Monday, January 21, 2019

3166. Two Speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Martin Luther King, Jr., Against the Grain, March 1968 and December 1964

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about race, segregation, poverty, militarism, and nonviolent resistance in two talks that he gave in Hollywood, in March 1968, and in London, in December 1964. Pacifica Radio Archives. To listen click here





3165. To Freeze the Thames: Geo-Science, Social Risk and Climate Struggles

By Troy Vettese, Socialist Project, January 20, 2019

Is advanced-industrial capitalism capable of finding solutions for the environmental devastation it causes? Or are the logics of capitalism and environmental sustainability inherently and irreconcilably at odds? This session explores the economics and politics surrounding natural geo-engineering—re-wilding agricultural land, freed up by compulsory veganism—to replicate the hemispheric cooling of the Little Ice Age. It features Troy Vettese, whose article "To Freeze the Thames" was recently published in New Left Review (Debating Green Strategy). Umair Muhammad and Gordon Laxer will respond to Troy’s article and presentation. Introduced by Greg Albo. Presentations by: * Troy Vettese is an environmental historian at New York University, whose dissertation is on the relationship between the tar sands industry and market-based environmental regulation. * Gordon Laxer is the founding Director and former head of Parkland Institute (1996-2011) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, a Political Economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. He is the author of After the Sands: Energy & Ecological Security for Canadians and several reports including “Act or Be Acted Upon: The Case for Phasing out Alberta’s Sands.” * Umair Muhammad is a Ph.D. student at York University, whose research focuses on the political economy of the environment. Umair is the author of Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism, and he has been a community organizer for nine years.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

3164. Poetry: When You Stand

By Jamie K. Reaser, Bless This Day, January 2019
Photo: Jamie K. Reaser
May your feet, here now, know the support of the Earth, 
the mother of your mother’s mother’s mother and all 
the mothers before her.
May, in this light, you know the guidance of the Sun, 
the father of your father’s father’s father and all 
the fathers before him.
May you know the sisterhood of women who 
will embrace and hold space for your soul’s seed 
to break and who, in their own way, pray that because 
of this necessary breaking there will emerge and grow
something that serves others without demand 
of reciprocity.
May you know the brotherhood of men who stand 
beside you as you stand beside them, 
all familiar strangers, dedicated to protecting 
the ache of uncertainty, difference, and belonging 
so that we may liberate the fears that otherwise 
divide, diminish, and destroy otherness.
May you stand in the presence of my gratitude.
Thank you for showing me where blessings are needed.
© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Bless this Day" (a work in progress)
Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser
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3163. Book Review: Red-Green Revolution: The Politics & Technology of Ecosocialism

By Martin Empson, Resolute Reader, January 17, 2019

The scale of the environmental crisis is absolutely terrifying. So I was very pleased to read Victor Wallis' new book Red-Green Revolution which aims to both explain capitalism and environmental destruction and offer a clear strategy for building a movement to challenge both. Wallis takes up this point early on:
To puncture the resulting sense of helplessness, we need an approach that is at once immediate (short-term) and comprehensive (long-term). A comprehensive approach is a radical one. It embraces every aspect of reality. Without such a panoramic sweep, we cannot even begin to counter the multifold scale on which the threats to life present themselves - whether in the form of war, hunger, pollution, illness, repression, insecurity or insanity.

Wallis uses the term ecosocialism to argue for a "synthesis of ecology with socialism". But, and its an important but, he doesn't argue that socialism (or indeed Marxism) has never had an ecological component. He notes the work of writers like John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett who have drawn out an ecological core to Karl Marx's work and shows how other revolutionary thinkers and activists have also understood the destructive dynamic at the heart of capitalism; and the potential for socialism to resolve the contradiction of a society dependent on the natural world that simultaneously destroys it.

