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Rifts and Shifts: Getting to the Root of Environmental Crises

Brett Clark is assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. Richard York is coeditor of Organization & Environment and associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. They are coauthors with John Bellamy Foster of Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present (Monthly Review Press, 2008).

Humans depend on functioning ecosystems to sustain themselves, and their actions affect those same ecosystems. As a result, there is a necessary “metabolic interaction” between humans and the earth, which influences both natural and social history. Increasingly, the state of nature is being defined by the operations of the capitalist system, as anthropogenic forces are altering the global environment on a scale that is unprecedented. The global climate is rapidly changing due to the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. No area of the world’s ocean is unaffected by human influence, as the accumulation of carbon, fertilizer runoff, and overfishing undermine biodiversity and the natural services that it provides. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment documents how over two-thirds of the world’s ecosystems are overexploited and polluted. Environmental problems are increasingly interrelated. James Hansen, the leading climatologist in the United States, warns that we are dangerously close to pushing the planet past its tipping point, setting off cascading environmental problems that will radically alter the conditions of nature.1

Although the ecological crisis has captured public attention, the dominant economic forces are attempting to seize the moment by assuring us that capital, technology, and the market can be employed so as to ward off any threats without a major transformation of society. For example, numerous technological solutions are proposed to remedy global climate change, including agrofuels, nuclear energy, and new coal plants that will capture and sequester carbon underground. The ecological crisis is thus presented as a technical problem that can be fixed within the current system, through better ingenuity, technological innovation, and the magic of the market. In this view, the economy will be increasingly dematerialized, reducing demands placed on nature.2 The market will ensure that new avenues of capital accumulation are created in the very process of dealing with environmental challenges.

Yet, this line of thought ignores the root causes of the ecological crisis. The social metabolic order of capitalism is inherently anti-ecological, since it systematically subordinates nature in its pursuit of endless accumulation and production on ever larger scales. Technical fixes to socio-ecological problems typically have unintended consequences and fail to address the root of the problems: the political-economic order. Rather than acknowledging metabolic rifts, natural limits, and/or ecological contradictions, capital seeks to play a shell game with the environmental problems it generates, moving them around rather than addressing the root causes.

One obvious way capital shifts around ecological problems is through simple geographic displacement—once resources are depleted in one region, capitalists search far and wide to seize control of resources in other parts of the world, whether by military force or markets. One of the drivers of colonialism was clearly the demand for more natural resources in rapidly industrializing European nations.

However, expanding the area under the control of global capitalism is only one of the ways in which capitalists shift ecological problems around. There is a qualitative dimension as well, whereby one environmental crisis is “solved” (typically only in the short term) by changing the type of production process and generating a different crisis, such as how the shift from the use of wood to plastic in the manufacturing of many consumer goods replaced the problems associated with wood extraction with those associated with plastics production and disposal.

Thus, one problem is transformed into another—a shift in the type of rift. We illustrate these issues here by focusing on the soil crisis Marx identified in his time, which continues to the present, and our contemporary energy and climate crisis.

The Expanding Social Metabolic Order of Capital and Ecological Crisis

A metabolic relationship involves regulatory processes that govern the interchange of materials. Marx noted that natural systems, such as the nutrient cycle, had their own metabolism, which operated independently of and in relation to human society, allowing for their regeneration and/or continuance. He employed, as John Bellamy Foster explains, the concept of social metabolism to refer to “the complex, dynamic interchange between human beings and nature” of matter and energy, which recognized how both “nature-imposed conditions” and human actions transform this process. Each mode of production creates a particular social metabolic order that determines the interchange between society and nature. Such interactions influence the ongoing reproduction of society and ecosystems.3

István Mészáros explains that a fundamental change in the social metabolism took place with the onset of capitalism, as a new social metabolic order came to dominate the material interchange between society and nature. Capitalism imposes a particular form of “productive interchange of human beings with nature,” given that its very logic of operation is a “‘totalizing’ framework of control into which everything else, including human beings, must be fitted, and prove thereby their ‘productive viability,’ or perish if they fail to do so.” Capitalists pursue their own interests to maximize profit, above and beyond any other interests, subsuming all natural and social relationships to the drive to accumulate capital. Natural cycles and processes are subjected to the whims of the economic cycle, given that “the only modality of time which is directly meaningful to capital is necessary labor time and its operational corollaries, as required for securing and safeguarding the conditions of profit-oriented time-accountancy and thereby the realization of capital on an extended scale.” The competition of capital produces an “ultimately uncontrollable mode of social metabolic control” running roughshod over the regulatory processes that govern the complex relationships of interchange within natural systems and cycles.4

