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.
Thanks to climate change, science and socialism have become entwined in ways previously unimaginable. Science brings the news that, unless we act swiftly to control climate change, we will inhabit a dying planet. Socialism traces the causes of this catastrophe to the destructive and chaotic growth model of capitalism and advocates for a different system. Meanwhile, sensing the source of danger to their profits, corporate and government reactionaries fuel disinformation campaigns to discredit science and confuse the public. This has been going on for years, with disastrous results.
“To say that ‘science and technology can solve all our problems in the long run,’ is much worse than believing in witchcraft.” — István Mészáros
This summer, the left-wing magazine Jacobin published a special issue on climate change. The lead article declares that “climate change … has to be at the center of how we mobilize and organize going forward. From now on, every issue is a climate issue.”
Two seminal books, John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York’s The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth and John Bellamy Foster’s The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet suggest that the rift between humanity and nature must be analysed in its intertwining with other kinds of alienation, all stemming from the adverse effects of the very nature and structure of capitalist society. Nothing short of an eco-social revolution is required to deal with the social and ecological crisis.
Hurricane Irma barreled into Florida over the weekend as a Category 4 hurricane after leaving a trail of destruction on islands and island chains in the Atlantic. Less than two weeks before, Harvey caused a catastrophe in Houston and along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast.
In February 2000 the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen blurted out during a conference in Mexico, “No! We’re no longer in the Holocene but in the Anthropocene!” His remark initiated a tsunami of scholarship by himself and other scientists, evaluating the merits of a radical proposition: that human impact upon every segment of the Earth system has been so profound and long-lasting that it has catapulted us into a new epoch in our planetary history.