Volatility

October 1, 2013

“Feed the World” Is A Big Lie

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“Feed the World” is a classic Big Lie. Corporate agriculture has been dominant for fifty years, it currently produces enough food to comfortably feed 10 billion people, yet of the 7 billion on Earth, 1 billion go hungry, while another 2 billion experience various kinds of dietary diseases. That’s proof beyond any reasonable doubt that corporate ag cannot feed the world and does not want to, because its profit is based on imposing artificial scarcity on naturally abundant food. (This natural abundance is 100% the work of nature and the actual growers, 0% that of governments, corporations, or professional liars. All these only work to destroy abundance.) GMO seed patenting, of course, has no goal other than to make this corporate enclosure and artificial scarcity far worse. It wants to double down on corporate industrial ag.
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The whole notion that the world needs corporations to “feed” it is also the worst kind of anti-democratic, anti-human passivity. This is no accident. Just as agroecology and Food Sovereignty are the only way forward for all of humanity to provide itself with enough food, and healthy, nutritious, non-poisoned food, so these also comprise the mode of food production and distribution which gives free rein to human action, creativity, self-management, and democracy. So it’s obvious why, politically, the power structure wants to force Big Ag’s total control upon us, and destroy the agroecological alternative.
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I think this is the main line of counterattack: GMOs have no reason to exist whatsoever; there’s never been any economic demand or natural market for them; no one – farmers, eaters, food manufacturers and retailers – wants them around; they’re a pure artifice and imposition of the corporate welfare planned economy. They’re purely gratuitous, purely pointless, a crappy product, totally worthless to anyone for any purpose. Pro-GMO liars have no argument in favor of their product other than this “Feed the World” lie. Therefore, this lie must be demolished. I’d place this prior even to arguing the socioeconomic and human health evidence, though these too are very important. But the lead argument is that GMOs serve no purpose, have no rationale, fulfill no need, and have been correctly not wanted by anyone but the GMO cadres themselves in corporations and government. They serve zero purpose other than to increase corporate and government power and wealth, and to repress agricultural innovation (100% of which occurs among decentralized farmers and public sector breeding programs) and scientific research (as a rule patented plant materials are available only to corporate-vetted researchers), just as monopoly consolidation and “intellectual property” repress all innovation and change in every other sector, and in society and politics at large.
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This is also why we must not only reject specific neoliberal assaults like the G8’s “New Alliance” and AGRA’s “second green revolution” for Africa. We must also reject to any implication that a corporate globalization front like the G8 should be doing anything at all. Not only because its action will always be evil (on behalf of Monsanto, Wall Street, and other corporate sectors), but because even to contemplate something like “what should the West do?” is implicitly to give aid and comfort to the Big Lie that world agriculture and world food is in any crisis at all other than the artificial crisis generated by those exact same corporatist cadres and policies. As we know with the wars, the one and only worthwhile thing the West could ever do for humanity is to GET OUT. That’s why we need an abolition movement here in the West as well, to get corporatism out of our landbases and societies. But in the meantime we can support the heroic efforts of the rest of humanity to resist and roll back the corporate onslaught.

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38 Comments

  1. Absolutely: that food for 10 million only reaches 4 or 5 is a very clear illustration of the inefficiency of Capitalism: it means that half of the food produced is wasted, either absolutely or in our fatty tissues (overeating). Correcting this kind of imbalances needs of some central planning of socialist nature but also and very especially of decentralization of food production to the local levels, so Colombians, for example, produce the bulk of what they eat, instead of importning it from the USA, something most of them can’t afford.

    “That’s why we need an abolition movement here in the West as well, to get corporatism out of our landbases and societies”.

    This terminology is very strange: why do you talk of “corporatism” instead of Capitalism, why would merely abolishing the corporate format be enough to change things in the slightest? The problem is that some people owns too much while the rest have way too little. Whether they have it via responsibility limited investments or directly, doesn’t matter that much. What matters is that the 10% owns the 75% (in the case of the USA, globally it must be much worse), the format is not the real problem.

    Comment by Maju — October 1, 2013 @ 6:16 am

    • You’re correct that I made a conscious decision to use the term “corporatism” rather than “capitalism” as a general rule.

      This is because:

      1. Whatever exists of capitalism is completely bound up in and dependent upon corporatism. Destroy the one, and you destroy the other.

      2. There’s really no such thing as “capitalism” as described in the econ textbooks. As I’ve written at length many times, what was called capitalism was really always neo-feudalism, or more accurately the same timeless economic power concentration which was merely adapting itself to the Oil Age. Those who analyzed “capitalism” as some qualitatively new thing were wrong. They were merely mistaking the form power-seeking had to take during the temporary phase of ahistorical energy consumption afforded by the fossil fuel windfall.

      “Corporatism” is an empirical description of the form economic power-seeking has taken in the late fossil fuel age. It’s also the right orientation for analysis of this power struggle in our time.

      3. Abolition of corporatism offers a clear set of goals, and a clear mindset to take. We reject the very right of corporations to exist, and so we cleanse our minds of all ambivalence. We then have a set of clear, discrete goals, everything from enacting local ordinances nullifying corporate “rights” to de jure abolition of the corporate form itself.

      By contrast, being “anti-capitalist” is vague in both concept and program.

      4. The term “capitalism” is laden with immense dogmatic baggage, both among its supporters and detractors. It’s a hot button word, and discussion of it usually leads nowhere.

      To condemn corporatism, on the other hand, often serves as a wedge cutting into all the sclerotic dichotomies of left-right, liberal-conservative, public-private, and so on.

      Also, many who claim to oppose “capitalism” are really liars, since they still want a strong centralized state and tyrannical power concentration, which would continue to perpetrate all the same crimes nominally “private” capitalist outfits do. Who cares if the proponents of state capitalism call themselves “communists”? They’re the same power-seeking gangsters with the same centralizing, power-concentrating imperative.

      But to oppose corporatism, and demonstrate that corporations and government comprise one malign monolith, is to reject any such scam.

      Comment by Russ — October 1, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

      • So you think that the analysis of Marx, the first person to ever deal in depth with the concept of Capital (I believe the term “capitalism” as such was coined by Engels but Marx is the real theoretician) as a process of exploitation of salaried work into plus-value is just “neo-feudalism”? How come the reification of work into machines and technology can be compared with the much simpler, agrarian and usually non-salaried feudal scheme in which work is just tranformed into commodities and almost nothing else (capital other than land and a few tools was non-existent).

        For Marx the corporation is not really important, he was used to think of most capitalist companies as owned by a single person, or maybe a small society. The corporation did exist but it was not the centerpiece of the capitalist architecture at all. However I will admit that it has gained importance with time, mostly because it helps protect the profits by detaching the owner from the enterprise itself, allowing more easily the loot and salvage practices that we so often see today.

        But ultimately the corporation is a tool of mercantilist origins, rather than properly capitalist ones. And not something that centrally describes Capitalism.

        ““Corporatism” is an empirical description of the form economic power-seeking has taken in the late fossil fuel age”.

        IMO it’s just a legal format, not any essence.

        “It’s also the right orientation for analysis of this power struggle in our time”.

        Let me doubt it. The masses do not care if the legal format of their exploitation is a corporation or something else, what they care is that they are being exploited and abused. They care about having to work too many hours for a misery salary in precarious conditions.

        Also corporatism is a word that actually seems to belong to the pseudo-libertarian right: those who actually dream of an extremely incorporated world in which the state has been replaced by corporations, which they hope to own and control somehow (private armies, I guess).

        … “being “anti-capitalist” is vague in both concept and program”.

        The program is quite simple: collective ownership of the means of production, as opposed to private. Whether private property of the means of production is “corporative” or directly by means of individuals or other legal formats seems less important.

        … “wedge cutting into all the sclerotic dichotomies of left-right, liberal-conservative, public-private, and so on”.

