In face of the health consequences, and when seeing the impact of weapons on the living planet, one could think it’s not relevant to care about ecology when there’s war, but Freedom fighters of North-Eastern Syria’s Autonomous Administration show us there is more to war and ecology than what it seems at first. Let’s dig into the third pillar of the Rojava revolution, and see how it connects to the struggle for freedom.

The understanding of ecology that is given to us by capitalist modernity, through ads, government campaigns and liberal culture, is usually to take care of the environment in an individual, immediate way. For example, by not throwing trash on the floor, and instead putting it in the bin, so that it gets (maybe) recycled later. Or by shutting all the lights off when going to bed.

This way of thinking implies that what we want to achieve through ecology (hopefully, a healthy living environment all around the planet) can be done through these simple steps, that any individual can do (and therefore should feel responsible of doing so).

But what if we defined that a healthy living planet can only be achieved by organizing our society through democratic self-administration, with women’s all-round autonomy, and through organizing our self-defense, standing ready to use machine guns with heavy environmental impact when facing fascist threats ?

The mentality implied by this definition of ecology is one where our caring for the living planet pushes us to organize collectively, and where long-term thinking prevails on the short-term when it comes to defending and enhancing our surroundings, both social and ecological. It is also one where men’s domination of women and nature is confronted in a way that adresses both issues at the same time, making it a radical eco-feminist approach to life and society, where women and men learn to live together again, outside of traditional and modern master-and-slave patterns.

Such a proposition is made here, and constitutes the paradigm of the Autonomous Administration of North and Eastern Syria. Of course, although the self-defense part is often highlighted, as a relatively new proposition for women’s liberation movement and ecological struggles, the main focus when building an ecological society is not this one at all, but rather the diversity and the depth of our social interactions, with a whole ecosystem of institutions and approaches to life inside of society itself.

In this paradigm, the well-being of the environment is set on two distinct although intertwined time schedules : in general time, ecological committees actively launch and manage projects, but when under attack, the self-defense of the democratic society comes first, in order to stop capitalism-led destruction as soon as possible, and defend the premises of the ecological society (that is, the society that holds the seeds of ecology in its core). Society thus has a defense mechanism similar to that of many animals and plants : allocating all resources into retracting and attacking when under pressure, while continuing normal course of life when not, which includes building up defense.

Th art of ecological war : Know your enemy

Current wars are led by imperialist forces representing the interests of patriarchal individuals and capitalist companies which have, as a definition, an anti-ecological motto of “grow or die”, to which they are tied by the mechanism of market. As social ecologist Murray Bookchin puts it : “The present social illness lies not only in the outlook that pervades the present society; it lies above all in the very structure and law of life in the system itself, in its imperative, which no entrepreneur or corporation can ignore without facing destruction: growth, more growth, and still more growth.” Indeed, individuals who want to dominate (“be successful”) must place themselves in a market where all their production keeps losing value the second it is produced, with competitors generating more and more pressure to keep growing, in order to continue being on top. This process eventually brings every element of both material and social realms to be transformed in a master-to-slave or subject-to-object relationship, from existence to commodity, from being free and equal to being permanently dominated.

As history shows, especially when paying attention to the importance of symbolism in its course (notably through mythology), it is the patriarchal mindset that generated the enclosed environments (emotional, psychological and physical) in which domination was maintained, that gave birth to the first city-States and served as a base for the capitalist civilization as we know it. Social domination would find very soon its expressions in physical domination and economical domination, leading, city after city, empire after empire, to modern capitalism and slavery, perpetuating patriarchal domination in a worldwide scale.

