Top Menu

Ecology

Heinberg’s New Coal Question

Richard Heinberg, Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2009), 208 pages, $18.95, paperback.

Coal today lies at the very center of the world predicament over the future of energy and the climate. An indication of this can be found in the November 18, 2010, issue (vol. 468) of the leading scientific journal Nature, which includes an article by Richard Heinberg and David Fridley entitled “The End of Cheap Coal.” The article opens with the startling words: “World energy policy is gripped by a fallacy—the idea that coal is destined to stay cheap for decades to come.” What follows is a short, dramatic discussion of problems (geological, economic, and environmental) constraining future coal production and consumption. Heinberg and Fridley’s argument here has been developed more extensively in Heinberg’s recent book Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis, which provides us with yet another indication of the momentous challenge and burden of our historical time.… | more…

The Indiscreet Banality of the Bourgeoisie

The Church of LEED, Passive House, and the Dangers of Going Green

Pat Murphy, The Green Tragedy: LEED’s Lost Decade (Yellow Springs, OH: The Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, 2009), 96 pages, $12.95, paperback.

Pat Murphy’s new book, The Green Tragedy: LEED’s Lost Decade, is a dry but worthwhile effort to debunk the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) claims regarding its flagship LEED program. Anyone interested in solid accounting of the shortcomings of the LEED rating system and the buildings it certifies will find his book compelling.… While his critique of LEED is valid, Murphy alternatively advocates for the hyper-rationality of the Passive House as a response to the ecological crisis, failing to understand that the crisis is social in origin.… | more…

Capitalism and the Curse of Energy Efficiency

The Return of the Jevons Paradox

The curse of energy efficiency, better known as the Jevons Paradox—the idea that increased energy (and material-resource) efficiency leads not to conservation but increased use—was first raised by William Stanley Jevons in the nineteenth century. Although forgotten for most of the twentieth century, the Jevons Paradox has been rediscovered in recent decades and stands squarely at the center of today’s environmental dispute… | more…

The Humanization of the Cosmos—To What End?

Society is increasingly humanizing the cosmos. Satellites have for some time been central to the flow of information, to surveillance, and to the conduct of warfare. As these examples suggest, however, the humanization of the cosmos is primarily benefiting the powerful. These include major economic and military institutions. Furthermore, the forthcoming commodification and colonization of the cosmos is again likely to enhance the interests of the powerful, the major aerospace companies in particular. The time has come to consider alternative forms of cosmic humanization. These would enhance the prospects of the socially marginalized. They would also allow humanity to develop a better understanding of the cosmos and our relationship to it… | more…

The Guilt of Capitalism

Though it is neither written nor marketed as such, Who Owns the Sun? by researcher/activists Daniel Berman and John O’Connor, is a devastating indictment of capitalism. As it has developed in the last two centuries, this system is an enormous user of energy, most of it derived from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). An additional—and in some parts of the world increasing—source is nuclear fission. Both of these forms of energy are dangerous and environmentally destructive to life on the planet. Burning fossil fuels generates almost all of the greenhouse gasses that have already begun to change the planet’s climate and, if continued at anywhere near the present rates, will trigger a chain reaction of lethal disasters, not in some vaguely distant future but in the next century or so—historically a relatively short span of time. Nuclear fission leaves a legacy of radioactive waste that cannot now, or perhaps ever, be safely disposed of. Clearly if humanity, not to speak of other forms of life, is to have a future, nothing could be more important than phasing out these sources of energy. So much, I believe, is what can be appropriately called ecological common sense… | more…

Chemical Catastrophe: From Bhopal to BP Texas City

Twenty-five years ago, a runaway chemical reaction in a tank at a Union Carbide (UC) pesticide factory created a poisonous gas which, unimpeded by the factory’s safety devices, spewed out over the sleeping population of the Indian city of Bhopal. Amnesty International estimated that seven thousand to ten thousand died in the catastrophe’s first three days, and that, by 2004, another fifteen thousand died. Prior to Bhopal, concern over toxic chemicals was confined to long-term or chronic effects on human health and the environment. Bhopal, however, showed that the manufacture, storage, and use of toxic chemicals also posed a major, acute risk to the safety of those working in and living around petrochemical plants and complexes… | more…

Our Last Chance to Save Humanity?

James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009), 320 pages, $25.00, hardcover.

James Hansen, one of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, has written an important book about the threat posed by climate change. The title, Storms of My Grandchildren, refers to the prediction of more powerful and more damaging storms in a warmer, future earth. Subtitled The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, the book is written for a lay public and is certain to be controversial… | more…

The Nuclear Winter

I feel embarrassed to be unaware of the subject, one that I have not even heard mentioned before. On the contrary, I would have understood much earlier that the risks of a nuclear war were far more serious than I imagined. I assumed that the planet would be able to withstand the explosion of hundreds of nuclear bombs calculating that, in both the United States and the USSR, countless tests have been carried out over the years. I had not taken into account a very simple reality: it is not the same thing to explode 500 nuclear bombs over 1,000 days as it is to

I am an optimist on rational grounds

THE days are passing by. One after another, they are going by rapidly. Some people are getting anxious. I, on the other hand, am calm.

I share with our workers the results they are achieving in their work, in the midst of the blockade and other accumulated necessities.… | more…

A call to the President of the United States

A few days ago, an article was published that really contained many facts related to the oil spill that occurred 105 days ago.

President Obama had authorized the drilling of that well, trusting in the capacity of modern technology to produce oil, which he wished to make abundantly available, thus freeing the United States from its dependence on foreign supplies of that product vital to current civilization. Its excessive consumption of oil had already given rise to energetic protests from environmentalists.… | more…

El Salvador: Mining the Resistance

“Ultimately,” said Miguel Rivera, a soft-spoken man in his late twenties, “we are a family that has dedicated ourselves to helping the people with their needs and defending their rights. But in the process of denouncing the consequences of mining especially, I think there are people that will be your enemies.”…The Canadian-owned Pacific Rim Mining Company has attempted to exploit a gold mine at El Dorado for the better part of a decade, and has been repeatedly thwarted in its efforts….Now, apparently, the company’s local allies have taken a more violent approach to removing that opposition.… | more…

Time to Pay the Piper

Ariel Salleh, ed., Eco-Sufficiency and Global Justice: Women Write Political Ecology (New York: Pluto Press, 2009), 324 pages, $34.00, paperback.

In 2001, Wilma Dunaway wrote that the “tentacles of the world-system are entwined around the bodies of women.” Yet her literary analysis revealed a profound silence about the role of women in reproductive labor, subsistence households, and commodity chain analysis. Dunaway characterized this omission as, “the greatest intellectual and political blunder” in her field.…Nearly ten years later, Ariel Salleh has answered this unspoken call with the resounding voices of seventeen feminist scholars who address transdisciplinary issues of global political ecology.… | more…

FacebookRedditTwitterEmailPrintFriendlyShare