        Other than liberal-conservative, which I agree are the same thing (“liberal” actually means nothing but capitalist in Europe and most of the world in fact, hence “neoliberal”), I do not think that the other dichotomies are “sclerotic” in the least. People are fighting right now in Madrid, Athens, Istanbul or Manchester to keep public services public, and most of them think they belong to the Left.

        “Also, many who claim to oppose “capitalism” are really liars, since they still want a strong centralized state and tyrannical power concentration”…

        This is of course a serious matter. But even the USSR was better than the USA just because everyone had a home, a job and did not die of hunger and cold in any random street. As I was commenting a few days ago, would I have been West German when young, I would have probably jumped the wall in the “wrong” direction just to avoid idiotic labor market competition and get a decent consolidated job, a home and a life. Sadly there was no wall near my home.

        Precisely the demolition of the USSR allowed for the increase of exploitation we suffer today, otherwise people would have begun fleeing to the East, just for the need of some basic security in their lives (jobs, homes, healthcare… you know).

        Said that I strongly favor a much more democratic and decentralized form of collective management, something like a hybrid of Cuba with Switzerland. Totally eliminating the state is probably not possible but with local militias as its backbone it can be guaranteed that democracy prevails in a socialist administration of the economy. Yugoslavia was close to that and it was a highly developed country, however the “socialist corporatism” and nationalism of Milosevic caused its disintegration, and the militias became a key tool of that fracture.

        But the real issue of real democracy is who controls the economy: private privileged actors (capitalists) or society in a collective way. Without collectivization of the economy there can’t be any real democracy, just a tightly controlled farce.

        Comment by Maju — October 1, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

      • @Maju,

        “IMO it’s just a legal format, not any essence.”

        You need to think that through a bit more. The choices you are permitted to make are different as an individual than they are as a corporation. The choices you are required to make as a publicly traded company are different than they are as a privately held corporation or an individual. The form of your business is normative and, therefore, essentially and fundamentally different. Happy to elaborate.

        “Let me doubt it. The masses do not care if the legal format of their exploitation is a corporation or something else, what they care is that they are being exploited and abused. They care about having to work too many hours for a misery salary in precarious conditions.”

        The ability of an individual (aka sole proprietor) to exploit and abuse is substantially less than that of a corporation because criminal penalties mean something. If the masses don’t care, they need to be educated.

        “The program is quite simple: collective ownership of the means of production, as opposed to private. Whether private property of the means of production is “corporative” or directly by means of individuals or other legal formats seems less important.”

        As far as I am concerned, corporatism is just another form of collective ownership where the “collective” is defined more narrowly (and accurately). The vast majority of your collective don’t give a crap (see your point about the corporate form) and don’t know care to know better (id.). Corporatism and communism are one and the same. The focus should not be on who owns what, but who is responsible to whom for what. Property is just another abstraction that allows each of us to forget that the world does not revolve around him.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 2, 2013 @ 12:37 am

      • @Tao:

        “Happy to elaborate”.

        Please do. Because as Southern European I find corporations owned almost single-handedly by clans (Botín or Berlusconi), what is not much different from direct private ownership. In the USA also certain individuals like Murdoch, Rockefeller, etc. do hold brutal amounts of property and therefore power.

        I understand well that within the bourgeois oligarchy there is a sub-society that does not really allow even the most powerful of individuals to be fully independent and that state and corporative legal framework play a role in that elite-society’s interactions. I agree with the rejection that you and Russ make of corporations’ totalitarianism. I just reject the displacement of the definition of the socio-economic system (Capitalism) to a subset of elements within it (corporatism), no matter how important they are. One thing would be to make emphasis in corporations and another to pretend that solving the corporation problem alone would solve everything. Other legal formats can perfectly keep exploitation going (although the real contradictions are material rather than merely legal).

        “The ability of an individual (aka sole proprietor) to exploit and abuse is substantially less than that of a corporation because criminal penalties mean something”.

        That’s naive: bourgeois justice serves the bourgeois elite. If a member of the oligarchy is punished, we have to think that power struggles within this oligarchy are at play and/or that he/she is being scapegoated to water down popular anger.

        “… corporatism is just another form of collective ownership”…

        Not at all in the way I mean it. Collective ownership is democratic ownership by the People (to which state property is at best a poor approximation). Plublicly traded corporations are just shared private property – and many coporations stay in the hands of a single or a small group of owners for very long, even generations!, just that they choose the corporate format for its many legal and tax advantages.

        “Corporatism and communism are one and the same”.

        Not at all. Corporations are not owned by the People, even indirectly (as may be the case of state property).

        “Property is just another abstraction”…

        Not at all: property is a fundamental privilege guaranteed by the bourgeois state, by which the bourgeois oligarchy exists as distinct and privileged class. Critically I would like to emphasize property of means of production and other economic factors, as largely and even essentially distinct from small property, usually not any privilege, like a home or a car.

        Comment by Maju — October 2, 2013 @ 7:51 am

      • To say that corporations are just a legal framework is like saying the Nazis were just another political party. Corporations are designed to be totalitarian. Even the smallest carries this gene, which may remain dormant until the corporation reaches a certain size. Once this trait becomes active, the corporation is not a “business” like the textbooks describe, but an aggressive power-amassing entity, which has no goal and recognizes no value other than maximizing power (in the form of both financial wealth and actual control of human beings) for its own sake.

        Like Tao said, the purpose of corporations, the reason they’re legally defined the way they are, is to render this totalitarian mindset normative. That’s why governments establish corporations, as extensions of themselves which are nominally “private” and therefore beyond the obsolete (from the governments’ point of view) restraints and accountability of democracy. Americans should view this as the extraconstitutional establishment of a fourth branch of government, set up to be beyond the reach of constitutionality and all the other alleged “checks and balances”. The goal is to shift all decision-making power to this fourth branch, placing it beyond the reach of “democracy”, while the first three branches remain as propaganda facade, thug, and taxman, corporate welfare bagman. Via this 4th branch, the 1% is to exercise all power and prerogative and extract all wealth, while the first 3 branches are to ensure that the people assume all the costs, risks, liabilities. Humanity is to be nothing but the 1%’s resource mine and waste dump.

        That’s corporatism. I’ve also called this a kind of “secession” of the elites, and we should indeed view them as pure parasite squatters on the surface of the earth, having zero rightful political or physical existence.

        “The program is quite simple: collective ownership of the means of production, as opposed to private. Whether private property of the means of production is “corporative” or directly by means of individuals or other legal formats seems less important.”

        That seems vague to me. What does “collective ownership” mean? (Renewed tribal forms? Mutualist co-ops? Statism?) How do we know when we’ve achieved it? More importantly, what’s the plan for getting there?
        Not that I’m saying these should be easy questions to answer. But the point is that the very difficulty of answering them has led to much misguidance and often misdirection in the past.

        Now, when I say I’m an abolitionist, some may accuse me of overly simplifying the problem. But I think this simplification is a good one, that it would provide clarity and focus to both the philosophical analysis and the action plan, and that if enough people rejected the legitimacy of corporate prerogatives, “rights”, property, etc., resisted and obstructed these as much as possible, and directly acted against them as much as possible, this would greatly hasten the collapse of this economic system, which most people call “capitalism”.

        Just as calcified communism had to collapse and did, so humanity must do the other half of the job and bring down the calcified monopoly capitalist system, this system which has congealed in the form of corporatism.

        “People are fighting right now in Madrid, Athens, Istanbul or Manchester to keep public services public, and most of them think they belong to the Left.”

        Since I’m American I think primarily in terms of America. Perhaps there still is a real “Left” in Europe, though even there I’d call that ideology a vestige of the fossil fuel age. I note that the great movement across the global South doesn’t seem to emphasize that term or self-identification. For example, I don’t recall seeing Via Campesina using it.

        I’m not a Marxist. I’ll link these two posts where I’ve given some thoughts on Marx.

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/is-the-triumph-of-food-sovereignty-inevitable/

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/marx-neo-feudalism-and-peak-oil/

        I’ll give one quote from one of these posts.

