Ian Angus

The radical ecologist Murray Bookchin once compared populationism to a phoenix, the mythical bird that periodically burns up and is reborn from its own ashes. No matter how often the “too many people” argument is refuted, it always returns, making the same claim that people are breeding too much and consuming too much, devouring the Earth like a plague of locusts.

The latest incarnation of the populationist phoenix is People and the Planet, a report published in April by the leading organisation of Britain’s scientific establishment, the 350-year-old Royal Society.

The Labour Party of Pakistan has reported that LPP member Baba Jan and other activists in Gilgit district jail were severely beaten and tortured by dozens of Rangers, Police and Frontier Constabulary in the early morning of April 28.

In response, an international campaign is being organised for the release of Baba Jan and other activists jailed last year for campaigning for compensation for flood victims.

After devastating floods swept the Atta Abad Lakes region of Pakistan last year, police opened fire on a demonstration of people demanding compensation. Two people were killed.

In article after article, book after book, scientists and environmentalists have exposed the devastating effects of constant economic expansion on the global environment. The drive to produce ever more “stuff” is filling our rivers with poison and our air with climate-changing gases. The oceans are dying, species are dying out at unprecedented rates, water is running short, and soil is eroding much faster than it can be replaced.

But the growth machine pushes on.

Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet
Kendra Pierre-Louis
IG Publishing, 216 pages

Radical German poet Hans Magnus Enzenberger once compared mainstream environmentalism to a Sunday sermon that terrifies parishioners with dire warnings of eternal damnation, but concludes weakly by promising salvation to any sinner who performs a simple act of penance.

“The horror of the predicted catastrophe,” he wrote, “contrasts sharply with the mildness of the admonition with which we are allowed to escape.”

Ian Angus is editor of climateandcapitalism.com and co-author, with Simon Butler, of the new book Too Many People?. This is his keynote presentation to the recent Climate Change Social Change conference in Melbourne.

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Meetings such as this play a vital role in building a movement that can stop the hell-bound train of capitalism, before it takes itself and all of humanity over the precipice. Building such a movement is the most important thing anyone can do today — so I’m honoured to have been invited to take part in your discussions.

After the April 20 Deepwater oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, many commentators have tried to explain why it happened. Many blame greed and arrogance in BP’s executive offices.

Others blame it on the military-oil-government alliance that views free-flowing oil (and free-flowing oil profits) as something to promote at all costs.

But some writers identify a different cause. Bonus-seeking executives, corrupt politicians and oil-hungry generals all played a role, but they were only front men for the real villains — consumers.

Not long ago, a lot of socialists around the world had little to say about environmental issues. The environmental movement was focused on individual (change your light bulbs) and capitalist (create a market for emissions) solutions to the ecological crisis.

In 2007, immediately after the founding of the Ecosocialist International Network (EIN), I wrote a Canadian Dimension article on the challenges facing ecosocialists.

In it, I discussed two trends that seemed to indicate a new wave of anti-capitalist and pro-ecology action:

In Australia, the question of environmental protection has increasingly been linked to the need to reduce or contain the nation’s population level size. This is often tied to the argument that the high level of consumption in First World countries is unsustainable.

Immigrants to the developed world have frequently been blamed for unemployment, crime and other social ills. Attempts to reduce or block immigration have been justified as necessary measures to protect “our way of life” from alien influences.

February 12, 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Robert Darwin. His masterwork, On the Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago, in November 1859, initiating a revolution in science that continues to this day.

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