The climate crisis ultimately reveals the failure of the supposed economic and technological “progress” of Western civilization. The majority is now aware that the neoliberal system, which claims to be committed to freedom and progress, has now failed. What the exploitation of workers, the worldwide hunger and the ever-increasing poverty have shown for decades finds its last proof in the climate crisis. Capitalism has not only uprooted and alienated mankind from (its own) nature, but has also attacked and dismembered nature to such an extent that all living beings are deprived of their livelihood. The climate crisis is not a natural development, nor is it, as some claim, the result of overpopulation.
The climate crisis is the result of unlimited production, unlimited market freedom and consumer orientation. It is a question of economic and energy policy, and therefore of the system in which we live. All statistics suggest that climate change is man-made and that greenhouse gas emissions are particularly due to the excessive use of fossil fuels in the mass production of goods under capitalism.
An ecological struggle must be explicitly anti-capitalist and must not make compromises with capital.
The next few years will present the movement with great challenges: It must not rely on parliamentary politics and must consistently fight against “green capitalism”.
The movements must not bow, and the only way to fight consistently is to develop a positive, socialist perspective for the future, a real alternative for which it is worth fighting. The demands and goals should therefore never be formulated only negatively, but should also contain concrete positive aspects for a livable, beautiful future for all. Those who cannot present an alternative will see no light at the end of the tunnel and will lose themselves in recurring aberrations.
Creating an alternative that brings together and involves all parts of society can overcome an incredible number of barriers. The example of self-governing structures in Rojava/Northern Syria shows the strength of political self-government.
“System change not climate change” is what many protests say. We should take this slogan at its word and organize a way of living together that is worth living for everyone in the world. The ecological struggle can only be internationalist, not only because regional changes do not bring much, but also because we have to be aware that the extreme greenhouse gas emissions of the so-called industrialised countries affect above all economically poorer regions, which lack the means to protect themselves from the effects. The supposedly progressive Western civilisation is responsible not only for its own crisis, but also for the degradation of nature everywhere. At the end of history, capitalism shot itself in the foot, and it is now up to people all over the world to shake the already broken system for good. from here: https://makerojavagreenagain.org/2019/06/23/against-green-capitalism/
Disagreements about the role of violence in political movements is at least as old as those movements. Extinction Rebellion have tried to short cut such discussions through reference to a piece of research they suggest shows non-violent movements are twice as successful in achieving their objectives.
This episode of We Only Want the Earth examines what this paper actually claims and use this as a way to talk about non-violence and recent radical political movements. It’s a journey that will take us through the research paper itself to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement, the murderous state repression of Bloody Sunday 1972, Reclaim the Streets and the summit protests of the early 2000s to argue that simplified versions of tactical debates around non-violence are worse than useless and do nothing to prepare XR activists for the years of struggle ahead.
Wind turbine blades are made from light-weight plastic composite materials, which are voluminous and impossible to recycle. Although the mass of the blades is limited compared to the total mass of a wind turbine, it’s not negligible. For example, one 60 m long fiberglass blade weighs 17 tonnes, meaning that a 5 MW wind turbine produces more than 50 tonnes of plastic composite waste from the blades alone.
A windmill blade typically consists of a combination of epoxy – a petroleum product – with fiberglass reinforcements. The blades also contain sandwiched core materials, such as polyvinyl chloride foam, polyethylene terephtalate foam, balsa wood (intertwined in fibers and epoxy) and polyurethane coatings.
Unlike the steel in the tower, the plastic in blades cannot be recycled to make new plastic blades. The material can only be “downcycled”, for instance by shredding it, which damages the fibers and makes them useless for anything but a filler reinforcement in cement or asphalt production. Other methods are being investigated, but they all run into the same problem: nobody wants the “recycled” material. Some architects have re-used windmill blades, for example to build benches or playgrounds. But we cannot build everything out of wind turbine blades.
