Monday, 13 November 2017

Understanding Secessionism in the Era of Globalization -- An Eco-Socialist View

In September 2014, I had occasion to write an article entitled Unity or Separation? – Did the Scots Decide Sensibly?1 In that year, the provincial government of Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP), and a large part of the Scottish people, who wanted to secede from the United Kingdom, held a referendum on the question. A majority voted No. The secessionists were disappointed, but the SNP is still governing Scotland.
    This year, 2017, between September and October, three referenda took place that have a roughly similar character: two in Europe and one in the Middle East. And we know that in Europe alone several other regions have their own independence/separatist movement.2  In this article, I would like to take up the issue once more, in order to elaborate on some basic points.
    In a referendum that took place on October 1, 2017, the Catalans declared their wish to secede from Spain and make out of their autonomous region an independent state. Separatist leaders claim that a good 90 percent of the Catalans voted for secession. But that was the result of a referendum in which only 42 percent of the eligible voters voted (or could vote), because the Spanish central government had declared it illegal and had tried to prevent voting by means of police violence.
    Also the Kurds of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq held a nonbinding independence referendum in September of this year. Also in this case,  more than 90 percent of the voters voted in favor of independence.
    These are the minimal facts required for an introduction to this text. My readers, I assume, have been following the current events as much as I. My purpose here is mainly to try to give a tentative answer to the question why, in recent times – in the era of globalization, in which the world is said to have become a global village – large sections of many peoples living in certain regions have been trying to secede from a larger state or a union of states to which they belong(ed) till now? Some examples are the Basques and Catalans in Spain, the Baltic peoples in the erstwhile Soviet Union, Scots in the UK, the Corsicans in France, the English people (not all the peoples of the UK) in the European Union, the peoples of the erstwhile Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia  etc. I think it is possible to indicate an answer and briefly discuss it and some evidences for it.

The Right Of Peoples To Self-determination

There are some contradictions in human nature. We are gregarious animals, we love to, but also must for the sake of security, live in bands and societies and states. But we also cherish independence and self-determination and hate compulsion to live in undesired unions with other people. In chapter 1, article 2 of the charter of the United Nations it is written that its purpose is "to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, …." . This principle is what secessionists everywhere invoke in support of their right to self-determination. But the trouble is, it is only a declaration of respect for a principle. Although widely used in formal and informal political speeches and writings, this right mostly doesn't have the status of a statute law, that is, it is not always a written law passed by a legislative body such as a parliament or a constituent assembly. Another trouble is, there is no clear definition of the terms "nation" and "people". It seems, the UN charter is saying that a people is not a nation, but it can become one if it can, by exercising its right to self-determination, create its own state. Then it can be recognized by the UN as a nation.
    In the case of the European Union, it has been made clear in its statute that it is possible for a member state to leave the Union, Brexit being a good example. In the constitution of the erstwhile Soviet Union, there was a clear article that gave the constituent republics the right to secede (although the procedural details thereof were left undecided). It was this constitutional provision that the Baltic republics invoked when they wanted to be independent in the late 1980s. In the case of the Scottish independence referendum (2014), a law was passed in the British parliament that allowed the referendum to be held. If the majority of the voters had voted in the affirmative, Scotland would today be an independent state. These cases of (attempted) secession were undisputedly legal.
    But does that mean that a people, minority or not, that happens to live with other peoples in a state whose constitution does not expressly give the possibility of secession, can never become independent? That exactly is the argument of the Spanish and the Iraqi governments. They say it is unconstitutional to strive for independence, therefore it is illegal. It is a tricky question. Firstly, such a people can indeed become independent, and that even peacefully, if the other people(s) living in the concerned state agree to the idea. Thus the Czechs and the Slovaks separated by mutual agreement and two independent states were made out of the former Czechoslovakia (1993). Also the dissolution of the former Soviet Union took place (1991) by mutual agreement, although in this case, the above mentioned imprecise provision in the constitution of the USSR and, effectively, the will of the then leaders of the Russian Federation to get rid of the burden, were very helpful. In the opposite case, the armed forces of the USSR could have violently suppressed such processes. (But later, Russia refused to let Chechnya become independent).
    Here we see that two conflicting principles are being invoked by the opposing parties. For the Catalan and Kurd secessionists, it is the right of self-determination of peoples, which, they seem to say, is a fundamental right that stands above any constitution. But for the central governments of Spain and Iraq, the constitution of a sovereign state is sacrosanct. In fact, as stated above, the latter is a statute law, whereas the former is only a principle, at best a common law.
    It is not possible here to examine the constitutions of all the concerned states where an independence movement of this type has been an issue. But it is a fact that the independence struggles of Bangladesh, Kosovo, and South Sudan could only succeed through military struggle. De facto, then, it is also possible for a people living in a clearly delineated province or region of any state to win its independence irrespective of the articles of the constitution of the concerned country – through an uprising, military victory, and/or support of powerful allies.

Factors involved in secession Conflicts

Economic Interest

Catalan secessionists have two problems with remaining a part of Spain. They say they are not Spaniards, but Catalans. They say they are a nation, they have their own language with a developed literature. So why can't a nation have a state, the most normal thing in the world? That may appear to be their main argument for secession, but they have another strong reason for desiring independence, namely economic interest, and they say that openly. Catalonia is the most prosperous region in Spain. It produces 20 percent of Spain's GDP and raises 20 percent of the state's revenue, but gets back from the centre much less than that, which they find to be unfair.
    Similar is the argument of Lombardy and Veneto (Venetia) for demanding more autonomy, particularly over the revenue raised in their own province. These two northern provinces are economically the most developed in Italy. In a process similar to that in Catalonia, they have to de facto subsidize the relatively underdeveloped South. Lombardy claims it has to give away 45 percent of its tax revenue to the South. They do not say they are a separate nation, nor are they now striving for independence. They all speak Italian, yet they have their own regional party, the Lega Nord, the main point of the program of which was at the beginning independence.
    Let me lay stress on   this factor, the economic reasons for secession, with a telling example from the recent past. 26 years ago, Slovenia and Croatia, then constituent republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, wanted to break away from Yugoslavia and become fully independent. In the process, they let loose a devastating war that broke up Yugoslavia. In those days, ordinary readers/viewers of popular media used to think of this war as an ethnic war in which the Croats and Slovenes (later also the Kosovans) fought against the Serbs who dominated over all the other ethnic groups in Yugoslavia. But a passage quoted below from a book written by an expert on the Balkan region shows that it was mainly for economic reasons that the Croats and Slovenes wanted to break away from Yugoslavia. Misha Glenny, the author, summarizes his interview (in 1992) with Mate Babic, a professor of economics at the University of Zagreb and a former deputy prime minister responsible for the economy in the Croatian government, as follows:
"Yugoslavia … was constructed in the wake of the Great War [WWII] as a political imperative without regard to the region's economic requirements. In the post-war communist federation, the imbalance between Slovene sophistication and the developing world conditions in Kosovo, southern Serbia and Macedonia could only be rectified by massive state control of the economy. This created resentment in the prosperous north, the fruits of whose productivity were transferred to the dusty climates of the south where they rotted in the sun. Above all, a taut mistrust grew up between Slovenia and Croatia [on the one side], where a more industrious work ethic was the tradition, and Serbia [on the other], the borderland of the Ottoman empire's corrupt economic values. Being inextricably involved with the Serbian economy, which appears to be fueled by lotus leaves, had a damaging long-term effect on the Croat and Slovene economies. When the political decay in Yugoslavia accelerated, following the multi-party elections in the [constituent] republics, the economic tensions ensured that this mistrust would deepen."3

