On the  Road to Disaster:

Gaps in RA9729 and Philippine Climate Change Policies

 

A critique by the Center for Environmental Concerns- Philippines

 

Posted May 24, 3011

 

■    End Monopoly Capitalism to Arrest Climate Change by Jose Maria Sison

 

■    Venezuelan President 's Speech on Climate Change in Copenhagen

 

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Empowering communities against disasters
By Ricarido Saturay Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:43:00 10/24/2009

Filed Under: Disasters (general), Ondoy, Pepeng, Flood, Weather

MANILA, Philippines—The recent flooding and landslides brought about by Storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” underscore the need for local monitoring systems and technologies that can help people efficiently respond to the threat of disasters.

Amid climate change and extreme weather events, in which storms are expected to be stronger and more erratic, vulnerable communities in both upland and low-lying areas are the first to be devastated by flooding and landslides. This situation is exacerbated by grave environmental problems related to large-scale mining, logging and dam construction.

Grassroots sectors can build their capacity to respond to these threats by using scientific knowledge and locally available tools.

Inexpensive rain gauges

The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils) is sharing its experience in setting up simple and inexpensive rain gauges as a community-based adaptation technology and practice.

The rain gauges are examples of monitoring tools which poor and disaster-prone communities can potentially benefit from, if properly used and managed by local organizations.

CEC-Phils is a nongovernment organization founded in 1989 through the initiatives of organizations representing fisherfolk, farmers, indigenous peoples, women, urban poor and professional sectors.

It closely works with communities and organizations nationwide, supporting their initiatives to nurture their ecosystems, defend their common access to natural resources and eventually improve their living and working conditions in the context of a balanced and healthy environment.

Quezon landslides

CEC’s inspiration to implement a community-based rainfall monitoring program came from its disaster-response experience after the widespread landslides and flooding in Quezon and Aurora provinces in 2004.

From 2004 to 2007, CEC mainly focused on relief and rehabilitation work in Real, Infanta and General Nakar, Quezon. CEC also became involved with communities in Rapu-Rapu, Albay, which have experienced landslides and disturbances related to mining and erratic weather.

In the course of the rehabilitation and advocacy work, CEC and local organizations realized that landslides or floods would be a long-term risk in these areas due to adverse natural factors and the people’s socioeconomic standing. Thus, the next logical step is to prepare the communities for future disasters.

Pilot areas

In 2008, CEC and its local partner organizations discussed possible disaster-preparedness efforts at the grassroots level. Among these was the setting up of rain gauges in selected barangays in General Nakar in north Quezon and Rapu-Rapu as part of local early-warning systems for communities. CEC also considers this a form of support to ensure the communities’ greater access to information on the environment.

The pilot areas were chosen based on the following environmental and socioeconomic considerations.

Presence of geo-hazards. There are significant hazards in the area. The target barangays are located within steep and small watersheds which are prone to landslides and flash floods.

Rainfall, the usual triggering factor for landslides and flash floods, occurs almost all year round. Reduced forest cover due to clearing and logging aggravates the hazards. The landslide and flash-flood hazards are illustrated by the impact of Typhoons “Winnie” (2004) and “Reming” (2006) in General Nakar and Rapu-Rapu, respectively.

High poverty rates. The communities are vulnerable to the hazards primarily because they are poor. In General Nakar, farmlands buried during the 2004 disaster have yet to be fully recovered and cultivated. Decreasing fish catch in Rapu-Rapu, believed to be caused by mining operations on the island, resulted in lower incomes for most residents.

Presence of community-based organizations. There are people’s organizations at the barangay level which are committed to helping communities address the hazards and to assisting CEC in implementing the program.

Partners

In General Nakar, our partner organizations are Samakabay (Mahabang Lalim), Kiday Community Farmers’ Association (Pesa) and Sikap at Tiyaga (Minahan Sur)—all local chapters of the district-wide North Quezon Farmers’ Association.

In Rapu-Rapu, CEC works with the barangay chapters of Sagip-Isla, Sagip-Kapwa and Umalpas Ka-Bicol.

Initially, CEC identified three barangays from each municipality as pilot sites for the program. Training sessions were held and rain gauges were installed in Barangays Carogcog, Tinop-an and Mananao in Rapu-Rapu, and in Barangays Minahan Sur, Pesa and Mahabang Lalim in General Nakar.

Later on, CEC responded to the request of the local organization in Rapu-Rapu to conduct the same training and install rain gauges for Barangays Buenavista, Viga, Linao and Poblacion.

Small watersheds

CEC’s rainfall-monitoring program is designed for areas in small watersheds where it is safe to assume that rainfall is uniform over the whole area. Our method does not apply to very large watersheds where rainfall is likely to vary across the whole area.

Take, for example, a barangay on the plain and a nearby river which originates from the mountains several kilometers away. If heavy rains fall in the mountains while the plain has a cloudless sky, upstream flooding may already be happening and racing downstream without the barangay residents knowing it because their rain gauge reads “zero” rainfall.

In this case, a network of rain and stream gauges is necessary. The principle is the same, but the data interpretation is more complicated. This also involves a lot of logistics and coordination work across barangays and even municipalities or provinces. Such constraints limited our work to small watersheds.

