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biocentrism

Fire and Forest Ecology in the American West

Missing Pathways to 1.5°C: The role of the land sector in ambitious climate action

By Kate Dooley, Doreen Stabinsky, et. al. - Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance, October 2018

Current climate strategies are leading us to brink of disaster. While some level of removal of atmospheric carbon is inevitably required for the 1.5°C goal, due to historical and committed emissions, it is critical to limit this removal to the lowest amount possible, by restricting future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ecosystem-based solutions can offer immediate, accessible, cost-effective and equitable strategies for meeting the 1.5°C temperature goal. In the context of international efforts to address climate change and increasing evidence of its rapid environmental impacts this report presents a global call to action for governments, development institutions and the broader climate community that challenges the fundamental assumptions that have so far guided national and international climate policies. Here we demonstrate the potential for targeted policies in the land sector to reduce the sustainability risks associated with mitigating climate change, while protecting human rights—particularly the customary rights of indigenous and local communities—and ensuring ecosystem integrity and food security.

Many narratives about climate change begin by asking what mitigation actions are technically or economically feasible, and how we can use the land sector to sequester as much carbon as possible. They focus on addressing climate change now so that we might ensure food security, human rights and biodiversity in the future, with little emphasis on who bears the brunt of the impacts of mitigation. The analysis in this report starts from a different place, giving primacy to food security, protecting human rights and protecting and restoring natural ecosystems in the battle against climate change.

This report addresses the shortcomings of current modelling approaches to deep mitigation pathways. Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) for 2°C and 1.5°C almost universally rely on intervention in the land sector on a truly massive scale, with most relying on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to remove carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it underground. In this report we substantiate and quantify the evidence that a large proportion, if not all of the required removals, could be achieved by conserving and enhancing natural sinks, while better land management and agricultural practices could avoid significant amounts of ongoing emissions. Further, when the protection and restoration of natural sinks is achieved through the stewardship of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, securing collective land and forest rights represents a far more equitable and cost-effective way to achieve

climate mitigation targets than other carbon capture and storage measures (Frechette et al., 2016).

This approach relies on ecosystem restoration to deliver ‘the missing pathway’ through avoided conversion of natural sinks and enhancing and protecting terrestrial ecosystems. It prioritises securing indigenous and community rights to land and utilises transformative agricultural practices to help eliminate over-production and consumption, including shifting diets and reducing demand for land for agricultural expansion.

Despite the advantages of multiple ecosystem-based carbon removal pathways in maintaining a liveable planet, such approaches have received little attention from policymakers. Policy choices have been largely informed by modelling that is geared toward accommodating our combustion-based economies, for instance building in the false solution of replacing fossil fuels with bioenergy. Policymakers have largely not been offered options that incorporate how behavioural and societal shifts—and strengthening tenure rights—can mitigate climate change.

The frame for considering pathways to 1.5°C must not be narrowly focused on emission reductions. Certainly the need for climate change action is urgent, but understanding the context for action is paramount. The world is one of growing inequality. Climate change arises from that inequality and feeds it, as the world’s wealthy continue over-consuming diminishing resources. The rest of this introductory section situates climate responses in the intersecting crises of climate, rights and biodiversity; addresses the shortcomings of modelling-based approaches to climate mitigation; and outlines our vision for ecosystem-based solutions that are centred on rights and food sovereignty.

Read the report (PDF).

What Whales Have to Teach Humans About Capitalism

By Laura Bridgeman - Common Dreams, October 22, 2017

The International Whaling Commission meets every four years to decide the future of the whales. That is, it decides which nation will kill how many, and for what reasons (commercial, subsistence, “research”). Stakeholders from around the world are engaged, from whaling and non-whaling nations alike.

Notably absent in these discussions on the future of whales, are the whales themselves. But this is not just because they would have a hard time fitting into the conference room. It’s an intentional omission, since whales are a part of the commons: that great, amorphous void which we draw individuals out of, pour refuse in to, and in which lives the nameless, faceless “biomass” that we refuse any real legal or political consideration on a categorical basis. According to our current paradigm, the whales, and everyone else in the oceans, are resources to be protected, conserved or exploited: divided up (albeit unequally) amongst ourselves, and consumed.

