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January 2001 (Volume 52, Number 8)

» Notes from the Editors
January 2001 (Volume 52, Number 8)

A striking example of the one-sided nature of the US media, at least where issues of capital and imperial power are concerned, is the way recent events in the Middle East are being reported. One would never know from the press, radio, and television that Palestinians are fighting for freedom from military occupation and the years-long deterioration of social and economic conditions. Theirs is in essence an anticolonial struggle. In a recent article in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, Edward Said pointed out:

not a single map has been published or shown on television to remind American viewers and readers—notoriously ignorant of both geography and history—that Israeli encampments, settlements, roads and barricades crisscross Palestinian land in Gaza and the West Bank. Moreover, as happened in Beirut in 1982, there is a veritable Israeli siege of Palestinians, including of Arafat and his men. Completely forgotten, if it was ever at all understood, is the system of Areas A, B, and C by which the military occupation of 40 percent of Gaza and 60 percent of the West Bank continues, and which the Oslo peace process never really designed to end, much less totally modify (Al-Ahram Weekly online, November 2-8, 2000).

As these notes are being written, word has only just come in on the failure of negotiators to arrive at an agreement at the World Conference on Climate Change, held at the Hague in the Netherlands from November 13–24, 2000. Officials from throughout the world were meeting over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Originally signed in 1997 by the representatives of over one hundred countries, the Kyoto Protocol gives the industrialized countries until between 2008 and 2012 to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels. But the agreement has yet to be ratified by any of the industrialized countries. The United States (by far the largest producer of these gases, accounting for 25 percent of the world total, with emissions currently 22 percent above the 1990 level) has been the leading opponent of the Kyoto Protocol as originally conceived. The US negotiating stance has been aimed at securing loopholes that would limit its commitment to reductions in emissions—-by recognizing forests and farmlands as “carbon sinks” for which credits will be allowed and by introducing international tradable pollution permits that will make it possible for countries that are heavy producers of these gases to purchase permits to pollute from countries that are not. The conflict between the United States and the European Community, which supports the original plan for strict reductions in emissions, led to a stalemate and the failure of the negotiations.

These talks took place against the backdrop of recent scientific reports that suggest that global warming trends are much greater than previously thought. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main official scientific body studying global warming, the earth’s climate has been relatively stable over the ten thousand years since the last ice age, with global temperature changes of less than one degree centigrade per century during this entire period. In comparison, current climate change scenarios now project an increase in global mean surface temperature of 1.5 to six degrees centigrade by 2100. Among the catastrophic problems that may ensue as a result of current warming scenarios are rising sea levels (projected to rise fifteen to ninety-five centimeters by 2100), rapidly increasing desertification in arid and semi-arid regions, declining agricultural productivity (especially in tropical and semitropical regions), threats to forests and coral reefs, loss of biological diversity, and deteriorating human health. (See Robert T. Watson, Chair, IPCC, Presentation to the Sixth Conference of Parties to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change, November 13, 2000 at http://www.ipcc.ch/press/sp-cop6.htm.)

Obviously this is an area in which cooperation at the global level is imperative. Unfortunately the logic of global capital accumulation, which the United States above all exemplifies, constitutes the main obstacle to arriving at genuine solutions. (See “Capitalism’s Environmental Crisis—Is Technology the Answer?“ in last month’s MR.) It is possible, with existing technology, to greatly lessen this threat to future generations. The fault lies in our social relations of production.

We are sad to report that Harold Goodhue Vatter, well-known economic historian and longtime friend of MR, died September 8 at his home in Portland, Oregon. He was eighty-nine. Harold contributed to MR‘s March 1965 commemorative issue for Paul Baran and was the author of The U.S. Economy in the 1950s: An Economic History (1963) and The Drive to Industrial Maturity (1975). In March 1982, he published an important article, “The Atrophy of Net Investment and Some Consequences for the U.S. Mixed Economy,” which explored the sources of economic stagnation, in the Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics. This argument was later incorporated into his book The Inevitability of Government Growth (1990, coauthored with John F. Walker). For more information about Harold, contact the Department of Economics at Portland State University at (503) 725-3915.

We are also grieved to note the death of geographer and anthropologist James Blaut, author of The Colonizer’s Model of the World (1993) and Eight Eurocentric Historians (2000) and an indefatigable opponent of imperialism in all its forms. He died on November 13 at age seventy-three. A review of his latest book will appear in a future issue of Monthly Review.

As this issue went to the printer, word came from Paris of the death on December 2, 2000 of our colleague and comrade, Daniel Singer. Our hearts go out to his wife Jeanne, their family, and friends. His death is an irreparable loss for Monthly Review and the cause of a humanely engaged socialism. An article on Daniel’s life and work will appear shortly.

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