Tuesday, April 30, 2019

3236. The Marxist Turn in Animal Liberation? Interview with Daniel Werding, Christin Bernhold and David Müller

By Animal Liberation Currents, April 23, 2019
Banner image: “The sacrifice of the ox when it is slaughtered is always the same.” – Karl Marx, Grundrisse, collected works 28, p. 533. Image by an Alliance member, used in Antidot.

Daniel Werding, Christin Bernhold and David Müller are members of the Alliance for Marxism and Animal Liberation. The Alliance is a political association of various animal liberation groups centered in Germany and Switzerland. It was formed to support research, criticism and debate over the ideas of Marxism as they impact the animal liberation struggle and to contribute to a new approach to the praxis of the movement. The Alliance published it’s 18 Theses on Marxism and Animal Liberation1 in January, 2017. An English translation was released August 2018. Along with 2 other members of the Alliance, they spoke with Currents editor Michael John Addario. The interview was conducted over email between November 2018 and April 2019. 

The history of the animal liberation movements in Germany have some clear parallels with the liberation movements in the West, but they have also developed within the unique framework of German philosophy and German society. They also appear to have developed a bit later than the North American and some of the other European movements. Could you tell us a little bit about that history?

The history of what can be called the latest wave of the animal rights and animal liberation movements in Germany started at the end of the 1980s. The movements at that time still described themselves as animal welfarists, although they weren’t really “welfarists” in the reformist (and bourgeois) sense that we see today. Political and theoretical discussions on these issues were just beginning. Most of the activists had an autonomous anarchist background or an affiliation to the Green Party, which was founded at the beginning of the 1980s. Accordingly, their positions were a mixture of moral philosophy and the “unity-of-oppression” approaches. Back then, direct action dominated. This orientation, among other things, led to the first “anti-terrorism” trial against animal activists, which took place in Hamburg.2 All defendants were found not guilty. The split between welfarists and more radical currents happened quite early – at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. 

The differences between the animal rights movement and parts of the autonomous left resulted in an ideological clash at the Tierrechtswoche (“Animal Rights Week”) in Hamburg in 1995.3 This led to a reorientation within some of the groupings in the movement. They started to engage in theoretical discussions and began to formulate a critique of forms of autonomous politics then dominant in Germany. In the first years of the new millennium, this turn found its expression in new theoretical positions based on the traditional critical theory by Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse. Birgit Mütherich4 published her influential book about the problem of human-animal relations in the work of Weber, Marx and the Frankfurt School5 in 2000. At about the same time, the first platform for campaigning on a national level was founded: Offensive gegen die Pelzindustrie (Offensive Against the Fur Industry), and the first of a number of successful campaigns against the fur trade was launched.6 Shortly after that, the Jewish-Israeli critical theorist and professor Moshe Zuckermann helped the radical currents of the animal rights and liberation movements to explore the legacy of the Frankfurt School in favor of animal liberation politics.

Marcuse and Davis, USCD, 1968
“Nature, too, awaits the revolution” – Herbert Marcuse
“To be vegan is part of a revolutionary perspective” – Angela Davis
I am especially interested from what you described, in an earlier conversation, as a “turn to Marxism” in the German animal liberation movement, roughly between 2006 and 2008. How substantive and influential was that turn in practice – and what do you attribute that turn to?

Tierrechts-Aktion Nord (TAN), which is known today as Assoziation Dämmerung (Association Dawn),7 organized an important congress in Hamburg called “Soften the Stony Heart of Infinity” (a phrase by Adorno) in 2006.8 The contributions to the congress were published in a book with the same title, published by journalist and longtime animal liberation activist Susann Witt-Stahl.9

One of the contributors was Marco Maurizi. Marco is an Italian philosopher, musician and an active intellectual in the broad field of critical human-animal studies. In 2005, shortly before the congress took place, his Nine Theses on Speciesism appeared.10 Together with his two chapters to Susann’s book, which were the outcome of his talks at the congress, those theses were seminal for the groups who had already been discussing critical theory and animal liberation. 

Maurizi’s theses explained, in condensed form, the differences between a historical materialist approach to animal liberation and metaphysical ones. He used Peter Singer’s philosophy as a model for his definition of metaphysical anti-speciesism. Marco’s basic idea is that “speciesism – our belief that man is something other than and superior to every other animal – is the cause of nothing; it is rather the effect of something that the metaphysical anti-speciesists have not yet explained.” Here, “speciesism” is a prime example for what Marx and Engels called “superstructure” and it is the effect of political economic praxis – the “something” that metaphysical anti-speciesist have not yet explained. Even today in human-animal studies, metaphysical approaches have significant influence.

Susann’s book – and especially Marco’s interventions – led to deeper discussions about animal liberation and Marxism. At the same time, however, metaphysical anti-speciesism was getting a big boost by the emerging “human-animal studies” fields in academies in the German-speaking world. These fields are still dominated by left-liberal and radical democratic forces promoting post-structuralism (including Actor-Network-Theory), various new ethical approaches and “denucleated”, or eclectic, readings of the Frankfurt School.

The background against which this latter intellectual development took place was a general movement of the German left to the centre: in the wake of the ideological and political turn to the right and neoconservatism, the weakening of the traditional radical and socialist/communist left and the historic event of massive neoliberal cuts carried out by the first national government of social democrats and the Green Party – in which many leftists had placed big hopes. Economically, German capital was all but entirely uncontested in its dominance – and even gained opportunities for new profits due to the liberalization of the labor market and deregulation of the juridical forms of capital-labour relations. Germany was also being reinvented as a global player, approving its first participation in an open war of aggression after the Second World War, 1999 against the Republic of Yugoslavia, and its second in the still ongoing war in Afghanistan. Thus, if you like, one faction of the animal liberation movement took a “turn to Marxism”, but it was really a counter-current, as in Walter Benjamin’s sense that it has been “brushing history against the grain”. This was unfortunately neither part of a mass movement, nor did it dominate the broader left.

