Climate change

Why capitalism loves plastic

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There has rightly been public outcry over the state of the oceans, with shocking images of sea creatures trapped in plastic bags. Amy Leather looks at how plastic developed as a by-product of fossil fuel processing, and has been promoted by the petrochemical industry ever since.

Plastic is bad, isn’t it? That is certainly the new consensus. And no wonder there has been a public outcry. Many of us have been shocked by images like those on Blue Planet of a sperm whale with a stomach full of plastic waste, albatrosses feeding their young plastic or turtles trapped in plastic bags.

A report prepared in 2016 for the billionaires attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, estimates that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the oceans already, with another 8 million tonnes being added each year.

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.”

America City

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America City, set in the early 22nd century, is an example of the growing genre of climate fiction or cli-fi. It opens with a description of a devastating superstorm that hits Delaware, crushing even steel-reinforced homes. As climate change bites, Americans are fleeing the stormy east coast and going west. Others are escaping the parched south of the country, leaving their homes to the dust as it becomes too expensive to irrigate the farmland.

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.

Downsizing

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Just before I went into the screening of Alexander Payne’s new film, Downsizing, I was reading George Monbiot’s article in the Guardian, “Is this the end of civilisation? We could take a different path”.

That could be the subtitle to this odd and amusing film from the director of Nebraska and The Descendants.

Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek, an everyman who cares for his mum, then his wife, all while working as an occupational therapist in a meat factory.

Welcome to the world of the plastic beach

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Modern capitalism’s throwaway society has created a crisis in the oceans. We must put blame where it’s due.

The BBC’s recent documentary series Blue Planet II, presented by David Attenborough, has kept viewers transfixed with its portrayal of the stunning diversity of wildlife in the oceans. It has also highlighted one of the world’s biggest environmental threats — plastic pollution.

A Redder Shade of Green

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The author describes this collection of articles as “debates, polemics and arguments because although environmentalists, scientists, and socialists share concerns about the devastation of our planet, we frequently differ on explanations and solutions”. The argument Angus repeatedly returns to is a defence of the Marxist method as he understands that, “If our political analysis doesn’t have a firm basis in the natural sciences, our efforts to change the world will be in vain.”

What does a climate insurgency look like?

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Emissions stop 400,000 Hiroshima bombs worth of heat from escaping the atmosphere every day. In Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual (PM Press, £11.99) Jeremy Brecher warns the outcome will be either “doom” — 800 parts per million of atmospheric carbon, unsurvivable warming — or a plan to stop burning fossil fuels by 2050.

The Shock of the Anthropocene

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This book provides a very detailed history of the Anthropocene — the current geological era in which human activity has become the main driver of climate change — and makes some interesting points about how we should view it.

However, it is let down by its failure to provide any real solutions. This is particularly striking as they start the book by, rightly, reminding us how severe the crisis is.

Hypocrite Trump saves himself

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Donald Trump, now almost sure to be the only candidate with enough delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination, is well known for his climate change denial.

It seems his claims that climate change is a hoax and his opposition to “so-called green energy” don’t apply when it comes to his own interests. Trump has applied for permission to erect “coastal protection works” — that is, a wall — to protect one of his golf resorts in County Clare, Ireland.

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