Training adult learners

CEC believes in the capacity of people to learn and contribute to significant changes if given the opportunity. CEC designed the training so that those who have basic literacy and numeracy skills can still qualify for the training.

The local language is used as much as possible. The training process is also designed to recognize and use indigenous knowledge whenever advantageous.

The training is given primarily by a CEC team which has the expertise not only in the field of disaster management but also in training and organizing grassroots communities in environmental education and basic science and technology.

Training modules are designed by CEC in consultation with members of Agham (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) and other volunteer scientists and engineers.

The rain-gauge program includes a basic orientation on community-based disaster management (CBDM), rainfall-monitoring training (RMT), a one-year rainfall-monitoring work, monthly project monitoring, data analysis and results validation in cooperation with the communities.

CEC’s rain-gauge design was adopted and slightly modified from the standard manual-rain gauge and is similar to the rain gauges presented in Talk of the Town on Oct. 18 by the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS). General Nakar and Rapu-Rapu each received nine rain gauges from CEC.

Preparedness committees

The rain-gauge project is part of a whole range of community-based disaster-preparedness efforts. The CBDM training provides the framework and context for the RMT. CEC also includes an exercise on community-based mapping of resources and hazards which will be useful for disaster response.

The output of the CBDM training is the formation of a disaster-preparedness committee (DPC) of each organization/barangay, which is also in charge of the rainfall monitoring. The DPC is not directly under a local government unit. While the DPC plans and conducts its own activities, it also coordinates with local authorities such that their efforts complement each other.

Community-based disaster-management-training sessions were conducted in the last quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 in the pilot areas. Participants and graduates of the training formed DPCs in the project barangays in Rapu-Rapu and General Nakar. This was followed by training on rainfall monitoring and the use of rain gauges in the second to third quarters of 2009.

The training sessions were conducted indoors in community-learning-and-service centers and outdoors in the immediate surroundings where the rain gauges were installed. Grade 6 students of the Minahan Elementary School also attended a similar training.

The training that followed sought to equip the DPCs with knowledge and skills for using rain-gauge technology. RMT builds the capability of DPC members to measure rainfall (See sample data sheet below.). A solid understanding of the principles and procedures of rainfall monitoring ensures the quality of rainfall data.

Data gathering

Currently, the program is still in the research phase and is in no position to issue warnings to save lives.

A one-year monitoring work is being conducted by the communities in order to identify rainfall episodes which cause landslides and/or flashfloods. It also serves as an evaluation of the on-the-job performance of DPC members in charge of monitoring. At this point, it is emphasized to the communities that the monitoring work is for “calibration” purposes only and not for issuing warnings.

The collected rainfall data will be analyzed by the community, with technical guidance from CEC, to determine which rainfall parameters can trigger landslides and/or flash floods.

Rainfall events can now be identified as “safe” or “unsafe” and warnings can now be issued with some degree of confidence. These critical rainfall values will be validated in the second year through monitoring work. More data will help in fine-tuning these values and increasing the degree of confidence in issuing warnings.

While the program focuses on the warning system, it should be complemented by effective communication and evacuation systems.

Lessons learned, shared

CEC encourages the adoption of similar technologies whenever possible and appropriate to local conditions.

To ensure success, such program should harness the support and commitment of local communities. There should also be a good number of scientists and engineers who have the appreciation of and commitment to teaching at the grassroots level. Of course, money matters. But the core of this program is the strong linkages and coordination among environmental advocates, scientists and communities.

In the larger context of building grassroots capacity to respond to climate change, we also encourage the sharing and dissemination of these efforts among NGOs, people’s organizations, and scientists and environmentalists.

The rain-gauge project was among CEC’s contributions to an exhibit of community-based climate-change technologies and environmental-education materials titled “Addressing Climate Change Impacts Through Asian People’s Actions and Appropriate Technologies,” held from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4 at the Oct. 14 Memorial in Bangkok, Thailand. It was also exhibited from Oct. 2 to Oct. 4 at the Wat Benchamabophit School in the Thai capital as part of the People’s Action on Climate Change.

Public awareness

The exhibits were aimed at generating more public awareness and appreciation of grassroots and people’s local initiatives in response to the threats of global warming and its impact.

People throughout the Philippines and other vulnerable countries face larger challenges ahead, with the literally changing climate. We have seen how communities remain resolute and determined to struggle for their rights and defend their natural resources because at stake is not only their present but also their future.

With climate change aggravating other environmental problems due to globalization, we should strengthen the capacity of communities to respond to disasters.

Community-based disaster response, monitoring and mitigation such as the example above can be undertaken as part of the adaptation strategies of the poor who are most vulnerable to global-warming induced events.

(Ricarido Saturay Jr., a geologist, is program coordinator for the training and community services unit of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines. Also a member of Agham, he is a Master of Science candidate at the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences.)
 

 

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PAST ISSUES OF CEC PUBLICATIONS


1. September-December 2010
This issue highlights the call for justice for Leonard Co, Julius Borromeo, and Sofronio Cortez and is our contribution to the ongoing campaign of the Justice for Leonard Co Movement.
 