        Marx gives here a basic rule which we can remove from all dogmatic contexts:

        “As soon as it has risen up, a class in which the revolutionary interests of society are concentrated finds the content and the material for its revolutionary activity directly in its own situation: foes to be laid low, measures dictated by the needs of the struggle to be taken; the consequences of its own deeds drive it on.”

        He goes on to comment:

        “The struggle against capital in its developed, modern form, in its decisive aspect, the struggle of the industrial wage-worker against the industrial bourgeois, is in France a partial phenomenon, which after the February days could so much the less supply the national content of the revolution, since the struggle against capital’s secondary modes of exploitation, that of the peasant against usury and mortgages or of the petty bourgeois against the wholesale dealer, banker and manufacturer, in a word, against bankruptcy, was still hidden in the general uprising against the finance aristocracy.”

        So in light of this, what’s our “revolutionary material”? Clearly the framework of the “industrial wage-worker against the industrial bourgeois” is obsolete. Instead we have, as the dominant phenomena, the “struggle against capital’s secondary modes of exploitation”. We have ”the peasant”, i.e. the small farmer and housedebtor, against usury and mortgages; and we have the “petty bourgeois”, the small businessman, against Walmartization and bankruptcy, in every sector.

        You ask, “How come the reification of work into machines and technology can be compared with the much simpler, agrarian and usually non-salaried feudal scheme in which work is just tranformed into commodities and almost nothing else (capital other than land and a few tools was non-existent).”

        This mechanization is dependent upon infinite cheap fossil fuels, which are at an end. Again, it’s simply not practicable to carry over wholesale any analysis based on ahistorical energy consumption to the historical level humanity will soon be resuming.

        Not that there will necessarily be a major physical change in the West within the next few years, or perhaps even in our lifetimes. (But I expect it’ll be sooner than that.) But the 1%’s strategy is based upon preparing for this, so the movement’s analysis must also center on this framework of energy descent, as Peak Oilers call it.

        Comment by Russ — October 2, 2013 @ 5:42 am

      • The focus should not be on who owns what, but who is responsible to whom for what. Property is just another abstraction that allows each of us to forget that the world does not revolve around him.

        Excellent. We’ve long known, from both regular capitalism and the communist variety, that there’s no necessary link between nominal ownership and control.

        Corporate agriculture has taken this to a new level of refinement. Just ask any farmer-“owner” who’s under contract to Monsanto or Smithfield. And of course we all know how much control most of the “owners” of publicly-held corporations have.

        Comment by Russ — October 2, 2013 @ 5:47 am

      • @Russ:

        “To say that corporations are just a legal framework is like saying the Nazis were just another political party”.

        They were, at least in most senses. In Spain for example the CEDA (conservative party) became the backbone fascist party (FET-JONS) and then back into “democratic” format (UCD, PP). The fascists everywhere were promoted by the bourgeois oligarchy, including their “democratic” parties, in order to brutally quell social unrest and the risk of socialism. In Germany for example all Weimar parties excepted the socialdemocrats voted for Hitler’s emergency decree. The British “democracy” actively promoted fascism in Europe, incl. Germany, in the 1920s and 30s. There’s no difference between ones and the others.

        “Corporations are designed to be totalitarian. Even the smallest carries this gene, which may remain dormant until the corporation reaches a certain size. Once this trait becomes active, the corporation is not a “business” like the textbooks describe, but an aggressive power-amassing entity, which has no goal and recognizes no value other than maximizing power (in the form of both financial wealth and actual control of human beings) for its own sake”.

        It is a good description and I can’t but agree with it. As I said above I am not opposing your much deserved and generally well-done criticism of corporate power, just the replacement by this particular manifestation of the real essence of the system of economic exploitation, which is Capitalism.

        “Via this 4th branch, the 1% is to exercise all power”…

        It’s more like the 10%. The 1% “only” controls 22% of US wealth, while the 10% controls 73% (1/7 of the global product). Under them there is a 30% of petty bourgeoisie or assimilated sub-classes (well paid professionals and such), that controls most of the remainder. The low class 60% (workers and other underdogs) controls almost nothing (6%, with the lowest 40% having less than 2%). See here. These 60% or 40% low class US-Americans are probably much worse off than Cubans and hold an average wealth similar to the Vitenamese or Sudanese GDP per capita (considering the 60% and 40% respectively).

        “I’ve also called this a kind of “secession” of the elites”…

        You seem under an illusion that this did not exist in an ideal past. Weren’t people like Washington and the other US founding fathers very rich oligarchs? They were indeed. The idealized past was as bad as the present, with whatever less important changes.

        Ask the slaves.

        “What does “collective ownership” mean?”

        As said above: ownership by the People, democratization of the economy. State property is just a poor approximation to this idea.

        “More importantly, what’s the plan for getting there?”

        Do you want to hear to my plan? Different people and organizations have different ideas about it. There’s no single plan but it essentially implies a revolutionary takeover and/or destruction of power by the People necessarily.

        “Just as calcified communism had to collapse and did”…

        It is important to understand that the Soviet Union was not communist, no matter what that jerk of Kurshev pretended (nobody before him dared to claim that communism had been achieved in the USSR and, when he did, most laughed at his pretense.

        I would encourage you to read this article by David Adam in which the original Marxist idea of Communism, based on the Paris Commune of 1871, is contrasted with the much more authoritarian and statist project of Lenin and successors. Of course Lenin has many admirable qualities and ideas but his achievements never even approached Communism. The Bolshevik system can be described as either authoritarian socialism, tainted worker state (Trotskyist approach, which is Leninist in its roots), or whatever but not communism. It was a very poor approximate at best. And I agree that it had to collapse, after being unable to adapt to the new Toyotist phase of the Capitalist evolution, so different from the disciplinary Fordist period in which the USSR was born.

        They had an opportunity for reform with the Prague spring, which was brutally suppressed instead. Those who go against historical developments just dig their own tomb and it does not matter if they carry red banners.

        However it must be said that peripheral soviet-style revolutions are an interesting phenomenon in the history of modern revolutions, in which they actually achieve national bourgeois goals but under red banners and a worker ideology. While workers have always manned the bourgeois revolutions (sans coulottes in the French one, for example), in the 20th century we see a qualitative evolution by which peripheral nations, doomed to be semi-colonies by the global bourgeois regime, break up with that imposition by means of revolutionary processes that are national-bourgeois in their actual achievements but ideologically proletarian. It’s a qualitative jump that IMO prefigures the upcoming revolutions of the 21st century, which should be fully woker in their nature and central or global in their geography, as the terminally ill Capitalist system wanders aimlessly to its own collapse.

        “Since I’m American I think primarily in terms of America”.

        That’s an error. Think global, act local. Very especially in the age of Internet and dramatic globalization. Struggles are always necessarily local but the perspective, the conscience, the vision… should be wider.

        “I note that the great movement across the global South doesn’t seem to emphasize that term or self-identification”.

        As (US-)American you should look at the other America, where certainly such identification is still very strong and even growing by the day. In South Asia also the revolutionary processes are largely in the hands of very radical Maoist forces. Arabs are still awakening (and bear a heavy load of sociological conservatism). Africa… I can’t say (right now it looks desperate and aimless but time will tell).

        In Europe instead the political (true) Left is still weak, with the notable exception of Greece, where SYRIZA aims to win the next elections and street resistance (largely in the hands of a very strong Anarchist and Autonomis movement, distinct from SYRIZA) is very powerful. But the people marching every other day in every other European town do so in demand of public services, public jobs and in general social support systems backed by the state. Even some conservatives are joining these movements because they were never against the welfare state in most aspects at least and that’s why, in Spain for example, the twin party is collapsing as we speak: because they do not cater to public demands anymore in the slightest but just obey the banksters and the eurocracy.