Paul Sweezy explained that the capitalist economic system “is one that never stands still, one that is forever changing, adopting new and discarding old methods of production and distribution, opening up new territories, subjecting to its purposes societies too weak to protect themselves.” Thus, the tendency of capital is to violate the natural conditions that ensure nature’s vitality, undermining the base on which ecological and human sustainability depends. In part, this is because capital freely appropriates nature and its bounty—it is “purely a matter of utility.” The exploitation of nature and labor serve “as a means to the paramount ends of profit-making and still more capital accumulation.” Hence, the expansion and intensification of the social metabolic order of capital generates rifts in natural cycles and process, forcing a series of shifts on the part of capital, as it expands environmental degradation.5

Marx and the Metabolic Rift in Soil Nutrients

The issue of capitalism’s destructive metabolic relation to nature was raised by Marx in the nineteenth century. The German chemist, Justus von Liebig, in the 1850s and ’60s, employed the concept of metabolism in his studies of soil nutrients. He explained that British agriculture, with its intensive methods of cultivation to increase yields for the market, operated as a system of robbery, destroying the vitality of the soil. Liebig detailed how the soil required specific nutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—to maintain its ability to produce crops. As crops grew they took up these nutrients. In earlier societies, the produce of nature was often recycled back to the land, fertilizing it. But the concentration of land ownership, which involved the depopulation of rural areas, and the increasing division between town and country, changed this process. Food and fiber were shipped from the countryside to distant markets. In this, the nutrients of the soil were transferred from the country to the city where they accumulated as waste and contributed to the pollution of the cities, rather than being returned to the soil. This caused a rupture in the nutrient cycle.

Marx, who was influenced by Liebig’s work, recognized that soil fertility and the conditions of nature were bound to the historical development of social relations. Through his studies of soil science, Marx gained insights in regard to the nutrient cycle and how soil exhaustion was caused. On this basis he provided a materialist critique of modern agriculture, describing how capitalist operations inevitably produced a metabolic rift, as the basic processes of natural reproduction were undermined, preventing the return to the soil of the necessary nutrients.6

The transfer and loss of nutrients was tied to the accumulation process. Marx described how capital creates a rupture in the “metabolic interaction” between humans and the earth, one that is only intensified by large-scale agriculture, long-distance trade, and massive urban growth. With these developments, the nutrient cycle was interrupted and the soil continually impoverished. He explained that the drive for the accumulation of capital “reduces the agricultural population to an ever decreasing minimum and confronts it with an ever growing industrial population crammed together in large towns; in this way it produces conditions that provoke an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself. The result of this is a squandering of the vitality of the soil, which is carried by trade far beyond the bounds of a single country.”7

The development of capitalism, whether through colonialism, imperialism, or market forces, expanded the metabolic rift to the global level, as distant regions across the oceans were brought into production to serve the interests of capitalists in core nations. While incorporating distant lands into the global economy—a form of geographical displacement—helped relieve some of the demands placed on agricultural production in core nations, it did not serve as a remedy to the metabolic rift. The systematic expansion of production on a larger scale subjected more of the natural world to the dictates of capital. The consequence of this, as Marx noted, is that “it disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e. it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil.”8

Rifts, Shifts, and the Soil Crisis

The metabolic rift in the nutrient cycle and degradation of the soil hastened the concentration of agricultural production among a small number of proprietors who adopted ever more intensive methods of production to further expand and enhance production. The logic of capital and competition drives “bourgeois production out of its old course and… compels capital to intensify the productive forces of labour.” It gives “capital no rest,” Marx noted, “and continually whispers in its ear: ‘Go on! Go on!’”9 This sets off a series of rifts and shifts, whereby metabolic rifts are continually created and addressed (typically only after reaching crisis proportions) by shifting the type of rift generated. To the myopic observer, capitalism may appear at any one moment to be addressing some environmental problems, since it does on occasion mitigate a crisis. However, a more far-sighted observer will recognize that new crises spring up where old ones are supposedly cut down. This is unavoidable given that capital is propelled constantly to expand.

