Extinction Repression: How the state criminalizes climate activists

From the UK’s Green Anti-Capitalist Front

We can imagine the surprise of Extinction Rebellion (XR) members last week, reading themselves described as ‘extremists’ and ‘anarchists’. These labels come courtesy of the former head of counter-terrorism for the Metropolitan Police Richard Walton and his co-author Tom Wilson, in a report demanding that ‘the honeymoon that Extinction Rebellion has enjoyed to date needs to come to an end.’ The days of cops skateboarding along bridges and dancing with protestors may soon be over. A different treatment now awaits XR’s rebels. They may not understand why. But we understand all too clearly. 

Pictured: Riot police pepper-spraying non-violent Extinction Rebellion protestors in Paris

Walton retired from the Metropolitan Police in a disgraceful attempt to dodge corruption charges surrounding the MacPherson Inquiry.1 This inquiry had been called in response to the Met’s mishandling of the racially-motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence. While this inquiry was ongoing, a spycop for the Met going by ‘David Hagen’ was spying on the Lawrence family. Bob Lambert (the spycop involved in infiltrating Greenpeace), Richard Walton and ‘David Hagen’ met in Lambert’s garden where intelligence on the Lawrence family and the campaign groups supporting them was passed to Walton so he could prepare the police commissioner for the Met’s response. Far from Walton being just one rotten apple, the MacPherson Inquiry had been launched to investigate corruption and racism within the Metropolitan Police and concluded that the Met was ‘institutionally racist’.

This institutionalized racism pervades the Met to this very day,2 as we saw in Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Week of Rebellion’, when on the 19th April London’s cops attacked and arrested a black woman, who was unaffiliated with XR, for simply trying to walk down a street.3 Indeed we saw this racism extend to those in XR who were so keen to work with the police, as on the 22nd April XR’s police liasons in Marble Arch reported a group of Asian activists for crimes they had not commit, subjecting them to detainment and immigration checks.4 The authors of this report are no strangers to racism either: in their previous report for the Policy Exchange (which has a habit of publishing racist reports based on fabricated evidence 5), Walton and Wilson claimed that defining ‘Islamophobia’ as a form of racism would ‘cripple’ counter-terrorism policing.6 

The police call their own violence ‘law’ and ‘justice’, whilst calling the self-defensive actions of individuals ‘crime’ and ‘extremism’. This report is yet more proof that it does not matter how family-friendly your image is: whether you’re a grieving family member or a nonviolent climate protest, if you threaten the status quo the state must declare you a threat. XR can sing songs and make art and tell the cops they love them, but if there is even a chance that they will challenge the system they must be crushed. 

The authors are not subtle about this. In a report called ‘Extremism Rebellion’, the word ‘extremism’ and its variations only occur 19 times; ‘environmental’, 48 times. Variations on ‘capitalism’ appear 101 times.7 

It is obsessive. Even we anti-capitalists do not usually devote so much breath to the word. 

What is clear to anyone masochistic enough to read the 73-page report: Walton and Wilson are especially terrified by the possibility of XR presenting compelling non-capitalist visions of society – far more terrified than he is by the prospect of the ecological devastation against which we fight. He claims XR are at heart secret anti-capitalists, and tries to find evidence of such unforgivable politics. (Well, if we have been missing a trick and it is actually true that ‘at its core, Extinction Rebellion is an anti-capitalist movement’, the Green Anti-Capitalist Front are happy to hear it.)

Pictured: Police blocking off the area around the pink ‘Tell The Truth’ boat

It is no coincidence that they focus on the slogan strung across the pink boat – SYSTEM CHANGE NOT CLIMATE CHANGE – because that call for system change is at the heart of XR’s ‘extremist’ threat. And so the authors call for a far-reaching response from government: ‘Simply acting against the protestors, however, will not be enough to undermine Extinction Rebellion, which may be on the verge of becoming a wider social movement […] more also needs to be done to counter the extreme message of Extinction Rebellion who argue that catastrophe can only be averted if the free market and economic growth are abandoned.’7 

It is also no coincidence that this report is being published by the Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank set up by a cabal of Conservative Party politicians and business executives including Nick Boles, Michael Gove, Frances Maude and Archie Norman.8 
Their current chairman is Alexander Downer, former Australian Foreign Minister turned fossil fuel lobbyist, who is currently on the boards of Lakes Oil and surveillance-tech giant Huawei.91011 Policy Exchange is also one of the few think tanks in the country that refuses to release information about their funding, however we do know that they have received money from BP and Peter Cruddas (a corrupt tory donor with investments in fossil fuels).1213 Suffice to say, Policy Exchange has a vested interest in the preservation of the fossil fuel industry, the expansion of state powers and the proliferation of surveillance capitalism.

The recommendations of this report would affect us all, and it is gruesomely easy to imagine how euphemisms like these might play out in reality: ‘Legislation relating to public protest needs to be urgently reformed in order to strengthen the ability of the police to place restrictions on planned protest and deal more effectively with mass law-breaking tactics.’ Naturally: the police want to handle protestors even more brutally – they are frustrated this is not currently legal – they call for even more brutality to be made legal, then. This is the system change they want.

Pictured: Heavily armed police walking through Extinction Rebellion’s Parliament Square blockade

What happens next will probably not surprise us. If people like Richard Walton get their way, the bare minimum will be increased restrictions on protests, harsher legislation, heavier sentencing, and all the other methods with which we are sadly familiar. This is no new story. That does not mean we should ignore it.

This report claimed that ‘Extinction Rebellion is now at a crossroads’, and we are watching to see which direction it takes. How will it respond to increased repression? Will it change the way it describes police and prisons once so many of its rebels experience their violence first-hand? Will it tone down its criticisms of capitalism in an attempt to appease the police and conservative politicians? Or will it understand that being a rebel means acknowledging the brutal reality of state repression and the systems it exists to defend, and struggling on in defiance of this?

The Green Anti-Capitalist Front stands in solidarity with all those who suffer from state violence and repression in the fight against climate change, and we do not look forward to seeing XR’s rebels being met with increased brutality. We support the challenges to capitalism which would make XR such a source of fear for some, and we know that we, too, will be met with brutality when we make them.

