CLIMATE, ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
The Climate, energy and environment Dossier at the centre of this issue, has given our contributors and editor, Angelo Baracca, an increased workload in terms of general organization, the choice of themes and cultural and political coordination. The fruits of this labour will also feature in our next issues. The subtitle Criticism of capitalist development, represents one of Giano’s basic topics, this time considered in greater depth by various critics from different fields of research. A detailed description of the Dossier can be found in the editorial introduction.
The most directly political part of this publication includes two pieces - by A. M. Imbriani and M. Nobile - on “non-violence” and the fight for peace; a series of comments by Luigi Bonanate on the subject of terrorism; articles by G. Lannutti and P. Zanelli on recent developments in the Middle East; a report by Gabriele Garibaldi on the present state of the European Union. Salvatore Minolfi presents an expert forecast of global production trends to 2050, with the “Bric’s economies” in prime position or at least competing strongly with the USA. In remembrance of Paul M. Sweezy, Enzo Modugno takes up an article by this important economist from the 1974 “Monthly Review”. In a new section, “L’analisi” , A. Panaccione comments on domestic conditions and external relations in Russia and on the nature of Putin’s policies.
Four reports presented at the Bologna Conference complete this edition, one of which, entitled “The tragic notion of growth” is by Michele Paolini, editor of the conference proceedings presented in previous issues of “Giano”.
Debate. Angelo Michele Imbriani, On “nonviolent politics”, Michele Nobile, Pacifism and terrorism
The two articles take a different view of the debate provoked in Italy by the decision of a (bureaucratically significant) group of Partito della Rifondazione Comunista leaders to adopt the ideology of “nonviolence”.
Imbriani goes through the various phases of the debate, describing the wavering and confusion that accompanied its articulation. The original proposition dealt with the relationship between political power and violence, but then shifted towards “nonviolence”, running the risks that come with an all-encompassing programme that nevertheless remains vague and is, in fact, a “pseudo concept”. After considering the opinions available, the author seems to share the ideas expressed in an explicatory article by Rossana Rossanda which introduces analytic elements that serve to distinguish the reasons behind pacifism from the generalizations of “nonviolence”.
Nobile begins with a reminder of the reality of the atomic age and the need for pacifism to assume adequate anti-war policies. The author nails his position to the historical facts of imperialism, the international hierarchy of which has agreed to “delegate” global military power to the USA. In the guise of a liberal-democratic State, the US has set out on a total war and the identification of a global enemy. This is the basis for war on “humanitarian” grounds and/or “preventive” wars against terrorism, and it paves the way for “the most deadly form of terrorism of all”, the destruction of humanity.
In no way can such power of violence be compared to the violence of criminals and rebels, who have become a subject for study history and realistic theoretical thought, not from a moral theological standpoint, but from the genuine social dilemmas and the “atomic age” itself.
Luigi Bonanate, On terrorism: some preliminary considerations
Bonanate, leading expert in political terrorism on an international scale and member of “Giano’s” scientific committee, answers a series of questions posed by the review’s editorial staff. He does not accept that the present crisis began on September 11th. The decision to rebuild the world to match US interests, and therefore to launch a “clash of civilizations” is the result of the “Cold war” and terrorism is the reaction to US plans and the “Infinite war”. Generally speaking “it is the problems that spark off terrorism, not vice versa” writes Bonanate; the problems are still those of colonialism, and they can only be resolved by a democracy that is a “condition of peace”.
Giancarlo Lannutti, The resistance movement and the failure of occupation
The author refers back to his article in n. 45 of “Giano” in which he identified the popular roots of the Iraqi resistance movement and the need to ensure it was more than just a transitional phenomenon . It is the American policy of war and occupation, alongside the Israeli occupation of Palestine, that fuels terrorism. Italy is an accomplice, in part responsible for that policy.
Patrizia Zanelli, The “Great Middle East” envisaged by the US.
Months after the war on Iraq, the Bush administration drafted a project for the so-called “Great Middle East”, thus re-launching US-EU competition for influence over the region. Based on a free market economy, the ambitious plan, which involves the area stretching from Mauritania to Pakistan, also includes a set of reforms to promote democracy in Arab and Muslim countries viewing this as a means of stamping out terrorism. Local State officials as well as opposition leaders promptly rejected the proposal, labeling it as foreign interference into domestic affairs and also as a new attempt to favor Western and Israeli interests by undermining Arab order. Most notably, the US initiative does not mention the key issue of achieving peace in the region.