One of the consequences of the metabolic rift and declining soil fertility in core nations in the 1800s was the development of an international guano/nitrate trade. The guano (bird droppings) from islands off the coast of Peru with large seabird colonies had high concentrations of phosphate and nitrogen. At the time, guano was recognized as one of the best fertilizers, both enriching the soil and increasing the yield. This new fertilizer sparked an international scramble to claim islands that had guano deposits. Millions of tons of guano were dug up by imported Chinese “coolies” in Peru under conditions worse than slave labor and exported to the United States and European nations. The necessity to import fertilizer reflected a crisis in capitalist agriculture, but it did not mend the metabolic rift.

In fact, it directed a natural resource that had been used for centuries to enrich the soils of Peru to the global market, rapidly diminishing the reserves on the islands. The nitrate trade pitted Peru and Bolivia against Chile in the War of the Pacific, a war encouraged and supported by nitrate investors in Britain. It was a war between poor countries struggling to control nitrate fields that were used to meet the fertilizer demands of core nations. Nonetheless, the metabolic rift in regard to soil degradation continued to plague core capitalist nations. It was only when Fritz Haber, a German chemist and nationalist, devised a process—just before the First World War—for fixing nitrogen from the air that a radical shift took place in agriculture, as artificial nitrogen fertilizer was produced in large quantities and applied to soils to sustain yields.10

The social metabolic order of capital undermined the natural cycles and processes that allow for the regeneration and use of soil nutrients. Various geological and technological shifts were introduced in order to maintain production, but they created new rifts, while typically not alleviating old ones. Increasingly, industrial processes were incorporated into agricultural practices, intensifying the social metabolism of society. As a result, agriculture became increasingly dependent upon industrial operations (e.g., the industrial fixation of nitrogen) and materials in order to continue. Even in his day, Marx recognized the transformations taking place in agriculture and noted:

Agriculture no longer finds the natural conditions of its own production within itself, naturally, arisen, spontaneous, and ready to hand, but these exist as an independent industry separate from it—and, with this separateness the whole complex set of interconnections in which this industry exists is drawn into the sphere of the conditions of agricultural production.11

Marx explained that the expansion of capitalist industrialized operations increased the scale of exploitation and environmental degradation, subjecting nature to the rapacious logic of capital:

Large-scale industry and industrially pursued large-scale agriculture have the same effect. If they are originally distinguished by the fact that the former lays waste and ruins labour-power and thus the natural power of man, whereas the latter does the same to the natural power of the soil, they link up in the later course of development, since the industrial system applied to agriculture also enervates the workers there, while industry and trade for their part provide agriculture with the means of exhausting the soil.12

Technology is not neutral, given that it embodies capitalist relations, whether it is to facilitate the division of labor or to increase production through the exploitation of labor and nature. Technological innovations serve as an additional means to enlarge and expand the social metabolic order of capital. In regard to capitalist agriculture, Marx explicated:

All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress towards ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility… Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.13

Chemical processes and inputs were initiated in agriculture to duplicate, replace, and/or reproduce natural operations and what they produce. Synthetic fertilizer was widely introduced to sustain and increase agricultural production, but it did not resolve the metabolic rift in the nutrient cycle. Karl Kautsky, drawing upon the work of Marx and Liebig, explained that artificial fertilizers

allow the reduction in soil fertility to be avoided, but the necessity of using them in larger and larger amounts simply adds a further burden to agriculture—not one unavoidably imposed on nature, but a direct result of current social organization. By overcoming the antithesis between town and country… the materials removed from the soil would be able to flow back in full. Supplementary fertilisers would then, at most, have the task of enriching the soil, not staving off its impoverishment. Advances in cultivation would signify an increase in the amount of soluble nutrients in the soil without the need to add artificial fertilisers.14

Kautsky identified the creation of a fertilizer treadmill, whereby a continuous supply of artificial fertilizer was needed to produce high yields on land that was exhausted. Natural conditions, depleted soils, forced capital to shift its operations in order to continue production. Rather than solving the problem, this shift and the ones that followed created additional environmental problems, escalating the magnitude of the ecological crisis.