    However, there are also cases in which economic interest led people to decide against independence. The best known recent case is of course that of the Scottish independence referendum (2014). A majority of the voters (55% ) rejected the independence drive of the SNP. A nationalist Scot said in bewilderment: "I cannot understand that the majority of a people refuses to be independent." He had underestimated the power of the factor economic interest
    I can give two more little known examples. In the Indian Ocean, situated north of Madagascar, there is a group of islands called the Comoro Archipelago. They had been for long colonies of France. In 1974, France asked the people whether they wished to have independence. In the referendum held on this question, three of the bigger four islands decided to be independent. But 63 percent of the inhabitants of Mayotte voted against. In another referendum two years later, 99 percent of the people repeated their decision to forgo independence and retain their status as a French colony. Today, Mayotte is a fully integrated part of France, its residents are French citizens.
    One may ask: how is it possible that a population of 213 000, the vast majority of which are Muslims and of African origin refuse to become independent and live with their ethnically and religiously similar neighbors in one state? Here too, the answer is: economic interest. Although Mayotte is the poorest of all the departments of France, it is still, thanks to its being a part of France and the EU, much more prosperous than the other countries of the Mozambique Channel, so much so that it is a major destination of illegal migrants. Many come with women in advanced stage of pregnancy, who want to deliver their babies here, so that the latter (the babies) automatically get French citizenship. Compared to Mayotte's relative prosperity, the Union of the Comoros, consisting of the other three bigger islands and some smaller ones, is one of the so-called least developed countries (LDC), more than 20 percent of whose population of working age are unemployed.
    Another such example is the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean Sea, also a former French Colony, and since 1946 a part of the French state. Here too there is an independence movement. But the majority does not want to be independent.

Unforgettable Historical Memories

We may call them whatever we like – ethnic group, nation, sub-nation, nationality – the concerned aggrieved people that are today striving for independence and their own state, have some unforgettable historical memories of subjugation, oppression, exploitation, military defeat, betrayal or broken promises perpetrated against them by some superior power. That is mostly enough to give rise to protracted rebellions aiming at independence.
    The struggle of the Kurdish people for independence and a state of their own is a telling example of this factor. Until exportable quantities of oil were found in the Iraqi Kurdish region, economic interest did not play any role in the conflict. On the contrary. Living as they do in a land-locked territory, they have many good economic reasons to maintain good relations with their neighbors. Yet they are fighting and dying for independence. Why?
    Let us take a cursory glance at Kurdish history in search of an answer. Rulers of the states in which the Kurdish majority areas lie, generally avoided using the term Kurd, or even prohibited its use. For long, even the existence of this people with an identity was denied. The official Turkish denomination for them was hill Turks (Bergtürken in German).
    After the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the victorious powers had granted the Kurds the right to self-determination (1920). During the Turkish resistance against the occupation powers and formation of the new Turkish state, Kemal Atatürk had promised to build a state of both people (Turks and Kurds) and so received the support of Kurdish chiefs and sheikhs. But then, after victory, he refused to honor the promise of self-determination given to the Kurdish people by the victorious powers. Nor was there any question of a state of both peoples. Instead, he built up a centralist, unitary, national state of Turkey on the pattern of the French state – following the motto "one state, one nation, one language, one identity". The various nationalities and minorities were called upon to become one nation in a melting pot. But the Kurds did not accept the idea. Since then, they have attempted several rebellions, in 1925, 1930, and 1938. But every time, the much stronger Turkish army could suppress them. The recent history of guerilla actions led by PKK is well known. Similar has been the case in Iraq and Syria.
    The Catalans too cannot forget and forgive their grievances against Spain. Their desire for independence is not based only on financial injustice. They also argue that they are not Spaniards, that they have been a nation through several centuries of history and have been oppressed and exploited by their neighboring nations: first, as the principality of Catalonia under the crown of Aragon and later, since the early 18th century, as a conquered territory of the kingdom of Spain that came into existence through the forced unification of the crown of Aragon with the crown of Castile. The Spanish crown abolished all non-Castilian institutions, and Catalan, along with all other languages, was replaced with Spanish in government and legal matters. During the Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939), a typical Catalan institution, the Generalitat of Catalonia, an autonomous form of government, was restored. After the Spanish Civil War, the Franco dictatorship enacted repressive measures abolishing Catalan institutions and banning again the official use of the Catalan language. To sum up, Catalonia was, of course, a part of Spain for over three centuries, but it never was unified with Castile or Spain in a peaceful process and of the Catalans' own free will.
    These are actually also examples of struggles of smaller and weaker peoples to assert their ethnic/group identity against attempts to assimilate them into a bigger political entity (nation, federal state or union of states).

Hurt Cultural identity

A group identity can also form around a language. In that case it had better be called language identity categorized under cultural identity. In Turkey, for a long time, the Kurdish language was suppressed, could not be used in government, and was not allowed to be taught in schools. In 1945 even their national dress for men, the Sal Sapik, was prohibited. In 1967, the Turkish government once more banned the Kurdish language and, along with it, Kurdish music, literature and newspapers.