Cover of 18 Theses on Marxism and Animal Liberation, January 2017
How did the 18 Theses on Marxism and Animal Liberation come to be developed?
Coming out of these intellectual currents, we started meeting in 2014 with animal liberation activists from Switzerland and Germany who shared our point of view and began to discuss Marxist theory and politics and strategic issues in the movement. At that point, we had not yet planned to create a formal alliance. However, the meetings spawned fruitful debates on animal liberation from Marxist and socialist perspectives. It was necessary to elaborate on these perspectives in order to advance it within the movement – as well as make it accessible to people more generally interested in “animal issues”. We also wanted to develop these debates and agendas further. The Tierrechtsgruppe Zürich11 published an issue of Antidot12 – a supplement to the Swiss left-liberal weekly newspaper WOZ13 – in late 2014 focusing on “Marxism and Animal Liberation.” It was a publication of journalism rather than theory, but its essays developed some aspects of the critique we discussed during that time. Reactions to it showed us that there is indeed interest in anti-capitalist and socialist positions on animal liberation. Unfortunately, none of the articles have been translated into English.

We decided to consolidate our efforts and constitute what is now our Alliance and also to develop a statement that basically explains why we think that Marxism and Animal Liberation belong together. We needed something that we could use to present our position to both young comrades within the animal liberation movement and to Marxist comrades who always wondered why their crazy vegan comrades kept arguing that animals are something that Marxism should care about. The process of collective writing and debating took about one year. We wrote down our theses as our theoretical founding document and published it as a brochure in January 2017. After the Theses were released, we discussed them at several events of both the animal liberation movement and the Marxist left. Comrades from different countries translated them into English and French.14 We hope to facilitate a larger, international debate on Marxism and animal liberation, which we consider long overdue.

Cover of Antidot: “Dem Schlachten ein Ende setzen – Marxismus und Tierbefreiung, December 2014
How would you summarize the theoretical standpoint of the Theses?
It’s a classical Marxist standpoint from which we address both the animal liberation movement and the Marxist and communist left. We argue that animal liberation and Marxism not only might work together but in fact necessarily belong together and must unite. This is why the text is split into two main chapters: one arguing “Why anti-speciesism must be Marxist,” the other one “Why Marxism must be anti-speciesist.” As historical materialists, we think that animal liberation politics need Marxism to understand the relationship of society to both animals and nature and, at the same time, Marxism needs to recognize that animals must be liberated from exploitation and oppression just like the proletariat – which does not mean that the way they are exploited and dominated by capital works in exactly the same way.

In the first section, we take a critical look at the intellectual currents that are most influential in the animal rights and animal liberation movement at the moment – namely, bourgeois moral philosophy, liberal legal criticism and liberal (post-structuralist) anti-authoritarianism. We argue that all of them have their merits. However, in the end, they are not able to give a satisfactory answer to the question as to why exactly animals are exploited in capitalism, why this exploitation works the way it works and where speciesist ideology really comes from. We then introduce historical materialism and the works of Marx and Engels as a theoretical foundation which is both able and necessary to answer these questions. It also provides the instruments to analyze the economic position animals have in capitalism. 

The second section argues that on the other side, Marxism is inconsistent if it keeps ignoring the animals. While arguing that capitalism inherently harms the interests of the proletariat, Marxists are incoherent if they want to abolish capitalist exploitation and oppression in order to liberate the working class but at the same time deny that for animals. This is not a moralism, per se, but a fundamental – revolutionary – moral position that Marxists are driven by in their will to end the systematic suffering that capitalism causes. For historical materialists, there is no justifiable reason not to respect the interests and rights of non-human animals.

A number of scholars have been grappling with elements of Marxism and animal liberation for some time now, among them figures such as David Nibert and John Sanbonmatsu in the US and Dinesh Wadiwel in Australia. The question of animal labour has animated writers such as Jason Hribal and has also been taken up by some academics outside of a Marxist framework. Did you draw from any from these figures?

Our aim was not to write an academic text, but a political essay which outlines common ground for Marxists and animal liberationists. Thus, the number of explicit references is intentionally low. But you can find some references to Marx and Engels, Luxemburg, Adorno or Marcuse – some explicit, some implicit. Furthermore, we drew in large extent on our experiences in the debates we have been having in the German-speaking world in which, with all due respect, the scholars you name have not yet become as influential as, for e.g., Gary Francione, Donna Haraway or Carol J. Adams. So, the short answer is that while some of us are familiar with Nibert, Sanbonmatsu and Wadiwel we have not yet discussed them as a collective. And we also found it necessary to formulate a position based on the original works of Marx and Engels, who we don’t consider speciesist or anthropocentric.

Jason Hribal has become a bit famous in Germany, at least in the academic world. But the focus of the reception has been more on his concept of animal resistance and the related reformulation of animal agency. In contrast to him, we do not think that animals “resist” their exploitation and oppression, or that it is helpful to extend agency in such a particular way. We think that it is necessary to be precise with our terms and that a transfer of concepts from the working class to animals is not always easy. This does not mean that animals go voluntarily to the slaughterhouse or that they are not actors in history. Actually, as Marxists we know that not only humans have been making history. But we think that “resistance” is not the right term to conceptualize what animals do. Not every individual or collective act of denial, refusal, non-corporation etc. is automatically an act of resistance – neither in human or in animal histories.

On Hribal’s proposal to consider animal as laborers, the quality of the concept depends a lot on its exact meaning. Obviously, animals do work for their own reproduction and/or for “animal capital.” Incidentally, Marx and Engels had already stated this, although many pro-animal scholars try to prove the opposite. It is actually quite interesting to observe that some post-postmodernists now “rediscover” nature and animals as agents, while Marx and Engels had already considered them to have a history of their own, even in their early works. But does the fact that animals perform labor mean that animals are part of the proletariat, as Hribal assumes? We have been considering the question of animal labor for a while now, and we do not think so. Marx and Engels used this term for a specific class, within the historically particular capitalist social formation, and which is defined by its relation to capital: i.e., with respect to the property relations and the production and distribution of profit. The relation to capital by wage workers and by animals respectively differ. In the latter case, it is a property relation which allows capital to super-exploit animals. 

Furthermore, if we consider Hribal’s political definition of the proletariat, we would argue that animals are not a politically conscious part of the working class. We think this particular transfer of a concept does not help us to better understand contemporary society. In the worst case, it confuses our analysis. Nevertheless, we do appreciate the histories Hribal has collected about animals who do not cooperate with their exploiters and oppressors. They are really fascinating and, of course, they contradict the wrong perception of animals as passive material, automatons or machines.

