The Red and the Green III: Two Ways Forward

As the world attempts to recover from the current economic crisis and the first prospects for the future are being produced by economic forecasters and bank analysts, it is important not to forget the ecological dimension. As many people have explained before, including an article in this blog, the course our system of perpetual accumulation by means of competition has set is absolutely unsustainable from an ecological point of view. Not just the fact of the sheer consumption of the First World, so excessive that it would require several times the resources of our planet to provide to all, but also the fact that our modern historical period is considered by zoologists to be one of the world’s rare periods of mass extinction should make this clear. Even the most liberal capitalist-inclined politician is now aware of this, and such habitual profit-seekers as the Economist and the Chinese government are acknowledging the matter as serious. But there are still essentially two schools of thought on how the problem might be solved before the catastrophe predicted by most ecologists and climate experts is upon us. Continue reading “The Red and the Green III: Two Ways Forward”

Oil and Gold

There has not been such a dramatic demonstration in a long time of the consequences of the global obsession with the “black gold” as the recent oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. When just last month a methane explosion destroyed the “Deepwater Horizon” offshore oil rig, eleven oil workers were killed and 5.000 barrels of oil have leaked out every day since. The Deepwater Horizon incident is shaping up to be the largest oil spill disaster of all time in terms of environmental impact and cleanup costs, surpassing even the dramatic Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster in 1989. In that case, at least 250.000 barrels of crude oil were spilled over the course of time, causing environmental damage to seabirds, otters, ducks, salmon, herring and so forth that even now the region has not fully recovered from. The northern rim of the Gulf of Mexico also has many wildlife and bird reserves, particularly in southern Louisiana, which may be similarly affected this time. The consequences for the ecosystem are difficult to assess but are likely to be extremely negative for at least several decades. The coming hurricane season, which threatens to blow the oil spill (already the size of Delaware) further inland, may worsen this effect. The world’s already highly threatened edible fish stocks are under serious danger of significant further depletion, given how the northern Gulf of Mexico is a major source of seafood, well known as part of Louisiana cuisine. Continue reading “Oil and Gold”

The Red and the Green II: Judgment at København

There seems to be a general sentiment among those segments of the global population committed to the preservation and survival of the environment we live in that the coming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in København, to be held between 7 and 18 December 2009, will be decisive. At this conference it will have to be decided whether the political leaders of the world are capable of undertaking serious and coordinated efforts to combat the environmental impact of capitalist industrialization, or whether they will by force of competition on the political and economic planes once again let down the needs and aspirations of the world’s population, human and nonhuman. The Kyoto Protocol, a moderate and very tempered attempt to bind the leading industrial and industrializing nations to a reduction in the output of greenhouse gases, has failed as the United States refuses to in any way curb its potential capital accumulation, even if this is for the benefit of the survival of the planet as we know it. At the same time, there is much acrimony between major industrializing states such as India and China and the Western nations, where the latter want the former to bear much of the burden of their polluting industrial output, whereas the former quite rightly point out that the Western nations never cared about it during their phase of Industrial Revolution and that they have consciously exported much of their own industry to those nations in the first place. Not only is the Third World now exploited by the First, it is also being made to pay for the privilege in ecological terms. Continue reading “The Red and the Green II: Judgment at København”

Ten Years of ‘Bolivarian Socialism’ in Venezuela

Hugo Chávez Frías, the current President of Venezuela, was first elected to this office in 1998 and was inaugurated in 1999, now ten years ago.

He had already been a remarkable figure on the Venezolan political scene after having attempted a leftist military coup against the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. In those days, the oil kleptocracy of Pérez failed and a series of riots by the poor majority of Venezolans, the so-called ‘Caracazo’, destabilized the government. Pérez had been a self-styled social-democrat, but had submitted his country to the liberal rule and ‘reforms’ of the International Monetary Fund, which disappropriated the people of their public goods and bled dry the urban population by abandoning the policies of gasoline subsidy. As a result, the Caracazo erupted and the army intervened to violently repress the revolts against this organized comprador thievery and the umpteenth case of betrayal by social-democracy. Progressive sections of the military, led by Chávez, attempted a coup against Pérez. The coup failed and Chávez was imprisoned, but Pérez was removed from office and his successor freed the coup perpetrators.

In 1998, Chávez’s new “Fifth Republic Movement” (MVR) obtained an absolute majority of votes in the Presidential elections, with Chávez himself as the candidate, defeating the rightist American-trained economist Henrique Salas Römer. Continue reading “Ten Years of ‘Bolivarian Socialism’ in Venezuela”