Contents:
Editorial: Justice
News: Human Rights, Food security top concerns in CEC educational discussions
Features: Leonard Co: Bringing Knowledge of the Forests to the People
Features: Encountering the Truth: the Kananga 3 killings
Features: A Bloodstained History: the 19th IB's record of rights violations
News: Anti-SLAPP Bill of 2010 campaign kicks off with cultural night
Environmental Education: CEC pilots Luzon-wide EnviCore Training
Environmental Education: RENEW Training bares environmental problems of urban poor communities
Environmental Education: The EnviCore Engagement: Save the World, Take the Crash Course
News: Asia-Pacific Environmental Educators, Activists Unite on Global Warming
Conference Statement: Education for Change and Sustainable People's Development
Volunteers Corner: Give It a Face
 

Download September-December 2010

 


2. May-August 2010
 

Contents:
Editorial: Roads Less Travelled
News in Photos
Features: ReSONAting Arroyo: Reviewing President Aquino's First SONA
Features: Arroyo's Legacy, Aquino's Burden: State of the Philippine Environment
Features: Music for environmental education and advocacy in Mindanao
Features: Tampakan Mining Project: Prelude to a Disaster?

 

 

Environmental Education: EnviCore: Piloting a new course for grassroots environmental cadres
Features: Joan Hinton: People's Scientist
News: Fisherfolks across regions unite to junk Fisheries Code of 1998
News: Spotlight on Philippine biodiversity
Volunteers Corner: Friendship and Knowing: What I Learned in the Philippines
Volunteers Corner: Time in the Philippines

 

Download May-August 2010

 

3. January-April 2010
 

Contents:
Editorial: Remembering and Learning on Earth Day
News in Photos
Features: On the Hot Seat: Critiquing the Climate Change Act of 2009
Features: Is REDD the new green?
Features: Environmentalism from the Grassroots Perspective
Features: Double Trouble: Compounded Effects of El Nino and Mining in Isabela
Features: Hope Rising from Ruin: Learning from Minamata
Two Poems for a Martyr: For Boy and Mahal Kong Itay
Volunteers Corner: Letter from a Canadian Traveller: My Trip to Rapu-Rapu
 

Downlload January-April 2010


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Research, Education and Advocacy (REA) Unit
Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines
No.26 Matulungin St., Bgy. Central Quezon City, Philippines 1100
TelefaxNo. +632-9209099,+632-9248756
Email: rea@cecphils.org
Website: www.cecphils.org
 

 

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END MONOPOLY CAPITALISM
TO ARREST CLIMATE CHANGE

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of Peoples' Struggle
7 December 2009


Human societies have created the bases of our survival, sustenance and advancement through the use of our natural resources in production with rudimentary tools and rising levels of science and technology. Yet in no time in history has environmental destruction been systematically brought about in most parts of the world. 

The people of the world face today global poverty, economic wars and environmental crises. They are confronted by an escalating, more rapacious and vicious campaign of plunder by monopoly capitalism. This aggravates the already devastated and polluted natural environment. 

The massive dumping of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere by the operations of monopoly capitalist firms in the energy industries, manufacturing, transportation, industrial agriculture, mining, construction, etc. is now generating climatic changes that are causing massive devastation and loss of human lives around the world. 

The unprecedented rise in GHG emissions coincided with the onset of the capitalist system at the industrial revolution and its attendant intensive use of machines, fossil fuels for transportation and energy. The anarchic, wasteful and pollutive capitalist production for profit has put our world into the brink of destruction. Under a system where profit is the primary objective of social production, the environment and our ecosystems are reduced to being a source of raw materials and dumping grounds for wasters. 

Plunder and pollution of the environment have made victims of poor communities many times over. These are the same communities that are also the most vulnerable to environmental backlashes, which come in the form of floods, droughts and other occurrences triggered or heightened by the prevailing imbalances in the ecosystem. Women and children shoulder the greater cost of these circumstances because of wider risks to their health, and added complications to their productive and reproductive functions. 

The trend of rapid environmental changes both at the global and national level is expected to bring about even more massive devastation and loss of human lives in the future. It is clear from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, and subsequent studies, that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea levels. 

The increase in global surface temperature has made the past decade and a half the warmest years since the 1850s. An increase of 0.75 degrees Celsius in the past century was observed over the world. Rates of sea level increase have leaped from an average of 1.8 mm annually (from 1961) to 3.1 mm/yr (from 1996). The rate of shrinking of ice cover in the Arctic was observed to be 2.7 % per decade, which more than double in summer to 7.4 %. Recently, the Northwest passage was clear throughout the Arctic circle. Increased incidence of intense tropical cyclones and sea level rise has been observed putting coastal areas at risk. 

The climate has been altered by changes in greenhouse gases (GHGs), aerosols, land-cover and solar radiation input. It was clear in the Nobel Prize winning report of the IPCC that GHGs have increased due to human activities with an increase of 70% in the last 3 decades. CO2 emissions have increased 80% in the same period. 

