It’s a myth that Marx and Engels ignored environmental concerns. Their work was rooted in an ecological vision that can educate and inspire today’s activists.
At the demonstration in Washington, D.C., in February to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which is being built to transport tar sands oil from Western Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, members of the Ecosocialist Contingent carried signs reading “System Change, Not Climate Change!”
The slogan was well received, as growing numbers of environmental activists recognize that only fundamental social and economic changes can solve the deepening global ecological crisis.
But what kinds of changes are needed and what strategies can win them? There are serious debates within the movement. What I want to argue here is that activists have much to gain by engaging with the ecological critique of capitalism first developed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the 19th century.
Until quite recently, there was a common myth that Marx and Engels had nothing useful to say about the environment. But over the past 10 to 15 years, this myth has been refuted by writers like the sociologist John Bellamy Foster and the environmental economist Paul Burkett.
In his book Marx’s Ecology, published in 2000, Foster shows that ecological ideas were central to Marx and Engels’ materialist outlook from the early 1840s.
For example, in his 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Marx wrote: ”Man lives on nature — means that nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die. That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.”
Both Marx and Engels point out in their later writings that capitalism disrupts the link between humans and the rest of the natural world, to the detriment of both. Marx sometimes calls this the “metabolic rift” — ”an irreparable break in the coherence of social interchange prescribed by the natural laws of life.”
In his notebooks for Capital written in the 1850s, later published as the Grundrisse, Marx notes:
“It is not the unity of living and active humanity with the natural, inorganic conditions of their metabolic exchange with nature, and hence their appropriation of nature, which requires explanation or is the result of a historic process, but rather the separation between these inorganic conditions of human existence and this active existence, a separation which is completely posited only in the relation of wage labor and capital.”
In capitalist economies, a small minority, driven by competition and the search for ever-greater profits, controls the means of production. The system imposes a drive to accumulate on individual capitalists, and this results in a focus on short-term gains that ignore the long-term effects of production, including its consequences for the natural environment.
According to Engels:
“As individual capitalists are engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results must first be taken into account. As long as the individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers.”
Engels points out the way in which this drive for profit can lead to ecological catastrophe:
“The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions. What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertilizer for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees — what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock!”
“In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the immediate, the most tangible result; and then surprise is expressed that the more remote effects of actions directed to this end turn out to be quite different, are mostly quite the opposite in character.”
In Capital, drawing on the pioneering research of the German chemist Justus von Liebig, Marx discusses the process by which capitalism tends to deplete soil fertility:
“Capitalist production, by collecting the population in great centers, and causing an ever-increasing preponderance of town population, on the one hand concentrates the historical motive power of society; on the other hand, it disturbs the circulation of matter between man and the soil, i.e., prevents the return to the soil of its elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; it therefore violates the conditions necessary to lasting fertility of the soil.”
Most obviously, human waste that in the past would have been used as fertilizer now has to be disposed of in other ways. Marx points out:
“Excretions of consumption are of the greatest importance for agriculture. So far as their utilization is concerned, there is an enormous waste of them in the capitalist economy. In London, for instance, they find no better use for the excretion of four and a half million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense.”
Meanwhile, the problem of soil depletion in 19th century Britain was dealt with first by importing large quantities of bones from Europe and guano from South America, and later with the use of artificial fertilizers, which in turn created their own problems of runoff and ground water contamination. According to Marx:
“All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the laborer, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility…. Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth–the soil and the laborer.”
In Marx and Engels’ day, the environmental damage caused by capitalism was localized to particular regions or countries. Today, the threat of climate change is global in scope, with the production of greenhouse gases by the most developed capitalist economies threatening ecosystems across the planet.
But while the scale and scope of the environmental crisis today is much bigger and the danger correspondingly greater, the underlying causes — the capitalist imperative to accumulate and grow, and the resulting “metabolic rift” between humans and the rest of the natural world — remain the same.
