The Long Ecological Revolution

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Re: The Long Ecological Revolution

Post by blindpig » Fri May 24, 2019 1:19 pm

by JOHN STEPPLING FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
“Greta is able to see what other people cannot see, { } She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.”

– Malena Ernman (mother of Greta Thunberg), ‘Scenes from the heart. Our life for the climate’

“If you want to be more ecologically minded, good for you. But don’t be under the bizarre American illusion that your individual action is a substitute for collective action, for systemic change.”

– Umair Haque (Medium May 2019)

“Capitalism is in danger of falling apart.”

– Al Gore

“A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power. How long have we known this?”

– Phillip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

There is a clear problem with most environmental discussions or debates. The problem is, in short form, a lack of class analysis.

This is most evident in the manufacturing of the overpopulation argument. But it is prevalent in nearly all discussions about global warming or rising sea levels or most anything relating to planetary ecology, really.

What is bothersome here is that the voices I am hearing warning of mankind’s immanent demise are mostly ruling class voices.

Leakey says..“I am increasingly convinced that in the tropics, and particularly in the poorer nations, protecting nature everywhere is an effort with diminishing returns. I believe that protected areas (that is areas of land set aside by governments and governed by national statutes) such as national parks and national forests are the best targets if nature is to be protected. “

So give up on the poor, can’t save them. And Leakey goes on …“Whilst state-owned wildlife land, designated as national parks, is vital, in some countries private land may also be secured by state laws that allow for private ownership of title. Thus an individual can use such land for wildlife and nature protection for the duration of the term of the title and this can be equally as secure as a national park.”

Ok, so create spaces for the rich to be safe from the restive natives.

And finally Leakey writes….“Not all countries have constitutional provision for private ownership of land, and instead occupancy and land use are regulated by lease hold. In respect to conservation, this is certainly a better option than group-owned or community-owned land where in time wildlife could be untenable given governance arrangements on community-owned assets.”

As a general trend what I am hearing is the validation of what amounts to royalist wisdom and the dangers of community control of anything. The message is ‘we can’t risk it, the danger is so extreme that the practical solution is to allow the elite class to control the planet in order to save it.’ The elites and/or corporate control. All the so called New Green Dealsolutions are there, it seems, to save capitalism before saving the planet.

Now, one of the curious contradictions in the climate discourse is the selective trust in certain institutions. The western based (and funded) NGOs have a pretty long track record now of craven support for U.S. government foreign policy decisions. Take Amnesty International’s (AI) recent comments on Venezuela.

Chuck Kauffman from Alliance for Global Justice observed vis a vis AI’s near fascistic litany of lies….“They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” The open naked Imperialist aggression against Venezuela, and the attendant propaganda slandering Maduro, is now a staple of all the candidates for the Democratic Party. And, Amnesty is also co founder of Global Campaign for Climate Action…a group that also receives monies from the Pew trust, the creepy AVAAZ, the World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists. Now, just a quick word on the UCS. On the board sits William K. Reilly, former appointee by George Bush to head the environmental protection agency. There are also members that sit on the Council for Foreign Relations, a nuclear scientist who writes on security issues, a lawyer for the US Dept. of Energy.

And yet, many people rightly concerned about global pollution and over industrialization seem to have no problem accepting the word of these same western backed NGOs when it comes to issues of ecology. They know Amnesty lies, but if the topic is climate change, they leap onboard. Clive Splash (He currently holds the Chair of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University of Economics and Business, appointed in 2010. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Environmental Values) writes… “The existing institutions of modern economies are those supporting economic growth. The growth priority has been made clear by the over 3500 economists supporting a climate tax and opposing structural change. Similarly, Lord Stern is the academic figure head of the New Climate Economy, a concept created by members of the Davos elite, with its ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ reports. Their explicitly stated concern is that: “In the long term, if climate change is not tackled, growth itself will be at risk.” Change is coming and the corporations and billionaires are fully aware of this. They have been actively lobbying on climate and environment since Johannesburg (Earth Summit 2002) and were a dominant force at Paris. They have also long been seeking to control the environmental movement for their own ends.”

Again, we hear that echo of the ruling class (Lord ….LORD Stern?!) and the anti communist agenda at work here. Leave it to the elite class, the captains of Capital, to decide policy. And the first order of business is to save capitalism and that means to save growth. The poor are there to be slaves, not to decide policy. What one sees in Extinction Rebellion and in the Greta Thunberg brand is described pithily by Clive Splash…” When hegemonic power is threatened it captures the movement leaders and neutralises them by bringing them into the power circles and takes the initiative away from radical revolutionary change.”

One of the refrains I have heard (and have had directed at me) is well, we can’t wait for socialism. This is a natural response from a very frightened populace. And it is exactly this response that the ruling class counts on. The infiltration of radical movements has a long sordid history. Ask the Black Panthers. Today the very real threats and dangers of global warming and over industrialization are being funneled into places that shift the blame from the ruling two or three percent and onto its victims. This is of course exactly what the overpopulation alarm does. I see headlines such as *Humans Plunder the Planet* but not *Ruling Class Plundering Humanity AND the Planet*. I see books such as Climategeddon — amusingly penned by a former author of diet self help books and…wait for it….a high ranking Scientologist. But I have had people quote Wollersheim to me. Next stop the Sea Org.

More trenchant was this week’s bit of Imperialist green concern from war friendly candidate Elizabeth Warren, who expressed worry that global warming might effect the readiness of America’s military. (death of irony moment?) On twitter Club de Cordeliers noted…“Under Warren’s proposal, each murdered child will be stamped with the slogan: This Killing Achieved with Net Zero Carbon Emissions.”

