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Saturday, November 16, 2019

OK, Boomer or Bust!

OK, Boomer or Bust!

By Ranting Panda

16 November 2019


"The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood" ... thus speaketh, British critic, Logan Pearsall Smith, in his 1931 work, Afterthoughts: Life and Human Nature.

While Logan Pearsall Smith was more of an essayist than hematologist, he was definitely on the money. In every generation, the oldies gang up on the younger ones and blame them for the ills of the world. Even the ancient Egyptians did their nuts over the younger generations, with this pithy observation inscribed in a 6,000 year old Egyptian tomb: 'We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents.  They are rude and impatient.  They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control'.

There is an irony in criticising younger generations, because they are the product of their upbringing.

Funnily enough, today's younger generations are calling out the older generations with two simple words ... no, not THOSE two words ... something far more dismissive: 'OK BOOMER!'.

For example, Baby Boomer makes fun of younger generations wanting to change the world, by saying, 'you can't even change a light bulb' - OK BOOMER!

Baby Boomer makes fun of younger generations wanting to start a revolution, by saying, 'you can't even start a lawn mower' - OK BOOMER!

Baby Boomer (who worked in non-scientific job all their life) makes fun of younger generations daring to believe the science of climate change, by saying, 'it got hot in the 70s too, you know!' - OK BOOMER!. (Because bank johnny's, tradies, farmers, salespeople, etc etc, know more about climate science than actual physicists who've studied actual science ... but hey, here we are!).

Baby Boomer criticises the younger generation for being unemployed and university-educated, 'you should do a stint in the Army, that'll make you grow up!' - OK BOOMER!

Now, just to set a few things straight. I recently saw a Millenial criticising Boomers for lumping Gen Zs (post-Millenials) in with Millenials. Yet many of the people who Millenials and post-Millenials are throwing the OK Boomer comment at, are in fact the Silent Generation, who came before the Baby Boomers, or Gen Xs who came after the Boomers. OK MILLENIAL! Chill the Fanackapanning Doylums out and get your generational thresholds clear too! So that everyone is on the same page, these are the years generally used for labelling the generations:

Interbellum Generation - 1901-1913
Greatest Generation - 1910-1924
Silent Generation - 1925-1945
Baby Boomers - 1946-1964
Generation X - 1965-1980
Millennials (Generation Y) - 1981-1996
Post-Millennials (Generation Z) - 1997-Present

For clarity, I'll be referring to Gen X, Boomers and Silent Gen as being 'older people'. While I'll refer to Millennials and Post-Millennials as being 'younger people'.

Older people often accuse younger people of being rude and lacking manners, yet older people will often be quite rude in expecting, nay, demanding, respect, while speaking abysmally to younger people. Older people will criticise all manner of people who make them feel uncomfortable, such as refugees, the homeless, activists, LGBTIQ people. They will criticise young people for their music and fashion. AND THEN, they will wonder why younger people are so critical of older people. I wonder where they learned to be so critical of, and rude towards, other people.

It seems that as people grow older, they generally become more conservative and less tolerant. This plays out in the insults that they throw around, usually at younger people, such as 'woke', 'do-gooder', 'social justice warrior', 'greenie', 'leftie', 'virtue signalling'.

Well, I'd rather people be woke than wack. I'd rather they be do-gooders, than do-nothings. I'd rather they be social justice warriors concerned for the rights of others, than selfish psychopathic individualists who care nothing about the suffering of others. I'd rather they be greenies, than environmental vandals. I'd rather they be lefties sharing the wealth, than greedy capitalists hoarding wealth while others die in poverty. I'd rather they signal virtue to others, than normalise hate and intolerance.

This quaint little meme has been doing the rounds on social media for several years:



If one were to take this meme at face value, then we clearly have incredibly talented school kids, who have invented aeroplanes, fast food, four wheel drives, plastic packaging, polystyrene and consumerism. Apparently today's teenagers invented pollution too, because the oldies didn't throw their paper bags and glass bottles in the street; pollution didn't exist before today's school kids came along. One other thing ... the milk man in an electric vehicle! While some areas may have had an electric milk float doing the rounds, I remember milk bottles (and later, milk plastic bags) in the 70s being delivered from a petrol-guzzling beast that produced so much pollution it created its own hole in the ozone layer. Oh, and not all kids in the 60s and 70s walked to school; many were driven in their parents' cars that had no pollution-reducing technology, barely getting 10 miles to the gallon, unlike many of the 4x4s today with vastly improved fuel consumption and lower emissions. Kids of today are generally not allowed to walk to school, because of the paranoid delusions of their parents who are convinced that the little tykes will be kidnapped if they step a toe outside the door ... then the oldies will lament how 'back in their day, kids all played in the street, or disappeared all day, only to reappear in time for dinner ... ne'er a mobile phone to be seen'. Well ... it wasn't kids of today who stopped that from happening, it was their paranoid parents ... OK BOOMER ... and GEN Xer!

Kids of today did not invent modern-day capitalism that has resulted in rampant consumerism driven by an insatiable demand for excessive and unethical profits. It was the older generations who created this, and it is mainly the older generations who are shareholders demanding greater returns on their investments with scant regard for human rights or the environment. Do the older generations chasing these exorbitant monetary gains care that much of this profit is being created through modern slavery and highly exploitative situations, not just in low-wage countries, but even in OECD countries? Do they give a flying ferret that their investments and profits are driving the destruction of the environment and animal habitats to obtain resources for manufacturing the latest electronic product, while marketing said product as the next big thing and that any previous model (while still working perfectly) is now obsolete ... perceived obsolence drives consumerism and is a significant contributor to waste generation, throw-away mentality and resource consumption. But hey, get angry with the school kids who are smart enough to call out how unsustainable this is.

So that meme ... another fun fact ... back in the 60s, the 'Generation Gap' was a real issue being debated with monotonous regularity. This was the concept that the younger generation (mostly baby boomers) were rebelling against everything their parents stood for. Remember this? The 60s was the protest era! Baby Boomers created mass social upheaval and were a generation of young people who challenged societal norms that previous generations had accepted and embraced, such as war, racism, sexism, segregation and environmental destruction. They protested for peace, women's liberation, racial equality, and environmental protection. This was a generation that embraced the Timothy Leary approach to life: 'Turn on, tune in and drop out'. They experimented with mind-altering substances in a manner that their parents had never done. But now, many have issue with young people for turning on, turning in and getting involved, rather than dropping out.

Boomers - before they forgot how to be cool!

Baby Boomers have forgotten how to be cool. They've forgotten that it was their generation that set the standard for large-scale, global protest movements which changed the world for the better. Why then, do they pick on today's young ones who are also seeking to change the world for the better.

It's understandable though. Generational wars have carried on throughout history. From way back in the day when Adam was a boy and Eve was a girl and God did his divine nut to expel them from the Garden of Eden because they wouldn't do what they were told.

Back in the day around 2400 years ago, there was this philosopher dude named Plato who tyrannised the young 'uns of ancient Greece. Plato gave them a spray with this little gem, 'What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?' Yes, what indeed, Plato ol' mate! Plato wasn't the only one who made comments of this nature ... it is a persistent theme threading its way through history.

This tyrannising of the young by the older generations is a portend of the future under Gen Ys and Zs. Because sadly, sooner than they expect, it is them who will be tyrannising the next generations, regaling them with tales of how they always respected older people and obeyed their parents, painting their generation as angels and looking back on their younger years through rose-coloured glasses.

Seventeenth century poet & politician, Joseph Addison cautioned about this, 'He who would pass his declining years with honor and comfort, should when young, consider that he may one day become old, and when he is old, that he has once been young'. Wise words, which most of us forget about ... unless one is 'woke'.

Perhaps John Dryden, a 17th century Poet Laureate, was one of the most woke when he identified the key driver behind the older generations' judgement of the younger ones:

'The most aggravating thing about the younger generation is that I no longer belong to it'.

Dryden wasn't the only woke oldie. Twentieth-century writer, John Boynton Priestley was full of lamentation: 'When I was young there was no respect for the young, and now that I am old, there is no respect for the old. I missed out coming and going'.