Because of this, there can be no technological fix for problems like global warming. Of course, new technologies — particularly renewable energy sources based on the sun, wind and tides — are needed. But they will not be sufficient unless they are integrated into an economic system that is not driven by the need to continually expand and that is democratically planned to ensure long-term sustainability.
For Marx, this meant “the associated producers … rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature.”
As Engels pointed out, however, such rational regulation would have to be undertaken with the greatest care:
“Let us not … flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places, it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first….
“Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature — but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”
Marx and Engels both argued that an environmentally sustainable society would require the “abolition of the antithesis between town and country.” Engels spelled out that this meant “as uniform a distribution as possible of the population over the whole country” and “an integral connection between industrial and agricultural production.”
If this analysis is correct, then environmentalists must set their sights not just on changes within the capitalist system, but ultimately on the abolition of capitalism itself. To avoid ecological catastrophe, we need to create a society based not on competition and perpetual growth, but on cooperation, economic democracy and long-term sustainability.
Marx offers the vision of such a society in the final pages of Capital, Volume 3:
“From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of particular individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in other men.
“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, as boni patres familias [good heads of households].”
We hope to put a stop to immediate threats like the Keystone XL pipeline with our activism. But ultimately, the hope of avoiding an environmental Armageddon requires us to take seriously the idea of fighting for the kind of system change that Marx described.
It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is. And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy. But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.
Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there’s just no money for new ideas, sorry). Of course. But when the planet’s climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.
Why don’t we?
Misinformation is a surface-level explanation. Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?
Here’s one reason: They’ve already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception. The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute. But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.
According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle — so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime. This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds. In fact, a recent study found that belief in the “second coming” reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.
Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.
Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma (a state whose citizens get 10 times the representation in the Senate that Californians do — if one can accuse Diane Feinstein of representing anyone), says that only God could possibly change the climate, and we should stop being so arrogant — as if taking $1.4 million in campaign “contributions” from fossil-fuel profiteers and imagining that your positions are purely determined by your access to an all-powerful being who runs the universe on behalf of the 30 percent of the world raised on the same fairy tales as you isn’t an arrogant belief.
Another senator who claims to be a theist but not of the Inhofe-Shimkus variety, publicly denounced an unnamed colleague this week for pushing the don’t-worry-God-is-on-the-job line in a recent meeting.
When a large portion of the population believes that catastrophe is a good thing, rather than a bad thing, and wars are celebrated and crises bring excitement and solidarity to our lives, the influence is toxic. Of the 40 percent who believe Jesus is on his way, some no doubt believe it more than others, allow it to shape more of their other beliefs and actions. Of the other 60 percent, some are no doubt influenced to varying degrees by the armageddonists.
Belief in theism itself reaches as much as 80 percent in the United States and includes strong activists for sustainable policies, including some who passionately proselytize using the argument that only theism can save us from our apathy in the face of global warming. And there is no question that our most dedicated peace and justice activists include some strong religious believers. But theism is essentially the belief that some more powerful being is running the show. Perhaps the armageddonists haven’t really found a solution to the problem of evil (“If there is a God, he’ll have to beg forgiveness from me,” said a prisoner in a Nazi camp), but the non-armageddonist theists have never found a logical solution to the problem of free will, either. Theists can go either way and all make as little sense as each other. But they must all of necessity promote the notion that a more powerful being is in charge.
And where does that belief show up to damaging effect? In our politics it shows up primarily as an attitude toward presidents. While President Obama has spent five years working diligently to destroy our natural environment for all time to come, the largest block of those concerned about global warming have spent their time telling each other to trust in Him, that he works in mysterious ways, that he is up against the Evil One and must be allowed time to succeed in his battle. You see, the problem with theism is not that some of its spin-off beliefs succeed in an undemocratic system. The problem is that theism is anti-democratic at its core. It moves us away from relying on ourselves. It teaches us to rely on someone supposedly better than we. And the same 80 percent or so also believe in something called heaven, which renders real life far less significant even for those generations that get to experience it.
