Reading through the mainstream media coverage of the climate negotiations in Paris (CoP21), one could hardly understand the event as anything other than ‘a real turning point in human history’ (Irish Times). The heroic work of the French delegates had achieved ‘the world’s greatest diplomatic success’ (the Guardian), indeed the deal was not short of ‘a major leap for mankind’ (quote from summit leaders). Yet in reality our leaders have signed a deal guaranteeing climatic destruction!
Last November, I took part in a week-long language school at Oventic, Chiapas. I spent the week living and learning with two US-based comrades – Laila, a tattoo artist and socialist/feminist from Memphis, and Michael, a housing rights activist from Baltimore – alongside the wider Zapatista community of Oventic. Our ‘guides’ for the week were our neighbours – Natalio and Paloma as well as Stephanie (who was learning to be a teacher) and Efrain (a linguist, philosopher and educator all rolled in to one). These were the people we met and spoke with every day. What follows are some reflections recorded along the way.
Climate change has reached a point where scientists are now saying that direct actions against resource extraction is the only strategy likely to prevent ecological collapse and ensure our environment’s survival. This panel considered what needs to be done and who is going to do it.
Capitalism is making you fat. Capitalism is also destroying the environment. These two things are more closely connected than you might think. Not all growth is good. Certainly the growth of people’s waistlines and indexes of body fat have lead scientists and health professionals to warn of a global obesity epidemic. 65% of the world’s population now live in countries where being overweight kills more people than being underweight. Worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980 and 1.4 billion adults over 20 are now overweight.
The first direct actions of the Erris struggle against Shell took place 8 years ago when 6 locals were injuncted and then 5 of them jailed for refusing to allow Shell onto their lands. In the 8 years that have passed there have been countless direct actions, dozens of arrests, about two dozen jailings and hundreds of people attacked by Garda or Shell's security company IRMS. But as the first two days of the week of action demonstrated that intense level of repression over so many years has yet to end effective resistance.
One of the final acts of the last Fianna Fail government was to award licences to a number of companies to explore for commercial gas in the Northwest Carboniferous Basin (more commonly known as the Lough Allen basin). The Lough Allen Basin is a huge area that covers parts of counties Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Mayo, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo and Tyrone. It is an area of 8000 square kilometres in total.
Recently, a number of the UK’s celebrity TV chefs have launched “Fish Fight”, a campaign to address the rapidly increasing crisis of declining fish stocks that threaten the continued supply of fish for the dinner table.
The campaign’s aims are worthy and laudable and the sincerity of the celebrity chefs involved is unquestionable. But as much as they understand food and the threat of the collapse of fish stocks, their limited understanding of the economic forces behind capitalism’s inability to sustainably manage limited natural resources guarantees that this well-intentioned campaign is ultimately doomed to failure.
In recent years climate change has loomed large in the public imagination. Scientifically, there is little doubt that it is a real threat to the future of human civilisation. The greenhouse effect has been known about since the early 19th century - gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour trap heat from the sun, causing the climate of the planet to heat up over time. Probably the most spectacular known example of this effect in action is on Venus.
The last century has been marked by the most explosive growth of pollution and production in the entire history of humanity. The changes brought about by industrialisation under the economic system of capitalism have lead to a large number of systemic problems. Anarchist communism is in a unique position to solve these systemic problems.
When we as workers engage in the production of goods and services, we do so for the benefit of the owners of the means of production. These capitalists, utilise our productive efforts to extract profits. This profit motive underlies many of the ecological and social problems that exist in modern society.
Peak Oil Theory has been around since the 1970s. Some think we have already reached 'peak oil', others think it will happen with the next twenty-five years. The theory argues that when we reach 'peak oil' the rate at which we extract oil from the earth (measured in millions of barrels per day) will reach a maximum and thereafter will start to drop.
As the rate at which we use oil is currently close to the rate at which we extract it, the point of peak oil will coincide or be closely followed by the world consuming more oil than it is producing. As oil reserves are very limited, within months there simply will not be enough oil available.