Footnotes

1. Police chief accused of covering up secret ploy to spy on the family of murdered Stephen Lawrence dodges disciplinary action by retiring by Stephen Wright, for the Daily Mail 
2. Metropolitan police still institutionally racist, say black and Asian officers by Hugh Muir, for the Guardian 
3. Police officer pushes woman at Extinction Rebellion protest by News Leak 
4. Selling Extinction by Prolekult 
5. Disastrous Misjudgement? by Peter Barron, for the BBC 
6. Islamophobia – Crippling Counter Terrorism by Richard Walton and Tom Wilson, for the Policy Exchange 
7. Extremism Rebellion by Richard Walton and Tom Wilson, for the Policy Exchange 
8. Thinkers behind fresh Tory policies move up in party hierarchy by David Hencke, for the Guardian 
9. Downer joins Lakes Oil as Rinehart board appointee by Peter Cai, for the Sydney Morning Herald 
10. Huawei names John Brumby, Alexander Downer board members by Michael Sainsbury, for the Australian 
11. Policy Exchange is delighted to announce that our next Chairman of Trustees will be Alexander Downer, High Commissioner of Australia by the Policy Exchange 
12. After Blair by Ravid Chandiramani, for Brand Republic 
13. Financial Statement 2008-09, p. 11.; Financial Statement 2009-10, p. 13. by the Peter Cruddas Foundation

The Destruction of Nature (1909 by Anton Pannekoek)

Reproduced from The Socialist party of Great Britains’s official blog https://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-destruction-of-nature-1909-by-anton.html

This early article by the renown socialist scholar, as well as respected astronomer, Anton Pannekoek, goes a long way to dispel the idea that socialists have held a very productivist view about mankind’s relationship with the environment. It deserves a wide circulation within the ecology movement. 

The destruction of nature (Anton Pannekoek, 1909)

There are numerous complaints in the scientific literature about the increasing destruction of forests. But it is not only the joy that every nature-lover feels for forests that should be taken into account. There are also important material interests, indeed the vital interests of humanity. With the disappearance of abundant forests, countries known in Antiquity for their fertility, which were densely populated and famous as granaries for the great cities, have become stony deserts. Rain seldom falls there except as devastating diluvian downpours that carry away the layers of humus which the rain should fertilise. Where the mountain forests have been destroyed, torrents fed by summer rains cause enormous masses of stones and sand to roll down, which clog up Alpine valleys, clearing away forests and devastating villages whose inhabitants are innocent, “due to the fact that personal interest and ignorance have destroyed the forest and headwaters in the high valley.”


The authors strongly insist on personal interest and ignorance in their eloquent description of this miserable situation but they do not look into its causes. They probably think that emphasising the consequences is enough to replace ignorance by a better understanding and to undo the effects. They do not see that this is only a part of the phenomenon, one of numerous similar effects that capitalism, this mode of production which is the highest stage of profit-hunting, has on nature.


Why is France a country poor in forests which has to import every year hundreds of millions of francs worth of wood from abroad and spend much more to repair through reforestation the disastrous consequences of the deforestation of the Alps? Under the Ancien Regime there were many state forests. But the bourgeoisie, who took the helm of the French Revolution, saw in these only an instrument for private enrichment. Speculators cleared 3 million hectares to change wood into gold. They did not think of the future, only of the immediate profit.


For capitalism all natural resources are nothing but gold. The more quickly it exploits them, the more the flow of gold accelerates. The private economy results in each individual trying to make the most profit possible without even thinking for a single moment of the general interest, that of humanity. As a result, every wild animal having a monetary value and every wild plant giving rise to profit is immediately the object of a race to extermination. The elephants of Africa have almost disappeared, victims of systematic hunting for their ivory. It is similar for rubber trees, which are the victim of a predatory economy in which everyone only destroys them without planting new ones. In Siberia, it has been noted that furred animals are becoming rarer due to intensive hunting and that the most valuable species could soon disappear. In Canada, vast virgin forests have been reduced to cinders, not only by settlers who want to cultivate the soil, but also by “prospectors” looking for mineral deposits who transform mountain slopes into bare rock so as to have a better overview of the ground. In New Guinea, a massacre of birds of paradise was organised to satisfy the expensive whim of an American woman billionaire. Fashion craziness, typical of a capitalism wasting surplus value, has already led to the extermination of rare species; sea birds on the east coast of America only owe their survival to the strict intervention of the state. Such examples could be multiplied at will.


But are not plants and animals there to be used by humans for their own purposes? Here, we completely leave aside the question of the preservation of nature as it would be without human intervention. We know that humans are the masters of the Earth and that they completely transform nature to meet their needs. To live, we are completely dependent on the forces of nature and on natural resources; we have to use and consume them. That is not the question here, only the way capitalism makes use of them.

A rational social order will have to use the available natural resources in such a way that what is consumed is replaced at the same time, so that society does not impoverish itself and can become wealthier. A closed economy which consumes part of its seed corn impoverishes itself more and more and must inevitably fail. But that is the way capitalism acts. This is an economy which does not think of the future but lives only in the immediate present. In today’s economic order, nature does not serve humanity, but capital. It is not the clothing, food or cultural needs of humanity that govern production, but capital’s appetite for profit, for gold.


Natural resources are exploited as if reserves were infinite and inexhaustible. The harmful consequences of deforestation for agriculture and the destruction of useful animals and plants expose the finite character of available reserves and the failure of this type of economy. Roosevelt recognises this failure when he wants to call an international conference to review the state of still available natural resources and to take measures to stop them being wasted.

Of course the plan itself is humbug. The state could do much to stop the pitiless extermination of rare species. But the capitalist state is in the end a poor representative of the good of humanity. It must halt in face of the essential interests of capital.
Capitalism is a headless economy which cannot regulate its acts by an understanding of their consequences. But its devastating character does not derive from this fact alone. Over the centuries humans have also exploited nature in a foolish way, without thinking of the future of humanity as a whole. But their power was limited. Nature was so vast and so powerful that with their feeble technical means humans could only exceptionally damage it. Capitalism, by contrast, has replaced local needs with world needs, and created modern techniques for exploiting nature. So it is now a question of enormous masses of matter being subjected to colossal means of destruction and removed by powerful means of transportation. Society under capitalism can be compared to a gigantic unintelligent body; while capitalism develops its power without limit, it is at the same time senselessly devastating more and more the environment from which it lives. Only socialism, which can give this body consciousness and reasoned action, will at the same time replace the devastation of nature by a rational economy.


