4 Responses

  1. Phil Ward July 14, 2014 at 7:17 am |

    I think Commoner’s emphasis on the damage caused by new technologies is very interesting and would benefit from more detailed study. It is the complete opposite of the arguments given by the Lovins’s at the Rocky Mountain Institute, who argue in their book “Natural Capitalism” that the “T” in the I=PAT equation can be made so small (1/100th of the current value, if I remember rightly) that “affluence” (especially) and population become irrelevant. The one example I remember is a company that replaces individual carpet tiles in offices, rather than whole carpets, which doesn’t strike me as world-changing. The Lovins’s have an extreme (capitalist) technocratic position.

    But I do think that table 1 above, that Ian takes from “The Closing Circle”, needs to be treated with caution. Just as an example, the growth in non-returnable soda bottles – by a factor of 530 – could be misleading if there were almost no non-returnable glass soda bottles in 1946, which I suspect was the case. Some measure of the scale of the problems is also necessary for the statistics quoted to be useful.

    One aspect of “T” that is interesting is the large increase in demand for rare metals and semi-metals, particularly in electronic applications. The extraction of these is very often a dirty, energy-intensive business that leaves massive scars on the landscape and pollution (plus, of course, major political and social problems) in their wake. This is of relevance to ecosocialists, as these materials will be in ever greater demand, due to the growth of the renewable energy industry.

  2. Gabriel Levy July 13, 2014 at 7:37 am |

    In this review of a book about Paul Ehrlich, published today, I’ve mentioned Commoner’s polemic with Ehrlich. http://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-ideologue-who-tried-to-make-environmentalism-mean-population-control/

  3. Jack Silverman July 1, 2014 at 1:50 pm |

    If you want a balanced view, just include the non-socialists or those who maybe were not “officially” so designated. Rene Dubos believed in a balance between man and nature. The other one I can think of is a great scientist in Western history, Wilhelm Reich. I have a book that points out Reich was warning of “desertification,” the threat of which is supposedly identical to the idea of “global warming.” This came out of experiments the man did, in the American southwest, which almost everyone considered crazy. I have the book from the library: “Where’s the truth,” which is the last journals of the man.

    1. Phil Ward July 2, 2014 at 9:50 am |

      When he was at his most creative, during the Weimar period in Germany, Reich WAS a socialist. He applied his experience as a psychoanalyst to the question of the sexual liberation of young people (in particular) and he saw this as part of the struggle for the total liberation of humanity as a whole.

      It’s pretty clear that after getting asylum in the USA Reich underwent some kind of “revelation” and developed a whole series of quack ideas, manifest in the invention of the orgone box. Even on the Amazon page of the book mentioned above, you can see gems like “My Planck number is slightly higher than the one that is generally known because I was forced to extend the minute by 4 seconds”.

      Reich might be counted as one of the pioneers of pseudo-scientific hippy-talk, which is the bane of “alternative” circles in the west (and not only the west). He even pioneered the now very fashionable practice of dressing up his “findings” in misapplied verbiage derived from sub-atomic physics, something New Scientist accurately describes as “quantum fruitloopery”.

      Politically, Reich moved from the understanding that sexual liberation was contingent on social liberation to the exact opposite. This might be seen as the equivalent of advocating green individualism against an understanding that the capitalist system is at root incapable of sustaining a healthy environment and that social and political change are necessary.

      As for his views on desertification: there is no claim that Reich understood the cause and mechanism of climate change (others did at that time). Seeing the encroachment of the desert – and seeing human activity as a cause – was not a very revolutionary insight in the USA, 15 years after the dust bowl.

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