This, in turn, fuels a belief in optimism. We are all told to be optimists regardless of the facts, as if it were a personal lifestyle choice. Combine that with a belief that everything is part of a secret master plan, and you’ve got a recipe for submissive acceptance. I’ve had great activists tell me that everything will work out for the best, either because that keeps them going, or because they’ve learned that saying anything else earns them fewer speaking invitations. Hardcore optimism is compatible with active engagement. But the net effect is almost certainly a contribution to apathy.
I wish it were needless to say that I am not advocating the equally dumb position of willful pessimism. I’m proposing the unpopular position of taking the facts as they come, acting accordingly, and acting cautiously when it comes to the fate of generations as yet unborn — even if that caution requires huge sacrifices.
There are other powerful forces weighing against action as well. There is our love of technology, including our fantasies about inventing our way out of catastrophe, colonizing other planets, re-creating species. Maybe our senator friend is onto something after all when he points to arrogance. There is also greed, including our fear that living sustainably would involve living with less of the materialistic crap that currently clutters our lives and fuels our obesity. There is also the con job continuously played on us by our government that persuades so many of us that we are powerless to effect change. It’s not enough to believe that the world is being destroyed and that we humans are on our own with the plants and the other animals, if we’ve fallen for the biggest scam governments pull on their people, the lie that says they pay no attention to us. History teaches the opposite. People’s influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine. It’s weakened primarily by people’s failure to do anything. Impotence is a self-fulfilling loop. Those longing for the end of the world are far from alone in imagining that we don’t have the power to make the world over ourselves. Nonetheless, among the things we should be doing right now is explaining to our neighbors that Jesus isn’t coming back.
Progressives should know the disinformers’ most commonly used arguments — and how to answer them crisply. Those arguments have been repeated so many times by the fossil-fuel-funded disinformation campaign that almost everyone has heard them — and that means you’ll have to deal with them in almost any setting, from a public talk to a dinner party. You should also know as much of the science behind those rebuttals as possible, and a great place to start is SkepticalScience.com. BUT most of the time your best response is to give the pithiest response possible, and then refer people to a specific website that has a more detailed scientific explanation with links to the original science. That’s because usually those you are talking to are rarely in a position to adjudicate scientific arguments. Indeed, they would probably tune out. Also, unless you know the science cold, you are as likely as not to make a misstatement. Physicist John Cook has done us a great service by posting good one-line responses and then updating them as the science evolves and as people offer better ways of phrasing. Below I have reposted the top 99 with links to the science. You can find even more here. Everybody should know the first 20 or so. For instance, if somebody raises the standard talking point (#1 on the list) that the “climate’s changed before,” you can say, “Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.” That is actually quite similar to what was my standard response, “The climate changes when it is forced to change, and now humans are forcing it to change far more rapidly than it did in the past” (see “Humans boosting CO2 14,000 times faster than nature, overwhelming slow negative feedbacks” and “New Science Study Confirms ‘Hockey Stick’: The Rate Of Warming Since 1900 Is 50 Times Greater Than The Rate Of Cooling In Previous 5000 Years“). Working in the “humans are now the dominant forcing” part is a good idea. Cook explains the origin of these one-liners in a 2010 post, “Rebutting skeptic arguments in a single line.” I have included the longer ‘paragraph’ rebuttals, which any CP reader who plans to speak out on this subject — in public or just with friends and associates — should also be familiar with.
Skeptic Rebuttal One Liners
via 99 One-Liners Rebutting Denier Talking Points — With Links To The Full Climate Science | ThinkProgress. via 99 One-Liners Rebutting Denier Talking Points — With Links To The Full Climate Science | ThinkProgress.