But the most woke of all boomers, Douglas Adams (who penned the revelatory Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), got it:

'Anything invented before your 15th birthday is the order of nature. That's how it should be. Anything invented between your 15th and 35th birthday is new and exciting, and you might get a career there. Anything invented after that day, however, is against nature and should be prohibited'.

OK BOOMER!

-o--0--o-





Saturday, November 2, 2019

Name a successful Communist country!

Name a successful Communist country!

By Ranting Panda
2 November 2019

Marxism didn't fail ... but it was betrayed!

One of the common challenges that capos like to throw at communists is to name a successful communist country. Ok ... how about ... Australia! No, they'll opine, that's not communist. Ok ... so what do they think is a communist country? Their answers are pretty predictable: Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba. Oh ... you mean Marxist? Yes, they'll reply.

About that ...

There haven't been any truly Marxist countries in the world. Following the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks did attempt to implement communism, and initially had some success, including industrialising a heavily agrarian nation, dramatically improving literacy rates and establishing workers' collectives to run the means of production. The Bolsheviks also abolished private ownership of factories so that they were run by workers, and established a planned economy that initially modernised and improved Russian society compared to where it had been under the Tsar (Woods 2017). There was also partial demonetisation (in which state enterprises supplied each other without payment), provision of free rations to workers, and abolition of rent and tramway tickets (Nove 1986, p. 65). Women were granted full equality with men and received equal pay, while abortion was legalised in 1920; all of this occurring, decades before equality was achieved in western countries, and even now, many western nations are still fighting for legalised abortion (Woods 2017). Immediately following the Russian Revolution, it was not practical for the Bolsheviks to completely dismantle the existing economic structure and replace it overnight with a Marxist system.

This was occurring in concert with the civil war. After overthrowing the Tsarist regime, the first promise that the Bolsheviks kept was to withdraw Russia from World War I. Forces loyal to the Tsar (the White Army) called on imperialist forces, particularly the US and UK, to side with them against the Red Army. This precipitated the Russian Civil War. As an aside, it's interesting that this is called a civil war when it was in fact, an international invasion of Russia to combat communism. Few people call the Vietnam War a civil war, yet it was similar in many ways to the Russian Civil War. North and South Vietnam were at war, and the US and its allies invaded to defeat the so-called communist North. By 1922, when the Russian 'Civil War' ended, more than 8 million were dead; some from the fighting and many from the famine that resulted as both sides directed efforts to the war. Capitalists tend to blame the Bolsheviks for the millions dead while ignoring their own role in these deaths.

During the war, Lenin implemented 'war communism' in direct response to the White Army and imperialist aggression. In 1918, imperialist forces directed by US President Wilson, blockaded Russia to choke it economically. In 1914, Russia's imports were 936 million poods and its exports were 1,472 million poods. The blockade reduced this to 11.5 million poods and exports 1.8 million in 1918, to zero in 1919 (Serge 1930). No wonder that Lenin needed to take drastic steps.

 'War Communism' included requisitioning excess grain produced by farmers, so that the Red Army could be fed. Farmers couldn't sell their extra grain, so they stopped producing it. This along effects of the Russian Civil War and significant lack of rain through 1920 and 1921, caused a famine and mass starvation that killed millions of people. Compare this to Churchill who forcibly requisitioned grain from Indian farmers to feed Britons during World War 2, resulting in the Bengal Famine that killed more than four million people. Whereas Lenin took repratory steps, Churchill's response to a report telling him of the millions of deaths caused by his policy, was to reiterate his racist hatred of Indians, when he wrote on the report, 'Why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?' (Tharoor 2017, p. 160). He went on to state, 'I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits'. Charming.

The Russian economy had been greatly weakened by the former Tsarist regime, the Great War and the Russian Civil War. As Lenin realised the extent of the economic rebuilding required, he ended 'War Communism' and introduced the 'New Economic Policy' (NEP), blending socialism and capitalism, which he felt was necessary given the poor state of the Russian economy. The NEP strengthened the economy through greater industrialisation, significantly improved literacy rates and helped the people and the economy to recover. Lenin died in 1924 and Stalin assumed power. In 1928, Stalin abolished the NEP.

When Stalin took power he introduced a closed economy, which is something that Marx railed against. Marx stated that communism could only succeed if it was an international effort, with many countries involved. Marx promoted the idea of a planned economy, which would temper the over-consumption and greed that drives capitalist states, but there is a big difference between planned and closed. Stalin's politics was a betrayal of Marxism and the revolution. The closed economies of East Germany, China, and North Korea were not run as Marxist states; they did not have workers' collectives, workers did not control the means of production. These were totalitarian regimes that eschewed democracy, closed their economies and modelled themselves on Stalinism, right down to political persecution, torture, disappearances and state-led mass killings. Their economies were mismanaged and their governments corrupt. Most so-called communist or socialist countries were satellite states of the Soviet Union.

The ultimate goal of Communism, according to Marx, was a workers' utopia in which needs were fulfilled, without greed, and without the need for a monetary system. Not one nation that labelled itself Communist, implemented this.

There were some successes, however. Similar to the contradictions of Stalin's Soviet Union, it was the Marxist elements that grew economies of so-called socialist or communist nations, while it was the excesses of bureaucracy that weakened them. In Cuba for instance, power was centralised with Castro, with no democracy, no opposition parties, brutal treatment of dissenters and a press that was merely a mouthpiece of the government (Foran 2009, p. 24). Cuba is one of the few revolutionary states that was able to withstand decades of US hostility and blockades. Foran (2009, p. 20) states that 'Few revolutions have been able to withstand the renewed counter-revolutionary attention of dominant outside powers and their regional allies'. Even given this, Cuba achieved some impressive outcomes as a result of the revolution, including unemployment becoming almost non-existent, income distribution being the fairest in Latin America, rent being limited to 10% of a person's income, almost no beggars or slum housing, 80% of Cubans owning their own houses, no starvation or chronic food shortages, free education and medical care, high literacy rates, low infant mortality compared to other areas in Latin America, life expectancy rose from 57 years in 1958 (the year before Castro took power) to 73.5 years in 1983, one of of the lowest crime rates in the world, and dramatic improvement in women's lives (with men required by law to help with the housework) (Foran 2009, pp. 21-22).

Vietnam also achieved much given the adversity it faced in its infancy. Because of the brutal treatment by the Japanese and French colonisers in Vietnam, communism gained popularity. Elections were scheduled to be held in 1956 across the country (which included north and south Vietnam) and it is estimated that 80% of the population would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, the Communist leader. The US, in typical style, undermined this and elections were cancelled, resulting in a corrupt US puppet being installed in South Vietnam, where the French still had some power. This culminated in a civil war between North and South Vietnam, with the US invading to stop the Communists from taking over South Vietnam. The US war against North Vietnam resulted in more high explosives being dropped on this tiny nation, then the Allied Forces dropped on Germany and Japan combined during World War 2 ... not to mention, the use of napalm and agent orange on civilian populations and other war crimes in which civilians were massacred (Davies 2015).

The US lost that war, but continued the battle through propaganda and corrupting the leadership with capitalism. Vietnam suffered more than three million casualties, and was left with 10 million refugees, one million war widows, 880,000 orphans, 362,000 war invalids and three million unemployed. US high explosives destroyed more than five million hectares of forest. The economy was left in ruins, with inflation running at 900%. Rice paddies were destroyed, leaving Vietnam to import rice. During peace talks, the US agreed to pay $3.5 billion in reparations, but never paid up, instead it went on to impose a trade embargo. Following the war, the Vietnamese government confiscated personal land holdings, forcibly acquired produce from farmers at very low prices and forced people into labour. Dissenters and many South Vietnamese were imprisoned, tortured and subject to inhumane treatment.