Because of the limited options for recycling and re-use, windmill blades are usually landfilled (in the US) or incinerated (in the EU). The latter approach is not less unsustainable, because incinerating the blades only partially reduces the amount of material to be landfilled (60% of the scrap remains as ash) and converts the rest into air pollution. Furthermore, given that fiberglass is incombustible, the caloric value of the blades is so limited that little or no power can be produced.
Most of the roughly 250,000 wind turbines now in operation worldwide were installed less than 25 years ago, which is their estimated life expectancy. However, the rapid growth of wind power over the last two decades will soon be reflected in a delayed but ever increasing and never-ending supply of waste materials. For example in Europe, the share of installed wind turbines older than 15 years increases from 12% in 2016 to 28% in 2020. In Germany, Spain and Denmark, their share increases to 41-57%. In 2020 alone, these countries will each have to dispose of 6,000 to 12,000 wind turbine blades.
Discarded blades will not only become more numerous but also larger, reflecting a continuous trend towards ever larger rotor diameters. Wind turbines built 25 years ago had blade lengths of around 15-20 m, while today’s blades reach lengths of 75-80 m or more. Estimates based on current growth figures for wind power have suggested that composite materials from blades worldwide will amount to 330,000 tonnes of waste per year by 2028, and to 418,000 tonnes per year by 2040.
These are conservative estimates, because numerous blade failures have been reported, and because constant development of more efficient blades with higher power generating capacity is resulting in blade replacement well before their estimated lifespan. Furthermore, this amount of waste results from wind turbines installed between 2005 and 2015, when wind power only supplied a maximum of 4% of global power demand. If wind would supply a more desirable 40% of (current) power demand, there would be three to four million tonnes of waste per year.
Yet a look at the history of wind power shows that plastic is not an essential material. The use of wind for mechanical power production dates back to Antiquity, and the first electricity generating windmills – now called wind turbines – were built in the 1880s. However, fiberglass blades only took off in the 1980s. For some two thousand years, windmills of whatever type were entirely recyclable.
New wood production technology and design makes it possible to build larger wind turbines almost entirely out of wood again – not just the blades, but also the rest of the structure. This would solve the waste issue and make the manufacturing of wind turbines largely independent of fossil fuels and mined materials. A forest planted in between the wind turbines could provide the wood for the next generation of wind turbines.
In this episode, we speak with a member of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation, about the increasing threat of climate change, growing State repression against protest, new activist formations such as Extinction Rebellion, and legislative proposals such as the “Green New Deal.” Is there hope in the State being able to legislate the climate crisis away, or should humanity instead look towards building a material force through social movements as a means of ensuring survival in the coming decades?
Throughout this conversation we ask:
How should autonomous anti-capitalists and anarchists approach new formations such as Extinction Rebellion and the Climate Strike and push them in anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, and direct action orientation?
How can this new wave of energy feed into existing front line land defense and anti-pipeline struggles?
What should our stance be towards things like the Green New Deal?
How can we use the memory of struggles like Standing Rock to hammer home anti-statist, anti-colonial, and anti-capitalist ideas?
When I was ten years old, I read and re-read a stack of decades-old Modern Mechanix magazines that I found in my grandfather’s basement. Throughout the Great Depression, MM regaled its readers with breathless accounts of technological marvels that were going to change the world, very soon.
Issue after issue promised the kind of things that were later parodied in The Jetsons TV show — flying cars, air conditioned cities, weather control, robots and the like.
The same publisher produced The Technocrats’ Magazine, devoted to the claim that if engineers ran the government, new technology would lead to a world of plenty and a 13-hour work week.
Fully Automated Luxury Communism lacks the garish covers, but otherwise it reminds me of those magazines. If Aaron Bastani is to be believed, new technological marvels are about to create “a society in which work is eliminated, scarcity replaced by abundance, and where labour and leisure blend into one another.”
The title isn’t a joke — the author, a leftish journalist who often appears on British television, seriously argues that new technology will solve all our problems and usher in a new era of abundance for all, making capitalism obsolete. Agriculture and steam engines radically disrupted human societies in the past, and now a Third Disruption based on information processing and microchips has begun — “a world dramatically different from our own is both inevitable and near at hand.”