How climate change looks — and feels — in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
KISANGANI – The searing heat of the last few months in this northern city of the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking its toll. Newborns, the elderly and albinos are the first victims, while others will feel the effects of the crop damage expected from one of the worst heat waves in memory.
Over the past three months, average temperatures in Kisangani have risen from 25°C to 38°C. “This is a first. The city has never known a level over 32°C,” says one veteran meteorologist.
Still, last year there was also a rise in temperatures, and some experts are blaming global warming. Climate expert Emmanuel Kasongo from Kisangani University points the finger at deforestation, which he says “diminishes the frequency of rainfall, modifies the agricultural calendar and produces greater heat.” He exhorts the woodland farmers as well as the population to plant trees.
Beyond the longterm impact, locals are feeling the heat right now. Babies are the first victims. One naked infant of three months is lying face down on a sofa, crying. Her mother tries to take her in her arms to calm her down but it’s useless. “She’s having trouble sleeping because of this red patch,” says the woman. “I’ve been using this ointment the doctor prescribed but it doesn’t work.”
These last three months, the local pediatric center of Alabul has taken in three times as many dehydrated babies as it did during the same period in 2012. Head nurse Alphie Kahambu blames it on the rising temperatures: “Obviously, when it’s 32°C the babies feel 38°C. It results in spots and severe itching sensations. As the infants don’t know how to scratch, they cry a lot, which leads to dehydration.”
Albinos without sunblock
The significant populaiton of albinos are the most affected, since the sun rays cause lesions on their skin. According to the figures provided by the Association for the Protection of Albinos (APRODEPA), “80% of the albino population suffers from minor wounds on their skin and mouth because of the high temperatures,” explains association president Severin Ndumba. “The situation is getting worse since we have no sunscreen to protect us at this time of year.”
The pharmacists refuse to order those products since they don’t sell well on the local market. “No one buys sunscreen. I threw away a whole case of a hundred last year,” says one pharmacist. Another complains that the products are expensive “and most albinos, or their parents, are poor.”
The sheet metal roofs used in local building turn the houses into virtual ovens and many families choose to sleep outside with the doors and windows wide open. One family was robbed recently, but the mother says they have no choice. “It’s too hot inside. My kids caught a heat rash on their backs because of it.”
The plants are also taking a hit. “Every crop is affected by the excessive heat and the harvests have been dropping the last two years,” explains Quadratus Muganza, president of the peasant union for development (UPDKIS). “We used to harvest between 800 and 1000 kilograms of white rice per hectare in 2010, but it plummeted to 400 or 600 in 2011 and 2012.”
Tomatoes are withering under the sun. “We are losing serious money!” says a tomato farmer in front of his field by the river Tshopo. She’s already lost ten patches of large tomatoes since March.
Scientists: There is no such thing as “safe fracking”
by Amy Mall
National Resources Defense Council
There are a few new reports from Europe on fracking that provide a lot of valuable information:
A joint report from Germany’s Federal Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety was released in September. Among the conclusions about the environmental impacts of fracking:
Fracking technology can lead to groundwater contamination.
There are current gaps in knowledge about environmental risks.
Germany should use a step-by-step approach on the use of fracking.
There should be tight restrictions and a ban in areas that provide drinking water and spa regions.
Experts advise against large-scale fracking.
An environmental impact assessment should be conducted for every fracking project.
Also in Germany, Exxon-Mobil funded a panel of independent experts to conduct a Hydrofracking Risk Assessment (the lengthy executive summary is available in English). Yes, you heard me correctly: while Exxon-Mobil financed the study, the company had no say in the content of the report or the selection of scientists and none of the scientists involved in the study had ever worked for the oil and gas industry prior to this project. Can anyone imagine ExxonMobil funding a similar project in the U.S.? The panel of experts was monitored by about 50 stakeholder groups. Among the conclusions about the environmental impacts of fracking:
Hydrofracking entails serious risks as well as minor risks.
Hydrofracking-induced incidents can do substantial harm to water resources.
