Environment

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”.

On the edge of climate disaster

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A new United Nations Synthesis Report on climate change makes grim reading, and despite attempts by various governements to skew its findings, it is unambiguous in its conclusions.

November saw the publication of the Synthesis Report for the fifth Assessment Report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This presents the conclusions and policy recommendations that arise from three earlier reports by working groups on the causes of global warming, its current and potential impacts, and suggested solutions.

It is the most comprehensive and authoritative document on the subject yet published. It is also the most forthright statement made by the panel on the reality and risks of climate change.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

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“I am convinced that climate change represents an historic opportunity to advance policies that dramatically improve people’s lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up.” So says Naomi Klein is her latest book, This Changes Everything.

In a call to arms, Klein outlines what’s at stake. The non-binding agreement to keep the increase in global warming at 2°C that all the major powers signed at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 is fast becoming a “utopian dream”.

How big oil is fracking to climate disaster

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Fracking site in the US

Hydraulic fracturing has rescued the oil and gas industry, producing huge profits and cutting dependence on crude. But the price to be paid will be huge.

In the past few years a new word has entered our lives: “fracking”. This is a method of extracting gas and oil from rocks. It originated in the US, where it was seen as the biggest energy development in decades, and is now coming to Britain. Although only in its exploratory stages here, it has already caused controversy and protests.

Marx and Nature

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Can Marxism help us understand our relationship with the environment? Did Marx himself ignore the role of nature? And do his theories need to be updated to incorporate ideas from the green movement?

Paul Burkett’s Marx and Nature, along with Marx’s Ecology by John Bellamy Foster, was a major contribution to these debates.

Marx and Nature was originally published in 1999, a time when it was common sense, even among some on the left, to argue that Marx neglected the role of the
natural world.

Land and Labour by Martin Empson

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Published by Bookmarks, 13.99

Humans are part of the natural world yet we also shape that world. The type of society we live in, and crucially the way human labour power is organised, are central to how we relate to nature. But as Martin Empson argues, the changes we make to nature also affect the ways that societies are run. Crucially the shift from fairly egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies towards societies based on agriculture - known as the Neolithic agricultural revolution - enabled the evolution of class society.

Fracking: neither cheap nor safe

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The growing resistance to fracking - the "hydraulic fracturing" of deep level shale rocks to extract natural gas - promises to reignite the climate movement after years of demoralisation following the failure of the UN climate talks in 2009.

A feature of the recent march and blockades at Cuadrilla Resources' drilling site near Balcombe in West Sussex was the diversity of the people involved, as well as the numbers. Local residents were central to the protests, as they have been at Fylde, near Blackpool, where two Cuadrilla fracking operations led to minor earthquakes.

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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