The course of this his-story, undermining her-story, leads to nowhere but death, since the infinite commodification, ideologically and materially maintained, knows no ethical or physical barrier, as is shown by the recent scandals of the burning Amazonia and organized pedophilia, and by constantly happening industrial destruction and child marriages. From within the male-shaped paradigm, there is no stopping of this ever-lasting self-propelled competition of domination between elements, with the current main entities being the nation-states and supranational companies.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, knowing this development in history, that the Pentagon is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world. Neither should it surprise us to hear that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. Their domination of nature is a logical output of their political and economical domination. Or, to formulate it the other way around, destruction of nature is the most fruitful enterprise, inside of capitalism, after women’s exploitation, which is the base of all industry. And let us not be fooled into thinking that it could have been another way, that other states or companies or individuals would have behaved differently inside of this paradigm or could do so in the future, for as long as we don’t radically propose to fight the domination they stem from, we will keep participating in it and we would eventually grow to become the new main oppressor, if not dying while trying to do so. To not set ourselves in the fight against the hegemony of dominant male mentality and physical power, is to empower it by giving it time to gather forces.

Ecology and mind : a self-reflecting mirror

One aspect in which ecology relates to war is in the mentality generated through fighting. Using the concept of mental ecology introduced by Felix Guattari, we can understand human mind as a flexible entity that interacts with its surroundings, projecting ideas and emotions in it, and reacting to the ones it receives. As the interactions between mind and environment go on, they end up shaping one another. On the one hand, of course, the human mind appeared as a creation of nature, and is part of it, as an animal. On the other hand, it is through the human mind that we think of nature, and that we end up acting upon it, by cutting a tree for example, if this tree doesn’t fit with the plan we had in mind.

Another understanding of mental ecology is that our current ideas and emotions come as a legacy of all previous ideas and emotions carried by individuals throughout history. This makes our own consciousness a living philosophy inherited through all the interactions of the universe that led to this very moment. And to make sense out of the incommunicable amount of information and possibilities that this realization lets us consider, one can track down the history of ideas that make us who we are, that is, the history of mythologies, philosophies and ideologies – in the end, societies, of which they are reflections. To do so, to recover the origins of our thoughts, is to make sense, as when we discover the etymology of a word, such as “berxwedan” – resistance in Kurdish : “dan” – to give, “xwe” – yourself, “dan” – in front, so resistance is to give yourself when facing something. Or “Jiyan” – life : a direct declination of “Jin” – woman. In doing this self-education about our history, indeed ourselves, we might find tools, such as songs and drawings, to strengthen our stance against the dominant male hegemony, empowering our mind’s self-defence, which will give birth to a more resilient and more ecological society, one where conflicts get solved through reconciliation instead of annihilation.

In the context of war, mind is put under extreme conditions as it faces extinction at any time, and in order to keep on going and not start running away from the danger, it needs something to hang on to. This gives way to transcendental experiences of “holy war”, and surely a strong sense of comradery can be found in the fact of going to the frontline together to fight fascists. But this opens also the way to a limited understanding of reality that gets reduced, in the crucial moment, to a simple “us against them”. This ecology of mind, reduced to two factors, gets then projected in the entire society, when this society is centered around war. In a patriarchal society or, said differently, in the context of a war on women, the male dominating mentality will eventually reduce all relationships, all situations of life, to this bottom-line thinking : I need to dominate “this” or “that” in order to permanently re-assert my masculinity, my domination of women.

So the war starts there. In the mindset that we have when facing the current developments of capitalist modernity. Are we, especially men, ready to change our behaviours in order to fulfill claimed goals (remember, here, a healthy living environment all around the planet) ? Are we ready to let other people comment our individual practices, inside of communal, democratic circles, accepting criticism and making meaningful self-criticism ? Are we ready to let the women lead the way of their own emancipation, outside of our fantasies and physical embrace, and work together towards our common liberation ? Are we ready to make peace with other men, getting out of the dishonest and competitive schemes of man and brotherhood that we know of ? Are we ready to fight against the war mentality inside of us ?

The biological revolution

French eco-feminist and revolutionary homosexual activist Francoise d’Eaubonne proposed an understanding of revolution as mutations in the social “genetic” code. In a given society, if a new element comes to disrupt the homogeneous course of it, we can say that it is somewhat similar to a gene being replaced in the society’s DNA, through mutation. As is the case biologically, these mutations can appear when giving birth to new individuals inside of a species, the new generation then challenges the older one, youth being a constant revolutionary force, and maybe simply evolutionary when considering societies.