Zeitungskorrespondenz N° 75, 10 July 1909,


Original German, and a French translation, can be found here:http://pantopolis.over-blog.com/2019/07/anton-pannekoek-la-destruction-de-la-nature-1909.html

Green Growth Debunked

Is economic growth compatible with ecological sustainability? A new report shows that efforts to decouple economic growth from environmental harm, known as ‘green growth’, have not succeeded and are unlikely to succeed in their aim.
There are seven reasons to be sceptical about green growth in the future.

Each of them taken individually casts doubt on the possibility for sufficient decoupling and, thus, the feasibility of “green growth.” Considered all together, the hypothesis that decoupling will allow economic growth to continue without a rise in environmental pressures appears highly compromised, if not clearly unrealistic.


1 Rising energy expenditures. When extracting a resource, cheaper options are generally used first, the extraction of remaining stocks then becoming a more resource- and energy-intensive process resulting in a rising total environmental degradation per unit of resource extracted.


2 Rebound effects. Efficiency improvements are often partly or totally compensated by a reallocation of saved resources and money to either more of the same consumption(e.g. using a fuel-efficient car more often), or other impactful consumptions (e.g. buying plane tickets for remote holidays with the money saved from fuel economies). It canalso generate structural changes in the economy that induce higher consumption (e.g. more fuel-efficient cars reinforce a car-based transport system at the expense of greener alternatives, such as public transport and cycling).


3 Problem shifting. Technological solutions to one environmental problem can create new ones and/or exacerbate others. For example, the production of private electric vehicles puts pressure on lithium, copper, and cobalt resources; the production of biofuel raises concerns about land use; while nuclear power generation produces nuclear risks and logistic concerns regarding nuclear waste disposal.


4 The underestimated impact of services. The service economy can only exist on top of the material economy, not instead of it. Services have a significant footprint that often adds to, rather than substitute, that of goods.


5 Limited potential of recycling. Recycling rates are currently low and only slowly increasing, and recycling processes generally still require a significant amount of energy and virgin raw materials. Most importantly, recycling is strictly limited in its ability to provide resources for an expanding material economy.


6 Insufficient and inappropriate technological change. Technological progress is not targeting the factors of production that matter for ecological sustainability andnot leading to the type of innovations that reduce environmental pressures; it is not disruptive enough as it fails to displace other undesirable technologies; and it is notin itself fast enough to enable a sufficient decoupling.


7 Cost shifting. What has been observed and termed as decoupling in some local cases was generally only apparent decoupling resulting mostly from an externalisation of environmental impact from high-consumption to low-consumption countries enabled by international trade. Accounting on a footprint basis reveals a much less optimistic picture and casts further doubt on the possibility of a consistent decoupling in the future.

Full Report: https://mk0eeborgicuypctuf7e.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Decoupling-Debunked-FULL-for-ONLINE.pdf

An Anarchist Solution to Global Warming ~ Peter Gelderloos

How would anarchists suggest we reorganize society in order to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to survive an already changed world?

There is no single anarchist position, and many anarchists refuse to offer any proposal at all, arguing that if society liberates itself from State and capitalism, it will change organically, not on the lines of any blueprint. Besides, the attitude of policy, seeing the world from above and imposing changes, is inextricable from the culture that is responsible for destroying the planet and oppressing its inhabitants.

Nonetheless, I want to outline one possible way we could organize our lives, not to make a concrete proposal, but because visions make us stronger, and we all need the courage to break once and for all with the existing institutions and the false solutions they offer. For the purposes of this text I’m not going to enter into any of the important debates regarding ideals — appropriate levels of technology, scale, organization, coordination, and formalization. I’m going to describe how an ecological, anti-authoritarian society could manifest itself, as it flows from the un-ideal complexity of the present moment. Also for simplicity’s sake, I won’t enter into the scientific debate around what is and isn’t sustainable. Those debates and the information they present are widely available, for those who want to do their own research.

I base the description of this future possible world both on what is physically necessary and what is ethically desirable, in accordance with the following premises.

  • Fossil fuel extraction and consumption need to come to a full stop.
  • Industrial food production must be replaced with the sustainable growing of food at the local level.
  • Centralizing power structures are inherently exploitative of the environment and oppressive towards people.
  • The mentality of quantitative value, accumulation, production, and consumption — that is to say, the mentality of the market — is inherently exploitative of the environment and oppressive towards people.
  • Medical science is infused with a hatred of the body, and though it has perfected effective response to symptoms, it is damaging to our health as currently practiced.
  • Decentralization, voluntary association, self-organization, mutual aid, and non-coercion are fully practical and have worked, both within and outside of Western Civilization, time and time again.

Welcome to the future. No one ever knew global society would look like this. Its defining feature is heterogeneity. Some cities have been abandoned, trees are growing up through their avenues, rivers rush where asphalt had once covered the ground, and skyscrapers crumble while deer forage at their foundations.

Other cities are thriving, but they have changed beyond recognition. Rooftops, vacant lots, and sidewalks have turned into gardens. Fruit- and nut-bearing trees line every block. Roosters welcome every dawn. About a tenth of the streets — the major thoroughfares — remain paved or gravelled, and buses running on biofuels traverse them regularly. Other streets have been consumed largely by the gardens and orchards, though bike paths run down the middle. The only buildings that have electricity twenty-four hours a day are the the water works, hospitals, and the radio stations. Theaters and community buildings get power until late on a rotating basis, so they can stay open for film nights or other events. Everyone has candles and wind-up lamps, though, so there’s a light on in many a window until late. But it’s nothing like how it used to be; at night you can see stars in the sky, and the children gape in disbelief when the old-timers tell how people had given that up.