Food production has increased through expanding agricultural production to less fertile land—depleting the nutrients in these areas—and through the incorporation of large quantities of oil in the agricultural process, used in the synthesis of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, contributing to global climate change as well as a myriad of other environmental problems. Modern agriculture has become the art of turning oil into food.15 Constant inputs are needed simply to sustain this operation, given the depletion of the soil. Genetically modified crops are developed in order to grow in arid, depleted soils, with the help of artificial fertilizer. Each step is an attempt to overcome barriers for the sake of accumulation, regardless of the ecological implications.

The incorporation of the “technological fix” of artificial nitrogen fertilizer has created additional ecological rifts and other environmental problems. The production of synthetic fertilizer produces airborne nitrogen compounds that increase global warming. Nitrogen runoff overloads marine ecosystems with excess nutrients, which compromise natural processes that generally remove nutrients from the waterways. The increased concentration of nutrients within the water causes eutrophication. This leads to oxygen-poor water and the formation of hypoxic zones—otherwise known as “dead zones” because crabs and fishes suffocate within these areas.

Hence, the shifting logic of ecological destruction spreads rifts throughout the system. The drive to increase agricultural production, the separation of town and country, and the loss of soil nutrients produce a metabolic rift in the soil nutrient cycle. In an attempt to overcome natural limits, capital engages in a series of shifts to sustain production, importing natural fertilizers and producing artificial fertilizer. As a result, the social metabolism is intensified, as more of nature is subjected to the demands of capital, and additional ecological problems are created.

Energy and Climate Crisis

The development of energy production technologies provides one of the best examples of rifts and shifts, as technological fixes to energy problems create new ecological crises in the attempt to alleviate old ones. Biomass, particularly wood, has, of course, been one of the primary energy sources humans have depended on throughout their history. The development of more energy intensive processes, such as the smelting of metals, was, therefore, connected with greater pressure on forests, as trees were fed to the fires. By the time the Industrial Revolution began to emerge in Europe, vast regions of the continent had already been deforested, particularly in areas close to major sites of production, and much of this deforestation was driven by the demand for fuel.

As industrialization advanced, new sources of power were desired to fuel the machines that allowed for production to take place on a growing scale. Whole forests could be devoured at an unprecedented rate, making wood ever more scarce. The tension between the desire of the capitalist owners of the new industrial technologies for expanding the accumulation of capital and the biophysical limits of Earth were apparent from the start of the Industrial Revolution. However, capitalists did not concern themselves with the internal contradictions of capitalism, except insofar as they were barriers to be transcended. Thus, efforts to achieve what we would today call sustainability were not even considered by the elite. Rather, coal (and subsequently other fossil fuels) quickly became the standard fuel of industry, temporarily sidestepping the fuelwood crisis (although forests continued to fall due to the many demands placed on them) but laying the foundations for our current global climate change crisis by dramatically increasing the emission of carbon dioxide.16

The pattern has remained similar to how it was in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. Oil was quickly added to coal as a fuel source and a variety of other energy sources were increasingly exploited. Among these was hydropower, the generation of which requires damming rivers, and thus destroying aquatic ecosystems. For example, the expansion of hydropower over the twentieth century in the U.S. Pacific Northwest was the primary force leading to the widespread depletion and extinction of salmon runs. Nuclear power was, of course, the most controversial addition to the power mix. Despite initial claims that it would provide clean, unlimited power that would be too cheap to meter, it proved to be an expensive, risky power source that produced long-lived highly radioactive waste for which safe long-term storage sites have been nearly impossible to develop.

Now, in the twenty-first century, with global climate change finally being recognized by the elite as a serious problem, the proposed solutions are, as we would expect, to shift the problem from one form of energy to a new form of energy. Nuclear power, despite its drop in popularity toward the end of the last century, due to high costs and widespread public opposition, is now very much back on the agenda, with new promises of how the new nuclear plants are safer—never mind the issue of radioactive waste. We are also regaled with promises of agrofuels, ironically bringing us back to the pre-coal energy crisis. Recent scientific reports note that growing crops for agrofuel to feed cars may actually increase the carbon emitted into the atmosphere.17 But even this ignores the fact that the production of agrofuel would be based on unsustainable agricultural practices that demand massive inputs of fertilizers and would only further the depletion of soil nutrients, bringing us back to the metabolic rift that Marx originally addressed.