Gabriele Garibaldi, The European Union trapped in the web of hyper-power as political unity begins to sink
The split over the preventive attack against Iraq and the failure to approve a European Constitution made 2003 a black year for the political unity of the European Union. The situation is made even more serious by the fact that it happened on the eve of another important moment: on May 1st 2004 ten new members will be joining the EU, bringing the number of member nations up to 25. The way needed to be paved for this event, from a symbolic point of view and not only, by the approval of the Constitution, which harboured hopes for a drastic revision of community procedures in order to avoid the paralysis of an extended Union. While the creation of a political Europe seems a far off prospect, the United States are enjoying the success of their own influence and the unipolar “Grand Strategy” they have been pursuing over the last 14 years: from the maintenance of Nato in Europe to its extension to the Eastern European States. The aim of thwarting the rise of the EU as an independent and alternative political entity seems to have been achieved with no great effort, given the obstinacy of traditional nationalistic and “eurosceptic” thinking among the EU Fifteen.
Salvatore Minolfi, The so-called “empire” and the decline of Western capitalism: a forecast for 2050
This article comments upon the results of a study by Goldman Sachs on the development of Brazil, Russia, India and China over the next decades. The paper, entitled “Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050”, holds that the GDP of these four economies will overtake those of the G7 nations, causing a dramatic change in the global balance of modern economic history. While confirming the suggestions of the “Washington Consensus”, the Goldman Sachs analysis forecasts an outcome of the process of globalization that is quite different to that implicitly contained in recent debates on the empire. The spell of the nineties (the fatal convergence of interests between McDonald’s and McDonell Douglas) seems to have been broken: while international finance is today busy trying to identify the real emerging markets, the American superpower seems to be looking for an alternative form of legitimization to that of the free market.
Berlusconianism, the centre-left and the Spanish lesson
The author tries to define “Berlusconianism” not simply through the clownish nature of the man Berlusconi (though he does point out his political ineptitude and lack of independent thought), but also upon a background of national political culture and “common thinking” that began in the “First Republic” and which is evident in both the centre-right and the centre-left. Telling signs of this are the doubts and u-turns of the centre-left concerning the withdrawal or not of Italian troops in Iraq, and the union sacré that formed over the Italian hostages. With reference to events in Spain, the author feels that only popular mass intervention in the parliamentary and electoral games of the political class, that has shown no qualms about damaging or even destroying national interest, can open the way to authentic renewal. Paul. M. Sweezy, Growing wealth, declining power. With a comment by Enzo Modugno on The economic function of militarism
In remembrance of P.M. Sweezy, who died last February at the age of 94, Giano is re-publishing almost all of his article from the Italian edition of “Monthly Review. It is accompanied by a comprehensive comment by Enzo Modugno, editor of he Italian edition of the review, which highlights the contemporary relevance of Sweezy’s analysis. In particular Modugno indicates the role of military spending in preventing the decline of the capitalist system. We owe the discovery of the economic function of militarism, with military spending ensuring demand, to Rosa Luxemburg. Today’s peace movement needs to retrieve this theme, which the Left, including the so-called Luxemburgians, seems to have abandoned. As long as militarism is seen as just a tool of political power, negotiations, peace conferences, or the involvement of self-professed pacifist politicians seem possible solutions, while the vital connection between militarism and capitalism is ignored. With this critical analysis, Sweezy made a significant contribution to our understanding of the US economic system in the 1900s.
Dossier: Climate, energy, environment.
A critical review of capitalist development. Edited by Angelo Baracca. Climate, energy, environment
Climate, energy, environment. A criticism of capitalist development
The increasingly dramatic nature of environmental issues and the climate changes our planet is undergoing have always had a place in “Giano”. Now “Il Punto” is launching a broad spectrum analysis into the problems linked to climate change, the use of energy resources and their environmental impact in the context of the present day model of economic growth. This analysis will be continued and extended in future issues.
The set of articles we have published are for the most part the work of a group of specialists who accompany their scientific work with special attention to these specific issues. “Giano” thus offers an initial panorama which considers both the problems at hand and the future prospects, and reaches unanimous and expert conclusions.