While global warming has already brought extreme impacts on livelihood and survival, especially on vulnerable communities, “free market” globalization policies have opened up the rest of the world to the unhampered entry, control and exploitation of raw natural resources and of people by monopoly capitalist banks and firms. Atrocious campaigns of wars of aggression have been waged especially by US monopoly capital to expand its economic territory and gain direct or tighter control of land and natural resources. 

Systematic and unabated deforestation through rampant industrial logging has multiplied at ever increasing rates. The destruction of the world's forests has also led to the conversion of agricultural plantations for export-oriented crops, farms for cattle raising or monoculture tree plantations. The relentless extraction of mineral ores and wanton destruction by mining multinational corporations (MNCs) in Asia Pacific, Latin America and African countries that are naturally endowed with rich mineral deposits persists while they leave massive environmental destruction and pollution, widespread landlessness and displacement, loss of livelihood, distortion of local culture, and rampant human rights violations to the peoples of these regions in their wake. 

Asia, which holds more than half of the world's population, has less than 36% of the world's water resources and almost half of the population in developing countries are exposed to polluted water sources. The contamination of air, water and land brought about by products and production processes mainly from the industrial and manufacturing plants of MNCs continue. These large-scale factories remain the top contributors of significant pollutants such as toxic and hazardous wastes in the world. 

More and more underdeveloped countries (including India and China) have also become major dumping grounds for the wastes of industrial countries. The dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes are mounting and alarming. Additionally, chemicals and obsolete technologies proven to be harmful to the environment and/or human health and that are already banned in the industrial countries are continually foisted on underdeveloped countries. 

The occupation of Iraq by the US (and the 'Coalition of the Willing') has given the latter direct control over the vast oil resources of Iraq and has consolidated US domination over the world's oil resources. After toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the US has gained more political foothold in Central Asia and South Asia and further access to the oil and gas resources in these parts of the world. The US launched its "second front against terrorism" targeting the Philippines, Indonesia and Southeast Asia-- a region known for its oil, natural gas and other natural resources. It has unceasingly undermined the government of Venezuela, which has the biggest oil resources in Latin America and is continuously expanding its influence in other Latin American countries (Colombia) and several African countries to tap potential oil and other mineral resources. 

Foreign direct investments in energy all over the world are increasing and control over these resources are transferred from nations to a few energy companies. Even the technologies needed for the use of alternative energy in solar and wind are limited to industrialized countries. The drive for biofuels has raised concerns over its long term sustainability and actual contribution to climate change. Large tracts of forests have been lost in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia due to conversion of forests to oil-palm plantations and more biofuel plantations have been earmarked in other countries like the Philippines. 

The recent wars of aggression of the US and its allies have not only increased the production, sale and use weapons of mass destruction but have also caused the massive destruction and contamination of human property, health and environment (i.e. use of depleted uranium, etc.) in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-ravaged countries. Forest clearings and land conversions necessitated by continued military exercises in different parts of the world led by the US pollute the environment and the destruction of natural habitats. Toxic wastes from current and previous US military bases continue to wreak ecological havoc in the surrounding areas. US military joint exercises bring with them not only direct US military aggression but the dangerous weapons and waste from these activities. 

The United States is currently the number one producer of GHGs, emitting more than 28% of all the historical GHGs emitted since 1840 worldwide. About 84% of US GHG emissions arise from the petroleum related energy and electrical power sectors. The US is also the biggest processor and unregulated user of oil and petroleum products all over the world. 

Yet the US government has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty signed by 169 countries which aims to reduce global levels of carbon dioxide and five other GHG emissions by 5.2% from their 1990 levels. It is also the US that remains adamant in refusing to commit to long-term and rapid reductions of emissions in the ongoing negotiations for new commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen. 

Primary emitter countries such as the US and G8 countries have the principal responsibility to change their production activities and consumption of energy for genuinely sustainable solutions to the ecological crisis. At the same time, they must also bear the cost of reducing GHGs and building the capacity of vulnerable communities in poor countries to withstand climate change impacts which they have caused. Developing countries still require adequate energy and infrastructure for the basic needs and social development of their people, hence, should not be denied genuine sustainable development and must not be forced to carry the burden of meeting carbon emission reduction targets for the world while industrialized countries refuse to do so. 

Instead of pursuing comprehensive mitigation of their emissions by engaging in changes in social production, industrialized countries use carbon offset mechanisms and emissions trading projects that offload the burden of carbon mitigation and reduction towards developing countries. These distort development activities in these countries while maintaining the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production activities of industrialized countries. Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and carbon trading effectively marketize carbon emissions and essentially shuffles around responsibility to curb emissions. 

International financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank (WB) and other regional banks are becoming more aggressive in pushing for “free market” and business-friendly false solutions to climate change related problems. Programs such as the Climate Investment Fund of the WB do not differ from their previous so-called development projects that have violated human rights, displaced communities, destroyed the environment and supported militarization in the past. These initiatives of the IFIs also give them leverage to influence the outcome of the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen to provide new opportunities for profit-making by monopoly capitalist firms who want to take advantage of the climate crisis. 

