If you blinked, you’d have missed it.
Amid the past month’s new round of terrorism hype, the release of a major scientific study into earth’s “life support systems” – a study that extrapolates from current trends to conclude we’re on a path to environmental and social catastrophe – barely rated a mention.
The report, authored by an international team of researchers led by Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University, identifies and analyses nine key ecological systems that make earth inhabitable for human beings.
They conclude that there are four areas in which these systems have already been pushed to breaking point: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change and the pollution of the world’s oceans with phosphorus and nitrogen used in fertilisers.
Asked about the implications of the report, Steffen said: “It’s clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughter’s generation will find it increasingly hard to survive … History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they didn’t change. That’s where we are today.”
The latest trends in global warming are alarming. After analysing data going back to 1880, the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that 2014 was the warmest year on record. Globally, average land and sea-surface temperatures were 0.69 degrees above the 20th century average. Last year was the 38th year in a row that global temperatures were above the long term average. All of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.
What can be done about it?
There is a seemingly endless line of global summits and negotiations about the problem that lead nowhere. Intricately designed market-based solutions, such as the EU’s much-vaunted emissions trading scheme, have achieved nothing.
But, as Naomi Klein cogently argues in her recent book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, if we cast aside the idea that solutions must be tailored not to offend the oh-so-sensitive deities of the capitalist market, the whole thing is actually quite simple.
This much was made clear, incidentally, by the recent release of another report, Oxfam’s investigation into global inequality, which estimates that by next year the richest 1 percent of people will own more than the wealth of the other 99 percent combined.
The world’s richest 85 people alone account for $2.1 trillion – equivalent to the combined wealth of the poorest half of the population. The top 1 percent is worth a whopping $134 trillion.
It would only take a small fraction of this amount to drive the kind of large-scale rapid shift towards sustainability that we need. The technology and resources to do so are available. The money is there.
But the rich show no sign of giving up even a fraction of the tax-havens, super-yachts, private jets, multi-million dollar property portfolios, or anything else that helps constitute the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. They’d rather sacrifice the future of the planet on the altar of their own short term gain.
So-called market solutions will get us nowhere. We need to confront the interests of the rich and powerful head on.
Hundreds of Victorian Socialists volunteers have been staffing early voting polling booths since 14 November, building on the more than 150,000 doors knocked across the north and west of Melbourne during the state election campaign. They are bringing a new style of campaigning to the state election, and have found a constituency of voters fed up with the prevailing pro-corporate, mainstream politics.
The Australian Nursing Federation will proceed with a ballot of its West Australian members in defiance of an order by the Industrial Relations Commission. If nurses reject the McGowan state Labor government’s below inflation pay offer, they will resume a campaign of industrial action, which was suspended last week.
The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirm that real wages are falling at the fastest rate since the Great Depression, possibly even the 1890s, both period of massive unemployment.
“The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be”, Marxist geographer David Harvey writes in his book Rebel Cities. “What kinds of social relations we seek, what relations to nature we cherish, what style of life we desire, what aesthetic values we hold”.
Victorian Socialists—recognised by Beat magazine as “the most left-wing option Victorians have this election”, and by PEDESTRIAN.TV as “Fierce door knockers and grassroots campaigners”—is making a mammoth effort to push against the grain of history in the state election. The party has a chance of getting Jerome Small elected to the upper house in Northern Metro and Liz Walsh in Western Metro. If successful, it will be only the third time a socialist independent of the ALP has been elected to any Australian parliament.
The UN COP27 climate conference is taking place in Egypt, which is an apt choice for a climate conference—a military dictatorship propped up by oil money from Saudi Arabia. And it’s reflected in the outcome.