We are well aware that there are many genuine grassroots activists involved in Extinction Rebellion protests, people we know are on our side.
But more and more questions are being asked about the nature of the organisation itself, about the true agenda of the leadership lurking behind a flimsy illusion of horizontality.
The non-existence of a mass radical anti-capitalist movement in the UK (let alone a radical ecological anti-capitalist one!) means that XR has appealed to a lot of people who have long been waiting for some kind of rebellion to finally emerge.
Perhaps they have been tolerant of XR’s eccentricities (starry-eyed love of the police, dogmatic non-violence bordering on control-freakery, connections with business interests, refusal to consistently condemn capitalism) because they are the only show in town and it is a question of XR or nothing.
The same is not true in France, though, where revolution is often in the air and where the last year has seen a full-on yellow-coloured challenge to the neoliberal state.
XR have been active there too, but their fake radicalism and lame submissiveness to authority has shocked many eco-radicals and anti-capitalists, who have been voicing their concerns online.
Reporting on the XR occupation in Châtelet, it said “Extinction Rebellion scuttled its own initiative in a total absence of strategic thinking and analysis of power struggles”.
It explained: “The ‘diversity of tactics’ working group on Wednesday evening had asked each of the six blockade points to start thinking about what we would say to the press, the authorities, the public, on the day that we were moved on.
“For instance, it was suggested, in the spirit of a convergence of struggles, that we say ‘we are not leaving without the passing of a law for carbon neutrality by 2025 and an amnesty for all activists incarcerated during the various Gilets Jaunes protests’. That would have been awesome.
“But the XR leadership decided, at a sparsely-attended assembly on Friday morning, October 11, to dismantle the camp, to move most of the equipment and to pull out from the six blockade points.
“In short, XR removed everything which made this public space a living space where we could discuss, debate, get to know each other.
“The given reason was, of course, the next day’s action, but anyone with a minimum of strategic sense should have seen that this camp, now that it was there, now that it had been reinforced by Gilets Jaunes and other anti-capitalist and environmental activists, the night before the weekend, had definite subversive potential. Predictably the action on Saturday October 12 was, on the other hand, a total flop”.
The article went on to comment: “This is not a case of ‘non-violent civil disobedience’ nor indeed of ‘obedience’ since there was no official warning from the police or the authorities. It was rather a case of servility: we ended the camp before even having been ordered to leave. This is exactly the opposite of struggle or rebellion”.
This described a General Assembly held at the protest near the National Assembly in Paris on October 12.
“Several people spoke up to protest against XR having abandoned, the previous day, the occupation of the Place du Châtelet and the response came that since people from outside XR had joined in the blockade and did not adhere strictly to the consensus of non-violent action, with barricades apparently having been built, XR could not condone these actions by being present. And in any case they had needed the gear and the activists for today’s (kettled) actions.
“It was announced that as the police kettle had started at 10h48, the police should be letting everyone go at 14h48 because the law, since the state of emergency, dictates a period of four hours’ detention. As if the police were going to respect the law!
“In the meantime, several activists suggested some activities until the moment of liberation: a talk about XR for newcomers, training in civil disobedience and non-violence, photos for social media showing activists lying on the ground forming the XR logo with their bodies, construction of a toilet area…”
A little later, reacting to the CRS riot police, “a group of people started to chant ‘no justice, no peace!’. Next to us, a ‘peace-keeper’ (an XR activist charged with ensuring action remained non-violent) shouted, despairingly: ‘No, you mustn’t say that!’ and a colleague replied, with contempt dripping from his lips, ‘That lot are Gilets Jaunes from Drôme’.”
So is there any hope that the XR protests will do some good and will not simply lead thousands of good-hearted people into a dead end?
The report from the Concorde Bridge in Paris, for all its criticism, did point to some positive possibilities.
The authors said that when the assembly broke into smaller groups, it became apparent that individuals were keen to break free from central XR control and act independently.
They added: “It was a rather pleasant surprise to see that many XR activists did not stay stuck in the XR box, did not shy away from more radical action, less focused on media PR, and were asking real political questions about the scope of these actions. As often happens, the grassroots could quickly outgrow the organisation”.
Imagine that somebody in your family falls ill, with a whole range of symptoms including breathing problems, extreme fatigue, stomach cramps, mental confusion and rashes on their skin.
Medical advice is initially unclear, until one doctor turns up who confidently announces that the skin issues are the core problem.
He produces loads of information of skin disease, refers you to all sorts of scientific studies and even starts referring to your family member’s illness as “the skin crisis”.
Others in the family pick up on this habit and soon all the other symptoms, some more troubling in fact, are half-forgotten.
One day this doctor phones up in great excitement declaring that he has found the solution to the skin crisis.
A new wonderdrug has been developed in the USA which, he says, will sort it out once and for all. The only trouble is that it is, as yet, only available privately.
When he tells you the price of a course of treatment with this new product, your heart falls. There is no way your family can afford that.
Don’t worry, he says. You could always remortgage your house, cut down on your living expenses, take out a loan. After all, this is an emergency.
The rest of your family are convinced by the doctor and start preparing to break open the piggy bank to pay for this miracle cure.
But you are not so sure. A friend puts you in touch with an alternative healer, who says the underlying problem is a general poisoning of the body.
What is needed is fresh air, plenty of water to drink, lots of exercise, a healthy non-industrial diet.
You try and persuade the rest of the family but they are scornful.
Next, your suspicions aroused, you do some online research into this new wonderdrug and the big pharmaceutical company which is selling it.
To your horror, you discover that your doctor is a paid adviser to a charity which is heavily lobbying for the new drug and lists among its “partners” the pharma company in question.
You alert the rest of your family but they say you’re being paranoid, that the doctor is a lovely fellow, totally trustworthy, and his advice must be followed.
You keep arguing the point. You point out that the new wonderdrug does not even pretend to address the other important symptoms and if the real issue is toxic overload, then it will only make the situation worse.
The family will be bankrupt and the patient still sick, probably even sicker. The only beneficiaries will be the pharma company and the doctor who is essentially on their payroll.
The whole thing is a scam, you tell them.
They are furious. They accuse you of claiming that the family member is only pretending to be ill, of being a disgusting and uncaring human being, a conspiracy theorist and “denier” whose selfish and “purist” stance can only delay or scupper the long-awaited skin cure.
This, as our quicker readers will have spotted, is pretty much the situation with the climate movement and those of us who dare to question the direction it is taking us.
The key, as we have said before, is the term “climate”. Why build a whole, supposedly environmental, movement around this single symptom of the industrial disease?
Could it be because, like the dodgy doctor above, the capitalists manipulating the movement have a “cure” on hand to sell to to us?
But this cure – this “Green Industrial Revolution” of electric cars and solar panels and wind turbines and carbon capture and “smart” everything – is not a cure at all.
It is a continuation of the industrial destruction, exploitation and pollution which has brought us to this terrible point.
It is not “purist” to point this out. It is essential, if we really want to defend the natural organism of which we are part, rather than just help kick-start a new and trendy branch of industrial capitalism.
Greta Thunberg’s first solo “school strike” back on August 20 2018 has become iconic in some circles.
Adoring fans insist that the lonely youngster’s charisma and determination, sitting on the pavement with her placards, forced the whole world to sit up and take notice.
If rich and powerful capitalists and politicians have since paid homage to her, they argue, it is only because they are running scared of the tidal wave of moral outrage the plucky Swede has unleashed.
But investigative journalist Cory Morningstar has highlighted some very interesting facts about that first Greta moment and the extraordinary way that some rather dubious people were already on board her climate bandwagon before it even left the pavement in Stockholm.
One of these was a certain Callum Grieve, who, on August 20 2018 itself, sent Greta a Twitter message declaring: “We’re right behind you. Stay strong”.
And who is Callum Grieve? His Linkedin profile says he is currently a “communications specialist” based in New York.
Grieve worked for five years for The Climate Group, which in 2014 launched We Mean Business in order to “catalyze action around climate change and bring it back to the top of the global agenda”.
Cory reports: “The founding partners of We Mean Business are Business for Social Responsibility, the B Team, Carbon Disclosure Project, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Together, these entities represent the world’s most powerful corporations and investors”.
We Mean Business has made great use of Greta Thunberg’s name to promote “economic opportunity through bold climate action” and something it terms “new power”.
Grieve was communications director of We Mean Business from 2014 to 2016. At the same time he was director of This Is Counter Culture, sometimes described as being based in Edinburgh, although Companies House last had it listed in London.
On Linkedin, Grieve describes his role at This Is Counter Culture as selling “brand development, campaigns, storytelling” and the business’s Twitter account also boasts of its “good stories”.
A document on Changemakers.com reveals that its customers included “international corporations, small businesses, social enterprises, NGOs and government”.
This Is Counter Culture was voluntarily dissolved in the UK in December 2017 and its Twitter account last tweeted in May 2018.
Cory Morningstar has much more to say about Grieve – not least his connection to Christiana Figueres, the very powerful daughter of right-wing CIA-backed Costa Rican president “Don Pepe”. (See our own exposé ).
But let’s turn to another Day 1 Greta Thunberg fan, in fact the man who spoke to her on the pavement on that fateful day in August 2018 and tweeted the world about it.
This was Ingmar Rentzhog (above), CEO of the climate campaign network We Don’t Have Time. He also happens to be a PR professional, like Grieve.
Rentzhog founded Laika, a prominent Swedish communications consultancy firm providing services to the financial industry.
According to the Greta myth, he happened to come across her protest while walking to work and it was this piece of luck which ensured her voice was heard so widely.
Notes journalist Frank Chung: “Despite its name, We Don’t Have Time did have time to produce a short film about Ms Thunberg, which it posted to Facebook the next day”.
It also turns out not to be entirely coincidental that Rentzhog came across Greta’s little protest. He later admitted had already done PR work for her mother and was “tipped off” about the event in advance.
