). They also have negative effects on humans and the ecoljogy, including contributing to global warming.
The use of oil and other fossil fuels has been essential to the last period of capitalist prosperity and now threatens disaster both ecologically and economically. But there are other ways in which industrial capitalism has plundered the natural world, looting its resources without paying for rebuilding them. Other minerals have been torn from the ground and released into the human environment where they do not fit our biology, such as mercury. Whole animal species are being exterminated in a continuing process, while jungles and forests (the “earth’s lungs”) are being cut down. Diseases spread through the mass use of airplane travel.
Much of this has happened as side effects of the expansion of big farms and ranches, mines and dams, and sprawling human cities and suburbs. Ruthlessly and thoughtlessly, industrial capitalism slashes the threads of the web of life in which humanity lives.
The Bill Comes Due
Imagine the capitalist management of an industrial factory. As they produce commodities, their machines and buildings (what Marx refers to as “fixed constant capital”) wear out a little. They take account of this by adding a cost to the price of the commodities. Over time they accumulate a fund so that, when the machines and buildings are worn out, they can buy new machines and structures.
But suppose they do not do that? Suppose they do not set aside a fund to rebuild the worn-out machinery but instead count that money as part of their profits (Marx’s “surplus value”). Perhaps, under pressure from their workers, they use some of that money to increase the workers’s wages (Marx’s “variable capital”). This makes their profits look larger than they really are and it permits the capitalists to buy off the workers without losing any profits. But someday the machinery does wear out and the capitalists do not have money to replace it. Factory production will stagnate. Workers will be laid off. The high profits and the workers’ high standard of living will suddenly appear to have been fraudulent.
This is the situation of the world bourgeoisie as a whole in relation to the environment. The capitalists had seemed to be making huge profits and been able to buy off much of the working class (at least white workers in the imperialist countries). They had been looting the environment, ripping out natural resources which they had not created, counting as proft what nature appeared to be giving for “free” (a version of what Marx called “primitive accumulation”). They thought they were getting something for nothing, or at least for very little.
What the capitalist class should have been doing was to prepare for the day when energy and other resources would run out, or more accurately, would become rarer and much more expensive to access. It should have begun a transition from fossil fuels (and nuclear power) to renewable energy. It should have been cleaning up pollution and countering greenhouse effects. It should have fought desertification in Africa and elsewhere. It should have worked to balance population growth with economic growth by liberating women worldwide. It should have maintained the world’s jungles and forests and prevented overfishing in the oceans. It should have planned cities and towns so they did not destroy the countryside or need so much energy for transportation. And so on.
Nor is this only a matter of the environment and of energy. The capitalist class has failed to maintain the infrastructure and social services needed for advanced industrial nations such as the U.S.A. It should have been replacing water main pipes, train systems, dams, city housing, roads and highways, bridges, and schools. But it has not.
The capitalist class has not done what it should have to maintain its system and prepare for necessary changes. Of course, if it had done this, the post-WWII prosperity might have been less prosperous. There might have been more class struggle by the workers against the capitalists.
Now the bill has come due. The machinery is worn out and needs replacement, but the bourgeoisie does not have the price—not without cutting into profits (which is unthinkable for them) or cutting way down on the workers’ pay and standard of living (which is definitely thinkable but which might cause working class unrest).
So the ecological crisis is an energy crisis and an economic crisis, and is also a political crisis.
There will be a great deal of suffering for many people in the coming years. There will be great social upheavals and mass struggles, the end of the conventional political consensus and the rise of the far-right and the far-left, including varieties of revolutionary anarchists and socialists. This has already begun to happen.
In PART II, I will discuss why the capitalist class cannot solve the ecological/energy/economic crisis and what program should be advocated by revolutionary anarchists.
Written for http://www.Anarkismo.net
PART II: A Revolutionary Anarchist Program
The world crisis is economic, ecological, and energy-based. Liberals want the state to regulate business and have a “new New Deal” to rebuild the economy and ecology. It won’t work. Revolutionary anarchists want a new, ecological, economy which is democratically planned, produces for need not for profit, and is a decentralized federalism.
The glaciers of the Himalayas, it is reported, have been shrinking in every direction. On the roof of the world, glaciers have lost over 300 vertical feet, due to global warming and pollution, both caused by human reliance on fossil fuels. In turn, the shrinkage of the glaciers inceases the amount of sunlight which is not reflected but is absorbed by the earth and therefore increases global warming. According to the June issue of Science magazine, in the Indus and Brahmaputra river basins, the potential loss of annual glacial melt is “threatening the food security of an estimated 60 million people” (quoted in NY Times, 7/18/10, p. 10WK). This is what industrial capitalism is doing to our world.
“If the science is correct,…within the next twenty to thirty years…there is the danger that a tipping point will be reached, setting in motion irreversible warming trends….The earth will become unrecognizable and all life on it will be threatened” (Herod, 2010; p. 23).
The Liberal Program
Conservatives argue that a major overhaul of business’s relation to the environment would be extremely costly and would effect our whole way of life. Therefore they conclude essentially that nothing should be done. Alternately, liberals believe that the democratically-elected government–the state—could use legal regulations to force oil companies, such as BP, and other industries to act ecologically responsible, to develop a balanced, non-growth, economy. Doesn’t the government represent the whole society?
More sophisticated radicals (social democrats) note that it would be in the self-interest of the whole capitalist class to create a more stable, sustaining, relationship to nature, as opposed to permitting ecological catastrophes, such as global warming. After all, the capitalists have to live on this planet too. While individual capitalists might have a short-sighted desire to make profits at the expense of the environment, it is the job of the state to be the “executive committee” of the whole class and act in its collective interest.
The U.S. capitalist state did set aside a number of national parks, banned DDT (after Rachel Carson’s popular expose’), cut back acid rain, closed the hole in the ozone layer (as Ilan pointed out in a comment to Part I) by banning CFCs, and improved the health of major rivers (such as the Hudson, under pressure from Pete Seeger and others), set aside a “superfund” to bury industrial pollutants (after the Love Canal protests), and so on. All of these were done only through fights and have been maintained only through on-going struggles (as in the constant battles to maintain the parks). But they were done. Why can’t the capitalist state, ask liberals and social democratic reformists, similarly reorganize the economy and technology to be ecologically balanced? That is the liberal (and reformist) perspective.
However, what is necessary is not fixing this or that anti-ecological industry but the entire capitalist economy and its productive technology, in every aspect of its interaction with the natural environment. It is a total crisis. Unfortunately, the conservatives are right: change will be very expensive and disruptive. To the extent that there is a specific industry involved, it is the fossil fuel industry. As I argued in Part I, this industry underlays every aspect of society: our transportation, our heating, our production, our food (artificial fertilizers and pesticides), our clothing (artificial fibers), and everything we use plastics for. Naturally, Big Oil and Big Coal are wealthy and powerful, taking in hundreds of billions of dollars in profits annually. They buy up politicians and judges by the carload. They own local and national governments. It was one thing to ban marginal products such as CFCs or DDT. It would be quite another to abolish oil, coal, and natural gas, no matter how gradually.
The oil industry is not really in the business of producing oil (let alone of providing jobs for workers). It is in the business of making money (in Marxist terms, it is interested in exchange value, not use value). If the oceans are destroyed but BP walks away with a ton of money, it is satisfied. That is all that BP’s management cares about or could care about. The capitalists’ need for money is unlimited. Each business must expand or die. Capital must accumulate. If BP does not earn ever larger profits (producing ever more surplus value), then it will be overtaken by competing oil corporations, which would gobble it up.
Liberals (as supporters of capitalism) do not understand this. Unlike the conservatives, they want to do something about global warming, pollution, etc. but their program is shallow and unrealistic. To liberals, this is the perfect time to start building an energy-efficient, non-carbon based, and ecologically balanced society. Facing the Great Recession and, at best, a jobless recovery, there was a need, they said, for government stimulation of the economy. When Obama got elected, programs for a “new New Deal” were proposed by many liberals and social democrats (even the Marxist David Harvey). This would require big, job-creating, public works, including energy-saving and ecologically useful projects. They proposed to build new wind farms, “smart” electrical grids, stations for electric cars, improved national parks, retrofitted insulation in city and suburban housing, urban electric trolley systems, high-speed trains between cities, etc.
Overall, these were perfectly good ideas. As we know, nothing of the kind was done. Continuing the policies of the Bush administration, Congress and the pro-business officials brought in by Obama gave out gobs of money, which may have saved the system from falling into a second Great Depression—for now. (Keynesian economists outside of the administration, such as Paul Krugman, thought that it was not nearly enough to produce an upturn in jobs or for long term prosperity.) The money went to banks and big business. There were no strings attached to what the banks did with the money (they did not have to actually loan it to anyone). Very little was done directly to provide jobs or to improve energy and the ecological environment. President Obama’s energy-ecological initiatives have been anemic (and the U.S. senate has just abandoned all efforts to pass a climate change and energy bill). Shortly before the Gulf oil explosion, Obama came out for expanded offshore oil drilling and reviving nuclear power.