Wallis argues then, that there must be a multi fold strategy. The first stage is exposing the limitations of capitalism. Too many proffered solutions to environmental crisis are based on making capitalism better, or greener. But simultaneously Wallis argues we must put forward alternative models:
Token green measures may bring some relief, but they fail to challenge the power that keeps the toxic practices going. How can people be persuaded to target that power and build a political force capable of supplanting it?.. It entails on the one hand exploring the sometimes indirect arguments whereby the green-capitalist... approach is upheld. On the other hand, it requires attention to positive models, both actual and potential, of societies, movements, institutions, or even individuals that embody a cooperative rather than an aggressive/competitive approach to work and life.
Returning to this theme, Wallis notes that Marx understood that a future, sustainable socialist world, would be one based on democratically organising and controlling the means of production. He notes though that we should not ignore the reality that not all socialist approaches (or societies that described themselves as socialist) have behaved like this. Wallis emphases the limitations of what he calls "first-epoch" socialism, the Soviet Union and Chinese society for instance, and argues that "the notion of workers' control offers, from within socialist thought, the basis for a thoroughgoing ecologically-oriented critique of the legacy of first-epoch socialist regimes."

With this in mind I was enormously pleased to see Wallis defend and promote the concept of "planning" as part of his solution. Wallis makes it clear that he doesn't mean the top-down planning of the Soviet variety, but a bottom-up approach that involves mass involvement. If we, as socialists, are to offer concrete solutions and strategies one of the most powerful tools we have is a vision of how a sustainable world can work - and the idea of democratically planning production is one that is unique to the revolutionary tradition. Simultaneously it allows us to show how the great wealth we are capable of producing can be used in a sustainable and equitable way. Too few socialists (eco or otherwise) put this forward and I think it an essential argument for our alternative.

Wallis also discusses technology with this same approach. Technology he argues, is not neutral within society, but is determined by the dominant political and class dynamics. Thus technological solutions to environmental destruction serve the interests of those whose wealth and power implements them - which can in turn exacerbate the wider problem. Socialist technology must be marked by a "commitment to social equality and to ecological health" - it should also be democratically controlled, and the result of democratic decision making in contrast to the way that capitalists simply deploy new technologies to make profits.

I do have two slight linked disagreements with the book. The first is about context, and doesn't really undermine Wallis' wider argument. Among his criticisms of first-period socialism lies an argument that the ecological limitations of those societies arose because they favoured taking and maintaining state power, over the "transforming production relations". I am not sure I entirely agree with this. In the case of Russia in the aftermath of 1917 I think the problem was far more that the devastation of the working class core to the revolution in Civil War and famine destroyed the basis for real workers control. The failure of the German Revolution in turn left Russia isolated and encouraged an inward turn; the development of a bureaucratic class and finally the rise of Stalin's counter-revolutionary interests.

Secondly, I thought that while Wallis was excellent on showing how building a revolutionary ecologically aware socialist movement required strategies for the here and now, as well as a longer term goal, I felt that he missed out having a serious discussion on the nature of the capitalist state and the way it would organise to protect and defend its own interests. Here I think we still have much to learn from Lenin and his understanding of how revolutionary movements can simultaneously smash the capitalist state and create the basis for a new, workers' state.

But these are not points of departure they are places to begin a debate. All in all I found Red-Green Revolution a deeply stimulating read, that tackled important issues without simply regurgitating tired old formulae - the chapter on intersectionality and class was particularly good in this respect. I'd recommend Victor Wallis' book both to environmental activists who want to better understand revolutionary socialist ideas and other, longer standing socialists who want to think through how to engage with the growing ecological movements.

3162. Interview: To Take Down Fossil Fuels, We Must Abandon Capitalism

By Anton Woronzuk, Truthout, January 15, 2019
Dahr Jamail
Dahr Jamail, a staff writer at Truthout, has been writing about the global emergency of climate change for nearly a decade. In his new book The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Destruction, which is being released today, Jamail shares his firsthand accounts of returning to beloved spaces in the natural world. He observes the drastic ways in which they’ve been destroyed due to humanity’s relentless burning of fossil fuels and mourns over how many of them are unlikely to recover over the duration of human existence.