So the bottom line is this: from the very first day of her “rebellion”, Greta Thunberg was being promoted by two corporate PR professionals paid for their skills in “brand development” and “storytelling”.
Since then, of course, she has addressed the UN, the WEF, the European Parliament, featured on the cover of Time magazine, which named her a “next generation leader”, met Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is all rather strange in a world where the usual reward for environmental activism is a criminal record.
We also recommend Kim Hill’s two-part analysis Unpacking Extinction Rebellion in which she also warns how climate campaigning is being exploited for capitalist profiteering – at the expense of the natural world it pretends to be protecting.
She writes: “This is the future that Extinction Rebellion is envisioning. These are the solutions that millions of people around the world have been marching in the streets to demand of their governments.
“Not to cut back on fossil fuel use. Not to protect wild nature. Not to repair and regenerate the land. Not to do anything at all to address the causes of climate change and extinction.
“Instead to save the very system that continues to wreak havoc on the land, sea, and air, and kill us off at a rate of 200 species a day.
“You might want to take a moment to let that sink in. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the need to go outside, and scream”.
The Oil and Gas Authority, which is supposed to regulate the controversial industry on behalf of the UK public, is nothing but a joke, a new article has confirmed.
Will Cottrell, chairman of the Brighton Energy Coop, takes a close look at the OGA in the run-up to the recent planning verdict on plans for five new wells at Horse Hill, Surrey.
He writes: “The OGA oversees drilling permissions around the country. Its self-professed mission is to ‘maximise the economic recovery of UK oil and gas’.
“Indeed, the OGA receives £5m of funding to do just that from the UK Treasury.
“High at the helm of the OGA is Chairman Tim Eggar. Eggar is an oil industry executive with various positions in government.
“An oil banker, Eggar’s history is a backstory of board positions for the likes of Monument Oil and Gas, Indago Petroleum, and 3legs Resources, Expro & Braemar and Energy venutures.
“Meanwhile, Eggar’s number two is chief exectutive Andy Samuel who has 20 years’ experience at BG Group, an oil services conglomerate.
“Non-executive Frances Morris-Jones spent 30 years in oil and gas. The director of operations – Gunther Newcombe – spent most of his career in the same industry. It goes on”.
The article reveals a similar saturation of industry stooges in the objective-sounding British Geological Survey.
It adds: “Back in 2012 (the last time financial figures were produced) the BGS’s annual report showed 29% of the organisation’s funds came from companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing industry, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BG Group and Schlumberger”.
The industry connections of “experts” at Imperial College London and Bristol University are also examined.
The article concludes: “The purpose of the regulator and its stooges is to construct a seemingly-consensual smokescreen.
“The parallels to climate change denial are striking – the creation of a body of ‘opinion’ that looks like it comes from a cross-section of venerable institutions, but that in reality is thoroughly penetrated by the oil and gas industry. Plausible denial is always the objective.
“And while a smog of earthquake denial has been wafted over Surrey planners, what has not been shown is who pays for these firestarters.
“Now that Cuadrilla have been put on a temporary hold, the focus can switch to who are those that support the industry, and the vested interests that lie behind them. These denial industries and their financial ties – just as their dirty frontmen like Cuadrilla – need to be held to account”.
And the Surrey County Council planning decision for Horse Hill? The drilling was approved of course, with planning development manager Caroline Smith even citing the reputation of the OGA to reassure councillors worried about earth tremors.
The Bristol Radical History Festival 2019 is being held on Saturday October 12.
There are two themes this year: “1919 – Year of Revolutions” and “Green History: from 18th Century roots to Extinction Rebellion”.
Explains the website: “Following the success of the 2017 and 2018 events, this year’s Bristol Radical History Festival is again hosted by M Shed, Bristol’s social history museum located on the historic harbourside”.
Highlights include a talk on Green Romanticism by Stephen Hunt (10.30am), Leonard Baker on Ecology from Below (12.30pm), A People’s History of Poetry by Peter Bearder (1pm), Back to the Land by Kath Holden (3pm), Roots of Resistance: Earth First! (3pm) and a talk on the massive wave of discontent which swept through the British armed forces at the end of World War One (3.30pm).
Say the organisers: “It’s not just talks! Expect walks, films, singing, a performance space with a puppet show, storytelling and poetry, and an exhibition space, as well as stalls with books and merchandise from local and national groups.
“Not to be missed – go up to Level 2 to see the Regional Radical Press exhibition, with highlights from UWE Bristol Regional History Centre’s current project All the events are free with no booking required!”
The Zapatistas, those rebel anti-capitalists in Chiapas, continue to inspire with their communiqués.
A message from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee — General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (featured on the excellent Enough is Enough site) reveals some wonderful names for new caracoles and autonomous municipalities.
There is, for instance, Esperanza de La Humanidad, which means Hope for Humanity.
Others are Floreciendo la semilla rebelde (The Flowering of the Rebellious Seed) and Sembrando conciencia para cosechar revoluciones por la vida (Cultivating Conscience in order to Harvest Revolutions for Life).
But our favourite is Espiral digno tejiendo los colores de la humanidad en memoria de l@s caídos, which translates as Spiral of Dignity Weaving the Colours of Humanity in Memory of the Fallen.
6. Mohandas Gandhi: an orgrad inspiration
Wednesday October 2 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas Gandhi, in 1869. Although Gandhi is mainly remembered in the West for his strategy of non-violent direct action, which proved ideal for the Indian independence movement, there was much more to his thinking, as this article from the orgrad website explains. The Gandhi Haiku posters are by Gabriel Rosenstock and available via etsy.com.
“Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin”
Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) was a political activist who played a key role in the successful Indian struggle for independence.
His involvement in the resistance to British imperialism went hand in hand with a deep opposition to the life-crushing industrial capitalism which it imposed on the sub-continent.
Ranchor Prime notes: “Gandhi was opposed to industrialization. It wasted resources and took people’s work from them. What was the point of labor-saving devices when they created unemployment?” (1)
Gandhi himself wrote in 1909: “Machinery has begun to desolate Europe. Ruination is now knocking at the English gates. Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin… Railways accentuate the evil nature of man. Bad men fulfil their designs with greater rapidity”. (2)
Later he added: ” The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is an evil. I make bold to say that the Europeans will have to remodel their outlook, if they are not to perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves”. (3)
In opposition to industrial capitalism and its insane frenzy to exploit, produce and consume, Gandhi proposed a future in which humankind lived in organic harmony with the rest of the planet.
He wrote: “It is a fundamental law of nature that nature produces enough for our wants from day to day; and if only everyone took enough for their own needs and nothing more, there would be no poverty in this world”. (4)
Gandhi’s vision for India, betrayed by his capitalist successors, was a return to the simple village life his land had known for thousands of years.
Writes Prime: “Mohandas Gandhi, called by his people Mahatma, which means ‘great soul’, loved India’s villages. He believed that they were the key to its happiness and prosperity. In the face of powerful political and economic forces, he tried courageously to preserve their simple way of life.
“Economic behavior determines the way a society treats the earth, therefore any discussion of environmental values has to include economics. The village economics of India give a practical example of an environmental way of living”. (5)
Gandhi argued: “Given the demand, there is no doubt that most of our wants can be supplied by the villages. When we become village-minded we shall not want imitations from the West or machine-made products”. (6)
He saw that this decentralised village economics was the only sustainable long-term way forward for humankind as a whole.
He wrote in a letter to fellow independence campaigner Jawaharlal Nehru in 1945: “I believe that if India, and through India the world, is to achieve real freedom, then sooner or later we shall have to go and live in the villages – in huts, not in palaces. Millions of people can never live in cities and palaces in comfort and peace”. (7)
Gandhi referred to himself on several occasions as a kind of anarchist and always opposed the centralised state and its inherent use of violence. (8)
He was greatly influenced by John Ruskin and translated the title of the Englishman’s Unto This Last as Sarvodaya, or welfare for all. He was also influenced by Leo Tolstoy and Peter Kropotkin, notably by the latter’s vision of a decentralized society of autonomous village communes.
However, Gandhi’s organic radicalism arose primarily from Indian metaphysics and its belief in the cosmic unity of all beings.
Prime writes: “A way of life does not exist in a vacuum. It is based on a way of thinking, a philosophy of life. Gandhi recognized this truth. He believed that it would not be possible to bring about change in society without a corresponding change in the way people behaved.
“To change the way people behaved meant to change the way that they thought. Therefore Gandhi’s primary objective was to influence people’s philosophy of life”. (9)
Central to the Gandhian world-view were the principles of satya (truth), karmayoga (self-realization through disinterested action), varnasramdharma (the Hindu law of right conduct), and ahimsa (non-violence).
Peter Marshall adds: “The most revolutionary aspect of Gandhi’s teaching was undoubtedly his social and political interpretation of ahimsa in which he turned the principle of individual self-realization into a principle of social ethics.
“He also drew on the traditional Indian values of village life and the joint family and the practice of making decisions by consensus”. (10)
Gandhi promoted the idea of swaraj, or self-government, which was the first step towards his ideal of an enlightened anarchy in which social life is self-regulated and “there is no political power because there is no state”. (11)
For him, swaraj had a far deeper meaning than mere political independence. He wrote: “Swaraj is a sacred word meaning self-rule and self-restraint, not freedom from all restraint which ‘independence’ often means”. (12)
At the end of his life, Gandhi was disappointed that India, which gained independence in 1947, was not fundamentally different from India under British rule, except that whereas previously Englishmen had lived in the imperial palace, now Indians did. He feared for the direction India was taking.
Prime comments: “He had always said that real independence for India was not just to become free from British rule. It was also to become free of British culture and industrial way of life and to reestablish the traditional Indian village-based culture for which he had always struggled”. (13)
1. Ranchor Prime, Vedic Ecology: Practical Wisdom for Surviving the 21st Century (Novato, California: Mandala, 2002), p. 84.