For reasons of class, there will be no “new New Deal.” The capitalist state will not spend vast sums of money to produce useful goods and services, neither directly nor by contracting for it. To produce such goods and services would put it in competition with existing corporations. It would conflict with powerful vested interests. It would mean taking money from the rich to spend on the working class. Ideologically, it would be an open admission that the market cannot provide for the people and that some sort of public economy (that is, socialism) could work better. Right now, the main discussion among government officials in the US and Europe is not how to expand production through more spending but how to cut back on public services which help workers and the poor.
In fact, during the (old) New Deal, the government never spent enough to get out of the Depression. It took the spending—and the destruction–of World War II to end the Great Depression and create relative prosperity (from 1946 to 1970). This is generally accepted by bourgeois economists. The capitalists do not mind spending on armaments; it is the one thing never discussed when they talk about making cuts to decrease public spending. Like other state expenditures, they “stimulate” the economy and provide jobs. They take wealth from the whole economy and concentrate it in the hands of a few big, subsidized, firms. However, unlike other possible state spending, armaments do not compete with private industry. They do not provide useful goods to workers and the poor. They increase the power of the state at home and abroad.
The US military budget today is 600 to 700 billion dollars a year! The problem with war spending, on armaments and other aspects (aside from its leading to imperialist wars!), is that it is pure waste. Spending on weaponry does not re-enter the economy as does productive investment. Building tractors leads to increased food production. Building bulldozers leads to new housing. But building tanks either leads to destroying things in wars or, at best, to storing tanks unused. This is even more true of nuclear missiles, which must never be used. The economic effect is like the government paying capitalists to hire workers to dig very big holes in the ground and then to fill them up again. There is a lot of busyness, capitalists and workers get money to spend, wheels turn, but nothing is actually added to the real economy. This may give a short-term shot in the arm to a sagging economy. But in the long term such unproductive consumption can only increase the basic trend toward economic stagnation of the epoch of capitalist decay.
The Revolutionary Socialist-Anarchist Program
Anarchists should support the various reform demands for a transition to renewable energy and ecological harmony as expressed in programs for useful public works–such as tree planting, retrofitting houses, and so on. Anarchists are against calling on big government to do things for people but can support programs which are self-managed by their workers and local communities. With this caveat, we should make demands on the state, which, after all, claims to serve the whole community and which does have a lot of money. If such reforms are carried out, even a little bit, that is all to the good. If not, then we can use this to expose the state for serving the rich and not workers. The point is not, as some imagine, to demand that the government do things which we know it won’t do. The point is to make demands for what is necessary to prevent ecological (and other) catastrophe, regardless of whether capitalism can do it or not.
But at all times we need to explain that only a revolutionary program can consistently and thoroughly solve the complex ecological-and-energy crisis. Global warming, pollution, the unraveling of the ecological web, and the vastly increasing costs of fossil fuels are a total crisis. Since the bourgeoisie cannot deal with it, they should be expropriated—their businesses taken from them and run by the workers.
Humanity needs, first, an economy which produces for use, not for profit. A nonprofit, nonmonetary, economy may make ecological mistakes, but it would have no drive to treat the natural world as a bottomless mine. A nonprofit economy would not have an endless need for quantitative growth (and therefore for ever more energy). It would expand qualitatively, by producing only what is needed—and only as much energy as is needed for such production.
Second, we need a planned, coordinated, economy, managed democratically, from the bottom-up. Instead of having many enterprises, each out for its own wealth, there needs to be an overall direction of the whole of human production and consumption in our interaction with the natural world. But this must be radically democratic, as opposed to bureaucratic centralized planning, in order to prevent the rise of a state-capitalist system which would be just as destructive to the ecology.
Third, the cooperative, coordinated, economy must be a decentralized federalism. There is, of course, need for national, continental, and international planning. We will have to coordinate the exploration and transportation of natural resources and the necessary steps to clean up the world’s oceans, among other things.
But there also has to be an effort to increase decentralization. (Unlike the idea of a planned and nonprofit economy, it is at this point that anarchism conflicts with the traditional Marxist program.) Some of those who have thought most deeply about how to deal with this total crisis have focused on the need for a more decentralized society. (See Kunstler 2006; McKibben 2007.) There will have to be a whole lot less transportation and shipping of goods and people. We won’t be able to afford it anymore. There will need to be a lot more use of local energy sources, local natural resources, small-scale industry, and local recycling of waste (industrial and organic).
There will have to be an end to the suburbs, the moribund, mega-urban, “cities” (such as the one stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C.), and factory farms. (However steps toward this vision could be immediately implemented in present-day cities, e.g., rooftop community gardens.) There will need to be more towns and small cities (sometimes bound together in regional networks of towns and cities), and a large number of organic farms (run by families or by communes). This would not prevent regional, continental, and world-wide activities where necessary. The Internet may still be possible (if it can function without the presentday levels of pollution) for sharing information and coordinating activities throughout the world.
Such a society of democratic planning, nonprofit production, and a decentralized federalism is consistent with the goals of anarchism, from Peter Kropotkin to Paul Goodman and Murray Bookchin. It goes back to the vision of the “utopian socialists” such as Fourier and Owen for cooperative communes with an integrated agri-industrial way of life.
This is a vision, not a fully-developed blueprint. No doubt a great deal of experimentation would have to be tried out in different places by different people. Not every region will come to the same conclusions (of what should be the urban/rural balance, for example). But the society we live in is racing toward death and disaster. The capitalist ruling classes of the major powers, and their politicians (liberal, social democratic, and conservative) have no clue as to the depth of the total crisis. They have no idea how to deal with it, except to try more of the same. It is time that someone else takes over and runs society. This someone else can only be the international working class and its allies among the oppressed. The crisis, economic-ecological-energy, may shake up the workers and oppressed enough to start them moving in a revolutionary new direction.
Herod, James (2010). “Capitalists, global warming, & the climate justice movement.” Anarcho-Syndicalist Review (Summer) # 54; pp. 23—28.
Kunstler, James H. (2006). The Long Emergency; Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. NY: Grove Press.
McKibben, Bill (2007). Deep Economy; The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. NY: Times Books/Henry Holt.
Written for www.Anarkismo.net
A central theme of green politics has always been the importance of the local, captured in the familiar slogan ‘think globally, act locally’. Advocates of relocalisation see “the local production of food, energy and goods and the local development of currency, governance, and culture” as the way to “strengthen local communities, improve environmental conditions and social equity.” With its focus on coping with peak oil and climate change, the Transition Towns project has a similar objective.
Greg Albo (2007) describes how these ‘eco-localist’ ideas emphasise
a host of approaches that … rest on some mix of community and cooperative economics, semi-autarchic trade, local currency systems and direct democracy in enterprises and local government. … In this vision, ecological balance is restored within decentralized communities by the need to find local solutions. (p.344)
From this perspective, the green critique of modern society is fundamentally about the abuse of scale and
the existing resource-intensive, pollution-extensive system of industrialization … The industrial drive for scale without limits – whether in terms of capital equipment, consumption, trade or corporate and political governance – is seen as an assault on the limits of nature. (p.345)
Having characterised this eco-localist worldview – which seems fairly representative of the outlook of many greens – Albo considers what he calls the limits to eco-localism. His criticisms come under a number of headings but I’ll just pick up on a couple.
The attachment to the ‘magic’ of the market. The critique of the abuse of scale carries no inherent criticism of market systems. Thus, many greens and environmental NGOs find it perfectly consistent to embrace market environmentalism alongside their eco-localism, and advocate for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the conservation of water resources and the protection other environmental ‘services’ through the imposition of market prices. And indeed, being decentralised operations by their very nature, markets could be seen as the epitome of ‘thinking globally, acting locally’ as
prices are transmitted across space to equilibrate all markets, information flowing from local markets to aggregate markets and back again. … With all commodities marketized and all costs of production including externalities factored in, market prices would compel individuals and firms to adjust ecologically irresponsible behaviour and regulate scarcity. (p.342)
This idea of ‘natural capitalism’ suggests that the environment in all its aspects is a commodity that, ultimately, should be “priced, traded and taxed to yield its greatest value (i.e. its preservation)” (p.343). It has to be said that many greens seem only dimly aware of these implications of their attachment to ‘natural capitalism.’
Furthermore, in the context of eco-localism each locality and its associated local market “is necessarily subordinate to the logic of capitalism as a whole and can do nothing to alter the anti-ecological drive towards increased accumulation of value and money” (p.346). Global capital would find it easy to play one locality off against another.
So, while eco-localism is undoubtedly a strong response to corporate globalisation, the tragedies of 30 years of neoliberalism, climate change, peak oil and perhaps even the excesses of consumer capitalism, it does not seem willing or able to make the leap to anti-capitalism.
Albo’s next point maybe explains why.
