Ecological Civilization, Ecological Revolution

An Ecological Marxist Perspective

John Bellamy Foster

Monthly Review | 2022Volume 74, Number 05 (October 2022)

Aerial photo taken on Sept. 18, 2020 of Dihua, an ancient town in Danfeng County, Shangluo City of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Dihua ancient town has attracted many tourists with its well protected ecological environment, rich history and unique folk customs. Source: “China to adhere to green development, advance ecological civilization: position paper,” Xinhua, September 21, 2020.

This is an adapted version of a lecture delivered to the John Cobb Ecological Academy in Claremont, California, on June 24, 2022, on the topic of ecological civilization. It was intended to follow up on the Fifteenth International Conference on Ecological Civilization,” held in Claremont on May 26–27, 2022. The talk, which was delivered to a largely Chinese audience, was followed by an extensive interview conducted by Chinese ecological Marxist scholars, entitled “Why Is the Great Project of Ecological Civilization Specific to China?,” which is being published simultaneously as a Monthly Review Essay at MR Online. Both the lecture and the interview are being co-published by the Poyang Lake Journal in China.

I would like to speak to you today about the connections between ecological civilizationecological Marxism, and ecological revolution, and the ways in which these three concepts, when taken together dialectically, can be seen as pointing to a new revolutionary praxis for the twenty-first century. More concretely, I would like to ask: How are we to understand the origins and historic significance of the concept of ecological civilization? What is its relation to ecological Marxism? And how is all of this connected to the worldwide revolutionary struggle aimed at transcending our current planetary emergency and protecting what Karl Marx called “the chain of human generations,” together with life in general?1

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Ten Questions About Marx—More Than Twenty Years After Marx’s Ecology

John Bellamy Foster and Roberto Andrés

Monthly Review | 2022Volume 74, Number 04 (September 2022)

Roberto Andrés: I have long wanted to interview you about a book that was decisive in my intellectual formation: Marx’s Ecology. This book was published in 2000 in English and immediately translated into Spanish and inaugurated what has become known as second generation ecosocialism, which recognizes the ecological conception of Karl Marx, unlike the previous generation. However, in the more than twenty years since, Marx’s Ecology not only opened a wide debate but was also the object of multiple criticisms (it could not be otherwise). Later, you and Paul Burkett, author of Marx and Nature, published an anti-critique: Marx and the Earth, where you rigorously answered each of those criticisms. And then Kohei Saito further extended this line of inquiry with Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism. All of this has led me to wonder about the answers you gave in 2000 to ten controversial questions that have puzzled analysts of Marx’s vast theoretical corpus for a long time. Given the debates over the last two decades, would you answer these ten questions the same way you did in 2000 with Marx’s Ecology? I tend to believe that, in general terms, much progress has been made during this time in this line of research. That is why I would like to do a very specific interview with you dealing with these ten controversial questions, some twenty years after Marx’s Ecology.

John Bellamy Foster: I am of course pleased to provide answers to your questions with respect to Marx and my book Marx’s Ecology two decades after its publication. My views have remained generally the same, though they naturally have been refined over the years. Nevertheless, I am glad to offer some clarifications.

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National responsibility for ecological breakdown: a fair-shares assessment of resource use, 1970–2017

Prof Jason Hickel, PhD, Daniel W O’Neill, PhD, Andrew L Fanning, PhD & Huzaifa Zoomkawala, BS

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: April, 2022| DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(22)00044-4

Summary
Background
Human impacts on earth-system processes are overshooting several planetary boundaries, driving a crisis of ecological breakdown. This crisis is being caused in large part by global resource extraction, which has increased dramatically over the past half century. We propose a novel method for quantifying national responsibility for ecological breakdown by assessing nations’ cumulative material use in excess of equitable and sustainable boundaries.

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Good while it lasted – I: 6th mass extinction underway, courtesy humans

Earth is losing species at an unprecedented rate; This marks the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch, a self-aggrandising nomenclature that highlights our disproportionate and irreversible impacts on the surroundings

Richard Mahapatra

Down To Earth | April 11, 2022

This is the first part in a four-part series

My growing-up years on the banks of the Mahanadi — one of the planet’s oldest rivers, flowing for the last 160 million years through the land we now call Odisha — offered more ecological and geological experiences than I would encounter later in life. As I jog my memory, it becomes clear that our lives were marked, in fact, dictated, by ecological indicators.

Every tree, every creature, even the speed and direction of the wind, declared the arrival and departure of something.

When the dragonflies swarmed around in September, we rejoiced at the arrival of the winter festival season. In the post-monsoon season, around every puddle of water, or wetland, they had their merry world. Just before this, when the damselflies flew around our house, it was time for the monsoon.

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Capital and the Ecology of Disease

 John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Hannah Holleman

Monthly Review | Volume 73, Issue 02 (June 2021)

New beech leaves, Gribskov Forest in the northern part of Sealand, Denmark
New beech leaves, Gribskov Forest in the Northern part of Sealand, Denmark. Malene Thyssen, Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link.