2. Mohandas Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, 1909, cit. Prime, p. 86.
3. Mohandas Gandhi, Young India, cit. Prime p. 78.
4. G.A. Nateson, Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (Madras: 1935), p. 384, cit. Prime pp. 84-85.
5. Prime, pp. 78-79.
6. Gandhi, ‘Constructive Programme’, cit. Prime, p. 87.
7. Gandhi, letter to Nehru, October 5, 1945, cit. Prime p. 91.
8. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: Fontana, 1993), p. 422.
9. Prime, p. 81.
10. Marshall, pp. 422-23.
11. Gandhi, Young India, July 2, 1931.
12. Gandhi, Young India, 1931, cit. Prime pp 83-83.
13. Prime, p. 90.
If governments and corporations get their way, the bright blue seas of western Greece will be turned into oil fields. The Greek government is selling vast areas of sea and land for oil and gas drilling, report Corporate Watch. The businesses involved include Energean, a fast-growing oil company with close ties to the Israeli government and Israeli corporations. “But it’s not a done deal yet,” add Corporate Watch. “Greece has strong traditions of resistance to capitalist devastation – and now, across the threatened areas, people are coming together to fight the oil plans”. See the Save Greek Seas site.
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Ignored by the corporate media in the UK, the Gilets Jaunes’ revolt against neoliberalism is still going strong after more than ten months, with the weekly round of protests now up to Act 46. Levels of police violence are insane and the cops increasingly coming across as a politicised fascist militia. After left-wing opposition politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon condemned them as “barbarians”, not only did authoritarian Interior Minister Christophe Castaner say he would be prosecuted for this opinion, but a police trade union staged a show of force outside Mélenchon’s party HQ in Paris on September 26. Gilets Jaunes turned up as well, to oppose the police… More about the Gilets Jaunes here.
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“The black bloc more or less destroyed the global justice protests at the beginning of this century. We must do everything we can to exclude them from the climate protests”. These were the words of self-styled radical George Monbiot of The Guardian, surely spelling the end of any remaining credibility for this arrogant, warmongering, pro-nuclear upper-class gatekeeper of the system, who pretends via his corporate media platform to be “one of us” in order to impose limits on our resistance.
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Degrowth is the only responsible way forward, argues an interesting article by Joël Foramitti, Marula Tsagkari and Christos Zografos. They write: “If we free our imagination from the liberal idea that well-being is best measured by the amount of stuff that we consume, we may discover that a good life could also be materially light. This is the idea of voluntary sufficiency. If we manage to decide collectively and democratically what is necessary and enough for a good life, then we could have plenty”.
Global resistance to the nightmarish 5G network (see Acorn 51) is picking up speed. Plans to roll out 5G in Australia were ditched “due to community fears regarding the health impact of the technology”. And thousands have protested outside the Swiss parliament in Bern to call for a halt to the threatened countrywide 5G imposition. Meanwhile the International Society of Doctors for the Environment has called for a halt to 5G in Europe on a precautionary basis. In the UK, the Royal Society of Medicine’s Alan Cooke is speaking on 5G in Eastbourne, East Sussex, at the Friends Meeting House in Wish Street at 7.30pm on Friday October 25. And Dr Karl Cox of Sussex University is speaking at a day’s symposium on 5G at Fairwarp Village Hall, Fairwarp, East Sussex at 10am on Saturday October 26.
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Acorn quote: “Organism is spontaneous self-regulation, the mystery of formed growth, the inarticulate wisdom of the instincts”.
Synchronicity has a funny way of throwing together two apparently unrelated events in a way that invites comparison.
This was the case, for instance, with Saturday November 17 2018, the day on which both the Gilets Jaunes in France and Extinction Rebellion (XR) in the UK were launched onto their respective national stages.
Initially, the comparison appeared to favour XR, from our perspective at least. In Britain, altruistic environmentally-aware protesters were battling to save the planet, while across the Channel the Yellow Vests were upset about a rise in petrol prices.
But that perception rapidly changed.
The Gilets Jaunes, attacked by the police, smeared by the corporate media, despised by government and business elites, clearly represent a serious and genuine radical challenge to the existing order (see our Gilets Jaunes page).
XR, big pals with the police, frequently feted by the corporate media, adored by a significant part of the government and business elites, are clearly seriously compromised by their close connections with the existing order (see our Climate Capitalists page).
We saw another synchronicity in the fact that the new organic radicalism project (see Acorn 48 and orgrad.wordpress.com) was unveiled at the same time as the latest XR happening and all the controversy surrounding it.
Again, at first sight the comparison might seem favourable to the climate protesters. One small group of people present a political ideology or philosophy built on wisdom accumulated over many decades, centuries and even millennia. But it’s all just words, which modern people are too busy to read.
Another, much larger, group actually does something. It takes to the streets, blocks one of the world’s great capital cities for days on end, draws everyone’s attention to climate change, miraculously forces the British parliament to declare a “climate emergency”.
But, in fact, close scrutiny of XR and the climate movement as a whole suggests that all this rebellious energy is in danger of being channelled into a cunning ploy to relaunch capitalism.
The plan is to use a “Green New Deal” and a “New Deal for Nature” to spark a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” which will make a lot of people very rich, including the venture capitalists who have voiced support for XR.
Obviously the people involved on the ground in the XR London protests were not willingly part of a capitalist plot. Obviously they are not stupid and many must have been aware of the danger of their struggle being co-opted. Hopefully many of them will break free from the “leadership” and organise autonomously and radically.
The problem is with the use of the term “climate” as the cornerstone of the movement.
We are not saying that climate change is not real and dangerous but it is by no means all that is really dangerous about industrial capitalism.
What about extractivism in general, not just for fossil fuels? What about pesticides? What about nanoparticles? What about all the rest of the pollution, contamination and destruction that forms part of this nightmare industrial age?
It won’t disappear with the measures being proposed to deal with climate change. All that hi-tech carbon capture technology, all those solar panels covering the world’s deserts, all those wind turbines cluttering our coastlines, will still need to be manufactured in polluting factories, using raw materials mined out of the flesh of Mother Earth.
Fighting under the banner of “the climate” is a severe weakness for the environmental movement because it means the issue can be picked off, channelled and neutralised.
If “the climate” is the problem, then capitalism is on hand to sell us the solution.
The money-orientated approach is always about superficial responses. If you have got a cold, a drugs company will sell you a product to suppress the symptoms. But you will still have a cold and it will probably last three times as long because your body will be prevented from expelling toxins in the way it knows best.
If environmentalists place climate issues within the larger context of what our culture has become, then the capitalists can have no quick-fix solution to sell us. There is no sales opportunity for them. They cannot latch on to a movement which aims to see their empire of greed and profit taken down.
The narrow fixation with “climate” on the current environmental scene is part of a larger issue, namely that of fragmented thinking.
It is here that the relevance of organic radicalism comes in. Again and again, the thinkers who inspired this philosophy condemned the modern tendency towards fragmented thought.
Indeed Kumar has specifically mentioned “climate” in this context, saying: “I am constantly reminding people to think holistically, think in a bigger way, a spiritual way, rather than get stuck in this one idea that climate change is the problem, or this or that is the problem. Our problems are interrelated”.
He adds: “The actions of environmentalists will lead to tears if they don’t come from the place of the spirit. Their activism can end up in nuclear power or genetic engineering or the whole countryside covered with windmills or solar panels and no trees left anywhere”.
Fragmentation is a problem which goes to the heart of the failure of our civilization. We have lost sight of the holistic unity of things and see only unconnected separate items forming no coherent pattern. We don’t see a wood, just trees. There is no such thing as society, only individuals. The idea that humankind is part of nature is regarded as a naive fantasy.
On the political level, once we start fragmenting our understanding into separate issues, we cut those issues off from the whole of which they are part.
Racism and sexism, for instance, can only really be understood within a wider context of our relationship to “the other”, of complex patterns of projection, power and domination.
An organic radical perspective insists on the unity of the human species as an organic entity, and on humankind’s belonging to the living world and the cosmos beyond.
It challenges the individualism, the subjectivism, the “me first”, the “I think therefore I am”, that underpins our whole modern culture.
Fragmented thinking just talks about racism or sexism as separate issues. And, lo and behold, in isolation they can easily be “solved” (in fact, hidden from view!) by the system.
“Racism is over – here’s a black president! Sexism is over – look how many CEOs of rapacious capitalist corporations are now women!”
“You say CO2 is the problem? We have just the machine you need? Can’t afford it? You’d better declare a climate emergency and raid the public piggy bank to buy it from us!”
Organic radicalism is an attempt to counter fragmented thinking in anti-capitalist and environmental circles.
It is an attempt to give our movements real philosophical roots, to make them strong and alive.
The name given to this deeper understanding is not important, of course. It has appeared in many forms throughout history and will do so again.
Whatever we choose to call it, we badly need this ancient and powerful wisdom to guide us away from traps and dead-ends and to steer us into the free and healthy future for which we yearn.
2. Why I decided to fight: letter from a Yellow Vest prisoner
Thomas P is just one of many Gilets Jaunes prisoners in France, locked up for their participation in the mass uprising against the neoliberal Macron regime. Below are some excerpts from an open letter he wrote from jail, after three months behind bars.
One is no longer innocent when one has seen ‘legitimate’ violence, legal violence: that of the police.
I saw the hatred or emptiness in their eyes and I heard their chilling warnings: ‘disperse, go home’.
I saw the charges, grenades, and beatings in general.
I saw the checks, searches, traps, arrests, and jail.
I saw people falling, blood, I saw the mutilated.
Like all those who were demonstrating this February 9th, I learned that once again a man had just had his hand ripped off by a grenade.
And then I did not see anything any more, because of the gas. All of us were suffocating.
That’s when I decided not to be a victim any more and to fight.
I’m proud of it. Proud to have raised my head, proud not to have given in to fear.
Of course, like all those who are targeted by the repression against the Yellow Vests movement, I first protested peacefully and daily, I always solved problems with words rather than with fists.
But I am convinced that in some situations conflict is needed.
Because debate, however ‘big’ it may be, can sometimes be rigged or distorted. All that is needed is for the organiser to ask the questions in a way that suits them.