The lack of strategic vision. Albo asks, how will the transition to the localist economy be achieved? He is not thinking of the creation of a single community in isolation, but an entire society formed from many localities adhering to the principles outlined above. This, presumably, is what eco-localists are aiming for. If so, how will the obstacles of actually existing global capitalism and state power be surmounted by such a society? How does eco-localism propose to suppress powerful local (class and bureaucratic) interests? How will the localist economy balance social needs, ecological costs and the preferred local scale of production? Can prices alone internalise all these relations?
Albo correctly points out that all these and many other questions remain unanswered. And he makes his own view plain:
Attempting to reduce the scale of production and ecological processes along community development and bioregional lines …, and to reduce the scale of democracy in support of mutualism …, as eco-localism does, is to completely misrepresent capitalist power structures and the necessary challenges of democratization. (p.352)
In other words, ecologically sustainable localities cannot exist in a bubble outside of politics and beyond the influence of those who wield power; effective institutions and an effective politics at the national level are needed to open up the necessary context within which eco-localism can grow. Currently, the social ecologists, bioregionalists and transition town activists do not even begin to consider how to handle the crushing power of capital operating at national and global scales.
Maybe we can just cross our fingers and put our trust in an eco-localist revolution-from-below building the road as it travels, but really that is just an intellectual cop-out. When it comes to ‘thinking globally, acting locally,’ we actually need some thinking to go with the acting. Greg Albo’s reality check indicates some of the key areas where the deep strategic thinking is needed.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that eco-localism (and much else about the dreamed-of ‘green society’) remains massively under-theorised, that in itself is not fatal to eco-localism. Reorganising the scale at which our economic and social activity occurs is critical to creating and successfully maintaining a ‘green society’, as Albo indicates with this splendid quote from philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space:
[a] revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential; indeed, it has failed in that it has not changed life itself, but has merely changed ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses. (p.354)
Greg Albo (2007) The limits of eco-localism: scale, strategy, socialism. In: Leo Panitch & Colin Leys, Coming to terms with nature: Socialist Register 2007 (pp. 337-363). London: Merlin Press.
*Note: Founded in 1964 by luminaries of the British New Left, including Ralph Miliband and EP Thompson, the Socialist Register is an annual collection of essays around themes such as American imperialism (The empire reloaded, 2005) and the chronic degeneration of political discourse (Telling the truth, 2006). The 2007 edition takes on “what may well be the most important issue facing socialists in our life-time,” namely the ecological crisis. Coming to terms with nature presents 17 contributions to ecosocialism, covering theoretical issues (eg, “The ecological question: Can capitalism prevail?” by Daniel Buck) and regional investigations (eg, “China: hyper-development and environmental crisis” by Dale Wen and Minqi Li). The Socialist Register website has open access to a number of articles from recent editions, including 2009, and a full archive of older editions.
The food crisis of 2008 never really ended, it was ignored and forgotten. The rich and powerful are well fed; they had no food crisis, no shortage, so in the West, it was little more than a short lived sound bite, tragic but forgettable. To the poor in the developing world, whose ability to afford food is no better now than in 2008, the hunger continues.
Hunger can have many contributing factors; natural disaster, discrimination, war, poor infrastructure. So why, regardless of the situation, is high tech agriculture always assumed to be the only the solution? This premise is put forward and supported by those who would benefit financially if their “solution” were implemented. Corporations peddle their high technology genetically engineered seed and chemical packages, their genetically altered animals, always with the “promise” of feeding the world.
Politicians and philanthropists, who may mean well, jump on the high technology band wagon. Could the promise of financial support or investment return fuel their apparent compassion?
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation supposedly works to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa. While these sentiments and goals may be philanthropy at its best, some of the coalition partners have a different agenda.
One of the key players in AGRA, Monsanto, hopes to spread its genetically engineered seed throughout Africa by promising better yields, drought resistance, an end to hunger, etc. etc. Could a New Green Revolution succeed where the original Green Revolution had failed? Or was the whole concept of a Green Revolution a pig in a poke to begin with?
Monsanto giving free seed to poor small holder farmers sounds great, or are they just setting the hook? Remember, next year those farmers will have to buy their seed. Interesting to note that the Gates Foundation purchased $23.1 million worth of Monsanto stock in the second quarter of 2010. Do they also see the food crisis in Africa as a potential to turn a nice profit? Every corporation has one overriding interest – self-interest, but surely not charitable foundations?
Food shortages are seldom about a lack of food, there is plenty of food in the world, the shortages occur because of the inability to get food where it is needed and the inability of the hungry to afford it. These two problems are principally caused by, as Francis Moore Lappe’ put it, a lack of justice. There are also ethical considerations, a higher value should be placed on people than on corporate profit, this must be at the forefront, not an afterthought.
In 2008, there were shortages of food, in some places, for some people. There was never a shortage of food in 2008 on a global basis, nor is there currently. True, some countries, in Africa for example, do not have enough food where it is needed, yet people with money have their fill no matter where they live. Poverty and inequality cause hunger.
The current food riots in Mozambique were a result of increased wheat prices on the world market. The UN Food and Agriculture organization, (FAO) estimates the world is on course to the third largest wheat harvest in history, so increasing wheat prices were not caused by actual shortages, but rather by speculation on the price of wheat in the international market.
While millions of people go hungry in India, thousands of kilos of grain rot in storage. Unable to afford the grain, the hungry depend on the government to distribute food. Apparently that’s not going so well.
Not everyone living in a poor country goes hungry, those with money eat. Not everyone living in rich country is well fed, those without money go hungry. We in the US are said to have the safest and most abundant food supply in the world, yet even here, surrounded by an over abundance of food, there are plenty of hungry people and their numbers are growing. Do we too have a food crisis, concurrent with an obesity crisis?
Why is there widespread hunger? Is food a right? Is profit taking through speculation that drives food prices out of the reach of the poor a right? Is pushing high technology agriculture on an entire continent at that could feed itself a (corporate) right?
In developing countries, those with hunger and poor food distribution, the small farmers, most of whom are women, have little say in agricultural policy. The framework of international trade and the rules imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on developing countries, places emphasis on crops for export, not crops for feeding a hungry population.
Despite what we hope are the best intentions of the Gates Foundation, a New Green Revolution based on genetically engineered crops, imported fertilizer and government imposed agricultural policy will not feed the world. Women, not Monsanto, feed most of the worlds population, and the greatest portion of the worlds diet still relies on crops and farming systems developed and cultivated by the indigenous for centuries, systems that still work, systems that offer real promise.
The report of 400 experts from around the world, The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), is ignored by the proponents of a New Green Revolution, precisely because it shows that the best hope for ending hunger lies with local, traditional, farmer controlled agricultural production, not high tech industrial agriculture.
To feed the world, fair methods of land distribution must be considered. A fair and just food system depends on small holder farmers having access to land. The function of a just farming system is to insure that everyone gets to eat, industrial agriculture functions to insure those corporations controlling the system make a profit.
The ultimate cause of hunger is not a lack of Western agricultural technology, rather hunger results when people are not allowed to participate in a food system of their choosing. Civil wars, structural adjustment policies, inadequate distribution systems, international commodity speculation and corporate control of food from seed to table – these are the causes of hunger, the stimulus for food crises.
If the Gates Foundation is serious about ending hunger in Africa, they need to read the IAASTD report, not Monsanto’s quarterly profit report. Then they can decide how their money might best be spent.
About the author
Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer and activist from Wonewoc, WI and a WK Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow.
Comment: To learn more about the Gates Foundation and the Monsanto’s corporation desire to control and manipulate the world food supply read the following:
From the article:
Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering.
“First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests.”
Lecturers and students alike nowadays cynically describe university education as a ‘factory’. This is, of course, a term of abuse – just think of the disturbing image from Pink Floyd’s The Wall of a conveyor belt of comprehensive students dropping into the mincing machine and emerging as a string of sausages out the other side.
The notion of the University as a mechanised profit machine is where the term derives its critical force. When the philosophy department at Middlesex University was shut down, the ‘Save Middlesex Philosophy’ campaign’s occupation strung an enormous banner out of a first floor window reading: ‘The University is a Factory[.] Strike! Occupy!’ The slogan became the emblematic image of the campaign, and hanging above a neoclassical statue with fist pumped into the air, it endowed the campaign with an uncompromising, industrial proletariat aesthetic that served to reinforce its militant credentials.
Yet as the campaign wore on it became less clear how far the campaigners would be willing to take the slogan literally. As was almost inevitable, educational idealism crept back into the vocabulary—talk of the department’s outstanding research scores, of the nobility of the humanities against the dehumanizing levelling of business utility thinking, and suchlike idealistic proclamations, became rife. In speeches given at different campaign events both Tariq Ali and Paul Gilroy stressed the need to fight for ‘high quality education’ and advised a tactical coalition with conservative professors—and even that well-known man of letters, London Mayor Boris Johnson—in order to fight against the philistine effects of market pressures in higher education. The conclusion of the campaign, where the prestigious research centre housed in the department, the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), was relocated to Kingston University, leaving some lecturers and all of the undergraduate students behind, reflected the drift towards the idealism of research over and above the University as a site of industrial struggle.
