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Author: IPE


“And was Jerusalem builded here, among these dark Satanic Mills?”
William Blake, Jerusalem (1804)

Romantic critique of industrialisation: oppressive, alienation, pollution and philistine. Alternatives to capitalism: Luddites -> Owenite agricultural colonies -> Cooperative Movement -> Guild Socialism. William Wordsworth = 1790s revolutionary republican -> 1843 Poet Laureate. Tory Radicalism: countryside = feudal hierarchy and religious order v. city = utilitarian individualism and social unrest. Gothic Revival: medieval beauty and craft skills v. utilitarian “uglification” and factory production. Mohandas Gandhi: moral Indian villages v. immoral British industrialism. German fascism: Aryan peasantry v. Jewish-Marxist workers.

John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1862)
William Morris, News from Nowhere (1890)
Walter Darre, A New Nobility of Blood and Soil (1929)

Malthusianism = liberal economics and social conservatism: geometrical growth in population v, arithmetical growth in agricultural production. Raising wages and providing welfare -> poor have more children -> overpopulation -> unemployment and starvation -> fall in population of poor.

Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)

Social Darwinism = “survival of the fittest” (Herbert Spencer). Biological determinism: 19th century laissez-faire economics -> 20th century racial imperialism. Cold War economics = rival models of industrial growth. Fordism: production for the sake of production. The affluent society: motor cars, suburban homes and television sets.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)

The downsides of agribusiness: DDT and other pesticides killing wildlife and entering food chain. 1960s anti-pollution campaigns -> 1970 US Environmental Protection Agency. Keynesian regulation of industrial waste: polluter pays; precautionary principle; and state-business cooperation.

“Why can’t we have blue skies over the Ruhr?” – Willy Brandt (1966)

1972 Club of Rome report: positive feedback loop of industrialisation -> negative feedback loop of ecological crisis. MIT computer model: falling infant mortality and longer life spans -> rapid growth of global population -> increased consumption of finite natural resources -> inflation in food and raw material prices -> falling profits on investment -> economic crisis -> industrial collapse -> fall in agricultural output -> mass starvation and welfare cuts -> more infant mortality and reduced life spans -> big drop in global population.

“Our world [computer] model was built specifically to investigate five major trends of global concern – accelerating industrialisation, rapid population growth, widespread malnutrition, depletion of natural resources, and a deteriorating environment.’ – Dennis Meadows et al, The Limits to Growth (1972)

MIT computer model = “Malthus in, Malthus out.” Chris Freeman (1973) Club of Rome forecast of raw materials inflation confirmed by 1974 Oil Crisis. Higher oil prices -> energy conservation -> investment in renewable energy. Eco-economic paradox of 1980s: Japan and Europe = higher energy costs and more economic growth v. USA/USSR = cheaper energy costs and lower economic growth. Discrediting of Club of Rome: 1970s raw materials cartels = higher prices -> 1980s neo-liberalism and new technology = 50% collapse in commodity prices. Neo-liberal environmentalism: “the market is an ecosystem just like the rain forest.” Kevin Kelly (1995). Private ownership = preservation of nature.

Garrett Hardin, Tragedy of the Commons (1968).

Market failure: prices can’t measure ecological damage. Neo-classical economics admits problem of externalities: hidden costs of production dumped on general public, environment and future generations. Short-term profits = long-term losses. 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: 2/3 of global natural resources already gone.

Soil erosion: 1930s US Dust Bowl -> 1950s Virgin Lands Project in Kazakhstan -> 2000s desertification in Africa, China and East Asia.

Overexploited fishing grounds: 1992 Newfoundland cod collapse -> 2000s EU fishing crisis.

Mass extinction: 25% of mammals and 33% of fish species are under threat.

Water deficits: over pumping of aquifers and river extraction in USA, Africa and East Asia.