We are told on one side that the state coffers are empty, but we are bailing out the banks with millions when they are in trouble, we are talking about an ‘ecological transition’ without ever calling into question the production system and consumption at the origin of all climatic disturbances.
We are millions who shout at them, saying that their system is rotten, and they are telling us how they are trying to save it.
The challenge of street clashes is to manage to push back the police, to keep them in line: to get out of a trap, to reach a place of power, or to simply take the street.
Since November 17th those who have threatened to fire their weapons, those who brutalise, mutilate, and suffocate unarmed and defenceless protesters, those who are not the so-called ‘breakers’, they are the police.
If the media does not talk about it, the hundreds of thousands of people who have been at the roundabouts and in the streets know it.
Behind their brutality and threats, it is fear that is hiding.
And when that moment comes, in general, it means that the revolution is not far away.
Read the full English translation of the letter here.
Rarely has the arrogant imperialism of the USA been so blatantly exposed as by the case of Julian Assange.
On Monday May 13 Swedish authorities announced, bizarrely, that they were reopening the long-dropped “rape” investigation against the Wikileaks founder.
Assange’s lawyer Per E Samuelson told Swedish TV the decision to reopen the investigation was “an embarrassment”, while WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said it would give Assange a chance to clear his name.
Assange is also still facing the extraordinary prospect of extradiction and trial in the US, despite not being American and not being alleged to having committed any offence on US soil.
The “world’s policeman” apparently has the right to punish anyone, anywhere in the world, who it considers its enemy, and supine vassal states like the UK are only too eager to go along with this.
The twist in the Assange case is that the “crime” he is said to have committed is precisely to have exposed, through Wikileaks, the arrogant imperialism of which he is now a victim.
Having been illegally dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy with the UK political police, he is being treated with all the justice that might have been afforded a political dissident in Stalin’s USSR.
As historian Mark Curtis has pointed out, UK government minister Alan Duncan called Assange a “miserable little worm”, the judge called him “narcissistic” and he received a grossly disproportionate sentence on the bail issue.
“Is Assange even going to receive a fair trial?” asks Curtis. The question seems rhetorical.
Veteran investigative journalist John Pilger wrote: “The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilisation’.
“The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast”.
Our comrades at Shoal, a collective of independent journalists, also voiced concern at the precedent which would be set by the extradition of Assange to the USA.
They asked: “Would the same judicial process apply to journalists who offended the sensibilities of the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel or Russia?”
Meanwhile, the constant sneering from the corporate media merely confirms what many have long known – that these so-called journalists are nothing but servile protectors of the system, ready to dance and write to any authoritarian tune their bosses ask them to.
There are also question marks over a liberal-left consensus which is too easily swayed by dog-whistle smears engineered to destroy the reputation of any effective enemy of the system.
Former ambassador Craig Murray raised this point when he wrote: “All the false left who were taken in by the security services playing upon a feminist mantra should take a very hard look at themselves. They should also consider this.
“If you seriously put forward that in allegations of sexual assault, the accuser must always be believed and the accused must automatically be presumed guilty, you are handing an awesome power to the state to lock people up without proper defence.
“The state will abuse that awesome power and fit people up. The Assange case shows us just that. And it is not the only case, currently, as everyone in Scotland should realise.
“But there is more. If you believe that any sexual accusation against a person should be believed and automatically and immediately end their societal respectability, you are giving power to state and society to exclude dissidents and critics from political discourse by a simple act of accusation.
“That power will be used and abused by the security services”.
If you are one of those comrades who has reservations about supporting Assange, we would humbly suggest you read Caitlin Johnstone’s comprehensive article “Debunking All The Assange Smears“.
This thought-provoking passage is taken from Darren Allen’s 33 Myths of The System: A Brief Guide to the Unworld. The whole book is available for free download here. We should declare that we consider ourselves to be leftists, so we have to accept our fair share of the criticism…
The modern leftist complains about ‘victim-blaming’ yet never criticises the system which relentlessly suppresses the idea that the environment causes conflict, crime, physical ill-health or outright madness.
The modern leftist complains about ‘objectification’ yet sees the entire world and everyone in it as a collection of categories; you are not an individual, you are ‘white’ or ‘a man’.
The well-to-do leftist regularly expresses ‘solidarity’ [i.e. intense identification] with those most affected by the system (the global poor and excluded) while making demeaning professional interventions in their lives and patronising pronouncements about how they should resist the system.
The modern leftist complains about ‘fragile egos,’ yet demonstrably possesses a self so extraordinarily delicate and brittle, it can shatter at (be traumatised, triggered, even infected by) a word.
The modern leftist complains about ‘being silenced,’ yet shuts down all criticism immediately and ferociously with arguments largely based on belittling interlocutors, or ruling out their entire view based on a single piece of information, rather than on making a persuasive case.
The reactive leftist regularly meets fact, knowledge and truth (1) with feeling (2) — ‘what you are saying is irrelevant, because it (it and nothing else; certainly not powerful social forces that stand to benefit from my feelings) makes me feel threatened, offended and angry; and because you do not belong to my category, you can never understand this feeling’ — a minority version of the standard mainstream position; reality is what we say it is (3).
The modern leftist has a great deal of difficulty speaking for himself; opinions are prefaced with ‘as a’ [homosexual, white man, a writer, a mammal].
The modern leftist believes himself to be cruelly abused, not just constantly harping on the actual insults he receives (‘see how awful they all are! look what names they call me!’) but constantly interpreting as derogatory ‘pretty much anything that is said about him (or about groups with whom he identified)’ (4).
The institutional leftist believes herself to be a radical while aspiring to state control and professional advancement, regularly supporting centralised, hierarchical or artificially distributed power, happily working for a large corporation, or implicitly supporting apparently opposed ideologies (e.g. the absurd collusion between feminism and Islam).
The postmodern leftist often claims that knowledge is a product of one’s race, privilege, gender and so on, yet demands that her intensely relative philosophy (5) take first place on the institutional syllabus.
The modern leftist — black and white, male, female and transgender, able-bodied and disabled — is terrified of the total abolition of the system.
1. Which are not the same thing. 2. Actually, or more accurately speaking, emotion. The difference is discussed in 33 Myths of the Ego. 3. Or ‘power determines reality’. The modern leftist may be in an inferior or minority position, but the group as a whole is still enormously powerful and the individual still has power to stir up emotion and create justifying belief based thereon. 4. As Kaczynski points out. 5. The philosophy of the modern left is actually an extreme form of ‘nominalism’, the idea that if you change what something is called, you change the thing itself. Another word for this is ‘magic’.
Rudolf Rocker (1873-1958) was an anarchist activist, theorist and writer who became well known in Germany, Britain and the USA.
His importance lies in the way that he used the idea of a “social organism” (1) as the basis for his internationalist anarchist philosophy.
For instance, in his 1937 book Nationalism and Culture, Rocker argued that nationalism was reactionary because it imposed artificial separations within the “organic unity” (2) of humankind.
He insisted that the nation was not something that existed naturally, and which then formed a state to protect its interests, as commonly imagined, but a fake entity invented to justify hierarchy and control: “It is the state which creates the nation, not the nation the state”. (3)
He added in the book Anarcho-Syndicalism (1938): “Dictatorship is the negation of organic development, of natural building from below upwards”. (4)
Rocker had been a conventional socialist in his youth and, like Gustav Landauer, often expressed his frustration at how that movement had failed to inspire authentic revolt against the capitalist system, allowing the Nazis to exploit discontent and sweep to power in his native Germany.
The socialist movement’s historic failure was partly a result of its participation in parliamentary politics, which he said had affected it “like an insidious poison”, spreading the “ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above”. (5)
He added: “It did not even possess the moral strength to hold on to the achievements of bourgeois Democracy and Liberalism, and surrendered the country without resistance to Fascism, which smashed the entire labour movement to bits with one blow”. (6)
Rocker reminded his readers that the German Social Democrats had, in practice, ceased to be a revolutionary party and that when the November Revolution broke out in 1918 their newspaper, Vorwärts, warned workers against rushing to take part because it said the German people were not ready for a republic.
He concluded: “Its absolute impotence contributed not a little to enabling Germany to bask today in the sun of the Third Reich”. (7)
Rocker saw that socialism at the beginning of the 20th century had drifted into a “gradual assimilation to the modes of thought of capitalist society” (8) – a fate which threatens other supposedly radical currents 100 years later.
In contrast to this, he developed a revolutionary philosophy which, in Noam Chomsky’s words, “stands in opposition to all the dominant tendencies in modern social and political thought”. (9)
Explains Chomsky: “In Rocker’s radically different conception, people must take their lives and their work into their own hands. Only through their own struggle for liberation will ordinary people come to comprehend their true nature, suppressed and distorted within institutional structures designed to assure obedience and subordination”. (10)
In rejecting the lie of salvation from above, Rocker pointed to the potential for liberation from below, from within, from what Chomsky describes as a “deeply rooted striving for freedom, justice, compassion and solidarity”. (11)
Rocker’s vision was, of course, an anarchist vision – an organic anarchist vision, in fact – and he highlighted the contrast between the vibrant Spanish anarchism of the 1930s and socialism in his home country.
He wrote: “The libertarian labour movement in Spain has never lost itself in the labyrinth of an economic metaphysics which crippled its intellectual buoyancy by fatalistic conceptions, as was the case in Germany; nor has it unprofitably wasted its energy in the barren routine tasks of bourgeois parliaments.
“Socialism was for it a concern of the people, an organic growth proceeding from the activity of the masses themselves and having its basis in their economic organizations”. (12)
For Rocker, anarchism was not some kind of fixed, self-enclosed social system, but a current which battled for the “free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life”. (13)
The possibility of another world, a free anarchist world, was already there within human nature and the goal of anarchism was to release this “vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account”. (14)
The less the “natural development” (15) of humanity was constrained by any kind of authority, the more harmonious it would be.