Unless radical changes are made in contemporary models of production and energy consumption our climate faces drastic prospects (Zucchetti - Spiller). With such a pressing state of affairs the indifference and slowness to react of the world’s governments is sad and disconcerting. An attitude that was again made clear at the nth Climate Conference held in Milan on Dec. 12th and 13th 2003, which was almost completely ignored by our organs of (dis)information (Anniballi - Zucchetti). An analysis of the energy sources available for the future - from fossil fuels to renewable sources, serves to prove the unsustainable nature of this model of development and the need to renounce today’s criteria of economic growth (Marengo - Martines - Zucchetti). The diagnosis of unsustainable growth is once more confirmed by a study of the problem of waste disposal which opens up a Pandora’s box that the consumer sadly still appears unable to perceive (Magnone). A careful analysis, based on fundamental scientific criteria, underlines the lack of substance and reveals the mystification behind the so called “hydrogen revolution” (Nencini). Even the various projects for a return to nuclear energy are discredited at both scientific and economic-structural levels (Baracca).
The clear conclusion is that the energy-environmental crisis represents the challenge of an era, and it can only be won through genuine solutions to the various problems, not simply by hypothesizing technical solutions that will only perpetuate today’s economic and energy model in the interests of its controlling lobbies. This Dossier hopes to make some contribution to the thinking of the “no-global” movement which, although it has as yet to produce a univocal approach, nevertheless appears to be the movement that can best face the need and the prospects for “a possible different world”. The alarming forecasts of many of the articles published, do not inevitably lead to a catastrophic future outcome, but to forms of social struggle that can in some way take up the reins of the destiny of humankind. Encouraging and positive examples of the socialization of an environmental awareness can be seen in the recent popular movements in Basilicata and Puglia that formed to protest against the disposal of nuclear waste and in Campania against damaging waste disposal policies.
Angelo Baracca, Introduction. Imminent environmental collapse
The global environmental crisis is the consequence of the barbarization of world society and of international relations, aided and abetted by the progressive shortage of basic natural resources (primarily fossil fuels, but also vital primary resources such as water). A radical revision of the concept of development is now more imperative than ever, interpreted as it has been to date in economic terms, with underdevelopment and the unbridled exploitation of the Southern hemisphere as its counterpart. Further growth in consumption of resources is no longer possible. A radical change in our way of life is absolutely essential to restore a well-balanced relationship with nature. This also implies a radical criticism of the concept of technical scientific progress, which has in no way freed humankind, but has contributed to enhancing existing contradictions.
Roberto Aniballi, Massimo Zucchetti, The world climate conference in Milan and the Kyoto protocol
The Ninth Session of the Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC-COP9), held in Milan (Italy) in December 2003 is reviewed. The purpose of the Session was to decide on the political and technical strategies to be applied in order to comply with the UNFCC requirements. The Kyoto protocol (summarized in the appendix) is still not operational, nevertheless the COP9 has achieved some positive results. Simone Spiller, Massimo Zucchetti. The future of the climate in the world and in Italy.
The present changes in world climate are due to the atmospheric emissions of human activity. A climate model is used to predict future climate changes, both for the world as a whole and for Italy. While some comments are made, the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions. A significant reduction in environmentally damaging human activity is the only answer. We must not aim to “improve efficiency” simply to maintain today’s “ceaseless development”. We must also plan a far-reaching change in the development model of our society - a society that wastes energy and mistakenly identifies “progress” with increasing violence against the environment in the belief that the planet Earth is big enough to withstand and dilute every offense it receives. All the evidence is, however, to the contrary and those responsible for the present situation should be the first to take action.
Angelo Baracca, Unsustainable Nuclear Energy
In the face of growing (however veiled or blatant) pressures for the resumption of nuclear energy production, a general analysis of the structural features of this technology is provided. The analysis starts with nuclear energy’s indissoluble connections with military technology (from which the deep difference between the state-ruled French, and the private American production systems derives), its complexity and rigidity, territorial control, radioactive waste, grassroots opposition, the nonsensical issue of its thermodynamic exploitation and the contradictions of the social models that have adopted it. The failure of the Italian nuclear projects is then discussed. In spite of the grave heritage these projects left in terms of waste and the decommissioning of nuclear plants, all accumulated expertise has been dismantled, leaving our country totally unprepared for the resumption of nuclear projects.