These include proposals such as massive geo-engineering solutions that do not address the root cause of the emissions and instead push untested and unproven but potentially profitable technologies without due consideration of their ecological and social consequences. On the other hand, personal and individual reduction of carbon emissions such as shifts to compact fluorescent light bulbs, switching to biodegradable products are mere token responses and short sighted if they are not framed within larger political and economic conditions which have vastly accelerated the rate of global warming. In any case, poor communities would not have the capacity to engage in these actions unless their immediate economic and social problems are first addressed. 

Indeed, climate change already aggravates other environmental problems that poor communities have to face as a result of imperialist globalization's ever increasing destruction of our ecology. It is no longer a question that human activity has produced dangerous climate interference but on how to avoid catastrophic effects that could affect more than half of the world's population that are most vulnerable to climate change. Industrialized countries should commit to real targets and not shift the burden to underdeveloped countries. The capacity of local communities to respond to disasters should be strengthened. Community-based disaster response, monitoring and mitigation should be undertaken and livelihood should be provided for those who are vulnerable to climate change impacts. 

Great advances have been made in information technology, robotics, genetics, agriculture, and medicine, yet are not being applied towards solving fundamental problems of humankind, such as the breakdown of health systems, famine and hunger, ecological destruction, and social decay and disintegration. Instead, unbridled monopoly capitalist globalization has opened up third world resources for the use of TNCs extracting raw materials while leaving their pollution and emissions to the host communities. 

The rapid destruction of the environment is a direct result of the rapid, unchecked appropriation of the world's resources for the benefit of a few. Increased pressure for the quest for wealth places increased pressure on the environment and environmental destruction. The poor, who are most vulnerable, are subjected to these environmental impacts while trying to provide subsistence level production for themselves. Existing environmental and social problems aggravated by global warming will not abate until the plunder of the world for monopoly capital's greed for profits end. 

In order to preserve the world's intrinsic and practical value for human development, we need to fundamentally reorient production and consumption based on human needs rather than for the boundless accumulation of profit for a few. Society must take collective control of productive resources to meet the needs of sustainable social development and avoid overproduction, overconsumption and overexploitation of people and the environment which are inevitable under the prevailing monopoly capitalist system . 

We have seen how communities throughout the world have remain resolute and determined to struggle for their rights and defend their natural resources because it is not only their present but also their future at stake. The oppressed peoples and nations are more determined than ever before to wage revolutionary struggles for national liberation and democracy and look forward to this socialist future. As the imperialist powers scrambling to preserve global capitalism, we, the people, must struggle harder and be more effective in waging militant anti-imperialist struggles for greater freedom, democracy, social justice, development, ecological sustainability, solidarity and peace. 

To arrest climate change, we need to put an end to this systematic plunder of the environment for the superprofits of corporations in industrialized countries. To arrest climate change, we need to organize and defend our future against this parasitic and moribund system. To arrest climate change, we need to end monopoly capital's dominance over our lives and build a socialist future.### 

From John Bellamy Foster, Marx's Ecology in Historical Perspective, Monthly Review. 

MARX ON ECOLOGY 

Marx's concept of the metabolic rift is the core element of this ecological critique. The human labour process itself is defined in /Capital/ as 'the universal condition for the metabolic interaction between man and nature, the everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence'.^10http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj96/foster.htm#10 It follows that the rift in this metabolism means nothing less than the undermining of the 'everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence'. Further there is the question of the sustainability of the earth--ie the extent to which it is to be passed on to future generations in a condition equal or better than in the present. As Marx wrote:

/From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of particular individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations as *boni patres familias* /[good heads of the household].^11http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj96/foster.htm#11

The issue of sustainability, for Marx, went beyond what capitalist society, with its constant intensification and enlargement of the metabolic rift between human beings and the earth, could address. Capitalism, he observed, 'creates the material conditions for a new and higher synthesis, a union of agriculture and industry on the basis of the forms that have developed during the period of their antagonistic isolation'. Yet in order to achieve this 'higher synthesis', he argued, it would be necessary for the associated producers in the new society to 'govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way'--a requirement that raised fundamental and continuing challenges for post-revolutionary society.^12http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj96/foster.htm#12 

In analysing the metabolic rift Marx and Engels did not stop with the soil nutrient cycle, or the town-country relation. They addressed at various points in their work such issues as deforestation, desertification, climate change, the elimination of deer from the forests, the commodification of species, pollution, industrial wastes, toxic contamination, recycling, the exhaustion of coal mines, disease, overpopulation and the evolution (and co-evolution) of species. 

After having the power and coherence of Marx's analysis of the metabolic rift impressed on me in this way, I began to wonder how deeply embedded such ecological conceptions were in Marx's thought as a whole. What was there in Marx's background that could explain how he was able to incorporate natural-scientific observations into his analysis so effectively? How did this relate to the concept of the alienation of nature, which along with the alienation of labour was such a pronounced feature of his early work? Most of all, I began to wonder whether the secret to Marx's ecology was to be found in his materialism. Could it be that this materialism was not adequately viewed simply in terms of a materialist conception of /human/ history, but also had to be seen in terms of /natural/ history and the dialectical relation between the two? Or to put it somewhat differently, was Marx's materialist conception of history inseparable from what Engels had termed the 'materialist conception of nature'?^13 http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj96/foster.htm#13 Had Marx employed his dialectical method in the analysis of both? 

