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A Brief History of Anti-Capitalism, Pulled from a Dumpster

By Alex V. Barnard - Discard Studies, June 6, 2016

“Seeing all the waste exposes very clearly the priorities in our society, that making a profit is more important than feeding people, than preserving the environment, than making use of resources, than honoring peoples’ time, labor, love, and effort. What we see with waste is that once something cannot make money, it is discarded and of no value.”

The denunciation above came from a member of the group “freegan.info,” a group which since 2005 has led “trash tours” through New York City with the aim of exposing and the wealth of waste produced by our food system and—as they claim—capitalism itself. While the freegan group I studied never had more than a dozen members, their evocations of “waste” echo widely across other contemporary movements. At Occupy Wall Street, authorities and activists battled over whether it was the occupiers or the financial system that were a waste of human effort and needed to “clean up” (Bolton, Froese, and Jeffrey 2016; Liboiron 2012). The encampments’ (re)use of waste and refuse, adopted the model of longer-running networks like Food Not Bombs: to repurpose capitalism’s detritus to provide food, housing, and transport for those living, voluntarily or involuntarily, on the margins of market society (Giles 2013; Heynen 2010).

Waste may be particularly symbolically and materially visible in contemporary anti-capitalism, but claims that capitalism is “wasteful” have haunted the economic system from the beginning. What the meaning behind movements’ evocations of “waste,” though, have varied across different capitalist “waste regimes” (Gille 2008): the configuration of modes of producing, representing, and politicizing waste that dominate in a particular historical moment. Only by seeing the long-running but evolving evolving politicization of capitalism’s waste can we see the specificity of how waste is used in contemporary anti-capitalist movements—which, in my new book (Barnard 2016), I describe in terms of the use of “ex-commodities” to challenge a neo-liberal “fetish of waste.”

The Stuff Problem

By Danny Chivers - New Internationlist, Augist 15, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The problem with wind turbines, solar panels, ground-source heat pumps and electric cars is that they’re all made of stuff. When people like me make grand announcements (and interactive infographics) explaining how we don’t need to burn fossil fuels because fairly shared renewable energy could give everyone on the planet a good quality of life, this is the bit of the story that often gets missed out. We can’t just pull all this sustainable technology out of the air – it’s made from annoyingly solid materials that need to come from somewhere.

So how much material would we need to transition to a 100-per-cent renewable world? For my new NoNonsense book, Renewable Energy: cleaner, fairer ways to power the planet, I realized I needed to find an answer to this question. It’s irresponsible to advocate a renewably powered planet without being open and honest about what the real-world impacts of such a transition might be.

In this online article, I make a stab at coming up with an answer – but first I need to lay down a quick proviso. All the numbers in this piece are rough, ball-park figures, that simply aim to give us a sense of the scale of materials we’re talking about. Nothing in this piece is meant to be a vision of the ‘correct’ way to build a 100-per-cent renewably powered world. There is no single path to a clean-energy future; we need a democratic energy transition led by a mass global movement creating solutions to suit people’s specific communities and situations, not some kind of top-down model imposed from above. This article just presents one scenario, with the sole aim of helping us to understand the challenge.

The Fine Print I:

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