That the U.S. military is the greatest consumer of petroleum products worldwide seems beside the point. Or, lets return briefly to Greta Thunberg — who can probably just be referred to as *Greta* these days without risk of confusion. She held up a cute homemade sign for a selfie …tweeting it to jillions of followers. The sign read ‘Let Russia Strike for Climate’. Apparently the *Greta* is getting good advice from Hillary Clinton or Bolton or Elliot Abrams, someone — who knows. She is certainly to be considered *NATO friendly* at this point. The visibility that Elizabeth Warren commands, and that which Greta commands now, too, is an indication that one should be highly credulous. The giant electronic telecom giants and the mainstream electronic media, social media, TV, all of it is in the hands of a relatively few people. These narratives, all of them, are vetted for ideological compliance with corporatism, Imperialism, and a de-facto racism or better put, white supremacy. Visibility is earned, and it’s not arbitrary. And if a *Greta* suddenly appears, rest assured she has handlers. I mean its simply a given, and there are no exceptions.

So there are several problems looming that tangentially connect to overpopulation alarms. One of them is a recolonizing of Africa (and the recolonizing of former communist countries continues apace, as well). But here Africa in particular is viewed as a huge resource for raw materials sought after in the West. The re-colonizing takes several forms but here is a typical example.

As Cory Morningstar observed vis a vis this …“Can you imagine @WWF promoting the sterilization of women living around national parks in Europe or the US? The fact they consider it acceptable in India and Africa is racism, pure and simple.”

The white west (and Bill and Melinda Gates leading the charge) are rather unapologetically determined to stop the global south from reproducing. Sterilization and vasectomy suggestions (voluntary of course) are to be found in countless U.N. sponsored (and USAID sponsored) pamphlets and directives for missions in Africa.

The new alarmist propaganda tends toward sensationalizing what are a few basic truths, sometimes half truths, and building a sort of screenplay to a disaster movie out of these. The influence of Hollywood apocalyptic film and TV cannot be over-emphasized, actually. For those films are both unconscious projections of the ruling class, and the audience embrace of this stuff speaks to unconscious fears as well. The elite producers of this crap fear the marauding masses (zombies) and the bourgeois audience fear black sites and Bloody Gina’s reprisals if they stray too far off message (like voting for a third party). A good deal of the new environmental panic is not based on the actual (and I hasten to emphasize real) problems and crises, but are more the conditioned response from audiences trained for thirty years, at least, to kitsch media entertainments. People see life unfold like an action movie. Sea levels can’t just rise and destroy infrastructure and crops, wash away beach front property, no, they have to completely submerge Baltimore, Oslo, and London. The sum effect of this is actually to have the real and severe problems in retreat.

Watch Madonna’s Eurovision performance (in Israel where she was never not going to perform), with lyrics like “not everyone is coming to the future, not everyone is gonna last.”

There is now coming out of Hollywood a near endless stream of dystopian ‘end of times’ films, which (as I have noted before) are reconstruction fables as well. But now the end of times includes the rehabilitation of Big Brother. The state emerges as a sort of necessary mechanism for culling the herd. Madonna was also sporting blond plaited hair and an eye patch. So maybe it’s just me but this new volkish imagery is growing and being used in ways that familiarize the public with fascist motifs.

“Thus, when we are talking about “völkisch” or “Überfremdung,” we are automatically producing images that are inevitably linked to a fascist past. “Überfremdung” describes the fear of being flooded with foreigners, a foreign infiltration. The Duden dictionary explained the term in 1934 as “the intrusion of alien races.” ( ) What is concerning about these “poor words” in the first place is the imagery inherent to them, one that conveys fascism without speaking it. Such words are racist in establishing a hierarchy of ethnicity and, in that way, they have the potential to createm or exacerbate, false divisions between and within societies. The word “völkisch” creates a sense of belonging, an imaginal feature to help distinguish between the in-group and the out-group. The word “Überfremdung” works similarly by implying that there is an abundance of strangers invading the ‘German race.’ What seems to have changed, however, is the definition of the out-group or the enemy. Promoted by PEGIDA and the AfD, the new threat are Muslim immigrants and the idea of the “Islamization” of the Western culture. Thus, this becomes a powerful example for the political myth of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.”

– Alexa Lenz (Public Seminar)

“The ideological road to National Socialism was paved not by Nietzschean self-awareness and self-overcoming, but by völkisch self-congratulation.”

– Roderick Stackelberg (Idealism Debased)

The first volley in the reclamation of volkish language was Bush’s use of the word “Homeland” when he created a new security service. Quite a few people noticed the connection to the German word Heimat. The far right parties in Europe now appropriate a good deal of Nazi symbology, while the even more virulent racism of a Macron (or Sarkozy) is ignored. PEGIDA and the AfD, in Germany, are really pretty much openly using Nazi rhetoric and symbol ( both of which are technically against the law).

“Cassirer (1973) analyzed three potential techniques that enabled the myth of Nazism: the magical use of words, the use of rituals and, finally, the recourse to prophecy. Nazi politicians managed to charge words with feelings and violent passions, therefore transforming their semantic meaning to convey magical imagery.”
Alexa Lenz (Ibid)

I will only add, here, as a sort of thought experiment, that one compare the TIME magazine cover of Greta, with the photos in, what Remco Ensel, in an excellent monograph on the Dutch “Heimat” portrait photography called *Dutch Face-ism”, an expression of Völkisch Nationalism circa WW2. (or the VICE lead photo, or even Greta’s facebook portrait).

Now I know there are many people who will perceive this as an attack on Greta. It’s not. I am certain this young woman has almost zero awareness of any of the implications of her exploitation. And remember, too, that one of the most common rhetorical tactics of fascist apologetics (pretending to be liberal) is to re-state your argument incorrectly and then to respond to their manufactured distortion. It’s a version of straw man arguing. Couple this with the convenient appellation *denier*. If you say, wait, there were no rape camps in Serbia. You are immediately labeled a denier. It matters not at all that you would be correct in saying this. The corporate ruling class take over of many green movements has a sum effect of reducing rights. For that is the logic of fascism. Remove rights but create space for the self expression of resentments. Property rights will remain untouched.

