CAPITALISM AND CLIMATE CRISIS

The New Climate Normal: Capitalism is Killing the Planet

Rebecca Green

Socialist Alternative | October 01, 2020

In almost every metric to measure extreme weather, the Earth is breaking record after record, from the hottest heat waves to the worst fires to one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. This is the new normal and yes, this is climate change.

Millions have been evacuated, and hundreds of thousands have lost their homes to fires and flooding since COVID-19, a pandemic that itself foreshadows the dangers of unfettered environmental degradation. Across the West Coast, under menacing orange skies, people have been forced indoors to avoid toxic smoke from historic fires in the middle of a respiratory pandemic. The fires and smoke have created a dramatic sense of fear and dread among a huge section of the population not just in California, but in Washington State and Oregon as well. While millions, especially young people, see the need for immediate, dramatic action, there is also an overwhelming sense of fear that we’re out of time.  Read More »

WORKERS’ HISTORY 

“You’re Not a Worker, You’re A Pair of Hands.” How Leeds Women Workers Struck Back, 1970

People and Nature | November 13, 2020

Strikers in 1970. From the Secret Library Leeds blog / the Yorkshire Evening Post

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GLOBAL WARMING

Carbon Dioxide Removal Sucks. There are Better Ways to Tackle Global Warming

People and Nature | November 13, 2020

Biological carbon removal: a forest in Turkey. Photo: Fagus/ wikimedia

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) systems, touted as techno-fixes for global warming, usually put more greenhouse gases into the air than they take out, a study published last month has confirmed.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), which grabs carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by coal- or gas-fired power stations, and then uses it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), emits between 1.4 and 4.7 tonnes of the gas for each tonne removed, the article shows.

Direct air capture (DAC), which sucks CO2 from the atmosphere, emits 1.4-3.5 tonnes for each tonne it recovers, mostly from fossil fuels used to power the handful of existing projects.

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BOOK REVIEW

Paul Le Blanc

The Living Flame: The Revolutionary Passion of Rosa Luxemburg

Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2020. 171 pp., $50 hb
ISBN 9781642591828

Reviewed by Kaitlin Peters

Marx and Philosophy Review of Books | November 11, 2020

The Living Flame is a collection of essays penned by Le Blanc that outlines and elucidates Rosa Luxemburg’s most significant political interventions and theoretical contributions, while grounding the evolution of such revolutionary ideas in who Luxemburg was as a person and a woman. For any new initiate to Rosa Luxemburg’s life and politics, such as myself, Le Blanc’s essays will be useful for gaining an understanding of Luxemburg’s unique contributions to revolutionary Marxist theory, including the necessity of imperial expansion for capitalism and the utility of a democratic revolutionary strategy for mobilizing and winning the working-class to the grand project of communism. The significance of her political interventions is also elucidated including her condemnation of reformism within the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the undemocratic processes perpetuated by the Bolsheviks. Perhaps what is most significant about this collection of essays is their enthusiastic attempt at articulating Luxemburg’s political and theoretical contributions in relation to Rosa Luxemburg the person. While this attempt often risks devolving into gendered essentialism, the reader may enjoy this more personal, and often affectionate, characterization of Luxemburg, or ‘Rosa’ as Le Blanc refers to her. 

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SCIENCE AND DEMOCRACY

How DIY Technologies are Democratizing Science

Sandeep Ravindran

Nature | November 17, 2020

A 3D printed fluorescence microscope with lens looking down onto a petri dish is set up on a lab bench with a monitor behind
DIY hardware, such as this 3D-printed fluorescence microscope, is bringing cutting-edge research and diagnostics to resource-limited areas.Credit: Stuart Robinson/Univ. Sussex

Eyes trained on the cells under his microscope, Gustavo Batista Menezes had more on his mind than just science.

Menezes was using a specialized confocal microscope at the University of Calgary, Canada, that cost nearly one million dollars, and he had no idea how he would afford one when he returned home to Brazil to start his own lab. “It’s almost impossible to have that amount of money in low-income countries,” says Menezes. So, when he got a position in 2009 at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, he opted not to buy a fancy commercial instrument; he jury-rigged his own.Read More »

PARTICLES

What Is a Particle?

Natalie Wolchover

Quantamagazine | November 12, 2020

Illustration of a particle
Elementary particles are the basic stuff of the universe. They are also deeply strange.
Illustrations by Ashley Mackenzie for Quanta Magazine

Given that everything in the universe reduces to particles, a question presents itself: What are particles?

The easy answer quickly shows itself to be unsatisfying. Namely, electrons, photons, quarks and other “fundamental” particles supposedly lack substructure or physical extent. “We basically think of a particle as a pointlike object,” said Mary Gaillard, a particle theorist at the University of California, Berkeley who predicted the masses of two types of quarks in the 1970s. And yet particles have distinct traits, such as charge and mass. How can a dimensionless point bear weight?Read More »