This might sound like an article about whales, but it isn’t. It’s really about us, and what we chose to believe about ourselves, our societies, and what our future can look like. For perhaps the first time in history, we human cultures of the world are largely united in a struggle for what comes next – an active discussion, a exercise in collective imagination that’s becoming all the more urgent as we watch our current world, and worldviews, fall apart – or more aptly, being ripped apart by late-stage capitalism.

Our current system is incapable of addressing the problems within our own species because inequality is embedded within its very foundation. Strategies to dismantle plutocracy and eradicate poverty often involve new ways of managing the commons. However, as long as we try to preserve or manage “habitats” and “ecosystems” for human benefit alone, the resulting devastation of the lives of other species will reverberate into our own in increasingly disastrous and unpredictable ways.

Within capitalist models, individuals of other species are not only neglected - their very existence is denied. They are instead relegated to the realm of property, only to be considered or “conserved” when their bodies are seen as necessary for the health of an ecosystem of value; and then, they are lumped into “populations” or “stocks” rather than recognizing them as individuals with interests, deserving of their fair share of resources like any human being.

When we begin to consider this legion of individuals of other species, the commons can transform into a system for “mutualizing responsibilities” wherein other species are considered active stakeholders as they participate and benefit from those responsibilities. This can maximize the health and generative capacities of a given area, be it in the ocean or upon the grasslands or within a forest.

Let’s go back into that conference room again, with its notable absence of the whales who are being discussed. The changes I’m proposing might sound extreme, but not if we begin with species that we can all agree are intelligent and sophisticated enough to have interests of their own. We can begin by considering whale’s needs, desires, and perspectives as stakeholders. Rather than having conservationists advocating for whales’ protection, we ought to be giving whales a seat at the table – via a representative such as a guardian ad litem - to express what’s in the best interest for these individuals in matters concerning them, such as establishing Marine Protected Areas designed to protect their culturally relevant spaces in the ocean. Whales should also be considered stakeholders where industrial projects, such as salmon farms, may have adverse impacts on their lives. And, one day, whales should be considered stakeholders at the very meetings where their kin are being scheduled for slaughter.

This is no quaint idea rooted in sentimentality towards charismatic megafauna. It’s an idea that can save us - all of us – because when other species thrive, we all thrive.

Any accounting of the commons without acknowledging the presence and interests of others within these spaces will lead to their continued destruction, to our human detriment as well. But when we consider the perspectives of the other species, whom we rely upon for our survival and vice versa, can we begin to work towards nurturing an environment that is actually sustainable. Doing otherwise will only doom us to repeat history. And it’s already a bit late for that.

How to Stop the Sixth Extinction: A Critical Assessment of E. O. Wilson’s Half-Earth

By Kamran Nayeri - Our Place in the World: A Journal of Ecosocialism, May 14, 2017

“The only solution to the ‘Sixth Extinction’ is to increase the area of inviolable natural reserves to half the surface of the Earth or greater.  This expansion is favored by unplanned consequences of ongoing human population growth and movement and evolution of the economy now driven by the digital revolution. But it also requires a fundamental shift in moral reasoning concerning our relation to the living environment.” (Wilson, 2016, p.167)

Introduction

The anthropogenic Sixth Extinction is an existential threat to much of life on Earth, including the human species.  In this essay, I critically examine the renowned entomologist, naturalist, and conservationist E. O. Wilson’s proposal in his recent book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (2016), to stop and reverse it.  In section I, I will outline what is meant by biodiversity and why it matters, and provide the basic facts about the Sixth Extinction and its salient causes.  In section II, I will outline Wilson’s proposal identifying tensions in his arguments for its efficacy.  In particular, I will show the tension between Wilson’s love for the natural world and his knowledge of biology and ecology on one hand and his inadequate understanding of human history, in particular, the capitalist civilization, which results in wishful thinking.  The Half-Earth proposal is necessary but not sufficient for stopping and reversing the Sixth Extinction. Finally, I conclude with a brief outline of what I consider to be necessary in order to make Wilson’s proposal effective.