Two recent examples of technical approaches to mitigating climate change are particularly illustrative of how technological optimism distracts us from the political-economic sources of our environmental problems. Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, who admirably played a central role in identifying and analyzing human-generated ozone depletion in the stratosphere, recently argued that climate change can be avoided by injecting sulfur particles into the stratosphere to increase the albedo of the Earth, and thus reflect more of the sun’s energy back into space, which would counter the warming stemming from rising concentrations of greenhouse gases. Although no doubt offered sincerely and out of desperation stemming from the failure of those in power adequately to address the mounting climate crisis, the technical framing of the climate change issue makes it easy for political and business leaders to avoid addressing greenhouse gas emissions, since they can claim that technical fixes make it unnecessary to take action to preserve forests and curtail the burning of fossil fuels. Engineering the atmosphere on this scale is likely to have many far-reaching consequences (acid rain being only the most obvious), many of which have not been anticipated.

In a similar vein, well-known physicist Freeman Dyson recently suggested that we can avoid global climate change by replacing one-quarter of the world’s forests with genetically engineered carbon-eating trees. The ecological consequences of such an action would likely be extraordinary.

Both of these so-called solutions avoid addressing the dynamics of an economic system that is largely structured around burning fossil fuels, that must constantly renew itself on a larger scale, and that runs roughshod over nature. Often techno-solutions are proposed in a manner that suggests they are completely removed from the world as it operates. The irony is that such narrowly conceived “solutions” would only serve as a means to prop up the very forces driving ecological degradation, allowing those forces to continue to operate, as they create additional ecological rifts.18

Conclusion: Toward a New Social Metabolic Order

The pursuit of profit is the immediate pulse of capitalism, as it reproduces itself on an ever-larger scale. A capitalist economic system cannot function under conditions that require accounting for the reproduction of nature, which may include time scales of a hundred years or more, not to mention maintaining the particular, integrated natural cycles that help sustain living conditions. The social metabolic order of capital is characterized by rifts and shifts, as it freely appropriates nature and attempts to overcome, even if only temporarily, whatever natural and social barriers its confronts. In this, Marx noted, capital turns to problems with “the land only after its influence has exhausted it and after it has devastated its natural qualities.” And at this point, it only makes shifts or proposes technological fixes to address the pressing concern, without addressing the fundamental crisis, the force driving the ecological crisis—capitalism itself. Mészáros warns: “In the absence of miraculous solutions, capital’s arbitrarily self-asserting attitude to the objective determinations of causality and time in the end inevitably brings a bitter harvest, at the expense of humanity [and nature itself].”

The global reach of capital is creating a planetary ecological crisis. A fundamental structural crisis cannot be remedied within the operations of the system. Marx explained that the future could be ruined and shortened as a result of a social metabolism that exhausted the conditions of life. Capital shows no signs of slowing down, given its rapacious character. The current ecological crisis has been in the making for a long time and the most serious effects of continuing with business as usual will not fall on present but rather future generations. But, as James Hansen warns, the time that we have to respond and change the forces driving the ecological crisis is getting shorter and shorter. Each delay in taking decisive action compounds the problem and makes the necessary intervention that much larger.

Capitalism is incapable of regulating its social metabolism with nature in an environmentally sustainable manner. Its very operations violate the laws of restitution and metabolic restoration. The constant drive to renew the capital accumulation process intensifies its destructive social metabolism, imposing the needs of capital on nature, regardless of the consequences to natural systems. Capitalism continues to play out the same failed strategy again and again. The solution to each environmental problem generates new environmental problems (while often not curtailing the old ones). One crisis follows another, in an endless succession of failure, stemming from the internal contradictions of the system. If we are to solve our environmental crises, we need to go to the root of the problem: the social relation of capital itself, given that this social metabolic order undermines “the vital conditions of existence.”19

Resolving the ecological crisis thus requires in the end a complete break with the logic of capital and the social metabolic order it creates, which does not mean that we cannot take beneficial actions within the present system—although these will necessarily go against the internal logic of the system. Marx proposed that a society of associated producers served as the basis for potentially bringing the social metabolism in line with the natural metabolism, in order to sustain the inalienable condition for the existence and reproduction of the chain of human generations. Given that human society must always interact with nature, concerns regarding the social metabolism are a constant, regardless of the society. But a mode of production in which associated producers can regulate their exchange with nature in accordance with natural limits and laws, while retaining the regenerative properties of natural processes and cycles, is fundamental to an environmentally sustainable social order.

