During the recent Bonn summit a taxi driver provided a clear summary. Asked what he thought of COP 23, he replied “the climate is in crisis, but here, this is about money”. He had provided what had been missing inside. As we race toward certain and expanding catastrophe, he underscored that profiteering off a destructive cycle production, consumption, shipping, the unnecessary transport of products over vast distances and continuous growth models form the basis from which these discussions are framed. It is as though the elephant in the room is never acknowledged, with few exceptions.
Aside from the stipulation that nature follows certain laws, no idea was more central to the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, and to the subsequent development of what came to be known as modern science, than that of the conquest, mastery, and domination of nature. Up until the rise of the ecological movement in the late twentieth century, the conquest of nature was a universal trope, often equated with progress under capitalism (and sometimes socialism). To be sure, the notion, as utilized in science, was a complex one.
On Monday November 13th, climate scientists from the Tyndal center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia presented their carbon emissions research to the UN climate negotiators at Bonn Germany. The data were shocking: After three years in which human-caused emissions appeared to be leveling off, global CO2 emissions are now rising again to record levels in 2017. Global emissions are on course rise this year by 2%.
Three of the most intense hurricanes ever recorded just ripped through Puerto Rico and the southern US – within weeks of each other! Ash rained from the sky in Seattle and Portland for weeks. Record monsoons swept through Asia. Parts of Sierra Leone and Niger are underwater. San Francisco recorded its hottest day ever and Europe endured a triple-digit heat wave they called “Diablo.” The fucking devil is here man, and its name is climate change.
British capitalism is deeply dysfunctional. We have the richest region in Europe – inner London – but most British regions are now poorer than the European average. The UK’s productivity performance has been abject for a decade. We are in the middle of the longest stagnation in earnings for 150 years. Young people today are set to be poorer than their parents and poverty rates are rising. The environmental impacts of our economy are damaging and unsustainable.
Capitalism has been the world’s dominant economic system for more than 700 years. And as it brings the planet to new crises, author Raj Patel believes it’s important to imagine what might replace it.
But reform won’t happen unless we understand capitalism’s appeal and historical rise, says Patel, a food justice activist and professor at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s remarkably resilient and can be traced to a process he calls “cheapness.”
One island, a poor socialist state with infrastructure in grave need of modernisation, has slowly emerged out of the chaos caused by a hurricane’s wrath, while the other, a territory of the richest country in the world, cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, Verso, October 7, 2017
First published by Verso in 1999, J.D. Bernal: A Life in Science and Politics, edited by Francis Aprahamian and Brenda Swann, brings together 13 essays that survey the life and work of the pioneering Marxist molecular biologist and crystallographer. In the article below, Hilary Rose and Steven Rose trace the arc of Bernal's career.
It should be a given that no memoir is inherently “strange.” Every life is lived uniquely and has its own special qualities, drawn out at length (or not) by the writer. In The Lost Traveller’s Dream, Kovel has managed to summon up a spirit that transcends as well as living within its, or his, own time. This is a life “beyond,” something possible at any time but valuable especially in an era of collapse, catastrophe, and perhaps improbable hope.