Capitalism and species extinction

By Ian Rappel - International Socialism, Issue 147, June 24, 2015

Life on earth is arguably the most extraordinary phenomenon in the perceivable universe. And, among living things, 21st century humans are uniquely possessed with the means to appreciate this remarkable occurrence. Scientifically, for example, we can consider the sheer number and diversity of species in existence today. The Catalogue of Life1 project lists 1.58 million species identified to date, and the final tally looks likely to fall between 2 and 8 million.2 It is also worth considering that our geological moment holds the highest levels of species diversity in the Earth’s history, and that extant species probably represent only 1 percent of those that have ever lived on Earth—a total of between 200 and 800 million species.

This richness of life on Earth is described as biodiversity. At one level, this term applies to the number of species and genetic diversity within species. But it also includes the aggregated interactions of individual organisms and species through the multilayered food webs and trophic levels that we describe, in turn, as ecology and ecosystems. The outputs of these units and interactions of biodiversity define and reflect the world in which we live. Thus viewed, we can describe biodiversity as nothing less than living nature itself.

Beyond the numbers it is worth encountering some of the curious wonders of our planet’s biodiversity at the individual species level. Take Australia’s gastric-brooding frog Rheobatrachus silus. Discovered in the babbling brooks of south eastern Queensland in 1973, the female frog of this species has the unique ability to host its own offspring through all stages of metamorphosis—from egg spawn to tadpole to juvenile—within its own digestive system. It effectively turns its stomach into a brooding chamber and gives birth to its young through its mouth, returning the stomach to digestive duties a few days later. For another example, consider the Arctic cod Boreogadus saida. This fish lives at oceanic depths of 900 metres within 70 miles of the North Pole. The water temperatures within its habitat hover around 0°C—conditions that would ordinarily freeze the biological tissues and fluids of an organism. The Arctic cod survives these extreme temperatures by producing “antifreeze” proteins that reduce the freezing temperatures of its own body fluids. The physical, chemical and biological mechanisms necessary to undertake these functions, and the route through which these evolutionary strategies must have developed, are testimony to the creative force inherent within biological evolution.

Aside from the science, biodiversity also plays an inspirational role in our lives in other ways—through our culture, art, poetry and language, for example. Within our own individual consciousness, our fellow life forms are used as one of the tap-wells of human imagination, providing us with a rich seam of metaphors with which to explore our cognitive horizons, and sensory alternatives to contrast with our own human frailties. In our social context, connection with other living forms helps us a little to cope with alienation—whether this entails the keeping of pets and houseplants, or pausing to feed the pigeons on a lunch break.

From the perspective of human livelihoods, however, the most ­significant intersection between ourselves and wider biodiversity revolves around our dialectical interrelationship with life as the chief material means through which we feed, clothe and shelter ourselves.

EcoUnionist News #50

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 4, 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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

1267-Watch:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Coming out of the Shadows: Human Rights and Animal Welfare in the Industrial Model of Agriculture

By Nancy L. Utesch - Organic Consumers Association, September 3, 2014

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 burgeoning problems that the industrial model of farming present warrant the necessity to bring these issues out into the spotlight for discussion.  These problems have been brought to our communities, not problems citizenry has gone looking for.  These issues, super sized, along with the mega farms, have reached a tipping point in communities that can no longer shoulder the burden of this industry, evolving from the mom and pop farms of 20, 50 or 100 cows-and growing in numbers in the thousands-3, 5, 10,000 animals in the last decade.

The social implications for placing huge animal factories amid the rural populous with huge cesspools of untreated waste, also spread in those communities, is devastating.  The touting of progress and innovation, often voiced by this industry and its promoters, seems to be lost in the dark abyss of manure pits now containing as much as 82 million gallons of untreated lagoon slurry at a single site, displacing families from their homes and leaving those remaining with plunging property values, quality of life issues, and contaminated air and water.

