Climate change

Is our diet wrecking the environment?

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In the first of a series on food and the climate crisis, Amy Leather explains how capitalist agriculture has shaped our diet and the planet.

Earlier this year the Lancet medical journal published what they called the “planetary health diet”. They claimed that if their universal scientific targets for healthy diets were adopted, not only would it save at least 11 million lives but would also help avert global environmental catastrophe and prevent the collapse of the natural world. Their central message was that “the world’s diets must change dramatically” to both save ourselves and the planet. The diet they recommended was largely plant-based, and therefore boosted the claim that only by going vegan can we save the planet.

Are there too many people on the planet?

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Martin Empson unpicks the arguments of those who claim that population growth is to blame for the climate crisis.

At some point between October 2011 and March 2012 the world’s population surpassed 7 billion people. Whenever such a milestone is passed there is a rash of alarmist articles in the media warning of the dangers of uncontrolled population growth. In the years since 2012 the total has increased by a further 700 million people, which for some activists, politicians, demographers and media commentators only fuels the panic. As a result, you don’t have to campaign around environmental issues for long before someone will tell you that the problem is “too many people”.

Notes on the climate crisis: Heathrow expansion

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In June last year, sensing the growing chaos of Theresa May’s administration, the Heathrow lobby got the government to smuggle legislation through parliament to expand Heathrow airport. It only passed because many Labour MPs voted for a third runway, against their party’s policy on aviation. They undoubtedly received encouragement in their defiance by the actions of Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, who wrote to every Labour MP lobbying for Heathrow expansion.

From direct action to mass civil disobedience

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The Extinction Rebellion actions over Easter were a remarkable success. Climate activist John Sinha places the tactics of the movement in historical context and XR member Simon Assaf reports from inside the protests.

With its colourful and creative protests and the political background of its founders, Extinction Rebellion (XR) would appear to have a lot in common with previous movements such as Occupy, the Climate Camp and other direct action protest movements.

Certainly the organisers have learned a lot from what went before, but to leave it at that would be to overlook major differences in organisation, objectives, strategy and tactics.

What kind of climate movement do we need?

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Camilla Royle looks at the new climate activism

Last month cyclone Idai struck land near the coastal city of Beira in Mozambique. One of the worst cyclones ever to hit the southern hemisphere, the storm has been devasting. At the time of writing the death toll stands at around 700 across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, but the full extent of the killing will only be known when the flood waters recede. Survivors were still waiting to be rescued from trees and rooftops a week later and many were left without enough food and drinking water.

Capitalism takes our breath away

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John Sinha investigates how the motor industry continues to poison us.

On describing the environmental conditions facing the working class in the newly industrialised cities of the Lancashire mill towns in the 1840s, Friedrich Engels noted, “And if life in large cities is, in itself, injurious to health, how great must be the harmful influence of an abnormal atmosphere in the working-people’s quarters, where, as we have seen, everything combines to poison the air.” Air pollution has been a fact of working class urban life since the industrial revolution. What was true for the Lancashire mill towns is true of New Delhi in India or Xingtai in China today.

The new climate change rebels

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Socialist Review spoke to Jess Lichtenstern of Extinction Rebellion about the aims and intentions of the movement and school student Cyrus Jarvis after the magnificent schools strike last month.

Jess Lichtenstern, Extinction Rebellion

SR: What does rebellion mean to you, and where do you think power lies?

JL: Rebellion in itself, to me, is about doing things that you believe are right regardless of if they are in alignment with the law. It’s about questioning everything you do and making decisions accordingly, and this rebellion is doing that in a very specific way. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is saying we’re in a state of emergency and we’re not acting like it. We’re going about our daily lives, continuing business as usual.

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.

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