Electricity is produced through a network of neighborhood-based power stations that burn agricultural waste (like corn cobs) and biofuels, and through a small number of wind turbines and solar panels. But the city works on just a fraction of what it used to. People heat and cool their homes through passive solar and efficient design, without any electricity. In the colder regions, people supplement this in the winter with the burning of renewable fuels, but houses are well insulated and ovens are designed with the greatest efficiency, so not much is needed. People also cook with fuel-burning ovens, or in sunnier climates solar ovens. Some cities that put more energy into manufacturing and maintaining renewable forms of electricity generation (solar, tidal, and wind) also cook with electricity. Many buildings have a shared washing machine, but all clothes drying is done the old-fashioned way: on a line.

No one has a refrigerator though every building or floor has a communal freezer. People store perishables like yogurt, eggs, and vegetables in a cool box or in a cellar, and they eat their food fresh or they can it. People grow half of their own produce in gardens on their block. Nearly all their food is grown within twenty miles of where they live. None of the food is genetically modified or produced with chemicals, and it is bred for taste and nutrition, not longevity and durability for transport. In other words, all the food tastes better, and people are far healthier. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, among the greatest killers in capitalist society, have all but disappeared. The super viruses created under capitalism, that killed millions of people throughout the collapse, have largely disappeared, as the use of antibiotics has almost stopped, people live in healthier conditions globally and have stronger immune systems, and global travel is not so frequent or fast-paced. People also have a much greater environmental consciousness and personal connection with their bioregion because they eat what’s in season and what grows locally, and they help grow it themselves.

Every house has a compost toilet and running water, but no sewage. It’s become sort of an unwritten rule around the world that every community must remediate its own waste. Sending pollution downstream is the greatest taboo. The relatively few remaining factories use fungi and microbes, on great forested plots around the factory compound, to remediate whatever pollutants they produce. Neighborhoods turn all their waste into compost or fuel. The amount of available water is limited, so buildings are equipped with rainwater catchments for the gardens. Households that greatly exceed the recommended quota for water usage are publicly shamed. The recommended quota is not enforced; it is simply a suggestion distributed by those who work in the water syndicate, based on how much water the city is allowed to divert from the water source, as agreed upon by all the communities that share the watershed.

In most cities, people hold periodic or ad hoc neighborhood assemblies to maintain the gardens, paths, streets, and buildings, to organize daycare, and to mediate disputes. People also participate in meetings with whatever syndicate or infrastrucutral project they may dedicate some of their time to. These might include the water syndicate, the transportation syndicate, the electricity syndicate, a hospital, a builders’ union, a healers’ union (the vast majority of health care is done by herbalists, naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists, midwives, and other specialists who make home visits), or a factory. Most of these are decentralized as much as possible, with individuals and small working groups trusted to know how to do their job, though when necessary they coordinate through meetings that usually run as open assemblies using consensus, with a preference for sharing perspectives and information over making decisions wherever possible. Sometimes, interregional meetings (such as for the communities of a watershed) are organized with a delegate structure, though meetings are always open to all, and always seek to reach decisions that satisfy everyone since there are no coercive institutions and coercion of any sort is widely frowned upon as “bringing back the old days.”

Because power is always localized to the greatest possible degree, the vast majority of decision-making is carried out by individuals or small groups that share affinity and regularly work together. Once there is no longer an emphasis, for purposes of control and accumulating power, on imposing homogeneity or singularity of outcomes, people have found that much coordination can simply take place organically, with different people making different decisions and figuring out for themselves how to reconcile these with the decisions of others.

Although today’s societies are structured to create feelings of community and mutuality, there is also a great amount of space for privacy and solitude. Many neighborhoods have communal kitchens and dining rooms, but people can and often do cook on their own and eat by themselves, when the mood strikes them. Some societies have public baths, while others do not, depending on cultural preference. The forced communalization of past experiments in socialist utopias is absent from this world. Private property has been abolished in the classical sense of the means of production that other people rely on for their survival, but anyone can have as many personal belongings as they can get — clothing, toys, a stash of candy or other goodies, a bicycle, etc.

The smaller or more intimate the community, the more likely it is to operate a gift economy — anything that you’re not using, you give away as a gift, strengthening your social ties and increasing the amount of goods in circulation — which is perhaps the longest lasting and most common economy in the history of the human species. Beyond the neighborhood level, or for items that are rare or not locally produced, people may trade. The syndicates of some cities may use a system of coupons for the distribution of things that are scarce or limited. If you work in the electricity syndicate, for example, you get a certain number of coupons that you can use to get things from the bicycle factory or from an out-of-town farmer.

The most common items produced in factories are bicycles, metal tools, cloth, paper, medical equipment, biofuels, and glass. More common than the factory is the workshop, in which people craft any number of things at a higher quality and slower, more dignified (and healthy) pace. Workshops usually use recycled material (after all, there are many old shopping malls filled with junk and scrap) and make things like toys, musical instruments, clothes, books, radios, electricity generation systems, bicycle and automobile parts.

Work is not compulsory, but nearly everyone does it. When they can be their own bosses, and make things that are useful, people tend to enjoy working. Those who don’t contribute by working in any way are often looked down on or excluded from the nicer aspects of living in society, but it is not considered acceptable to ever deny someone food or medical treatment. Because they don’t help others, they are unlikely to get fine foods, and healers are unlikely to give them consultations, massages, or accupuncture unless they have a specific problem, but they won’t be left to starve or die. It’s a small drain on the resources of the community, but nothing when compared to the parasitism of the bosses, politicians, and police forces of yesteryear.

There are no police anymore. Generally people are armed and trained in self-defense, and everyone’s daily life includes activities that foster a collective or communal sense of self-interest. People depend on cooperation and mutual aid for survival and happiness, so those who damage their social ties are above all harming and isolating themselves. People fought to overthrow their oppressors. They defeated the police and military forces of the ruling class, and they remember this victory. The imperative to never again be ruled forms a major part of their identity today. They are not about to be intimidated by the occasional psychopath or roving gang of protection racketeers.