But is this attitude of treasuring the nobility of education against the mediocre levelling processes of educational marketisation the correct approach to take? Or should we rather accept that the University sector already operates according to Taylorist management practices and simply fight within this given arena for egalitarian principles and for self-management? At The Commune’s day conference, From Crisis to Upheaval, the session on University education flagged up a number of troubling trends, regarding which deciding between the above paradigms would seem crucial.
The first point to come up was a critical reflection on the lack of political engagement of ‘radical’ academics—Marxist or otherwise—and how there seems to be no translation from critical thinking in the scholastic debating chamber to actual support for struggles taking place even within their own workplaces, including for the cleaners who sweep their departmental corridors. More generally, this separation of University based critical theory from actual movements was considered not to reflect well on the left’s cherished role for the University as a bastion against capitalism, insofar as the separation of the economy of theory from the economy of struggle actually works in the interests of capital, not against it. For instance, during the occupation of the SOAS directorate over union-busting deportations of migrant cleaners, very few of the overwhelmingly lefty SOAS staff came outside to show any solidarity during the rallies. Renowned Marxist philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, strolled past the rally with apparently little interest.
The second point to be raised was the tendency towards casualisation amongst University staff. This includes the increasing composition of temporary staff, workers on sessional teaching contracts, and the way the increasing burden of work is being shifted to PhD students who are remunerated at a rate that is wholly inadequate to draw a living from. For example, 4 hours teaching a week during the academic year, which is calculated at 10 hours including preparation time, will net a teacher around £2,600, and this includes the marking of all the essays and the answering of emails and possibly office hours too. By contrast, a full-time junior academic in the University of London, can be expected to start on about £39,000 a year, for a similar amount of teaching. The point of this comparison is not to foment resentment against those on decent work contracts, but rather to show how—structurally—graduate students as an exploited class in the University’s internal economy, are used to depress wages, limit full time job openings, and operate in sync with the tendency towards pay-per-hour lecturers across the University sector as a whole.
Why, then, do PhD students opt to take on such work, and why do lecturers accept sessional contracts? After all, this teaching work is competitive to acquire, and if one does not take it there will be plenty of others willing to do so. The answer lies in the relationship between students and education, of which the PhD student/causal worker represents the limit case. For what drives PhD student teachers is resume building; what drives casualised University workers is staying within the system. In both cases, consciously submitting to exploitation is premised on the belief that the future will hold out better things to come: that temporary pain will pave the way to long-term success. It is a hedge on the future. In caustic, deadpan prose a theoretical text from the Occupy California movement puts it well:
Graduate school is simply the faded remnant of a feudal system adapted to the logic of capitalism—from the commanding heights of the star professors to the serried ranks of teaching assistants and adjuncts paid mostly in bad faith. A kind of monasticism predominates here, with all the Gothic rituals of a Benedictine abbey, and all the strange theological claims for the nobility of this work, its essential altruism. The underlings are only too happy to play apprentice to the masters, unable to do the math indicating that nine-tenths of us will teach 4 courses every semester to pad the paychecks of the one-tenth who sustain the fiction that we can all be the one. Of course I will be the star, I will get the tenure-track job in a large city and move into a newly gentrified neighborhood.[i]
These observations highlight the role of fantasy intrinsic to University system at every level. Students take out large amounts of debt in order to finance their degrees on the hope that it will improve their job prospects. PhD students submit to teach these students—and take out more debt to support their underpaid work—on the hope that it will one day lead to a permanent job. PhD students graduate, fail to find permanent work, but accept woefully remunerated casual teaching in order to stay within the system, on the chance that they still may have a shot at that precious position that will one day be theirs. Undergraduate students finish their degrees, and accept unpaid internships for years on end—if mummy and daddy’s wallets are sufficiently endowed—so that they still might have a shot at getting a professional job. If this fails to materialize, never mind, Masters programs will happily take them in for anything between £4,000 to £20,000 a year to perpetuate the illusion.
It is not so much the case that the University education system stands outside the political economy of Western capitalism, then, as much as it is intrinsic to and reflective of its overall tendencies. This is why attempts to appeal to some noble, idealistic, higher ground that University research supposedly occupies is not only subscribing to a fiction, but a convenient fiction critical for the very depoliticization and exploitation undertaken within the system.
The upshot is that if there is somewhere to start in organizing within Universities is should not be for some transcendent cause of ‘high quality education’, but instead to make transparent precisely the materialist workings of the educational economy. The cleaners’ struggles that are currently taking place within Universities are a good start. The same principle should be expanded to teaching staff too. And, ultimately, to the consumers of the University’s goods, the students, who are increasingly going into deeper and deeper debt to finance their studies. Only from this starting point of thinking the University’s role without illusions can the more tricky questions about the future of education be addressed.
With their 1994 battle cry, “Ya basta!” (“Enough already!”) Mexico’s Zapatista uprising became the spearhead of two convergent movements: Mexico’s movement for indigenous rights and the international movement against corporate globalization.
Skip to 2010: the movements for indigenous rights and against corporate globalization have converged again, this time globally, in the climate justice movement. Following the widely acknowledged failure of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen last December, the greatest manifestation of these converging movements took place this past April at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
While political forces have conspired to make the Zapatistas largely invisible both inside Mexico and internationally, their challenge has always been to propose a paradigm of development that is both just and self-sustaining. It seems fair, then, to see if Zapatismo can shed any light on the muddle of politics around the climate crisis. Can the poetic riddles of Zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos serve as signposts on the rough road toward just climate solutions?
One No and Many Yeses
Soon after the Zapatistas appeared to the world in 1994 as an armed insurgency, they put down their weapons and revealed that alongside their “One NO” — the rejection of imposed authority, whether by the Mexican government or by the global institutions that govern trade, investment, development and security policy — they stood for “Many Yeses.” Yes, for the Zapatistas, signified the careful, conscious, and painstaking development of alternative forms of governance and resource use: multilingual schools, community clinics, seed banks, sustainable agriculture, accessible and affordable water and basic sanitation, and, above all, organized experiments in direct democracy.
When 30,000 members of civil society from 140 countries, including 56 government delegations, gathered in Cochabamba in April, they asserted clearly and forcefully that the climate crisis, with its attendant impacts of drought, flood, crop loss, increased disease burden, displacement, and widespread instability, has one essential root cause. In the words of the People’s Agreement forged in Cochabamba, “The corporations and governments of the so-called ‘developed’ countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system.”
Whatever climate solutions we consider, the Southern social movements say, they must be rooted in the acceptance of social and ecological limits to growth. Recognition of such limits is what the Zapatistas would call “the No.”
The many “yeses,” meanwhile, come in the form of the best demands of the climate justice movement: strengthening local economies, practicing ecological agriculture and rights-based governance; drastically reducing consumption and waste by Northern countries and Southern elites in order to improve quality of life for the billions of marginalized and exploited; protecting forests, biodiversity, culture, and those among us who are most vulnerable; investing in and attending to women, youth, and those who’ve earned the right to be called “elders.” The many yeses, for climate justice, are the manifold paths toward mitigation and adaptation, equity and justice. The “yeses” are embodied in a notion that has recently gained currency in development circles: grassroots resilience.
Justice with Dignity
Implicit in the surging forth of the indigenous people is their demand to be approached with the respect due to all human subjects. As Subcomandante Marcos wrote over a decade ago, “The powerful with all their money don’t understand our struggle. The power of money and pride cannot understand, because there is a word which does not walk in the understanding of the great sages who sell their intelligence to the rich and the powerful. This word is dignity.”
Dignity, it turns out, is central to the climate negotiations. “Development,” with its implicit assumption that the health of a society is best measured by its level of consumption, comes, precisely, at the cost of human dignity. Southern climate campaigners make clear that the North, burdened by overconsumption to the point of obesity, needs to reduce consumption, while much of the South, in the face of perennial scarcity, needs to increase it. Sara Larrain, director of an NGO called Chile Sustentable, writes, “The objective of human dignity surpasses the objective of overcoming poverty, and refers to the negotiation of environmental space and social equity between the North and South.”
The “Line of Dignity” that Larrain formulated, in concert with groups from Brazil, Uruguay and Chile, is essentially a proposal to replace the poverty line — an austere and denigrating economic metric based on only the most fundamental human survival needs — with a measure that takes into account cultural, political, and environmental rights. “The Line of Dignity,” Larrain writes, “is a convergence point that fosters lowering the consumption of those above, and raising that of those below. This permits the assurance to the population of the levels of access to environmental space necessary for subsistence and dignity.”
The Line of Dignity proposes that equity between North and South can only be reached when the Northern notion of environmental sustainability (preservation of resources for planetary needs and future generations) is matched with the Southern demand for social sustainability (equity, and full social, environmental, political and cultural rights). Thus, in order to raise the standard of living of the billions who currently live below the line of dignity, a certain measure of environmental space (carbon sinks, fisheries, and open grazing land, for example) must be surrendered by the North. The wealthy must reduce their use of resources. They must commit to degrowth.