Vietnam, like other nations, modelled itself on Stalinism, not Marxism. However, it did include Marxist elements in its economy, which strengthened its rebuilding efforts. For instance, in 1975 there was 70% poverty. By 1992 this had reduced to 58% of the population, and by the year 2000, it had dropped to 32% (Davies 2015). The government built dozens of primary and secondary schools, and established a free healthcare framework. Since 2000, the government has become increasingly capitalist, which caused some to become wealthy, while the gap between the rich and poor continues to increase. Corruption has increased as capitalism expands, with the problem exacerbated by the selling of state-owned companies. British academic, Martin Gainsborough, described Vietnam's corruption: 'Rather than being inspired by reformist ideals, officials have been motivated by much more venal desires … What we often refer to as ‘reform’ is as much about attempts by rival political-business interests to gain control over financial and other resources' (Davies 2015). Capitalism has continued to destroy the economy, with around 70% of people losing their land by 2010, employees no longer paid a living wage (which they had been getting in 1990), health and schooling no longer free, and poverty increasing dramatically, (Davies 2015). While people fear communism, it is capitalism that has stolen the property and dreams of the Vietnamese.

Vietnam was styled on Stalinism, rather than Marxism. Marxism's basic tenet was 'from each according to their ability, to each according their need'. Vietnam and many of these so-called communist or socialist governments nationalised industries and took wealth from workers, but did not redistribute to those in need, nor did they empower workers. This wasn't Marxism.

The apparent failure of Marxist states is less to do with Marxism, and more to do with corruption, greed, lust for power, mismanagement and external hostile forces. Additionally, revolutions are often not well planned 'because of divergent visions of how to remake society and unequal capacities to make those visions prevail' (Foran 2009, p. 20). Many of the revolutions were not well thought through. It's one thing to overthrow a corrupt government, it's another thing entirely to replace it with, and maintain, a new government and economic model.

There were interesting contradictions in the Soviet Union, post-Lenin. While Stalin dismantled much of what was achieved in the October Revolution, the nationalised planned economy remained, which helped to strengthen the Soviet Union's growth, while maintaining little to no inflation and almost full employment (Woods 2017). Ted Grant, one of the most important Marxist writers since Trotsky, detested Stalin but saw the benefits of socialism in the Soviet Union, despite the counter-revolutionary efforts of Stalin, 'Russia is a workers' state because the land, mines, banks, factories, railways have been taken out of the hands of the capitalists and have been nationalised' (Grant 1941).

Unfortunately, Stalin's heavily bureaucratic and increasingly corrupt regime (which was anathema to Marxism), saw much of the benefits of the planned economy accumulated by bureaucrats, while the workers continued to suffer and be deprived. Post-Stalin, the corruption, waste and mismanagement continued, while choking the progression once achieved by the planned economic model. Just like in capitalist countries, the Soviet Union experienced an increasing gulf between the rich and the poor (Woods 2017). Similarly, the countries behind the Iron Curtain experienced economic growth through planned economies, but were undermined by corrupt bureaucracies that were not Marxist. 'Genuine socialism is incompatible with the rule of a privileged bureaucratic elite, which will inevitably be accompanied by colossal corruption, nepotism, waste, mismanagement and chaos' (Woods 2017).

Trotsky had articulated the need for socialist internationalism, when he wrote, 'The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word: it attains completion only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet' (Trotsky 1906).

There have been attempts at socialism and communism, but much of those were shut down very quickly by capitalist nations, particularly the United States. It is no secret that the US created the School of the Americas to train right-wing terrorists to fight and overthrow any attempts at left-wing governments in South America. Chile's President Allende is a case in point. His left-wing government attempted to control production, improve workers' conditions, care for the poor and redistribute wealth more equitably. This was abhorrent to the greed and self-serving nature of capitalism, so the US funded a coup that brought in the brutal right-wing dictator, Pinochet, who subsequently massacred thousands of Chileans (Blum 2004). But hey, it was now a capitalist country.

In Venezuela, Chavez was elected in 1998 on a platform of anti-corruption and nationalised private industry, redistribution of wealth and empowering the people. However, Chavez went on to nationalise private industry without warning and without cooperation of the people, instead confiscating or expropriating companies (Carillo 2016). Chavez's plans to end poverty never happened because of his inability to properly implement a Marxist system and his economic incompetence.

It should be noted that each of these states were not truly Marxist as none of them established workers' states, none of them gave power to the working class; instead each was run by someone who did not adequately represent the workers and who did not empower workers to run the government. Ted Grant (1941) summarised Lenin's conditions for a workers' state, as being:

1. All officials to be elected with right of recall through workers' Councils (Soviets).
2. The abolition of the standing army and its substitution by the armed people.
3. No official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker.
4. Administrative posts to be filled gradually in rotation so that no permanent officialdom could be formed

Clearly, none of the so-called socialist or communist nations, satisfied these conditions because of stringent and corrupt bureaucracies. Their totalitarian regimes established permanent officialdom and standing armies.

Marx did not envision a sudden replacement of capitalism with communism. Instead, he believed that a transition period would be necessary in which there would be elements of communism and capitalism before finally achieving a truly communist state. This would transition through hybrid systems to socialism and ultimately, to communism.

Capitalism requires workers to work long hours for the lowest possible wages that an employer can get away with, while the company makes exorbitant profits that are not adequately shared with the workforce. Socialism allows a greater sharing of the wealth, with what's earned being shared among the workforce. Under Communism, workers have full access to all that is produced with no need for wages.

Ask capitalists to explain what socialism is. This is where the fun really starts. There are so many different answers and almost all are wrong. I'll dot-point a few for brevity.
  • 'The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money'. Umm ... no. This little gem is courtesy of former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She was obviously thinking of capitalism. Ever been to an investment or business seminar? Invariably, the speaker will smugly claim that the best way to get rich is by using other people's money. Robert Kiyosaki, author of the best-selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad, says exactly this. In fact, he calls it 'Rich Dad OPM' ... opium or Other People's Money (Kiyosaki 2019). Many people venerate capitalism like a religion, and as Marx pointed out, 'religion is the opiate of the masses'. It is capitalism that aims to part people from their money. That is the very essence of consumerism: get people to give their money to wealthy, in exchange for some perception of success, e.g. having the latest smartphone. And that wealth is accumulated by individuals, instead of being shared with the people who actually created the products.

    Socialism is not about using other people's money, but about workers retaining and sharing in the money earned. For instance, recently there was a strike at General Motors in the United States. The strike cost GM up to $100 million per day (CBS News 2019). The CEO earns almost $22 million per year, around $423,000 per week or more than $60,000 per day (Klayman & Shumaker 2019). The CEO's daily wage is more than many GM workers earn in a year. The CEO is turning up to work every day during the strike, but can't produce the $100 million per day that is being lost. Clearly, it's not the CEO or the highly paid executives producing GM's earnings, it's the workers. This illustrates that capitalism is the ideology that gets rich on other people's money, on other people's labour.
  • Socialism doesn't make profits. This furphy follows on from Margaret Thatcher's quote about other people's money. It presupposes that socialism doesn't sell things at a profit, yet it has no issue with making a profit (or surplus value as Marx called it), just not profits that are excessive or based on exploitation. After all, if there is no profit or surplus value, how can there be wealth or necessary commodities to share among the workers. Various economic models were proposed for socialist economies, including profit-based ones and the utopian concept of a planned economy obviating the need for commodities, value, prices, wages and ultimately, money itself (Nove 1987, pp. 53-64). Different models were operated with a degree of success in East Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia and other countries to that in the Soviet Union (Stephanson 1984). Marx identified that this profit or surplus value is appropriated by capitalists at the expense of the workers who produced it. A pure Marxist economy would have no need for money at all, as production would be designed to meet the needs of society.
  • Socialism will steal all of your property. Noooo ... again, you're thinking of capitalism. Socialism and Communism differentiate between public property, private property and personal property. Public property is self-explanatory. Socialism and Communism do not abolish personal property. You can still own your clothes, TV, mobile phone, car, house and so on (Hiley 2018).