In short, the city has a negligible environmental footprint. A high density of people live in an area that nonetheless has an impressive biodiversity, with many plant and animal species cohabiting the city. They don’t produce pollution that they don’t remediate themselves. They take some water from the watershed, but far less than a capitalist city, and in agreement with the other communities that use the watershed. They release some greenhouse gases through fuel burning, but it is less than the amount they take out of the atmosphere through their own agriculture (since all their fuels are agricultural, and the carbon they’re releasing is the same carbon those plants removed from the atmosphere as they grew). Nearly all their food is local and sustainably grown. They carry out a small amount of factory production, but most of it uses recycled materials.

Outside the city, the world is even more transformed. Deserts, jungles, mountainous regions, swamps, tundras, and other areas that cannot sustainably support high population densities have rewilded. No government programs were necessary to create nature preserves; it simply wasn’t worth the effort to remain there once fossil fuel production ended. Many of these areas have been reclaimed by their prior indigenous inhabitants. In many of them, people are again existing as hunter-gatherers, enacting the most intelligent form of economy possible in that bioregion and turning the conventional notion of what is futuristic on its head.

Some rural communities are self-sufficient, supporting themselves with garden agriculture and animal husbandry, or more intentionally with permaculture. Many people who moved out of the cities during the collapse set up these communes, and they’re happier and healthier than they’d ever been under capitalism. Some of the permaculture communities are composed of more traditional households, with each family tending an acre or two of land, spread out with a fairly homogenous distribution over a wide expanse of territory. Others comprise of a densely populated communal nucleus with several hundred inhabitants living on a dozen acres of intensively cultivated gardens, surrounded by orchards and pastures for fruit, nuts, and livestock, with an outer ring of natural forest as an ecological buffer and a place for occasional woodcutting, hunting, and wildcrafting. These rural communities are almost entirely self-sufficient, have a sustainable relationship with their landbase, encourage a high biodiversity, and produce no net release of greenhouse gases.

Rural communities in a tight radius around the cities carry out intensive agriculture aided by certain manufactured goods, in a symbiotic relationship with their urban neighbors. Every week, using horsecarts or biodiesel pickup trucks, they bring food and biofuels to a specific neighborhood in the city, and cart away compost (largely from the toilets, as food scraps go to feeding the urban chickens). With this rich compost, glass for greenhouses, metal tools, and the occasional tractor or mechanical plow shared among several farmsteads, they can produce high yields year round without destroying their soil or relying on chemicals and fossil fuels. They use intercropping and other permaculture methods to preserve soil health and discourage pests. These farms are dotted by orchards and small forests so there is a high biodiversity, including plenty of birds that eat the insects. Because they do not grow their plants in massive monocrop fields, pests and diseases don’t spread as uncontrollobly as in capitalist agriculture. The use of local plants, multiple breeds, the protection of the soil and the preservation of forests also mitigate the impacts of drought and other extreme weather caused by climate change.

There is still a fair amount of transportation between bioregions. Cities are linked by trains running on biofuel, and people regularly cross the oceans on boats powered primarily by the wind. A certain amount of interregional trade happens this way, but above all interregional transportation allows for the movement of people, ideas, and identities. People are less mobile than they were in the final days of capitalism, but on the other hand people are not compelled to follow the vagaries of the economy, to be uprooted in search of work. Bioregions are almost entirely self-sufficient economically, and people can support themselves. If they move, it’s because they want to travel, to see the world, and they are free to do so because there are no more borders.

Longer distance communication happens primarily through the radio. Most urban or semi-urban communities have telephone and internet. Highly toxic computer production has mostly ended, but a few cities use new, slower but cleaner methods to continue manufacturing computers at a minimal scale. However enough old parts are in circulation that most neighborhoods that want to can keep a few computers running. Many rural people live close enough to a city to access these forms of communication from time to time. People still get news from around the world, and they continue to cultivate an identity that is partly global.

The economic basis for society has greatly diversified within any linguistic community. In other words, someone may live on an agricultural commune with a technological level most similar to that of Western society in the 19th century, but next to them is a forest inhabited by hunter-gatherers, and a few times a year they go to a city organized by syndicates and neighborhood assemblies, where there is electricity, buses, a train station or a harbor, where they can watch movies or read the blog of someone on the other side of the world. Pictures and news from around the world pass through their commune on a fairly regular basis. They speak the same language and share a similar culture and history with these communities that are otherwise so different. An effect of this is that a clannish, insular identity that could lead to a number of problems, among them the potential regeneration of domineering and imperialistic behaviors, is constantly offset by the cultivation of a global identity and a mixing with highly different members of a broader community. In fact, because most linguistic communities extend far beyond a single bioregion and because people enjoy an unprecedented amount of social mobility, there is an unending circulation of people between these different communities, as every individual decides, when they come of age, whether they want to live in the city, the countryside, or the forest. Not only do borders no longer exist between artificially constructed nations; social borders no longer prevent movement between different identities and cultural categories.

For the older people, this way of living feels like paradise, mixed with the gritty details of reality — conflict, hard work, heartbreak, and petty drama. For the younger people, it just feels like common sense.

And every year, the world heals a little more from the ravages of industrial capitalism. The amount of real forest and wetlands have increased as some areas rewild, while heavily inhabited areas become healthy ecosystems thanks to gardening, permaculture, and the elimination of cars. Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are actually declining, albeit slowly, for the first time in ages, as carbon is returned to the soil, to forests and wetlands, to the newly green urban areas, and the burning of fossil fuels has stopped. Over a third of the species on the planet went extinct before people finally changed their ways, but now that habitat loss is being reversed, many species are coming back from the brink. As long as humanity doesn’t forget the hardest lesson it ever learned, in a few million years the biodiversity of planet earth will be as great as ever.

Dignified living has replaced profit as the new social yardstick, but in a coup against all the engineers of social planning, everyone is allowed to make their own measurements, to determine for themselves how to achieve this. People have regained the ability to feed and house themselves, and individual communities have proven that they are the best situated to craft a mode of sustenance that is best adapted to local conditions and the varied changes brought about by global warming. In the end it’s a no-brainer. The one solution that all those who were profitting off of climate change would never discuss was the only one that had a hope of working.

For the longest time, people didn’t give credence to those who were warning about climate change, about ecological collapse, about other problems created by government and capitalism; those who were calling for radical solutions. In the end they saw that the best decision they ever made was to stop trusting those in power, those responsible for all these problems, and instead to trust themselves, and take a plunge.

