The hill overlooking the tailings pond—a vast, dammed tub of liquid residue—was littered with bones. Residents from the area said the goats and cattle that once grazed the land had died since mining operations began a few years ago. They held our hands as we crossed a river, directing us to jump from rock to rock to avoid plunging a foot into the polluted current. The human settlements tucked in the valley beneath the white smoke snaking into the sky appeared to be the only life remaining in the area. We were at Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, one of the largest gold mines in the world.
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Less of What We Don't Need
Stories about Less of What We Don't Need.
How will we all keep busy when we only have to work 15 hours a week? That was the question that worried the economist John Maynard Keynes when he wrote his short essay “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” in 1930. Over the next century, he predicted, the economy would become so productive that people would barely need to work at all.
For a while, it looked like Keynes was right: In 1930 the average workweek was 47 hours. By 1970 it had fallen to slightly less than 39.
But then something changed. Instead of continuing to decline, the duration of the workweek stayed put; it’s hovered just below 40 hours for nearly five decades.
Climate change must be stopped. But who will do the stopping? Who, in other words, could be the political subject of an anticapitalist climate revolution?
I am convinced this social agent could be, and indeed must be, the global working class. Yet to play this role, the working class must develop an emancipatory ecological class consciousness.
This is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of “How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path, From the Caribbean to Siberia” by Stan Cox and Paul Cox, published last month by The New Press. The book's ten stories of unnatural disaster include post-Sandy New York and pre-inundation Miami. This passage expands on those stories.
When danger looms in the United States of America, there’s always one answer close at hand: build a wall. Since well before they came into fashion for border control, concrete and earth have been piled along almost every coast and waterway to keep floods and storms at bay. Even in the decade following Hurricane Katrina—as obvious a case of this strategy’s failure as one could ask for—official attention focused on reinforcing the levees around New Orleans and the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of a 1.8-mile-long storm surge barrier. But after 2005, with the nation’s attention riveted on Louisiana, planners also needed to show something fresher than the same old fortifications. So they called in the Dutch.
Geoclimatic disasters have loomed over humanity throughout our tenure on Earth, but that doesn’t mean we should accept anything about them. Each awful ordeal is an opportunity to learn and change, and the enemy of change is the idea that “these things just happen.” It’s the grand excuse of a global economy that spins off more catastrophes than any storm front. And it means more and more people, more and more often, will be joining the residents of recently flooded Ellicott City and White Sulphur Springs in the timeless landscape of the post-apocalypse.
The following is taken from a presentation by Stan Cox to the New York Academy of Medicine and the Museum of the City of New York on August 11, 2016:
The headlines screamed, “Kerry says AC more dangerous than ISIS!”
The Secretary of State, at a conference in Vienna last month on reducing the use of the refrigerants – powerful greenhouse gases that are used in refrigeration and air conditioning – had actually said this:
The discourse of “green growth” has gained ground in environmental governance deliberations and policy proposals. It is presented as a fresh and innovative agenda centered on the deployment of engineering sophistication, managerial acumen, and market mechanisms to redress the environmental and social derelictions of the existing development model.
But the green growth project is deeply inadequate, whether assessed against criteria of social justice or the achievement of sustainable economic life upon a materially finite planet.
Heavy-duty diesel-engine trucks (agricultural, cargo, mining, logging, construction, garbage, cement, 18-wheelers) are the main engines of civilization. Without them, no goods would be delivered, no food planted or harvested, no garbage picked up, no minerals mined, no concrete made, or oil and gas drilled to keep them all rolling. If trucks stopped running, gas stations, grocery stores, factories, pharmacies, and manufacturers would shut down within a week.
Since oil, coal, and natural gas are finite, and biomass doesn’t scale up, clearly someday trucks will need to run on wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal generated electricity. Yet even batteries for autos aren’t yet cheap, long-lasting, light-weight, or powerful enough for most Americans to replace their current gas-guzzlers with. And given the distribution of wealth, few Americans may ever be able to afford an electric car, since two-thirds of Americans would have trouble finding even $1,000 for an emergency.
The Dark Side of Clean Energy in Mexico
Harvey Wasserman celebrates the end of the atomic era, but cautions that the fight is not over quite yet.