    The private property that Marx referred to was the factories and the banks. In 1847, Frederick Engels wrote, 'This industrial revolution was precipitated by the discovery of the steam engine, various spinning machines, the mechanical loom, and a whole series of other mechanical devices. These machines, which were very expensive and hence could be bought only by big capitalists, altered the whole mode of production and displaced the former workers, because the machines turned out cheaper and better commodities than the workers could produce with their inefficient spinning wheels and handlooms. The machines delivered industry wholly into the hands of the big capitalists and rendered entirely worthless the meagre property of the workers (tools, looms, etc.). The result was that the capitalists soon had everything in their hands and nothing remained to the workers. This marked the introduction of the factory system into the textile industry'. Engels went to explain how this enslaved the working class to the big industrialists. It also differentiates between private property and personal property, by discussing the equipment workers owned. Engels promoted the concept of personal property, when he wrote, 'The manufacturing worker of the 16th to the 18th centuries still had, with but few exception, an instrument of production in his own possession – his loom, the family spinning wheel, a little plot of land which he cultivated in his spare time. The proletarian (working class) has none of these things' (Engels 1847). The manufacturing class had been overtaken and virtually enslaved to the industrialists, losing their personal property. It was this theft of personal property, livelihood and freedoms that incensed Marx and Engels.

    Marx and Engels did not believe that it benefited society for industry to be in the hands of big industrialists, of capitalists. Instead, they called for industry to be owned by the people, the workers. Engels further explained, '... private property cannot be separated from competition and the individual management of industry. Private property must, therefore, be abolished and in its place must come the common utilization of all instruments of production and the distribution of all products according to common agreement – in a word, what is called the communal ownership of goods' (Engels 1847).

    We've seen the debacle that ensues when services, such as hospitals, schools, prisons, gas and utility companies, and public transport are privatised. They end up costing far more, while being less reliable than when in public ownership. Marx stated, 'Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations' (Marx 1848, p. 24).
  • Socialism is not democratic. Well, in point of fact, socialism is more democratic than capitalism. When the people are controlling the means of production and the government, they get to have a true say in how things are run. Unlike capitalism, in which people have an illusion of democracy because they cast a vote once every few years to elect politicians, who often then go on to do things that the people had no say in. In a capitalist state, it is the wealthy who have the most influence. Large companies and industry bodies don't contribute to political parties simply out of ideology. After all, many contribute to all the major parties with the intention of influencing public policy in their favour. That is plutocracy not democracy, and it is plutocracy that flourishes in capitalist states.
  • Socialism wants to make everybody the same. This is not the case. The basic tenet of Marxism, 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their need', acknowledges that people have different abilities and needs. It isn't about making everyone the same, but it is about no person being more favoured over others. It is about ensuring people have the same opportunities in life, even if this means that they require more attention to achieve that, then someone else. For instance, someone with a disability may need more assistance in achieving educational outcomes. Perhaps, someone from a disadvantaged background, who lives in poverty and has little education, may require more assistance than someone who already has a good education.
  • Socialism promotes genocide through class warfare. So how does this explain the genocides caused by capitalist countries? Marx does not call for genocide. Capitalist states create class warfare, socialism dismantles the class structures that are inherent in capitalism; the class structures that create division, hatred, greed, envy, fear and identity politics. In capitalism the wealthy deliberately divert middle-class angst against the poor and exploited, rather than against those who do the exploiting. The accumulation of wealth in capitalist states has caused gross economic inequality, and subsequently, political inequality and exploitation. It is that capitalists exploit to coerce workers to fight against each other, to 'volunteer' to serve militaries that invade and kill civilians across the globe.

    Capitalists take the high moral ground, pointing to millions dead under Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. In doing so, they ignore or justify the crimes of capitalism, such as Churchill who allowed millions of Indians to starve to death so he could ensure Britons were fed during World War II. The British were responsible for many massacres and famines, killing millions of people globally. The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1849 was deliberately caused by British economic policy that took land off the Irish and put it in control of British absentee landlords (Thornton 2017). More than one million people died. In Iran during 1917-1919, following the Russian Revolution, the British forces based in Persia, deliberately blocked imports of wheat and grain into Iran, creating genocidal conditions to destroy Iran and give Britain power over the area (Abbesi 2019).

    Many of the wars waged by the US following World War 2, were based on their paranoid 'domino theory', which feared that if one nation fell to Communism, many others would too. The United States waged wars and sponsored right-wing despots, such as Pinochet, Suharto, Somoza and Nicaraguan death squads, the Argentinian Junta, while waging or sponsoring wars based on lies and propaganda, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and Guatemala, resulting in the deaths of millions (Blum 2004). The US sponsored the overthrow of the communist government of Indonesia's President Sukarno and replaced him with a right-wing despot, President Suharto. Communists were executed across the country, with estimates of more than one million victims of Suharto, of capitalism. But at least Indonesia was no longer communist. This was all part of a plan by the US and the UK to impose a global capitalist economy on Asia that benefited western nations and subjugated eastern ones (Pilger 2003). Is it any wonder that the bulk of today's slavery is based in Asia. The US funded terrorism in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which led to the horrendous terrorism of today (Cooley 2002). These wars were based on capitalist ideology with no concern for the devastating impacts on people.
Name a successful capitalist country. The United States? Yeah, how's that working out for the millions in poverty because they can't afford health care, because the minimum wage is not a living wage, because they're forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, because they can't afford housing. The US has no public health system, so people, particularly those unemployed or on lower wages, often cannot afford treatment or life-saving medication, such as insulin (Prasad 2019).

How about Philippines? An incredibly poor nation that was 'liberated' by the United States following centuries of Spanish colonisation. The Philippines economy is based on the US model: user-pays for health and education, with no social safety net for the unemployed. Many Filipinos are unable to find work, let alone cover the costs of education and health. But hey, they're not communists.

What about countries like Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan? These are social democracies, not exclusively capitalist. They have taken some of the elements of socialism in order to temper the excesses and self-gratification of capitalism to ensure that even the poor can benefit from universal health care, public education, welfare, public housing. These countries are far more economically stable than the United States, with a much lower rate of poverty. Former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, described the benefits of social democracy, when he stated, 'Social democratic states very properly have another objective: to guarantee that working people are able to enjoy a living wage, one that lifts them and their families above the poverty line. This can take the form of a legislated minimum or a basic award but, in whatever form, it provides the foundation of a civil society. We should always remember that the point of economic policy is economic wealth and social progress. It should never be about top-end wealth provided off the back of an army of working poor, denied the kind of wages and conditions that are conducive to the sustenance of families' (Keating 2008).

Socialism saves the day.

Capitalism is a highly exploitative ideology. The old anarchist saying, 'Property is theft', is self-evident in the exploitative supply chains of almost every product and service consumed in the modern world. As Marx stated, 'Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital' (Marx 1887, p. 451).

Today there are more than 40 million people in modern slavery. This is more people in slavery than at any point in history. The main differences between modern slavery and traditional slavery are that under traditional slavery, legal ownership of slaves was asserted, there was a high purchase cost, limited sources of potential slaves, slaves were kept for the long term, they were maintained by their owners, and their cultural/ethnic differences were important because owners did not want slaves who looked like them. Today, slavery is illegal everywhere in the world, so ownership of slaves is denied, yet there is no shortage of slaves as they can be of any cultural or ethnic background, so purchase price is very low. They are kept for the short or long term, and they are disposable as they are just one more resource to be consumed and disposed of in the capitalist system. 



Remember back in the day, when HR departments were called 'Personnel'. At some point, it was realised that people were just commodities, resources, a line on a balance sheet. 'Personnel' was replaced by 'Human Resources' and workforces became expendable in the pursuit of 'efficiency' ... whatever that is. Companies off-shored their workforces to lower cost countries where they could exploit vulnerable people who were trapped in poverty - remember the Philippines mentioned earlier? Because of the high cost of necessities and the difficulty securing work, people will often allow themselves to be exploited so that they can pay the bills and put their children through education. This drives the spiralling increase in modern slavery. Welcome to capitalism. 

Off-shoring, coupled with casualisation of employment drives the shrinking of domestic workforces, resulting in higher unemployment, lower wages growth and ultimately to many businesses unable to survive because of uncertainty, job insecurity and lack of disposable income in their customer base. In other words, capitalism is eating itself.

Sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu called this out in his criticism of economic globalisation and labelled the casualisation of the workforce as being 'flexploitation', while today's proletariat has been referred to as the 'precariat', because of their insecure employment, unstable income and unsustainable debt (Nolan & Boersma 2019, p. 27).

