In defence of Metabolic Rift Theory

Ecology, Threats

In defence of Metabolic Rift Theory

Since the turn of the millennium, one Marxist line of inquiry into environmental problems has outshone all others in creativity and productivity: the theory of the metabolic rift. Developed by John Bellamy Foster and his colleagues Richard York and Brett Clark, with crucial contributions from Paul Burkett and Marina Fischer-Kowalski and many others, it can be summed up in the following, highly condensed sequence. Nature consists of biophysical processes and cycles. So does society: human bodies must engage in metabolic exchanges with nonhuman nature. That need not be particularly harmful to any of the parties. Over the course of history, however, the relations through which humans have organized their Stoffwechsel might be fractured and forcibly rearranged, so that they not only harm the people disadvantaged by this change, but also, at the very same time, disturb the processes and cycles of nature. A metabolic rift has opened up.

Distilled through Foster’s pioneering exegesis, the theory makes inventive use of Marx’s comments in the third volume of Capital on how capitalist property relations “provoke an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself”; operationalised in a variety of ways, it has elucidated everything from the imbalances in the global nitrogen cycle to climate change.

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Is Earth’s climate about to pass the tipping point

Ecology, Threats

Is Earth’s climate about to pass the tipping point

The straw that breaks the camel’s back. The last time the axe hits the tree before it falls. The last profitable barrel to be extracted from an oil well. There are many examples of Tipping points (TP). Although tipping points and points of no return are the buzzwords of our times, we should probably be using them more than we are.

A range of studies have long indicated that attention should be paid to the effects of climate change on subsystems such as the Amazon, Greenland ice or permafrost. These effects have been debated for more than 20 years. Since then, thousands of pages have been written describing their interrelationships, warning of a coming disaster. As in this article published in Nature by key figures in climate science, or this article published in National Geographic. However, despite the seriousness of the issue, mainstream media silence remains thunderous. We can even hear climate change deniers on prime time TV.

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The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift

Ecology, Threats

The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift

In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, inspired by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, argued that capitalism’s relation to its natural environment was that of a robbery system, leading to an irreparable rift in the metabolism between humanity and nature. In the twenty-first century, these classical insights into capitalism’s degradation of the earth have become the basis of extraordinary advances in critical theory and practice associated with contemporary ecosocialism. In The Robbery of Nature, John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, working within this historical tradition, examine capitalism’s plundering of nature via commodity production, and how it has led to the current anthropogenic rift in the Earth System.

Departing from much previous scholarship, Foster and Clark adopt a materialist and dialectical approach, bridging the gap between social and environmental critiques of capitalism. The ecological crisis, they explain, extends beyond questions of traditional class struggle to a corporeal rift in the physical organization of living beings themselves, raising critical issues of social reproduction, racial capitalism, alienated speciesism, and ecological imperialism.

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Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap

Ecology, Threats

Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap

Sometimes realization comes in a blinding flash. Blurred outlines snap into shape and suddenly it all makes sense. Underneath such revelations is typically a much slower-dawning process. Doubts at the back of the mind grow. The sense of confusion that things cannot be made to fit together increases until something clicks. Or perhaps snaps.

Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defense, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple–and we admit that it deceived us.

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A sweeping study shows how humans changed the environment over 12,000 years

Ecology, Threats

A sweeping study shows how humans changed the environment over 12,000 years

One environmental narrative, common to dystopian science fiction, goes like this: humans start to colonize the planet, and slowly take up more and more space until there’s nothing wild or untouched on Earth. Humanity’s infectious spread over the globe slowly eats the planet’s resources alive.

As it turns out, this narrative is all wrong — at least for the past 12,000 years, according to a new study. Humans, researchers found, occupy roughly the same amount of land on Earth that they always have in that span. That means that our planet’s myriad environmental problems aren’t exactly the cause of human societies spreading, but rather the way that we misuse resources that exist. Evidently, humans roamed about the same places they always had on Earth without stirring up too much trouble, at least until the advent of industrial capitalist societies.

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The recycling industry in America is broken

Ecology, Threats

The recycling industry in America is broken

There is a vast divide between the misleading, popular notion of recycling as a “solution” to the American over consumption problem and the darker reality of recycling as a failing business model.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. According to The National Museum of American History, this popular slogan, with its iconic three arrows forming a triangle, embodied a national call to action to save the environment in the 1970s. In that same decade, the first Earth Day happened, the EPA was formed and Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, encouraging recycling and conservation of resources, Enviro Inc. reported.

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Inside the Dirty, Dangerous World of Carbon Flooding

Ecology, Threats

Inside the Dirty, Dangerous World of Carbon Flooding

Around the world, scientists and advocates call for keeping carbon in the ground as a means of staving off climate change. But in the Southwestern United States – mainly in Colorado and New Mexico – a mainstay of obtaining more oil is facilitated by doing the exact opposite: drilling pure reserves of carbon dioxide out of the ground.

After it’s extracted from these natural-source underground fields, the gas then gets piped to the Permian Basin, the nation’s top-producing oil fields of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. There, oil companies use the CO2 to flood their wells, forcing the last dregs of crude to the surface in a process also known as enhanced oil recovery, or EOR.

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Just 3% of world’s ecosystems remain intact, study suggests

Ecology, Threats

Just 3% of world’s ecosystems remain intact, study suggests

Just 3% of the world’s land remains ecologically intact with healthy populations of all its original animals and undisturbed habitat, a study suggests.

These fragments of wilderness undamaged by human activities are mainly in parts of the Amazon and Congo tropical forests, east Siberian and northern Canadian forests and tundra, and the Sahara. Invasive alien species including cats, foxes, rabbits, goats and camels have had a major impact on native species in Australia, with the study finding no intact areas left.

The researchers suggest reintroducing a small number of important species to some damaged areas, such as elephants or wolves – a move that could restore up to 20% of the world’s land to ecological intactness.

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Climate Change, Rich-Poor Gap, Conflict Likely to Grow: U.S. Intelligence Report

Ecology, Poverty, Threats

Climate Change, Rich-Poor Gap, Conflict Likely to Grow: U.S. Intelligence Report

Disease, the rich-poor gap, climate change and conflicts within and among nations will pose greater challenges in coming decades, with the COVID-19 pandemic already worsening some of those problems, a U.S. intelligence report said on Thursday.

The rivalry between China and a U.S.-led coalition of Western nations likely will intensify, fueled by military power shifts, demographics, technology and “hardening divisions over governance models,” said Global Trends 2040, produced by the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC).

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Climate Security in the United States and Australia: A Human Security Critique

Ecology, Threats

Climate Security in the United States and Australia: A Human Security Critique

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master’s program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.