        I fear that this may evolve into Fascism where the Left is not strong enough. Because Fascism is traditionally the fallback line of Capitalism. However we do not live in the Fordist period of discipline and idealized leaders but in a much more critical and even cynic time where such totalitarian formats may just not work at all. We’ll see but I hope to be right. Also there are too extreme and growing environmental contradictions that may render the merely socio-political action useless if this one is not socially and environmentally friendly.

        The obstacles in the path of Capitalist perpetuation are growing imponent in all facets, that’s what I mean.

        “I’m not a Marxist.”

        Me neither. Or at least I would not allow myself to be caged by any single form of thought. Marx himself would hate that.

        But Marx is still the first and arguably the best theoretician of Capitalism, nobody can ignore that. It’s not a matter of textbooks because Marx usually is not in such textbooks, or at most as a small note.

        “This mechanization is dependent upon infinite cheap fossil fuels”…

        Not really. Germany in particular is now involved into what we can consider the third Industrial Revolution, which is not based on fossil fuels nor nuclear but on renewables, especially solar power. They are overcoming the last technical issues in order to be 100% reliant only on renewables. In fact one of my fears is that it may be a way to perpetuate Capitalism beyond the current environmental contradictions.

        The mechanization is surely dependent (up to a point) on energy disponibility (“cheap” is relative) but these energy sources do not need to be fossil fuels but can perfectly be renewable ones. Capitalism (and corportions) can make that change perfectly, although there are some resistances right now (but IMO just inertias).

        “Not that there will necessarily be a major physical change in the West within the next few years”…

        I’m quite sure that there will be (give it a decade or so at most). What I do not know is the exact results.

        On one side, China is set to surpass the USA in GDP (PPP) in just three years (nominal in just a few more years), what is a game chager. They are also being more and more assertive in their international projection. Of course there may be at some point a revolution or regime change in China but that should not change its rising star status, it may even enhance it instead. This is more similar to the rise of Germany at the beginning of the 20th century (leading to WWI and later WWII) than to the Cold War, where Russia was never really ahead of the USA.

        On the other side, the parasitic nature of this late financier capitalism is getting the West stuck in growing social and other (environmental, etc.) problems which are being left unaddressed by the bourgeois imperial regime. A very real and maybe central problem is Fukushima, which is much worse than Chernobyl, which was a key element in the collapse of the USSR. Not just Japan is still the third economic power (but has half the country in the “red zone”) but the radioactive pollution is crossing the ocean to North America with low levels of dilution. Never mind very likely secondary catastrophes as three or four “China syndromes” are still ongoing and can’t really be tackled. All this, as happened initially in the Soviet Union, is being hidden actively by the Imperial regime. But no matter how much you hide the problems, reality is stubborn and persists.

        But the key problem is that more and more layers of society feel totally disenfranchised, living in a de facto socio-economic dictatorship by a minority with a purely egoistic and short-term vision. This has too explode sooner than later.

        Comment by Maju — October 2, 2013 @ 9:04 am

      • Corporations are not owned by the People, even indirectly (as may be the case of state property).

        In corporatist propaganda they are. I don’t know if you’ve heard the odious slogan, “We are all ExxonMobil”, but it and similar lies are a key part of “Ownership Society” propaganda here.

        Although the middle classes may not take any mystical “ownership” part of this seriously, they certainly take seriously the notion that they need to rely on petty rentierism (pensions, 401(k)s, personal portfolios, all based on stock prices, as well as cult of “property values” via the housing bubble). So they’re being brainwashed into the notion that their own survival and well-being is directly dependent on their taking part in some sort of collective “ownership” of corporations. At any rate, the measure of this notion of ownership, a stock market bubble, must be kept healthy and ascending at all costs.

        So the phony construct of the corporate form has succeeded in convincing many to cling desperately to the phony metric of the stock market, and to believe that these two fictions are the judges and executioners of reality. How can this social and psychological stranglehold be broken without breaking the cult of corporations as such? Until then, people are going to continue to be astroturfed into believing, or at least acting as if they believed, that they are “owners” of this fraud.

        Comment by Russ — October 2, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

      • “I don’t know if you’ve heard the odious slogan, “We are all ExxonMobil””…

        Nope. But that’s nothing but a publicity slogan. I don’t think anyone believes that actually means what they say, much less has any real application. Non-stockholders know for a fact that they have absolutely no right to intervene in ExxonMobil (other than very indirectly through state regulation).

        It’s a very much forced analogy.

        “… they certainly take seriously the notion that they need to rely on petty rentierism (pensions, 401(k)s, personal portfolios, all based on stock prices, as well as cult of “property values” via the housing bubble)”.

        That’s part of a planned way of rallying commoners, both soul and wallets, into becoming more deeply implicated with the Capitalist system(they really needed that in the Cold War context). However it is also a way of scamming them out of their savings and social benefits, so, as the system degenerates into financier parasitism of the worst kind, they also become alienated, as their savings are looted and all that (not sure in the USA but it’s happened in Spain, Cyprus, etc. already).

        “So they’re being brainwashed into the notion that their own survival and well-being is directly dependent on their taking part in some sort of collective “ownership” of corporations”.

        I think that they are rather being coerced, by the very dismantling of the welfare state, to put their hopes into those black holes. It won’t work because it’s so obviously just another pyramid scam of the kind banksters love.

        “So the phony construct of the corporate form has succeeded in convincing many to cling desperately to the phony metric of the stock market”…

        You have some reason indeed but this is just the last and excessive stunt of bourgeois manipulation. Those savings will be looted as happened before and the anger and rustration will grow dramatically.

        “How can this social and psychological stranglehold be broken without breaking the cult of corporations as such?”

        I’m not against attacking “the cult of corporatism”, of course. Anyhow it will be broken because the system is already pretty much bankrupt and living only on artificial support. Bubbles do burst and this is just another petty bubble with very short life expectations.

        But sure: you are right in a sense. They are being conned into a false sense of co-ownership (not the same as collective ownership, of course).

        Comment by Maju — October 2, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

      • Germany in particular is now involved into what we can consider the third Industrial Revolution, which is not based on fossil fuels nor nuclear but on renewables, especially solar power. They are overcoming the last technical issues in order to be 100% reliant only on renewables.

        Germany remains completely dependent on fossil fuels, and there will never exist any renewable deployment which isn’t built on that fossil fuel foundation. What’s the most extensive independent, closed-loop, self-sustaining renewable energy system you’re aware of?

        This kind of secular religion (that the fossil-fueled level of energy consumption is not ahistorical and unique, but is the equivalent of a god-given right and is now permanent and normative) is part of the reason I regard “the left” as offering no alternative to capitalism/corporatism/whatever one wants to call it. You admit that even if this large-scale renewable deployment were economically and therefore physically possible, it would simply be corporatized like every other industrial deployment. How could it not be? And indeed it’s already happening. Nothing would be different under any kind of centralized socialism which could possibly be envisioned. We already tried that in the 20th century. “Electrification plus soviets.” It didn’t work, and it’s highly unlikely that anyone in charge ever really wanted it to work.

        Comment by Russ — October 3, 2013 @ 4:57 am

      • “Germany remains completely dependent on fossil fuels”…

        Germany’s renewable energy production is escalating at pace of giant and has surpassed all predictions. It is still less than 50% of the consumed energy on Sunday April 1st 2012 (on average it may be around 26%) but there is no reason why it can’t become close to 100% soon.

        The major technical problem is that renewable energy production is relatively irregular and energy storage technology is still highly inefficient (but still possible). But research on this matter (as well as towards even cheaper and more efficient solar generation) is also advancing at huge pace. Another big problem is “portable” energy for vehicles, nothing insuperable again but still a challenge in making it competitive.

        Peak oil effects only work in favor of these alternative sources, which, together with dramatic technical advances in the last years (and the years to come), are every day more competitive.

        So, as I see it, it is just a matter of time (and not long) until countries with decidedly pro-renewable policies like Germany almost totally replace fossil and nuclear fuels. One one side I like it but on the other side I fear it because it is a solution within Capitalism and not the Socialist Revolutionary solution I hope for. But I have little doubts that this Energy Revolution is happening right now, and not just in Germany, also Cuba is betting strongly for solar energy for example.