There is a significant anarchist element within many animal liberation movements. Some of this is often more in name – almost as a kind of cultural affiliation – rather than reflecting classical anarchist practice. Is there a genuine Marxist-Anarchist debate or a clash of organizational strategies in the German movement?

The short answer would be no. If you exclude postmodernist neo-anarchism, the genuinely anarchist current within the animal liberation movement is not as strong as it used to be. Unlike the 90s, where, say, the eco-anarchism that many of us grew up with was quite influential, culturally and theoretically, it does not organize itself as an explicitly “anarchist” current anymore. Ironically, one of the few groups which at the moment labels themselves “anarchist” is an animal liberation group in Hannover run by so-called “anti-Germans”15 who use allegations of antisemitism in order to slander traditional leftists. Secondly, there is simply no organized theoretical debate within the movement about these issues at the moment. 

We would actually prefer to have such a “clash of organizational strategies” – at least that would imply a debate, which could potentially push things forward. But strategic debates just aren’t taking place at the moment. Of course, there are activists with an anarchist or libertarian background. So far, no critique or reaction to our theses from an explicitly anarchist point of view has been formulated. There are of course some of our positions and arguments which are questioned, e.g. the focus on the class question as a core question of capitalism, or the necessity to join forces with the labor movement. But since these issues are not really debated with regard to organizational questions, that sort of debate is not happening.

Could you tell us a little bit about the Alliance? How was it formed and how is it organized?
The Alliance was formed in 2014. It is based in several cities in Germany and in Switzerland. We started our collective work with the above-mentioned newspaper supplement Antidot. We outlined some basic ideas on historical materialism and animals and a Marxist approach to ethics as class ethics. We also did some analysis of the German and Swiss meat industry, looked at the interconnections between eco-socialism and animals, criticized the emerging vegan culture industry, and so on. We had rich editorial discussions about the paper and its contents, about debates in the emerging human-animal studies in the universities and about developments on the left. We concluded that we need at least three things: (1) an independent, organizational approach of Marxists and animal liberationists, (2) a collective theoretical and political discussion of the interconnections of Marxism and animal liberation thought, and (3) a strategic debate on how to move forward. 

The Alliance thus became formalized and we launched theoretical discussions, the 18 Theses being the first result. We are an association of groups and individuals with different political backgrounds, scattered geographically. We hold collective meetings several weekends a year. For these meetings, we take turns preparing inputs on theoretical and political currents and other issues, to make sure that everybody is on the same page, educate ourselves and be up to date, etc. We have plenary discussions on significant topics in which all activists have a common interest. In addition, we hold regular phone conferences with delegates from all participating groups. Despite our emphasis on theoretical work and idea formation the first phase of our alliance, we see ourselves primarily as a political activist organization. Theory and praxis cannot be separated – both have to be part of what we do politically. It took us most of that first year to write the theses.

The first step to a new strategic approach followed in March 2018. The animal rights/ liberation movements are in a terrible state at the moment. We organized a conference about “The Future of the Movement”. The idea was to present and discuss a proposal for a new movement strategy. Instead of doing only localized work, or a lot of small, single-issue campaigns which are mostly unsuccessful, we proposed to focus the principal forces of the movement collectively on the meat industry, as it is both the main economic profiteer and the most influential political agent in animal exploitation. Additionally, we think that the meat industry could be a focus of opposition for the broader anti-capitalist left, given the relations of exploitation between capital and labor are among the most extreme, considering the social ecological problems produced by the meat industry, and given the contribution of agriculture to greenhouse emissions. That’s where we are at the moment.
The conference in Hamburg, 2018, organized by the Alliance for Marxism and Animal Liberation, discussing socialist perspectives in the animal liberation movement.
The animal liberation movements worldwide are at a critical historical moment. They have struggled to find a place within major left currents – explicitly Marxist or otherwise – even as the needs for them are so politically urgent. The numbers of non-human beings owned and slaughtered every year is the highest in human history and the nature of their use is of an almost incomprehensibly sadistic character. What do you see as the most urgent strategic aims of the movements?

You’re right with that observation. We consider it crucial for these movements to join forces, if only for the simple reason that the bourgeoisie and its apparatuses are pretty well organized and we, as their enemies, must just do the same in order to be powerful. And let’s not forget that the animal liberation movement is not the only left movement with a de facto urgent need for allies.

We think it is vital to focus strategically on the meat industry. It is the embodiment of the global oppression and exploitation of animals, workers and nature. It is responsible not only for most of the systematic slaughter of animals, but also for pollution, deforestation, ecocide, prevention of food sovereignty, the oppression of workers’ rights and the destruction of their unions. It is a primary locus for so many of the contradictions of capitalism. The meat industry can potentially be a political arena in which different anti-capitalist movements meet to join forces. Such a campaign could enable us to create the common ground for animal liberation, eco-activists, unionists, communists, and opponents of imperialism to unite.

Of course, it would be naïve to believe that such a thing could form overnight, not the least of which is due to the mutual skepticism and political differences between and among animal liberation groups and different left currents. We are in relatively uncharted political territory. We do not have ready answers to certain questions. Things must really be tried out in practice.

This requires careful solidarity-building work. For instance, at different sites of the German meat industry, local groups – mainly unionists and residents – can start discussing what to do against the devastating working conditions. The discontent among workers in the meat industry has always been high and everybody knows that. The same is true for citizens living near slaughterhouses. Local campaigns and initiatives need to aim at building bonds with these people. One can build from there. It’s important to keep in mind that workers in the meat industry care about their jobs not because they necessarily want to work killing animals – much of the job is psychologically stressful – but because they need an income. This distinction is important for the question of solidarity. How should our movement act in such a context? At any rate, advancing animal liberation positions in these campaigns would require real participation over the long term, rather than just going to a meeting and speaking against slaughter. 

Of course, it is a consistent problem that the Marxist left, social movements and liberal elements that promote technological fixes – such as, say, agroecology – are either ignorant or hostile to the animal question. This has not exactly helped animal liberationists finding their place in “the left,” as you say.

How that’s supposed to change is a matter on its own. But when it comes to the question as to what the animal liberation movement needs to do to develop the potential to build broader alliances, a first thing is giving up single-issue politics. This is the very precondition to be able to even think about joining forces with others. The animal liberation movements must ensure that they do not themselves serve the prejudices that often exist in the Marxist left, like for instance, that they are only interested in vegan consumption, or that they do not pay attention to questions of political economy – especially the exploitation of workers – and so on.