Anton Woronczuk: In bearing witness to the destruction of the natural world, you write about the severe impacts of climate change on several different kinds of ecosystems and landscapes. Instead of The End of Ice, you could’ve as easily chosen The End of Rainforests, The End of Coral or The End of Coastal Cities as a relevant title for your book. Why did you decide on “ice”?

Dahr Jamail: That’s exactly right … we are in an age of loss, and the book could have had any number of titles. I landed on “ice” for two reasons. First, because that is where I personally feel the loss the most, given how much time I spend in the mountains, and where the idea of the book originated. Having lived in Alaska and spent so much time on glaciers there while climbing, that is where I saw how dramatically climate change was already unfolding back in the mid-1990s. The second reason I chose ice was because as we lose glaciers and ice fields, literally hundreds of millions and even billions of people will be directly impacted by lack of drinking water, lack of water for irrigation for agriculture, and so much more. This is no small thing.

In your accounts about scaling glaciers in Alaska or snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, you reflect on how much has changed since you first visited them. Which was the hardest place to return to? Which was the hardest to leave?

All of it was heartbreaking, from what I see happening on Denali and other glaciers in Alaska that I have long-term relationships with, to the loss of the Great Barrier Reef. But certainly, the moment when I was out of the Great Barrier Reef, it was the last snorkel of the day, and time to head back to land when my heart broke. It really felt like it was the last time I’d see the reef, and I was saying goodbye. I wept. That year, 30 percent of the reef died from that coral bleaching event I was witnessing. The next year, another bleaching event took out 20 percent of the reef. So, in two years, half of the single largest coral reef on the planet was wiped out from climate change-induced bleaching. That’s why I wept, knowing that was happening and was only going to continue.

I’m wondering if even more significant changes have occurred in some of the places you’ve written about in The End of Ice.

I could write pages about that. I was updating my scientific reports in my citations up until my final deadline for publishing, and even then, struggling to keep pace with the changes. Since then, intensely dramatic changes have happened.

One example is a study published in Nature [that] showed that over the last quarter century, the oceans have absorbed 60 percent more heat annually than estimated in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The study underscored that the globe’s oceans have, in fact, already absorbed 93 percent of all the heat humans have added to the atmosphere, that the climate system’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is far higher than thought, and that planetary warming is far more advanced than had previously been grasped.

To give you an idea of how much heat the oceans have absorbed: if that heat had instead gone into the atmosphere, the global temperature would be 97 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today. For those who think that there are still 12 years left to change things, the question posed by a sea level rise expert in my book seems painfully apt: How do we remove all the heat that’s already been absorbed by the oceans?

Two weeks after that Nature article came out, a study in Scientific Reports warned that the extinction of animal and plant species, thanks to climate change, could lead to a “domino effect” that might, in the end, annihilate life on the planet. It suggested that organisms will die out at increasingly rapid rates because they depend on other species that are also on their way out. It’s a process the study calls “co-extinction.”

A common thread throughout your book is that the fate of our ecosystems and the many ecological sites you visited has been decided. This seems to be in marked contrast with mainstream wisdom, which says that humanity can prevent a climate-induced catastrophe as long as we make major changes within a decade or so. Why do you think this discrepancy exists?

Global capitalism, neoliberal economics and the power structure depend upon things continuing as they are. The only real chance at mitigation of the impacts from climate change that are now entrenched in the climate system, would have been to abandon capitalism and enact something akin to the New Green Deal back when NASA’s James Hansen sounded the alarm about climate change to Congress in the 1980s. A radical restructuring of the entire fossil-fuel based economy means those who have all the power today would be rendered obsolete. The current hierarchy would have to be obliterated. And so, in short, power never concedes power willingly.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

3161. Conservation Biology: Just Preservation

By A. Trevesa, F.J. Santiago-Ávila, and W.S. Lynn, Biological Conservation, 2019 

Related image
Graphic credit: https://thenatureofbusinessdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/ego-versus-eco.jpg

Editor's note: Below is the Abstract to "Just Preservation" (click on the hyperlink for the entire article in PDF format) which presents a much needed alternative view of conservation to the existing anthropocentric views.  Julie Callahan. 