While there are many issues to discuss on this model of food production, there are a few that others will warn you not to broach.  The first time I heard the term "third rail politics" was while speaking to one of the agencies designed to protect citizenry and the environment in the state.  It was the first, of what would become many times, that I would be warned to stay away!  The third rail "used to power trains, carries hundreds of volts of electricity, likely resulting in death by electrocution for anyone who comes into direct contact with it".  While a political term, the hazards of the rail are not limited to the political arena. The controversial "shock" of the third rail is warning enough. Don't Touch!   Safe to bet, most stay away from the hazards of the third rail. 

Two of the issues that that ride the rails include immigrant workers and animal welfare.   There are vast land mines that exist while dancing amongst these two topics, including the political forces that reign, and the potential social stigma of taking a stand on these two controversial topics.

Capital Blight - The Root of the Problem

By x344543 – October 8, 2013

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.

I really would rather not be writing this; I honestly wish that I didn’t feel that it was necessary. However, some things simply cannot be left unaddressed.

As one of the half dozen or so charter members of the IWW’s Environmental Unionism Caucus, I comb through a good deal of class struggle and/or environmental news sources, since one of our goals is raising awareness. These sources come from a variety of directions, including syndicalist, socialist, anarchist, progressive environmentalist, and deep green (though not Deep Green Resistance, because of the latter’s transphobia and rigid primativist tendencies). Naturally, one of the most logical sources for this last tendency is Earth First!. Rarely is any source 100% in line with what I and my fellow “Green Wobblies” think represents our position (loosely defined though that may be), and Earth First! is no exception. That which doesn’t fit is generally ignored, and we “stand aside” as they say in the language of modified consensus process. Sometimes, however, our sources will publish something so egregiously wrong, in our opinion, that we feel compelled to respond.

Saturday, October 5, 2013, Earth First! re-published just such a story, called Thanks A Lot, Nebraska, by the Tucson chapter of Root Force (TURF).

What is Root Force you ask? Here’s their mission statement:

Root Force (Fuerza Raíz) is a campaign that recognizes the fundamental connection between the oppression of the Earth and the oppression of its people. The precursor to ecocide and genocide is the separation of people from the land so that both can be exploited. Thus Root Force is a biocentric campaign, asserting that no oppression can be overcome without addressing the relationship a society has with the Earth. To achieve either social or ecological justice, we must achieve both.

Therefore, Root Force aims to help dismantle the system that is killing and enslaving our planet and its people. This will be achieved by (1) identifying the system’s strategic weak points, and (2) targeting those points, thus providing an offensive component to existing ecodefense, international solidarity, and anti-colonialist efforts.

One strategic weak point is the U.S. dependence on the resources of Latin America. The exploitation of these resources is dependent on transportation, energy, and communications infrastructure. Hence this U.S.-based campaign focuses its efforts on opposing infrastructure expansion projects in Latin America, such as Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) and the South American Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA).

The campaign provides a framework for people to take effective action in solidarity with local resistance to these projects without traveling to Latin America. It is structured to allow for a diversity of tactics, to be undertaken by a wide network of autonomous individuals and groups.

This seems reasonable enough; in fact, I cannot find any really objectionable position in this mission statement at all. Much of it could easily mesh with the Preamble to the IWW Constitution, so having established that, I find the content of the article itself to be quite disturbing.

Essentially, TURF is miffed that a coalition including Nebraska ranchers and farmers, the Nebraska Farmer’s Union, Bold Nebraska, 350.org, Sierra Club, Credo, and billionaire Tom Steyer are protesting the impending construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline by constructing a wind- and solar- powered barn in its projected pathway.

Granted there are many criticisms one could make of this action, such as the fact that a great many of these folks are capitalists or enablers of capitalists, the fact that Keystone XL is not the only pipeline we need to worry about, or the obvious fact that Keystone could simply build the pipeline somewhere else (there are enough rural counties sufficiently beholden to corporate fossil fuel interests to ram through the permits barn or no barn), but in spite of these shortcomings, there are lot of good things that could be said about the project as well, including—in my opinion at least—the advocacy of renewable energy, such as wind and solar which could allow a state such as Nebraska which has a fairly good abundance of both to potentially generate all of its own electricity and perhaps even export a bit.

