Tag Archives: Climate Change

And Somewhere There are Engineers …

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A conversation with youngsters – who are by nature bubbling with energy , fired with idealism and suffused with innumerable questions – is a thing which everyone with grey hair looks forward to.

For someone like me it is an added gift this morning that after exactly a gap of forty years this writer is with students of engineering helping him rekindle memories of his own days of engineering in the city of Varanasi. A really exciting period when few of us had come together to do something for society as well. A period worth remembering when we were engaged in running evening classes for deprived sections in neighbouring villages, learning from their life experiences and in spare time reading good literature, tracking trajectories of different revolutions, debating, discussing, brainstorming what else can be done to awaken the society around. Continue reading And Somewhere There are Engineers …

Karl Marx in the Times of Climate Change

The Communist Manifesto had, as its object, the proclamation of the inevitable impending dissolution of modern bourgeois property. But in Russia we find, face-to-face with the rapidly flowering capitalist swindle and bourgeois property, just beginning to develop, more than half the land owned in common by the peasants. Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?

The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development. [Marx and Engels, ‘Preface’ to the 1882 Russian Edition of The Communist Manifesto; all emphasis added]

The above passage, jointly signed by Marx and Engels, appears at the end of the 1882 ‘Preface’ to the Russian edition of The Communist Manifesto. It also appears, towards the end of a decade-long engagement with the Russian social formation and the social formation of many Eastern societies like India’s. The detailed notes, excerpts and commentaries compiled by Marx, published later as The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, belong precisely to the end of this period, the years 1880-1882. Marx passed away the following year, in 1983. Continue reading Karl Marx in the Times of Climate Change

Who cares about the environment? Some notes on the ecological crisis in India: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

The past few months have been exceptional, in one respect at least, for the Indian press: a serious structural problem has actually been given the attention it deserves. The Economic Times continues to play a prominent part in discussing air pollution in Delhi – there is no other city in the world where it is so bad. Nor is this all: including Delhi, India now boasts thirteen out of twenty cities with the worst air. More recently, the uproar over supposedly high levels of lead in a brand of junk food led to a (very) few articles on groundwater contamination: after all, the reason why lead and other poisons get into food is because they are present in the soil in which crops grow. Another piece, in the Guardian this time, speculated that the recent Sahelian heat wave in the Deccan might be a symptom of climate change (an “extreme” climate event of the kind likely to become all too common).[1]

These stories are only a tiny fraction of those that could be reported, for we are already in the throes of an unprecedented environmental crisis. Large swathes of our agricultural soils are contaminated or saline. Pesticide residues and heavy metals form part of our food. The air of our major cities is unfit to breathe. Freshwater availability is declining; most rivers, especially in the south, do not flow at all, or only seasonally, since their runoff is impounded in dams and used for irrigation (with very high rates of seepage and evaporation loss). Groundwater tables are falling as a consequence of over extraction and the disappearance of vegetative cover enabling percolation. The pattern of weather is being reset with gaps and lags – the available evidence indicates that the onset of the monsoon is changing and precipitation becoming more uneven. Our offshore seas are denuded of marine life thanks to trawler fishing at ever greater distances. Himalayan glaciers are shrinking with obvious long-term consequences for the hydrology of river systems dependent upon snow-melt. Sudden, destructive floods, exacerbated by embankments and dams, the building over of river valleys and floodplains, have become a regular occurrence. Continue reading Who cares about the environment? Some notes on the ecological crisis in India: Shashank Kela

Climate Change – Keep the Climate, Change the Economy: Sagar Dhara

Guest post by SAGAR DHARA

Contrasting outcomes of recent global warming meetings

Two recent meetings on global warming, one scientific and the other political, are of great public interest as they have a bearing on human society’s future course to become a sustainable global community. The meetings stand in sharp contrast with each other in terms of the clarity of their outcomes.

The first meeting was held by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of over 2,000 scientists. IPCC released its fifth assessment’s synthesis report in Copenhagen end-October 2014. The report states unequivocally that “Human influence on the climate system is clear.” Further, it warns that the emission of another 1,000 Giga tonnes1 (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), referred to as the carbon space, is likely to raise average global surface temperatures by 2oC above pre-industrial times. This is considered dangerous to the environment and human society.

Since the industrial revolution began in the mid-18th Century, humans have used 35% of the known 1,700 Gt of conventional fossil fuel reserves, and cut a third of the then existing 60 million km2 of forests to emit 2,000 Gt CO2. The consequent 0.85oC average global temperature rise over pre-industrial times has triggered significant changes in the physical, biological and human environments. For example, rainfall variation has increased, extreme weather events are more frequent, pole-ward migration of species is noticeable and their extinction rate is higher, human health, food and water security are at greater risk, crop yield variations are higher, a 19 cm mean sea rise and a 40% reduction in Arctic’s summer ice extent have occurred over the last century, glaciers have shrunk by 275 Gt per annum in the last two decades, and social conflicts have increased. Continue reading Climate Change – Keep the Climate, Change the Economy: Sagar Dhara

Hidden in Plain Sight – Problems of Democracy Under Capitalism: Ravi Sinha

Talk delivered by RAVI SINHA at the International Seminar on “Democracy, Socialism, and the Visions for the 21st Century”, 7th to 10th March, 2014 Hyderabad, India

If one has to say something brief and short about a large and complex subject, which is also a much discussed topic, one always runs the risk of stating the obvious. But one may also chance upon the unexpected and the counter-intuitive. Problems of democracy under capitalism and under socialism have by now a ring of tiring familiarity around them, but they also contain surprises that are hidden in plain sight. While fixing my coordinates by recounting the obvious, my hope is to point towards aspects that may be counter-intuitive to the political common sense prevalent in much of the left and the social movements.

 Let me begin with the status of democracy under capitalism. Popular mind considers them complementary to each other. Ancients – whether in Greece or in India – were familiar with the concept of democracy and, at least in some famous examples, they are also supposed to have practiced it. But the large-scale acceptance and practice of democracy overlaps with the history of capitalism. In addition, the history of socialism of the twentieth century has been such that this association got further entrenched in the popular mind. I will come to the socialism question a little later. For now, let me stay with the relationship between democracy and capitalism.
If I were to say, then, that at the core of this relationship lies a tension that is fundamentally irresolvable, it would appear counter-intuitive to the popular common sense. On the other hand, it would appear obvious to a leftist. On both counts there are reasons to dig a little deeper. Truth is often counter-intuitive for the wrong reasons, but at times it is also obvious for the wrong reasons.

The year climate change became common sense: Jacob Sebastian

Guest post by JACOB SEBASTIAN

 Is 2012 the watershed year for climate change? The year it ceases to be a ‘dodgy concept’ and transforms into painful reality?

Some facts to consider:

 *The United States – particularly the food basket that is the American Midwest, is facing its “worst drought” since the 1950s, and is expected to last all summer. US agricultural secretary Tom Vilsack told the media: “If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it.” The US is the world’s second biggest food producer, after China, but more importantly, one of the biggest exporters of food.

*Prices of the four key crops: Corn, wheat, sugar and soybean have risen 44%, 48%, 22% and 26% over the last month. The United States produces 41% of the world’s corn and 38% of the world’s soybeans. The two crops comprise two of the four largest sources of caloric energy produced and are thus critical for world food supply. Continue reading The year climate change became common sense: Jacob Sebastian