Abstract: We are failing to protect the biosphere. Novel views of conservation, preservation, and sustainability are surfacing in the wake of consensus about our failures to prevent extinction or slow climate change. We argue that the interests and well-being of non-humans, youth, and future generations of both human and non-human beings (futurity) have too long been ignored in consensus-based, anthropocentric conservation. Consensus-based stakeholder-driven processes disadvantage those absent or without a voice and allow current adult humans and narrow, exploitative interests to dominate decisions about the use of nature over its preservation for futurity of all life. We propose that authentically non-anthropocentric worldviews that incorporate multispecies justice are needed for a legitimate, deliberative, and truly democratic process of adjudication between competing interests in balancing the preservation and use of nature. Legitimate arenas for such adjudication would be courts that can defend intergenerational equity, which is envisioned by many nations' constitutions and can consider current and future generations of non-human life. We urge practitioners and scholars to disavow implicit anthropocentric value judgments in their work – or make these transparent and explicit – and embrace a more comprehensive worldview that grants future life on earth fair representation in humanity's decisions and actions today.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

3160. Beloved Poet Mary Oliver, Who Believed Poetry 'Mustn't Be Fancy,' Dies At 83

By Lynn Nearby, NPR, January 17, 2019
Mary Oliver



Much-loved poet Mary Oliver died Thursday of lymphoma, at her home in Florida. She was 83. Oliver won many awards for her poems, which often explore the link between nature and the spiritual world; she also won a legion of loyal readers who found both solace and joy in her work.
Oliver got a lot of her ideas for poems during long walks — a habit she developed as a kid growing up in rural Ohio. It was not a happy childhood: She said she was sexually abused and suffered from parental neglect. But as she told NPR in 2012, she found refuge in two great passions that lasted her entire life.
She said, "The two things I loved from a very early age were the natural world and dead poets, [who] were my pals when I was a kid."
Oliver published her first collection, No Voyage and Other Poems, in her late 20s. She went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. But writer Ruth Franklin believes such recognition probably wasn't that important to Oliver. "I always had a sense of her as somebody who was just interested in following her own path, both spiritually and poetically," she says.
In a New Yorker article about Oliver's 2017 book, Devotions, Franklin wrote that Oliver wasn't always appreciated by critics, but she was still one of the country's most popular poets. And there's a reason for that.
"Mary Oliver isn't a difficult poet," Franklin says. "Her work is incredibly accessible, and I think that's what makes her so beloved by so many people. It doesn't feel like you have to take a seminar in order to understand Mary Oliver's poetry. She's speaking directly to you as a human being."
Oliver told NPR that simplicity was important to her. "Poetry, to be understood, must be clear," she said. "It mustn't be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now, they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn't necessary should not be in the poem."


Oliver lived for many years in Provincetown, Mass., with the love of her life, the photographer Molly Malone Cook. There, she continued her habit of taking long walks, which often inspired poems. She wrote about one such walk in her poem "The Summer Day":
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Many of Oliver's poems are a joyful celebration of nature, but she also wrote about the abuse she suffered as a child and her first brush with death from lung cancer. Ruth Franklin says her work is infused with a deep spirituality. "The way she writes these poems that feel like prayers, she channels the voice of somebody who it seems might possibly have access to God. I think her work does give a sense of someone who is in tune with the deepest mysteries of the universe."
In her poem "When Death Comes," Oliver wrote this about the inevitable: "When it's over, I want to say all my life/ I was a bride married to amazement."