        There is resistance however, largely because the owners of these new energy sources are largely individuals and not anymore the big corps, at least not in the oligopolystic way it used to be. But this resistance is stronger in countries like the USA with strong oil corporative interests. Germany does not have such an overweight oil industry and the Energiewende has very strong popular support (93%).

        It’s not a problem of feasability but a problem of sectoral corporate interests. IF a Green Capitalism (at least in the energy aspect) can exist, Germany is clearly leading the way, and is doing so very effectively. Give them a decade or so and we will be discussing not the prospects but a striking reality in which fossil fuels and nuclear have been nearly eradicated, at least in electricity generation.

        “This kind of secular religion (that the fossil-fueled level of energy consumption is not ahistorical and unique, but is the equivalent of a god-given right and is now permanent and normative)”…

        Not sure of what you are talking about: it is clearly historical, unique and limited. But there are also clear alternatives for energy generation.

        And that’s something you seem in denial about.

        “You admit that even if this large-scale renewable deployment were economically and therefore physically possible, it would simply be corporatized like every other industrial deployment”.

        I do fear that indeed. But it still renders Peak Oil armaggedon imagery false.

        There are however many other environmental and social problems at play. Environmental: deforestation, sea depletion, pollution of all sorts (pesticides, nuclear, etc.), accelerated pace of extinctions, overpopulation and of course the already ongoing global warming, whose effects will not be reversed easily.

        “Nothing would be different under any kind of centralized socialism which could possibly be envisioned”.

        That’s the key issue: how to create a globally coordinated but largely decentralized and radically democratic political-economic system. We cannot simply look at the USSR type of “solutions”: those have failed in many senses. We need something different: socialist indeed but deeply democratic. We have some conditions that favor that (for example the newly achieved horizontality of communications via the Internet) but the actual new reality must still be created (and I do not wish to be dogmatic on how it should be).

        What I can’t imagine is how just outlawing corporations, without further democratization (collectivization) of the economy, there can be any difference. A new legal tool would be created. Spaniards say “hecha la ley, hecha la trampa”, loosely: “new law, new trick”. It’s not any merely legal problem but a material problem of socio-economic reality of which laws are just formal manifestations.

        “We already tried that in the 20th century. “Electrification plus soviets.” It didn’t work”…

        So when you try something once and, after great initial success (let’s not forget that: it did serve a purpose back in the day: emancipating Russia, China and other countries from their semi-colonial status), you end up failing because of bureaucratic sclerosis and change of sub-era global conditions, you abandon all hope? No. Humans always will commit errors. Even the best system will have problems, crisis and renewals (or collapse). The Soviet system was obviously far from ideal and it belongs to a long gone era, it can be considered a precursor but not the 21st century goal. Certainly not in the developed “center” (or “global North”). Much as nobody took Cromwell (or later Napoleon) as a revolutionary reference, we can’t take Lenin, Stalin or Mao as such (although they are historical figures of undeniable importance). Just because the French Revolution eventually led to Napoleon and the Restoration it does not mean that France could not become a Republic, right? It does not mean that monarchies and autocratic feudal regimes are waning everywhere, right? A temporal failure does not mean “bound to fail”, history clearly says otherwise. However we must learn of our errors and also be creative, innovative and deeply conscious of the historical processes such as the:
        → transition from disciplinary Fordism to “cooperative” Toyotism in the 60s or 70s (a direct cause of the Soviet collapse)
        → the Internet (bound to be as important as the printing machine)
        → the lack of any sort of plan other than loot-all-you-can of this late (terminal?) Capitalist system
        → the undeniable fact of renewable energy as game-changer
        → the ongoing global environmental catastrophe
        → the growing popular anger in way too many places
        → the reality of socialism/communism not being dead at all (as discussed above)
        → the maybe subtle but clear decay of US imperial power and, even more markedly, of its legitimacy
        → the imminent Chinese “sorpasso” in terms of GDP
        → Fukushima (too similar to Chernobyl, but much more dangerous, to ignore)
        → Peak Oil (yes, also)
        → etc., etc.

        We’ll see what exactly happens but it’s clear that we sit on a major historical fault line of unprecedent dimensions.

        Comment by Maju — October 3, 2013 @ 11:26 am

      • Those links didn’t answer my question about closed loops and self-sustainability. It’s impressive if they really are taking nukes offline to make politically-decreed room for (centralized) wind, but the graph itself provides excellent symbolism about how solar and wind rest upon a fossil fuel base. I asked how solar and wind build their own infrastructure, import their own raw materials, etc.

        The inability of people to answer this question is one of the features of what I called a secular religion, and what I’d call denial. Another name for it is the myth that “technology will save us”. (The same myth which claims GMOs are needed to “feed the world”. The difference is that cheap fossil fuels really are running out, whereas it’s nothing but Malthusian lies that either conventional ag right now, or decentralized organic agriculture even without large fossil fuel inputs, don’t provide enough food for everyone; that the problem is anything but corporatism’s artificially rationed distribution.)

        I read a Kevin Carson piece today which is probably pretty close to your position.

        http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/when-ephemeralization-is-hard-to-tell-from-catabolic-collapse/2013/09/19

        The first commenter’s position is pretty close to mine, as is this good response.

        http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-flight-to-ephemeral.html

        Comment by Russ — October 3, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

      • “I asked how solar and wind build their own infrastructure, import their own raw materials, etc.”

        I’m not sure if I understand the question. Do you mean transport? That is also possible but guess that the electric grid is the first priority.

        Personally I think that a lot of that can be solved with hydrogen storage, however there are technical issues to make it “competitive”, issues that will be solved in the upcoming years, no doubt. The real issue is that change is happening and at quite a fast pace.

        “Another name for it is the myth that “technology will save us”.”

        I also hate that. But this kind of technology is more like reinventing photsynthesis, which has fueled life for millennia, so it’s more like going back to basics. And also a case of solving a problem by thinking out of the box, the box of oil, in which I feel you are also trapped.

        I do not think in any case that saving Capitalism is the same as “saving us”, nor that we need such a high use of energy and other resources. In my mind the problem is also solved by ditching the cars and the airplanes, at least to some extent, by producing locally most of what is consumed locally, so no such absurd energy costs are incurred in unnecessarily, etc. By de-escaling and re-localizing at least much of the economy. Less tourist trips to Kenya and flower exports from it and more self-sufficiency for Kenya in food, industry and everything. That’s of course hardly feasible under capitalist conditions. It needs of another socio-economic system. We waste a lot of energy in moving things and people aroudn the World unnecessarily in any case.

        As for the article you mention I fear that I don’t feel identified in the least with it. But I can say one thing: a society reliant only on solar energy would still have Internet (and everything that needs power) at noon, even if it had to use candles at night (obviously there are other solutions that, even if inefficient, are better than nothing… but just making a point).

        Some people seem fascinated by the Mad Max type of dystopic universe and dance around it like moths around a lightbulb, even if it burns and is so obviously undesirable and even extremely unlikely. In Mad Max films there were no solar pannels and hardly even a windmill, such was their neo-romantic fascination for oil and cars and all that. In the end it’s just like cyberpunk: fantasy with gears, fantasy of the industrial era. But in fact, if the whole economic and political system would collapse right now, there would be many solar panels, windmills and other alternative sources of energy such as biomass (our faeces, indeed, can produce a lot of energy and, after degradation, serve as manure). There would be also a good deal of basic and advanced knowledge walking around in the heads of many people and that knowledge would be put to work. Even without a drop of oil, there would be technology at work.

        I’m no fan of technology, rather a primitivist, but History doesn’t go backwards. Also Rome did not succumb to ephemerality nor anything of that: they lost their Hellenistic colonies with the Christian coup and therefore lacked resources to survive once the capital was moved to Constantinople. Byzantium instead survived very well for a whole millennium instead. You guys should stop reading that Diamond sensationalist pseudo-historian.