The opportunistic proprietor class capitalist sees enormous profit in Green endeavours now. Just as Mike Pompeo sees melting arctic ice as an “opportunity”. Never underestimate the capacity for brutish insensitivity in the lower functioning humanoids that serve as representatives of the ruling elite. It is bottomless, in fact. Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams, Kushner, Biden…this is the Troglodyte political class.

Brian Davey wrote about Thunberg, vis a vis her appearance in Katowice at a climate gathering:

“What’s more it is richest 5% of the planet that consume 50% of planetary carbon – so the very people who are promoting this campaign must cut back the most. Instead they want to expand the economy. But how is this to be made compatible with reducing carbon emissions?

It isn’t – but a careful looks at the language of nature financialisation refers to carbon neutrality, not zero carbon. This is “convenient language when one of the main pillars of the business model is the sale of carbon offsets – rationalizing a continuance of the same carbon based lifestyle by constructing a faux fantasy one, that anyone with monetary wealth, can buy into.”

– Brian Davey (Credo; Economic Beliefs in a World in Crises)

This is a bit like buying indulgences in the Medieval Catholic Church. So perhaps what is needed is a Martin Luther of environmentalism.

The ruling class and its marketing apparatus recognized early on that Green language would serve as cover while they re-tooled their industries. Green took on those magical connotations. Cut to Greta’s mother explaining that her daughter was *different*, i.e. magical. She could *see* carbon dioxide. Trust me there will be green Angels, soon, helping further carbon neutrality.

But there is another issue cutting across much of this, and that is a strange new war on children (and on motherhood in the global south, and black mothers in the U.S.). Although *new* is the wrong word. Whether by design of just as a natural tendency in the residual Puritans of America, the media message has been of late to normalize cruelty to children. From tearing babies from the arms of immigrant mothers and dropping them into cages, or the arrest of suspension of due process in Israeli arrests of children and youth, to the spike in jail time for minors across the U.S. In the 1990s, incarceration of minors rose 311 %.

“Across the United States, thousands of children have been sentenced as adults and sent to adult prisons. Children as young as eight have been prosecuted as adults { } Some 10,000 children are housed in adult jails and prisons on any given day in America. Children are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than in juvenile facilities and face increased risk of suicide.”

– Equal Justice Initative (Children in Prison 2018)

The rates for youth have declined slightly over the last few years but mostly due to teenagers aging out of the statistics. That ANY child was ever tried as an adult is all by itself a horror. In the U.S. infants born to black mothers die at twice the rate of those born to white mothers. Poverty is the obvious first reason, but structural racism…the stress of increased contact with the criminal justice system also undermines the health of the newborn.

“67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.”

– Nicole Hanson (Rattling the Bars, Real News Network)

“Neglect is often considered to be a failure, on the part of a caretaker, to provide adequate supervision, emotional nurturance, appropriate medical care, food, clothing, and shelter for a child. This definition also aligns with a definition of poverty, where poverty is considered to be inadequate food, shelter, and clothing.”

– Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014.

Child neglect is then, almost by definition, synonymous with poverty. Those damn poor people just can’t take care of their kids. And yet they breed so much, ya know? Maybe it wouldn’t be such a darn bad thing if we clipped the men…know what Im saying, Earl?

In fact one of the side bar implications in Melinda Gates programs is to strongly associate pregnancy with disease (not for rich white people, of course). And the overpopulation argument feeds in this directly.

There is not enough space to even scratch the surface here to list the inequalities operative in racial hierarchies in the U.S. What is important here to start to recognize the codes at work. Walter Benjamin famously said that “The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.” But more importantly, at the end of that same essay (Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) he added…

“Its (mankind) self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.”

Capitalism has abandoned humanity. A shamefully neglected infrastructure has exacerbated the effects of global warming. The loss of jobs, mostly to robots, engenders confusion and anxiety, but also deep resentment. And we are well past the time when anyone thinks robots provide superior service. The need to keep escalating conflict, both at home with a militarized and racist police apparatus, and abroad via a gargantuan military whose size defies all rational comprehension. The suffering inflicted on the world by the U.S. and its proxies (Saudi Arabia, Israel primarily) is so enormous that it is hard to grasp it in its totality. And this confusion breeds reaction. The confusion seems not, however, to breed questioning.

“When capitalism reaches its point of diminishing return, it deliberately creates a crisis or an appearance of a crisis in order to stage a ritual of a rebirth. The crisis is designed to corner everyone to rely on the capitalist framework for survival. This functions to divide people into two groups: a group which sees through the mechanism and a group that insists on solving the “crisis” no matter how (meaning solving it according to the acceptable ways). The establishment destroys the anti-capitalist momentum while co-opting dissident voices, giving them credentials, awards, positions in the hierarchy. The process eliminates enemies while augmenting the capitalist hierarchy.”
Hiroyuki Hamada (in conversation with me)

The real problems of ocean acidification, plastic pollution of those same seas, and the endless over production of certain crops that destroy land and poison pollinating insects, these problems are simply the result of needless and pointless industrial growth, a growth that has no rational need driving it. Hunger exists in a world of surplus food. The engine is maximizing profit. And why do so many people seem to just reflexively trust *science*? Trust without even a cursory check on who funds the study, or the institution. And the manufacture of fear is a staple of the ruling class. Fear of germs (from Asia or Africa of course), or asteroids, or the ignoring of obvious failures which goes back to thalidomide. That and the very imperfect world of statistical analysis (see Harvard and Yale sociologists circa 1986 and the spinster’s beware warning) etc. The point is only that while it is clear global warming and pollution present enormous challenges, ones that may change the way nearly everyone on the planet lives, there is also clarity that a crises in Capitalism is forcing an increasing propaganda machine to validate the class hierarchies, and which is rehabilitating the most obscene thinking of the colonial and Victorian era. People are being indoctrinated to experience domination of salutary. Junk science abounds everywhere (facial recognition anyone? blood splatter?) but when it comes to climate and Green issues the bourgeois populace simply does not want to hear it. Which leads me to the idea of a cultic group think going on. And maybe this is tied into the acute narcissism of the boomers. Because just anecdotally my experience is that they WANT disaster. It provides self importance. They demand action and responsibility, but the most dire warnings are received with a barely suppressed pleasure.