Those readers who doubt the possibility of this vision can check out Peter Kropotkin’s Field, Factories, and Workshops of Tomorrowwhich scientifically lays out a similar proposition, over one hundred years ago. They can also look into how the native land they live on was organized before colonization. Where I’m from, the Powhatan Confederacy kept the peace and coordinated trade between several nations in the southern part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. To the north, the Haudensaunne kept the peace among five, and later six nations, for hundreds of years. Both of these groups supported high population densities through intensive horticulture and fishing without degrading their environments.

Where I live now, in Barcelona, the workers took over the city and factories and ran everything themselves in 1936. And where I happen to be as I write this article, in Seattle, there was a monthlong general strike in 1919, and the workers there also proved themselves capable of organizing themselves and keeping the peace. This isn’t a dream. It’s an imminent possibility, but only if we have the courage to believe in it.

The Greening of The West Leaves Other Countries a Devastated, Toxic Mess

As a culture, we are myopic. We only see what we want to see. We only see what the culture wants us to see and in this case, the culture wants us to see how amazing it is to buy a solar panel/hybrid car/wind turbine and do our part to curb global warming. We do it and feel great giving the culture our money, knowing, when we go to bed, we did this incredible, Earth-saving venture.

But what if we were really informed? What if we were given all the information on the creation of this “green” product? What if our “greening” was really, at the core, just more destruction?

Let’s visit a couple of places where minerals are mined for the production of our “alternative, save-the-Earth, green technology”.

Baotou, China, Inner Mongolia

In a place that was once filled with farms as far as the eye could see, now lies a lake (which are called “tailing ponds), visible from Google Earth, filled with radioactive toxic sludge. The water is so contaminated that not even algae will grow. Maughan describes the chill he felt when he saw the lake: “It’s a truly alien environment, dystopian and horrifying”. Because the reservoir was not properly lined when it was built, waste leaked into the groundwater, killing off livestock, making residents sick and destroyed any chance of farming. In reality, though, farmers have long been displaced by factories. The people that remain are experiencing diabetes, osteoporosis and chest problems. Residents of what is now known as the “rare-earth capital of the world” are inhaling solvent vapors, particularly sulphuric acid (used for extraction), as well as coal dust. But hey, we need wind turbines to save the planet. And the electric car is definitely going to reduce carbon emissions.

I’m sorry to say that there is no amount of “greening” that going to remove this toxic sludge from the lives of those who live in Baotou. We are stealing the Earth from others. Our logic that solar/wind/the electric car is going to save the planet, instead of the most logical action of using far less, is destroying faraway lands and lives. It’s easy for us to sweep it all under the rug since we are not the ones directly affected by this lust for more energy consumption. We are simply sold on the latest and greatest technology that will save the planet and make our insatiable energy consumption a little bit easier to digest.

We must be willing to change or face the fact that people and earth and animals are dying for our inability to change.

Salar de Atacama, Atacama Desert, Chile

The International Energy Agency forecasts that the number of electric vehicles on the road around the world will hit 125 million by 2030. Right now, the number sits around 3.1 million. In order to support this growth, a lot of lithium is needed for the batteries to run this fleet. It is this lithium extraction that is destroying northern Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Lithium is found in the brine of the salt flats, located in Chile. To extract the lithium from Salar de Atacama, holes are drilled into the flats to pump the brine to the surface. This allows lithium carbonate to be extracted through a chemical process. The whole process requires a lot of water. So much water in fact that the once life-supporting oasis is now a barren wasteland.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Sara Plaza tells the story heard time and time again: “No one comes here anymore, because there’s not enough grass for the animals,” Plaza says. “But when I was a kid, there was so much water you could mistake this whole area for the sea.” She recalls walking with her family’s sheep along an ancient Inca trail that flowed between wells and pastures. Now, an engine pumps fresh water from beneath the mostly dry Tilopozo meadow. “Now mining companies are taking the water,” she says.

The race for lithium extraction is viewed as a noble one. Electric cars are sold as a ticket to salvation from Climate Change. Electric auto makers want to make it easier and cheaper for drivers to convert to “clean”, battery-powered replacements for “dirty” combustion engines. Rather, they want more money and will sell us the “green” theory.

Extracting Atacama’s lithium means pumping large amounts of water and churning up salty mud known as brine. In Salar de Atacama, the heroic mission of saving the planet through electric cars is leaving another Indigenous community devastated.

If this was really about saving the planet, there would be regulations on single drivers in cars. Public transportation would be at the forefront, not affordable priced electric cars that EVERYBODY can own. Let’s be real here. The people that are poised to benefit the most from “green” energy are companies such as  Albemarle Corp. and Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA, who are responsible for mining most of Chile’s lithium.

The locals, whose families have lived here for thousands of years, are not benefiting.

From Bloomberg: “The falling water levels are felt by local people. Peine, the village closest to the mining, has a license to pump 1.5 liters of water per second to supply 400 residents and a transient population of mine workers that can rise as high as 600. BHP’s Escondida copper mine has a license to pump 1,400 liters per second. Albemarle and SQM, the big lithium miners, have licenses to pump around 2,000 liters per second of brine.”

“We’re fooling ourselves if we call this sustainable and green mining,” says Cristina Dorador, a Chilean biologist who studies microbial life in the Atacama desert. 

Which begs the question: What is “green technology“?

The Earth is green technology. The blade of grass that grows towards the light is green technology. The breath of fresh air that is given to us by the plants on land and the plants in the ocean is green technology. The spring water that rises from the depths, mysteriously and miraculously, is green technology. This fragile environment that surrounds us, the unexplainable, intricately woven web of life that holds us, the environment that is degrading rapidly from our greedy lust for more and more, that is green technology. What we are being sold today from companies who are leading the rat-race of civilization is not green. This green technology that they speak of is actually dark red, almost black, stained with the radioactive, desecrated blood of people and earth.

What ever happened to the Energy Transition?