Freedom, that is to say the right to unhindered individual and collective self-fulfilment, therefore had to be defended against social and economic tyranny by “the violent resistance of the populace”. (16)
Rocker wrote: “Great mass movements among the people and whole revolutions have been necessary to wrest these rights from the ruling classes, who would never have consented to them voluntarily. One need only study the history of the past three hundred years to understand by what relentless struggles every right has to be wrested inch by inch from the despots”. (17)
Rocker’s explanation of the effects of industrial society on its human victims echoes Ferdinand Tönnies’ account of the transition from traditional Gemeinschaft (community) to industrial-capitalist Gesellschaft (society).
He wrote that the natural human ties which had previously existed between the old master-workman and his journeymen had no meaning for the modern proletarian, who, since the industrial revolution, had become merely an object of exploitation by a class with which he no longer had any social relationship.
“Socially uprooted, he had become just a component of a great mass of shipwrecked beings, who had all been smitten by the same fate.
“The modern proletarian, he was the man of the machine, a machine of flesh and blood who set the machine of steel in motion, to create wealth for others, while the actual producer of this wealth must perish in misery”. (18)
Rocker fled his native Germany to escape repression in 1892 and ended up in England, “the mother country of capitalist big industry”. (19)
Although he was a Gentile, he became involved in the Jewish anarchist movement in London, learnt Yiddish and lived in the Jewish community.
He was interned during the First World War, and in 1918 he was deported from Britain and returned to Germany, only to be forced out of his home country by the arrival of the Nazi regime in 1933. He spent the rest of his life in the USA.
1. Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism (London: Pluto Press, 1989), p. 11. 2. Rudolf Rocker, Nationalism and Culture, cit. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, (London: Fontana Press, 1993), p. 419. 3. Ibid. 4. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 75. 5. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 83. 6. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 85. 7. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 97. 8. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 84. 9. Noam Chomsky, Preface, Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. vi. 10. Chomsky, Preface, Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. vii. 11. Ibid. 12. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 98. 13. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 31. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, pp. 111-12. 17. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 112. 18. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 43. 19. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 56.
Following the success of the 2018 decentralised anarchist festival in London, the 2019 version is being extended across the UK and Ireland. Explains the website: “The idea is simple: groups put on their own programme of anarchist events, concentrating on the dates of the long weekend of 31st May to the 2nd June 2019”. Check out the programme here.
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Green Anti-Capitalist Front, the activist organisation formed to give a radical edge to XR’s London protests, is going from strength to strength. On May 4, around 70 people attended its second open assembly, noting the greenwashing agenda behind the so-called Green New Deal, putting an emphasis on anti-imperialism and solidarity with the Global South and calling for direct action in response to specific ecological threats, like airport expansions.
* * *
The fight is on to stop a theme park being built on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Explain Save Loch Lomondcampaigners: “The developer’s own Environmental Impact Assessments states that there will be damage to ancient woodland, pollution of standing and running water, red squirrel and otter fatalities and more, all for the construction of woodland lodges, treetop walkways, a hotel, restaurant, brewery, a monorail and much more, all to be built on what is currently public land but which will be sold off to the developer. This is about protecting our world-famous environment but it’s also about the fundamental question of who owns Scotland and who our beautiful country is for”.
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Brazil is a neoliberal state which has fostered economic development at any price through capital incentives. After Australia, it is the second largest ore exporter in the world and is scarred by no fewer than 430 ore dams. This report on the guilhotina.info site warns that the mining business has turned the country into a time bomb, with disaster after disaster caused by the industry’s greed. Movements opposing the dams have been met with repression and assassinations.
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Resistance News is a free monthly newsletter providing analysis and commentary on ecology, global capitalism, empire, and revolution, linked to the Deep Green Resistance News Service. The May 2019 issue can be found here.
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A new international campaign has been launched to defend the Rojava revolution and its achievements. Riseup4Rojava’s online call declares: “We must expose and attack the military and diplomatic cooperation between the AKP-MHP government and opportunist governments of the USA and Western European states. We have to build a collective resistance against the cooperation of our governments with Turkish fascism”.
* * *
“Extinction Rebellion is part of our capitalist system” – according to Bill Jamieson, business writer at The Scotsman. “Climate change activism and campaigns for sustainability are part and parcel of capitalist progression”, he adds, in case we had not caught his drift. And who is Bill? “He is a passionate advocate of the positive overall economic effects of championing entrepreneurs and why over-regulation and risk aversion can damage our economy”, say specialistseakers.com.
* * *
Acorn quote: “What is an anarchist? One who, choosing, accepts the responsibility of choice”.
A collective probing behind the scenes of the XR spectacle is unearthing more and more inconvenient truths.
Take, for instance, this article from 2016 by John Elkington, which has been drawn to our attention.
Elkington, alongside Volans Ventures Ltd colleague Louise Kjellerup Roper, is one of the XR “business leaders” featured on the missing website and in the XR Business letter to The Times.
He is also involved in the Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry backed by companies like Aviva Investors, Covestro, and Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.
The article is entitled “Tomorrow’s Business Models will be X-rated” and the letter X is a theme which runs through the whole text.
Elkington starts off talking about the California Gold Rush but adds: “The latest rush — in pursuit of exponential opportunities, or ‘X’ — feels even more seismic. The deeper I dig, the more potential opportunities surface to transform capitalism, markets and business in pursuit of sustainable development”.
Strangely for a supporter of environmentalism, Elkington boasts that he has been “accumulating air miles at an almost exponential rate”.
One of his many jet-set missions was to “Google’s X facility, the self-styled ‘Moonshot Factory'”, he explains.
“When visiting X last week, I was fascinated to see robotic arms, futuristic model aircraft dangling from the high ceilings (they have colonized an old shopping mall) and the sort of radar scanner used to guide autonomous cars.
“But my theme here is less the technology than the business models that are helping turn new technology into viable businesses — especially businesses that can help drive progress towards UN’s Sustainable Development Goals”.
Talking about the “Sustainability X agenda”, Elkington calls for a radical reinvention of what he charmingly calls the “Sustainability Industry”.
The Volans boss writes: “As leaders learn to ‘Think Sustainably,’ they will also need to learn to ‘Think X,’ shorthand for ‘Think Exponential’.
“In the same way that they once looked to activists and social entrepreneurs for evidence of where markets were headed, they must now engage a very different set of players.
“These new players are not happy with 1% or even 10% year-on-year improvements, instead pushing towards 10X — or 10-fold — improvements over time”.
This last sentence is worth reading again.
“The X agenda”. “Sustainablity X”. “X-rated” business models. Massive profits. Spiralling economic growth.
If Think X is shorthand for Think Exponential, as this XR Business Leader insists, what does XR actually stand for?
“We have seen powerful and courageous civil disobedience in the streets of London this week”, enthuses the woman on the YouTube video.
Placing Extinction Rebellion in a proud political tradition including the US civil rights movement and the Suffragettes, she declares: “What they are doing is waking everyone up to the fact that we do have an emergency on climate change. We are simply not acting fast enough”.
The title of the video, posted by the Global Optimism channel, is “Christiana Figueres in support of Extinction Rebellion”.
Figueres, for those who do not know, is an international mover and shaker generally regarded as the architect of the Paris Agreement which resulted from COP 21 in 2015.
But where exactly is this Costa Rican diplomat coming from and what sort of “environmentalism” does she represent?
Her family background is certainly interesting.
Born in 1956, Christiana is the daughter of the three-time Costa Rican President José Figueres Ferrer, aka Don Pepe.
Remembered mainly for his fervent anti-communism, Christiana’s late father admitted to the New York Times in 1981 that he had been aided by the CIA and that he was “a good friend” of its director Alan Dulles.
Christiana’s older brother José María Figueres was also President of Costa Rica, from 1994 to 1998.
The US connection seems to run in the family. According to Wikipedia: “Figueres completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy (West Point).
“While attending West Point, he attended and completed the US Army’s Ranger Training Course in 1975. Later, he continued his academic studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University”.
As President he aimed to “transform the Costa Rican economy towards one of higher productivity” and “the administration is credited with having worked to advance and promote further integration of Costa Rica into the globalised economy”.
Christiana’s brother shares her enthusiasm for “sustainability” – within an entirely capitalist context, of course.
He is on the Board of Trustees of the US-based Rocky Mountain Institute, which, in its own words, “transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future”.
José María’s profile on its site explains that he pioneered the linkage between sustainable development and technology while in power in Costa Rica and then with the United Nations.
He was also the first CEO of the World Economic Forum, where he “strengthened global corporate ties to social and governmental sectors”.
José María must have lots to discuss over family meals with his brother-in-law, Christiana’s husband Konrad von Ritter.
Her profile on the World Bank website (she is World Bank Climate Leader) praises her for work in bringing people together on the climate issue, not least “corporations and activists”.
Christiana is convenor of the UN’s Mission2020, which declares: “We’re on a mission to drive urgent action to limit the effects of climate change, particularly for the most vulnerable people and countries.
“With radical collaboration and stubborn optimism we will bend the curve of global GHG emissions by 2020, enabling humanity to flourish”.
Mission2020 hopes to achieve this by means of “targeted, high-level diplomacy”, “multi-stakeholder convening” and “creative strategic communications”.
There was a glowing report of Mission2020’s launch on The Grantham Institute’s website.
It gushed: “The Mission 2020 movement views the climate challenge, not as a burden; but a tremendous opportunity.
“Through being ambitious they aim to inspire us all to meet the challenge, spur innovation, create new jobs and economic opportunities, and while at the same time nurture the benefits we get from an unspoiled natural environment.
“The campaign states that the intrinsic value of the benefits of climate action extend beyond just economic metrics, and indicate that by 2050 efforts to slow climate change could make us $19 trillion richer”.
Figueres is ideologically very keen on connecting the public and private sectors and has made a significant personal contribution to that fusion.
For instance, she is a member of Acciona, “a global company with a business model based on sustainability”.