The liberal white American today cannot tolerate the world going on around them with people they have been trained to see as inferior. Fear of the dark skinned global south (I mean Melinda Gates actually has a brochure in one of her projects to teach African women how to hold their baby, because I guess, you know, thats something they clearly don’t know about), they fear the numbers, they fear fecundity (something that has dropped precipitously in the advanced West), they fear being in close proximity to the poor, the ‘other’ (migration), and they fear exposing their children to this ‘threat’, most of all. Consider that there is a huge movement on the right to ban abortion. And yet, largely, these same people are thrilled with Bill & Melinda Gates work to stop African reproduction. So its clearly not too many people, its just too many black people.

The new Volkish body politic is conflating global warming and the poor.

“…the “longing for myth” reflected the pervasive experience of “dislocation and disorientation” precipitated by industrialization, revolution, and the dissolution of community values in the abstract conception of secular society, compounded by the fragmentation of German society “along confessional, social, and territorial lines”; the splintering of traditional social and cultural bonds gave rise to the desire for an “aesthetic-religious imagery” that would “unite modern society just as Greek mythology had supposedly once united the polis.”

– Nicholas Huzsvai (honors thesis, unpublished)

Over two million people languish in nightmarish prisons in the U.S. Most for non violent crimes. And today the target is increasingly children and women of colour. But people respond with arguments of distraction, just as they are narcotized by screen distractions. The children not targeted for jail are given anti depressants.

And Gabor Mate has written (following Robert Bly) that fathers and mothers both today work twice as long and with less security and for less money than they did three generations ago.

“Quite the opposite is true now. Far from being helped, working women are actively penalized if they wish to extend the time they are at home caring for their children. For men, it is not even considered reasonable to think of “interrupting” their careers in order to share in that process. Society does little to establish expert and compassionate day care for those children during whose early years the parent(s), for one reason or another, cannot avoid the necessity of working outside the home. Poor women, especially in the U.S., are economically terrorized by the welfare system into entrusting their infants to appallingly inadequate care situations, and then must spend hours daily traveling to low-paying jobs that barely allow their families a subsistence income.”

– Gabor Maté. (Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder)

Leading to what Bly called “the rage of the unparented”. This is America, then, today. Children are targeted by law enforcement — think of the use of gang injunctions, prop 21 in California — which, again, allowed for minors to be sentenced as adults. California has in fact been the leading laboratory for terrorizing youth.

“The collateral consequences of an adult conviction are severe. An adult criminal conviction stays on a youth’s permanent record, which can prevent him or her from voting, securing housing, getting financial aid or public benefits, and finding a job. Further, the juvenile justice system is intended to be rehabilitative, whereas the adult criminal system is not. Youth tried in adult court lose the opportunity to access many of treatment and rehabilitative options available in the juvenile system.”

– National Center for Youth Law

Poor women, and particularly black and latino women, have been zeroed in on by the justice system and now are the fastest growing segment of the carceral state. Their children are warehoused, usually chemically warehoused if they prove in the least disruptive. But this only mirrors in much harsher way the white children of the affluent. For even the petit bourgeois youth is afflicted by a culture of screen addicted distractions and coercive infantile propaganda and entertainments. And they are likely the children of parents who were also distracted and anxious. And the parents of those parents. Three or four generations now who have not been provided with any sense of community.

A quick glance at the statistics: Children 0 to 5 years, over 600,000 are on one of the following: ADHD medication, anti depressants, anti psychotics, and anti anxiety drugs. But if you look at kids 6 to 17, there are SEVEN MILLION being medicated. I was told by a friend that in the run up to the millenium, in a gallup poll, that a majority of people welcomed an apocalypse of some kind — and the reason given was a belief that nothing was going to get better. They were expecting only worse to come. And of course they were largely correct.

Hollywood has been normalizing a mix of the sadistic and the sexual for going on fifty years, only now the spectre of Big Brother looms over everything, and this is presented as a virtue. There is in this new mythos forming around end-times thinking, an erotic representation of duty to power, and it elicits a kind of frisson. Fascism is now being updated, and it serves up a menu of catastrophe and individualism. Daily life is a combination of drudgery, tedium, meaningless work, and insecurity. And parents are weary of their neurotic complaining children. In sum I think people in the West no longer dream Utopian ... ch-mythos/
Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations

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Re: The Long Ecological Revolution

Post by blindpig » Wed Jun 05, 2019 4:04 pm

No Empires, No Dust Bowls
Ecological Disasters and the Lessons of History
by Hannah Holleman
(Jul 01, 2018)

Buried machinery in a barn lot; Dallas, South Dakota, May 1936

Hannah Holleman is an assistant professor of sociology at Amherst College and the author of Dust Bowls of Empire, forthcoming from Yale University Press.

Today we are living in a new Dust Bowl era, defined by egregious levels of inhumanity and profound shifts taking place in the earth’s land, climate, and water systems. Like the 1930s Dust Bowl, contemporary ecological crises are associated with high levels of racialized social inequality, imperial expropriation, social dislocation, and fascistic politics. Accordingly, scholars and scientists are now studying the 1930s disaster as an analogue to our current period, as they seek to understand the dangers posed by climate change, land degradation, and freshwater scarcity. They are studying agricultural technology and practice, government policies, and migration patterns—and they are warning us to be prepared.

However, by treating the 1930s Dust Bowl as merely the outcome of poor policy, a regional phenomenon isolated from broader social issues, a case study in New Deal administration, or a purely climatological disaster, most of these analyses miss the crucial lessons from this period, which connect it to the present not as an analogue, but an antecedent. An honest and historically informed look at the present situation reveals the imperial system of capitalism as the primary driver of “dust-bowlification,” then and now. The racialized division of nature and humanity at the heart of this system cannot be transcended without transcending the system itself. No sustainable agricultural or social policy stands a chance against the overwhelming destructiveness of the existing social order.