Many people equate capitalism with freedom, yet for many it is slavery, exploitation, poverty. The working class, the proletariat, are enslaved to the industrialists who own the means of production, the private property. Engels wrote, 'The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general' (Engels 1847).

Yes, some people will prosper in a capitalist economy, but it is often at the expense of someone else. Capitalism does not represent freedom. The US and the UK have propped up many a fascist government because it served capitalist ideology, including the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Suharto, Pinochet and so on; not blinking an eye at the millions killed or tortured. Capitalism is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

The private ownership of the means of production is increasingly in the hands of larger corporations and fewer people. A recent study found that the richest 1% in the US has gained $21 trillion since 1989, while more than half of the nation lost almost a trillion dollars and owns less than nothing because they owe more than they own (Johnson 2019).

Today's capitalism is empowered by the public policy of neoliberalism. Former Australian Reserve Bank governor, Bernie Fraser, describes neoliberalism as favouring 'the market system ahead of the state system, and individual interests ahead of community interests, [which] can lead to profoundly unfair social outcomes' (Nolan & Boersma 2019, p. 28). 

The solution to the world's environmental and economic woes is socialism on a global scale. While corporations own the means of production, people and the environment will continue to be exploited, to be just another disposable resource. Anthropogenic causes of climate change can be better controlled and reduced through a socialist system that values people and the environment, that doesn't rely on over-consumption and the production of unnecessary levels of commodities that end up in land-fill.

And then there's the future of employment. Digital disruption, the rise of artificial intelligence, automation and robotics. Reports suggest up to 40% of could be lost in the next 15 years, through automation (Reisinger 2019). This is a trajectory that will likely continue to increase rather than decrease. Some people will be retrained, but there will be many others who simply do not have the education, skills or opportunities to find work suitable for them, resulting more unemployed and unemployable people, increasing poverty rates. One solution may be a universal basic wage, which some countries, such as Finland, are trialling ... socialism saving the day. Or another solution is to go full-blown Communism and replace monetary systems with the Marxist ideal of enough products available to meet everyone's needs without the need for money. Our robot overlords could utilise AI and big data analytics to forecast needs in each part of the world and ensure manufacturing and services meet those needs.

But back to the original question about naming a successful socialist country. This question presupposes that socialist countries are successful in their own right as stand-alone economies. However, Marx specifically stated that socialism would not succeed in one country alone. The world has not seen true Marxism in action, apart from the initial years following the Russian Revolution and even that was hampered by war and the inheritance of a weak economy, then usurped by Stalinism.

Many of the countries who tried socialism or communism, failed because of their inability to implement processes that would enable transition to a communist state. Many of these communist revolutions occurred in economies that were already weakened by corrupt and exploitative governments. It was obviously futile to expect that a new economic model could simply be dropped over the existing systems and immediately turn them around. Additionally, those economies which lasted for many years were operating a form of Stalinism, that had little to do with true communism.

It's not Marxism that failed, but the implementation of it and the betrayal of its basic principles by many of those who claimed revolution in its name. 

To truly understand if socialism can succeed, requires an internationalist base in which socialist states are able to operate openly and freely. But capitalism won't allow that as it is founded in avarice and selfishness, driven by vested interests. Capitalism is not democratic, it is plutocratic. Communism, true Marxist communism, is the epitome of democracy, with workers ruling, their labour truly valued.

The rise of populist parties and politicians is a response to the exploitative practices of capitalism, which has seen low wages growth, rising unemployment and erosion of democracy. Unfortunately, many of these parties and politicians are right-wing and have used this discontent and fear to scapegoat minorities, fomenting racism and bigotry, so that the discontented blame the victims of exploitation, rather than the exploiters. The main-stream media is owned by oligarchs with vested interests in controlling government, so they push the agenda of turning workers against workers.



Nothing attracts the fearful like identity politics; having a party that 'identifies' with their particular race, religion, nationality or creed. It is the same psychology that attracts people to gangs; the sense of belonging, the security created by expressing those fears, bigotry and narrow-mindedness with like-minded people. Ironically, many of those who support these populist parties blame socialism for class-based differences, while it is the conservative, capitalist parties that are dividing society along identity lines. Populism has turned workers against each other, allowing the rich to continue exploiting them unchecked.

Capitalists and their media mouth-pieces continue to demonise socialism and communism by equating them with Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot and Kim Jong-Un. It is not that capitalists are opposed to the terrible human rights abuses under these despots, particularly when one looks at the human rights abuses that capitalist regimes have and continue to perpetrate. Instead, the horrendous crimes of Stalin, Mao and Jung-Un serve capitalist obfuscation very well for scaring workers away from Marxism (Woods 2017). Driven by power and greed, capitalism is more closely aligned to Stalinism and Maoism, then is the equal rights, democracy and economic sharing model espoused by Marx and Engels. Not that capos want you to know that. Stalin was very effective at deception, obfuscation and denunciation, similar to the capitalist propaganda that has demonised Marxism for decades. Marxism is a long way removed from Stalinism.

Marxist parties have an opportunity to increase their popularity by explaining the benefits of socialism and communism and addressing the fear-mongering and lies that right-wing parties have been spreading. Once workers understand who the real threat is to their livelihoods, then maybe we can see a communist revolution in which people across the globe replace corrupt capitalist systems to work together towards a global communist community committed to improving social conditions, implementing truly democratic systems of society and production, ending exploitation, treating everyone equally, and valuing the environment.

Someone once stated, 'Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires'.

Only when workers understand the rotten core of capitalism that exploits them, will we realise the inherent success of communism. 

To paraphrase Marx's classic statement from The Communist Manifesto, 'Workers of the world have nothing to lose, but their chains. Workers of the world, unite'.

Capitalism, Socialism and Communism


References

Abbesi, S 2019, 'British government killed 10 million Iranians in 1919', Geopolitics, 12 July, viewed 8 October 2019, https://geopolitics.co/2019/07/12/british-government-killed-10-million-iranians-in-1919.

Blum, W 2004, Killing Hope: US Military Interventions and CIA Interventions since World War II, Common Courage Press, Monroe ME.

Carillo, P 2016, 'How today’s crisis in Venezuela was created by Hugo Ch├ívez’s ‘revolutionary’ plan', The Conversation, 6 July, viewed 6 October 2019, https://theconversation.com/how-todays-crisis-in-venezuela-was-created-by-hugo-chavezs-revolutionary-plan-61474.

CBS News 2019, 'UAW strike could cost GM up to $100 million per day', 17 September 2019, viewed 4 October 2019, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gm-strike-uaw-strike-could-cost-gm-up-to-100-million-per-day/

Cooley, J 2002, Unholy Wars - Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, 3rd edn, Pluto Press, Sterling VA.

Davies, N 2015, 'Vietnam 40 years on: how a communist victory gave way to capitalist corruption', The Guardian, 22 April, viewed 29 October 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/apr/22/vietnam-40-years-on-how-communist-victory-gave-way-to-capitalist-corruption.

Engels, F 1847, The Principles of CommunismSelected Works, Volume One, p. 81-97, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, translated Paul Sweezy, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm.

Foran, J 2009, Theorizing the Cuban Revolution, Latin American Perspectives, Issue 165, Vol. 36(2), pp. 16-30.

Grant, T 1941, 'Why USSR is suffering reverses - Internationalism has been abandoned', Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4, No. 1, October 1941, http://tedgrant.org/archive/grant/1941/10/ussr-internationalism.htm.

Hiley, S 2018, 'Abolition of private property?', 4 January, viewed 27 October 2019, https://www.cpusa.org/interact_cpusa/the-father-of/.

Johnson, J 2019, ''Eye-Popping': Analysis Shows Top 1% Gained $21 Trillion in Wealth Since 1989 While Bottom Half Lost $900 Billion', 14 June, viewed 5 October 2019, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/06/14/eye-popping-analysis-shows-top-1-gained-21-trillion-wealth-1989-while-bottom-half.

Keating, P 2008, 'Financial Innovation and Labour Reform in the Post Industrial Age', presented at Chosun Ilbo—Asian Leadership Conference, Seoul, South Korea, 21 February 2008, viewed 2 November 2019, http://www.keating.org.au/shop/item/financial-innovation-and-labour-market-reform-in-the-post-industrial-age---21-february-2008.