Rather than manage the climate catastrophe, as the neoliberal establishment is attempting to do, the climate justice movement chooses to use the crisis as an opportunity — perhaps the last opportunity — to construct dignity.
Everything for Everyone, Nothing for Us
Probably the most commonly asked question of people just arriving at a deep concern for the ecological crisis is, “What can I, as an individual, do to make things better?” The simple answer, which I learned from living among Zapatista villagers, is nothing. Because we have to stop acting as individuals if we are to survive; the Earth won’t be affected by our individual actions, only our collective impact.
The Zapatistas’ slogan, “Para todos todo, para nosotros nada” (“Everything for Everyone, Nothing for Us”) rang true in the mid-1990s and still rings true today. But this slogan has a certain mystery. The demand “nothing for us” runs so counter to anything any of us — the resource-hungry individuals of the so-called First World — would ever think of demanding. As the saying goes, no one ever rioted for austerity. Yet, without feeling cheated, we need to build our capacity to live by another old saying: Enough is better than a feast.
The proposals of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales for a Climate Debt Tribunal and a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth put equity and ecology (as opposed to, say, technical fixes or market-based solutions) at the center of climate negotiations. Such proposals are, at bottom, radical expressions of an ethic that demands everything for everyone, nothing for us. Such proposals also require a radical rethinking of what “development” means. Inspired by the Andean notion of “el buen vivir” — living well, as opposed to living better — the emerging climate justice movement posits that, this close to the brink of ecological collapse, development and progress should be understood not in terms of accumulation, but in terms of sharing.
A World in Which Many Worlds Fit
The Mexican establishment perceives the Zapatista project as a threat to the very integrity of the nation-state. This threat lies in the Zapatistas’ demand for the formal recognition, within state boundaries, of diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious groups. In the Andean region, and in Bolivia in particular, this is called (in its cultural dimension) pluriculturality, or (in its political dimension), plurinationality — a nation in which fit many nations. The notion of pluriculturality differs significantly from the U.S. concept of “multiculturalism,” for it goes beyond multicultural education to include respect for collective claims to territory and for collective rights.
The world is in the middle of the greatest mass extinction since the twilight of the dinosaurs. Half of all species on Earth are expected to vanish within 100 years. The major ecosystems (including the Amazon), the world’s freshwater systems, and the coral reefs are all approaching a “tipping point” from which they may never recover. As such, scientists and social movements tend to agree: Diversity as a basis for decision-making is at the heart of both ecological and cultural survival. The Zapatista push for “A World in Which Many Worlds Fit,” much more than a call for mere “tolerance,” is a clear recognition that what science has recently come to call “biocultural diversity” is a bottom line.
Rather than seeking to divide resources to serve an atomized multitude, the climate justice movement envisions multiplying resources to serve the common good. For peasants and indigenous peoples, by and large, this means merging age-old traditions and systems of ownership and authority with the modern practices that complement, foster, and enhance them. In other words, a just transition to a post-carbon world requires precisely the kinds of strategies that have sustained land-based peoples for millennia, accompanied by the best sustainable technologies current science has to offer: organic subsistence agriculture plus fair trade; seed sovereignty ensured by genetic testing of seed stocks; locally produced electricity via wind, solar, and biogas; collective (public) transportation powered by waste oil; zero waste practices and small-scale, clean production; and local water stewardship enhanced by low-cost water treatment. To respond to a crisis with diverse, local manifestations in a way that achieves a world in which many worlds fit demands diverse, local, people-powered solutions.
The Earth Is for They Who Work It
The Zapatistas’ struggle has been, above all else, for territory. They want the simple right to work the land that they consider historically to be theirs. In this, their struggle has many parallels throughout the indigenous world.
While fighting for the Earth, the Zapatistas have never identified themselves, even incidentally, as “environmentalists.” Nor do they talk much, in their voluminous decade-and-a-half of communiqués, about “ecology” or “conservation.” And yet, as poet Gary Snyder once said, “The best thing you can do for the environment is to stay home.” As indigenous peasant farmers struggling for territorial autonomy, the Zapatistas’ struggle is precisely to “stay home.”
One of the controversial topics in the UN climate negotiations, hotly contested in Cochabamba and denounced outright by many segments of the climate justice movement, is the program called Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). REDD seeks to reward governments, companies, or forest owners in the South for keeping their forests standing, to act as carbon sinks, instead of cutting them down. Liberal NGOs tend to support the essentially corporate REDD program because it provides a mechanism for protecting forests. But this mechanism also provides polluting industries with the right to continue polluting. In addition, REDD’s version of “forest protection” may well be one of the largest land grabs in history.
Tom Goldtooth, director of the U.S.-based Indigenous Environmental Network, calls REDD “a corruption of the sacred.” Forests, especially for those who live in them, are not mere carbon sinks. “Lungs of the Earth” or not, they are forests first. The Earth, as Emiliano Zapata urged, is for its true stewards. Yes, urges the climate justice movement, keep forests standing — and pay to do so if necessary. But rather than putting distant economic interests in charge of forests in order to save them, as REDD proposes, why not encourage the kind of valuation that land-based peoples have always practiced? We should reduce the pressures on forests by keeping out those who don’t directly steward them — that is, most of us.
In denouncing REDD and other carbon offset schemes, climate justice activists argue that the market can’t resolve a crisis of its own making. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, released in Britain in 2006, described climate change as “the biggest market failure in history.” Yet, at the same time, carbon markets became the only solution advocated by governments and the corporations and NGOs close to them. When the European carbon market failed, with the price of a ton of carbon dropping dramatically below the range at which renewables can compete with fossil fuels), there was barely a whisper. The Obama administration continued to push for cap-and-trade, the UNFCCC continued to press for REDD and other offsets, and the atmosphere continued to be for those who wanted to pay to pollute it.
Walk by Asking Questions
In many of his communiqués, Subcomandante Marcos uses stories of the old gods, those who were there before the world was the world, to show how the struggle to reinvent society is linked to the moment of creation. One lesson these stories return to time and again is that those who created the world did so by “walking while asking questions.” It is a powerful poetry.
Yet, in the midst of growing climate crisis, we barely have time to ask the questions. Can the massive numbers of landless, small landholders, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples be given incentives — and support — to stay on their land rather than migrate to overcrowded and overheated cities? Can we reasonably stop the burning of coal, oil, crops, and waste, and still live well? Is another development possible? These questions don’t have easy answers. But in asking them as we walk, quickly, we may — we must — find the answers emerging.
In The Value of Nothing, Raj Patel cites “walking by asking questions” as a fundamental principle of democracy. “The mistakes that get made along the way are part of the process,” he nevertheless acknowledges. In challenging a broken system, it’s essential to enter uncharted territory. Actually engaging the most affected people in the process of fixing the climate disaster is part of this territory. And yes, mistakes will be made.
But in order to prevent mistakes from becoming disasters, interventions must be made at a human scale. It was mistakes — big ones — that got us here. Oil companies like BP, for instance, drilled far beyond their capacity to prevent or clean up accidents. More spectacular failures are in the pipeline, such as geo-engineering. When BP Vice President David Eyton announced in 2008 that BP was getting onboard with geo-engineering, he said, “We cannot ignore the scale of the challenge.” Unfortunately, we also cannot afford the scale of the disaster to follow. If anything goes wrong (and it will), it will go wrong, like the BP experiment in deepwater drilling, in a big way.
As we walk by asking questions, we should repeat the following mantra: big questions, small mistakes.
As profound as any of their other poetic slogans, the Zapatistas’ initial battle cry of “Enough already!” defines the urgency with which we must approach the climate crisis. This year will likely mark the hottest summer on record. The hurricane season is predicted to be more catastrophic than ever. The BP spill is now recognized as the worst environmental disaster of all time. And the latest predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the Arctic could be free of summer ice in 30 years. Governments play politics as usual, and corporations eye huge profits from carbon markets. But scientists and activists agree: We can’t alter the physical limits of climate devastation with market fixes.
In 1994, the Zapatistas clearly told the world that we had exhausted all other options. In the teeth of climate catastrophe, every living thing on the planet is now backed against the same wall. Change takes time, argues every prudent voice. But after centuries of toxic industry, decades of climate change denial, and years of playing politics as if there were winners and losers, time has run out. In a drawn-out competition against the climate crisis, there can be only losers. As Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solón, said recently at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, “We are only going to have one chance in this century to fight climate change. And that time is now.” In these words can be heard the echo of the Zapatistas: Ya Basta!
Jeff Conant, “What the Zapatistas Can Teach us About the Climate Crisis” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, August 3, 2010)
Jeff Conant’s book A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency (AK Press) was released this month. He is an independent journalist, educator, and lead author of A Community Guide to Environmental Health (Hesperian, 2008), a grassroots educational manual currently being translated into 20 languages. He is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.