“The old Greek philosophers,” Frederick Engels wrote in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, “were all born natural dialecticians.”1 Nowhere was this more apparent than in ancient Greek medical thought, which was distinguished by its strong materialist and ecological basis. This dialectical, materialist, and ecological approach to epidemiology (from the ancient Greek epi, meaning on or upon, and demos, the people) was exemplified by the classic Hippocratic text Airs Waters Places (c. 400 BCE), which commenced:

Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly, should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year, and what effects each of them produces, for they are not all alike, but differ from themselves in regard to their changes. Then the winds, the hot and cold, especially such as are common to all countries, and then such as are peculiar to each locality. We must also consider the qualities of the waters, for as they differ from another in taste and weight, so also do they differ much in their qualities. In the same manner, when one comes into a city to which he is a stranger, he ought to consider its situation, how it lies as to the winds and the rising of the sun.… These things one ought to consider most attentively, and concerning the waters which the inhabitants use, whether they be marshy and soft, or hard, and running from elevated rocky situations, and then if saltish and unfit for cooking, and the ground, whether it be naked and deficient in water, or wooded and well-watered, and whether it lies in a hollow or confined situation, or is elevated and cold; and the mode in which the inhabitants live, and what are their pursuits, whether they are fond of drinking and eating to excess, and given to indolence, or are fond of exercise and labor.…

For if one knows all these things well, or at least the greater part of them, he cannot miss knowing, when he comes into a strange city, either the diseases peculiar to the place, or the particular nature of common diseases, so that he will not be in doubt as to the treatment of the diseases, or commit mistakes, as is likely to be the case provided one has not previously considered these matters. And in particular, as the season and the year advances, he can tell what epidemic diseases will attack the city, either in summer or in winter, and what each individual will be in danger of experiencing from the change in regimen.… For with the seasons the digestive organs of men undergo a change.2

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ENVIRONMENT

Humpback whales may have bounced back from near-extinction, but it’s too soon to declare them safe

Olaf Meynecke

The Conversation | April 01, 2021

A pod of humpback whales lunge feeding.
The resurgence of humpback whales is one of conservation’s greatest success stories. Shutterstock

The resurgence in humpback whale populations over the past five decades is hailed as one of the great success stories of global conservation. And right now, the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is considering removing the species from Australia’s threatened list.

But humpback whales face new and emerging threats, including climate change. Surveying whales is notoriously hard, and the government has not announced monitoring plans to ensure humpback populations remain strong after delisting. We need a plan to keep them safe.Read More »

ECOLOGY 

Protect fish to produce more food and reduce greenhouse gas

Tim Radford

Climate New Network | March 25 2021

Menhaden catch, destined for use as fertilizer and pet food. (Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists have identified a sure way towards more profitable fishing: don’t do it. Protect fish and leave as much of the seas as possible untouched.

To convert the right stretches of the blue planet into marine sanctuaries would actually deliver bigger hauls than any uncontrolled harvests could promise. It could also protect marine wildlife and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.Read More »

BOOK REVIEW

Ecocide: Kill the Corporation Before it Kills Us

Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2020. 236 pp., £9.99 pb
ISBN 9781526146984

Reviewed by Scott Poynting

The title signals it succinctly: this book is an urgent exhortation to avert ‘the deliberate destruction of our natural environment’ (2). It pulls no punches, but is carefully argued, with abundant historical, political-economic and socio-legal evidence that the capitalist corporation is ‘killing the planet’. David Whyte makes his argument admirably accessible, in language leavened with sometimes dark and sometimes biting humour.

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COVID-19 AND CAPITALISM 

Covid, Capitalism & Ecology: A conversation with Mike Davis and Rob Wallace

Global Ecosocialist Network Channel | October 17, 2020

MIKE DAVIS  is the author of The Monster Enters: COVID-19, Avian Flu and the Plagues of Capitalism (OR Books, 2020). ROB WALLACE is the author of Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19 (Monthly Review Press, 2020).

Their 90 minute online conversation will be hosted by Sabrina Fernandes (Brazil) and Ian Angus (Canada). Questions from online participants are encouraged.Read More »

Marxism and Ecology in a time of pandemic: John Bellamy Foster, Amy Leather & Martin Empson

by  and 

Socialist Workers Party Youtube Channel | April 18, 2020

We’re live! Join John Bellamy Foster, Amy Leather & Martin Empson to discuss Marxism and ecology in a time of pandemic. The global environmental crisis has demonstrated how the system’s drive to accumulate means that capitalism puts profit before people and planet. The work of Marx and Engels in understanding the relationship between capitalism and nature has resurfaced in recent decades as an outstanding critique of the system’s destructiveness. The coronavirus pandemic originates in the same system that is driving climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Fossil fuel capitalism, industrial agriculture, deforestation is driving environmental destruction and creating the conditions for new and deadly diseases. Join authors and activists John Bellamy Foster, Amy Leather and Martin Empson to discuss how Marxism and Ecology can explain the crises we face and offer an alternative.Read More »