Why Ecological Revolution?

It is now universally recognized within science that humanity is confronting the prospect — if we do not soon change course — of a planetary ecological collapse. Not only is the global ecological crisis becoming more and more severe, with the time in which to address it fast running out, but the dominant environmental strategies are also forms of denial, demonstrably doomed to fail, judging by their own limited objectives. This tragic failure, I will argue, can be attributed to the refusal of the powers that be to address the roots of the ecological problem in capitalist production and the resulting necessity of ecological and social revolution.

The term “crisis,” attached to the global ecological problem, although unavoidable, is somewhat misleading, given its dominant economic associations. Since 2008, we have been living through a world economic crisis — the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. This has been a source of untold suffering for hundreds of millions, indeed billions, of people. But insofar as it is related to the business cycle and not to long-term factors, expectations are that it is temporary and will end, to be followed by a period of economic recovery and growth — until the advent of the next crisis. Capitalism is, in this sense, a crisis-ridden, cyclical economic system. Even if we were to go further, to conclude that the present crisis of accumulation is part of a long-term economic stagnation of the system — that is, a slowdown of the trend-rate of growth beyond the mere business cycle — we would still see this as a partial, historically limited calamity, raising, at most, the question of the future of the present system of production.1

When we speak today of the world ecological crisis, however, we are referring to something that could turn out to be final, i.e., there is a high probability, if we do not quickly change course, of a terminal crisis — a death of the whole anthropocene, the period of human dominance of the planet. Human actions are generating environmental changes that threaten the extermination of most species on the planet, along with civilization, and conceivably our own species as well.

What makes the current ecological situation so serious is that climate change, arising from human-generated increases in greenhouse gas emissions, is not occurring gradually and in a linear process, but is undergoing a dangerous acceleration, pointing to sudden shifts in the state of the earth system. We can therefore speak, to quote James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the world’s most famous climate scientist, of “tipping points…fed by amplifying feedbacks.”2 Four amplifying feedbacks are significant at present: (1) rapid melting of arctic sea ice, with the resulting reduction of the earth’s albedo (reflection of solar radiation) due to the replacement of bright, reflective ice with darker blue sea water, leading to greater absorption of solar energy and increasing global average temperatures; (2) melting of the frozen tundra in northern regions, releasing methane (a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) trapped beneath the surface, causing accelerated warming; (3) recent indications that there has been a drop in the efficiency of the carbon absorption of the world’s oceans since the 1980s, and particularly since 2000, due to growing ocean acidification (from past carbon absorption), resulting in faster carbon build-up in the atmosphere and enhanced warming; (4) extinction of species due to changing climate zones, leading to the collapse of ecosystems dependent on these species, and the death of still more species.3 Continue reading

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Cuba’s other revolution is green, not red

In Copenhagen they are debating how to end deforestation, but in Cuba’s Pinar del Río they were replanting 50 years ago, creating lush, unspoilt valleys

Cuban hills ... typical bungalows in Las Terrazas, Sierra del Rosario Nature and Biosphere Reserve, Pinar del Rio. Photograph: John Harden/Robert Harding/Rex Features

Birds and butterflies are swooping above us and, as our taxi reaches the summit of this forest road just 40 minutes from the heat and noise of Havana, the view opens to an undulating landscape painted every shade of green. Before Castro these hills were dusty yellow and brown scrub.

If Copenhagen needs a model, this is the most eloquent I know, a visionary example of reforestation and the long term benefits it brings. While the rest of the world is ripping up forests in the name of minerals and wood, Cuba has been replanting its tropical forests in the name of jobs, the environment and a lush holiday destination for decades. This policy has worked so well that in 1984 Unesco gave biosphere status to 26,686 hectares of forest in the western region of Pinar del Río, where I am heading to stay at Las Terrazas, 50km from Havana. Continue reading

Fidelity

This is a ten minute excerpt from the Cuban documentary ‘Fidelity’. The film offers an  insight into Cuban life from the perspective of the people. A fascinating portrait of a complicated society, balanced precariously between past and future, revolution and capitalist penetration.

Whilst the international press speculates on the imminent death of Fidel Castro and the Cuban community of Miami is already celebrating his funeral, on the island the condition of his health is a state secret.

As the umbilical cord that ties every Cuban to the revolution is beginning to be severed, a new energy is emerging in the country. An ex-fighter of the Sierra, a television actress, a gigolo, a young ballet dancer, the custodian of a church and many other Cubans give voice to the moods, aspirations and fears of the islands people – the old warn against the risks of the penetration of imperialism, whilst the young dream of a freer society, economically efficient and open.

The film will be showing next Wednesday 15th July at the Barbican in the City of London as part of the Cine Cuba film festival.

For more information see

http://barbican.org.uk/film/event-detail.asp?ID=9374

Cuba50

CUBA 50 is a hub for any event, large or small that aims to celebrate and showcase the best of Cuban culture and talent in 2009.

From world class touring music and dance to national and regional theatres, galleries and exhibitions, Cuba 50 will be out there offering something for everyone, from live performances and film festivals to schools workshops and seminars.

Alongside sporting links to the Olympiad and Sustainable Living initiatives, this will be the biggest ever celebration of Cuban culture, of art, music, education, dance, film, photography and theatre.

From a country renowned for its vibrant cultural mix, events will be taking place across the UK throughout 2009 and culminating with the Cuba 50 highlight, a major London festival in Summer 2009.

From the rhythms of salsa and the cha cha cha, to the beauty of Afro Cuban dance to the precision of formal ballet; theatre, in a specially commissioned series of readings and performances of Cuban drama; seminars and talks from leading cultural commentators; art and photography exhibitions in some of London’s leading galleries; Cuban film festivals around the country; and the fantastic Barbican Cuba50 festival, featuring some of the world’s best musicians.

People across the world have come to love Cuba through seeing and experiencing the island’s culture, born of hundreds of years of history and a rich mix of cultures.

This is a unique festival and the biggest mix of performances and events to celebrate Cuban culture in Europe – Cuba 50!

Check out the Cuba50 website for more info.

What Would Socialist Democracy Look Like?

by Ian Birchall

Most politicians and journalists talk as though the only possible sort of democracy is parliament, so all we can do is patch up a decrepit system. The history of the socialist movement shows that there is a different tradition of democracy. Continue reading

How To Start A Revolution

There are times when it is necessary to fight against things that have become so wrong that they should no longer be. Things that were once small that have become big, but are no less wrong, must be made small again; a revolution, or a complete circle, is needed. Whether you want your brother to stop giving you wedgies, or you want to overthrow a repressive government, every fight is the same. A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turnaround”) is a significant change that usually occurs in a short period of time. Revolutions have happened throughout human history and vary widely in terms of methods, duration, motivating ideology, and the number of participating revolutionaries. Their results include major changes in culture, economy, and socio-political institutions. Continue reading

Venezuela Prioritises Cultural Revolution

A queue of children wait to exchange their toy guns for non-weapon-like toys as part of a government project to reduce violence in the area, in the Petare district of Caracas, Venezuela, August 20, 2008.

Caracas, Aug 21 (Prensa Latina) Aware of the transforming role of culture in society, the Venezuelan government is carrying out a revolution in that sphere in all states of the country. Continue reading