In July of this year, we will participate in an action conference organized by Animal Climate Action (AniCa), which will be discussing strategies against the meat industry and is organizing a major mobilization against the EuroTier 2020 in Hannover, a world leading fair for animal production. We are looking forward to the discussions there.
“Bring slaughter to an end: expropriate the meat industry, abolish capitalism”. Rally against the Meat industry, Zurich, Switzerland, 2018
But how you see such class politics functioning? Democratizing the economy and producing for human need is certainly the socialist project writ large. But in transforming workplaces to worker and council leadership, we can quite easily anticipate class conflicts around the liberation of animals. This seems to me something that must remain at the centre of animal liberation politics generally. As you said, the animal rights movement – even the animal liberation left – has not exactly prioritized socialism and class politics. 

Animal liberation class politics have to be developed within the traditional left, the pro-animal movements and society. We have to develop it ourselves – theoretically and practically. The lack of such politics, sometimes even the frank refusal of such politics, is one major reason why we are disconnected from the left. Like it or not, there is no other way than pro-animal class politics if we take into account the objective forces in our capitalist society and the objective of a just and free society for all. Again, simple vegan outreach, “veganizing” education and direct actions are not sufficient – they are often even politically counterproductive. On the other hand, we do not consider the establishment of these politics to be an “automatism”, or a way of least resistance. There are still large reservations among leftists and animal rightists, not to mention the classical social-democratic left within the unions’ apparatuses. Thus, there are going to be conflicts about socialism, animal liberation and their interconnection within the left and with liberals, democrats and so on. But there are always some people who are at least open to discussion and to selective alliances on both sides. Finding them and initiating conversations is one of our first tasks. 

With respect to civil society and the state, we have no illusions. As with other locations of class struggle, the ruling classes are not going to like what we want or what we do. One faction does not want to deal with the issues at all and openly fights against us. The other, the more (neo)liberal one, wants to pacify us. These capitalists and politicians promote vegan commodities and lifestyles, improved animal welfare regulations, the acknowledgment of some species and in-vitro meat in order to maintain the bourgeois hegemony with regard to animal exploitation. 

However, as the history of the working-class struggles shows, integration is not liberation and the ruling classes have treated those who refused integration with even more rigor. The hard or the soft way, in the end we have to struggle against capitalism and the capitalist class in general and animal capital in particular. Our task is to organize and educate ourselves as best as possible and formulate a strategic project against animal capital that appeals to pro-animal activists and leftists on the one hand and to the broad working class and public on the other. 

If we get this done, we are already a big step ahead.

Monday, April 29, 2019

3235. Transition to Framing in Anatolia Originated Locally

By Roni Dengler, Discover Magazine, March 20, 2019

Map of Anatolia 7500 years ago. Source: Wikipedia

Some 12,000 years ago, the land was exceptionally fertile curving up from the Nile River basin across Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, down into the Tigris River Valley. The area’s earliest settlers grew wheat, barely and lentils. Some kept pigs and sheep. Farming soon replaced hunting and foraging as a way of life there. The region became known as the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of agriculture.

This pastoral lifestyle eventually spread across Europe from a place called Anatolia, which sits north of the Fertile Crescent in what is now modern-day Turkey. But it’s unclear exactly how early Anatolians outside of the Fertile Crescent — including in Europe — took up farming in the first place. Did farming spread from the Fertile Crescent? Or did early Europeans find farming on their own.

Now researchers have found that the first farmers in Anatolia were actually local hunter-gatherers. The discovery means the earliest Anatolian pastoralists took up agriculture on their own. The lifestyle was not introduced to the region.

“Unlike in Europe where agriculture was introduced by migration and by people coming to Europe, in Anatolia the emergence of agriculture …happened from within the population,”said Johannes Krause, an archaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Human History in Jena, Germany, who led the new research, in a media statement. 

Anatolian Agriculture
To find out how agriculture came to Anatolia, Krause’s team looked to the genetic record. The researchers analyzed DNA extracted from the remains of eight prehistoric humans, including a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer who was excavated from a site in what is now central Turkey.

A handful of the other individuals the team studied were early Anatolian farmers who lived about 10,000 years ago. Two others, from archaeological sites in Israel and Jordan, date to about 9,000 years ago. Together, the genomes of these eight ancient humans provide a genetic account that spans the geographic and historical timing of the arrival of farming in the region.

The investigation revealed the early Anatolian farmers draw a large part of their ancestry from the Anatolian hunter-gatherer, the researchers report today in Nature Communications.

“What we see is that for over 7,000 years, there were no major genetic changes in the region,”  Michal Feldman, an anthropologist who authored the new research with Krause, said in a press briefing.

The finding helps to answer a long-standing question as to whether immigrants from earlier farming areas mixed with local European hunter-gatherers to bring agriculture to the region. Krause and team’s findings suggest Anatolia was not a waypoint for farmers moving from the Fertile Crescent into Europe. Instead, the results add to archaeological evidence that Anatolian hunter-gatherers adopted ideas, plants and technology that led to farming, the researchers write. 

First Farmers
The discovery means, “there was not a new population that moved into Anatolia, introducing agriculture,” Krause said. “It was a cultural change, not a biological change,” as was the case when agriculture came to central Europe.

“It was actually the hunter-gatherers of Anatolia that took on a farming way of life,” Feldman added.

For Feldman, the big question that remains is why early Anatolians began farming originally “What motivated people in these regions including central Anatolia to make this dramatic transition in their way of life?” she asked.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

3234. Americans Are Among the Most Stressed People in the World, Poll Finds

 By Niraj Chokshi, The New York Times, April 25, 2019

Americans are among the most stressed people in the world, according to a new survey. And that’s just the start of it.

Last year, Americans reported feeling stress, anger and worry at the highest levels in a decade, according to the survey, part of an annual Gallup poll of more than 150,000 people around the world, released on Thursday.

“What really stood out for the U.S. is the increase in the negative experiences,” said Julie Ray, Gallup’s managing editor for world news. “This was kind of a surprise to us when we saw the numbers head in this direction.”

For the annual poll, started in 2005, Gallup asks individuals about whether they have experienced a handful of positive or negative feelings the day before being interviewed. The data on Americans is based on responses from more than 1,000 adults.

In the United States, about 55 percent of adults said they had experienced stress during “a lot of the day” prior, compared with just 35 percent globally. Statistically, that put the country on par with Greece, which had led the rankings on stress since 2012.

About 45 percent of the Americans surveyed said they had felt “a lot” of worry the day before, compared with a global average of 39 percent. Meanwhile, the share of Americans who reported feeling “a lot” of anger the day before being interviewed was the same as the global average: 22 percent.

When Gallup investigated the responses more closely, it found that being under 50, earning a low income and having a dim view of President Trump’s job performance were correlated with negative experiences among adults in the United States.

But there still isn’t enough data to say for sure whether any of those factors were behind the feelings of stress, worry and anger.

The findings were not all bleak for the United States. Despite having widespread negative experiences, Americans also generally reported more positive experiences, on average, than the rest of the world did.

Globally, just 49 percent of those interviewed said they had learned or had done something interesting the day before. In the United States, however, 64 percent of adults said the same.

The two sets of questions, about negative and positive experiences, are unconnected, according to Ms. Ray. An individual can, for example, feel both stressed and well-rested for much of a given day.

“If you think about how you felt yesterday, you didn’t just feel one way the entire day,” she said.

Negative experiences were assessed by asking about physical pain, worry, sadness, stress and anger. Positive experiences were measured by asking whether individuals felt well-rested, felt treated with respect, smiled or laughed, learned or did something interesting and felt enjoyment.

The margin of error in the poll ranged from 2.1 to 5.3 percentage points, depending on the country. The results for the United States, where interviews were conducted from Aug. 13 to Sept. 30, had a margin of error of four percentage points.

Negative experiences remained at record highs
Worldwide, negative experiences were just as widespread last year as in 2017, which was the darkest year for humanity in more than a decade, according to Gallup. While stress declined globally, anger increased. Worry and sadness reached new heights, and feelings of physical pain were unchanged.

For the first time, Chad topped the list as the country with the highest response of negative experiences in the world.

“The country’s overall score at least partly reflects the violence, displacement and the collapse of basic services in parts of Chad that have affected thousands of families,” Gallup said in the report.

Additional countries that led the world in negative experiences included other African nations, like Niger and Sierra Leone, and some in the Middle East, such as Iraq and Iran.

Nations in Latin America once again led the list of countries where positive experiences were highest, despite the fact that some of the countries that topped the list, like El Salvador and Honduras, are home to some of the world’s highest murder rates.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

3233. U.S. and Afghan Forces Killed More Civilians Than Taliban Did, Report Finds

By David Zucchino, The New York Times, April 24, 2019

Mourning civilians killed in a raid last year by a C.I.A.-sponsored strike force in Khogyani, Afghanistan. Photo: Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times.
KABUL, Afghanistan — For the first time since the United Nations began documenting civilian casualties in Afghanistan a decade ago, more civilians are being killed by Afghan government and American forces than by the Taliban and other insurgents, according to a report on Wednesday.

Civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces rose in the first quarter of this year even as overall civilian casualties dropped to their lowest level in that period since 2013.

The United Nations said in its quarterly report that pro-government forces were responsible for 53 percent of civilian deaths. But insurgents were responsible for the majority — 54 percent — of civilian casualties over all, even as the number of suicide bombings decreased compared with the same period in 2018, the report said.

During the first three months of this year, military operations escalated as both sides sought leverage in peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. At the same time, there has been a relative lull in insurgent suicide attacks that indiscriminately kill civilians, especially in Kabul, the capital. The city has been a repeated target during the conflict, which is in its 18th year.

“It is unclear whether the decrease in civilian casualties was influenced by any measures taken by parties to the conflict to better protect civilians, or by the ongoing talks between parties to the conflict,” the United Nations report said.

The agency reported 581 civilians killed and 1,192 wounded during the first quarter, a 23 percent decrease in overall casualties compared with the same period in 2018.

Other quarterly numbers may reflect an increasing reliance on airstrikes in a war in which Afghan security forces tend to hunker down in fortified bases rather than mount aggressive assaults against Taliban fighters. When attacked, Afghan forces often call for airstrikes by the American-trained Afghan Air Force to dislodge the enemy.

Aerial operations were the third-highest cause of civilian casualties, killing 145 civilians and wounding 83 during the quarter — a 41 percent increase for those type of casualties compared with the same quarter in 2018. The report attributed almost all of those casualties to American airstrikes.

“A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement. “All parties must do more to safeguard civilians.”

The latest figures provided by the United States military show that American warplanes dropped 790 bombs and other munitions in Afghanistan in January and February. That was a slight decrease from the 847 that were dropped during the same two months in 2018.

Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the United States military in Afghanistan, said that the American forces “hold ourselves to the highest standards of accuracy and accountability” and “strive for precision in all of our operations.”

“We reserve the right of self-defense of our forces as well as the Afghan security forces,” Colonel Butler said in a statement. “The best way to end the suffering of noncombatants is to end the fighting through an agreed-upon reduction in violence on all sides.”

The United Nations report said the decrease in suicide bombings in the first quarter might have stemmed from an especially harsh winter. The agency documented just four suicide bombings, all attributed to the Taliban, which caused 178 civilian casualties. That was down from 19 suicide bombings and 751 resulting casualties during the same quarter last year.

The Taliban, the Islamic State and other militants killed 227 civilians and wounded 736 in the first quarter, the report said — a 36 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2018.

The United Nations said pro-government forces killed 305 civilians and wounded 303 — a 39 percent increase from the first quarter of last year, and 34 percent of all civilian casualties for the first quarter of this year.

The report attributed the remaining casualties to crossfire and other causes.

Ground engagements were the single biggest cause of all civilian casualties, accounting for about a third of the total. A single mortar attack by the Islamic State last month in Kabul was responsible for about a fifth of all first-quarter civilian casualties from ground engagements, the report said.

The second leading cause of civilian casualties was improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. In a reversal from previous reporting periods, the majority of IED casualties were caused by non-suicide IEDs rather than those detonated by a suicide bomber, the report said.

The United Nations attributed 529 casualties to the deliberate targeting of civilians. Addressing the Taliban, the Islamic State and other insurgent groups, the report said that “the deliberate targeting of civilians — including government officials — is prohibited under international law and constitutes a war crime.”

Other leading causes of civilian casualties were targeted killings (9 percent of the total), explosive remnants of war such as land mines or unexploded rockets (7 percent) and search operations by pro-government forces (6 percent).

A Taliban spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The United Nations reported in February that 2018 was the single deadliest year for Afghan civilians since the agency began documenting casualties in 2009. Almost 4,000 civilians died that year, including a record number of children. The 2018 report attributed 63 percent of civilian casualties to insurgent groups and 24 percent to pro-government forces.

The first-quarter drop in overall civilian casualties came after reports of initial progress at the latest round of peace talks in Qatar last month. Under a tentative framework reached by American and Taliban negotiators, the American military would withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for a pledge by the Taliban not to allow terrorists to operate from Afghan soil.

About 14,000 American troops are currently in Afghanistan. About half are regular troops who train Afghan security forces, while American Special Operations forces work with Afghan commandos to conduct counterterrorism raids against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Monday, April 22, 2019

3232. Joseph Stiglitz Calls for Progressive Capitalism

By Joseph E. Stiglitz, The New York Times, April 19, 2019

Despite the lowest unemployment rates since the late 1960s, the American economy is failing its citizens. Some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years. This is not surprising, given that the United States has the highest level of inequality among the advanced countries and one of the lowest levels of opportunity — with the fortunes of young Americans more dependent on the income and education of their parents than elsewhere.

But things don’t have to be that way. There is an alternative: progressive capitalism. Progressive capitalism is not an oxymoron; we can indeed channel the power of the market to serve society.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s regulatory “reforms,” which reduced the ability of government to curb the excesses of the market, were sold as great energizers of the economy. But just the opposite happened: Growth slowed, and weirder still, this happened in the innovation capital of the world.

The sugar rush produced by President Trump’s largess to corporations in the 2017 tax law didn’t deal with any of these long-run problems, and is already fading. Growth is expected to be a little under 2 percent next year.

This is where we’ve descended to, but not where we have to stay. A progressive capitalism based on an understanding of what gives rise to growth and societal well-being gives us a way out of this quagmire and a way up for our living standards.

Standards of living began to improve in the late 18th century for two reasons: the development of science (we learned how to learn about nature and used that knowledge to increase productivity and longevity) and developments in social organization (as a society, we learned how to work together, through institutions like the rule of law, and democracies with checks and balances).

Key to both were systems of assessing and verifying the truth. The real and long-lasting danger of the Trump presidency is the risk it poses to these pillars of our economy and society, its attack on the very idea of knowledge and expertise, and its hostility to institutions that help us discover and assess the truth.

There is a broader social compact that allows a society to work and prosper together, and that, too, has been fraying. America created the first truly middle-class society; now, a middle-class life is increasingly out of reach for its citizens.

America arrived at this sorry state of affairs because we forgot that the true source of the wealth of a nation is the creativity and innovation of its people. One can get rich either by adding to the nation’s economic pie or by grabbing a larger share of the pie by exploiting others — abusing, for instance, market power or informational advantages. We confused the hard work of wealth creation with wealth-grabbing (or, as economists call it, rent-seeking), and too many of our talented young people followed the siren call of getting rich quickly.

Beginning with the Reagan era, economic policy played a key role in this dystopia: Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities. Even as economic theories like information economics (dealing with the ever-present situation where information is imperfect), behavioral economics and game theory arose to explain why markets on their own are often not efficient, fair, stable or seemingly rational, we relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.

The result is an economy with more exploitation — whether it’s abusive practices in the financial sector or the technology sector using our own data to take advantage of us at the cost of our privacy. The weakening of antitrust enforcement, and the failure of regulation to keep up with changes in our economy and the innovations in creating and leveraging market power, meant that markets became more concentrated and less competitive.

Politics has played a big role in the increase in corporate rent-seeking and the accompanying inequality. Markets don’t exist in a vacuum; they have to be structured by rules and regulations, and those rules and regulations must be enforced. Deregulation of the financial sector allowed bankers to engage in both excessively risky activities and more exploitive ones. Many economists understood that trade with developing countries would drive down American wages, especially for those with limited skills, and destroy jobs. We could and should have provided more assistance to affected workers (just as we should provide assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of technological change), but corporate interests opposed it. A weaker labor market conveniently meant lower labor costs at home to complement the cheap labor businesses employed abroad.

We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.
If we don’t change course matters will likely grow worse, as machines (artificial intelligence and robots) replace an increasing fraction of routine labor, including many of the jobs of the several million Americans making their living by driving.

The prescription follows from the diagnosis: It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve. We must be as resolute in combating market power as the corporate sector is in increasing it.

If we had curbed exploitation in all of its forms and encouraged wealth creation, we would have had a more dynamic economy with less inequality. We might have curbed the opioid crisis and avoided the 2008 financial crisis. If we had done more to blunt the power of oligopolies and strengthen the power of workers, and if we had held our banks accountable, the sense of powerlessness might not be so pervasive and Americans might have greater trust in our institutions.

There are many other areas in which government action is required. Markets on their own won’t provide insurance against some of the most important risks we face, such as unemployment and disability. They won’t efficiently provide pensions with low administrative costs and insurance against inflation. And they won’t provide an adequate infrastructure or a decent education for everyone or engage in sufficient basic research.

Progressive capitalism is based on a new social contract between voters and elected officials, between workers and corporations, between rich and poor, and between those with jobs and those who are un- or underemployed. 

Part of this new social contract is an expanded public option for many programs now provided by private entities or not at all. It was a mistake not to include the public option in Obamacare: It would have enriched choice and enhanced competition, lowering prices. But one can design public options in other arenas as well, for instance for retirement and mortgages. This new social contract will enable most Americans to once again have a middle-class life.

As an economist, I am always asked: Can we afford to provide this middle-class life for most, let alone all, Americans? Somehow, we did when we were a much poorer country in the years after World War II. In our politics, in our labor-market participation, and in our health we are already paying the price for our failures.

The neoliberal fantasy that unfettered markets will deliver prosperity to everyone should be put to rest. It is as fatally flawed as the notion after the fall of the Iron Curtain that we were seeing “the end of history” and that we would all soon be liberal democracies with capitalist economies.

Most important, our exploitive capitalism has shaped who we are as individuals and as a society. The rampant dishonesty we’ve seen from Wells Fargo and Volkswagen or from members of the Sackler family as they promoted drugs they knew were addictive — this is what is to be expected in a society that lauds the pursuit of profits as leading, to quote Adam Smith, “as if by an invisible hand,” to the well-being of society, with no regard to whether those profits derive from exploitation or wealth creation.

3231. The Earth Is Just as Alive as You Are

By Ferris Jabr, The New York Times, April 20, 2019

Every year the nearly 400 billion trees in the Amazon rain forest and all the creatures that depend on them are drenched in seven feet of rain — four times the annual rainfall in London. This deluge is partly due to geographical serendipity. Intense equatorial sunlight speeds the evaporation of water from sea and land to sky, trade winds bring moisture from the ocean, and bordering mountains force incoming air to rise, cool and condense. Rain forests happen where it happens to rain.

But that’s only half the story. Life in the Amazon does not simply receive rain — it summons it. All of that lush vegetation releases 20 billion tons of water vapor into the sky every day. Trees saturate the air with gaseous compounds and salts. Fungi exhale plumes of spores. The wind sweeps bacteria, pollen, leaf fragments and bits of insect shells into the atmosphere. The wet breath of the forest, peppered with microbes and organic residues, creates ideal conditions for rain. With so much water in the air and so many minute particles on which the water can condense, rain clouds quickly form.

The Amazon sustains much more than itself, however. Forests are vital pumps of Earth’s circulatory system. All of the water that gushes upward from the Amazon forms an enormous flying river, which brings precipitation to farms and cities throughout South America. Some scientists have concluded that through long-range atmospheric ripple effects the Amazon contributes to rainfall in places as far away as Canada.

The Amazon’s rain ritual is just one of the many astonishing ways in which living creatures transform their environments and the planet as a whole. Much of this ecology has only recently been discovered or understood. We now have compelling evidence that microbes are involved in numerous geological processes; some scientists think they played a role in forming the continents.

Trees, algae and other photosynthetic organisms produce most of the world’s breathable oxygen, helping maintain it at a level high enough to support complex life, but not so high that Earth would erupt in flames at the slightest spark. Ocean plankton drive chemical cycles on which all other life depends and emit gases that increase cloud cover, altering global climate. Seaweed, coral reefs and shellfish store huge amounts of carbon, balance the ocean’s chemistry and defend shorelines from severe weather. And animals as diverse as elephants, prairie dogs and termites continually reconstruct the planet’s crust, altering the flow of water, air and nutrients and improving the prospects of millions of species.

Humans are the most extreme example of a creature transforming Earth. By spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we have drastically altered the planet’s response to solar radiation, spiking global temperatures, raising sea levels and intensifying storms.

One of the many obstacles to reckoning with global warming is the stubborn notion that humans are not powerful enough to affect the entire planet. “I don’t believe it,” President Trump said in response to one of his administration’s reports on anthropogenic climate change. In truth, we are far from the only creatures with such power, nor are we the first species to devastate the global ecosystem. The history of life on Earth is the history of life remaking Earth.

Faced with this preponderance of evidence, it is time to revive an idea that was once roundly mocked: the Gaia hypothesis. Conceived by the British chemist James Lovelock in the early 1970s and later developed with the American biologist Lynn Margulis, the Gaia hypothesis proposes that all the living and nonliving elements of Earth are “parts and partners of a vast being who in her entirety has the power to maintain our planet as a fit and comfortable habitat for life.”

Although this bold idea found an enthusiastic audience among the general public, many scientists criticized and ridiculed it. “I would prefer that the Gaia hypothesis be restricted to its natural habitat of station bookstalls, rather than polluting works of serious scholarship,” the evolutionary biologist Graham Bell wrote in 1987. The microbiologist John Postgate was especially vehement: “Gaia — the Great Earth Mother! The planetary organism!” he wrote in New Scientist. “Am I the only biologist to suffer a nasty twitch, a feeling of unreality, when the media invite me yet again to take it seriously?”

Over time, however, scientific opposition to Gaia waned. In his early writing, Dr. Lovelock occasionally granted Gaia too much agency, which encouraged the misperception that the living Earth was yearning for some optimal state. But the essence of his hypothesis — the idea that life transforms and in many cases regulates the planet — proved prescient and profoundly true. We and all living creatures are not just inhabitants of Earth, we are Earth — an outgrowth of its physical structure and an engine of its global cycles. Although some scientists still recoil at the mention of Gaia, these truths have become part of mainstream science.

“It’s definitely time to revisit Gaia,” said Adam Frank, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester. Some scientists even agree that the planet is in a very meaningful sense alive. “Life is not something that happened on Earth, but something that happened to Earth,” said David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute. “There is this feedback between the living and nonliving parts of the planet that make the planet very different from what it would otherwise be.” As Dr. Margulis wrote, “Earth, in the biological sense, has a body sustained by complex physiological processes. Life is a planetary-level phenomenon and Earth’s surface has been alive for at least 3,000 million years.”

Those who bristle at the notion of a living planet will argue that Earth cannot be alive because it does not eat, reproduce or evolve. Yet science has never established a precise and universally accepted definition of life, only a long list of its qualities. Like many living creatures, Earth has a highly organized structure, a membrane and daily rhythms; it consumes, stores and transforms energy; and if asteroid-hitching microbes or space-faring humans colonize other worlds, who is to say that planets are not capable of procreation?

If Earth breathes, sweats and quakes — if it births zillions of organisms that ceaselessly devour, transfigure and replenish its air, water and rock — and if those creatures and their physical environments evolve in tandem, then why shouldn’t we think of our planet as alive?

Humans are the brain — the consciousness — of the planet. We are Earth made aware of itself. Viewed this way, our ecological responsibility could not be clearer. By fuming greenhouse gases, we have not simply changed the climate; we have critically wounded a global life form and severely disrupted its biological rhythms. No other member of this living assembly has our privileged perspective. No one else can see the sinews and vessels of our planetary body. Only we can choose to help keep Earth alive.

Gaia’s legacy can help us fulfill this responsibility. We can learn to recognize and amplify the planet’s innate climate-stabilizing processes. Earth has its own methods for storing carbon: A complex chain of chemical reactions involving plants, plankton and shellfish can lock atmospheric carbon in limestone. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, many Earth system scientists think we should study how to augment this natural sequestration and related processes.

In recent years the Amazon rain forest has endured unusually intense and frequent droughts, which some scientists have linked to deforestation and forest fires. It would be easy to compartmentalize these ecological shifts as local tragedies, but that detachment is an illusion.

Seen through the lens of Gaia, the Amazon’s plight is the draining of our communal veins and arteries. We must learn to feel its thirst viscerally. “We are a part of this Earth and we cannot therefore consider our affairs in isolation,” Dr. Lovelock wrote. “We are so tied to the Earth that its chills or fevers are our chills and fevers also.”

Sunday, April 21, 2019

3230. Half of England Is Owned by Less Than 1% of Its Population, Research Shows

By Palko Karasz, The New York Times, April 19, 2019

Land ownership in England, a source of enormous wealth, is often shielded by a culture of secrecy harking back to the Middle Ages. But a researcher says that after years of digging, he has an answer:

Less than 1 percent of the population — including aristocrats, royals and wealthy investors — owns about half of the land, according to “Who Owns England,” a book that is to be published in May. And many of them inherited the property as members of families that have held it for generations — even centuries.

In the book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, the author, Guy Shrubsole, an environmental activist and writer, identifies many of the owners and compiles data gathered by peppering public bodies with freedom of information requests and combing through the 25 million title records in the government’s Land Registry.

He reached a striking conclusion — that in England, home to about 56 million people, half the country belongs to just 25,000 landowners, some of them corporations.

The findings go to the heart of a potent political issue — economic inequality — that is roiling nations and feeding populist movements on multiple continents. Leaders of the opposition Labour Party seized on Mr. Shrubsole’s findings, first published this week in the newspaper The Guardian, as evidence for the case they have made for years against the governing Conservative Party.

“Don’t let anyone tell you our country doesn’t need radical change,” Jeremy Corbyn, the party leader, wrote on Twitter as he shared The Guardian’s article on Thursday.

Comparison to other developed countries is difficult, because they do not have national land registries. Records can be viewed only one at a time through hundreds of local registry officers, they are not fully open to the public and, as in the United States, ownership can be obscured through shell corporations.
But Britain has greater wealth inequality than peers like Germany, France, the Low Countries and Scandinavia — though less than the United States. And Britain has not seen the kinds of wars and revolutions that over centuries wiped away sprawling estates owned by nobility in most of Europe.
Who owns the “green and pleasant land” of the English countryside can be a well-kept secret, in part because a large segment of it does not even figure in public records. Government efforts to make a public accounting of land ownership date to the 19th century, but according to the Land Registry, about 15 percent of the country’s area, most of it rural, is still unrecorded.

“Much of the land owned by the Crown, the aristocracy, and the Church has not been registered, because it has never been sold, which is one of the main triggers for compulsory registration,” the registry, which covers England and Wales, says on its website.

Mr. Shrubsole began documenting England’s estates after the referendum on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, known as Brexit, in 2016. “If Brexit really meant ‘taking back control of our country,’ then I’d like at least to know who owns it,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian a year after the vote.
Real estate prices in England are among the highest in Europe and have soared over the last generation. Mr. Shrubsole’s book documents ownership, maps unregistered land and argues that the concentration of ownership helps keep available land scarce and expensive.

Houses, stores, office buildings, schools and farms are often held under long-term leases, paying a steady stream of rents — directly or through intermediate leaseholders — to major landowners.

Mr. Shrubsole said that by publishing his research, he wanted to start a conversation.

“It should prompt a proper debate about the need for land reform in England,” Mr. Shrubsole said. The issue of land relates to the country’s housing crisis, to economic inequality, to climate change and the intensive use of farmland, he added.

The ancient idea that wealth meant land does not always hold true in modern times. But in Britain, land accounted for half of the country’s net worth in 2016, according to data from the Office of National Statistics — double that of Germany and higher than in countries like France, Canada and Japan.

Britain’s net worth more than tripled between 1995 and 2017, driven primarily by the value of land, which rose much faster than other kinds of assets.

“The main economic challenge and the social justice issue is that for the last 30, 40 years, landowners have enjoyed enormous unearned windfall gains at a faster rate than wages or the economy have grown,” said Josh Ryan-Collins, head of research at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London.

Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth II’s estate, is also a working farm, which entitles it to significant subsidies from the European Union.CreditPeter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
“There is nothing that the landowners have done to earn those incomes,” he said.
Even agricultural land has become the object of speculative demand, pushing prices and gains for landowners up further, he said.

But even if land reform has not been on the agenda of the Conservative government, it has had to address the housing crisis and agricultural subsidies. Recently, Conservatives have focused their criticism on the European Union’s farming and forestry subsidy system, which has put aristocrats, the royal family and wealthy investors among the top recipients of taxpayer-funded aid.
Queen Elizabeth II’s estate in Sandringham, north of London, received £695,000 in aid in 2017, or more than $900,000, according to a public database of payments.

An agriculture bill, currently in Parliament, promises to change farm subsidies after Brexit. Instead of direct payments based on the total amount of land farmed, payments in the new system would be based on factors like contributions to the environment, animal welfare and public access to the property.
“As we know, many of the beneficiaries are not even U.K. or E.U. citizens, but foreign citizens who happen to have invested in agricultural land,” Michael Gove, Britain’s environment secretary, said during a debate on the bill in Parliament last year. “It is a simple matter of social justice and economic efficiency that we need to change that system.”
Most of the European Union is also grappling with concentrated ownership of farmland, though not to the same degree. A 2017 report by European Parliament lawmakers said that in 2010, 3 percent of farms controlled half the agricultural land with in the bloc.

“Agricultural land is not an ordinary traded good, as soil is nonrenewable and access to it is a human right,” the report said. “As with the concentration of financial wealth, too high a concentration of agricultural land splits society, destabilizes rural areas, threatens food safety and thus jeopardizes the environmental and social objectives of Europe.”

Scotland, where land ownership is in the hands of even fewer people and organizations, has enacted a set of land reform laws. In 2004, it abolished feudal rules that were still in effect, helping many longtime tenants to become outright owners of their land. Other legislation introduced the right to roam, giving the public access to vast privately held lands.

“The example of successful land reform programs in other countries, like Scotland, should give us hope,” Mr. Shrubsole wrote in his book. “Get land reform right, and we can go a long way towards ending the housing crisis, restoring nature and making our society more equal.”