Despite “record setting” growth in renewables, the overall growth in demand for energy is larger still. In March 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that global energy demand grew by 2.3% in 2018 – the sharpest rise, and nearly twice the average rate, this decade. The surge was attributed to strong overall economic growth, as well as to record temperatures in many parts of the world, which raise demand for heating and cooling

While demand for all forms of energy is growing, what is happening with the power sector (electricity) is especially important. Moving away from fossil fuels will involve widespread electrification, dramatically increasing the need to generate electricity. Global demand for electricity grew even faster in 2018 than demand for energy overall, at 4%. And 42% of energy-related emissions last year came from the power sector.

Despite the closure of many coal plants around the world, coal remains the dominant fuel for generating electricity globally. On current trends, coal consumption is projected to remain at roughly current levels for many years. Although coal consumption declined for a few years, it actually rose in 2017, and again last year.

Coal consumption is growing dramatically in several large countries, mainly in Southeast Asia. China recently announced plans for at least 300 new coal-fired power plants – most of them outside China. Coal demand for power rose 2.6% last year, and CO2 emissions rose 2.5%, with coal accounting for 80% of the increase.

Where coal generation capacity has been replaced in the energy mix, it has mostly been replaced by natural gas rather than renewables. This is especially true for the world’s two largest emitters, the U.S. and China.

From the perspective of climate change, this is bad news. Natural gas has been promoted as a “bridge fuel” between coal and renewables, because burning methane produces less CO2 than burning coal. But methane itself is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 on shorter time scales – roughly 86 times more powerful on a 20-year time scale – and we are learning that methane leakage from fracking and other operations is significantly higher than previously recognised. It even exceeds any gains associated with burning gas rather than coal.

So what we are seeing is not a “transition to renewables,” but rather a reconfiguration of the world’s energy systems. Meanwhile, overall use of energy continues to grow, and no major fuel source is going away any time soon. In other words, not only are we not yet digging our way out of the hole, but we haven’t even stopped digging the hole deeper yet.

In March 2019, the IEA reported that the deployment of new renewable generation capacity “stalled” in 2018.

Why has this happened? As Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported in early 2019, investment in new clean energy capacity fell 8% in 2018 from 2017 levels – from $362 billion to $332 billion. This is very striking, given that we hear so frequently about “record low” prices for renewable generation, which we are told makes renewables more attractive than fossil fuels.

The initial boom in solar and wind capacity in Europe and elsewhere – the boom that has now stalled there – was largely due to generous, “come one, come all” subsidy schemes. These typically took the form of “feed-in tariffs,” where anyone who could afford to provide generation capacity could sign up and enjoy the guaranteed revenues. This generated a burst of deployment – so much in fact that it became impossible to accommodate all of the new capacity into existing grids.

It also led to exploding subsidy bills for governments. These costs were often passed on to users in the form of higher electricity bills, which led to skepticism about renewable energy and political pressure on government officials. This is why many governments shifted to “competitive bidding” systems, which allowed them to contain both capacity additions and costs – but also led to shrinking profit margins and the loss of investor interest.

The implications of these trends are profound. In order to have any chance of a just transition, we first need to ensure that there is a transition. The current, market-based approach to the energy transition has failed, and we cannot afford to wait any longer.

Unions and climate activists need to organise and mobilise for public and social ownership of energy, with real democratic accountability. Only such an approach can ensure a rapid but orderly transition to renewable energy – one that takes considerations of profit out of the equation, and puts workers and communities at the centre.

What ever happened to the Energy Transition?

Toward an Existentialist Environmentalism

Some argue that we only need to make simple changes in our personal lives that collectively will suffice to halt current trends of environmental degradation; we just need to give up eating meat, stop flying, or stop using disposable cutlery.  Ethical consumerism promises that we can minimize our environmental impact by buying the right product. These small lifestyle changes have become moral imperatives that are increasingly being written into law.  Others tout that we are on the verge of technological breakthroughs, such as fission power, electric cars, carbon capture, or any number of geoengineering solutions, that will address the problems we face.  However, while the analgesic nature of these arguments may briefly buoy our hopes that we still have an exit strategy to extract ourselves from our current crisis without substantive changes to our lifestyle, they serve as a red herring.

First off, placing the onus of responsibility of solving this colossal mess on individuals rather than on the economic and political actors who created it to further their own gains, actively undermines efforts aimed at achieving necessary systemic changes which cannot be fulfilled on a collective individual level.  Our ability to deal with these problems has not been limited by a lack of personal action. These are not glitches that can be solved by the economic and political systems that created it. This is not to dissuade anyone from changing their behavior and consumption patterns, but their collective impact would be dwarfed and rendered negligible by the negative impact of corporations and industries over which we have no control, whose responsibility is to their shareholders rather than humanity, and often operate outside of the control of the rules and regulations we have collectively established to protect society.  By propagating the fairy tale that we bear a responsibility to clean up their mess and have the capacity to do so, these very groups have delayed the necessary and systematic changes that would make a difference, precisely because such a shift would undermine their power and profit.  Furthermore, this implicit deceit has been complemented by a more explicit and overt campaign to spread misinformation, foment skepticism regarding environmental research, and undermine legislation that would begin addressing environmental issues.

Second, the touted solutions are often unlikely to be effective.  We have reached the point where the feckless environmentalism of anodyne half-measures will not suffice.  Many technological solutions are unlikely to be achieved soon enough to avert the worst of climate change and environmental degradation.  Furthermore, most have their own set of socioeconomic and environmental problems that undermine their sustainability.   Similarly, even if a substantive proportion of individuals were convinced to make personal lifestyle changes to minimize their environmental impact, which is highly questionable (if only given the time frame in which we need to develop a solution), feedback loops in environmental processes will result in continued climatic changes even if we were to cease all anthropogenic carbon emissions immediately.

The systematic changes that are necessary will be difficult and frightening. Accepting the sacrifices that must be made as a result of this systemic change will be a bitter pill to swallow. They are likely more difficult and less comfortable than making small changes that are ultimately of little consequence. We must accept that this is ultimately apostolic work for which we will likely pay a high price in the short term without any guarantee of seeing the long-term results.

