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Ian Angus

Reinvent Transport for Reduced Emissions and More Jobs

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.

By Ian Angus - Climate and Capitalism, February 16, 2014 (used by permission)

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will throw millions of people out of work! That claim has made many working people reluctant to support action to slow climate change. But is it true?

Our Jobs, Our Planet, a report written in 2011 by Jonathan Neale for the European Transport Workers Federation, argues the opposite, that changing the ways that goods and people are moved can reduce emissions from the transport sector by 80% while creating over 12 million new jobs – 7 million in transportation and 5 million in renewable energy.

The author of Stop Global Warming, Change the World writes that such a program will be a big win for workers and for the planet: “there are more than 40 million people out of work in Europe now. The planet needs help. They need work. If we succeed, we can solve both problems at once.”

To be ‘good ancestors’, we must be red and green

By Simon Butler - Green Left Weekly, December 1, 2017

A Redder Shade of Green: Intersections of Science & Socialism
By Ian Angus
Monthly Review Press
203 pages

Two decades ago, barely anyone called themselves an ecosocialist. Yet today the term is widespread on the left.

This comes from an awareness that any viable alternative to capitalism must do away with the current destructive relationship between human society and the wider natural world. It also stems from a recognition that too many socialists in the 20th century failed to take environmental issues seriously.

Climate and Capitalism editor and ecosocialist activist Ian Angus’s latest book, A Redder Shade of Green, is an impressive contribution to this vibrant trend in radical politics.

Early in the book, Angus says the ecosocialist goal is to bring together the best of Marxist social science and Earth System science. The project amounts to “a 21st century rebirth, if you will, of scientific socialism”.

Angus says: “The way we build socialism, and the kind of socialism that can be built, will be profoundly shaped by the state of the planet we must build it on.

“If our political analysis and program doesn’t have a firm basis in the natural sciences, our efforts to change the world will be in vain. The reverse is also true, because the natural sciences only reveal parts of reality.”

The first section of the book contains two excellent essays that examine how Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels engaged with some of the key scientific debates of their time. These help refute the accusation that Marx and Engels’ work largely ignored natural science. 

Climate Change Brings Socialism and Science Together

By Eve Ottenberg - Truthout, September 26, 2017

Thanks to climate change, science and socialism have become entwined in ways previously unimaginable. Science brings the news that, unless we act swiftly to control climate change, we will inhabit a dying planet. Socialism traces the causes of this catastrophe to the destructive and chaotic growth model of capitalism and advocates for a different system. Meanwhile, sensing the source of danger to their profits, corporate and government reactionaries fuel disinformation campaigns to discredit science and confuse the public. This has been going on for years, with disastrous results.

Ian Angus' new book, A Redder Shade of Green, (red for socialist revolution, green for ecological revolution) is about the prospect of ecosocialism in the face of capitalist ecocide. Angus has written previously about the "Anthropocene," a name for our era that emphasizes the centrality of human-influenced climate change. He does not accuse humanity as a whole of environmental destruction, but only a small sliver of humanity -- the capitalist class, which has left a gigantic, planet-sized carbon footprint. Angus repeatedly stresses that billions of people have a negligible impact on climate change and that the overpopulation argument -- which blames humanity as a whole for climate change -- has been used to distract and undermine an effective, ecosocialist movement. The US military has a hugely destructive impact on the environment. So does ExxonMobil. The many citizens of Bangladesh, reeling from climate-change-exacerbated flooding, do not.

So, what about the many environmentalists who believe a primary cause of climate change is that there are too many people on earth? Angus tries to persuade them otherwise. He observes that in the 1960s and 1970s, overpopulation was used to explain environmental degradation as well as poverty in the global south, thus providing a solution to two problems at once in a way that does not question capitalism. It took the likes of Rachel Carson, Murray Bookchin and Barry Commoner to initiate an environmentalism rooted in radical social critique, he writes, adding, "Their analysis was rejected by the traditional conservationists, the wealthy organizations and individuals whose primary concern was protecting the wilderness areas for rich tourists and hunters." Indeed, it was the Sierra Club that financed Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, a book heavily promoted by "liberal Democrats who correctly saw it as an alternative to the radical views of Carson, Commoner and Bookchin." Angus adds that Ehrlich's book "became a huge best-seller, and it played a central role in derailing radical environmentalism." The population bombers faded away, but now they are back, shifting the environmental threat focus from corporations to people.

"The populationists' error," Angus writes, "is that they assume there is no alternative" to capitalism. They assume more people means more food means more modern agriculture, which is hugely ecologically destructive. But, Angus argues, there are other agricultural models; moreover, working with the food supply we already have, there are other ways to do things. "Existing food production is in fact more than enough to feed many more people." Without current waste, it could feed billions more.