    The concept cultural identity should also include identity formed around a
religion as it happened among Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. We have seen above that both the Kurds and the Catalans complain that in the past their cultural identity was sought to be suppressed by the Turks and the Spaniards respectively. But they had no grievance in regard to their religion. The best example, however, of secessionism purely on the basis of language-identity is the formation of Bangladesh.
    The people of what is today called Bangladesh, the vast majority of whom were (still are) Muslim, had decided to be a part of Pakistan when India was divided into two states in 1947. This decision violated all principles of economic rationality. It was purely based on their Muslim identity, on the idea of all Muslims of the subcontinent being one nation, the Hindus being the other.
    But soon they realized that they were being treated as a colony by the West Pakistanis. The dissatisfaction came to the fore when, in 1948, the central government – with its seat in Karachi in the western part of the country – dictated that Urdu was to be the sole national language of the state. The Diktat sparked off extensive protests and demonstrations among the Bengali-speaking East Pakistanis, who demanded that Bengali be recognized as an official language of the country. They also found that
ethnic and linguistic discrimination was common in Pakistan's civil and military services, in which Bengalis were under-represented. The state also banned Bengali literature and music in state media including the works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who was a Hindu Bengali, whose works nonetheless were read and sung with great respect by educated Bengali Muslims.
    Against the background of these resentments, protests and demands there arose a language movement (Bhasa Andolon), in the course of which some students were killed by the police (1952), who since then have been regarded as martyrs for their language. This movement signified a decisive
identity shift in the country: From being primarily East-Pakistani Muslims in the 1940s, the people became, after the successful liberation war of 1971, Bengali speaking citizens of a newly founded secular state.
    Also in Belgium, the major issue in the conflict between Flanders and Wallonia is language identity – the Flemish people (of Flanders) speak Dutch and the Walloon people are Francophone. However, the other two factors also play a role in it. As in Catalonia, for a long time in the past, French was the dominant language, and the former's language, Dutch, was suppressed. And today, as opposed to the situation in the past, Flanders is the more prosperous region of Belgium. Many compromises had to be found to keep the two regions together. But a Flemish separatism is still there. In fact, all parties of Belgium are split into two separate parties.


The Reality of the World Situation

Let me make a few points in conclusion – in the sense of an eco-socia.list's take of the recent trend toward and current events of secessionism.
    (1) We cannot ignore feelings of people. They are there. But we should not also ignore the reality. There is no doubt that about half, perhaps even a slight majority, of the Catalans want independence, that because of bad memories from past history, this half does not want to be governed by the Spaniards any longer, they may even hate Spaniards in general. But they have no objection to ceding part of their sovereignty to the EU. Isn't it a contradiction (if you leave aside the fact of hatred)? The same can be said of the desire of a large part of the Scots to see Scotland break away from the UK but remain a member of the EU. Of somewhat similar character is the desire of a majority of English people to be politically more independent (through Brexit) and at the same time enjoy the economic advantages of being a member of the EU. Reality is, Globalization has today become such a strong economic factor that no people can any longer maintain the attained general standard of living without bowing to it, albeit at the price of losing a large part of its economic freedom.
    (2) The argument of the central governments of Spain and Iraq that their constitutions do not allow independence of regions is nonsensical. Constitutions and laws are made by people and they can be changed. The state of Iraq itself was artificially created by two imperialist powers. If constitutions were sacrosanct, written down for all future time, no people could ever have become independent, no subjugated or oppressed people would ever be able to push out their oppressors.
    Today, the all-important question for us is whether it is not only legally and morally, but also politically good, hence justifiable, that Catalans and Iraqi Kurds unilaterally declare independence. One may say the moral question has been unequivocally answered by the UN principle of right of peoples to self-determination. I do not think that is right. Today, there is hardly any country, any region in the world that is not inhabited by a mix of peoples – a result of past history. To suddenly make many of them foreigners in a country where they have taken roots (e.g. Spaniards in Catalonia, Turkmens in Kurdistan), is not a good decision, neither morally nor politically. Politically, it would be a bad decision, if it were surely to have bad repercussions in the region. I can well understand why many Spaniards, including those who declare themselves to be both Catalans and Spaniards, hate the Catalan secessionists. Firstly, it is not a long time ago that the Basque secessionists tried to achieve their goal of independence by violent means (bombings and killings and all that). And secondly, it would create serious economic problems when Spain hasn't yet fully recovered from the great crisis of 2008.
    (3) It would be a valid moral argument for secessionist efforts if one could say that, in the present set-up, the minority people living in a region of the concerned country are being oppressed or discriminated against as a people. But where was oppression and discrimination in Catalonia before October 1, 2017, when the Guardia Civil used violence to prevent the referendum happening? Where was oppression and discrimination in Scotland and in the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq? The only concrete argument that remained for these three cases was an immoral one: The Catalans did not like to share their prosperity with the poorer regions of Spain, and the Scots and the Iraqi Kurds did not want to share their oil wealth.
    (4) I have much understanding for the emotional sensibility of people to their native country (in German, Heimat) and their native language. I can understand that today, some three decades after the beginning of the era of globalization, in some countries of Europe and in the USA many among the native people fear they are losing their country, fear they will soon become a minority in their own country – for instance, in England (Brexit supporters), Netherlands (supports of Geert Wilders' party), Germany (supporters of the AFD party), France (supporters of FN), and in the US (Trump supporters). The Serbs feel they have already lost their province Kosovo to the Albanians. Human nature hasn't changed yet. We and the others, that is still how most people think.

What is to be done in regard to these trends?

I cannot find secessionism good, nor even OK, unless a people is really being oppressed and/or badly exploited as a whole, as under an imperialist/colonial rule or by another people living in the same state. The existence of an abstract and unclear principle in the UN charter should not be regarded as sufficient ground for starting a secessionist movement. Recent history as well as the current world situation shows that any such movement, if it gathers momentum, may cause enormous damage to the peoples concerned and, in general, to the world. In the Bangladesh liberation war, according to Bangladeshi estimates, some three million people were killed, and a few million had to seek refuge in India. Some other examples are the struggle of the ETA to free Basque Country from Spain, the struggle of the Kashmiri Muslims and that of the Punjabi Sikhs (in the 1980s) to effect secession of their respective provinces from India, the liberation war of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. All these efforts, except that of the Bangladeshis, failed, causing huge loss of life and other associated sufferings. Today, without a successful war it is nearly impossible, at least enormously difficult for a region to secede from a state that has become established. No ruling politician would agree to break up a state that she was elected to govern, nor would politicians of other states like to rock the boat. The two cases of tolerance, Scotland and Czechoslovakia, are exceptions and would probably remain exceptions until and unless human civilization starts collapsing. We are today getting a foretaste of this latter scenario in Somalia, where a separate, but internationally unrecognized state has come up, namely Somaliland.
    Today, we are suffering from so many great crises and problems that urgently need to be addressed by the whole humanity – ecology crises, climate crisis, finance crisis, global illegal migration, large-scale poverty, huge inequality, danger of wars etc. So no new small crises and problems should be created in the name of self-determination of people, least of all because of prosperity-separatism. True, all individuals and all peoples love independence, but all also need cooperation and help from the others. Today, secessionist movements are only distractions from the main tasks. In regions like Catalonia, Kashmir etc. right to self-determination should take a back seat behind realizing all human rights for all and peaceful coexistence of peoples in multi-ethnic, multi-lingual states. The latter goal can be achieved through federal constitutions that guarantee minority rights. An example thereof is India, a federal republic, which is the home of 1.3 billion people with 22 official languages. Even the PKK was once ready to make peace on the basis of regional autonomy within Turkey. Maybe new state names can be introduced to replace problematic ones, e.g. United Republic of Anatolia in place of Turkey, United Kingdom of Iberian peoples in place of Spain.
    So far as language identity is concerned, there is no need to fight for it any more. No people in the world is nowadays being punished for speaking and writing its own language, not even the Kurds in Turkey. And English as lingua franca of the world is increasingly pulling down all the language barriers between peoples. Take again India as an example.