Chapter after chapter of Fully Automated Luxury Communism hails the wonderful world of tomorrow. Solar cells will deliver limitless energy so cheaply that fossil fuels will be rapidly and totally replaced. Intelligent robots and automatons will do all the hard work and most of the easy stuff, too. Genetic engineering will “spell the end of age-related and inherited illness altogether.” Milk and eggs and all kinds of meat will be grown in vats, making vegans of us all and eliminating industrial farms. Cheap rockets built by 3-D printers will mine asteroids (“perhaps as early as 2030”) so we will never run out of raw materials.
All of this is related with the kind of gee whiz enthusiasm that ten-year-old me loved in my grandfather’s magazines. Radical changes are coming sooner than we expect, and each is awarded the ultimate futurist accolade — paradigm shift!
In case you doubt that such sweeping changes can happen quickly, Bastani repeats the oft-told story of the “Horse Manure Crisis” that “struck fear into the hearts of Londoners” in 1894. There were so many horses in the city that, The Times calculated, “in fifty years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.” An urban studies conference held four years later found the problem insoluble — but of course it disappeared when automobiles replaced horses a few years later.
Similarly, Bastani tells us, “A few short decades from now, the seemingly terminal problems of today will appear as absurd as the London manure crisis of 1894 does to us.”
This was my first clue that Bastani’s research is unreliable, because the Horse Manure Crisis is a myth. The article he confidently quotes was never published in The Times or anywhere else, and that urban studies conference didn’t happen. The Times itself says the story is “fake news.” A simple internet search would have shown him that the anecdote and his conclusion are, well, horse manure.
The rest of his research is just as superficial. He provides no footnotes at all, so his claims are hard to check, but his bibliography mainly lists newspaper and magazine articles, not scientific studies. His enthusiastic account of India’s Green Revolution, for example, depends entirely on one magazine article by anti-environmentalist Gregg Esterbrook, ignoring many studies of the social and environmental damage caused by dependence on proprietary seeds and synthetic fertilizers. His accounts of robots and space mining draw heavily on statements by entrepreneurs whose prime concern is to impress investors. I’m sorry, but Elon Musk is not a reliable guide.
There’s another problem with the horse manure story. While cars solved some problems, they created bigger ones, including air pollution, climate change, urban sprawl, and over a million traffic deaths every year. Not once does Bastani even hint that his exciting new technologies might have downsides. Does engineering the human genome pose no dangers? Will synthetic meat factories have no environmental impact? He tells us that space miners will move mineral-rich asteroids closer to Earth, but doesn’t question the wisdom of pushing gigantic space rocks towards our vulnerable planet. Remember the dinosaurs?
An ecological society will certainly need advanced technologies — but implementing them properly will depend on the precautionary principle, not thoughtless cheerleading.
He doesn’t say so, but Bastani’s argument parallels the claim made by pro-capitalist ecomodernists, that technology will “decouple” economic growth from environmental damage. The difference is that they think capitalism will last forever, while he thinks it can’t survive decoupled growth that radically reduces the cost of energy and goods. “Faced with the limitless, virtually free supply of anything, its internal logic starts to break down. This is because its central presumption is that scarcity will always exist.”
As Bill Jefferies has pointed out, this confuses capitalism as such with neo-classical economic theory. Far from being threatened by abundance, capital thrives on it. If the cost of energy and raw materials falls as Bastani expects, some corporations may disappear, but others will take advantage of low costs to create new industries and manufacture more commodities. Technology may change capitalism, but nothing short of revolution will stop its deadly growth.
Bastani frequently quotes Marx, but his economics are Keynesian, his history is crude technological determinism, and his political program doesn’t go beyond social democratic reforms.
After promising “previously unthinkable abundance” and an end to work, what he actually advocates is an expanded welfare state and traditional electoral politics. Marx said the workers must emancipate themselves, but Bastani tells us that “the majority of people are only able to be politically active for brief periods of time,” so they must depend on populist politicians who will win their votes by promising unlimited luxury for all.