I first became acutely aware of the singular depth of Marx's ecological insights through a study of the Liebig-Marx connection. In 1862 the great German chemist Justus von Liebig published the seventh edition of his pioneering scientific work, /Organic Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology/ (first published in 1840). The 1862 edition contained a new, lengthy and, to the British, scandalous introduction. Building upon arguments that he had been developing in the late 1850s, Liebig declared the intensive, or 'high farming', methods of British agriculture to be a 'robbery system', opposed to rational agriculture.^6http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj96/foster.htm#6 They necessitated the transportation over long distances of food and fibre from the country to the city--with no provision for the recirculation of social nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which ended up contributing to urban waste and pollution in the form of human and animal wastes. Whole countries were robbed in this way of the nutrients of their soil. For Liebig this was part of a larger British imperial policy of robbing the soil resources (including bones) of other countries. 'Great Britain', he declared: 

/ ...deprives all countries of the conditions of their fertility. It has raked up the battlefields of Leipsic, Waterloo and the Crimea; it has consumed the bones of many generations accumulated in the catacombs of Sicily; and now annually destroys the food for a future generation of three millions and a half of people. Like a vampire it hangs on the breast of Europe, and even the world, sucking its lifeblood without any real necessity or permanent gain for itself./^7
http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj96/foster.htm#7


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Venezuelan President’s Speech on Climate Change in Copenhagen
 

December 17th 2009, by Hugo Chavez
Copenhagen, Kingdom of Denmark
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , Hugo Chávez:

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies, friends, I promise that I will not talk more than most have spoken this afternoon. Allow me an initial comment which I would have liked to make as part of the previous point which was expressed by the delegations of Brazil , China , India , and Bolivia . We were there asking to speak but it was not possible. Bolivia 's representative said, my salute of course to Comrade President Evo Morales, who is there, President of the Republic of Bolivia .

[Audience applause]

She said among other things the following, I noted it here, she said the text presented is not democratic, it is not inclusive.

I had hardly arrived and we were just sitting down when we heard the president of the previous session, the minister, saying that a document came about, but nobody knows, I've asked for the document, but we still don’t have it, I think nobody knows of that top secret document.

Now certainly, as the Bolivian comrade said, that is not democratic, it is not inclusive. Now, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t that just the reality of the world?

Are we in a democratic world? Is the global system inclusive? Can we hope for something democratic, inclusive from the current global system?

What we are experiencing on this planet is an imperial dictatorship, and from here we continue denouncing it. Down with imperial dictatorship! And long live the people and democracy and equality on this planet!

[Audience applause]

And what we see here is a reflection of this: Exclusion.

There is a group of countries that consider themselves superior to us in the South, to us in the Third World , to us, the underdeveloped countries, or as a great friend Eduardo Galeano says, we, the crushed countries, as if a train ran over us in history.

In light of this, it’s no surprise that there is no democracy in the world and here we are again faced with powerful evidence of global imperial dictatorship. Then two youths got up here, fortunately the enforcement officials were decent, some push around, and they collaborated right? There are many people outside, you know? Of course, they do not fit in this room, they are too many people. I've read in the news that there were some arrests, some intense protests, there in the streets of Copenhagen , and I salute all those people out there, most of them youth.

[Audience applause]

Of course young people are concerned, I think rightly much more than we are, for the future of the world. We have - most of us here - the sun on our backs, and they have to face the sun and are very worried.

One could say, Mr. President, that a spectre is haunting Copenhagen, to paraphrase Karl Marx, the great Karl Marx, a spectre is haunting the streets of Copenhagen, and I think that spectre walks silently through this room, walking around among us, through the halls, out below, it rises, this spectre is a terrible spectre almost nobody wants to mention it: Capitalism is the spectre, almost nobody wants to mention it.

[Audience applause]

It’s capitalism, the people roar, out there, hear them.

I have been reading some of the slogans painted on the streets, and I think those slogans of these youngsters, some of which I heard when I was young, and of the young woman there, two of which I noted. You can hear among others, two powerful slogans. One: Don’t change the climate, change the system.

[Audience applause]

And I take it onboard for us. Let’s not change the climate, let’s change the system! And consequently we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism is a destructive development model that is putting an end to life; it threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.

And another slogan calls for reflection. It is very in tune with the banking crisis that swept the world and still affects it, and of how the rich northern countries gave aid to bankers and the big banks. The U.S. alone gave, well, I lost the figure, but it is astronomical, to save the banks. They say in the streets the following: If the climate were a bank it would have been saved already.

[Audience applause]

And I think that's true. If the climate were one of the biggest capitalist banks, the rich governments would have saved it.

I think Obama has not arrived. He received the Nobel Peace Prize almost the same day that he sent 30 thousand soldiers to kill more innocents in Afghanistan , and now he comes to stand here with the Nobel Peace Prize, the president of the United States .

But the United States has the machinery to make money, to make dollars, and has saved, well, they believe they have saved the banks and the capitalist system.