1.Sarkar, Saral (2014) Unity or Separation? – Did the Scots Decide Sensibly?

2. See for example:
"This map shows the European regions fighting to achieve independence."
Jun. 17, 2017, in RT(online). and

"Spain, Italy, Belgium: Battle lines drawn for independence after Scottish vote."
Published time: September 19, 2014, in RT News (online).

3. GlennyMisha (1996The Fall of Yugoslavia. London: Penguin.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, For Humans. -- Response to Some Comments on My Essay in Insurge-Intelligence

On 28th July, I posted an essay of mine entitled The Global Crisis and Role of So-called Renewable Energies in Solving It on this blog-site (see below). It had been published a few days earlier in the online magazine Insurge-Intelligence as a contribution to a symposium on renewable energies (
    Several readers responded to it with comments, both positive and negative. Prof. Mark Diesendorf, another contributor to the symposium, who had expressed views totally opposite to those of mine (, also responded with two half dissenting and half agreeing comments.
    I thought it was necessary to respond to his comments with a short article that clarifies some important issues not dealt with in my original contribution, which was limited by space. I now publish it here. See below.

I knew that my contribution to the symposium would be controversial. And indeed many readers have commented. I thank those who have expressed agreement with my views, and ignore the suspicion that I am being paid by some people for writing what I have written. I shall here limit my response to some critical comments/views of Mark Diesendorf that he made/expressed in his response to my essay. I think they deserve to be paid attention to.

Numbers, Facts and Statistics

Mark wants to know the names of the experts who doubt that the EROEI of solar energy (PV-tech.) is positive (or, I should say, positive enough to run, in future, an industrial economy). In fact, in my essay I have given reference to Ugo Bardi's article on the subject. Some references can be found there and in the discussion following it. See also Prof. Charles Hall's contribution to the discussion in
    I am not a researcher on the subject, but I try to keep myself informed as an interested political activist. Mark writes: "The claim was only true several decades ago, before solar PV modules were mass-produced." My information is just the opposite. In a much quoted scientific paper published in 1991 in a serious scientific journal called International Journal of Solar Energy(Vol. 10, 1991), Wolfgang Palz and Henri Zibetta wrote 26 years ago that, in European climates, the average energy payback time (EPT) for photovoltaic modules were as low as 1.2 to 2.1 years. That means their EROEI was very high. (EPT and EROEI are both measuring units for the same thing, namely net energy, expressed in two different ways. They are roughly inversely proportional). In the following years of the 1990s however, in the works of other researchers, the EPT figures for Photovoltaic modules rose, to 7 years, 9 years and 10 years – in spite of presumable continuous improvements in the technology.
    I could not (and still cannot) judge the scientific quality of these research works. The point I want to make here is only that, in the 1990s, it appeared and it still appears to me that a lot of arbitrary
calculating methods and perhaps also bias of the researchers were responsible for this chaotic results. So when Mark writes that, nowadays, the EPT of PV solar modules is typically 1 – 3 years, I cannot accept it as correct, simply because Mark says it. So I tried to apply my own non-researcher faculty of logical thinking, the result of which I have presented in my essay. In the 1990s, to my knowledge, no researcher was taking the energy invested in back-up power stations into account.
    Mark gracefully agrees with my assertion based only on logic that the EI figure of all and any industrial product (hence also of PV modules, wind turbines, bicycles, toothpaste etc. etc. etc.) is bound to continuously increase because of continuously increasing remoteness of new mines and wells and continuously increasing difficulty in extracting non-renewable raw materials and raw energy-materials (coal, oil, gas, uranium) from them. But then he makes his argument incomprehensible by saying, "This is indeed a strong limitation on the continued production of fossil fuels, but is
irrelevant to renewable energy resources: sunshine, wind, etc." Haven't I distinguished in my essay between the sources of energy sunshine and wind from the equipments (PV modules, wind turbines etc.) for producing electricity from sunshine and wind? For the EI of the latter, i.e. the equipments, the difficulties mentioned above are indeed very relevant. Their EI is continuously increasing and hence (it is simple arithmetic), ceteris paribus, the EROEI of solar and wind electricity systems must be continuously diminishing. This generally happens also to fossil and nuclear energy systems and their EROEI.
    In statistics, there are many things that cannot be measured satisfactorily and are therefore open to bias of the researcher or the client. Opinion researchers e.g. can never know whether the respondents to their questions are telling the truth. But also actually measurable things like GDP, unemployment rate, total work force, inflation rate, cost of living, poverty rate etc. can be distorted because of varying definitions and/or wrong counting methods such as having too small a sample or the sample being unrepresentative. This fact gave rise to the bon mot "I do not believe any statistics other than those I have myself falsified."

Hopes for the Future

Mark writes: "… energy technologies are made increasingly by using renewable energy." I have heard of a solar panel factory in Freiburg, Germany, (not a big one, maybe an experimental one), that derives all its energy from the solar panels installed on the roof terrace of the factory. Supposing the information is true, it does not prove Mark's point. The four questions put by foodstuff (I only quoted him) are not answered with this example (please read the four questions once more!). Mark himself gives two examples – "A mining company in remote Australia is currently building a solar farm to substitute for most of its prolific diesel consumption, and the Tesla gigafactory for manufacturing batteries will be completely powered by RE." In the first example, the machines in the factory are using electricity from solar panels; my informant did not say that they are being built by means of electricity derived from solar panels. In the second example (given by Mark himself) solar electricity will only substitute diesel consumption. The huge machines used by the company for mining activities will not be built with the help of solar electricity. In the third example, the batteries will be built by using solar electricity. Tesla is not claiming that the gigafactory itself or the machines for manufacturing batteries will be built by using solar electricity. And if one enquires a little further, one may find that in the second and third case, the solar panels, subsidized by the state, have been manufactured in China using dirty coal-electricity. Reg. the case of the factory in Freiburg, I know that all the 6 major German solar panel manufacturers have gone bankrupt.
   Basing himself on the examples he has given, Mark thinks that "…
although the current generation of RE technologies is being made mainly by using fossil energy, the next generation will utilize RE to a greater degree and so on until RE systems are made entirely by using RE." At another place he writes, "The energy for mining the raw materials and building the RE hardware can in future be renewable and this transition has already begun." I am not convinced that the end result of this transition will be the much touted 100% RE for the whole industrial economy. Because Mark does not say with what kind of energy the mining machinery/hardware, the huge trucks, the caterpillars etc. will be built. On the whole, his hopes appear to me as pure faith in miracles happening in future, wishful, not rational thinking. Wishful thinking is an obstacle to making rational/realistic political decisions.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy Law) and Some Favorite Illusions of RE Enthusiasts