However, a major barrier to an environmental politics that takes history seriously is the persistent segregation of the environmental movement and the prevailing belief among mainstream environmentalists, especially in wealthy countries, that a reformed capitalism can solve the problems outlined above. Likely because they themselves are unlikely to bear the costs of these crises, too many environmentalists and policy-makers have failed to face the violence and injustice behind the ecological devastation now dispassionately reported by organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, and many environmental NGOs.

Some continue to hope that the same political and economic elites who led us into the new Dust Bowl era will somehow lead us out, placing historically unfounded hope in international climate agreements and voluntary efforts by industry and individuals. They are effectively joining forces with the defenders of capital’s bottom line rather than those on the frontlines of capitalism’s catastrophes, who are fighting for a different world altogether. In the meantime, land and water grabs, the documented increase in violence against earth and water protectors, renewed attacks on indigenous sovereignty and environmental protection, the persistence of slavery and human trafficking, and an unprecedented number of refugees illustrate that at the systemic level, capitalism shows no signs of putting people and the planet ahead of profit.1

It is my hope that activists will take to heart the lessons of the 1930s Dust Bowl, briefly sketched below, and stop repeating the devastating mistakes of self-identified progressives and environmentalists of previous eras who promoted or made peace, however uneasy, with the racialized, imperial class system organized around production for profit. Not only because ecological justice demands it, but because the alternative—expecting capitalists or a reformed capitalism to save us—just will not work. We have more than a hundred years of historical experience since the idea of “greening” capitalism was proposed—from the first global dust bowl to today—as proof.

Preconditions of the First Global Dust Bowl
In the 1830s, the U.S. government under President Andrew Jackson hastened the violent removal of indigenous peoples from their lands, especially in the southeast of the country, to Indian Territory. To make way for the expansion of a plantation economy based on slave labor and white supremacy, the government promised indigenous nations land and life in the area “as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty.” Jackson, Donald Trump’s favorite president, wrote, “there your white brothers will not trouble you; they will have no claim to land.”2

However, as history teaches us, no such Trail of Tears can ever lead to “peace and plenty.” Rather, Northern industrialists and Southern planters joined forces to demand further white territorial expansion, including, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the lands promised and held in Indian Territory by tribes removed from the southeast by Jackson’s army. The accelerated expropriation of native lands for white settlement was the precondition for the expansion of cash crop agriculture and resource extraction across the continent. This expansion led to ecological devastation and human misery on a vast scale and set the stage for the socioecological disaster on the southern plains that a few decades later would be known as the Dust Bowl.

Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes that “at the end of the Civil War the US Army hardly missed a beat before the war ‘to win the West’ began in full force. As a far more advanced killing machine and with seasoned troops, the army began the slaughter of people, buffalo, and the land itself, destroying natural tall grasses of the Plains and planting short grasses for cattle, eventually leading to the loss of topsoil four decades later.”3 Northeastern elites like Massachusetts senator Henry Dawes promoted the privatization and allotment of remaining tribal lands held in common in the 1880s to make way for white settlement and promote the interests of private capital, especially railroads, manufacturers seeking cheap raw materials (like cotton), extractive industries, bankers, and land speculators.

Westward expansion in this period was part of the renewed seizure of indigenous land underway around the world. The new imperialism that took off in the wake of the U.S. Civil War and abolition of slavery encompassed wars of conquest waged by colonial powers for the expansion of white territorial control, as well as the removal of indigenous peoples from their lands to make way for white settlement. Anglo-European and U.S. imperial regimes learned from one another, shared expertise, and developed a trans-imperial approach to the administrative challenges associated, from their perspective, with taking up “the white man’s burden” on a global scale. As a result, their policies of land theft—including the privatization and expropriation of indigenous lands held in common—looked similar, whether employed in French Algeria under Napoleon III and then the Third Republic, or the Cape Colony under Cecil Rhodes, or Indian Territory in what would become the state of Oklahoma.4

Harry Magdoff explains that by the start of the First World War, “as a consequence of this new expansion and conquest on top of that of preceding centuries, the colonial powers, their colonies, and their former colonies extended over approximately 85 percent of the earth’s surface.”5 This is the period in which the United States seized Hawai’i, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and waged a war of atrocity against the Philippine Republic.6 The gospel of colonial expansion, which W. E. B. Du Bois identified as the “new religion of whiteness,” taught its followers that “whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!”7 The new imperialism was thus underwritten by “the doctrine of the divine right of white people to steal.”8

One result of this phase of capitalist globalization was the racialized division of nature and humanity on a world scale, resulting in what historian David Anderson has called the “first global environmental problem,” described in the 1930s as another “white man’s burden.”9 This was a massive soil erosion crisis associated with colonial land use changes, especially the expansion of cash crop agriculture and deforestation, and the integration of the first global agriculture and food regime.

Dust Bowls of Empire
As scholars of racial capitalism, colonialism, and white settler colonialism have shown, capitalist development depends on a racialized division of humanity. This process is mirrored in the racialized division of nature. Brett Clark and John Bellamy Foster explain that the division of nature under capitalism is central to the system’s ecological rifts:

Capital accumulation requires the continual expansion of the division of nature as well as the division of labor. The division of nature is no longer, however, a social division of nature, in which the earth’s different landscapes and species are utilized by human beings within a context that maintains the reproduction of nature itself. Instead, it is a detailed/alienated division of nature that breaks the circle of natural processes, creating ecological rifts. Nature is remade in such a way as to promote a single end: the accumulation of capital, irrespective of the lessons of rational science and conditions of sustainability.10

The racialization of the division of nature was part and parcel of the new imperialism. Lands and people were identified as the natural property of white men, and modes of land tenure that differed from capitalist property relations (likewise identified with whiteness), as well as the people practicing them, were treated as backward and exploitable or expropriatable.