Its aim is to “respond to society’s main needs through the provision of renewable energy, infrastructure, water and services”.
She is also on the advisory board of international experts set up by Italian energy company Eni to “analyze the main geopolitical, technological and economic trends, including issues related to the decarbonisation process”.
Figueres is involved in The B Team, co-founded by Richard Branson, which describes itself as an “initiative formed by a global group of business leaders to catalyse a better way of doing business”.
On its website, The B Team reveals it is supported by Ford Foundation, Kering Group, Guilherme Leal, Strive Masiyiwa, Joann McPike, The Tiffany and Co. Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Unilever and Virgin Unite.
Chaired by Paul Polman, former Unilever CEO and one of the XR business leaders described in our last article, The B Team was of course right behind the XR Business initiative (for which the website seems to have been withdrawn for the meantime).
There may be XR supporters and activists out there who think that none of this matters, that it is better to be supported by business interests than opposed by them, that it is even an encouraging sign that big companies are getting on board an environmental struggle.
We would ask them to contemplate these two points:
1. High-profile movements like XR are good news for those who want to pressure governments to channel massive amounts of funding into the “renewables” sector.
2. They are particularly good (and lucrative) news for businesses and individuals who have a financial stake in the renewables sector.
The dangers to the environmental movement from capitalist involvement are clear. It risks being:
* Exploited for private business aims.
* Severely compromised in the eyes of the public.
* Used as “social licence” to launch a “Green New Deal”, a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
* Limited to calling merely for a “nicer” form of capitalism, rather than for its abolition.
* Used to prop up a global complex based on social injustice, imperialism, racism, militarism and exploitation.
* Limited to addressing the climate change impact of industrialism, ignoring all the other forms of pollution, destruction and contamination that we are facing and which would continue unabated in a “renewable” capitalist future.
* Prevented from challenging economic growth itself and instead envisioning a future of degrowth, where production is based on needs, not profit.
Our message to XR activists and supporters is simple.
If we really want to save the future of our living planet, we need to bring down the capitalist system.
And we are never going to bring down capitalism by collaborating with capitalists.
[UPDATE. WEDNESDAY APRIL 24 2019. FOLLOWING WIDESPREAD GRASSROOTS DISQUIET OVER THE XR BUSINESS WEBSITE, IT HAS BEEN TAKEN DOWN. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR XR AND ITS POSITION ON CAPITALISM IS NOT YET CLEAR. WE WILL PUBLISH FURTHER REPORTS AS INFORMATION COMES IN]
When Extinction Rebellion first burst into action in the UK last November, it felt as if something was finally going to change.
Their high-profile arrival on the political scene had a noticeable effect on awareness of environmental issues and gave people permission to speak more freely than before about our society and its relationship to nature.
But when this month’s big week of action in London got underway, with Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus blocked and Marble Arch occupied, it felt as if something important and radical was happening.
And perhaps it was, because, presumably, the vast majority of those who turned out, including the nearly 1,000 who were arrested, genuinely believe that our civilization needs to change course if life on this earth is to survive.
But the integrity of XR as an organisation was dealt a fatal blow on Easter Monday, when its Twitter account started plugging links to a new website called XR Business, which had been announced in a letter to The Times.
Among the signatories was Gail Bradbrook, director and shareholder of Compassionate Revolution Ltd and Holding Group member of XR. This is just not some separate support group, but an intrinsic part of the XR apparatus.
The very existence of the site was bad enough, but the home page was (and is) hideous. A corporate satellite view of Europe lit up like a Christmas tree. What sort of environmental movement would choose such imagery?
We should have seen this coming. We had, after all, already read investigative journalist Cory Morningstar’sexcellent digging into the “climate change” industry on her Wrong Kind of Green blog.
But somehow we wanted to give XR the benefit of the doubt and even naively plugged the London protests in our last bulletin.
The XR Business site, however, is a declaration of Rebellion Extinction. This is now officially an ex-Rebellion, shorn of all pretence of radicalism.
Instead, what we find is a list of “business leaders” who have identified environmental catastrophe as yet another get-rich opportunity.
And they are prepared to hijack and exploit people’s real love for life and nature in order to push their profiteering agenda.
First name on the list of these so-called “leaders” is Seb Beloe, partner at WHEB
WHEB describes itself as “a positive impact investor focused on the opportunities created by the transition to a low carbon and sustainable global economy”.
It adds: “We focus on nine sustainable investment themes with strong growth characteristics, derived from providing solutions to major social and environmental challenges”.
On a page headed “thought leadership” WHEB announces that it is “actively involved” in organisations “at the leading edge of sustainable and responsible investment”.
These include the Global Impact Investing Network, which explains in turn on its website that it brings together “impact investors and intermediaries who have the capacity to invest and intervene at scale, making multi-million dollar investments and aggregating funds large enough to access institutional capital”.
Another XR “business leader” is Amy Clarke, co-founder of Tribe Impact Capital LLP, which boasts the snappy tagline “A New Wealth Order”.
Needless to say, Tribe Impact Capital shows little interest in challenging capitalism (the clue is in the name!) or in calling for degrowth. Its goal is, rather, “long-term positive impact and growth for everyone”.
XR “business leaders” John Elkington and Louise Kjellerup Roper, come from Volans Ventures Ltd.
They are involved in the Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry backed by companies like Aviva Investors, The Body Shop International, Covestro, and Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.
Paul Polman, until recently CEO of Unilever plc, is also on the XR roll of honour, in fact.
And Jeremy Leggett, very active in promoting XR Business online, is founder and director of Solarcentury Ltd, which names Unilever as one of its “partners”.
Another XR business groupie is Jake Hayman, whose Ten Years’ Time programme “is tailored for the next generation of high-net worth families who are looking to invest capital into ambitious new ideas rather than following the crowd to safe ground”.
It’s that c-word word again!
Another XR Business enthusiast for “green” technology is Samer Salty, co-founder and managing partner of the infrastructure and private equity fund manager, Zouk Capital LLP.
Its site tells us: “Zouk’s infrastructure strategy capitalises on the global shift to greater sustainability.
“The fund targets a diverse range of sectors across Europe, including emerging utility-scale battery storage projects as well as wind, solar, waste-to-energy, electric vehicles and geothermal”.
It was announced in February 2019 that Zouk is entering into exclusive negotiations to manage the UK Government’s £400m CIIF investment fund aimed at helping to increase the uptake of electric vehicles in the UK.
No vested interests involved there, then, nor with XR supporter Michael F. H. Bonte-Friedheim, CEO and founding partner of NextEnergy Capital, “the leading international solar investment and asset manager”.
XR Business also boasts the support of Tomas Carruthers, CEO of Project Heather: “We’re building a stock exchange for the 21st century. It’s time to add ‘impact’ to ‘risk and reward'”.
The key to understanding the XR phenomenon comes perhaps from its business backers Charmian Love and Amanda Feldman.
They are co-founders of Heliotropy Ltd, terming themselves “Builders of a brighter future”.
On the surface everything seems yummy and wholesome. Explaining its name, the site says: “Heliotropy is a phenomenon in nature where certain plants (or parts, like flowers) grow in response to the stimulus of sunlight, so that they turn to face the sun.
“We believe humans are similarly motivated by the power of heliotropy. We will grow taller, faster and stronger when motivated by light, warmth and positivity, rather than fear and despair”.
Heliotropy says it is all about “Mobilising Movements”. It declares: “Today’s problems are interconnected, and movements must join forces to solve them. We are convening emerging leaders from global movements to imagine new ways of collaborating”.
But Heliotropy is a microcosm for the world of XR as a whole. Beneath the nicey-nicey surface lurks something rather nasty-nasty.
If you click on the section entitled “Reimagining Corporate Capital” you are taken to a site called Corporate Impact X.
This explains: “Corporate Impact X is a practitioner-led project designed to support corporations in developing high impact venturing, collaboration and investment strategies”.
It offers a report called “Investing Breakthrough: Corporate Venture Capital”. Sadly the link does not work properly, though it does point the would-be investor towards Volans, the aforementioned buddies of XR, Tomorrow’s Capitalism and Unilever.
The “Thank You for Reading” section here is extremely revealing:
“Thank you to Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, for managing this project and to the Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN), a global partnership implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for providing the funding. We are
grateful for the support of Global Corporate Venturing and Saïd Business School, Oxford University”.
It adds that the project was developed and delivered by Charmian Love (CorporateImpactX), whose email is given as email@example.com
Just to be clear, this is Charmian Love of the fluffy-sounding Heliotropy Ltd, who is one of XR’s select band of business leaders.
It should be clear to anyone who has taken a look at the snarling capitalist agenda behind XR’s smiley eco-mask that they are not to be trusted.
If the movement is as democratic as it claims to be, it may still be possible for genuine environmentalists to wrest control of XR. Who knows?
Otherwise, decent people should get out as fast as they can and form new networks of resistance which fight to bring down the ecocidal industrial capitalist system, rather than to prop it up.
As the eco-activist Judi Bari put it: “There is no such thing as green capitalism. Serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”.
Eco-protesters are planning to bring London to a standstill from Monday April 15.
Supporters of Extinction Rebellion (XR) aim to block traffic at four central locations “around the clock” to highlight the urgent issues of climate change and wildlife declines.
They will take to the streets from 11am at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.
As part of an international day of protests, thousands of people will converge on the four busy locations in the UK capital, blocking traffic and creating a festival of action including people’s assemblies, performances, talks, workshops and food.
And the idea is that they be will back the next day, and the day after that, for up to two weeks. Unless, of course, the UK state suddenly sees the light and decides to dismantle the industrial capitalist system.
Say XR: “Under our current system, we are headed for disaster. Catastrophic climate breakdown will cause food collapse, destroy communities, kill millions, and render many more homeless.
“Mass extinction of wild species will lead to ecological collapse, and when they go, we go. Destruction of natural habitats will lead to genocide of indigenous peoples and the loss of our planet’s life support systems”.