Those politicians will promote local economic development by encouraging cooperatives and credit unions, while central banks keep interest rates low and invest in “automation that serves the people.” Everyone will be guaranteed access to energy, housing, healthcare and education, paid for in part by a tax on greenhouse gas emissions.
Those are progressive measures that deserve support, but none of them goes one step beyond the limits of capitalism. The “transformation as seismic as that of the arrival of agriculture” is nowhere in sight.
Like Modern Mechanix magazines, Bastani’s book is long on sensational speculation, but the back pages don’t deliver on the cover’s promises. It trivializes the global environmental crisis with badly-researched techno-hype and political plans that don’t come close to addressing the world’s problems. In the end, Fully Automated Luxury Communism is just an empty slogan.
XR co-founder Roger Hallam has noted that: ‘if we are serious about the truth we face we have to be serious about organising and rebelling effectively’. Yet, notwithstanding its recent success, the XR leadership’s ‘apocalyptic organising’ and faulty strategy are likely to lead it into a dead end.
Fortunately, a clear alternative – rooted in the practice of past successful movements and compatible with XR’s ‘self-organising system’ – already exists: building strong and sustainable movements, made up of numerous, tightly-focused, escalating direct action campaigns, to win ever-more-ambitious goals and demands.
In the XR video, ‘Why International Rebellion?’, Roger Hallam claims that there are only three options for those who want to tackle climate change: ‘more cheques to NGOs’, ‘violence’ and ‘mass participation civil disobedience’ – that is: ‘loads of people going to the capital city and… clos[ing] down that capital city until something dramatic happens’.
Hallam rejects the first two possibilities and claims that the third is ‘our best bet’ – ‘there’s not, like, a fourth option out there’
In fact, many of the most famous and successful examples of activism, such as the US civil rights movement, took just such a ‘fourth option’: building strong movements out of focused campaigns.
To carry out anything on the scale required to halt climate collapse will require both an acceleration of forward steps and the sort of urgency of commitment that XR and the climate strikers are already demonstrating.
But ask yourself which seems more likely. That thousands of people blocking traffic in central London over the next few years will force the government to hand over power to an unelected citizens’ assembly, which will then decide to make rapid and unprecedented economic, social and political changes across society and that these will then be implemented?
Or that hundreds of inter-connecting and reinforcing campaigns, from local to national, build the power needed to make these and other changes over the coming decade?
In the UK some local XR groups appear to be naturally gravitating towards setting up campaigns, and XR’s ‘self-organising system’ certainly allows for such developments. Indeed, according to XR’s own manuals ‘[a]ny person or group can organise autonomously around the issues that feel most pressing for them, and take action in the name and spirit of [XR] – so long as the action fits within [its] principles and values.’
However, for a movement to really begin to make meaningful progress it is important: (1) that groups actually dig in to win their demands from their targets (as opposed to scattershot one-off protests that may generate some media interest but are unlikely to achieve much in the way of concrete victories); and (2) that groups resist thinking that the ‘rebellions’ (the big mass protests) are the main event and that the local and regional stuff are ultimately just recruitment tools for these.
For, as Lakey notes, it is ‘[w]hen growing campaigns build the direct action skills and attitudes for mass struggle, and merge into movements, and push those movements to join in a movement of movements, [that] we’ll have the people power to push aside the 1% and transform our countries.’
We’ve reached a point where the very notion that business is in some way working hard to address our environmental and social challenges is laughable. To the contrary, the evidence strongly suggests that the greatest efforts of corporations is to maintain the status quo.
Another absurd narrative is that billionaires are somehow big-brained problem solvers who are graciously bringing their special skills to the table to address our social and environmental challenges — this is nonsense.
Billionaires are simply good business people who got lucky with a trend and who benefit from a rigged system that allows them to legally avoid paying taxes.
They certainly don’t deserve the esteemed status that society places upon them. The ability to grow a business does not qualify them to lead solutions to the Earth’s biggest social and environmental challenges.
Throwing big dollars around that should have been paid as taxes should not be a pathway to influencing public policy; like everyone else, influence should arise from democratic channels.