10 Indicators of a Human Fingerprint on Climate Change
The NOAA State of the Climate 2009 report is an excellent summary of the many lines of evidence that global warming is happening. Acknowledging the fact that the planet is warming leads to the all important question – what’s causing global warming? To answer this, here is a summary of the empirical evidence that answer this question. Many different observations find a distinct human fingerprint on climate change:
To get a closer look, click on the pic above to get a high-rez 1024×768 version (you’re all welcome to use this graphic in your Powerpoint presentations). Or to dig even deeper, here’s more info on each indicator (including links to the original data or peer-reviewed research):
- Humans are currently emitting around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (CDIAC). Of course, it could be coincidence that CO2 levels are rising so sharply at the same time so let’s look at more evidence that we’re responsible for the rise in CO2 levels.
- When we measure the type of carbon accumulating in the atmosphere, we observe more of the type of carbon that comes from fossil fuels (Manning 2006).
- This is corroborated by measurements of oxygen in the atmosphere. Oxygen levels are falling in line with the amount of carbon dioxide rising, just as you’d expect from fossil fuel burning which takes oxygen out of the air to create carbon dioxide (Manning 2006).
- Further independent evidence that humans are raising CO2 levels comes from measurements of carbon found in coral records going back several centuries. These find a recent sharp rise in the type of carbon that comes from fossil fuels (Pelejero 2005).
- So we know humans are raising CO2 levels. What’s the effect? Satellites measure less heat escaping out to space, at the particular wavelengths that CO2 absorbs heat, thus finding “direct experimental evidence for a significant increase in the Earth’s greenhouse effect”. (Harries 2001, Griggs 2004, Chen 2007).
- If less heat is escaping to space, where is it going? Back to the Earth’s surface. Surface measurements confirm this, observing more downward infrared radiation (Philipona 2004,Wang 2009). A closer look at the downward radiation finds more heat returning at CO2 wavelengths, leading to the conclusion that “this experimental data should effectively end the argument by skeptics that no experimental evidence exists for the connection between greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere and global warming.” (Evans 2006).
- If an increased greenhouse effect is causing global warming, we should see certain patterns in the warming. For example, the planet should warm faster at night than during the day. This is indeed being observed (Braganza 2004, Alexander 2006).
- Another distinctive pattern of greenhouse warming is cooling in the upper atmosphere, otherwise known as the stratosphere. This is exactly what’s happening (Jones 2003).
- With the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) warming and the upper atmosphere (the stratophere) cooling, another consequence is the boundary between the troposphere and stratophere, otherwise known as the tropopause, should rise as a consequence of greenhouse warming. This has been observed (Santer 2003).
- An even higher layer of the atmosphere, the ionosphere, is expected to cool and contract in response to greenhouse warming. This has been observed by satellites (Laštovi?ka 2006).
Science isn’t a house of cards, ready to topple if you remove one line of evidence. Instead, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. As the body of evidence builds, we get a clearer picture of what’s driving our climate. We now have many lines of evidence all pointing to a single, consistent answer – the main driver of global warming is rising carbon dioxide levels from our fossil fuel burning.
Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says
Here is a summary of skeptic arguments, sorted by recent popularity vs what science says. Note that the one line responses are just a starting point – click the response for a more detailed response. You can also view them sorted by taxonomy, in a print-friendly version, or with fixed numbers you can use for permanent references.
Many thanks to Dr. Jan Dash, Director of the UU-UNO’s Climate Portal for writing many of the one line responses in ‘What the Science Says’, with some edits by John Cook.
3G sizi mutlu eder mi?
Teknoloji hârikalar yaratıyor ve her teknik ilerleme insanlık fotoğrafını daha çok karartıyor. Ve insanlara şimdilik sabrederler, ilerlemenin ‘geçici olumsuzluklarına’ katlanırlarsa, ilerde dünya cennetinde yaşayacakları söyleniyor… Onlara gösterilen madalyonun sadece bir yüzü…
İlerlemenin ve onun bir aracı olan teknolojik harikaların neyi yaptığınaodaklanınca, neyi bozduğu gözden kaçıyor. Oysa bilimsel- entellektüel faaliyet, ancak insâni-toplumsal olayları ve süreçleri çelişik karakterler,, antinomik bütünlükleri itibariyle kavradığında bir kıymet-i harbiyeye sahip olabilir. Halk arasında ‘ilerlemeye karşı çıkılamaz’ düşüncesi geçerli. Böyle bir şey söylemek, sermayeye ve devlete karşı çıkılamaz demeye gelir. Zira, kendinden menkûl ilerleme denilenin gerisinde bu ikisi var. Ancak bu ikisi varsa bilimsel-teknik ilerleme mümkün… Eğer ilerlemenin gerisinde devlet ve sermaye varsa, egemen olmanın ve kâr etmenin hizmetindeki ‘modern teknolojinin’ tarafsızlığından söz etmek abestir… Asıl kafa karışıklığı yaratan şey de, bir meta uygarlığı, tam bir sömürü metabolizması ve/veya ölü-emek uygarlığı olan, eşyayı onu üreten insandan mûteber sayan, mantığı ve özü itibariyle de amoral [ahlâk dışı] olan kapitalist çağın ‘modern teknolojisinin’, kapitalizm öncesi dönemin zanaatlarıyla bir ve aynı şey sayılmasıyla ilgili. Oysa, kapitalizm öncesi dönemin uygarlıklarında geçerli zanaatlar sömürünün ve kâr etmenin, meta üretiminin hizmetinde değildi, farklı kaygıların ve ihtiyaçların hizmetindeydi; o teknolojiler kullanım değeri üretmenin hizmetindeydi. Söz konusu toplumsal formasyonlarda ekonomi topluma içkindi, onda içerilmişti [mündemiçti] ve ona tabi idi…
Kapitalizmle birlikte bu ilişkinin yönü ve mahiyeti değişti. Ekonomi toplumun öteki veçhelerinden bağımsızlaştı ve onları kendi mantığına tâbi kıldı. Şimdilerde teknolojinin dizginlerinden boşanıp, tam bir kâbusa dönüşmesinin gerisinde işte bu terslik var… Egemen elite ve bir bütün olarak ayrıcalıklı sınıflaramensup olan yeryüzünün efendileri cephesinin, teknolojik ilerlemeyi yüceltmesi anlaşılır bir şey, zira modern teknoloji onların dünyanın beşeri ve doğal zenginliğini yağmalamak demek. Bu yüzden her yeniliği, her teknik ilerlemeyi mutlaka olumlu bir şey sayıp-yücelteceklerdir. Daha rafine ve ‘hümanist’ olanlarıysa, bazı olumsuzluklar söz konusu olsa da, bunun kimi reformlarla, iyileştirmelerle aşılacağını düşünüyorlar. Çünkü, kapitalizmin ameliyat edilemezliğinin farkında değiller… Kapitalist patronlar işçilere daha ‘iyi’ ücret öderse, iş güvenliğine riayet edilirse, kamusal kaynaklar silaha değil, eğitime, sağlığa, sosyal güvenliğe, kültüre harcanırsa, ekolojik gereklere uyulursa, Üçüncü Dünya’dan ithal edilen tarım ürünlerine, enerji ve madenlere daha ‘adil’ bir fiyat biçilirse, ilerlemenin olumsuzluklarının törpüleneceğini sanıyorlar… Eğer soru sorma aşamasında hata yaparsanız, vereceğiniz cevapların bir kıymet-i harbiyesi olmaz. Doğru soru şu olabilir: Neden Afrika’nın Asya’nın Latin Amerika’nın köylüleri emperyalist dünyanın ihtiyaç duyduğu şeyleri [kahve. kakao, çay, enerji, maden, vb.] üretip ihraç ediyor da kendi ihtiyacı olan şeyleri üretmiyor? Hümanist-rafine aydınların sorması gereken asıl soru, neden birileri [azınlık] zengin ve başkaları [çoğunluk] yoksulluk ve sefalet içinde? Neden dünya toplumları şimdilerde Kuzey/ Güney diye bölünmüş durumda? Neden Güneyin zenginliğine Kuzey el koyuyor ve Kuzeyde bir Güney, Güneyde de bir Kuzey var ve neden başka türlü olması mümkün değil?
