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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…

The Insanities of Our Era

THERE is no alternative but to call things by their name. Anyone with minimal commonsense can observe without much effort how little realism remains in the current world.

When United States President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Michael Moore stated “Now please earn it!” That witty comment pleased a lot of people for its acuity, although the Norwegian committee’s decision was perceived by many as no more than demagogy and an exaltation of the apparently inoffensive politicking of the new president of the United States, an African American, a good speaker and an intelligent politician at the head of a powerful empire enveloped

The Dangers that are Threatening Us

This is not an ideological issue related to the irremediable hope that a better world is and must be possible.

It is known that homo sapiens has existed for approximately 200,000 years, equivalent to a minuscule space in the time that has passed since the first forms of elemental life on our planet emerged around three billion years ago.

Responses to the unfathomable mysteries of life and nature have basically been of a religious nature. It would lack sense to pretend that that was otherwise, and I have the conviction that it will always be like this. The more profound the explanations of science in relation to

What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

For those concerned with the fate of the earth, the time has come to face facts: not simply the dire reality of climate change but also the pressing need for social-system change. The failure to arrive at a world climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009 was not simply an abdication of world leadership, as is often suggested, but had deeper roots in the inability of the capitalist system to address the accelerating threat to life on the planet. Knowledge of the nature and limits of capitalism, and the means of transcending it, has therefore become a matter of survival. In the words of Fidel Castro in December 2009: “Until very recently, the discussion [on the future of world society] revolved around the kind of society we would have. Today, the discussion centers on whether human society will survive.”… | more…

Why Programs Fail

Several generations of development programs have left the gap between rich and poor countries wider than ever. Decades of aid and foreign investment have extracted many times more wealth than they bring in. Seventeen years after the Earth Summit at Rio, carbon dioxide continues to increase. The non-proliferation treaty has left us with more nukes, more countries possessing nukes, more sophisticated nuclear weapons, more willingness to use them. The fanfare of the Green Revolution has died down, and farmers are still being displaced to cities that can’t accommodate them. The first homes of the Green Revolution are now importers of food. Agricultural yields have increased, but so has hunger. Millennial development goals will not be reached.…It is not that no programs work. There have been dramatic successes such as the eradication of smallpox, the near eradication of polio, the containment of plague.…There is a pattern of a sort: narrowly focused technical solutions reshuffle crises.… | more…