At the heart of every major ecological crisis of capitalism has been the idea that (white) property owners, businessmen, and policy-makers can do with the land as they please in the name of profit, and assume access to land and resources further afield once they have destroyed the areas where they started. In the United States this attitude was summed up by Teddy Roosevelt, who remarked that in the view of the American settler, “when he exhausted the soil of his farm, he felt that his son could go West and take up another…. When the soil-wash from the farmer’s field choked the neighboring river, the only thought was to use the railway rather than the boats to move produce and supplies.”11

By the 1930s, colonial soil scientists described the massive soil erosion problem then plaguing colonies and frontier regions around the world, including the U.S. Southern plains, as the result of the imperial “rape of the earth” of preceding decades.12 This ecological crisis, predicated on the attempted domination and decimation of entire cultures, involved a then-unprecedented level of destruction and erosion of the living soil complex upon which practically all terrestrial life depends. Lush and lovely prairies, woodlands, pampas, and forests were shorn of their protective layer and the landscape scraped bare to make way for the desolate monoculture of capitalist agriculture.

By the end of the 1930s, tens of thousands of people had been displaced on the U.S. Southern plains and elsewhere, after decades of so many lives being mutilated or sacrificed on the altars of profit and white supremacy.13 One U.S. official called the Dust Bowl “the most spectacular mass sacrifice to strictly commercial mores in the history of mankind.”14 This disaster developed in spite of decades of warnings about the growing problem of soil erosion and broader land degradation across the colonial world, as well as its impact on communities losing their livelihoods. There was already a large body of knowledge about how to prevent erosion, as well as shared expertise across colonial contexts about how to remediate it, adequate technology, and many conservation-oriented elites working to address the growing ecological crises of the new imperialism. However, as with the ineffectual climate conferences held in recent decades by the United Nations, world leaders in the 1930s could not ultimately prevent or resolve the crisis of soil erosion because of their commitment to maintaining the global social and economic status quo—the racialized class system in which we still live. Like dust-bowlification today, the ultimate source of the crisis was social, not technological, and thus required social change to address. Prominent British colonial soil scientists Graham Vernon Jacks and Robert Orr Whyte, authors of The Rape of the Earth, recognized even then that this refusal to disturb the status quo would make it impossible to truly address the global crisis of soil erosion:

Where land-utilization practices are firmly established and have become the basis of the country’s economy, the adoption of a new land-utilization programme conforming to the limits imposed by the natural environment, may well involve a social and political revolution.

Therein lies the supreme difficulty of applying effective erosion control. We now know fairly precisely what agricultural, pastoral, forest and engineering principles must be adopted to stop the earth from rotting away beneath our feet, but we cannot, or dare not, apply them forthwith on a scale commensurate with the gravity of the situation.15

While in the United States New Deal agricultural programs addressed some of the technical problems of agriculture, and met some of the needs of down-and-out white settlers—the Tom Joads depicted in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath—the broader social conditions that allow for such destruction have remained in place. This is why, as I argue and illustrate in great detail in my forthcoming book, we now face even worse ecological crises than in the 1930s—a new global Dust Bowl.16

The New Global Dust Bowl
At the heart of the new Dust Bowl are land degradation, climate change, and freshwater scarcity. It is the result of increasingly extreme expropriation—in both scale and technique—of the land, of the planet’s hydrocarbon deposits, and of freshwater systems. Industrial agriculture has contributed significantly to each of these problems, as “heavy [fossil-fueled] tilling, multiple harvests and abundant use of agrochemicals have increased yields at the expense of long-term sustainability.”17 These practices have masked the effects of land degradation, especially in its most destructive form, the loss of soil to erosion. Because of the ongoing mining of the soil for profit, the earth has lost a third of its arable land to erosion and pollution since the 1970s. Plant and soil biologist Duncan Cameron has warned that “you think of the dust bowl of the 1930s in North America and then you realize we are moving towards that situation if we don’t do something.”18

While soil erosion receives little attention in the media—perhaps because, as one scientist said, “soil isn’t sexy”—the problems caused by climate change are more widely covered.19 The earth’s warming climate is driving a shift in the global hydrological or water cycle that is essentially making wet places wetter and dry places drier—with awful ecological and social consequences. NASA’s Earth Observatory cites the alteration of the hydrological cycle as one of “the most serious Earth science and environmental policy issues confronting society.”20 According to World Bank economist Richard Damania, “when we look at any of the major impacts of climate change, they one way or another come through water…. So it will be no exaggeration to claim that climate change is really in fact about hydrological change.”21

At the same time, freshwater resources are being degraded by pollution and over-tapped by unsustainable agricultural practices, which, in conjunction with climate change and inadequate infrastructure serving poorer areas, is reducing the availability of freshwater to life-threatening levels. A 2016 study published in Science Advances indicated that already, “about 66% [of the global population] (4.0 billion people) lives under severe water scarcity…at least 1 month of the year…. The number of people facing severe water scarcity for at least 4 to 6 months per year is 1.8 to 2.9 billion…. Half a billion people face severe water scarcity all year round.”22

Scientists working at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University and NOAA predict that in arid regions such as the U.S. Southwest, “the levels of aridity seen in the 1950s multiyear drought, or the 1930s Dust Bowl, [will] become the new climatology by mid-century: a perpetual drought.” The possibility of “perpetual drought” raises again the terrible specter of the Dust Bowl, but this time with no obvious way back, given the “locked-in” nature of climate change.23

Such warnings by scientists indicate the severity of both current and expected crises, given that the Dust Bowl is considered by many as one of the more extreme humanmade ecological and social disasters in history. However, we now confront the reality, given the trends explained above, that dust-bowlification is an increasingly likely and ordinary threat in the face of climate change.24 That what is happening today is a direct continuation of the colonial past is illustrated in part by the great social distance between those making decisions and those most affected—and by the fact that one group of people may forcibly impose such destruction on others. As a recent report by Tamra Gilbertson for the Indigenous Environmental Network and Climate Justice Alliance stated:

Communities especially impacted include the frontline communities of peoples living directly alongside fossil-fuel pollution and extraction overwhelmingly: Indigenous Peoples (IPs), Black, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander communities, working class, poor and peasant communities in the United States, Canada and around the world. These peoples are forced to sacrifice their lives, livelihoods and health for the sake of projects to extract and burn fossil fuels and dump the resulting toxic waste and…have been facing the reality of the climate crisis for decades. In climate disruption and extreme weather events, these communities and indigenous tribal nations are hit first and [worst].25

However, there is no serious New Deal on the horizon for the poor and non-white world most impacted by socioecological crises in the new Dust Bowl era.26 Rather, international environmental politics, as represented by the most recent climate negotiations, have hung much of the world out to dry—or drown. Moreover, the very people suffering most under current conditions and forced to seek safety away from home are also scapegoated viciously by political and economic elites oozing racist anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment across Europe, Britain, North America, and beyond.