Similarly to a new gene in a biological entity, a new set of rules can appear inside of a society, when a new group, a new organization is formed. But this new gene is not necessarily predominant, it can remain present without taking over. As for example with green eyes, or anarchists. And even when it does take over, it still continues to be part of the same biological entity, that has transformed itself – one cannot say a new species was made out of the blue. Applied to the political world, it can be a valuable lesson for the Left to recognize it doesn’t make sense to see itself as separated from society, it was always part of it. Maybe it is a revolutionary thought for it to consider being the whole of society, in order to impulse a general movement for change. Therefore, inside of a capitalist, patriarchal society Leftists should work to change the society entirely, and not just in Leftist circles – which try to be perfectly horizontal societies, out of the blue.

To see humans and society in such a socio-biological perspective also leads to blurring the limits between them and other species and with nature itself. In this sense, it is interesting to note from statistics that the Syrian Civil War has killed way more non-human animals then human animals. If it is not possible to compare the importance of different lives, and even more when they’re from different species, what we can say at least is that the war that is waged on the Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Yezidis, Armenians and Turkmens of the region, is also waged on the goat, sheep, cows, chicken and dogs of the same territory, as well as on the plants, with Turkish or jihadist-led mercenaries setting fire to the wheat fields and olive trees of Rojava. What is being attacked is the entire ecosystem.

And what would a revolution be, in biological terms ? A revolution cannot be the mere mutation of one of the genes, which would be reformism, with most of the genetic chain remaining the same. It is rather the change of all the genetic code of our society, which in other words could relate to changing civilization as a whole.

With its holistic approach and all-embracing concepts, democratic confederalism is such a proposition, of a new genetic code for an organic society, incorporating a strong immune system in its DNA, and with women’s autonomy making the movement’s dynamics a powerful double helix. But although women’s autonomy might be a strong feature of this revolution, it is also important to see that the women’s perspective is not limited to it. To continue with the biological metaphor, we can say that the core of the new genetic code, the very important and basic genes that have kept the old genetic code from going fully corrupt, are the social values of care, reproduction and defense, that mainly women had been protecting. This is why the new proposition is not only featuring women’s autonomy, it is making women the new center of society, its very spine, to reinforce and unveil the role they had actually played in maintaining society alive until now.

Abandoning ecology when confronting war : a patriarchal approach

“No ecology when there’s war”. To react in such a way is part of the mentality that produces the thought “No democracy when there’s war”, a thought that has appeared throughout history even in the socialist camp, legitimizing hierarchical authority and setting the organization of a democratic society to later on, in order to create a stronger united front against the fascist or imperialist attacks. This, as we know, opened the door to socialist revolutions being taken over by tyrants with state mentality, as most recently happened in Nicaragua, for example.

And as a common measure to most struggles of the past 5000 years, is the thought of “no feminism when there’s war”, expressed through the systematic rape and murder of women throughout war history until this very day. But this observation cannot stop there, understanding where war comes from in our society, we understand that it is actually the war on women that is the fundamental starting point of all wars.

As bell hooks, Abdullah Öcalan and other feminist writers analyze it, it is part of the masculine culture to place war as an absolute, to which everything else is subdued. Recently, Bese Hozat described war as “the most terrible invention of the male mind”. She says, “Wars are the dominant male invention. The ruling man has fortified and maintained his power with wars. The state is the embodiment of male-dominated power. War is the food that keeps that body alive. While this food is the main source of life for the dominant male, it is a deadly poison for women, society and nature”.

