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  1. Phil Ward May 9, 2014 at 9:08 am |

    The first part of this article is a very good, graphic description of what faces us if we are unable to destroy the capitalist system. However, the proposal to completely replace current energy demand with RE (and then some) cannot seriously be sustained. For a fully RE system, the root source of all energy for heating and transportation will have to be solar- and wind-generated electricity, with a bit of hydro and possibly geothermal. Currently, electricity comprises about 1/6th of all non-subsistence energy use, so Jonathan is proposing that the RE electricity supply system be at least six times larger than what we have now.

    There is not enough copper, neodymium and lithium to sustain such a system, or if these metals are extracted from ever-poorer ores, the earth will be (even more) ravaged in the process (using what energy sources?). At a later date, I will look at these issues quantitatively.

    Jonathan’s problem is that he seems to equate “de-growth” with subsistence and therefore argues that it would not be acceptable to working class people. This seems to ignore the work on “productivism” and the difference between exchange value and use value that socialists and marxists have tried to grapple with from Barry Commoner onwards. (For an early attempt to relate this to climate change, see my article on this web site “The Ecological Crisis and its Consequences for Socialists”).

    An interesting issue that Jonathan seems to be raising is that the working class battle against climate change will not be joined until we have personally experienced some serious effects of climate change (“the majority of people reading this article will probably live through that time [when hundreds of millions of people will die]”). Although he suggests that by then may already be too late (“We will probably fail and horror will come to pass”), this issue of what it would take for serious working class action on the issue is worthy of much more discussion. It raises matter about how consciousness is developed, what kinds of demands can promote it and so forth.

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