        Comment by Maju — October 3, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

      • “I’m not sure if I understand the question.”

        It’s simple, and I don’t know how to ask it more clearly than I already have: Where’s the evidence that solar, wind, etc. can sustain themselves without needing fossil fuel supplementation?

        Comment by Russ — October 4, 2013 @ 2:05 am

      • The evidence is clear: hydrogen can do everything that fossil fuels do, while polluting less (zero in theory), however right now hydrogen is still too costly in comparison with fossil fuels. But as oil gets more and more expensive and hydrogen tech less and less so there will be eventually (soon) a replacement of one by the other.

        It’s a fallacious question, Russ. It’s a lot like asking in 1960 “where is the evidence of humans reaching the Moon”and then denouncing all the space program as spurious and unrealistic. Hydrogen is a very real option, just that today still comparatively expensive but in a “Mad Max situation”, hydrogen would be there, the same as solar panels, windmills, micro-hydroelectric, biomass, etc. The technology already exists and, even if not yet competitive at market prices, it’s much better than nothing. In the “Mad Max scenario”, where refined fuel and natural gas would not be available, the locals would normally use renewable techs in whatever variants, and it would work.

        As I said before you seem in denial and romantically entrenched in certain kind of mythology: the mythology of fossil fuels, which, as I see it, is so yesteryear (1970s or so).

        I don’t know you, but I have lived as guest several times in isolated mountain homes and even whole squatted villages without connection to the grid, which almost 100% relied on renewables. They had their fuel generators for periods of low energy input (not perfect, of course) and vehicles still worked on gas (no available choice) but it was clear that would survive well also without any fuel. At larger scale, this kind of options are even much more feasible, not less.

        Comment by Maju — October 4, 2013 @ 8:03 am

      • So you admit you can’t answer the question, and therefore concede that any significant renewable deployment can be done only with the infrastructural support of cheap fossil fuel.

        Hydrogen’s not an energy source, just an energy carrier. To render it available to carry energy requires a hydrogen source from which to separate it in the first place, and an energy source to do the burning necessary for the separation. In other words, to fuel a hydrogen cell requires burning more BTU worth of fossil fuels than will be carried by the hydrogen the process extracts. Hydrogen’s a scam.

        From what source do you want to get the hydrogen? Fracked natural gas? Privatized water? And what do you want to use as fuel, if not that same natural gas? Coal? Ethanol?

        I must say it’s quite ironic the way you keep accusing me of denialism, not to mention “Mad Max” strawmanning, while you keep moving to ever more fantastic and delusional scenarios. What’s next, fusion reactors?

        Comment by Russ — October 4, 2013 @ 8:35 am

      • “Hydrogen’s not an energy source, just an energy carrier.”

        Exactly: a portable “storage” for energy (electricity) obtained from renewable sources, allowing for (1) burning in the periods of low natural input and (2) “fuel” for vehicles and machinery not connected to the grid.

        “To render it available to carry energy requires a hydrogen source”…

        Water.

        “… and an energy source to do the burning necessary for the separation”.

        Electrolisis requires no “burning”, just electricity conduction.

        All this is available right now, I’m perplex that you’re oblivious to all this. Hydrogen begins as water and ends as water, the main problem are conversion costs, which are right now very low, only around 20% (maybe a bit higher by now?) , but even at those poor rates, it would still be better than nothing.

        “Privatized water?”

        I’m all against the privatization of water, as you can imagine. Anyhow seawater is, I believe, much better than freshwater for the process (more conductive to electricity). And you can’t privatize the sea, nor the overall water cycle. This is, as much of what you say, a strawman.

        Comment by Maju — October 4, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  2. russ it seems as though we struggle at times with better prices at higher volumes ..it is all based on our monetary systems and often times get mixed with exchange rates that are set by the governments ..regardless your points of feed the world failures lack root cause. crops are often destroyed because of our inability to control pest , the weather and diseases. While I agree with you that there must be some accountability with corporations not only with GMO they must also understand that the fragile economies need to be left to the people so they can generate some revenue.After reading a few of your post the adversarial tones reminded me of many of the principles at work that Niccolo Machavelli wrote about in the prince .. seems we may serve ourselves well to remember them as we struggle to be benevolent..

    Dave Outlaw

    Comment by W David Outlaw — October 1, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    • ” they must also understand that the fragile economies need to be left to the people so they can generate some revenue”

      Revenue? Is that what life is about? Revenue.

      I submit that money (aka revenue) is the first derivative of reality, what most folks call the “real economy” but which is not an economy at all. Revenue is not what we live for.

      “russ it seems as though we struggle at times with better prices at higher volumes”

      Have you ever wondered, Dave, why the bigger you are, the less things cost you to buy? Have you ever considered that “economies of scale” are just an euphemism for monopolist taxation of the rest of the “ecosystem”? After all, as a manager of a firm, you have to set as goals your blended gross margin and blended operating margins. So, whatever discount you strike with a big customer has to be taken out of your smaller customers’ hides?

      And let’s not talk about the “law” of supply and demand, Outlaw. If there were such a law, there would be no need for marketing organizations.

      “regardless your points of feed the world failures lack root cause. crops are often destroyed because of our inability to control pest , the weather and diseases.”

      Another “supply and demand” argument that sidesteps the fact that Russ’ specifically states that we PRODUCE enough food for 10 billion people, i.e., this accounts for crops that are destroyed by whatever.

      Let’s stop tsk-tsking the “tone” of the argument and focus on its substance. For example, can you explain why the same exact businesses we have today cannot and should not be engaged in by sole proprietorships and the corporate form be abolished altogether? After all, if all you care about is “revenue” and economic activity, then WHO is allowed to participate in the activity should be irrelevant to you. Is it? Why should the corporate form be preferred, let alone allowed?

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 2, 2013 @ 12:15 am

  3. An odd thought, isn’t it, that capitalism may have discovered the modern corporate form in the collectivist reforms of Marxist thought?

    The vast majority of shareholders, like citizens, are passive. They allow the management to manage the collective while the powers that be manage the management.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 2, 2013 @ 2:20 am

  4. I ran across this essay by Mitchel Cohen (sic) and thought it might be of some value to you. You already have answers for pro-GMO people, but maybe this writer has something to add to your collection.

    Comment by Paul — October 2, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

    • Thanks Paul, but it looks like you forgot the link.

      Comment by Russ — October 3, 2013 @ 4:58 am

  5. I followed a link at Corrente Wire to this blog and thought it might be worthwhile to consider the viewpoint of the author.

    From one of the comments on the article:

    “The underlying basis for opposing GM crops is a concern that chemical-intensive monocropping (encouraged by GM crops) is unsustainable, that corporations have a century-long track record of introducing harmful elements into our air, water, and soil, and lying about it, and that small scale subsistence farmers are pushed off their land in developing countries. While blind hatred of GM crops is incredibly misguided, it’s nowhere near on the scale or importance to the future of humanity as people who deny the reality of climate change.”

    I support your position on the use of “corporation” vs. “capitalism” but I wonder if there is a way to reinforce the real reason for being anti-GMO instead of falling into the “blind hatred of GM crops”. Is “junk science” going to win the day? It might – the right-wing surely is convinced that Obamacare is wrong for all kinds of stupidly ignorant reasons. Not that I’m in favor of Obamacare, either, by the way. For anti-corporate insurance reasons, not because Obama is a Muslim. Americans are so incredibly ignorant, uneducated, and gullible that maybe appealing to “junk science” is the only way to reach them. Sigh …

    Comment by Paul — October 3, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

    • Blind hatred of anything is wrong, but I’m not aware of anyone who feels blind hatred for GMOs. The author of that comment gives just some of the reasons why hatred is clear-sighted, and is rationally and morally justified.