No doubt doing so would lessen that state’s reliance on fossil fuels, and though some of those are extracted and refined locally, the impact of those on the environment effects us globally in ways that greatly outweigh any significant impact from wind and solar. Certainly that would seem to fit the mission of Root Force would it not? Evidently the answer is a resounding “no”. Root Force is overwhelmingly opposed to renewable energy arguing that it simply props up the existing system and perpetuates the destruction of the Earth (and to be certain, the Earth First! Journal published Root Force's position paper on renewables in February 2009).

Revolutionary Ecology, Biocentrism, and Deep Ecology

By Judi Bari - 1995 | [PDF File Available]

I was a social justice activist for many years before I ever heard of Earth First!. So it came as a surprise to me, when I joined Earth First! in the 1980s, to find that the radical environmental movement paid little attention to the social causes of ecological destruction. Similarly, the urban-based social justice movement seems to have a hard time admitting the importance of biological issues, often dismissing all but "environmental racism" as trivial. Yet in order to effectively respond to the crises of today, I believe we must merge these two issues.

Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.

I believe we already have such a theory. It's called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement. The problem is that, in the early stages of this debate, deep ecology was falsely associated with such right wing notions as sealing the borders, applauding AIDS as a population control mechanism, and encouraging Ethiopians to starve. This sent the social ecologists justifiably scurrying to disassociate. And I believe it has muddied the waters of our movement's attempt to define itself behind a common philosophy.

So in this article, I will try to explain, from my perspective as an unabashed leftist, why I think deep ecology is a revolutionary world view. I am not trying to proclaim that my ideas are Absolute Truth, or even that they represent a finished thought process in my own mind. These are just some ideas I have on the subject, and I hope that by airing them, it will spark more debate and advance the discussion.

The Feminization of Earth First!

By Judi Bari - Ms Magazine, May 1992

It is impossible to live in the redwood region of Northern California without being profoundly affected by the destruction of this once magnificent ecosystem. Miles and miles of clearcuts cover our bleeding hillsides. Ancient forests are being strip-logged to pay off corporate junk bonds. And bee-lines of log trucks fill our roads, heading to the sawmills with loads ranging from 1,000-year old redwoods, one tree trunk filling an entire logging truck, to six-inch diameter baby trees that are chipped for pulp. Less than 5% of the old growth redwood is left, and the ecosystem is disappearing even faster than the more widely known tropical rainforest.

So it is not surprising that I, a lifetime activist, would become an environmentalist. What is surprising is that I, a feminist, single mother and blue-collar worker, would end up in Earth First!, a “no compromise” direct action group with the reputation of being macho, beer-drinking eco-dudes. Little did I know that by combining the more feminine elements of collectivism and non-violence with the spunk and outrageousness of Earth First!, we would spark a mass movement. And little did I know that I would pay for our success by being bombed and nearly killed, and subjected to a campaign of hatred and misogyny.

I was attracted to Earth First! because they were the only ones willing to put their bodies in front of the bulldozers and chainsaws to save the trees. They were also funny, irreverent, and they played music. But it was the philosophy of Earth First! that ultimately won me over. This philosophy, known as biocentrism or deep ecology, states that the Earth is not just here for human consumption. All species have a right to exist for their own sake, and humans must learn to live in balance with the needs of nature, instead of trying to mold nature to fit the wants of humans.

I see no contradiction between deep ecology and eco-feminism. But Earth First! was founded by five men, and its principle spokespeople have all been male. As in all such groups, there have always been competent women doing the real work behind the scenes. But they have been virtually invisible behind the public Earth First! persona of “big man goes into big wilderness to save big trees.” I certainly objected to this. Yet despite the image, the structure of Earth First! was decentralized and non-hierarchical, so we had the leeway to develop any way we wanted in our local Northern California group.

Earth First! came on the scene in redwood country around 1986, when corporate raider Charles Hurwitz of Maxxam took over a local lumber company, then nearly tripled the cut of old growth redwood to pay off his junk bonds. Earth First! had been protesting around public land issues in other parts of the West since 1981, but this was such an outrage that it brought the group to its first “private” lands campaign.

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