Franco Mareco, Emilio Martines, Massimo Zucchetti, Energy: unsustainable growth
The capitalist model creates continuous growth in demand for energy: energy for industry, transport, services, agriculture and domestic comforts. However energy cannot be produced from nothing and we have a limited number of resources available, such as fossil fuels, nuclear plants and renewable sources. Each source has specific advantages and disadvantages which are illustrated in this paper.
Facts show that it is impossible to maintain the present growth in demand for energy without a drastic impoverishment of the environment (global warming, pollution, landscape disfigurement, toxic and radioactive waste, etc.). This condition is even more critical when one considers the large disparities in access to energy that exist on a global scale, and the strong international tensions caused by the progressive depletion of certain energy sources.
Some observers believe the solution to the energy problem will be found through the development of renewable sources, the introduction of hydrogen vehicles and energy saving. However, in this paper we show that these efforts will not be sufficient unless the world community is able to change its models of behaviour and renounce the objective of continuous economic growth.
Edoardo Magnone, Consumerism and trash, or consumerism is trash?
Industrial waste poses a significant threat to public health and the environment if it is not stored, collected, and disposed of properly. The most serious effects of improper industrial waste management include air pollution, contamination of drinking water supplies, and the spread of human disease. These problems suggest the need for government policy-makers to explore pollution prevention options and to consider regulatory and enforcement strategies to minimize the harmful environmental impacts of improper industrial waste management practices, especially those used in landfill, the main method of waste disposal in the world.
Altogether more than 1,3 billion tonnes of waste become landfill in Europe and this amount increases by millions of tonnes every year. This total includes 61 million tonnes of industrial waste (IW) and 30 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW). Their amount (mainly IW) is expected to rise constantly, mainly due to the increasing world population; increasing urbanization; rising standards of living and consequent changing patterns of social behaviour and habits (higher consumption!); changes in waste composition patterns (more consumer product packaging!) and the victory of capitalism (economic factor!).
In fact, population growth, rising standards of living, increasing urbanization, and industrialization have all contributed to increased industrial waste generation in both industrialized and “developing” countries. Waste is generated by residential, commercial, and industrial establishments but IW falls under the responsibility of private companies though it is often collected and disposed of by municipal or local governments.
Luca Nencini, Myths and reality of a hydrogen economy
For over two years the media has been spreading disconcerting expectations of an imminent new, affluent and totally sustainable “hydrogen economy”. However, the information to hand presents gross scientific inaccuracies along with an underestimation of the technological obstacles and a significant overestimation of potential energy availability. The rationale for governments and corporations to invest in research into hydrogen applications can however easily be traced to their expectation that hydrogen will favour the advent of new generation coal and nuclear power plants as substitutes for diminishing hydrocarbon fuels. Finally, in a more distant future, hydrogen could become the vehicle for energy supplied by renewable sources in the southern hemisphere, and so bring about a new form of colonial exploitation.
Vittorio Sartogo. “The day after tomorrow” from a secret Pentagon document
The author examines the Pentagon paper, Radical climate changes and their implications for the security of the United States, kept secret by the White House, and published by “The Observer” on February 23rd 2004. He believes this paper marks a clear political turning point. In it the concerns of environmentalists become a subject for political debate on the security of the imperial state. The confirmation of this pessimistic scenario can be found in the 2003 Report of the insurance multinational Munich Re. Yet it was the United States that put up some of the strongest opposition to the Kyoto protocol on the reduction of atmospheric pollution. In order to stop the destruction of our planet, we need to create new conditions of equality and adjust the balance of possession and power. What is needed is a change in methods of production and consumption and in the fundamental relationship that exists between human society and nature. Those in power see the solution in the Pentagon proposals; renewed authoritarianism based on the priority of economic growth and private profit against peoples’ rights to life, peace, the dignity of labor and the respect of our ecosystems.
Luigi Cortesi, On history and ecology
John McNeill’s Something New Under the Sun. An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century World, rightly poses the question of the reciprocal integration of history and ecology and his broad research project draws some partial conclusions of great importance. The overall history of the century is considerably enriched by this. However the author uses a principle of assessment that prevents him from applying his theory to the general concept of the method of production. On the basis of an interpretation of the “green revolution” and of the “golden age” second half of the century, this comment criticizes the “politically weak, and even irresponsibly conservative conclusions” of the American historian.
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