The greenhouse-gas footprint of shale gas is between 30 to 183 percent greater than that of conventional natural gas.
Some of the chemicals currently used in fracking should be replaced due to environmental risks.
Fracking should be banned in certain areas such as areas with severe tectonic risk, areas with pressurized artesian/confined deep aquifers and continuous pathways, and Germany’s Zone I and Zone II drinking water protection areas and thermal spring conservation areas (which may be the same as the spa regions mentioned above). [In Germany, Zone I is 10 meters from a water well and Zone II is the distance from which it would take contaminated groundwater 50 days to reach a water well.]
Before fracking is allowed in broad areas, a new legal framework is needed as well as additional scientific knowledge.
For now, the only fracking that should be allowed is exploratory wells and single model demonstration projects—under extensive safety conditions—designed to define and optimize the state of the art, gain a greater understanding of the impacts of fracking, and test practices. Such efforts should only occur along with extensive in-depth dialogue with stakeholders and new statutory and planning structures.
The European Commission’s Environment Directorate-General also issued a comprehensive report (almost 300 pages) in September. It is a very thorough description of the fracking process, many of the best practices available to reduce risks, and European rules. Among its findings and recommendations regarding environmental impacts:
There is a high risk of surface and groundwater contamination at various stages of the well-pad construction, hydraulic fracturing and gas production processes, and well abandonment, and cumulative developments could further increase this risk.
Air emissions from numerous well developments in a local area or wider region could have a potentially significant effect on air quality including ozone levels.
There is a significant risk of impacts due to the amount of land used in shale gas extraction and it may not be possible fully to restore sites in sensitive areas following well completion or abandonment.
There are gaps or inadequacies in EU legislation that could lead to risks to the environment or human health not being sufficiently addressed.
Robust regulatory regimes are required to mitigate risks.
A quick look at how we humans run our planet
It would appear we as a race are clueless when it comes to population control.
In relation to the distribution of resources and wealth we appear to be equally naive.
When it comes to the subject of Ecocide this is an area where humans appear to have developed considerable skills
Common indoor plants may provide a valuable weapon in the fight against rising levels of indoor air pollution. NASA scientists are finding them to be surprisingly useful in absorbing potentially harmful gases and cleaning the air inside homes, indoor public spaces and office buildings.
The indoor pollutants that affect health are formaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compounds (benzene and trichloroethylene or TCE), airborne biological pollutants, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, pesticides and disinfectants (phenols), and radon. These pollutants contribute to ‘sick building syndrome’, which causes symptoms ranging from allergies, headaches and fatigue through to nervous-system disorders, cancer and death.
Through studies conducted by NASA, scientists have identified 50 houseplants that remove many of the pollutants and gases mentioned above. Dr. B. C. Wolverton rated these plants for removing chemical vapors, ease of growth, resistance to insect problems, and transpiration (the amount of water they expire into the air). NASA, with assistance from the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, conducted a two-year study directed by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, an environmental engineer from Picayune, Mr. Wolverton has worked as a research scientist for NASA for some 20 years. His study, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, of the interaction of plants and air found that houseplants, when placed in sealed chambers in the presence of specific chemicals, removed those chemicals from the chambers.
More information on this study as well as references and details on specific chemicals can be found on Dr. Wolverton’s website.
Dr. B.C. Wolverton, researcher and author of “How to Grow Fresh Air – 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office”, conducted plant studies for NASA that determined that plants can clean pollutants in homes, offices, factories and retail outlets. Later, Wolverton expanded the study and assigned plants a rating from one to 10, based on a plant’s ability to remove chemical vapors or indoor air toxins, ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insect infestation and the rate at which water evaporates from the leaves.
Top ten plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air:
1. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
Also called the “Butterfly Palm”. An upright houseplant that is somewhat vase shaped. Specimen plants can reach 10 to 12 foot in height. Prefers a humid area to avoid tip damage. Requires pruning. When selecting an Areca palm look for plants with larger caliber trunks at the base of the plant. Plants that have pencil thin stems tend to topple over and are quite difficult to maintain.
2. Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
Also called the “Lady Palm”, this durable palm species adapts well to most interiors. The Rhapis are some of the easiest palms to grow, but each species has its own particular environment and culture requirements. The “Lady Palm” grows slowly, but can grow to more than 14′ in height with broad clumps often having a diameter as wide as their height.
3. Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
Also called the “reed palm”, this palm prefers bright indirect light. New plants will lose of some interior foliage as they acclimate to indoor settings. This plant likes to stay uniformly moist, but does not like to be over-watered or to sit in standing water. Indoor palms may attract spider mites which can be controlled by spraying with a soapy solution.
4. Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)
Grows very well indoors, preferring semi-sun lighting. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in summer. Young plants may need to be supported by a stake. The Ficus grows to 8’ with a spread of 5’. Wear gloves when pruning, as the milky sap may irritate the skin. Water thoroughly when in active growth, then allow the soil to become fairly dry before watering again. In winter keep slightly moist.
5. Dracaena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena deremensis)
The Dracaena grows to 10’ with a spread of 3’. Easy to grow, these plants do best in bright indirect sunlight coming from the east/west. They can adapt to lower light levels if the watering is reduced. Keep the soil evenly moist and mist frequently with warm water. Remove any dead leaves. Leaf tips will go brown if the plant is under watered but this browning may be trimmed.
6. Philodendron (Philodendron sp.)
One of the most durable of all house plants. Philodendrons prefer medium intensity light but will tolerate low light. Direct sun will burn the leaves and stunt plant growth. This plant is available in climbing and non-climbing varieties. When grown indoors, they need to be misted regularly and the leaves kept free of dust. Soil should be evenly moist, but allowed to dry between watering.
7. Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
A hardy, drought-tolerant and long-lived plant, the Dwarf Date Palm needs a bright spot which is free of drafts. It grows slowly, reaching heights of 8-10’. The Dwarf Date Palm should not be placed near children’s play areas because it has sharp needle-like spines arranged near the base of the leaf stem. These can easily penetrate skin and even protective clothing.
8. Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)
The Ficus Alii grows easily indoors, and resists insects. It prefers a humid environment and low to medium light when grown indoors. The Ficus Aliii should not be placed near heating or air conditioning vents, or near drafts because this could cause leaf loss. Soil should be kept moist but allowed to dry between watering.
9. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
The Boston fern grows to 4’ in height with a spread up to 5’. It has feathery ferns which are best displayed as a hanging plant. It prefers bright indirect sunlight. Keep the soil barely moist and mist frequently with warm water. This plant is prone to spider mites and whitefly which can be controlled using a soapy water spray. Inspect new plants for bugs before bringing them home.
10. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)
The Peace Lily is a compact plant which grows to a height of 3’ with a 2’ spread. This hardy plant tolerates neglect. It prefers indirect sunlight and high humidity, but needs to be placed out of drafts. For best results, the Peace Lily should be thoroughly watered, then allowed to go moderately dry between waterings. The leaves should be misted frequently with warm water.
Milan is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and the Bosco Verticale project aims to mitigate some of the environmental damage that has been inflicted upon the city by urbanization. The design is made up of two high-density tower blocks with integrated photovoltaic energy systems and trees and vegetation planted on the facade. The plants help capture CO2 and dust in the air, reduce the need to mechanically heat and cool the tower’s apartments, and help mitigate the area’s urban heat island effect – particularly during the summer when temperatures can reach over 100 degrees.