Can we agree that corporate elites and billionaires are not our saviours for progressive change? In fact, quite the contrary, through their direct and indirect lobbying efforts and subtle influence as “elites” business leaders have delivered a unique form of climate-destroying and wealth-hoarding capitalism that is sending us straight into an existential and climate crisis.
Let’s face it, the “elites” have done everything except tell us directly that they don’t want change.
Those of us who work hard, pay our taxes and follow the rules will find our lives more onerous and precarious as a climate “bomb” sweeps across the planet. But fear not for the billionaires, they will be spared from the coming social collapse.
Private estates and bunkers equipped with industrial-sized greenhouses, water purification systems, giant solar arrays, a small farm with animals and a guarded perimeter will keep the elites and their friends nice and safe while the system that they helped to create implodes.
We can say with our heads held high that until now our desire for leadership and solutions has been so strong that we accepted some pretty far-fetched ideas about business and it’s desire to reverse course and protect the planet.
Perhaps we are a little naive or maybe it is out of pure desperation that we take corporations and their puppet politicians at their word, but in the end they haven’t delivered and won’t.
Meanwhile we continue to witness the continued decline of every major ecosystem on the planet.
The corporate sustainability movement is rigged; it’s controlled by the “winners” of capitalism to complicate, stonewall and resist progressive change. Ask yourself, why is it that when an environmental crisis is identified and change is deemed necessary, the first goal of government policy seems to be about maintaining the status quo and the profits of business even when doing so would clearly be an inadequate response to the crisis?
Imagine if the corporations and politicians were held accountable both morally and financially for the devastating harm that they have caused during the last 40 years, and stripped of their plundered wealth and assets, and their power handed to the people to democratically run the planet in the best interests of everyone.
At least 13 journalists have been killed while reporting on environmental stories around the world in the past decade, and 16 more suspicious deaths are being investigated, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Forbidden Stories – a consortium of 40 journalists from 15 media outlets including OCCRP – also found that journalists investigating environmental issues often face arrest, harassment and violence.
Bans on some single-use plastic products have been a popular but it won’t be enough: plastics demand is rising and will continue to rise through the next ten years at least, Axios reported recently, noting that demand for ethane—the largest feedstock for plastics—will hit 1.7 million barrels per day this year in the US alone, up by 83 percent from 2012.
It is this prospect of rising plastics demand that is spurring a lot more investment in petrochemicals in the Big Oil group. Big Oil goes where the profits are and the environmentalist offensive against internal combustion engines will eventually lead to a decline in oil demand from the transportation sector. Plastics, however, will endure.
Petrochemicals will come to account for more than 33 percent of oil demand growth globally in the period to 2030. By 2050, they will drive half of the global oil demand growth, raising this demand by 7 million bpd by that year, the International Energy Agency said in a report last October.
Petrochemicals are used in thousands of products, with the biggest group among these being single-use plastic products. Yet, even if single-use plastic products are removed from the supply chain, enough demand will remain to drive the consumption of crude oil. Even electric cars need plastics and according to the consensus forecast, the world will need a lot more EVs in the years to come.
BP projects petrochemicals will come to account for as much as 70 percent of the growth in oil demand by 2040. That would be up from 50 percent in 2018. No wonder, then, that Big Oil is focusing on petrochemicals. Despite the opposition despite the likelihood of more stringent measures for reining in our plastics use, the demand will be there and it will be strong enough to justify billions in investments.
We don’t throw away cars with faulty batteries. We expect to fix something when it’s broken. At least we did for a few hundred years.
“We used to have vacuum and TV repair shops, and now it’s garbage trucks taking our stuff away,” ..The very right to keep the products you own for a long time is being taken away, simply because the disposable society is promoted by manufacturers seeking bigger profits for shareholders.
According to the iFixIt website, for every 1,000 tons of electronics, landfilling creates zero jobs, recycling creates 15, and repairing creates 200 jobs.
Excellent read on fighting the corporations and their built in obsolescence here: