Friday, December 13, 2019

Environmentalists hiding from the truth

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said powerful business interests enjoyed easy access to the talks, and to behind-the-scenes meetings with national delegations. “They are inside government writing the rules, like the fossil fuel industry,” she said. “They can afford to run these big advertisements and have these meetings. Inside the conference, there is a sense of business-as-usual – that if we tweak things at the edges, we will be fine. But it’s not true. If we want system change, which is what we need, that is not going to come from inside the conference – it can only come from outside.”
Some climate campaigners see capitalism as an inescapable part of the climate crisis.
Al Gore, former US vice-president, rejected that view, and said the overthrow of current economics was not necessary to tackle the climate challenge. 
He said: “We need reforms, there is no question about that. But alternatives to capitalism were characterised by environmental abuses in the 20th century. I think the answer is reform, and not the discarding of capitalism.”
Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Programme, said social justice and development were inseparable from the climate emergency, and that governments needed to regard both in forming plans to tackle the crisis.
 “Climate change is causing new inequalities,” he said. “But by rebuilding the global economy in a low-carbon fashion, governments could also address issues such as jobs, skills, education, health and social development.” In putting forward their plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, scheduled for next year before a crunch climate conference in Glasgow in November, governments should address these issues explicitly, he said. “This is probably the greatest opportunity we have to get investment on the scale that is needed and deliver multiple development benefits at once,” Steiner said. “This is not sorcery – this is intelligent, smart systems planning.”
All smoke and mirrors, the Socialist Party would say.  Those who insist that we can solve the climate emergency within the constraints of capitalism are as culpable and just as complicit as those climate change denialists.
Even David Attenborough is at fault. In his latest series, ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet’, he has raised climate change in each episode, almost like a sermon, hand in hand with the devastation caused by over-exploitation of land. While laudably raising the issue (and being allowed to), he claims that it’s ‘humans’ who are responsible. By compensation he usually, rather forlornly, mentions some positive point, e.g. a local group who are succeeding in preserving a particular species from extinction. He obviously realises that such efforts go nowhere near to solving the problem.

In his next series, what a change it would be if he said that capitalism is the problem, not humans per se, and that to ‘do our bit’, the best we could do is to campaign to put an end to the system.

 Similarly, Chris Packham and other television natural world presenters, who more or less cover the same ground as Attenborough, know that the climate/land exploitation problem is urgent but convey the same limited messages and can’t see the wood for the trees. Until then although our voice is small the Socialist Party will continue to raise it as loudly as possible against the cause of our misery - the iniquitous profit system. 

'the capitalist system works against a rational agriculture…a rational agriculture is incompatible with the capitalist system.’ -  Karl Marx Capital 3

Capitalism involves the restless search for profit by a ruling class prepared to use all means possible to pursue its ends. Contrary to modern followers of Thomas Malthus,  there is no shortage of food in the world today. There is more than enough food to feed everyone on the planet. Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the supply of food in the world today. Despite all that, there exists new farming techniques and innovative modern technology to increase agriculture out-put. The fact that there is already enough food to feed the world shows that the food crisis is not a technical problem — it is a social and political problem. Why, when so much food is available, are over 850 million people hungry and malnourished? Why do children die of hunger every day? Why can’t the global food industry feed the needy?

The answer is simple. The world’s food industry is not organised to feed people, it is there to generate profits. The power exercised by the corporations allows them essentially to ensure the prices of crops purchased from farmers are kept low while at the same time keeping the cost of food to the consumer high.

Industrial agriculture has driven people off the land, turned the small peasant farmers into waged labourers or into unemployment and poverty in the shanty towns and slums of the world’s mega-cities.

Some environmentalists will argue that even if world hunger today is not due to a shortage of food, the projected growth in the world’s population in the years ahead will not be fed. Of course, food will be needed to meet the needs of more people. But more mouths to feed does not necessarily mean food shortages. It is social and economic factors, not natural factors, which leads to far less food grown in many parts of the world than could be. Africa’s failing agriculture and growing dependence on imports have led many to assume that simply too many people are vying for limited resources. Africa’s food crisis is real but Africa has enormous, still unexploited, potential to grow food.

 Certainly in a socialist society we would seek methods of production which are sustainable, but that does not rule out all forms of agriculture. Monoculture farming for cash-crop non-food is heavily dependent upon chemical fertilisers and herbicides is necessary but this does not dictate the adoption of fully organic production for all farm produce. In so far as alternative farming techniques achieve the goal of ensuring food security they should be welcomed because of their sustainability. Capitalism has created a food chain in which produce can be transported around the world. Specialisation in production has been beneficial and can be more efficient for many products. However, monoculture farming encourages the spread of disease, increases chemical costs and can result in lower yields. Any rational food production system would certainly lead to higher levels of localised production, certainly to greater diversity in the food we consume and certainly not a world in which millions starve while food is left to rot. Neither would a rational food production system see millions being made ill from the poor quality of the food produced or a world in which the food produced was determined by the needs of big business to maximise profits. But equally, with a world population of 10-12 billion, it would involve the continuation of some forms of large-scale agricultural production in food, but at a level which is sustainable, rational and aimed at satisfying the needs of all.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

India's Divisive National Register of Citizens

The government plan to carry out a National Register of Citizens (NRC) across India, is to be implemented first in West Bengal. The exercise will mean that every person in the country will have to prove they or their ancestors are citizens of India, rather than “infiltrators” from Bangladesh or Pakistan, and they will have to have the documentary evidence to back up their claim. According to the government, those who can not prove it will be sent to detention centres and face deportation.  The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government insists that this vast bureaucratic endeavour is merely a long-overdue bid to count and identify citizens in India and to tackle illegal immigration. The citizenship amendment bill (CAB), passed easily by parliament’s lower house and by the upper house, granted citizenship to migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan –Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains are protected but not if they are Muslim. It was signed into law. "The Indian government is creating legal grounds to strip millions of Muslims of the fundamental right of equal access to citizenship," Human Rights Watch said

An NRC exercise was recently carried out in Assam, which resulted in 1.9 million people being left off the citizenship list for reasons as minor as spelling mistakes on their documents, and some for no definable reason at all. So-called “illegals” are due to be sent to detention centres at the end of December. This has demonstrated the terrible human costs of dividing people and linking citizenship to documentation in a country where many people are illiterate and lack the proper papers.

The Assam NRC was not initially designed to be rolled out nationwide; rather, it was originally based on decades-old legislation to help protect the indigenous Assamese people, both Muslim and Hindu. However, critics say it has been hijacked by the BJP as a way to sow religious discord and was reframed by the party as a means to weed out illegal Muslims. Observers note that it was only after discovering that 1.5 million Hindus in Assam had been left off the citizenship list that the BJP was prompted to introduce this week’s amendment, to ensure that if the NRC was rolled out nationwide, no more Hindus could be declared illegal. The legislation — which alters the Citizenship Act of 1955 — is unconstitutional as it undermines the secular basis of the Indian state. India needs a refugee policy in line with international law, and not a law based on discrimination and dictated by an ideology that makes use of religion for political gains.
10 new detention centres are currently being built in Assam, and even more in West Bengal, questions remain over what the BJP government intends to do with the millions of detainees it will have on its hands after the NRC is rolled out. While it has publicly spoken of deportation, this will be impossible because neither Bangladesh, Pakistan nor Afghanistan has agreed to take them. It will similarly be too costly and impractical to keep everyone in prisons. One suggestion, already being proposed to companies in Assam, is that the detainees could be used as a huge cheap labour force in factories and industrial plants.

The effect of the citizenship bill is stoking communal tensions, increasing tensions between Hindus and Muslims. It will polarise religions. Already, in occupied Kashmir, proposals are to create Israeli apartheid Hindu settlements among the Muslim local population. Protests against the legislation has led to a number of shootings and death by the authorities. The army deployed troops in Tripura state and put reinforcements on standby in neighboring Assam, as police faced off with thousands of protesters, using water cannons and tear gas. 

The Supreme Court of India recently awarded a disputed site in the town of Ayodhya to a government-run trust for the construction of a temple to the Hindu god Ram. The disputed land was the site of the 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque, which was razed by angry Hindu mobs in 1992 claiming that a Ram temple predated the mosque.

Socialist Rant No.2 (poem)

A Result of the General Election

A & E is overflowing, trains are cancelled or late,
Time to choose new administrators for the state.
The Queen is in the palace keeping warm her royal prerogative,
TV pundits are being clever-clever and mildly derogative,
Speeches have been spoken, manifestos begin
Making their way to the recycling bin.
Voters need convincing and this really explains
Why one absolutely, fundamental democratic question remains,
“What’s the best way to bribe millions?”
A simple question with a simple answer, “Borrow billions”.
The promise of such a capital infusion
Into the sick
Body politic
Buys an awful lot delusion.
Standing at the ballot stand,
Ballot string-tied pencil in hand,
Who then can honestly claim without fear of contradiction,
“I believe this rather than that political fiction.”
Too often, it seems, the biggest liar amongst liars
Turns out to be the one who inspires.
But, once votes are cast and choices made
Immediately the fine promises fade.
All that braggadocio talk of public spending,
A nation of sherbet and ambrosia never ending,
And all for free…
Turns out not to be!
Too late then for voters to express their regret
When public investment turns into very personal debt.
Once votes have been counted, the OUTs and the INs,
Whoever is first passed the post, Capitalism wins!

Cutty Soames

“This isn’t hardship”

Livestock production needs to reach its peak within the next decade in order to tackle the climate emergency, scientists have warned.  The researchers call on countries to “declare a timeframe for peak livestock”, after which production would not increase.
They are calling for governments in all but the poorest countries to set a date for “peak meat” because animal agriculture is a significant and fast-growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle and sheep emit large amounts of methane while forests are destroyed to create pasture and grow the grains that are fed to intensively reared animals.
The world’s scientists agree that huge amounts of carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere to limit global heating to 1.5C. More than 80% of farmland is used for livestock but it produces just 18% of food calories. Reducing meat and dairy, and eating plant-based diets instead, would free up land to be returned to natural forest. Researchers say that is the best option currently available for storing large amounts of carbon.
The production of meat, milk and eggs has increased from 758m tonnes in 1990 to 1,247m tonnes in 2017, research shows. 
“Food demand is expected to increase massively as our population expands toward 10 billion,” said Prof Matthew Betts at Oregon State University, US, and another author of the letter. “Reducing human demand for resource-intensive animal protein would considerably slow the rate of global forest loss, with huge benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services, in addition to carbon storage.”
Prof Pete Smith, at the University of Aberdeen, UK, a senior author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on land use and climate change, published in August, explained “Ruminant meat is 10 to 100 times more damaging to the climate than plant-based food,” he said. “As a planet, we need to transition away from a dependence on livestock, just as we need to to transition away from fossil fuels, if we are to have any chance of hitting the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Livestock numbers need to peak very soon and thereafter decline substantially… given the urgency of the climate emergency, this will need to be over the coming decade for sure,” he added. “But the transition will need to be managed fairly to allow citizens to change diets and for farmers, producers and agri-food chains to diversify. In poor countries, where over 800 million people are still undernourished, priorities obviously differ.”
Harwatt said the changes needed to achieve peak meat were feasible, as farming could change faster than other sectors where infrastructure, such as power stations, had lifespans of decades. She recognised that much lower levels of meat consumption required significant changes in behaviour but said: “I see many more vegan options today [in the UK] that were not there even a year ago.
“We’re fully aware that our call requires large-scale change across society and isn’t something that can be achieved overnight or without challenges.”   Helen Harwatt, a fellow at Harvard Law School in the US, said climate change would have huge impacts on society, and passing peak meat would help limit the damage, as well as reduce ill-health and help wildlife. “This isn’t hardship,” she said.
Such changes to global agriculture are only one part of the urgent action needed to address the climate crisis. Slashing fossil fuel use is vital, as is action in other sectors, such as transport.

Good Capitalism !!??

It is no secret that capitalism has been in trouble for some time. This outmoded economic system continually increases tragedies of all kinds and cannot extricate itself from the perpetual crisis it finds itself in. Capitalism continues to fail to meet the needs of millions, at home and abroad.
In endless attempts to prettify, legitimize, rescue, benefit from, and extend the life of this transient economic system that is wreaking havoc every day, many capital-centered thinkers have advanced various types of “good” capitalism over the years to disinform the polity. These include:
  1. accountable capitalism
  2. managed capitalism
  3. ethical capitalism
  4. progressive capitalism
  5. conscious capitalism
  6. friendly capitalism
  7. people’s capitalism
  8. regulated capitalism
  9. stable capitalism
  10. fair capitalism
  11. sustainable capitalism
  12. inclusive capitalism
  13. social welfare capitalism
  14. responsible capitalism
  15. common good capitalism
  16. pure capitalism
In reality, these are oxymorons, irrational conceptions, false dichotomies, wishful thinking, and apologies for the status quo.
 They are a desperate attempt to portray capitalism as something other than capitalism, as something socially responsible, desirable, and worth preserving. Equating the category “capital” with its opposite is straightforward disinformation, not just intellectual laziness.
While capitalism has evolved over time and taken different forms, it has always centered on major owners of capital exploiting labor-power to maximize profit as fast as possible for themselves, resulting in economic and political power becoming more concentrated in the hands of fewer people. This has always been at the base of the capitalist mode of production. Capitalists cannot accumulate capital without exploiting labor-power, which is the only source of new value. Redistributing profits—commonplace under “casino capitalism”—is not possible without new value first produced in the productive sector, simply because what is not produced cannot be distributed. This conclusion is critical. It is why the stock market, which produces nothing, crashes or “corrects itself” regularly. Fictitious capital cannot stay permanently disconnected from productive capital. The chickens must eventually come home to roost.
While capitalists constantly invent new schemes to counter the inescapable law of the falling rate of profit, there are no new economic models of capitalism, per se. The laws of value, accumulation, and profitability all stand; they have not disappeared. Greater monopolization of economic sectors, more “financialization,” more advertising, casino capitalism, disaster capitalism, crony capitalism, printing phantom money, toxic and exotic financial instruments, and the rise of the so-called “rentier” economy are all direct products of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism between social production and private ownership. They are natural expressions of capitalism at a particular stage of economic development, not aberrations or anomalies. This is how capitalism is unfolding at this time.
The role of the aforementioned oxymorons and false dichotomies is to hide the fact that capitalism as an economic system is exhausted and cannot be “reset,” “renewed,” “fixed,” or “improved.” They pressure people into believing that an alternative to capitalism does not exist. Indeed, despite its many problems, capitalism is supposedly “the best” history has to offer.
As the end draws nearer for capitalism, irrationalism, disinformation, parasitism, violence, and all manner of treachery will intensify. In futile attempts to save capitalism, bizarre ideas and arguments will increase. Twisted logic and absurd statements is all the anticonscious ruling elite can offer in the final and highest stage of capitalism.
To be sure, global, national, and local private interests are not going to cede power voluntarily and support an alternative to capitalism. They are not going to suddenly become enlightened and embrace democracy and affirm the rights of all, including the right of the working class and people to reorient the economy to serve society and the people. This is not how things work in class-divided societies filled with many forms of violence, chaos, and rivalry. The rich are concerned only with their narrow financial interests, no matter the cost to society and the environment. They are opposed to a pro-social agenda that fosters social consciousness, unleashes the human factor, and humanizes the natural and social environment. They certainly do not want a diverse and self-reliant economy that meets the needs of all.
In this dangerous deteriorating context the working class and people need to become more vigilant, organized, and pro-active in order to fend off attacks on their rights. The working class and people must use well-established methods, as well as new and creative ways to deprive the rich of the power to deprive everyone else of their rights.
A society made up of an empowered polity directing the economy and all the affairs of society in a modern nation-building project is urgently needed. Decision-making power must not rest with the financial oligarchy if society is to move forward and human rights are to be affirmed. Major owners of capital are unfit to rule and are actively blocking the path of progress to society.
The working class and people are not interested in this or that type of capitalism. It is not about “bad” capitalism versus “good” capitalism. The working class and people are the negation of this anachronistic economic system and are eager to lead the historic fight for a new human-centered society and economic system free of competition, exploitation, and injustice. One humanity cooperating for mutual benefit and growth is simply not possible under capitalism. Capitalism blocks the affirmation of the common good. Raising the material and cultural well-being of all on a steady basis requires an alternative economic system, one that is free of capitalist social relations.
Taken from here, an article by Shawgi Tell

He who pays the piper calls the tune

The Conservative election campaign has pocketed more than £1m in “dirty money” from investors in the fossil fuels responsible for the climate emergency, research by Greenpeace has found.
“The motives behind these donations are unknown, but there has to be suspicion about whether donors’ interests may shape the future government’s response to the climate crisis we’re in,” said Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s director of policy. “Voters deserve to know who is propping up these election campaigns and, if elected, how they may get preferential treatment with the governing party who has taken their dirty money.”

What to do today


Social Change before the Planet Changes

Young activists took over and occupied the main stage at the COP 25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain Wednesday and demanded world leaders commit to far more ambitious action to address the ecological emergency. They shouted, "We are unstoppable, another world is possible!"

"The times are changing."  said youth climate striker Dylan Hamilton of Scotland

Hilda Flavia Nakabuye of Uganda, explained, "I am the voice of dying children, misplaced women, and people suffering at the hands of the climate crisis created by rich countries,"

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday published its 14th annual Arctic Report Card (pdf), which warns that "the Arctic marine ecosystem and the communities that depend upon it continue to experience unprecedented changes as a result of warming air temperatures, declining sea ice, and warming waters." NOAA's new report is made up of 12 essays written by an international team of 81 researchers from 12 countries. An independent peer review was organized by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program of the Arctic Council.

The new NOAA report "draws particular attention to the Bering Sea region, where declining winter sea ice exemplifies the potential for sudden and extreme change," and features commentary from Indigenous elders.

"The Bering Sea, in particular, has experienced unprecedented declines in sea ice over the last two years, with resulting changes in algae growth to include observations of the presence of harmful algal blooms," Clark University polar scientist Karen Frey, lead author of one of the report's chapters, said in a statement.

Erich Osterberg, a Dartmouth College professor who has studied glaciers, told PBS  that "I think the headline from this report is that the Arctic is in real trouble. If this were an annual health check-up, I think we'd have to say that the Arctic is chronically sick and getting worse. 2019 was a particularly bad year for the Arctic." Osterberg highlighted that this year saw the second-warmest average annual land surface air temperature on record, which led to significant sea ice loss in the Arctic Ocean and melting of glaciers on Greenland—both of which cause sea level rise. "It's a really sobering report, but I have to say it's not a very surprising report," said Osterberg, "because this is a continuation of the trends that we've been seeing happening in the Arctic for quite a few decades now as climate change has gotten worse."