Barry Commoner 1917-2012
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October 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm #81574
I learnt today that Barry Commoner had died on 30th Sept. I read a few of his books from the 1970s during the last 12 months and found them extremely relevant to today's production techniques – he did a lot to try and wake people up to the huge pollution problems especially since WW2, with very convincing arguments. He was also very vocal against the population explosion myth, with good reasoning, and against capitalism although i don't think he professed socialism as we would have it – something of a fellow traveller? (Stood as a US presidential candidate for the Citizens Party in 1980)
Here's a piece about him on Links Int. by ecosocialist Ian Angus.October 3, 2012 at 8:09 am #90022ALBKeymaster
Yes, he did write some good stuff. He was a pioneer of identifying the ecological crisis of our time as being due to capitalism and its profit-driven economy. We took on board his views in our Ecology and Socialism pamphlet:Quote:Ecology is concerned with the circulation of natural materials and with ensuring that these should be extracted, transformed, consumed and decomposed in such a way as not to upset the balanced functioning of the biosphere. Capitalist economics, on the other hand, is concerned with the circulation of products, not as useful things made from natural materials, but only as goods to be sold on the market at a profit. It is clear that, with such an economic mechanism governing production, no adequate account will be taken of the ecological consequences of which materials to use and which methods to employ in doing so.No proper account will be taken, for instance, of whether a material is scarce or abundant, nor of whether it is renewable or non-renewable, nor of whether its extraction will upset the ecosystem or ruin the environment, nor of whether its transformation or its consumption will release dangerous substances into the biosphere.Barry Commoner, in his book The Closing Circle, listed the sort of criteria that would have to be taken into account from an ecological point of view in making such choices:Quote:“For a rational decision about the need for displacing cotton with nylon, we should compare the two materials with respect to: energy requirements for production, and the resultant air pollution; environmental impacts due to production wastes such as pesticides, fertilizer, and chemical plant effluents; durability of the products, and the environmental impacts incident to maintaining them (e.g., laundering, ironing). From such an assemblage of facts, a rational strategy for using these alternative products could be worked out. For example, if the analysis were to show that cotton is generally more socially valuable than nylon, except that cotton requires ironing while nylon does not, it might prove useful to design non-ironing cotton fabrics, or even to develop and encourage clothing fashions that no longer call for ironed fabrics. What is important is that the relative benefits and costs associated with the alternative products be made explicit, so that a rational social choice can be made” (Knopf, New York, 1972, p.314).
Under capitalism, however, in this case as in all others, the sole deciding criterion is the minimising of the amount of human labour incorporated in the product. This is an economic law of capitalism ruthlessly imposed by the imperative of competition. Any enterprise which decided to adopt a more ecologically sound, but more expensive, production method would become uncompetitive and so would eventually be eliminated from the competitive struggle for profits.
Bit surprised,though, to see Ian Angus describing himself as an "ecosocialist". He's the same Ian Angus who criticised the old SPC for not adopting Bolshevik tactics during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike (see the thread on this).October 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm #90023ALB wrote:]Bit surprised,though, to see Ian Angus describing himself as an "ecosocialist". He's the same Ian Angus who criticised the old SPC for not adopting Bolshevik tactics during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike (see the thread on this).
Yes, He's the editor of 'Climate and Capitalism' – ecosocialism or barbarianism. They do have some interesting stuff on their site but their kind of socialism manages the economy better and more fairly (my tongue is bulging my cheek) than capitalism. Get rid of capitalism, have fair wages, be kind to the environment, etc etc.For anyone interested in more on B Commoner (on the C and C site today) here's the link:http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/climateandcapitalism/pEtD/~3/b5-n0kpHXEw/October 4, 2012 at 10:08 pm #90024DJPParticipant
Noticed this book on the website from that link abovehttp://astore.amazon.com/climaandcapit-20/detail/1608461408Anyone read it?October 5, 2012 at 7:10 pm #90025DJP wrote:Noticed this book on the website from that link abovehttp://astore.amazon.com/climaandcapit-20/detail/1608461408Anyone read it?
No, I was aware of it some time ago but chose not to get it because a) I've read extracts at the C and C site and have read articles from most of those whose reviews are on DJP's link, and although they mostly have well researched material to offer attacking the rapacious capitalist system, b) – for me they generally fall at the last hurdle (I think I used that phrase about Chris Williams book 'Ecology and Socialism'). Basically what I'm trying to get across is that one can read and feel really optimistic about 90% of a book or article, reach the final chapter and be severely let down because all that's been written to that point is negated by the cop out of how to handle the situation. No mention of abolishing the wages system, only getting the wages system right; doing capitalism a different way and calling it socialism; they accuse the capitalist system of being the cause of all our ills – especially the environment, global warming etc, but after calling for a revolution, they only seem to want to fix the current system.Now Ian Angus and a lot of the others on that list of reviewers are academics, specialists and seriously intelligent people. Angus responds personally to commentors on the Climate and Capitalism site. He says he welcomes contributions from all comers for consideration for publication on the site. There is so much we have in common with such people BUT— how on earth do we get them to even see over that last hurdle, let alone jump it?Am I being too harsh or seeking the impossible here? I don't believe they don't acknowledge the capitalist sytem has to go – root and branch – so why don't they come out and say so? Actually they do say so but then somehow retract (It's not this awful thing of needing to keep tenure is it – pay the mortgage etc?)
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