The two towers measure 260 feet and 367 feet tall respectively, and together they have the capacity to hold 480 big and medium size trees, 250 small size trees, 11,000 ground-cover plants and 5,000 shrubs (that’s the equivalent of 2.5 acres of forest). The types of trees were chosen based on where they would be positioned on the buildings’ facades and it took over two years of working with botanists to decide which trees would be most appropriate for the buildings and the climate. The plants used in the project were grown specifically for the building, pre-cultivated so that they would gradually acclimate to the conditions they would experience once placed on the building.
via Bosco Verticale: The World’s First Vertical Forest Nears Completion in Milan – NEW PHOTOS Bosco Verticale – photo by Peri Gmbh – Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building.
via Bosco Verticale: The World’s First Vertical Forest Nears Completion in Milan – NEW PHOTOS Bosco Verticale – photo by Peri Gmbh – Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building.
Irelandʼs Natural Resources
NOT FOR SALE Conference Sun 10 March, 11.30 – 6pm, Gresham Hotel, Dublin
Leinster House, Kildare St, Dublin 2. Tel: 01 6183366
Speakers Include: Dr Helge Ryggvik (Norwegian Economic Historian), Catherine Murphy TD, Jessica Ernst (Canadian Scientist Living Fracked), Frank Connolly (Author of SIPTU produced Optimising Ireland’s Natural Resources), Stein Bredal (Norwegian former Oil Worker), Andrew St Leger (Woodlands League), Cllr Brid Smith (People Before Profit),Padraing Campbell (Former Oil Rig Worker), Paul Murphy MEP (Socialist Party), Maura Harrington (Shell to Sea), Pat “The Chief” O Donnell (Fisherman Porturlin Co Mayo)
View Conference Timetable here: PBP Nat Recources Timetable
Full Leaflet here: PBP Nat Resources Conference
The Irish government is giving away our natural resources. Oil and Gas exploration licences have been handed out to big multi nationals under terms that mean the Irish people do not gain jobs, a revenue stream or security of supply. Practices with serious environmental consequences, such as fracking, are not ruled out under law. The harvesting rights to our forests are about to be sold to the highest bidder. This threatens access rights of the Irish people to walk in our forests and endangers the sustainability of our woodlands as they will be exploited for quick sale of timber. Our water is about to be privatised. The rst move has been to transfer the administration of the water services to a new semi state Irish Water and next year water charges will be introduced. When water was privatised in the north of England, the area experienced its first ever water shortages!
Fishing in Ireland has been destroyed by huge multi-national trawlers, aided and abetted by EU quota regulations, plundering our waters. What we need is a sustainable sheries policy that protects the livelihoods of small shermen and allows local shing industry to ourish creating jobs and protecting a valuable natural resource.
The mismanagement and privatisation of our natural resources has a detrimental impact on the environment, jobs and our economy. Decisions are regularly made with regards to our natural resources without any public consultations, which are required under EU law. There is no serious plan for a programme of major public investment to develop renewable energies.
Ireland is in an unprecedented economic crisis. Our natural resources have enormous potential for jobs and economic growth as would a national project to develop renewable energies.
We must act now to change the policy of facilitating multi nationals in their pursuit of prots which is undermining our economy and the environment.
Come along to our conference on Sun 10 March 11.30 – 18.00 in The Gresham Hotel, O Connell Street, Dublin 1
Booking Tel: 01 618 3366 Email: NaturalResourcesConference@gmail.com
Last year’s drought took a big bite out of the two most prodigious US crops, corn and soy. But it apparently didn’t slow down the spread of weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto‘s herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), used on crops engineered by Monsanto to resist it. More than 70 percent of all the the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the US is now genetically modified to withstand glyphosate.
Back in 2011, such weeds were already spreading fast. “Monsanto’s ‘Superweeds‘ Gallop Through Midwest,” declared the headline of a post I wrote then. What’s the word you use when an already-galloping horse speeds up? Because that’s what’s happening. Let’s try this: “Monsanto’s ‘Superweeds’ Stampede Through Midwest.”