As we reported in Acorn 45, XR’s first big day of action was on Saturday November 17 2018, when some 6,000 people took to the streets of London.
While recognising XR’s amazing success in mobilising people, some activists who have “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” (see Acorn 47) have announced a parallel mobilisation.
They add: “We will be assembling at St Paul’s for a tour of the heart of global extractive finance, also known as the City of London.
“Unlike Extinction Rebellion, we are not asking you to get arrested but we must highlight the fact that capitalism is the root cause of this crisis and bring this message to the workplaces of the people profiting from environmental destruction.
“We are calling for all anti-capitalists to join us on the street and show that London is both red and green”.
For our part, The Acorn would add that the only real way to solve the environmental crisis is to end the global industrial capitalist system.
Governments, which are a central part of that system, are not going to do that, no matter how loudly we ask them. The people will have to do it for themselves!
Is the tide finally beginning to turn in the battle to stop fracking in the UK?
That was the hope sparked on April 3 by the dramatic legal victory against the draconian injunction used by fracking firm Ineos to try and stop legal protests.
The court of appeal struck out the sections applying to protests on the public highway, including slow walking protests, climbing on to vehicles and blocking the road. It also removed the section on protests against the supply chain.
The ruling declared: “The citizen’s right of protest is not to be diminished by advance fear of committal except in the clearest of cases.”
Joe Corre, one of the frack-free campaigners involved, told The Independent: “I’m pretty confident we’re going to win this war, and we are not going to have fracking in this country.
“But because they have invested so much time and energy and money into this, they are not going to go quietly, so we’re going to have to double down, up our efforts and finish them off.”
Campaigns like Extinction Rebellion and the French Yellow Vests have been effective because of the sheer numbers of people taking part, from a diversity of backgrounds.
The last push against fracking will only be successful if it is not left to the same hardy but weary group of activists who have been fighting the cause for years.
The fracking industry is well aware of the massive public opposition to its nature-destroying activities and Ineos representative Tom Pickering seemed to be in panic mode when he denounced campaigners, claiming: “We stand for jobs and opportunity. They stand for anarchy in the UK”!
The main focus in the English battle against fracking is currently in the north. Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire is paused, but there is still some activity there and regular protests.
On the weekend of April 5-7, more than 800 Yellow Vest delegates from all over France gathered in the town of Saint-Nazaire for the second Assembly of the Assemblies of the Gilets Jaunes movement.
At the same time as occupying roundabouts, blocking roads, liberating motorway toll booths and filling the streets of French cities and towns every Saturday since November, the astonishing Gilets Jaunes have also been experimenting with a system of direct democracy.
A call was issued at the end of the assembly, which will now be sent back down to more than 300 local groups for their approval.
We submit this call for adoption by vote of the local assemblies.
We, Yellow Vests, constituted as an assembly of our local assemblies met in Saint-Nazaire on April 5th, 6th, and 7th 2019.
We address the people as a whole.
Following the first assembly in Commercy, two hundred delegations continued their fight against liberal extremism and for freedom, equality, and fraternity.
The struggle has taken root to overturn the system embodied by Macron! This despite the government’s escalating repression: the laws that worsen everyone’s living conditions, that destroy rights and freedoms. The only response to the movement embodied by the Yellow Vests and other struggles was government panic – and an authoritarian turn. For five months now across France we have continued: on the roundabouts, in parking lots, in the squares, at toll booths, in the streets, and in our assemblies. We have continued to debate and fight against all forms of inequality and injustice, for solidarity and dignity.
* A general increase in wages, pensions, and welfare.
* Public services for all.
Our solidarity in this struggle is with those nine million who live below the poverty line. Fully aware of the environmental emergency we declare: end of the world, end of the month, same logic, same fight.
Faced with the masquerade of “great debates” and a non-representative government who serve a privileged minority, we are putting into place new forms of direct democracy.
In concrete terms, we recognize that the Assembly of Assemblies can take up proposals from the local assemblies and issue resolutions as did the first Assembly of Assemblies at Commercy. These resolutions are then systematically submitted to the local assemblies for approval. The Assembly of Assemblies reaffirms its independence from political parties, trade unions, and any self-proclaimed “leaders”.
For three days in plenary session and in working groups, we all debated and elaborated proposals for our demands, actions, and means of communication & coordination. Planning for the long-haul, we decided to organize the next Assembly of Assemblies in June.
The Assembly of Assemblies calls for actions to tip the balance of power in our favor and marshal the citizenry against the system. A calendar of actions will soon be published on a new digital platform.
The Assembly of Assemblies calls for new, expanded, and strengthened sovereign citizens’ assemblies. We call on the Yellow Vests to echo this call and the outcomes of our Assembly’s work. The results of our plenary deliberations will feed into the actions and reflections of the local assemblies.
We are making several appeals: on the European elections, the local popular citizens’ assemblies, against repression, and for the annulation of penalties against the movements’ condemned & imprisoned. We believe it is necessary in the next three weeks to mobilize all the Yellow Vests and convince those yet unpersuaded. We call for a Yellow Week of Action starting the first of May.
We invite all those who wish to put an end to the monopolization of life to fight against the current system, to create together by all necessary means a new social, ecological, and popular movement. The multiplication of ongoing struggles calls us to seek united action.
We call for a collective fight at every level across the territory to guarantee our social, economic, ecological, and democratic demands. Knowing we must fight a global system, we must exit capitalism. This way we can collectively build the famous “all together” that we sing and that makes everything possible. We are all building together across the territory.
The power of the People, by the People, for the People.
A new website has been launched which challenges “to the core” the thinking of the industrial capitalist system. It presents the ideological alternative of an organic radicalism which it sources from a wide range of thinkers, past and present.
This philosophy, explains the orgrad site, is based on the idea of a living community, a social organism consisting of “horizontal relationships and exchanges between free human beings, rather than on sterile hierarchy”.
We at The Acorn very much identify with this tradition – hence the change in our masthead! Below we reproduce the article on Judi Bari, one of dozens of profiles of key orgrad inspirations on the site.
Judi Bari (1949-1997) was an American feminist and environmental activist, who organized Earth First! campaigns against logging in the ancient redwood forests of Northern California in the 1980s and ’90s.
In ‘The Feminization of Earth First!’ in 1992 she recalled: “I was attracted to Earth First! because they were the only ones willing to put their bodies in front of the bulldozers and chainsaws to save the trees. They were also funny, irreverent, and they played music.
“But it was the philosophy of Earth First! that ultimately won me over. This philosophy, known as biocentrism or deep ecology, states that the Earth is not just here for human consumption.
“All species have a right to exist for their own sake, and humans must learn to live in balance with the needs of nature, instead of trying to mold nature to fit the wants of humans”. (1)
In a 1998 essay, ‘Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism & Deep Ecology’, Bari went into greater depth about her ideological position.
She wrote: “Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.
“I believe we already have such a theory. It’s called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement”. (2)
She stressed that the central importance of nature exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not: “And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use – has led us to the brink of collapse of the earth’s life support systems”. (3)
Bari shared the core organic radical understanding that basing a political belief system on “ancient native wisdom” is, in the context of today’s industrial society, “profoundly revolutionary, challenging the system to its core”. (4)
She rejected as absurd the idea that human beings could “own” parts of the earth and explained that because capitalism is based on private property it is “in direct conflict with the natural laws of biocentrism”. (5)
Bari was defiantly revolutionary, declaring: “This system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people.
“There is no such thing as green capitalism, and marketing cutesy rainforest products will not bring back the ecosystems that capitalism must destroy to make its profits. This is why I believe that serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”. (6)
She was unimpressed by the Marxist disregard for nature and emphasis on industry. Bari contrasted its centralism and statism with a decentralised left-wing organic model for human societies.
She insisted: “Ecological socialism would mean organizing human societies in a manner that is compatible with the way that nature is organized. And I believe the natural order of the earth is bioregionalism, not statism. Modern industrial society robs us of community with each other and community with the earth”. (7)
Bari saw clearly the links between patriarchal and industrial-capitalist ways of thinking and acting.
She wrote: “Contrary to this masculine system of separation and dominance, eco-feminism seeks a science of nature. And this science of nature is a holistic and interdependent one, where you look at the whole thing and the way that everything interacts, not just the way that it can be when you separate it.
“And also it presupposes that humans are part of nature, and that our fates are inseparable; that we have to live within the earth’s fertility cycles and we can enhance those fertility cycles by our informed interaction”. (8)
The 10 hypotheses below were published recently by the Radical Education Department, an autonomous US-based collective “dedicated to the construction of a radical internationalist Left through the training and federation of its cultural warriors”.
They stress that they are not meant to serve as rigid principles but are part of an ongoing attempt to develop tactics and strategies that will maximize collective anti-capitalist power.
1. Our historical conjuncture is characterized by the widespread victory of global capitalism, which has succeeded in oppressing and exploiting the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, while simultaneously destroying the biosphere at an unprecedented pace. As we are given daily lessons in what the “end of history” actually means, it is increasingly urgent that the entire spectrum of the anti-capitalist Left find ways of working together in order to build collective revolutionary power.
2. Sectarianism divides the Left by pitting against one another individuals and groups that share a common enemy: capitalism. This is precisely why the hegemonic order has been so intent on fostering disputes and sectarian divisions within the hard Left, as the history of Cointelpro and the CIA’s psychological warfare campaigns demonstrates in great detail. “Divide and conquer” is the Establishment’s mantra.
3. Capitalism is a socioeconomic order whose history goes hand in hand with colonialism, racism, gender exploitation, ecological destruction and so forth. In identifying it as the central enemy, it is not a matter of privileging class over race or gender, as if these were all somehow separate and isolated phenomena, nor is it a question of crude economic reductionism. On the contrary, it is a matter of recognizing that capitalism has always functioned as a socioeconomic system in which racial and gender hierarchies structure the global division of labor and stratify society in such a way as to increase the exploitation and oppression of particular populations.