Mark writes: "… there is no contradiction between the Second Law of Thermodynamics and a global 100% renewable energy (RE) system, so long as the Sun continues to shine." I am not sure I have understood in which sense exactly he has written this. But it sounds like saying there is no contradiction between faith in a good and almighty God and the fact that there is evil in this world, no contradiction between the Genesis story of the Bible and the Evolution theory of Darwin. Polemic apart, Mark seems to forget again and again the distinction I made between sources of energy and equipments of energy. Logically and plausibly, we may argue that humanity will exist on the earth so long as the Sun continues to shine. But we cannot say that the industrial society can continue to exist without the fossil fuels and nonrenewable materials.
    I am not an engineer, not one of those who are expected to know the Entropy Law. Yet I was compelled to learn the essence of this law. During a private discussion on future energy and resources shortage, an economist said (in the general sense): I do not understand why availability of oil and minerals should be a problem; science says nothing gets lost in this universe. That was obviously the First Law of Thermodynamics or the law of conservation of matter and energy. So let us
recycle everything, all problems solved. A friend of Johnny Rutherford, an RE enthusiast, once said, soon the whole industrial economy would run without having to extract a single molecule more. To lay public it may seem plausible. For, after all, the Sun sends us15 000 times more energy than all the commercial energy we need, for free. I am a bit surprised that Mark has not suggested this "solution" for all non-renewable resources. But why can't we recycle everything? Because there is a contradiction between 100% recycling and the Entropy Law.
    I have learnt that in the process of being used in any production process, all energy and materials get
dissipated, more or less. Some part of it gets lost, that is, becomes unrecoverable. From the state of being available, part of the materials used in production goes over to the state of being unavailable. In pure theory, of course, the whole quantity could be recovered and brought back to their original available state, but only if we are prepared to spend enough energy and materials for this work. In many cases, this process is, in energy and material terms, too costly to be economically viable at all. Again, it may be feasible but not viable. This explains why in real industry not everything is even attempted to be recycled.
Energy recycling is practically impossible. A quantity of coal, gas, or petroleum, once burnt, cannot be recycled, although the hydrogen and carbon atoms are not lost, although they still exist somewhere in the atmosphere or the earth. They are however so strongly dissipated that recycling them is only possible in a laboratory by using immensely more energy than what can be recovered. Lack of knowledge or understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics may lead some people to cherish the illusion that, as commenter Mark Goldes writes, "24/7 cheap green energy is being born. Engines designed to run on atmospheric (ambient) heat instead of fuel. Ambient heat is a huge untapped reservoir of solar energy available everywhere around the clock." There would be "no combustion" in such engines.
    Another commenter, John Weber, who agrees with me, referred to the many high temperature processes required in an industrial economy, especially in metallurgy and glass industries. Now rays of the Sun reach us in a high entropy (i.e. highly dissipated) state. This is why we have to spend a lot of energy and materials to first collect and convert them into electricity before we can use them. If we want to use them in metallurgical furnaces, we have to concentrate them further to a very much higher temperature (strongly low entropy state). And at every stage of collection and concentration, in every process of conversion (e.g. to liquid hydrogen), and in the process of every piece of work done, some energy is inevitably lost, i.e. dissipated without being used. That solar modules have a lifespan of 25 years, does not help much in overcoming these problems.

These are essential points of our controversy. I hope Insurge-Intelligence readers would read also this contribution of mine with interest.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Global Crisis and Role of So-Called Renewable Energies in Solving It

Aspects and Causes of the Crisis

The climate crisis is only one aspect of the global crisis. Yet, generally speaking, Western governments, media, politicians, NGOs, and publicists have been trying to make us believe that it is the only dangerous and the only global crisis. It appears that for them all other crises in the world are only partial or regional problems of secondary importance. But this is a patently reductionist and superficial view of the present global crisis. Consequently, also the policies that are being pursued for solving the climate crisis are wrong.
    The aforementioned agents of worldwide climate politics plus the UN pressurized nearly all states of the world to sign up to the Paris accord (2015). But no similar global effort is being made to address, let alone solve, the global ecology crisis, the various, seemingly unending civil wars and uprisings in the world, the terrorist attacks of various kinds, increase in crime rates almost everywhere, the unemployment-and-poverty problem in all poor and "developing" countries, and the massive refugee-migrant crises in many parts of the world – in short, the globally growing failed and failing states crisis. To my mind, this is the right description of the critical state of the world today. The climate crisis is only one part of it, and as a crisis, it is of recent origin. It is, of course, also a major, but not a basic (i.e. deeper), cause of the global crisis.
    To justify why I do not consider the climate crisis to be a basic cause of the global crisis, I would like to refer to the present situation in Mexico and Venezuela. They are very advanced candidates for the title "failed state". In Mexico, in short, the main cause of this situation is widespread drug-related crimes, in Venezuela it is the totally wrong economic policy of successive governments of a petro-socialist state. Or take for instance the two cases of South Sudan and Central African Republic. People there are not suffering from any climate-change-related drought or flooding.

Dubious Politics of Climate Politicians

Let us first examine the understanding that climate change is at present the greatest danger to mankind and that, therefore, it should be addressed as the most important task of governments.
    Most government leaders and party politicians admit that climate change is a big danger, but they are not prepared to make an all-out effort to avert or mitigate it. Their topmost policy-priority is continuous economic growth. For stabilizing global warming below two degrees Celsius in the near future, they think it would suffice if the world economy could gradually be made to run on an energy mix of various sources, including some so-called renewables, and that, according to IPCC chief economist Edenhofer,* would not cost the world more than 0.06 percent growth.
    But radical climate NGOs and activist groups maintain that the economies of highly industrialized countries such as Germany could run 100% on the basis of "renewable energies". And they say that a rapid replacement of fossil-carbon and nuclear energy industries through renewable energy industries would create many new jobs, thus becoming the main pillar of green growth. They have more or less concrete ideas for the transition, even very detailed action plans for a quick transition to 100% "renewables".
    I can here take just one example, only Bill McKibben's action plan entitled A World at War
.1 In it he calls for a "war" effort – although "war" is here only a metaphor – as huge as the American military and industrial mobilization for World War II. In naming his enemy, however, McKibben makes the initial big error in analysis. He thinks it is climate change. He imagines this enemy is committing a huge aggression against us. Once he calls it an "enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics."
    Isn't it absurd? Any person with some common sense knows that climate change is only the result of global warming. But even global warming cannot be the "enemy". We know today that it is man-made. For a moment McKibben also recognized his error. He himself mentions in a half-sentence "our insatiable desires as consumers," but he does not spell it out as the ultimate cause of the malady. 
    Anyway, he demanded of the then US government (and its future successors) that it should initiate and organize a huge industrial mobilization to get "a hell of a lot of factories" built in order to turn out "thousands of acres of solar panels, wind turbines the length of football fields, and millions and millions of electric cars and buses." David Roberts2  made it vivid:

"Well, have a look at Solar City’s gigafactory, … . It will be the biggest solar manufacturing facility … covering 27 acres, capable of cranking out 10,000 solar panels a day – a gigawatt’s worth in a year. At the height of its transition to WWS [wind, water, solar], the US would have to build around 30 gigafactories a year devoted to solar panels, and another 15 a year for wind turbines. That’s 45 of the biggest factories ever built, every year. That is [even for an American] a mind-boggling pace of building, … ."

Imagine now the huge amount of shit this gigantic effort would simultaneously produce: the environmental pollution, resource depletion, and waste that has to be dumped somewhere.
    We may allow McKibben his war metaphor in the name of poetic license. But if a general makes a wrong analysis of the war situation or, said in the jargon of applied medical science, if the diagnosis is wrong, the strategy or the prescribed medicine may do more harm than good. McKibben's prescription, the huge dose of the wrong medicine – i.e. a huge mobilization for the "Third World War" that climate change, he imagines, is waging against us – is actually uncalled-for. There can be a much lighter and more effective medicine to cure the severe illness based on his more correct diagnosis, namely his half-sentence "
our insatiable desires as consumers".
    Any adherent of the old left (old socialism) of any kind would speak of the capitalists' insatiable desire for profit and capital accumulation as the main cause of our troubles. She would call upon us to wage class struggle. But McKibben and climate activists like him are not old-leftists. They are not willing to fight against capitalism, but only against climate change. And this he wants to do, like all past and present old-leftists, by technological means. Blinded by technological optimism, such people believe that a 100% transition to "renewable" energies is possible. They say we need more technology, not less; they assert we could overcome all crises and problems of mankind by means of technology. I already heard in 1984 that the intermittency-and-storage problem of renewable energies can be easily solved, namely by means of batteries and liquid hydrogen.

Critique of technological solutions

Such activists are suffering from some illusions. They appear not to know the most inexorable of all the laws of physics, namely the
Second Law of Thermodynamics (AKA the Entropy Law that also applies to matter). In reality, so-called renewable energies are neither renewable nor clean. One makes this mistake due to a logical error that must be rectified. We have to differentiate between sources of energy and equipments needed to convert them into electricity and heat. Sunshine, wind, and flowing water are sources that will still be there after Homo sapiens has disappeared from the surface of the earth and will still supply useful energies to the next hominid species– e.g. as driver of sailing boats and as supplier of warmth. So they indeed are renewable and also clean. But the equipments needed to generate electricity from these sources are made of materials that are nonrenewable. And the energy used to produce these material things comes till today for the most part from fossil-carbon and nuclear fuels, both of which are nonrenewable and dirty. So how can solar, wind and hydro-electricity be called renewable and clean? And how can electric cars be preferable to combustion engine cars if the batteries made of nonrenewable materials store nonrenewable and unclean electricity?
    Moreover, these so-called renewable energies are not
viable, although they are feasible. Suppose tomorrow, accepting the demand of the movements, all states decide to leave all the still unextracted fossil-carbon and nuclear fuels in the ground. How will then the said equipments be manufactured/built?
    And the equipments that have already been manufactured/built and are supplying electricity have a lifespan of 20-30 years. When they are no longer working and must be replaced, the second generation thereof cannot be manufactured/built, because then, we shall not have any fossil or nuclear energy to be used. Either the fossil-carbon and nuclear fission materials are exhausted or our governments have decided to leave them in the ground. To make the point clear, let me quote an impatient discussant, who, using the pseudonym "foodstuff", put the following questions to protagonists of the so-called renewable energies:3

"I still want to know if the following can be done:

1. Mine the raw materials using equipment powered by solar panels.
2. Transport and convert metal ores, e.g. bauxite-aluminum, using equipment run by solar panels and in a factory built using the energy from solar panels.
3. Make the finished panels in a factory run by solar panels, including building and maintaining the factory.
4. Transport, install and maintain the solar panels using equipment running on solar panels.
All this is presently being done [mainly] with the energy from fossil fuels. How will it be done when they are gone?"


Protagonists of 100% "renewable energies" say: we must use a large part of the generated renewable energies for producing the equipment needed for producing the second generation of equipment for producing renewable energies. And so it will go on and on.
    Here comes the crucial question of
EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested or energy balance). Assuming that the first generation equipments do produce some net energy, i.e. EROEI is positive, how large is the amount of this net energy? Let us Remember, hundreds of millions of households and enterprises producing consumer goods will first consume electricity from this source. Will there be anything left for investing in production of all the equipments, i.e. producing and reproducing everything necessary for running an industrial economy?
    There is no certainty in this question. Many experts who tried to measure it expressed doubt that the EROEI of solar energy technology is positive. Why is the matter so uncertain?
gross ER (energy return) part of the question is easy to answer, and correctly, if you have a good meter attached to the solar panel. But how do you measure the EI (energy invested) part of the question? What the experts do is actually guesstimating. Here bias starts playing a role. So I answer the question in a different, and I think more convincing, way:
    Since almost all raw materials and energy that are till today used to produce the required equipments are nonrenewable, the old mines and wells of the same gradually get exhausted. Miners must then go to ever remoter and ever more difficult places to extract them out of new mines/wells. That means, energy invested (EI) in fuels and minerals
progressively increases. That means EI – not only for energy equipments but also for any industrial product – continuously increases. Remember, we are not talking of prices and money costs which depend on many variable factors, but of EI, of energy cost of a product. For example, money cost of production of solar panels would fall further, and hence also their price, if production is transferred from China to, say, Bangladesh, where wages are lower than in China.
    In case of minerals such as copper and Nickel we are digging deeper and deeper and going to ever hotter and icy-colder deserts and polar regions. The copper mine of Chuquicamata in Chile's Atacama desert is in the meantime so deep that the big heavy trucks that bring the ore to the surface can only be seen like toys down below. For oil, we are since long boring in deep seabed. Recently, geologists have found a mountain containing huge quantities of extremely rare cadmium telluride, the material that can greatly increase the efficiency of solar cells. But it stands at a depth of 1000 meters down in the Atlantic Ocean. If that is the objective situation, no small innovation improving the ER side can, I think, in the long run offset the
secular trend of rising energy costs (EI). For such small innovations cannot overcome the two cosmological constants involved here, namely (1) the intensity of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth at any particular place – which is very low, so that organisms can survive – and (2) the fact that the sun does not shine in the night.4