Kiyosaki, R 2019, 'Rich Dad Fundamentals: Other People’s Money (OPM)', 14 May, viewed 4 October 2019, https://www.richdad.com/other-peoples-money-real-estate.

Klayman, B & Shumaker, L 2019, 'GM CEO Barra's pay dipped slightly to just under $22 million in 2018', Reuters, 19 April, viewed 2 November 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gm-compensation/gm-ceo-barras-pay-dipped-slightly-to-just-under-22-million-in-2018-idUSKCN1RU2AY.

Marx, K 1848, The Communist Manifesto, Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf.

Marx, K 1887, Capital - A critique of political economy, Volume 1, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Russia, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf.

Nolan, J & Boersma, M 2019, Addressing Modern Slavery, UNSW Press, Sydney.

Nove, A 1987, Socialism, Economics and Development, Allen & Unwin, London.

Pilger, J 2003, New rulers of the world, Verso Trade.

Prasad, R 2019, 'The human cost of insulin', BBC News, 14 March, viewed 2 November 2019,
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47491964.

Reisinger, D 2019, 'A.I. expert says automation could replace 40% of jobs in 15 years', Fortune, 10 January, viewed 30 November 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/01/10/automation-replace-jobs/.

Serge, V 1930, Year One of the Russian Revolution, Victor Serge Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2005, Translation, editor’s Introduction, and notes © 1972 by Peter Sedgwick, https://www.marxists.org/archive/serge/1930/year-one/index.htm

Stephanson, A. 1984, Feasible Socialism: A Conversation with Alec Nove, Social Text, Vol. 11, pp. 96-109.

Tharoor, S 2017, Inglorious Empire: what the British did to India, Scribe Publications, London.

Thornton, M 2017, 'What caused the Irish potato famine?', Mises Institute, 17 March, viewed 8 October 2019, https://mises.org/library/what-caused-irish-potato-famine.

Trotsky, L 1906, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, transcribed for the Trotsky Internet Archive by Sally Ryan 1996, viewed 5 October 2019, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/pr10.htm

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Updated 30 November 2019

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Climate change - 4 factors of the apocalypse

Climate change - 4 factors of the apocalypse


There are several factors associated with climate change, but sceptics often confuse their disagreement with one to deny the veracity of others; essentially throwing the baby out with the bath water. These four key factors are interrelated, but also unique. Each is associated with climate change, but should be considered individually.

The four key factors are:
  • Climate change
    • believe it or not?
  • Causes of climate change
    • anthropogenic or natural?
  • Long-term impact
    • apocalypse or survivable?
    • mitigate or adapt?
  • Renewable energy versus fossil fuels
    • infinite & clean or limited & polluting?
Why do these need to be considered separately? Because, those who disagree with anthropogenic causes of climate change, its long-term impacts and renewable energy, argue as though climate change is not occurring. They will often deny anthropogenic causes and long-term impacts to argue against both climate change and the need to divest from fossil fuels.

Climate strikes

On 11 September 2019, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate change activist was interviewed by Trevor Noah on The Daily Show while she was in the United States for a climate change summit. Noah asked Thunberg, 'Do you feel a difference in the conversation, travelling from Sweden to America? Is there a different feeling around climate change?' Greta answered poignantly, 'I would say yes. Because here (America), it is discussed as something whether you believe in or not believe in, and where I come from it's more like "it's a fact" '.

Greta's activism started with a solo protest in 2018 and has inspired millions of people to turnout across the globe to protest against inaction on climate change. Some people criticised the students who attended these strikes, saying they should have stayed in school, but this is part of their education. Schools will often arrange excursions to parliament house so students can learn about democracy and government. The protests could be considered a school excursion where students gain practical experience in exercising democratic rights, freedom of speech and campaigning for the Earth. Funny that those who tell them to stay in school, deny the very science the students are learning about climate change.

It is a sad indictment that those who are trying to do the right thing by people and the planet are criticised by those who refuse to believe the science, who refuse to improve the planet or help others, and who are lost in their own greed, selfishness and ignorance. Sceptics shoot the messenger instead of listening to the message. They would rather criticise others than take real action to reduce human damage to the planet.

It's better to be a do-gooder, than to be a do-nothing.

Greta Thunberg's solo protest in 2018 led to millions campaigning across the globe in 2019
(McFall-Johnsen 2019)

Scottish comedian, Frankie Boyle, also known for his ascerbic and pithy commentary, tweeted an interesting observation about the climate strikes. His tweet stated, 'That kids have got to take time out of their childhoods to explain climate science to us should be a matter of profound shame'.

Trawling through social media and it is evident that conservatives have adopted a common theme. They will claim that Greta and the other school kids are being manipulated into rehashing leftist propaganda. There was a time when scientists were revered as experts in their field and any child who could understand the science was lauded for their intellectual prowess. Now conservatives are happy to dumb-down the education system so that children simply parrot the ignorant drivel of the right-wing as it pushes a neo-liberal agenda to continue the exploitation of the earth and its inhabitants.

My personal favourite squawking point of conservatives though, is the one that says 'kids should be kids' and not be raised to have this 'indoctrinated' fear of an apocalyptic future. I find this particularly ironic when it's parroted by the religious right ... remember Sunday School and the threats of eternal hell and damnation for those who failed to bow the knee to the God of love? It wasn't just the threat that the poor child might burn for eternity in Stygian darkness where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth, but that their godless family would too. Yeah ... let kids be kids ... it's ok to indoctrinate them with lies of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, to convince them of being eternally tortured by demons in the fires of hell, but God forbid that children study science and, like the prophets of old, warn the world of the dire consequences of inaction. As an afterthought, what would be the carbon emissions from hell? Any chance it could use some offsets and be carbon neutral? Burn in hell or burn in a warming world ... one of these choices is supported by science and the other by ancient ignorance fuelled by fear to control populations. It isn't Greta Thunberg who is being manipulated, it is the conservatives who refuse to accept the science.

Conservatives say 'kids should be kids & not fear the future', while promising torture by demons for eternity if they don’t worship the God of love.


Climate change

Climate change is occurring. This is indisputable. Whether you believe that the cause is part of Earth's natural cycles or caused by human factors is irrelevant. Quantifiable evidence proves that the world's climate is the warmest it has been in millennia. The planet's average temperature is around one degree warmer than it was 100 years ago, with much of the increase occurring in the last 35 years (NASA n.d.). To argue that we've always had hot summers or severe weather events, shows extreme ignorance of scientific research, because scientists do actually research and compare historical data.

The key word in 'climate change' is climate. Despite this, sceptics will often confuse climate and weather. If they experience a cold day or a cold winter, they'll laugh at any claim of a warming planet. Climate is the average weather pattern over a long period of time. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at any given point in time. Weather is a physical phenomenon. For example, hot air has lower pressure than cold air because the molecules are not as densely packed. This lower pressure can affect the flow of cold air as higher pressure areas flow into lower pressure areas. A warming climate causes change in weather conditions. For example, scientists have found that warmer conditions in the Arctic result in more severe winters across Europe and and North America (Gibbens 2019).

The planet is warming. Some people will say this is merely part of the normal cycles of the Earth, while others will state that humans are contributing to it through excessive emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon.

But right there we have agreement: the world is warming. Regardless of the cause, the climate is warming on a global scale.

The cause is increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. But why the focus on CO2? After all, there are other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. CO2 affects the global warming in a unique way. CO2 is responsible for around two-thirds of the world’s total energy imbalance because it absorbs less heat than other greenhouse gases (Lindsay 2019), which means it traps more heat, somewhat like a doona.

It may help to understand how much of the atmosphere is comprised of green-house gases before trying to understand the impact that human-induced carbon emissions has on global warming. The atmosphere is comprised of 78% oxygen and 21% nitrogen, totalling 99%. Neither of these are green-house gases. The remaining one percent includes various trace gases and the dominate green-house gases CO2, H20, CH4 (methane) and N20 (nitrous oxide). These gases are what keep the world warm. Before the industrial revolution, these gases comprised 300th of one percent of the atmosphere (OSS n.d). Because we are dealing with such miniscule concentrations to keep the Earth warm, relatively small changes can have a significant impact.

Atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is the highest it’s been in more than five million years. For 10,000 years, CO2 concentrations ranged from 280 to 290 parts per million (ppm), but over the last 150 years, CO2 concentrations have increased to 400ppm (Chang 2020). Where CO2 was 280th of one percent of the pre-industrial atmosphere, it is now 400th of one percent. This is a 43% change in the atmospheric CO2 concentration in 150 years!

It isn’t just the impact on the atmosphere that CO2 increases are a concern, it also the impact on the ocean. CO2 reacts with water molecules to produce carbonic acid, which lowers the ocean’s pH levels, thus increasing ocean acidification. The ocean’s pH level has dropped from 8.21 to 8.1 since pre-industrial times. This may not seem much, however, changes in pH levels have an exponential impact: a reduction of 0.1 in pH results in a 30% increase in acidification (Lindsay 2019). One impact of this is reduction in the ability for marine life to extract calcium from the water, which they need for building their shells or skeletons.

Methane is another green-house gas. Global warming is already causing Arctic permafrost to melt. There is a substantial quantity of methane stored beneath the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is already leaking into the atmosphere (Black 2010). As temperatures continue to rise, more of the methane will be released, increasing the greenhouse effect.

But are humans causing this increase in greenhouse gases?

Causes of climate change

This is really the main issue that sceptics have. If they separate this from climate change, they will usually admit that the planet is hotter than it has been for thousands of years; they will admit that they do not disagree with global warming, just the causes of it. So now we're making progress. Most people do believe in global warming. Yay!

Comprehensive studies have found that more than 97% of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic causes being the major factor in climate change (Nuccitelli 2019). Sceptics have tried to argue against this by citing articles that are usually not published by climate scientists or which haven't been peer-reviewed. One favourite is to refer to a petition that sceptics claim was signed by dozens of leading scientists opposing Canada's commitment to the Kyoto protocol, yet most of those who signed were not climate scientists and some were journalists (Le Page 2007a).

Carbon dioxide emissions are often referred to as pollution. Some sceptics argue that carbon dioxide is not pollution. Who cares what it is called, carbon dioxide is a green-house gas, and green-house gases warm the planet. That is without dispute.

So have people contributed to warming of the planet? Well, we live in a highly industrialised society of 7.5 billion people who are pumping out green-house gas emissions, including carbon dioxide among others, on a scale never before seen in recorded history. It should be kept in mind that scientists are not saying that the world's natural cycles are no longer in existence. They are saying that human factors have contributed to climate change and are exacerbating its effects. The following chart shows that atmospheric CO2 is the highest its been for more than 800,000 years, spiking from 1950 onwards. Can this really be blamed on natural climate cycles? As stated above, atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by 43% since pre-industrial times.

Atmospheric CO2 (NASA n.d.)


Arguments against anthropogenic factors will often make comparisons to other events, for instance the Medieval Warming Period between 800CE and 1300CE. Scientists were criticised for their 'hockey stick graph' published in 2001, that showed a dramatic increase in global temperatures over the last 1000 years. The following is the original hockey stick graph (Le Page 2007b).


Sceptics claim that this model was fabricated, that scientists deliberately lied about the rise in temperatures. However, this isn't true. It is probably not a surprise, but there were no temperature records kept 1000 years ago. The original hockey stick model was based on modelling and assumptions regarding indicators of temperature, such as data from tree rings, coral, ice cores and historical records. While some of these assumptions have been corrected over time, scientists still conclude a significant increase in global temperatures over the last 1000 years. The following graph compares current research to the original hockey graph, showing that while it was over-stated, it wasn't that far off (Le Page 2007b). Ah, the benefits of peer-reviewed research ... as compared to those so-called scientists who publish articles that haven't been peer-reviewed..



Another argument is that volcanoes put out much more green-house gases than humans do. Funnily enough, scientists are an inquisitive lot and have researched this. Volcanoes (both on land and undersea) emit around 200 million tons of carbon per year (EarthTalk 2009). Whereas burning of fossil fuels emitted more than 36 billion tons in 2018 (Harvey 2018). Busting out the calculator we can see that volcanoes account for around half of one percent of the emissions of fossil fuels. The following chart is based on data from NASA and models emissions from volcanoes since 1880 against industrial carbon emissions ('What's really warming the world' 2015). So if people are willing to assign partial blame for climate change to volcanoes, why can't they accept emissions from fossil fuels must carry some blame too? After all, emissions from fossil fuels are 180 times that of emissions from volcanoes ... as of 2018. If we don't reduce these emissions, they will increasingly dwarf volcanic carbon emissions.



Compare this to green-house gas emissions, where there has been a 40% increase since 1750 (Bloomberg Business Week 2015).



Obviously, volcanoes are only one of the natural sources of COand other greenhouse gas emissions. When compared to all sources of greenhouse gases, industrial sources contribute about 5% of total global emissions. This may not sound like much, but there are a number of issues with this. Prior to about 1750, CO2 emissions were roughly in balance with the absorption of CO2 in heat sinks, which include the ocean, soil and forests. As human population has grown, there has been an increasing amount of deforestration and land conversion which has reduced the amount of heat sinks available to absorb CO2. The ocean absorbs some of these natural emissions that are no longer sequestered by land and forests, as well as some anthropogenic emissions. In doing so, there is increasing acidification of oceans, causing damage to ocean ecosystems, including reefs, fish and other ocean life. Around 40% of anthropogenic emissions are absorbed by heat sinks, while the rest remains in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. The following image compares natural and anthropogenic production of CO2, (note, that this shows 2004 emissions, whereas 2018 emissions are 36 gigatons, a 27% increase in 14 years).

Carbon dioxide sources and sinks
(Brahic 2007)

The IPCC predicts that there are irreversible long-term effects of anthropogenic COemissions, including the very likely continuation of increasing ocean acidification throughout the remainder of the century as oceans continue absorbing atmospheric CO2, which is also rising because of land clearance and fossil fuel emissions (IPCC 2013, p. 469).

One argument against climate change is that it is a myth propagated by scientists seeking funding for research. Believe it or not, climate change is not the only show in town. Scientists get research funding for all manner of things, not just climate change. If there was no such thing as climate change, scientists would continue to be funded for other research.

Severity of impact

Just how serious will the impact of climate change be? Sceptics often carry on as though there will be no impact, however, some of that impact is being felt right now. Pacific Island nations are being affected by rising sea water, while the world is experiencing extreme weather events associated with the warmer climate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts the planet will be largely unlivable by 2100. A paper published by the Breakthrough National Centre (BNC), an Australian think-tank, predicts that if carbon emissions are not reduced by 2050, there is a 'high likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end' (Ahmed 2019). Retired Admiral Chris Barrie, who now works for the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University in Canberra, believes that much of the knowledge provided to governments is too conservative, so existential risks are not identified or addressed (Ahmed 2019).

As mentioned earlier, climate change isn't the only show in town. Overpopulation and over-consumption are destroying forests and habitats, polluting air and water resources, and causing defaunation (the extinction of animal species and populations).

While not solely caused by climate change, defaunation is a major concern which has scientists suggesting that the world may be experiencing the sixth mass extinction event. Over the last century, we have witnessed the extinction of more than 200 species of animals and more than one billion animal populations, as a result of anthropogenic causes associated with key drivers of overpopulation and over-consumption, including over-exploitation of natural resources and habitats, pollution, toxification and climate disruption (Gerardo, Ehrlich & Dirzo 2017). These population decreases are a prelude to species extinction. Conservative estimates conclude that up to 50% of individual animals have been lost, with forecasts that this will worsen over the next couple of decades, threatening the future of both animal and human life (Gerardo, Ehrlich & Dirzo 2017). In Germany, more than 77% of insects have disappeared since 1989, while in North America, there's 2.9 billion fewer birds than in 1970, approximately a 29% reduction (Kilvert 2019). This impacts ecosystems, as birds and some insects pollinate crops, distribute seeds, may be predator or prey and perform many other ecosystem functions. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) estimates that of the eight million species of animals, around one million are threatened with extinction within the next few decades (Sustainable Development Goals 2019). Climate change will impact ecosystems as animals struggle to survive. Those that adapt to warming will still be impacted because of the loss of other animals that their food chain is reliant on. If a predator adapts, but their prey doesn't, the predator will suffer as well.

