Environment

Eco-fashioning a toxic trade

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Recent trends for “sustainable fashion” will not be sufficient to transform an industry inherently tied up with polluting practices and wasteful mass production from its inception, writes Rena Niamh Smith.

Fashion is a product industry, and as such, requires enormous amounts of resources to produce, distribute and dispose of what is sold. Typically, textiles and garments are mass-produced in the Global South, shipped to Western countries for consumption, and vast quantities of those which are not dumped in landfill are shipped to Africa and beyond to the vast second-hand market.

The world’s second most polluting industry after oil, fashion’s specific crimes against the planet are too numerous to list here, but cotton production provides a snapshot.

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.”

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism

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This fascinating book builds on the work of Marxists such as John Bellamy Foster to argue that Karl Marx’s thought is central to understanding that humanity’s destruction of the planet is due to the capitalist mode of production. It is a further blow against the perception that Marx was a naive Promethean — someone who believed that simply increasing production will solve all humanity’s ills and that therefore Marxism has nothing to say about ecological crisis.

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.

Hopelessly devoted to fossil fuels

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With Donald Trump in the White House and the Tories pushing through damaging policies as fast as they can, the future for our climate looks bleak. But we have to look beyond individual politicians if we are to understand capitalism’s love affair with fossil energy, writes Amy Leather.

World leaders are failing on climate change. Theresa May’s Tory government has given the go ahead to a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, backed the expansion of Heathrow airport and overturned the local decision in Lancashire to stop fracking. Meanwhile climate change denier Donald Trump is heading to the White House.

How fishing became a killer issue

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There has long been an argument over the EU's role in the fishing industry, exemplified by Nigel Farage's flotilla down the River Thames. But whose side should socialists take in an industry that has serious environmental consequences? Sarah Ensor explains the real economic dynamics at sea

When Nigel Farage sailed up the River Thames in a flotilla in the run-up to the EU referendum, he was tapping into a deep vein of bitterness in Britain’s fishing industry. The flotilla was part of the Fishing for Leave campaign which demanded “the restoration of our waters to national control”. They wanted to “highlight the indignities and devastation wrought to the UK fishing industry by the fatally flawed Common Fisheries Policy”.

Fracking floodgates opened

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No truly democratic institution could have passed Third Energy’s application to frack at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire last month. The 4,375 objections gave the County Council a 99.2 percent mandate to vote against. There was almost a day and a half of speeches against. The Tory-controlled planning committee received barristers’ letters and scientific papers detailing health and environmental risks.

Entering the age of humans

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Human activity has transformed the Earth, accelerating climate change in just a few decades. Author Ian Angus talks to Socialist Review about facing up to the new reality.

Can you explain the concept of the Anthropocene and its importance for understanding the current climate crisis?

Anthropocene is the proposed name for the present stage of Earth history: a time in which human activity is transforming the entire planet in unprecedented and dangerous ways. Scientists divide Earth’s 4.5 billion year history into time intervals that correspond to major changes in the conditions and forms of life on Earth.

Is the EU an ecofriendly institution?

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For many of those on the left who support Britain's membership of the EU, environmental protection is an important factor. But the EU's pursuit of neoliberalism and its steadfast support for big farmers negate any positive noises it makes about carbon emissions, writes Chris Fuller.

Among those groups urging voters to stay in the EU in next month’s referendum are the Greens and Friends of the Earth (FoE). The Greens state, “It’s only by working with our European neighbours that we can tackle climate change, protect wildlife and reduce pollution.” FoE argue that the EU has created cleaner beaches and drinking water, reduced air pollution and protected wildlife. Both organisations enter some caveats. The FoE website is littered with accounts of EU environmental disasters. The Greens say that the EU needs to be reformed, saying it can be changed “for the common good”.

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