      For blind hatred, we have to look to the attitude of technocrats and scienticians toward democracy and civil society, and toward any value which would dare to assert itself in the face of their totalitarian sense of prerogative. I’m sick of the way everyone is still intimidated by these worthless hacks, because they call themselves “scientists”. They’re just mercenary scum, and we should reciprocate a hundred-fold all the anti-democracy, anti-human contempt which is so blind and reflexive with them.

      The line to take is crystal clear, and I’ve written it out many times. The evidence is everywhere. Science opposes GMOs. Only scientistic and anti-science attitudes and ideology support them. GMOs, and industrial ag in general, comprise a backward, antiquated, obsolete, Luddite, dinosaur mindset and set of technologies. Not to mention how almost all technically trained personnel who shill for GMOs (or in this case engage in strawmanning and concern trolling) are not in fact biologists, but from some other discipline. In this way too they’re nothing but laymen fraudulently posing as scientific experts. They’re frauds.

      BTW, “Scienceblogs”, which seems to worry you, has a long history of corporate co-optation and shilling. This hack, who identifies himself as an MD, in other words there’s zero reason to think he’s anything but the most ignorant of laymen where it comes to biology, is in that tradition. Similarly, the comment thread is full of fracking shills and so on. Clearly “scienceblogs” is a clearinghouse for corporate junk science. Why would you worry about arguing with it? Attack it! Smash it!

      We don’t need to appeal to “junk science”, since the science is 100% on our side. But since scientism, which dominates the “scientific” establishment, depends upon the public’s political faith in “science”, technocratic “experts”, etc., anything we can do to erode this faith will be good for democracy.

      This is in line with the general democratic imperative to relinquish faith in technocratic elites, establishment professionals, etc. These have all proven to be frauds, crackpots, charlatans, in the service of corporate power. They’re criminal liars. They must be held accountable the way Julius Streicher was for the same crimes.

      Comment by Russ — October 4, 2013 @ 2:04 am

      • Agreed – see this on Mark Lynas. I had no idea. Thanks again for the head’s up.

        Comment by Paul — October 4, 2013 @ 8:25 am

      • For almost a year now Lynas has been the anointed public ambassador for GMOs, and is therefore the envy of all the hacks like the scum who wrote that scienceblog piece.

        He’s pretty stupid, though more intelligent than the likes of Bono, and is a corporate media darling because of the fraudulent “former leader [or even “founder”] of anti-GMO movement is now a staunch supporter”. (Of course the media has no interest in the far greater number of former GMO supporters and even some cadres who have turned against them.)

        In fact Lynas was never a significant member of any movement. In the same way Obama-on-the-make slummed around as a “community organizer”, Lynas took part in some actions back in the 90s. But he quickly started writing corporate-environmentalist books. For several years he shopped himself around as an ideological mercenary, before finally hooking up with the GMO media machine.

        Comment by Russ — October 4, 2013 @ 8:48 am

  6. […] of the human race, since it directly threatens our food security. (So, far from GMOs being able to “feed the world”, on the contrary they threaten to inflict starvation upon us.)   Again, this proves that no kind […]

    Pingback by For Mexico, “Without Corn, There Is No Country” | Volatility — October 14, 2013 @ 3:06 am

  7. […] criminal lie for decades. Bill Gates is a Nuremburg-level criminal liar. As are all propagators of the “Feed the World” Big Lie. . 2. The childish infatuation with the idea of alleged “hi-tech” for its own sake. I […]

    Pingback by The Role of the Gates Foundation | Volatility — January 21, 2016 @ 3:16 am

  8. Russ: “So you admit you can’t answer the question, and therefore concede that any significant renewable deployment can be done only with the infrastructural support of cheap fossil fuel.”

    For the time being, that is true, of course. It could not be otherwise. Fossil fuel (plus a bit of nuclear, and hydro) built essentially ALL of existing infrastructure. But it does not have to be like that forever. And given the rapidly-collapsing costs, and high and growing EROEI, of renewable energy generation, it will not go on like that forever, or even much past the end of this century.

    The economics of renewables are increasingly compelling. Even without any semblance of true cost accounting, renewables costs are already dropping below critical thresholds such that it makes no sense (in most locales) to build FF/nuclear capacity any further. If you add in true-cost accounting, then renewables are FAR more economical than FFs/nuclear. The fatcat institutions are realizing this, and have spoken recently of $trillions in “stranded assets” in the oil industry. FFs/nuclear are DYING, and renewables are charging ahead.

    The changes that have taken place in this sphere over the past 5 years are breathtaking; e.g. cost of solar PV panels being cut in half, and then in half again, while efficiency and durability RISE. It really is a whole new ballgame now. One can be excused for not seeing it, since it came up so suddenly. Rather like the internet between, say, 1997 and 2003. It was there for many years before, but reached a sort of inflection point over the last half-decade. Now it is off to the races, and the only thing that can stop it would be a black swan type of thing like total unrecoverable global economic collapse, all-out nuclear war, etc. (possible, just unlikely).

    It will take many decades to replace the dirty, polluting, rotting and toxic FF/nuclear-based infrastructure. But it will happen, and it will be worth the effort. Eventually, solar panels will be produced with 100% renewable energy. It started at 0%, and will take (say) a century to get to 100%. Maybe a half-century, optimistically.

    My only fear, like Maju, is (as he wrote) that “it may be a way to perpetuate Capitalism beyond the current environmental contradictions.” That IS the problem with renewables.

    PS: Maju and Russ: thanks for the fascinating exchange, above!

    Comment by alan2102 — January 26, 2016 @ 2:37 pm

    • Yes, leaving aside the physical energy logistics of doing it and the metals mining it would require, my main concern with the idea of a large-scale renewables buildout is that for some at least of its advocates it’s supposed to replace fossil fuels in powering what would otherwise be the same corporate globalization regime. This doesn’t sound like much of an improvement. I think the whole centralization idea, the whole gigantism idea, is a core part of the crisis. To adapt something I said in a post a few days ago, I doubt that someone who would want a high-consumption grid based on CSP and industrial wind megafarms would care about replacing fossil fuels anyway, as opposed to supplementing them. After all, if the paramount value is feeding the gluttonous consumption maw, then climate change and other environmental crises could hardly stand next to that as equally important. On the other hand if preventing the worst of the crises is part of what’s paramount, then the goal of maximizing energy production would automatically be downgraded severely.

      For me the most interesting thing about renewables is their decentralized, off-grid potential to contribute to a decent life for people, such as the great potential of passive solar heating. Although I don’t know as much about the possibilities as I do those of agriculture, it sounds like here too there can be great productivity providing warmth and comfort and sufficient electricity, as opposed to the productionist mindset which would want to build massive corporate generation, just as producing food for human beings is vastly more productive and healthy in every way than producing agricultural commodities from which food is then supposed to trickle down as an afterthought. True, the big difference is that acre for acre agroecology really is far more productive in every way (calories and nutrition) than industrial monoculture, whereas decentralized renewables would produce less energy in terms of gross quantity than
      any kind of industrial generation. But I think the better quality of life implied by a decentralized polity and economy would more than make up for that.

      And as I argued earlier, it seems dubious that industrial-scale renewables could ever be self-sustaining, rather than dependent upon a fossil fuel foundation. If so, then the whole quantity-vs.-quality debate would be moot since the quantity couldn’t be sustained anyway.

      Finally, this all has to be placed in the context of humanity’s overwhelming need to abolish the onslaught of industrial poisons, a far more immediate and dire threat even than climate change, as pressing as that’s becoming. (Of course the two crises are completely intertwined and cannot be separated. What drives one drives the other, and what’s the true solution for one would be the solution for the other.) Do those who want industrial renewables want to use this to prop up poison-based agriculture? I’ve heard some suspicious rhetoric. Obviously it wouldn’t be possible really to do that once the necessary cheap, plentiful fossil fuels weren’t available. But even the idea would be pernicious since it would be part of the “delayer” form of denialism.