That pretty much describes the situation last year, according to a new report from the agribusiness research consultancy Stratus. Since the 2010 growing season, the group has been polling “thousands of US farmers” across 31 states about herbicide resistance. Here’s what they found in the 2012 season:
• Nearly half (49 percent) of all US farmers surveyed said they have glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34 percent of farmers in 2011.
• Resistance is still worst in the South. For example, 92 percent of growers in Georgia said they have glyphosate-resistant weeds.
• But the mid-South and Midwest states are catching up. From 2011 to 2012 the acres with resistance almost doubled in Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana.
• It’s spreading at a faster pace each year: Total resistant acres increased by 25 percent in 2011 and 51 percent in 2012.
• And the problem is getting more complicated. More and more farms have at least two resistant species on their farm. In 2010 that was just 12 percent of farms, but two short years later 27 percent had more than one.
So where do farmers go from here? Well, Monsanto and its peers would like them to try out “next generation” herbicide-resistant seeds—that is, crops engineered to resist not just Roundup, but also other, more toxic herbicides, like 2,4-D and Dicamba. Trouble is, such an escalation in the chemical war on weeds will likely only lead to more prolific, and more super, superweeds, along with a sharp increase in herbicide use. That’s the message of a peer-reviewed 2011 paper by a team of Penn State University researchers led by David A. Mortensen. (I discussed their paper in a post last year.)
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And such novel seeds won’t be available in the 2013 growing season anyway. None have made it through the US Department of Agriculture‘s registration process. The USDA was widely expected to award final approval on Dow’s 2,4-D/Roundup-resistant corn during the Christmas break, but didn’t. The agency hasn’t stated the reason it hasn’t decided on the product, known as Enlist, but the nondecision effectively delays its introduction until 2014 at the earliest, as Dow acknowledged last month. Reuters reporter Carey Gillam noted that the USDA’ delay comes amid “opposition from farmers, consumers and public health officials” to the new product, and that these opponents have “bombarded Dow and US regulators with an array of concerns” about it.
So industrial-scale corn and soy farmers will likely have to muddle along, responding in the same way that they have been for years, which is by upping their herbicide use in hopes of controlling the rogue weeds, as Washington State University‘s Charles Benbrook showed in a recent paper (my post on it here). That means significant economic losses for farmers—according to Penn State’s Mortensen, grappling with glyphosate resistance was already costing farmers nearly $1 billion per year in 2011. It will also likely mean a jump in toxic herbicides entering streams, messing with frogs and polluting people’s drinking water.
For a good idea of what’s in store, check out this piece in the trade mag Corn & Soy Digest on “Managing Herbicide-Resistant weeds.” Here’s the key bit—note that “burndown” means a complete flattening of all vegetation in a field with a broad-spectrum herbicide such as paraquat, an infamously toxic weed killer that’s been banned in 32 countries, including those of the European Union:
For those with a known resistance problem, it’s not uncommon to see them use a fall burndown plus a residual herbicide, a spring burndown before planting, another at planting including another residual herbicide, and two or more in-season herbicide applications. “If you can catch the resistant weeds early enough, paraquat does a good job of controlling them. But once Palmer amaranth [a common glyphosate-tolerant weed] gets 6 ft. tall, you can’t put on enough paraquat to kill it,” [one weed-control expert] says.
But of course there’s another way. In a 2012 study I’ll never tire of citing, Iowa State University researchers found that if farmers simply diversified their crop rotations, which typically consist of corn one year and soy the next, year after year, to include a “small grain” crop (e.g. oats) as well as offseason cover crops, weeds (including Roundup-resistant ones) can be suppressed with dramatically less fertilizer use—a factor of between 6 and 10 less. And much less herbicide means much less poison entering streams—”potential aquatic toxicity was 200 times less in the longer rotations” than in the regular corn-soy regime, the study authors note. So, despite what the seed giants and the conventional weed specialists insist, there are other ways to respond to the accelerating scourge of “superweeds” than throwing more—and ever-more toxic—chemicals at them.