No Empires, No Dust Bowls
A key lesson from all of this is that when we talk about ecological crises like climate change, biodiversity loss, water pollution and scarcity, and soil degradation, we are necessarily talking about systemic social problems with long and brutal histories under capitalist development. When scientists describe the increase of Dust Bowl-like conditions under climate change, they signal a particular kind of violent ecological and social change. The projected crises have violent consequences. But equally violent are the social forces, historical developments, policies, and practices that produce such massive socioecological crises in the first place.

Mainstream environmentalism, which first developed in the colonial context, has often instead ignored the historical origins of current crises. Failure to address this history allows too many environmentalists and policy-makers “to safely put aside present responsibility for continued harm done by that past and questions of reparations, restitution, and reordering society.”27

Rather than adjusting to injustice, a tendency toward accommodation in the face of oppression that Martin Luther King Jr. and others warned against, we must meet the imperial system of capital head on, in all its manifestations. Collective resistance against police brutality, immigrant-bashing, toxic forms of masculinity and heteronormativity, prisons, attacks on indigenous sovereignty, military aggression and bombing of defenseless communities, and the segregation of the global environmental movement are essential if environmentalism is to have any relevance in the struggle to build a better world and avoid the catastrophic deepening of the global ecological rift. At the heart of the matter is that allowing the accumulation of injustice to continue makes inevitable what Foster calls the “accumulation of catastrophe.”28 Environmental justice demands solidarity with those on the frontlines rather than those defending the bottom line of capital. We do not need a “greener” version of such barbarism. Peace with the system means no peace for the planet.

↩ Maria Cristina Rulli, Antonio Saviori, and Paolo D’Odorico, “Global Land and Water Grabbing,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 3 (2013): 892–97; Jampel Dell’Angelo, Maria Cristina Rulli, and Paolo D’Odorico, “The Global Water Grabbing Syndrome,” Ecological Economics 143 (2018): 276–85; Cyril Mychalejko, “Land Grabs Soar, Worsen Land Conflicts and Climate Change: Report,” Telesur, June 14, 2016; May Bulman, “Human Trafficking and Slavery Affecting ‘Every Large Town and City in UK,’” Independent, August 10, 2017; Gwyneth Rees, “Human Trafficking: Modern-Day Slaves ‘Within Plain Sight,’” BBC Wales News, February 25, 2018; Jonathan Watts and John Vidal, “Environmental Defenders Being Killed in Record Numbers Globally, New Research Reveals,” Guardian, July 13, 2017.
↩ Zach Schonfeld, “Understanding Donald Trump’s Weird Obsession With Andrew Jackson,” Newsweek, January 5, 2017.
↩ Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (Boston: Beacon, 2014), 144.
↩ R. J. Thompson and B. M. Nicholls, “The Glen Grey Act: Forgotten Dimensions in an Old Theme,” South African Journal of Economic History 8, no. 2 (1993): 58–70.
↩ Harry Magdoff, Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the Present (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978), 35.
↩ Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, 163.
↩ W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Souls of White Folk,” [1920], Monthly Review 55, no. 6 (2003): 44–58, 45–46.
↩ Du Bois, “The Souls of White Folk,” 55.
↩ David Anderson, “Depression, Dust Bowl, Demography, and Drought: The Colonial State and Soil Conservation in East Africa during the 1930’s,” African Affairs 83, no. 332 (July 1984): 321–43, 327; Graham Vernon Jacks and Robert Orr Whyte, The Rape of the Earth: A World Survey of Soil Erosion (London: Faber and Faber, 1939), 249.
↩ Brett Clark and John Bellamy Foster, “Marx’s Ecology in the 21st Century,” World Review of Political Economy 1, no. 1 (2010): 142–56, 152; John Bellamy Foster referred earlier to the “division of nature” as the “the disconnection of natural processes from each other and their extreme simplification…an inherent tendency of capitalist development” (The Vulnerable Planet [New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999], 121).
↩ Theodore Roosevelt, “Opening Address by the President,” Proceedings of a Conference of Governors (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1909), 9. Conference of Governors on the Conservation of Natural Resources held in Washington, D.C., May 13–15, 1908.
↩ Jacks and White, The Rape of the Earth, 1939.
↩ “Dust and Drought,” Smithsonian American Art Museum,
↩ Russell Lord, “Progress of Soil Conservation in the United States,” Geographical Journal 105, nos. 5–6 (1945): 159–66, 162.
↩ Jacks and Whyte, The Rape of the Earth, 38.
↩ Hannah Holleman, Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of “Green Capitalism” (Yale University Press, forthcoming).
↩ Jonathan Watts, “Third of Earth’s Soil Is Acutely Degraded due to Agriculture,” Guardian, September 12, 2017.
↩ Oliver Milman, “Earth Has Lost a Third of Arable Land in Past 40 Years, Scientists Say,” Guardian, December 2, 2015.
↩ John Crawford, “What If the World’s Soil Runs Out?” interview by World Economic Forum, Time, December 14, 2012.
↩ Steve Graham, Claire Parkinson, and Mous Chahine, “The Water Cycle and Climate Change,” NASA Earth Observatory, October 1, 2010,
↩ Chris Mooney, “World Bank: The Way Climate Change Is Really Going to Hurt Us Is through Water,” Washington Post, May 3, 2016.
↩ Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra, “Four Billion People Facing Severe Water Scarcity,” Science Advances 2, no. 2 (2016).
↩ Richard Seager, “An Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America,” Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Earth Institute, Columbia University,; Richard Seager et al., “Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America,” Science 316, no. 5828 (2007): 1181–84.
↩ Joseph Romm, “Desertification: The Next Dust Bowl,” Nature 478 (2011): 450–51, 450; Joe Romm, “My Nature Piece on Dust-Bowlification and the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security,” ThinkProgress, May 24, 2012,
↩ Tamra Gilbertson, Carbon Pricing: A Critical Perspective for Community Resistance, vol. 1 (Bemidji, MN: Indigenous Environmental Network/Climate Justice Alliance, 2017), 12.
↩ Chris Mooney, “World Bank: The Way Climate Change Is Really Going to Hurt Us Is through Water”; Somina Sengupta, “Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest,” New York Times, March 12, 2018; Pamela Worth, “Where Climate Change Hits First and Worst,” Catalyst 14 (2015): 8–11, 22.
↩ Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, 5.
↩ John Bellamy Foster, “Capitalism and the Accumulation of Catastrophe,” Monthly Review 63, no. 7 (December 2011): 1–17. ... ust-bowls/
Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations

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Re: The Long Ecological Revolution

Post by blindpig » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:01 pm

Green Groups Silent as Solar Company Plans Destruction of Mojave Wildlands
June 10, 2019
The Department of Interior in early June released its draft environmental review indicating that plans to replace 11 square miles of intact desert wildlands in southern Nevada with the Gemini Solar project would result in significant impacts on wildlife and outdoor recreation. The project proposed by Arevia Power would install photovoltaic solar panels on land that is currently home to rare plants, desert kit fox, tortoises and other wildlife. Photovoltaic solar panels are just as easily installed on rooftops, parking lot canopies, and on already-disturbed lands, calling in to question the need to sacrifice desert wildlands to generate electricity. (California has installed over 8,000 megawatts of distributed solar generation with relatively modest policy incentives.)

Arevia Power's plans to destroy these Mojave wildlands will displace or kill nearly at least 260 desert tortoises, and dozens of kit foxes and burrowing owls, according to the draft environmental impact statement. The area is also home to rare plants, including the beleaguered threecorner milkvetch. According to the Department of Interior report, "[m]itigating for threecorner milkvetch habitat loss is no longer possible. Habitat conservation is the method needed to ensure the long-term survival of this species. Threecorner milkvetch is currently state-listed as critically endangered." The project would also disrupt the Congressionally-designated Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

Despite Arevia Power's plans to destroy an area of wildlands half the size of Manhattan, environmental groups have largely been silent on the project. Clean energy is indeed the answer to cutting our dependency on fossil fuels, but many environmental organizations have yet to build the intellectual courage necessary to consistently inject nuance into national discourse on the deployment of renewable energy and define a sustainable path for our clean energy transition. Some major environmental organizations submitted scoping letters* to the Department of Interior earlier in the environmental review process, but none have come forward with public statements regarding the Gemini Solar project. Only in Nevada can you plan to mow down an area nearly twice the size of Yosemite Valley and fail to draw a public voice of dissent sufficient to fill a letter to the editor (although I concede that southern Nevada's largest newspaper is owned by a major donor to President Trump).

Screenshot from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement shows

(*Scoping Comments were submitted by Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Wilderness Society to the Department of Interior, although these groups have not issued public statements. The Wilderness Society urged politicians to bulldoze more of our public lands for clean energy in a blog post that ironically notes that "we have barely scratched the surface: less than 5% of the nation’s renewable power comes from public lands." The Wilderness Society urging the sacrifice of wildlands to combat climate change would be like the ACLU advocating warrantless searches and wiretaps in response to a terrorist attack. The Sierra Club did not submit comments. Smaller, grassroots organizations have submitted letters and have been more vocal, including Basin & Range Watch and the Desert Tortoise Council.)

Clean energy may reduce carbon emissions, but it can still be disastrous for biodiversity; scientists have regularly identified habitat conservation as the key to preventing extinction and improving the resilience of species already under pressure by the effects of climate change. Famed scientist E.O. Wilson wrote in a 2016 New York Times editorial that:
"The disappearance of natural habitat is the primary cause of biological diversity loss at every level — ecosystems, species and genes, all of them. Only by the preservation of much more natural habitat than previously envisioned can extinction be brought close to a sustainable level."
Compounding the problems surrounding Arevia Power's plans to destroy desert wildlands is that the Department of Interior decided not to update its Resource Management Plan in southern Nevada. The result is a relative free-for-all on public lands: the Federal stewards of our public lands have not decided through a recent public process what we as a society want to protect or exploit. This gives developers of all varieties an advantage because "multiple use" is the default on most public lands that are not protected. Multiple use, however, is a misnomer because once a developer builds an open-pit mine, solar power project, or natural gas well pad on public lands, it severely limits the number of species that can benefit from that land. The loss of that land to a developer also means that we humans cannot enjoy that land for a vast number of other uses, including camping, hiking, wildlife watching, etc.

By the end of this year, the Department of Interior could issue a final decision approving Arevia Power's plans to wipe out 11 square miles of wildlands, and that would only be the latest in the ever-exploding sprawl of southern Nevada. The public can submit comments on this project through the difficult-to-navigate Department of Interior website, but ultimately the silence of nature's advocates and local elected officials will determine whether this sacrifice is permitted or not. If it is built, we will be able to power our televisions and refrigerators with supposedly guilt-free clean energy, and some seemingly anonymous* investors will profit greatly. We will lose thousands of acres of Mojave plant life and critters that have survived for millennia on those lands. But we have only barely scratched the surface, right?

(Arevia Power's website lists 1044 10th Avenue, Redwood City, California as its contact address. That address resolves to a $1.2 million, two-bedroom home. As of 2019, it did not have any rooftop solar panels.)

Image ... mpany.html
Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations

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