Angus observes that "too many people" is in fact "code for too many poor people, too many foreigners, and too many people of color." According to Commoner: "pollution begins in corporate boardrooms, not family bedrooms."

Socialism has not always been ecologically conscious, and for much of the 20th century it wasn't, with disastrous results. "The socialism practiced by the countries of the Socialist Camp replicated the development model of capitalism," said Cuban official Oswaldo Martinez in 2009, who, Angus reports, considered this competition, a la USSR, China and East European socialist countries, a mistake. A Redder Shade of Green is a very serious attempt to bury that past once and for all, and to ground socialism in scientific environmentalism. This, fortunately, has been socialism's direction for several decades. Not so for capitalism. "Pouring crap into the environment is a fundamental feature of capitalism, and it isn't going to stop so long as capitalism survives," Angus writes.

Red and Green: The Ecosocialist Perspective

By Michael Löwy - Radical Ecological Democracy, September 27, 2017

The contemporary international political economy is marked by a great contradiction. On a planet characterized by finite resources, the economy is predicated upon an absurd and irrational logic of infinite expansion and accumulation. With its fossil fuel based operations continually spewing carbon into the earth’s atmosphere, the capitalist system’s productivist obsession with profit has brought humanity to the brink of an abyss. Climate change is accelerating much faster than predicted – the accumulation of CO2, the rise in temperature, the melting of the polar ice, the drought, and the floods: everything is happening too quickly. In fact, the scientific assessments are now perceived as being too optimistic. The question is: after a certain level of increase in temperature – say six degrees – would the planet still be inhabitable for our species?

How should we respond to this enormously frightening scenario? We have seen that partial reforms are completely inadequate. The failure of the Kyoto protocol, for instance, illustrated that it was impossible to meet the dramatic challenge of global warming with the methods employed by the capitalist free market, such as the emission rights stock exchange. What is needed is the replacement of the micro-rationality of profit by a social and ecological macro-rationality, which demands a veritable change of civilization. It is, however, impossible to work towards that change without a profound reorientation aimed at replacing contemporary energy sources by clean and renewable ones, such as wind or solar energy. The first question, therefore, concerns the issue of control over the means of production, especially decisions on investment and technological change, which must be taken away from the banks and capitalist enterprises in order to serve the society’s common good.

 Ecosocialism is an attempt at providing a radical civilizational alternative, based on the fundamental arguments of the ecological movement and combining them with the Marxist critique of the capitalist political economy. It’s an economic policy founded on non-monetary and clearly articulated extra-economic criteria: ecological equilibrium of the earth and fulfillment of the social needs of its people. Ecosocialism, thus, questions the Marxist notion of destructive progress inherent in capitalism. This new dialectical synthesis has been well articulated in the works of a broad spectrum of authors, from James O’Connor to Joel Kovel, Ian Angus and John Bellamy Foster, and from André Gorz to Elmar Altvater. It is as much a critique of “market ecology”, which does not challenge the capitalist system, as much as that of “productivist socialism”, which ignores the issue of natural limits.

Memo to Jacobin: Ecomodernism is not ecosocialism

By Ian Angus - Climate and Capitalism, September 25, 2017

This summer, the left-wing magazine Jacobin published a special issue on climate change. The lead article declares that “climate change … has to be at the center of how we mobilize and organize going forward. From now on, every issue is a climate issue.”

That’s excellent news: a magazine that calls itself “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture,” ought to be a leader in the fight against capitalism’s deadly assault on the earth’s life-support systems.

Unfortunately, if the special issue is any indication, Jacobin is heading in the wrong direction. Although the term eco-socialism appears from time to time (always with a hyphen, which may indicate some uneasiness with the combination) there is nothing in this issue resembling an ecosocialist analysis or program. There’s not a word about stopping coal or tar sands mining, and no mention of shutting down the world’s biggest polluter, the US military. Instead we are offered paeans to technology in articles that advocate nuclear power, geoengineering, new power grids, electric cars and the like.

But despite their technophilia, the authors display little understanding of the technologies they support. Take, for example, the piece by Christian Parenti. He has written elsewhere that the U S government can resolve the climate crisis without system change by supporting clean technologies, so “realistic climate politics are reformist politics.” This article says much the same, that “state action and the public sector” can solve climate change by implementing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). He tells us that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is “fairly simple,” because it has been done in submarines for years, and because Icelandic scientists recently developed a safe method of injecting CO2 into underground basalt, where it becomes a limestone-like solid within two years.

That sounds impressive, but is it credible?

Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System

By Elaine Graham-Leigh - Counter Fire, August 24, 2017

In August 2016, the International Geological Congress voted formally to recognise that the world has entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene. The effect of human activity on the planet has now become as significant as that of the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs and ended the Cretaceous era. In recognising this, it is important not to fall into a view of human effects on the Earth that idealises a separation between human society and a reified ‘Nature’.

Human societies are part of, not separate from, the natural world, and have always affected it in different ways. Some of these, such as the creation of enriched terra praetasoil in the Amazon, have been largely beneficial; others, such as deforestation in Iron Age Britain, less so. Either way, their effects even before industrialisation have often been considerable. The importance of the Anthropocene is thus not that it shows a collective failure to tread sufficiently lightly upon the Earth, but rather that capitalism so extends the effects of human activity on the environment that previous quantitative shifts have become a qualitative change.

Angus shows how capitalism has created the ability to affect the world far more profoundly and far more destructively than any previous human system, and that this destructiveness is an integral, structural aspect. That climate change is capitalism’s fault is not universally acknowledged by environmentalists. Angus provides a useful reminder of the existence of groups like the Breakthrough Institute, who argue that market forces and private-sector dynamism are the answer to, rather than the cause of, the climate crisis.

He also deals concisely and devastatingly with the view that capitalism’s need not just for growth but for ever-increasing growth is just an ‘obsession’ or an ‘addiction.’ The ideology of growth, he explains, is there to justify the need for continued accumulation; it is not the cause of it. It is fair to say, however, that for eco-socialists, the conclusion that capitalism is the problem, and a systemic response the only answer, would be an unsurprising one. The importance of Angus’ argument is that it goes beyond the simple recognition of capitalism’s unique destructiveness to interrogate the precise factors which lie behind the shift into the Anthropocene.

Ian Angus interview: How can we save the planet?

Ian Angus interview - Climate and Capitalism, July 18, 2017

On July 7-9, I was in London (UK) to speak at the Marxism Festival, an annual conference organized by the Socialist Workers Party. I have some political differences with the SWP, but I was impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of the 2500 participants, and by the number of sessions that were devoted to environmental and scientific questions. 

I was the featured speaker at two sessions, one on Facing the Anthropocene, and one launching my new book, A Redder Shade of Green. Both sessions were recorded: I will post links when they are available. After my second talk, I was interviewed by Dave Sewell for the SWP’s weekly newspaper Socialist Worker.


HOW CAN WE SAVE THE PLANET AND STOP CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE?

The environmental conditions that have sustained human civilisation throughout its history are collapsing, capitalism is to blame and only socialism has the solution. That’s the warning sounded by Ian Angus, author and editor of Climate and Capitalism website. He told Socialist Worker,

“The planet is going to change substantially. Big parts of it will be uninhabitable by the end of this century if we don’t do something now. It’s very likely that in this century ocean levels will rise by at least a meter or two, maybe more. That would mean the Thames is going to overflow and flood much of inner London. Many cities are right next to oceans. They will be flooded—not tomorrow but within our children’s lifetime or our grandchildren’s lifetime.

“In some parts of the world it’s going to be too hot to work. Many of these are places where a lot of our food comes from, so we’ll have to deal with problems with food production too.”

Ian has played an important role in popularising the concept of the “Anthropocene” on the left. Many geologists argue that the relatively stable environment conditions in place since the Ice Ages ended are giving way to something much more chaotic.

An Eco-Revolutionary Tipping Point?

By Paul Burkett - Monthly Review, May 2017

In the summer of 2016, the acceleration of climate change was once again making headlines. In July, the World Meteorological Association announced that the first six months of 2016 had broken all previous global temperature records, with June being the fourteenth month in a row of record heat for both land and oceans and the 378th straight month of temperatures greater than the historical average. Heating has been especially rapid in Arctic regions, where thawing effects are releasing large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. On July 21, 2016, temperatures at locations in Kuwait and Iraq reached 129oF, the hottest ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere. The disruptive effects of bi-polar warming were evident in the unprecedented crossing of the equator by the Northern Hemisphere jet stream, where it merged with the Southern Hemisphere jet stream, further threatening seasonal integrity with unforeseen impacts on weather extremes and the overall climate system.1 Meanwhile a report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) described the December 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change as “outdated even before it takes effect,” with climatologists now expecting a global warming of at least 3.4oC (more than double the 1.5oC limit supposedly built into the agreement) even if the promised emissions goals of the nations involved are somehow achieved despite the lack of binding enforcement mechanisms. “The world will still be pumping out 54–56 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year by 2030 under current plans, well above the 42 gigatons needed to limit warming to 2 degrees,” according to the UNEP report.2