Well, this is a side comment that I wanted to make previously. We were raising our hand to accompany Brazil , India , Bolivia , China , in their interesting position that Venezuela and the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance firmly share. But hey, they didn’t let us speak, so do not count these minutes please, Mr. President.

[Audience applause]

Look, over there I met, I had the pleasure of meeting this French author Hervé Kempf. Recommending this book, I recommend it, it is available in Spanish – there is Hervé - its also in French, and surely in English, How the Rich are Destroying the Planet. Hervé Kempf: How the Rich are Destroying the Planet. This is what Christ said: it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is what our Lord Christ said.

[Audience applause]

The rich are destroying the planet. Do they think the can go to another when they destroy this one? Do they have plans to go to another planet? So far there is none on the horizon of the galaxy.

This book has just reached me, Ignacio Ramonet gave it to me, and he is also around somewhere in this room. Finishing the prologue or the preamble this phrase is very important, Kempf says the following, I’ll read it:

“We can not reduce global material consumption if we don’t make the powerful go down several levels, and if we don’t combat inequality. It is necessary that to the ecological principle that is so useful at the time of becoming conscious, ‘think globally and act locally,’ we add the principle that the situation imposes: ‘Consume less and share better.’”

I think it is good advice that this French author Hervé Kempf gives us.

[Audience applause]

Well then, Mr. President, climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental problem of this century. Floods, droughts, severe storms, hurricanes, melting ice caps, rise in mean sea levels, ocean acidification and heat waves, all of that sharpens the impact of global crisis besetting us.

Current human activity exceeds the threshold of sustainability, endangering life on the planet, but also in this we are profoundly unequal.

I want to recall: the 500 million richest people, 500 million, this is seven percent, seven percent, seven percent of the world’s population. This seven percent is responsible, these 500 million richest people are responsible for 50 percent of emissions, while the poorest 50 percent accounts for only seven percent of emissions.

So it strikes me as a bit strange to put the United States and China at the same level. The United States has just, well; it will soon reach 300 million people. China has nearly five times the U.S. population. The United Status consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day, China only reaches 5-6 million barrels a day, you can’t ask the same of the United States and China .

There are issues to discuss, hopefully we the heads of states and governments can sit down and discuss the truth, the truth about these issues.

So, Mr. President, 60 percent of the planet’s ecosystems are damaged, 20 percent of the earth's crust is degraded, we have been impassive witnesses to deforestation, land conversion, desertification, deterioration of fresh water systems, overexploitation of marine resources, pollution and loss of biodiversity.

 

 

 

The overuse of the land exceeds by 30 percent the capacity to regenerate it. The planet is losing what the technicians call the ability to regulate itself; the planet is losing this. Every day more waste than can be processed is released. The survival of our species hammers in the consciousness of humanity. Despite the urgency, it has taken two years of negotiations for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, and we attend this event without any real and meaningful agreement.

And indeed, on the text that comes from out of the blue, as some have called it, Venezuela says, and the ALBA countries, the Bolivarian Alliance say that we will not accept, since then we’ve said it, any other texts that do not come from working groups under the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention. They are the legitimate texts that we have been discussing so intensely over the years.

[Audience applause]

And in these last few hours, I believe you have not slept, plus you have not eaten, you have not slept. It does not seem logical to me to come out now with a document from scratch, as you say.

The scientifically substantiated objective of reducing the emission of polluting gases and achieving an agreement on long-term cooperation clearly, today at this time, has apparently failed, for now.

What is the reason? We have no doubt.

The reason is the irresponsible attitude and lack of political will from the most powerful nations on the planet. No one should feel offended, I recall the great José Gervasio Artigas when he said: “With the truth, I neither offend nor fear.” But it is actually an irresponsible attitude of positions, of reversals, of exclusions, of elitist management of a problem that belongs to everyone and that we can only solve together.

The political conservatism and selfishness of the largest consumers, of the richest countries shows high insensitivity and lack of solidarity with the poor, the hungry, and the most vulnerable to disease, to natural disasters. Mr. President, a new and single agreement is essential, applicable to absolutely unequal parties, according to the magnitude of their contributions and economic, financial and technological capabilities and based on unconditional respect for the principles contained in the Convention.

Developed countries should set binding, clear and concrete commitments for the substantial reduction of their emissions and assume obligations of financial and technological assistance to poor countries to cope with the destructive dangers of climate change. In this respect, the uniqueness of island states and least developed countries should be fully recognized.
 


Mr. President, climate change is not the only problem facing humanity today. Other scourges and injustices beset us, the gap between rich and poor countries has continued to grow, despite all the millennium goals, the Monterrey financing summit, at all these summits as the President of Senegal said here, revealing a great truth, there are promises and unfulfilled promises and the world continues its destructive march.

The total income of the 500 richest individuals in the world is greater than the income of the 416 million poorest people. The 2.8 billion people living in poverty on less than $2 per day, representing 40 per percent of the global population, receive only 5 percent of world income.

Today each year about 9.2 million children die before reaching their fifth year and 99.9 percent of these deaths occur in poorer countries.