Perspective on a Future Sustainable Society

I hope now it has become clear to my readers that "renewable energies" cannot play any role in solving the multifaceted global crisis of today and that, on the contrary, investing in these technologies is a waste of time, effort, energy and, most important of all, scarce resources. If scientists and engineers were honest, they should say that the only really renewable and clean sources of energy, apart from our own physical energy, are wood and other biomass products for fire, wind for sailing boats and wind mills, and flowing water in rivers and streams for water mills – the last two only for generating kinetic energy. And, if we are prepared to exploit other living beings, then also the muscle power of domestic animals.
    Humanity has lived for thousands of years with only such energies. In a not so distant future, we have to be satisfied with that. But that would be impossible with 9+ billions of us. Let me quote here an impossibility theorem that I formulated some time ago:

It is impossible to fulfill the continuously growing "needs", demands, wishes, aspirations and ambitions of a continuously growing world population while our resource base is continuously dwindling and the ability of nature to absorb man-made pollution is continuously diminishing. It is a lunatic idea that in a finite world infinite growth is possible.

    Our top-priority political tasks today and for a transition period of uncertain duration would therefore be (a) to start a massive campaign for a population control program with the long-term goal of bringing down the world population of homo sapiens to, say, two billions; (b) a campaign for reducing consumption simultaneously with a campaign against the growth ideology; (c) propagating alternative conceptions of peaceful human societies (my own preference is an eco-socialist society); (d) a campaign to let wild forests and the number of wild animals expand.
    These are very broadly defined tasks. Details need to be worked out, which however can only be done if many people show interest.

Notes and References

* Edenhofer, Ottmar & Michael Jacob (2017) Klimapolitik. Ziele, Konflikte, Lösungen. Munich: C. H. Beck, P. 52.

McKibben, Bill (2016): A World at War

2. Roberts, David (2016): Climate Justice Policy and the Metaphor of War

3. "foodstuff", comment as part of the discussion on Ugo Bardi's article. See:

Bardi, Ugo (2016)"But what's the REAL energy return of photovoltaic energy?" in Cassandra's Legacy (online).

4. This presentation on the EROEI of solar energy technologies is based on

Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas (1978): "Technology Assessment. The Case of the Direct Use of Solar Energy";

I discussed all these matters more thoroughly in my book Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? (1999). London: Zed Books.

For my other, shorter, writings on similar issues, see my blog-site:

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Climate Change -- the Worst-Case Scenarios. Can Something Be Done?


Dear friends,

just a few days ago, I read a very interesting essay by an American journalist, who interviewed several top-level climate scientists – among them some who had actually discovered global warming, climate change and related facts in the 1980s and thereafter. In his essay, David Wallace-Wells, the author, summarizes what he heard from these scientists and what he had read on the subject. In it he depicts the worst-case scenarios that would emerge if the worst fears of the climate scientists come true.
    The essay has gone viral, has been read by over 2 Million people and commented on by over 400 people including myself. I think all political activists, especially those leaders in politics and the media who make or influence policy, should read it.
    I admire the author for writing this important text. But I also find it deficient in its concluding part, in which he only repeats the technological optimism of the scientists.
    Below I give you the links to the article and the text of my comment.

With best wishes

Saral Sarkar


My comment:

It is a very good piece of work. My sincere thanks to Wallace-Wells for imparting to us, activists and non-scientists, all the relevant knowledge we need. Yet, the conclusion is disappointing. Here he does not express his own thoughts, but only reproduces the optimism of the scientists he interviewed, which he seemingly shares.
    After we have learnt all that, the question remains: what can and should be done? Here, I think, the author makes several mistakes:
    (1) He mixes up discovery and invention, science and engineering. The scientists and the author have presented here much information about discoveries. They discovered the hole in the ozone layer. But some engineering and political decision-making were necessary to patch it up, e.g., by replacing one gas, CFC, with another, so that consumers did not have to forgo a single refrigerator. The Apollo Program was a huge feat of engineering that enabled man to land on the moon – at the cost of enormous amounts of energy and materials plus enormous amounts of carbon emission and other pollutions. All engineering feats, all increases in production increase GHG emission and pollution.
He writes about "our debt to nature". Wonderful! But how do you pay this kind of a debt back and become debt-free? Do you then, as usual in usual kinds of debt, undertake new engineering projects and increase production and income? In real life, in certain situations, the debtor simply cannot increase his production/income. Then he reduces his consumption in order to pay off the debt. Our (carbon) debt to nature is not a usual kind of debt. It can only be paid off by reducing carbon emission, i.e. by reducing production. Through its Apollo Program, humanity did not reduce its carbon debt to nature. On the contrary.
    In the text I did not find any mention of renewable energy technologies, but spraying sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere and carbon capturing were mentioned. Application of all these technologies would entail producing more CO2 with uncertain results. To place our hope in such technologies is "another form of delusion
    (3) Instead of relying on engineering, we should rely more on social or socio-political engineering. We should bring our ingenuity to bear on this area.
    Wallace-wells says reduced global output would lead to reduced per capita GDP. But per capita GDP is a function of both GDP and population size. If we ourselves collectively start a dual project of deliberately reducing global output and, simultaneously, reducing global population size, then the pain would be bearable. I believe such a social-engineering project would have more and quicker effect than the hard engineering ones the scientists are dreaming of. Reducing consumption in the rich countries and raising more taxes there to be channeled to reforestation and population control projects in the poor countries would not only be just but also help immediately.

Friday, 9 June 2017

What is Eco-Socialism, Who is an Eco-Socialist

A few days ago I read a longish interview that Prof. John Bellamy Foster.1 had given to a leftist journal called Left Voice (LV). Prof. Foster is a renowned American Marxist scholar and a leading eco-socialist theoretician. Among many other things, he expressed in the interview his high regard for Naomi Klein, who had, 2–3 years ago, published a best-seller entitled This Changes Everything –Capitalism vs. the Climate. That would not have been any problem for anybody. But Prof. Foster also said: "She is aligned with eco-socialism". What the phrase "aligned with" actually meant was not clear. So Richard Smith, another renowned American eco-socialist, took it as meaning Klein is an eco-socialist. According to Smith, who has read Klein's 576 page book, she is not an eco-socialist. He criticized Prof. Foster for thinking so, probably meaning thereby also that Foster was thus diluting the content of eco-socialism.2  Thereafter several comments appeared in the website of the forum the Simpler Way.3 I too published there my first quick response to the debate. Below I am posting a revised and expanded version of my response.