The challenge that lies before us seems difficult at best and insurmountable at worst; it may not be any easier or more likely to end in success if we take it together. However, though the hour may be late, it’s never too late to express the goodness that is within each of us. Even if this world is failing, we can still plant the seeds of a new one in the shell of the old because it’s the only thing we can do and because it will be more fun that way, if nothing else.  Let’s put our hands in the earth and our shoulders to the wheel.  Let’s live up to the standards we set for each other and forgive one another when we fail. Let’s cultivate new relationships with one another and the land that honor the dignity of both. Let’s take it easy, but take it.

From here:

Abandon All Hope: Moving Toward an Existentialist Environmentalism 

The environmental danger of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal

Countries from across Asia are convening in Melbourne this week to negotiate the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade deal that would impact almost half of the world’s population, including Thailand, Indonesia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand that would undermine environmental protections in Asia.

Trade deals seem to be impenetrable and remote aspects of international legal systems that are disconnected from local and national realities. But in fact the opposite is true.

Trade and investment profoundly impacts local and national issues, and can undermine basic human and environmental rights and key principles of democracy.  

Corporate profit 

The RCEP focuses on trade and investment liberalization, intellectual property rights, services, competition policy – much like other trade agreements

It would influence how governments regulate our economy. The talks go on behind closed doors and lack democratic oversight, so the resulting deal is likely to put corporate profit before public interest. 

Leaked documents show that the proposed RCEP trade deal includes a mechanism called the Investor-State Disputes Settlement (ISDS).

ISDS is, in essence, a corporate court system in which companies can sue countries when they consider that government decisions or national court rulings impact on their profits. 

New research from Friends of the Earth International/Europe, Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory has uncovered the human impact of these corporate courts, in which governments have been sued for US$623 billion in almost 1000 ISDS cases. This is equivalent to more than four years of the combined global spending on Overseas Development Assistance for poverty reduction.

Environmental protection

In the rice paddy fields of Thailand, local farmers accused a gold mine of leaking toxic waste, causing serious health problems and ruining crops. The Thai government responded by suspending the mine, and later halting all gold mining in the country, while a new mineral law was developed.

But in 2017, instead of compensating the local communities for the harm caused, the Australian mine owners, Kingsgate, sued the Thai government for millions of dollars in compensation. They used the ISDS mechanism that was included in the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and Thailand.

The dispute between Kingsgate, environmentalists and local peoples, who say they had been negatively impacted by the mine, stretches back many years.

In 2010, villagers took the company to court for failing to mitigate damages and for obtaining mining permits illegally. The court ruled that the mine had indeed breached environmental protection laws, and ordered the company to submit an Environmental Health Impact Assessment.

Operations were later suspended at the Kingsgate mine in 2015 for several months, amidst ongoing environmental protests and medical tests which found that hundreds of people living near the mine had high levels of toxic substances in their blood. The company itself acknowledged problems with dust, contaminated water, noise, and cyanide management in its own reports, and researcherscriticised its “lack of true community consultation”.

Democratic procedures

Environmental problems at Kingsgate’s mine occurred after violence had erupted at another controversial mine in the country, the Loei Gold Mine, when over 300 armed, masked men attacked and beat up villagers who were blocking access to the mine.

These problems in the gold sector led the military junta who were ruling the country to halt all gold mines nationwide in 2017 “due to their impact on locals and the environment”. While human rights groups welcomed the closure, the law used in the process has also been criticised, as they empower the Prime Minister to issue any order arbitrarily without following legal and other democratic procedures.

Kingsgate hit back with threats of a multimillion-dollar international arbitration lawsuit. This threat seemed to have paid off. In 2017 the Thai government agreed to lift the suspension on the mine’s operation, which in turn led to a steep rise in the company’s share price.

Yet Kingsgate has not re-opened the mine. Instead it filed the ISDS case under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement claiming expropriation and seeking damages of an undisclosed amount. According to the national media, the ISDS claim could be worth US$900 million, a figure the government has denied.

Toxic water

While the Australian government views ISDS cases like this one as defending the national interest abroad, it is, rather, a way for corporations to entrench their power at the expense of local communities.

Rather than engaging with national research institutes, the precautionary principle or the local community’s knowledge, the case will be decided by three investment arbitrators, applying narrow investment law in a secret back room process.

The arbitrators’ decision could impact the entire country through the precedent it sets for regulation in Thailand. And while the ISDS case is ongoing, the company has reportedly not rehabilitated the mine that was leaking toxic substances into water sources.

This is not an isolated example. New research has uncovered how afterColombia’s Constitutional Court banned mining activities in a sensitive ecosystem which provides drinking water for millions of Colombians, Canadian mining company Eco Oro sued the country for US$764 million in damages.

When Croatian courts cancelled illegal permits issued for a luxury golf resort in the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia was hit with a US$500 million compensation claim. Romania is defending itself from a shocking US$5.7 billion claim by Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources, after the country’s courts declared the company’s proposed toxic Roşia Montana gold mine illegal.

Accountability

The growing number of corporate lawsuits has raised a global storm of opposition to ISDS and the corporate trade agenda more broadly from across the political spectrum. Two countries party to the RCEP trade negotiations, Indonesia and India, have started to reform ISDS by cancelling Bilateral Investment Treaties.

Yet, as the RCEP is a regional trade deal, if ISDS corporate courts are finally pushed through in exchange for increased market access, it will likely be locked in for years to come.

Given the current global trade wars, governments seem fixated on rushing headlong into new agreements.

Rather than more of the same failed corporate trade models, we need a new trade policy that enables communities and states to hold investors and corporations accountable for their damaging environmental impacts and human rights violations.

The RECP negotiations in Melbourne will test governments’ capacity to look after the environment and their citizens. 

From here: https://theecologist.org/2019/jul/03/corporations-have-hijacked-justice


THE BATTLE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE

In his bundled essays “Confessions of a recovering environmentalist” (2017) former environmental activist and writer Paul Kingsnorth describes how some weak-kneed accountants of this world hollowed out the green movement from the inside and exchanged the barricades for ties and conference tables. Limiting CO2 emissions became the new gospel because it was measurable and countable. But according to Kingsnorth, that is an illusion. He thinks that in his victory rush, the green movement of today exchanges the remaining wild nature for a wind or solar panel farm. The battle is lost.

This documentary gives Kingsnorth the time to explain how humanity still can be hopeful although the battle against climate change in his eyes has been lost.