World Bank memos

Enzo Michelangeli em at
Wed Dec 9 04:47:46 PST 1998

-----Original Message----- From: Mark Jones <Jones_M at> Date: Wednesday, December 09, 1998 7:51 PM

>Henry wrote:

Er, that was me, Henry's friendly nemesis :-)

>> This point is often glossed over. Many current soi-disant Marxists
>> (especially the so-called -aarghh- eco-Marxist breed) claim that
>> has represented a net loss to the humankind.
>Speaking as an eco-marxist, I don't think we do claim net loss or
>profit; capitalism isn't a balance sheet in any case but an evolving
>system whose benefits and disbenefits both grow over time; the problem
>is that its transitions (or those it inflicts on ecosystems for
>instance) can be discontinuous changes in equilibrium states -- changes
>of quantity producing qualitative, stepwise phase-shifts.

Curiously, Engels used exactly that analogy (in "Dialectics of Nature"), as an example of a universal (and unavoidable!) modus operandi of the real world. The phase shift represented for him the instant when quantitative variations snap into qualitative, "revolutionary" change. (I apologize if I can't be more precise, I read that book about 25 years ago.) But my point was that eco-marxism is like "military intelligence": an oxymoron. Marx believed very much in subjugation of nature as an instrument of progress.

> A small net
>profit for humankind in one era may produce feedback effects which later
>doom the planet. For example, in 1966 less than 10 ice bergs drifted
>south as far as northern Scotland; last year over 1000 did. This is because
>the polar ice sheets (both of them) are breaking up. This stepwise change
>which may indeed produce a net loss for humankind, is the result of
>anthropogenic climate change, ie capitalism. And a left which does not
>begin its politics with these issues is just not worthy of the name.

The humankind has always gone ahead without too much concern about the future, and, as Gibbons noted, predicting the end of the world "however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity [...] has not been found agreeable to experience." OK, some species may disappear: big deal, it's not the first time. As human beings are a part of nature, I can't see why we should feel guilty for anything that improves our welfare relatively to other components (which, incidentally, never showed any concern for us).

In any case, this specific "global warming" thing sounds to me quite overblown: see also the article posted earlier today by Chris Allen. I still have to see univocal, scientific evidence from unbiased sources about the whole matter.

Cheers --


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