So it is a natural effort for us to defend the possibility of a democratic, gender-egalitarian, and ecological society through, not war, but self-defense against the war imposed on us. This is the only legitimate war to wage. Also, our understanding of war shouldn’t be limited to the confrontation on the front line, but we can see it as a war within ourselves to hold up to our radical beliefs everyday, to go out in front of society and engage in action, such as organizing in our neighborhood community. The war waged on us by capitalist modernity is as much of a psychological, emotional war as a physical one, so let’s not lose our morale, and strongly affirm : yes, our struggle is ecological, for it is the ecological people’s war, it’s the revolutionary people’s war.

Taken from here:

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.

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 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:

Making Wind Power Sustainable (Again)


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.

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Book review: FULLY AUTOMATED LUXURY COMMUNISM, Aaron Bastani, Verso, 2019

Fully Automated Luxury Communism’ trivializes the global environmental crisis with badly-researched techno-hype and hopelessly inadequate political plans.

reviewed by Ian Angus

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.

What Will the Farms of the Future Look Like?

drawing by Clifford Harper

Industrial monocultures — those big farms you see with acres and acres of corn or soy, not to mention those giant cattle feedlots — are systems that degenerate, they die, over time. They produce more carbon emissions than they sequester. Their pesticides kill insects, including pollinators, a trend which may soon initiate “the collapse of nature.” Every year, they suck the nutrients from the soil, and replace them with toxic chemicals. They draw water from local watersheds, pollute it, and let it run off into gutters, or evaporate when hot weather comes, rather than employing management techniques that would allow it to sink back down to replenish local aquifers. Eventually, land treated this way becomes barren, eroding away to create dead zones in rivers and oceans or being lifted up by the wind to join the particulate matter in the air, poisoning the lungs of human beings (it’s telling that a recent report showed that Fresno and Bakersfield, in the heart of California’s industrial farm-filled Central Valley, have the worst particulate pollution in the USA). The air is truly brown in such places. The crops grown on these farms are sent off by truck or ship to factories where they’re processed and packaged — using more resources — and finally delivered to our homes, often in a form that’s as bad for our bodies as the dust is for our lungs.

This is what agriculture looks like in a globalized corporate economy, where, like the nutrients from the soil, the livelihood is sucked from farming communities and siphoned up into the coffers of a few giant corporations .

But as I’m sure many of us know by now, this is not what agriculture has to look like, by any means. Farms can be regenerative, living systems, that produce a bounty but no waste. They can supply the needs of a local community — if that community is willing embrace the idea of eating a mostly seasonal, locally adapted diet — with no need for long-distance transport by trucks, ships, or planes. Farms do not have to be net carbon emitters — plants absorb CO2 when they photosynthesize, and only emit it very slowly, through respiration and decomposition; studies show that, if managed correctly, farms, orchards, and even animal grazing systems can become places that sink and sequester CO2.

Not only that, but these are the same kinds of diversified farming systems that make people most resilient in the face of climate change. If we grow one kind of bean, for example, as a cash crop, and then the summer is too hot for that variety, we lose absolutely everything — all of our profits, which we would have used to buy food throughout the year. If we grow a diverse variety of crops, however, all with slightly different climactic limitations, then not only will a heat wave fail to do us in, but we can feed ourselves, right from our own backyards, no matter what happens. In fact, there are many points in favor of small diversified farms. Even minimal diversification has been shown to increase crop yields, while intensive permaculture systems — which have only recently been recognized by science — have the potential to completely transform our concept of productivity, and of what a “farm” is.

 In the global South, some are rejecting the idea that leaving the land for polluted, overpopulated cities is a sign of progress. One’s income might be higher working in an urban sweatshop than it would be in a rural village. But that increased income does not necessarily reflect an increased quality of life. In villages where people own their own land and live as they have for generations — using clean water, eating local foods, making clothes and other goods from locally sourced materials, relying on community support for things like child care — a comfortable life can cost almost nothing. (This is why corporate land grabs, for purposes like mining, logging, oil drilling and factory farming, are among the most pressing human rights issues of our time.) In confirmation of this, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has declared that small family farming is the only way to feed a growing population, while the economic powers that be have confirmed it by creating a climate in which those who fight for land rights must fear for their lives.

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