The historical irony in this situation is hard to miss. Just a couple decades ago, we were told that neoliberal capitalism marked the “end of history.” Now it appears that the system’s ideologues may have been right, but not in the way they envisioned. The system of fossil-fueled neoliberal capitalism is indeed moving toward an end of history, but only in the sense of the end of any historical advance of humanity as a productive, political, and cultural species due to the increasingly barbaric socio- economic and environmental conditions the system creates. There is now no alternative to the end of history as we know it. The sustainable development of human society co-evolving with nature including other species now depends on a definite historical break with capitalism (wage-labor, market competition, production for profit) as the dominant mode of production. That is the main lesson of three recent books: Ian Angus’s Facing the Anthropocene, Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital, and Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. To solve the climate crisis—which is only part of the broader environmental crisis created by capitalism—competitive, profit-driven production under unequal class control must be replaced with a system in which working people and their communities collectively and democratically regulate production and other interactions with their material and social environment. Sustainable development of people cooperatively co-evolving in a healthy way with other species must replace the profit motive, exploitation, and competition as the motive force in production and in the entire system of material provisioning. To deny that the climate crisis is hardwired into capitalism, and that we need a new system to deal with it, is just as misleading and dangerous as to deny the existence of human-induced global warming. Both forms of climate denial must be overcome in theory and practice.

The Steps to Ecosocialism

By Ian Angus and John Bellamy Foster - Jacobin, April 26, 2017

We were pleased to learn that Daniel Tanuro was writing an article on carbon pricing schemes. His book Green Capitalism: Why it Can’t Work makes important contributions to ecosocialist thought, and he has an impressive record of personal involvement in many radical environmental campaigns in Europe. We looked forward to the clear explanation and strong critique of market-based approaches to climate change that we know he could write.

Unfortunately, “The Right’s Green Awakening” does not live up to the generally high standard set by his book. Instead of addressing the carbon-pricing plans that have surfaced in capitalist politics, Tanuro focuses his critique on proposals developed by leading climate scientist James Hansen and on the critical support that we gave his proposal in Monthly Review and Climate & Capitalism.

Tanuro equates our position — and Hansen’s rather different one — with a proposal advanced by some right-wing American politicians, arguing that we support “a populist variant . . . [of] neoliberal doctrine.” Naturally, we disagree.

We are not saying that our views are above criticism. Open debate is an essential part of building a global ecosocialist movement, and we welcome thoughtful responses to anything we have written. However, since Tanuro’s article seriously misrepresents both Hansen’s plan and our approach to it, we need to correct his misunderstandings before a proper discussion can begin.

US Labor Unions Push Back At Trump On Pipelines And Environmental Deregulation

By Seth Sandronsky - Mint News Press, February 17, 2017

President Donald Trump claims that his energy policy creates high-wage construction jobs. Some of organized labor in the United States agrees with him, including North America’s Building Trades Unions, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of unions.

On Jan. 24, NABTU released a statement in support of Trump after the president issued an executive order for completion of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines to move fossil fuel around North America.

“We are grateful that President Trump understands that 32 percent of today’s construction industry workforce is employed on energy projects, amounting to over 2 million workers, and that projects such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are significant job creators that generate above-average wages and benefits for hard-working Americans,” said the statement prepared by the alliance of 14 national and international unions in the building and construction industry that represent over 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada.

In April of 2015, well before Trump was elected to the Oval Office, Sean McGarvey, president of NABTU, addressed the union’s ties to the Koch energy titans, major funders of the GOP and its tea party wing. In an interview with Kent Hoover, Washington Bureau chief of The Business Journals, McGarvey explained:

“Even if you look at Koch Industries — they’re one of our biggest clients. You’ll never see us making public statements saying negative things about Koch Industries. They’re a huge client of ours. Do we agree with some of the things that they supposedly support? No. Do we understand why they do it? Yeah, Ok, because they’re looking for political advantage for a political point of view, and the Democrats don’t see it the way they see it. And other unions in the labor movement tend to be much more Democratic unions. And if you can hurt the labor movement, i.e. you hurt the Democratic Party. It’s just a system that we really don’t want to be engaged or involved in.”

According to OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, Koch Industries spent $9.84 million on political lobbying in 2016. This followed years of a heavy spending from the Kansas-based multinational corporation, which had spent $10.83 million on lobbying in 2015 and $13.7 million in 2014. In the 2016 election cycle, Koch Industries donated more than $1.86 million to GOP Congressional candidates and just $23,000 to Democratic candidates, OpenSecrets reports. The top Republican recipients were the recently appointed CIA director, Mike Pompeo, a representative from Kansas who received $71,100 from Koch Industries; Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who received $40,700; and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a representative from Wisconsin, who received $39,522.

Yet there are other views of the U.S. labor movement as the Trump administration wages a “shock and awe” campaign of rolling back climate and environment-related rules.

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