As Engels stressed: “freedom does not consist in the dream of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws.” In fact, “real human freedom” requires living “an existence in harmony with the laws of nature that have become known.”20

There are a multitude of environmental problems, each with its own dynamics (although increasingly interrelated), causing the ecosystems on which lives depend to collapse. We confront an ecological crisis at the global level generated by particular social forces. Rather than perpetuating a social metabolic order that generates metabolic rifts and ecological crises, merely attempting to shift the problems around, we need to transcend this system, to create a social metabolism that allows for nature to replenish and restore itself within time scales relevant to its continued reproduction.

Notes

  1. James Hansen, “Tipping Point,” in E. Fearn and K. H. Redford, ed., State of the World 2008 (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2008), 7–8.
  2. Arthur P. J. Mol, Globalization and Environmental Reform (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001); Charles Leadbeater, The Weightless Society (New York: Texere, 2000).
  3. John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 158; Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage, 1976), 637–38.
  4. István Mészáros, Beyond Capital (New York: Monthly Press, 1995), 40–45, 170–71; István Mészáros, “The Necessity of Planning,” Monthly Review 58, no. 5 (2006): 27–35.
  5. Karl Marx, Grundrisse (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), 409–10; Paul Sweezy, “Capitalism and the Environment,” Monthly Review 56, no. 5 (2004):86–93; Paul Burkett, Marx and Nature (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999).
  6. Justus von Liebig, Letters on Modern Agriculture (London: Walton & Maberly, 1859).
  7. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 3 (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), 949.
  8. John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, “Ecological Imperialism,” in Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, ed., Socialist Register 2004 (London: Merlin Press, 2003); Jason W. Moore, “The Modern World-System as Environmental History?,” Theory and Society 32, no. 3 (2003): 307–77; Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 637.
  9. Karl Marx, “Wage Labour and Capital,” in Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 213.
  10. Foster and Clark, “Ecological Imperialism” Jimmy M. Skaggs, The Great Guano Rush (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994).
  11. Marx, Grundrisse, 527.
  12. Marx, Capital, vol. 3, 950.
  13. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 638.
  14. Karl Kautsky, The Agrarian Question (Winchester, MA: Swan, 1988), 215.
  15. John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, “Liebig, Marx, and the Depletion of Soil Fertility,” in Fred Magdoff, John Bellamy Foster, and Frederick Buttel, ed., Hungry For Profit (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000); Fred Magdoff, Les Lanyon, and Bill Liebhardt, “Nutrient Cycling, Transformation and Flows,” Advances in Agronomy 60 (1997): 1–73; Philip Mancus, “Nitrogen Fertilizer Dependency and its Contradictions,” Rural Sociology 72, no. 2 (2007): 269–88.
  16. Vaclav Smil, Energy in World History (Boulder: Westview, 1994); Michael Williams, Deforesting the Earth (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Brett Clark and Richard York, “Carbon Metabolism,” Theory and Society 34, no. 4 (2005): 391–428.
  17. See Joseph Fargione, et al., “Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt,” Science 319 (2008): 1235–38; Timothy Searchinger, et al., “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increase Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change,” Science 319(2008): 1238–40; Fred Magdoff, “The Political Economy and Ecology of Biofuels,” Monthly Review 60, no. 3 (2008): 34–50.
  18. Paul J. Crutzen, “Albedo Enhancement by Stratospheric Sulfur Injections,” Climate Change 77(2006): 211–19; Freeman Dyson, “The Question of Global Warming,” New York Review of Books LV(2008): 43–45.
  19. Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, vol. 3 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1971), 301–10; Mészáros, Beyond Capital, 174; James Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet,” The New York Review of Books 53(2006):12–16; Mészáros, “The Necessity of Planning,” 28.
  20. Marx, Capital, vol. 3, 911; Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), 136–38.
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