The anthropogenic causes of defaunation, are also contributing to global warming. Deforestation for instance, results in the production of less oxygen, thus changing the atmospheric balance in favour of carbon dioxide, which is exacerbated by human overpopulation and industrialisation producing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Ironically, two of the world's largest carbon emitting countries are also responsible for reducing the impact of global warming by planting almost one third of all new trees and plants on Earth over the last 20 years. While this greening helps the Earth, NASA believes that it does not offset the damage done to rainforest clearing in places such as the Amazon Basin, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. Some of this greening is because of agricultural industries which have converted native habitats into farms, which further drives defaunation and deforestation.

While some forecasts of the severity of climate change over the next few decades may seem alarmist, the concern is not just the impact of carbon emissions, but that it is coupled with other human-related environmental impacts. When sceptics state that 1000 years ago, the earth experienced this level of warming, they ignore the fact that people were not contributing to it through mass deforestation, defaunation, water scarcity, soil depletion, toxification, pollution of air and water, and excessively high and constant carbon-emitting industrialisation.

Climate change predictions are that more crops will fail, creating food shortages, while rising sea temperatures will reduce ocean productivity, impacting more than 20% of the world's population who rely on the ocean for food (McNutt 2013).

The mining and production of fossil fuels causes significant environmental damage through land clearance, pollution, and mineral run-off into rivers and seas. Investment in renewables and sustainable production will reduce carbon emissions, have less environmental damage and improve human health.

Global warming is contributing to rising sea levels in two ways: melting of land-based ice and thermal expansion of oceans because water expands as it warms (NOAA 2019). Approximately 10% of land on Earth is covered in ice, such as in glaciers and ice sheets which store around 69% of the world's fresh water (NSIDC n.d.). Land-based glaciers are mainly located in Greenland and Antarctica, but also found on most continents, including areas such as North America, Central Asia, North Asia, Africa and New Zealand. Rising sea-levels will create havoc for many of the world's major cities that are built close to coastal areas. This may result in the relocation of more than one billion people in the second half of this century (Spratt & Dunlop 2019, p. 13).

Some people are predicting apocalyptic scenarios caused by global warming. Others do not agree with the end of the world prognosis. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization has rebuked climate alarmists, stating that it is not going to be the end of the world. Taalas isn't saying that global warming is not a problem, but he is saying that 'we should stay calm and ponder what is really the solution to this problem' (Pentchoukov 2019). He acknowledges that there will be significant problems for some parts of the world, but that people can survive harsh conditions. Taalas isn't the only one who agrees with anthropogenic climate change, but who doesn't believe its impact will be as severe as some are claiming it will be.

Regardless of the causes or severity of climate change, what we do know is that the world is warming, is over-populated and people are over-consuming natural resources.

Renewable energy versus fossil fuels

Climate change activists are criticised for travelling in planes and cars emitting carbon, yet, how else are they going to travel. If anything, this is the very reason why climate change activists are campaigning for renewable energy. This criticism merely serves to make the case that activists are trying to make; that we need to invest in alternative and renewable sources of energy.

Economically, it makes far more sense to replace fossil fuels with renewables. For instance, the world is at the behest of major oil producing countries and organisations, such as OPEC. Recent drone strikes on two of the world's largest oil installations in Saudi Arabia are likely to result in higher oil prices globally (Hubbard, Karasz & Reed 2019). If nations were not importing their oil, but were able to produce their own energy, then there would be less risk of external actions threatening their energy supply and economies.

In Australia, the government has been attacking renewables and praising coal for years. This is extremely short-sighted because many nations are increasing their investment in renewables and divesting from coal and other fossil fuels. Yes, at the moment, there is a global reliance on coal, but many nations are increasing their investment in renewables. Conservative commentators like to claim that nations such as India and China are continuing to build coal-fired power stations. This is only half the story. These power stations are to meet immediate need, yet both nations are investing in renewables and divesting from coal as they plan for the future. India is one of the world's largest producers of renewable energy and over the last three years, has invested more in solar energy then in fossil fuels (Cockburn 2019). By 2024, India plans to reduce its coal imports by at least a third, and by 2030 it is estimated that coal's share of India's energy generation will reduce from 72% to 50% (Singh 2019).

In April 2019, the United States produced more renewable energy than coal-generated energy (Milman 2019). Production of renewable energy is becoming cheaper than coal as investment shifts to more sustainable and cleaner energy sources. On the back of investment, India produces the world's cheapest solar energy (Wood 2019).

Coal accounts for only five percent of the United Kingdom's energy mix and will be phased out entirely be 2025 (Thomas, Hook & Tighe 2019). This has occurred while the UK continues to have a strong economy.

Conclusion

Of the four factors above, we can conclude that climate change is occurring, most climate scientists believe in anthropogenic causes, the world is slowly increasing its use of renewables although over-consumption and over-population are contributing to climate change and driving other environmental risks, while there is some disagreement over the severity of climate change effects.

Actions to address climate change generally fall into two areas: adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation requires adjusting to changing conditions, perhaps through relocation of communities, types of crops grown and taking advantage of longer growing seasons. Mitigation involves reducing green-house gas emissions through replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, and enhancing areas of sequestration, such as oceans, forests and soil.

Both sceptics and those who dismiss the apocalyptic forecasts prefer adaptation, because they believe it is more practical and less damaging economically. Meanwhile, mitigation is the main area of focus by activists.

Por que no los dos?

Adaptation is essential because mitigation is not going to dramatically reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to have a significant impact in the short-term. However, ong-term change will only be effected by adopting mitigation strategies now.

Many Australians, including some of its politicians, don't believe that Australia needs to take action because its contribution to global carbon emissions is tiny compared to much larger nations. Yet, at only 1.19% of the global total, Australia was the 16th largest producer of fossil fuel emissions in 2018. That leaves a further 205 countries with lower emissions than Australia. The consolidated emissions from Australia and these other 205 countries totals almost 25% of the world's fossil fuel emissions (Global Carbon Atlas 2019). Australia, as a developed western nation, must set an example for these nations in taking action to reduce carbon emissions. Every little bit helps. An astute, and somewhat cynical contributor to a local paper observed, his minuscule use of water compared to the larger total meant that he shouldn't have to comply with Sydney's water restrictions because it would make no difference based on Australia using the same reasoning to justify its reluctance to comply with carbon emission targets ... of course, if everyone thought like that ...



Let's assume that fossil fuel emissions are not contributing to the planet. Is it really such a bad thing to have cleaner energy. Apart from improved environmental outcomes, it would improve energy security. Imagine not being at risk of oil shortages because of war in the Middle East. Australia holds around three weeks worth of fuel in reserve, posing a significant risk to our economy, lifestyles and industry if there's war or other external security factors threatening it (McCutchan 2018).

With a population of almost eight billion people, the world cannot afford for us to continue consuming natural resources at the rate that we are. While there are some natural resources we still need to mine, for example, cadmium, zinc and other metals used in the goods we require, we can look at how we power those mines and the logistics used in transportation, storage and manufacturing. We can improve reverse logistics, to enhance recycling, reusing or repurposing of components and products. We can ensure mining is done sustainably to minimise environmental impacts, pollution, and run-offs into waterways. Meanwhile, mining of coal and extraction of other fossil fuels can be reduced and replaced in the long-term by production of cleaner, more sustainable, renewable energy. We could consider other resources for manufacturing products. Hemp, for instance, can be used in place of textiles, wood, plastic and so on. It is far more sustainable and presents massive environmental benefits.

What's the worst that could happen if governments and businesses reduce carbon emissions and embrace renewable energy? We end up with cleaner air, cleaner water, energy independence and security, healthier planet and people, improved liveability, food security, and sustainable industries that benefit people and the environment.



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Updated 27 January 2020