4. Non-sectarian revolutionary politics does not require the dissolution of communist, anarchist, revolutionary socialist, autonomist, indigenous, ecological or other radical organizations, nor does it necessitate their unification in an umbrella organization that seeks to efface the important differences between anti-capitalist groups. On the contrary, non-sectarianism simply means being open to working across traditional party and organizational alignments toward the common end of dismantling capitalism, and it can take many forms, such as the establishment of radical left coalitions on specific projects or the founding of groups and organizations that are not aligned on a single party platform.
5. Non-sectarianism does not mean the loss of a program. Instead, it should be understood as the furthering of a common negative strategy—anti-capitalism—advanced through a diversity of positive tactics, which will vary based on the precise material contexts and the groups involved. Non-sectarianism thus aims at developing a common program of capitalist abolition that does not, however, dictate the “only acceptable” tactics for contributing to it.
6. There is no definitive blueprint for an anti-capitalist social revolution. There is a complex and multi-dimensional material history from which we can learn, and there are ongoing experiments with radical social transformation. Rather than presuming that the course of the future can be predetermined, activists on the hard Left would be better served to trade in unquestioned self-assurance and dogmatism for experimental fallibilism that draws on the entire spectrum of past and present revolutionary struggles.
7. The fact that there have been deep and sometimes bloody conflicts between radical leftists in the past should not mean that we are destined to repeat them in the future. On the contrary, we should learn from these conflicts and seek out strategies for overcoming them so that we can work together against our common enemy.
8. Revolutionary politics is an ongoing process of collective labor, which is at once theoretical and practical, and it thrives on the reflexive incorporation of multiple perspectives. In order to foster counter-hegemonic power in the current conjuncture, we need all hands on deck, and collective contributions to the forging of new methods and techniques that draw on the Left’s unique ability to mobilize productive self critique.
9. Our conjuncture is in dire need of new political imaginaries that open up the horizons of possibility by tapping into the collective creativity of the entire Left, which far surpasses the capabilities of individual revolutionaries or parties. Experimentalism has always been one of the strengths of revolutionary traditions, as well as the creative ability to develop unforeseen tactics that put our enemies on their heels, if not on their knees.
10. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves as capitalism daily edges us closer to the veritable end of history, we should identify points of convergence and cultivate forms of coalitional solidarity that allow us to build collective power. This requires expanding our political imaginations beyond the restricted confines of established political ideologies and the entrenched conflicts of the past, in order to join forces in the very real and urgent task of vanquishing the dominant socioeconomic order before it definitively destroys all of us!
Eric Fleischmann explores the Lovecraftian nature of sea level rise.
In 1917, H.P. Lovecraft wrote the following lines in his short story “Dagon“: “I dream of a day when [the nameless things] may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind – of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.”
Now, in the 21st century, it appears as though his unnamed narrator’s horrific vision has escaped Lovecraft’s fiction and entered into the real world.
As outlined by GlobalChange.gov, sea level is expected to rise anywhere from one to four feet by the year 2100 and only continue at the current rate or an even higher one in the following centuries.
Even small rises in sea level can have disastrous effects and, as Marine Insights reports, this poses an extreme threat to coastal areas – where almost 40% of the population in the United States resides – with flooding frequency projected to rise from 300% to 900% in comparison to what was recorded fifty years ago.
Other than the outer reaches of space there is possibly no place quite as mysterious and terrifyingly unknown as the ocean.
The National Ocean Service writes that more than 80% of this realm that covers about three fourths of our planet “remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.”
The ocean has also historically presented a seemingly unfathomable dimension to reality – spawning legends of enormous beasts like Charybdis from Homer’s Odyssey, the biblical Leviathan, and the infamous kraken.
This is certainly a central reason for Lovecraft’s interest in – along with those furthest regions of space – the watery deep, which helped inspire such things as the octopus-like Cthulhu who resides in the sunken nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh.
To be openly dramatic, when we cause sea levels to rise, we are messing with forces we do not fully comprehend.
But saying we, as many on the left have pointed out, is a misleading generalization.
Although most individuals do have substantial impacts on the environment, many major environmental issues can be traced directly to a minority of capitalists.
As the often quoted point goes: Only about 100 companies are responsible for around 70% of greenhouse gas emissions – gases which are causing the heating of the earth and consequently sea level rise.
These capitalists are akin to Obed Marsh from Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth who, in order to obtain wealth in the form of gold and a strange “foreign kind of jewellery,” is said to have helped the undersea monstrosities known as the Deep Ones infiltrate and genetically infect the town.
The drive of global capitalism to squeeze every last cent out of the natural world is bringing the ocean to our doorsteps, just as if we were the partially complicit yet also victimized residents of cursed Innsmouth.
The aforementioned link between the heating of the earth and rising sea levels is specifically the expansion of water when it warms and the deterioration of ice sheets, but certainly the most famous such process is the melting of glaciers.
This is all well and widely known, but consider that the oldest glacial ice in Antarctica is possibly 1,000,000 years old and the oldest in Greenland is more than 100,000 years old.
This whole affair is not just about the stirring of deep and mysterious forces but also ancient ones, and perhaps no one mulled over the consequences of awakening ancient hibernating entities more than H.P. Lovecraft.
At the Mountains of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s novellas, is written as an account by the geologist William Dyer of his encounter with the strange Elder Things and shoggoths – existing in a formerly-passive state beneath the arctic – in the hope it will deter further exploration.
These creatures, like the annual 260 gigatons of water released from glaciers between 2003 and 2009, are being brought back into play, and humanity is now under existential threat because of it.
Many authors have discussed how climate change poses certain cosmic and anti-humanist threats to our anthropocentric understanding of the world.
But this “Cosmic Pessimism” is represented by media images of, for example, “the cataclysmic effects of climate change.”
In Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Timothy Morton discusses the titular hyperobjects – objects massively distributed spatially and temporarily – in particular global warming along with several other items of ecological concern such as Styrofoam cups, plastic bags, and nuclear radiation.
According to Morton, “By understanding hyperobjects, human thinking has summoned Cthulhu-like entities into social, psychic, and philosophical space. The contemporary philosophical obsession with the monstrous provides a refreshing exit from human-scale thoughts.”
Glaciers and oceans are certainly hyperobjects and the images of their respective melting and rising can serve as some of Thacker’s representations, but sea level rise is Lovecraftian in a particularly vivid aesthetic dimension.
The ocean is an alien and largely unknown portion of the earth and glacial water is a primordial force finally being released after a slumber that has lasted eons.
In a video released a few months ago, academic internet personality ContraPoints makes the observation that one problem facing environmental activists is that climate change fundamentally lacks an antagonist.
Bridle even derives the title of his work from a passage in The Call of Cthulhu – which he also quotes wholly within the book – that contains the line: “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
In the context of this piece, this apt metaphor seems to verge on the literal. With all this in mind, perhaps a strategy of environmental thought could be to identify an antagonism within this gargantuan, undefinable, and unthinkable thing called climate change.
If we are capable of revealing a more horrifying, Lovecraftian nature to at least sea level rise, is it possible we might induce a response closer to that which would ensue if Cthulhu truly rose from the depths?
Action against the coal-mining industry is being planned in the Rhineland from June 19 to 24. Says the 2019 Ende Gelände call-out: “Last year we fought with thousands of other people in a broad alliance for the Hambi (Hambacher Forest). This year we stand side by side with all the people whose homes are being destroyed by coal and the climate crisis. In solidarity with the people from Keyenberg, Kuckum and the other villages at the Garzweiler opencast mine, we want to stop the destruction on site. Therefore we will block the coal infrastructure. This is our immediate measure for global climate justice. All villages remain – in the Rhineland and worldwide!”
* * *
Earth First! UK has announced that its 2019 summer moot will be held in north-east England from August 14 to 20. This will be a week-long camp to build a culture for active non-hierarchical grassroots ecological resistance.
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June 1 2019 has been designated Global Degrowth Day by campaigners calling for a “Good Life for All”. There will be public events all over the world to share alternatives to a society based on profit and economic “growth”. People are invited to take part with their own happenings.
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“Rather than engaging with the fact that capitalism itself is destructive, governments and liberal environmentalists are promoting corporate responses to the problems posed by climate change,” warns this very relevant article by Crimethinc on false solutions to global climate change. It adds: “They aren’t going to stop destroying the planet until we make it too costly for them to continue. The sooner we do, the better”.
* * *
Gilets Jaunes in the Basque country are calling for a massive mobilisation against the G7 when it meets in Biarritz in August. They will be protesting against “world leaders who defend an ultra-liberal economy which offers us nothing”.
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The US state-business complex used the 9/11 “terrorism” paranoia to launch a McCarthyite “Green Scare” assault on radical environmentalists. In this in-depth article in The Intercept, Alleen Brown unveils the machinations behind the systems’s war on those it smears as “eco-terrorists”.
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The dystopian nightmare of “predictive” policing is highlighted in an article by Peter Yeung on the Wired website. He writes: “The implications of being on the matrix can be chilling, but finding out why you are on it, let alone how to be removed, is extremely difficult. One family received a letter warning they would be evicted from their home if their son didn’t stop his involvement with gangs – but he had been dead for more than a year.”
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“Identity politics is not liberatory, but reformist. It is nothing but a breeding ground for aspiring middle class identity politicians. Their long-term vision is the full incorporation of traditionally oppressed groups into the hierarchical, competitive social system that is capitalism, rather than the destruction of that system”. This timely and searing attack by the Woke Anarchists Collective on the curse of reformist anarcho-liberalism is now available in the online Anarchist Library.
* * *
The impact of direct action is explored in an April 2 article on the Conflict Minnesota site. It discusses how actions can produce “signals of disorder” and ripples that influence many other people. It explains: “When someone witnesses the aftermath of an action before it’s been swept away from view, or hears of an action later, the action can resonate with them, it can inspire them to act as well”.
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Acorn quote: ““All life, whether social or individual, that is permanently divorced from communion with the vitalising influences of free air and sunshine, will be a stunted and diseased life”.