Unsustainable cities: urban sprawl, commuting gridlock and obesity epidemic = 60% in USA and 50% in EU. World population: 1 billion in 1900 -> 6 billion in 2000. England = 50% urban in 1760 -> world = 50% urban in 2007.

Global warming: industrial carbon emissions x4 in 1950-2000 and deforestation in the South for agricultural land and wood products. Strange weather: major storms, droughts and flooding. Higher average temperature -> melting of Artic ice sheet -> rising sea levels -> threat to coastal cities and farmland. Nightmare scenario as Hollywood blockbuster: Roland Emmerich, The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Deep Greens, neo-luddism and anarcho-primitivism. 1960s hippie counter-culture: student protests -> rural commune movement -> New Age mysticism. Ecological crisis = Nature’s revenge on human hubris. Return to pre-agricultural hunter-gather societies = 90% cut in human population.

“The entire range of living matter on Earth from whales to viruses and from oaks to algae could be regarded as constituting a single living entity capable of maintaining the Earth’s atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts…” James Lovelock, Gaia (1979).

John Zerzan, Future Primitive (1994)
Ted Kaczynski, The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future (1995).

Easter Island as historical symbol of ecological suicide: tropical forest with flourishing land and sea birds -> Polynesians arrive in 300 -> humans hunt wildlife and clear forest for agriculture -> trees = huts, canoes & transporting statues -> population explosion -> deforestation of island -> topsoil erosion, no fishing and statues can’t be erected -> starvation, war and cannibalism -> population collapse -> Europeans find near deserted island in 1722.

Jared Diamond, Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed (2005)

“I can’t stop wondering what were the words of the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree. Did he shout “jobs, not trees”? Did he invoke private property rights, a plea to keep big government of the chiefs off his back, the uncertainties behind the extrapolations of fear-mongering environmentalists, and technology’s power to somehow solve all problems?” – Jared Diamond, Ecological Collapses of Pre-industrial societies (2000).

The good example: 1950s CFCs in refrigerators and spray cans -> 1960s hole in ozone layer -> 1980s rise in skin cancer -> 1990s international ban on CFCs -> 2000s closing of ozone hole.

1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro: EU and South v. USA over climate change -> 1992 Climate Framework Convention -> 1997 Kyoto Protocol = stabilisation of greenhouse gas emissions -> 2007 UN Climate Panel -> Brown promises 50% cut by 2050.

Eco-taxes = fiscal signals for restructuring economy. 1990s EU states begin taxing “bads”: carbon emissions, traffic congestion, landfill and water pollution. Removing subsidies from intensive agriculture, private transport and polluting industries. Costing pollution: “cap and reduce” through tradable permits. Changing public behaviour: eco-labelling, media publicity and environmental campaigns. Eco-economics = state pricing of environmental externalities.

David Roodman, Natural Wealth of Nations (1998)

Alternative energy: windmills solar, tidal, geothermal and bio-fuels with hydrogen as storage medium.

Jeremy Rifkin, The Hydrogen Economy (2002)

Green economy for North: stable population, renewable energy, public transport waste recycling, organic agriculture, reforestation, fish farming, cuts in working week and community participation.

South v. North’s eco-imperialism: USA = 5% of global population and 25% of carbon emissions. Environmentalism = neo-Malthusian curbs on South’s economic modernisation. Industrialisation of North -> longer life span, health care and cheap food -> wealthier population -> environmental legislation -> falling pollution, reforestation, fish farming and wildlife protection. South must prioritise feeding poor and fighting disease not tackling global warming.

Bariloche Foundation, The Limits to Poverty (1974).
Bjorn Lomborg, The Sceptical Environmentalist (2001).

Sustainable development: 1984 World Commission on Environment and Development -> 1992 UNCED (UN Conference on Environment and Development) Agenda 21 -> 2005 Make Poverty History @ G8 Edinburgh.

Within this MySpace version of the electronic agora, cybernetic communism was mainstream and unexceptional. What had once been a revolutionary dream was now an enjoyable part of everyday life.