Eski dönemlerin zanaatlarıyla bu günün teknolojileri aynı şey değil. kapitalizmin ürettiği teknoloji, geleneksel zanaatların iyileştirilmiş – geliştirilmiş bir versiyonu değil. Su ile çalışan değirmenle, nükleer santral aynı şey değil. Arada sadece nicelik değil, nitelik farkı da var… Ünlü Alman filozof Martin Heidegger bu yüzden hidro-elektrik santralle, rüzgar değirmeni arasındaki nitelik farkına gönderme yapıyordu… Kapitalizm çağında, kâr etmenin hizmetindeki teknoloji demek, her seferinde daha çok üretmenin hizmetinde olmak demektir ki, bir başına bir varlığı söz konusu değildir, başka amaçlara eklemlenmiş durumdadır… Bir yere kurulan 20 adet yel değirmeniyle, bir veya birkaç nehir vadisine kurulmuş 20 barajı aynı şey saymak, sorunu anlamak istememek demektir. 20 adet barajın orada yaşayan insanlar, doğal çevre, tarihsel miras, iklim, vb. alanında ortaya çıkardığı sayısız olumsuzluklarla 20 yel değirmenin ortaya çıkardığı durumu bir ve aynı şey saymak mümkün değildir Soruyu şöyle de formüle edebiliriz: bölgeye kurulan 20 yel değirmeni, o bölgenin insanlarını göçe zorlar mı? O bölgedeki tarihi yok eder mi? Toprağın kimyasal yapısını bozar mı? Havanın nem oranını değiştirir mi? Hava sıcaklığını artırır mı?.. Bu konuda sorular sormaya kalktığınızda cevap hazır: ilerlemeye karşı mısın? İlerlemede, gelişmede ne kötülük var, elektiriği bırakıp muma, çıraya mı dönmemizi istiyorsun? Söylenen kabaca şöyle: Kötü olan teknoloji değil, onun nasıl kullanıldığıdır. Teknoloji basit bir araçtır ve mutlaka yararlıdır… Onu iyi amaçlar için de, kötü amaçlar için de kullanabilirsin, zira, teknoloji yansızdır [nötr]. Teknolojinin yansızlığı [nötre oluşu] da başlıca iki gerekçeye dayandırılıyor: Birincisi, teknolojiyi herkes kullanıyor; İkincisi, teknolojileri geliştirmek üzere kullanılan tüm bilimler de etik olarak yansızdır [nötr]… Velhasıl, sorun teknoloji ve teknik bilimle igili değildir… Bu yaklaşım halk dilinde at sahibine göre kişner özdeyişiyle ifade edilene gönderme yapıyor ama gözden kaçan bir husus var: Özdeyiş, atın huysuz olabileceği, yaramaz olabiliceği ihtimalini dikkate almıyor.
Kapitalizmin ürettiği ‘modern teknoloji’ insanı insanlıktan çıkarmadan ve doğa tahribatını derinleştirmeden yol alamıyor. Her seferinde daha ileri teknoloji demek, daha büyük insânî, sosyal ve ekolojik kötülük demektir. Kapitalist kültür önce insanları soru soramaz hâle getiriyor, sonra da her türlü kepazeliği ilerleme, kalkınma, vb. olarak dayatmayı başarıyor. Haklı olarak, ünlü Hintli kadın yazar Arundhati Roy buna “kalkınma adına ilân edilmiş sivil savaş“diyordu… Harikalar yaratan ileri teknoloji neyi amaçlıyor, neyin hizmetinde, ne tür sonuçlar ortaya çıkarıyor?.. Sorun sadece, Atom bombası, kara mayınları, nükleer, kimyasal-biyolojik silahlar, Genetiği Değiştirilmiş Organizmalarla [GDO], vb. ilgili değil. Kapitalist üretim bir bütün olarak canlı olan her şeye düşmandır… Öyleyse tarafsız, yansız bilim ve teknoloji, bilimin evrenselliği türü safsatasından yakayı kurtarmak gerekiyor. Teknolojik ilerlemeyle, çözülmesi gereken sorunlar arasındaki ilişkinin tersliği gözden kaçıyor. Onca övünülen, hârikalar yarattığı söylenen modern teknoloji sorunları çözmenin bir aracı değil, tam tersine bizzat sorunun kendisi… Dev adımlarla ilerleyen ‘modern teknolojiyle’ birlikte başka şeyler de ilerliyor: yoksulluk, açlık, sefalet, doğal çevre tahribatı, hızla yok olan biyolojik-kültürel çeşitlilik, anlam kaybı, sayısız insâni yabancılaşmalar… Kapitalist sömürünün hizmetindeki teknolojik ilerlemeyi ancak düşünme yeteneği dumura uğramış olanlar olumlayabilir… Zira, kapitalizmin mantığı sömürücüdür- sömürgeleştiricidir- merkezileştiricidir, metalaştırıcıdır… Toplumu ve doğayı sadece sömürülebilir bir rezerv olarak gören bir üretim tarzının ‘büyük insanlığa teklif edeceği bir şey olabilir mi? Kendisi sorun olan kapitalist teknoloji sorunların çözümünü temsil edebilir mi?
Marksist sol, teknoloji eleştirisi konusunda sınıfta kaldı
Marksist sol teknolojik ilerlemeyi hiçbir zaman kapsamlı-tutarlı-bütünlüklü bir eleştiriye tâbi tutmadı. Marx, diyalektik yönteminin bir gereği olarak, teknolojinin çelişik niteliğininin farkındaydı. Çeşitli eserlerinde bu soruna değinmekle birlikte bütünlüklü bir teknoloji eleştirisi yapmadı. Bazı yazılarında üretici güçlerin gelişmesine yaptığı abartılı vurgu onun teknoloji eleştirisinin görmezden gelinmesine neden oldu. Komünist Manifesto’da burjuvazinin ilerletici rolüne dair söyledikleri ve eserlerindeki başka bazı ifadeler, kapitalist teknolojinin tek yanlı olumlanması olarak anlaşıldı. Özellikle Komünist Manifesto’da burjuva teknolojisine çoşkulu bir övgü yapılıyor ve şöyle deniyordu: “Burjuvazi, yüz yılı ancak bulan sınıf egemenliği süresinde, daha önceki kuşakların toplamından daha kitlesel ve daha muazzam üretim güçleri oluşturdu. Doğa güçlerinin dizginlenmesi, makineleşme, sanayide ve tarımda kimyanın kullanılması, buharlı gemi işleyişi, demiryolları, elektrikli telgraflar, dünyanın her bölümünde toprağın işlenebilir hale getirilmesi, ırmakların ulaşım için düzenlenmesi, yerinden koparılan bütün insan toplulukları —daha önceki hangi yüzyıl, toplumsal emeğin bağrında böylesine üretim güçlerinin yattığını sezmiştir!” Dikkat edilirse, yukarıdaki alıntıda burjuva teknolojisinin bir veçhesi sorun ediliyor ve sadece yapılan söz konusu ediliyor. Madalyonun öteki yüzüne, yıkılana dair birşey söylenmiyor… Fakat Marx başka yerlerde bu eksikliği kısmen giderici tespitler yapıyor. Mesela büyük sanayide işçinin durumuyla ilgili yazdıkları, onun sorunun çelişik karakterinin farkında olduğunu açıkça gösteriyor. Yoğun makine kullanımıyla işin [çalışmanın] özerkliğini ve çekiciliğini bütünüyle kaybettiğinden ve proleterin makinenin basit bir uzantısı haline geldiğinden, çalışmanın itici- geriletici [repoussant] hale geldiğinden söz ediyor. Marx, sadece insana verilen zararlara değil, doğaya verilen zararlara da dikkat çekmişti. Ünlü eseri Kapital’de şunları yazıyor: “Üstelik, kapitalist tarımdaki her gelişme, yalnız emekçiyi soyma sanatının değil, toprağı soyma sanatında da bir ilerlemedir; belli bir zaman için toprağın verimliliğinin artmasındaki her ilerleme, aynı zamanda bu sonsuz verimlilik kaynağının mahvedilmesine doğru bir ilerlemedir”… “Kapitalist üretim, bu nedenle teknolojiyi değiştirir ve ancak bütün zenginliğin asıl kaynağını, yani toprağı ve emekçiyi kurutarak çeşitli süreçleri toplumsal bir bütün içinde birleştirir.” Marx başka eserlerinde de teknolojik ilerlemeye benzer eleştiriler yöneltiyor ama o esas itibariyle teknolojinin kendisine değil, onun kapitalist sistem tarafından kullanılış biçimine itiraz ediyordu… Oysa bizzat kapitalizmin ürettiği teknolojinin tartışma konusu yapılması gerekirdi… Her şeye rağmen Marx’ın eserlerinde tutarlı bir teknoloji eleştirisine başlangıç teşkil edebilecek unsurlar mevcuttu. Fakat, XIX’uncu yüzyılın sonundan itibaren ‘markist sol’ bu bahsi tümden kapattı. II. ve III. Enternasyonallerin kaba marksizmi, hiçbir zaman kapitalizmin ürettiği ‘modern teknolojiyi’ tartışma konusu yapmadı. Marx sonrası sol teknoloji konusunda geçerli pozitivist ve iyimser yaklaşımı benimsemekle yetindi… Teknoloji yansızdır, önemli olan kimin tarafından kullanıldığıdır şeklindeki kaba yaklaşım II. ve III. Enternasyonal marksizminin de yaklaşımıydı. Oysa, insanın insan tarafından sömürülmesine son verildiğinde doğanın insanlık toplumu tarafından sömürülmesinin sona ereceğine dair kaba yaklaşım sakattı. Zira, doğa pozitivist felsefe tarafından sınırsız kullanılabilir bir rezerv ve ticaret [alım-satım] konusu bir meta olarak görülüyordu. Marx sonrası marksizm de bu yaklaşımı benimseyip, rotadan çıkmıştı… Marksizmin kendi varlık nedenine yabancılaşıp, eleştirel-devrimci özünden arındırılarak, sendika, parti, ve devlet bürokrasilerini meşrulaştırma aracı haline geldiği koşullarda, artık burjuva teknolojisinin eleştirisi de dahil hiçbir sorunla ilgili eleştiri ve açılım mümkün olmayacaktı… Böylesi bir ortamda kapitalizmin ürettiği teknolojinin tahribatına dikkat çekenler, ya marksist olmayan düşünürler, ya da iki enternasyonalden bağımsız hareket edebilen, “resmi marksizden” uzak durabilen marksist teorisyenler olacaktı: Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin [ekolojik muhalefetin ve anti- nükleer hareketin habercisi], Franfurt Okulu’nun ünlü düşünürleri [Theodore Adorno, Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Habermas…], Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Charbonneaux, vb.
Kapitalizmin ürettiği – kapitalizmi üreten teknolojiye karşı çıkmadan kapitalizme karşı çıkmak mümkün değildir…
Tutarlı bir teknoloji eleştirisi, öncelikle teknolojinin yansızlığı [nötr] safsatasından kurtulmaktan geçiyor. “Silahlar insanları öldürmez, insanlar insanları öldürür” türü genel geçer kabullerden uzak durmayı gerektiriyor. Zira, kapitalist teknoloji araç- amaç bütünlüğünü ortadan kaldırmış durumda. Modern toplumların tam bir anlam kaybı, manipülasyon ve rasyonalize edilmiş şiddet sarmalına kapılmış olmalarının gerisinde, sözünü ettiğimiz amaç- araç bütünlüğünün ters-yüz olması gerçeği yatıyor. Etik ve estetik kaygılara ve gereklere yabancılaşma, başlıca sorunlardan birini oluşturuyor. Yunan kökenli ünlü Fransız düşünür Cornelius Costariadis, son söyleşilerinden birinde, “kapitalist toplumun uçuruma koştuğunu, zira hiçbir şekilde kendini sınırlayamadığını” söylemişti… “ Gerçekten özgür ve özerk toplum kendini sınırlamasını bilmek zorundadır, yapılmaması gereken şeyler olduğunu bilmek durumundadır, dahası yapmaya teşebbüs dahî edilmeyecek, arzu edilmememesi gereken şeyler olduğunu bilmelidir” derken, kapitalist teknik bilimin neden olduğu tehlikeye dikkat çekiyordu. Eğer teknolojik gelişmeye [progrès technique] çelişik karekteri itibariyle yaklaşılır, sadece yaptığı değil, yıktığı da göz ününe alınırsa, ortaya çıkacak sonucun egemen burjuva düşüncesinin sunduğu gibi olmadığı, bir tür sıfır toplamlı oyuna benzediği görülecektir… Eğer bir kalorilik gıda maddesi üretmek için dokuz kalori enerji harcıyorsanız, ortalıkta üretilmiş ilave bir şey de yok demektir ama insanlar üretilenin nasıl, ne pahasına üretildiğiyle, üretilenin doğa ve topluma neye mâlolduğuyla ilgilenmeme eğilimindedirler… Ne demek istediğimize açıklık getirmek üzere bir-iki örnek şöyle olabilir. ‘Geleneksel’ teknoloji olan bin dokuma tezgahıyla bin aile on bin metre kumaş üretirken, yeni [ileri] kapitalist teknolojinin devreye girmesiyle yüz işçinin çalıştığı fabrikada yüz bin metre kumaş üretilmesi, ilk bakışta olumlu bir şey, büyük bir ilerlemeymiş gibi görünebilir. Oysa, bu durum dokuz yüz ailenin bir gelirden yoksun olması, gelir dağılımının kapitalist patron lehine bozulması, doğal çevre tahribatının artması gibi sonuçlar da ortaya çıkarma istidâdı taşımaktadır. Dolayısıyla resim işsiz kalanlar tarafından, doğal çevre tarafından farklı, yüksek kârlar elde etme olanağına kavuşan kapitalistler tarafından farklı görülecektir… Bir günlük gazete, olumlayarak, bir hipermarketler zincirinin yetmiş yeni şube açacağını ve bunlarda üç bin kişi istihdam edeceğini yazdığında, resmin sadece bir kısmını göstermiş olur. Resmin tamamını görmek için kaç küçük esnafın iflasa sürükleneceğine, büyük marketlerin neden olacağı enerji israfına ve çalışanların ne tür koşullarda çalıştığına, vb. da gönderme yapmak gerekirdi… Egemen cephe tarafından mutlaka olumlu sayılan, bolluğun, özgürlüğün, ilerlemenin, kalkınmanın vazgeçilmezi sayılan ileri teknoloji, karşı taraftakiler tarafından kolaylıkla, kölelik, güvensizlik, dışlanma, sosyal kriz, doğa tahribatı, Üçüncü, Dünya’nın yıkımı, vb. olarak görülebilir… Tıp teknolojisindeki bazı gelişmeler ortalama insan ömrünü uzatmayı başardı ama başka bazı ilerlemeler de bir dizi ‘modern hastalığın’ ortaya çıkmasına neden oldu. Kanser, diabet, obezite, vb. ortalama yaşam beklentisini ters yöne çekme potansiyeli taşıyor… Savaşlarda ölen insan sayısındaki devasa artış ‘ileri teknolojinin’ eseri. Son yüzyılda trafik kazalarında ölen insan sayısı II. Dünya Savaşında ölenlerden daha fazla… Bir tür katliam halini alan bu ölümler neden tartışılıp-gereği yapılmıyor? Yapılmaz zira, orada yüksek çıkarlar var: otomotiv endüstrisinin, büyük petrol kartellerinin, oto-yol yapan büyük inşaat firmaların baronları devasa kârlar elde ettikleri için… Üretilen her araba doğacak her çocuğa karşıyken bu saçmalığı bir ilerleme ve refah unsuru saymak niye… İş kazalarında ölenler milyonlarla, yaralananlar da yüz milyonlarla ifade ediliyor ve kimse gerçek rakamı bilmiyor. Zira, ayıbı açığa vurmak daha büyük ayıptır denmiştir.
Şimdilerde teknoloji harikası olarak sunulan G3 gündemde… Reklamcılar ve reklamcıların hizmetindeki “sanatçılar” bu amaç için seferber olmuş durumda… Bunun iletişim alanında bir mucize olduğu söyleniyor. Artık herkes G2’sini çöpe atıp sevgili G3’üne kavuşabilir. Bu saçmalığın bir ilerleme sayılması abes değil mi? İnsanlara önce ihtiyaçları olmayan bir şey satılıp, ihtiyaç haline getiriliyor, sonra da satılan şey sürekli yenileniyor. İnsanlar yeniye sahip olmak için çırpınıp duruyor ve yeniye sahip olduğunda mutlu olacağını sanıyor. Oysa ihtiyaçları olmayan lüzûmsuz bir nesnenin peşinde koştuklarının farkında değiller. Gerçekten cep telefonu diye bir şeye ihtiyacınız olduğuna inanıyor musunuz? Böyle bir araç belki bazı meslek insanları için gerekli olabilir: mesela ücra bir köyde sağlık ocağında çalışan doktor, ebe, hemşire, orman koruma memuru, çokuluslu bir şirketin yöneticisi, ‘emniyet müdürü, Afganistan’da ‘barışı tesis etmekte olan’ Amerikalı general, açık denizde balık avlayanlar, vb. ama benim gibi evinde ve işyerinde zaten telefonu olan biri neden cep telefonu alsın? Benim cep telefonum yok, bu güne kadar hiçbir iletişim sıkıntısı çekmedim. Evde telefon olmadığı zamanlarda da bir iletişim sorunum olmadı. Yararlı olmayan ama zararlı ve lüzumsuz olan bir şeye sahip olmak niye? Sebebi çok açık: birilerinin kâr etmesi gerekiyor… Bir an önce G3 edinmek için sabırsızlananların bilmesi gereken bir şey var: Sizin ne G1’e, ne G2’ye ne de G3’e ihtiyacınız yok. Ama cebinizde taşıdığınız lûzumsuz küçük şeyin hayatınızı tehlikeye atma riski yüksek… Telefonla mutlu da olamazsınız, zira maddi şeylerle mutlu olunmaz üstelik bir de lüzûmsuzsa… Aksi halde darısı G4’e denecektir…
- anti-otoriter / anarşizan
- antropoloji, arkeoloji
- bu topraklar
- ekokoy – permakultur
- ekolojist akımlar
- ekotopya heterotopya utopyalar
- kadın ve doğa / ekofeminizm
- kent yasami
- kir yasami
- komünler, kolektifler
- kooperatifler vb modeller
- savaş karşıtlığı
- sistem karsitligi
- somuru / tahakkum
- sınırlara hayır
- tarim gida GDO
- türcülük, doğa / hayvan özgürlüğü
- totoliterlik / otoriterlik
- tuketim karsitligi
- yerel yönetimler
- yerli – yerel halklar
- yeşil kapitalizm