Infant mortality is 47 deaths per thousand live births, but is only 5 per thousand in rich countries. Life expectancy on the planet is 67 years, in rich countries it is 79, while in some poor nations is only 40 years.

Additionally, there are 1.1 billion people without access to drinking water, 2.6 billion without sanitation services, over 800 million illiterate and 1.02 billion hungry people, that’s the global scenario.

Now the cause, what is the cause?

Let’s talk about the cause, let’s not evade responsibilities, and let’s not evade the depth of this problem. The cause, undoubtedly, I return to the theme of this whole disastrous panorama, is the destructive metabolic system of capital and its embodied model: Capitalism.

Here’s a quote that I want to read briefly, from that great liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, as we know a Brazilian, our American. Leonardo Boff says on this subject as follows:

“What is the cause? Ah, the cause is the dream of seeking happiness through material accumulation and of endless progress, using for this science and technology with which they can exploit without limits all the resources of the earth.”

And he cites here Charles Darwin and his “natural selection”, the survival of the fittest, but we know that the strongest survive over the ashes of the weakest.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, we must always remember, said that between the strong and the weak, freedom is oppressed. That’s why the Empire speaks of freedom; it’s the freedom to oppress, to invade, to kill, to annihilate, and to exploit. That is their freedom, and Rousseau adds this saving phrase: “Only the law liberates.”

There are countries that are hoping that no document comes out of here precisely because they do not want a law, do not want a standard, because the absence of these norms allows them to play at their exploitative freedom, their crushing freedom.

We must make an effort and pressure here and in the streets, so that a commitment comes out of here, a document that commits the most powerful countries on earth.

[Audience applause]

Well, Mr. President, Leonardo Boff asks... Have you met Boff? I do not know whether Leonardo might come, I met him recently in Paraguay , we’ve always read him.

Can a finite earth support an infinite project? The thesis of capitalism, infinite development, is a destructive pattern, let’s face it.

Then Boff asks us, what might we expect from Copenhagen ? At least this simple confession: We can not continue like this. And a simple proposition: Let’s change course. Let's do it, but without cynicism, without lies, without double agendas, no documents out of the blue, with the truth out in the open.

How long, we ask from Venezuela , Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, how long are we going to allow such injustices and inequalities? How long are we going to tolerate the current international economic order and prevailing market mechanisms? How long are we going to allow huge epidemics like HIV/AIDS to ravage entire populations? How long are we going to allow the hungry to not eat or to be able to feed their own children? How long are we going to allow millions of children to die from curable diseases? How long will we allow armed conflicts to massacre millions of innocent human beings in order for the powerful to seize the resources of other peoples?

Cease the aggressions and the wars! We the peoples of the world ask of the empires, to those who try to continue dominating the world and exploiting us.

No more imperial military bases or military coups! Let’s build a more just and equitable economic and social order, let’s eradicate poverty, let’s immediately stop the high emission levels, let’s stop environmental degradation and avoid the great catastrophe of climate change, let’s integrate ourselves into the noble goal of everyone being more free and united.

Mr. President, almost two centuries ago, a universal Venezuelan, a liberator of nations and precursor of consciences left to posterity a full-willed maxim: “If nature opposes us, let’s fight against it and make it obey us.” That was Simón Bolívar, the Liberator.

From Bolivarian Venezuela, where a day like today some ten years ago, ten years exactly, we experienced the biggest climate tragedy in our history (the Vargas tragedy it is called), from this Venezuela whose revolution tries to win justice for all people, we say it is only possible through the path of socialism!

Socialism, the other spectre Karl Marx spoke about, which walks here too, rather it is like a counter-spectre. Socialism, this is the direction, this is the path to save the planet, I don’t have the least doubt. Capitalism is the road to hell, to the destruction of the world. We say this from Venezuela , which because of socialism faces threats from the U.S. Empire.

From the countries that comprise ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance, we call, and I want to, with respect, but from my soul, call in the name of many on this planet, we say to governments and peoples of the Earth, to paraphrase Simón Bolívar, the Liberator: If the destructive nature of capitalism opposes us, let’s fight against it and make it obey us, let’s not wait idly by for the death of humanity.

History calls on us to unite and to fight.

If capitalism resists, we are obliged to take up a battle against capitalism and open the way for the salvation of the human species. It’s up to us, raising the banners of Christ, Mohammed, equality, love, justice, humanity, the true and most profound humanism. If we don’t do it, the most wonderful creation of the universe, the human being, will disappear, it will disappear.

This planet is billions of years old, and this planet existed for billions of years without us, the human species, i.e. it doesn’t need us to exist. Now, without the Earth we will not exist, and we are destroying Pachamama as Evo says, as our indigenous brothers from South America say.

Finally, Mr. President, and to finish, let’s listen to Fidel Castro when he said: “One species is in danger of extinction: Humanity.”

Let’s listen to Rosa Luxemburg when she said: “Socialism or Barbarism.”

Let us listen to Christ the Redeemer when he said: “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we are capable of not making this Earth the tomb of humanity. Let us make this earth a heaven, a heaven of life, of peace, peace and brotherhood for all humanity, for the human species.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much and enjoy your meal.

[Audience applause]

Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Venezuelanalysis.com

   

 

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