Martin Empson

The future’s already here

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The IPCC climate change report grabbed headlines with the notion that we have 12 years to avert climate crisis. We would be better served by recognising that the crisis is happening now, writes Martin Empson.

The publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report in October provoked major discussion. Headline writers seized on a figure that suggested we have 12 years to prevent catastrophe.

Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the IPCC’s working group on impacts, used similarly apocalyptic language: “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now… This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

Marx 200

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The 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth has produced plenty of articles and books discussing his legacy. Few of these have had any real clarity on Marx’s actual ideas. So it is refreshing to read Michael Roberts’ short, but detailed, discussion on the relevance of Marx’s economic ideas.

Focus on China: The East is green?

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Martin Empson examines the contradictions behind the green rhetoric of the Chinese government and its continued reliance on fossil fuels.

China’s rapid economic expansion is based on massive state investment, low pay and manufacturing for export to the Western economies at the same time as the promotion of domestic consumerism. Global competition for resources and markets means China must continue this economic model. But this brings with it the risk of war, economic crisis and the threat of workers fighting for an increased share of the enormous wealth being generated. But it is also driving environmental disaster on a local and international scale.

The Civilization of Perpetual Motion

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Nomads are often dismissed or overlooked. Indeed, one relatively recent book declared that nomads “have had no major role in world history for the past 500 years”. Such views are often based on inaccurate and outdated views of nomads and their role in the modern world. Historically, nomads have been seen as backward and violent people — Genghis Khan’s barbaric hordes pouring down on the defenceless civilised world, or more recently the romantic view of people “free of cumbersome city goods” living in empty, pristine wilderness.

Can we build a sustainable society?

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There is an assumption that Marx and Engels's vision of communism sees the natural world as an inexhaustible collection of resources. Martin Empson argues that they sought a profound change in how humans relate to nature, flowing from the democratic and collective organisation of labour.

This month will see major worldwide protests demanding action on climate change. As world leaders meet in Paris they have a chance to plan the massive reduction of emissions to keep world temperatures below the 2 degrees threshold. Time is now tight, and the action would need to be quick and drastic.

England Arise

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Almost as soon as the Great Revolt of 1381 finished it became part of the myths and legends that have inspired those who fight oppression and exploitation. Many readers will know the famous couplet popularised by the radical priest John Ball that questioned the whole medieval order, “When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?”

Landgrabbers

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In 2011 the charity Oxfam estimated that in the previous decade around 227 million hectares of land had been bought up in large scale "land grabs". This was mostly for the imposition of industrial agriculture.

In the process people are thrown off their land, local markets are broken up and ecologies are destroyed.

In recent years there has been growing awareness that land grabbing is taking place in the Global South. In particular, Africa and South America have been targeted by large multinationals and certain states.

But a new report published in April this year shows that very similar processes are taking place in Europe as business is gaining control of enormous parts of the continent, and land ownership is becoming concentrated in a smaller and smaller number of hands.

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