It is not really important to know whether or not Klein is an eco-socialist. There are probably a few hundred leading, prominent and intellectual activists in the movement to prevent the worsening of climate change (call it whatever you will) or any other popular environmental movement. It is not possible to know what all they have written or said or done. Many people join such one-point movements because they support the movement's particular limited cause – demand something or prevent something. That is good. Also we eco-socialists should join them if we think they deserve our support. But parallel to such popular one-point movements, it is necessary to build up a really eco-socialist movement. Only in such a movement, if and when it emerges, will it be useful, even necessary, to know who is a true eco-socialist. For that, however, it is necessary first to have clarity about the essential points and convictions of eco-socialism.
    In the early 1970s, when I read the book Limits to Growth, I had exactly such a thought as Klein expressed in the phrase "this changes everything". I was in those days a supporter/friend of political activists, whose parties and groups were roughly called CPI (Marxists-Leninist).Their basic theory ("ism") was called, broadly speaking, Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung-Thought. The common point between them and me was only that they and I were all socialists.
    After reading Limits to Growth, I exclaimed: My God, if that is all true, then it changes everything.4 But was it all true? What I read there was, for me at least, convincing. After all, nobody could deny that non-renewable resources are limited and would sooner or later be exhausted, that even renewable resources such as fresh water and fertile land are available in limited supply.5 And we could see that even in a poor, rock-bottom low-wage country like ours not everything could be recycled. Every city had to have a waste disposal site.6 A few years later, I read in a serious German journal that even Soviet communist scientists had said that the conclusions of the report to the Club of Rome were irrefutable. I thought: well, then it is impossible to build up a socialist society in India. I/we had in those days no other conception of a socialist society than the one we had received from Marx, Lenin, Mao and their disciples: (put briefly) in regard to production, prosperity through development of the productive forces; in regard to distribution, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need; in regard to exercise of power, governance through the associated producers etc. It was simply a conception of
cornucopian socialism.
    That was the beginning. I started distancing myself from Marxism, Leninism and Maoism, although I and the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists I knew remained friends at the personal level. More thinking and more reading led me to eco-socialism. All that took place in the 1970s, before any knowledge of climate change existed. Now think of this: Klein, a 45 year old highly educated Western journalist, suddenly had her awakening in the second decade of the 21st century, when she learnt something about climate change, and she concluded that capitalism is the enemy of our planet's climate. And she wrote a 576 page book on the subject. And there is so much tam-tam about it.
    Let us now come to the essential points of eco-socialism. I think, they are the convictions that: (1) there are limits to growth – not only to economic but also to population growth7; (2) we have already overshot these limits to a dangerous level; (3) there are no technological solutions to the global resource and pollution problems;8 (4) therefore the world economy must now be subjected to a process of deliberate contraction and gradually brought to a sustainable steady state; (5) this contraction must proceed in a planned way, otherwise human societies would collapse one after the other; (6) both the burdens and benefits of economic contraction must be distributed equitably; otherwise citizens would not accept the planned contraction; (7) the goal must be to reach a sustainable and egalitarian steady-state economy and society at a much lower level than today's.
    Taken together, these essential points/convictions may be called
eco-socialism. Let those who have read Klein's book now say whether she may be considered to be aligned with eco-socialism. I have more important things to do.
    However, before concluding this text, I would like to point out
a few flaws in this debate between Bellamy Foster and Smith.
    (1) Smith maintains, both in the title of his critical comment and further down, that "Klein is … not an
eco-socialist". But Bellamy Foster has reduced the question to
"Is Klein a socialist?" That is not good for creating clarity. For if the two terms did not mean different things, there would not have been any need to coin the new term eco-socialism in the first place.
    The determinant element in the concept eco-socialism is the prefix eco. And that means the rejection of
industrialism. To be a good socialist one only needs to rejects capitalism. But to be an eco-socialist one must also reject industrialism as a future perspective for mankind, and agree to a program of de-industrialization (often clumsily called de-growth) – of at least the overdeveloped countries to start with. I do not see this difference taken up in the debate. (It won't do, however, if you agree merely to transfer the excessively polluting and resource-and-labor-intensive industries to China, India and other relatively under-developed countries, and then import the products of the same industries for consumption at home.)
    (2) Bellamy Foster writes that Klein
defended "Hugo Chávez’s 21st century socialism in Venezuela." This information is irrelevant for the debate. No sensible person could ever think that "Hugo Chávez’s 21st century socialism." was socialism. I always called it petro-socialism, which totally depended on the country's oil bonanza. Chavez only distributed the revenues from it more equitably. As a result of this good deed, Venezuelans forgot how to produce food on their own land. Chavez was a good man, that's all.
    (3) Also irrelevant, not important, is the information that "she [Klein] is openly anti-capitalist." One can rail at capitalism and yet not be a socialist. Example: Pope Francis of Rome. Moreover, even if one is a socialist, one is not necessarily aligned with eco-socialism.

Notes and References

1. See

2. For Smith's critique and Foster's response, see

3. See them in!forum/thesimplerway

4. Some years later, after reading Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolution, I started using the term "
paradigm shift" in the sense that it changed my whole line of thinking.

5. Later I came to regard also
nature's ability to absorb human-made pollution as a resource. And that too is limited.

6. In those days, in the environmental movement, there was much glib talk about garbage being actually "resources stored at a wrong place". Even a thinker like the late André Gorz wrote that we could recycle almost everything. Much later did I learn – thanks to Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen – why that was impossible, and why, if theoretically possible, it was not economically viable. It was because the
entropy law also applied to matter (materials).

Population growth has for a long time been a taboo topic for almost all leftists, progressive-liberals, and Marxists. That is actually the worst of all the theory-legacies of Marx, Engels and Lenin. I think those who do not understand the importance of the population issue have not understood the essence of ecology. But 134 years after Marx's death, things are changing. Today, many eco-socialists understand that they cannot call for de-growth and let exponential population growth go on.

8. All ideas of
technological solutions such as raising resource efficiency, de-coupling of economic growth from resource consumption, renewable energies (solar, wind etc.) are bunkum. Technological solutions can be helpful for solving one problem of one particular firm or region, but not for solving global ecological and resource problems. Because if you in this way solve one problem at one place, that would generate a new problem at another place.

NB. All these points have been thoroughly discussed in my book Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? – A critical Analysis of Humanity's Fundamental Choices. 1999, Zed Books, London.