      So that too is a reason to reject any version of the call for Business As Usual, including the version which would have it all powered by industrial renewables. Like Maju said and you agreed, such a program, if it were possible and actually carried out, would still continue destroying the Earth and wouldn’t even help much with climate change, since it would continue destroying the forests, grasslands, and soil.

      Glad you liked this old discussion. I’m glad to revisit it since although for my vision I have agriculture and food 100% worked out, I still haven’t fully worked out the energy basics. Maju and I had an even longer debate about corporations and capitalism and such at one of my spring 2015 TTIP pieces.

      Comment by Russ — January 26, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

  9. Russ, thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    Russ: “I doubt that someone who would want a high-consumption grid based on CSP and industrial wind megafarms would care about replacing fossil fuels anyway, as opposed to supplementing them. After all, if the paramount value is feeding the gluttonous consumption maw, then climate change and other environmental crises could hardly stand next to that as equally important.”

    It looks to me as though the FF/nuke replacement will occur for economic reasons. FFs and nukes have been relatively cheap for a long time, but that is changing. As renewables costs continue to fall, (as they’ve done consistently for many years, in Moore’s-Law fashion), and as FFs come under continuing pressure to price-in the “externalities”, we cross critical thresholds that render it impossible to choose anything but renewables. We’re almost at those thresholds right now, even with a collapsed oil price, and even without (as I said) any semblance of true cost pricing — which would include, prominently, a carbon-based tax.

    Maybe my estimation of the potential of renewables is too optimistic (I’m still debating this internally), but if not, then “feeding the gluttonous consumption maw” would unfortunately be quite possible using ever-larger and eventually 100% renewables. Obviously this is problematic. But since there is so much authentic human need wrapped up in and interwoven with that “consumption maw”, it is hard to judge the thing too harshly. Reality is a maddening mix of good and bad. Yes, of course, Americans use 5-10X more of everything than they need, to their detriment. But Africans (esp sub-saharan) use 5-10X LESS of what they truly need to live reasonably-comfortable, becoming modern lives. I am in favor of radical consumption reductions AND radical consumption increases; it all depends on WHERE and WHO. And if the consumption increases among those who need it must come at the expense of further tolerance of consumption excesses elsewhere… well, maybe I’ll look the other way.

    Russ: “For me the most interesting thing about renewables is their decentralized, off-grid potential to contribute to a decent life for people, such as the great potential of passive solar heating.”

    Agreed. That aspect of it is huge. And I think that off-grid will evolve from on-grid: on-grid initially, but as storage technology catches up, off-grid will become more viable for more people. There are also interesting in-between possibilities arising; not just “centralized versus decentralized – choose A or B”. Check out microgrids, which can be neighborhood or small-town sized, and which can be connected or disconnected from the (national) grid at will.
    see:
    http://microgridknowledge.com/about/
    http://microgridknowledge.com/category/players/

    The utility companies are starting to run scared, seeing the end of their big monopoly days in the offing. We’re going to witness the glorious anarch-ization of electrical power in the next few decades. The big outfits will probably survive in some form — pared-down and chastened. There will probably always be a need for wholesale-level grid power, just a much-reduced need.

    Russ: “this all has to be placed in the context of humanity’s overwhelming need to abolish the onslaught of industrial poisons, a far more immediate and dire threat even than climate change, as pressing as that’s becoming.”

    That’s a big assertion. Why don’t you say a few words about the specific industrial poisons that concern you most? Environmental toxics is a big subject; I actually know a fair amount about it; it is so broad that it is hard to know a lot about it, and harder still to come to conclusions about which aspects of it are worst.

    In relation to renewables, however: the manufacture of renewables generation units is much less environmentally stressful than equivalent FFs or nukes. Yes, some metals are required; some silicon; etc. But it is largely a one-off thing. Once the unit is manufactured, it provides power for decades, perhaps the better part of a century (data is starting to come in on 40-year-old solar panels and etc., and it looks good). Compare that to the ongoing, never-ending heavy-metals and soot/microparticulate (not to mention CO2) spew-orgy of coal-burning.

    Yes, we’re now burning coal to make solar panels, but that will change. The energy to make solar panels will come from solar panels (and wind, and etc.), eventually.

    Russ: “Do those who want industrial renewables want to use this to prop up poison-based agriculture?”

    Some of them, I’m sure. The world is filled with assholes. But the world is also filled with people of good character and intents. Cross-currents. Tapestry. Renewables will be used to some as-yet-not-quantified extent to prop up bad things. They already ARE being used in such a way. It is not a question of whether, only of how much.

    Russ: “[We must] reject any version of the call for Business As Usual, including the version which would have it all powered by industrial renewables.”

    Does it make sense to reject that portion of BAU that does not address authentic human needs? That would mean rejection of most of BAU, while at the same time recognizing that portions of it are OK.

    I would prefer to see the existing system (most of which I disapprove of) running on renewables versus FFs/nukes. The FFs/nukes make everything worse. All else equal, it would be a better world, running on renewables. Still pretty damned psychotic, but at least running on renewables. 😉

    Comment by alan2102 — January 27, 2016 @ 1:34 pm

    • I can’t think of any aspect of BAU which is redeemable. Obviously capitalism itself is the most evil of all ideologies and systematically maximizes all the other evils because it can’t use anything that’s good in people or the Earth, only the bad, destructive, and wasteful. So the kinds of things you’re talking about, like equaling out consumption at some just-right level, by definition would have to mean a radical transformation from the status quo.

      I don’t think in terms of absolute consumption, but of what’s sufficient and desirable, and this has to include the social/community element. It’s clear that all the material stuff which has been available to the Western rich and middle classes and to those around the world who have attained this has not made them psychologically secure, content, happy. On the other hand, and as a corollary, it’s not clear to me that people who are still close to an indigenous tribal way of life need more “stuff”. They can benefit from modern agroecological science (which is knowledge, not imported stuff like commodified seeds and poisons) and some of the medical knowledge (there too, it’s some basic knowledge which can help, not so much modern high-technology; the fact is that most of the modern medical gains were achieved by things like better sanitation, while hi-tech modern medical science has had a much smaller and diminishing-returns role). Agroecology of course not be a revelation to them but just build upon and modify traditional knowledge.

      Primarily because of the physical reasons of Peak Oil and the many environmental crises, with the socioeconomic and spiritual evils of corporate capitalism and all political/economic power concentration a close second, all my ideas about energy and technology involve finding the level which is best for the most constructive and fulfilled human experience and interaction with the rest of the ecology. The best political and economic level for the environment is also the best level for human happiness and contentment, on an individual and community level. All the evidence is that this level is fairly low in terms of the physical technological sophistication and grossness, very high in terms of knowledge. The best example is the extreme contrast of the technologically highly ramified, but intellectually and scientifically very stupid poison agriculture regime vs. the “low-tech” but intellectually very advanced agroecological paradigm. That example I know very well. The same is true of money and finance. And although I’m not such an expert on some other things, everything I do know of them tells me that the same is true of those as well. I highly suspect it’s true of energy consumption, where the low-hanging fruit of fully developing passive solar knowledge to provide adequate heating for home and community economic use, joined with the necessary social transformations, is far more promising than generating extreme amounts of electricity amid a continued consumer atomism. So that’s how I see it.

      I can’t tell if you’re making a joke about the few words about poisons. This whole site’s dedicated to writing about them, a few dozen posts just in the last month. Look and you’ll find a few words on glyphosate, 2,4-D, dioxins and many others.

      Comment by Russ — January 28, 2016 @ 12:50 am

  10. PS: sure would be nice to be able to edit things after posting the. I always see mistakes immediately after hitting “post”.

    Comment by alan2102 — January 27, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

    • Yeah, WordPress doesn’t have preview. Best you can do is write the comment as a draft somewhere, save and proofread it, and then paste it.

      Comment by Russ — January 28, 2016 @ 12:52 am

  11. PSS: “…after posting the.” [sic]!

    Comment by alan2102 — January 27, 2016 @ 1:38 pm


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