|Issue 7 - July 1972|
|Blabber & Smoke|
the workers of the world have been fighting the age old problem of poverty
- in a well organised manner for a century and a half. In the affluent
countries the battle has at last been largely won, although there are
still pockets of poverty among the lowest paid, unemployed, old aged etc.
Even so this poverty is more relative than absolute: it is nothing like
the grinding poverty of the 19th century and even up to 1914.
However change is the fundamental law of everything in nature and it usually comes gradually and unnoticed until it reaches a stage where it becomes important, maybe even the most important item of all.
Even in the days of Queen Elizabeth I the burning of coal was banned in London because of the pollution it caused. In the 19th and first half of the 20th century air pollution was pretty general in areas where the workers lived around the factories, but it was in sufficiently reasonable quantities for the natural forces of the atmosphere to clean it up. Since 1946, however, new processes of production have been introduced which are far more profitable than the old but which are also far worse polluters of both air and water. Furthermore production is expanding exponentially - that is to say at rates that multiply rather than add.
All this is in the interests of maximisation of profits without consideration of the environment. The organised workers have willingly acquiesced in this because it has provided more work and better wages - more money for both sides of industry.
Industry also needs an expanding population to obtain an expanding market, but industry expands some ten times faster than the population, so that it becomes necessary to find other markets than people's needs - space exploration, supersonic aircraft, the making of goods that last but a short time and especially weapons of war. Who cares? War makes work - and wealth! It is generally fought in other people's countries and today only in the backward countries - Korea, Vietnam, Yemen, the Middle East etc.
So much industry is geared to the war in Vietnam, so much capital invested in this industry, and so many jobs dependent on it that it would cause great hardship in the USA if this war came to an end - maybe they'd have to start another one elsewhere.
won't like it
The same thing exactly applies to the atmosphere and oceans. They are not unlimited in size. The doubling time of pollution growth is in the advanced countries not much more than ten years. Once the rate of atmospheric pollution exceeds the rate at which nature can clear it up, then the oxygen content of the atmosphere will fall continuously. A reduction of 6% of the oxygen would make human life impossible.
It is thought by some scientists that we shall approach this limit soon after the year 2000. But industry and the organised workers are still planning expansion.
As we all know the Government has just passed an anti-dumping of poisonous waste bill. This does not prevent dumping but only makes it compulsory to notify the local authorities who have no power to prevent it and can only prosecute if serious harm is done to a number of people. Yet the effects of such dumping may not be manifest for 30 years. The bill also makes the figures appertaining to pollution trade secrets. Says the New Scientist 16/3/72 page 580 "once again legal sanctions are being wheeled out to prevent scientists and conservation groups from making an independent evaluation of a pollution hazard". So this bill is the opposite of its title: it enables polluters to conceal their actions from the public while doing nothing to prevent either pollution or dumping. The sop to the public is only in the title of the bill.
The New Scientist, 3/2/72 says, "On the other side of the picture the commissioner for agriculture for the EEC, Dr Sicco Mansholdt, has recommended to the president of the EEC a plan to bring the EEC's economic policies into line with the ideas of Forrester, Paul Ehrlich and Galbraith etc. All progressives must do everything possible to back Mansholdt. Industry won't like it."
1985 or 1975?
Likewise the earth has not got infinite space and resources. William and Paul Paddock (Famine 1975) show that the upward curve of increasing population crosses over and will pass the curve of increasing food production in 1975. The USA Department of Agriculture making similar estimates gives the date of this as 1985 - both on total world figures. Obviously in some countries population will outstrip the food supplies before others. One example is Bangladesh (East Pakistan). This is the real root cause of all the killing and fighting between rival groups in this suffering country.
Another point about food. The factory farms for animals and poultry are using vast amounts of grain. Old fashioned farming returned the manure to the land and kept the soil cycle of fertility going. New methods of get rich quick farming find it cheaper to lose the manure into the sewers and rivers instead. Not only does this increase water pollution much faster than human sewage but it depletes the land of trace minerals such as copper, chromium etc which are essential to plant growth but not present in chemical manure.
Money Isn't Everything
These problems teach us that money is not everything. The miners justifiably struggled in the most determined manner for a few quid extra and won. Do we honestly care more for a few quid than we do for the environment which decides whether we live or die? Once the working class understands this they will fight with the determination of the miners - but not for a few quid but first of all to save their lives from becoming an environmental hell (Concorde alone may be enough to do this) and later to save civilisation from the kind of collapse now taking place in Bangladesh and finally to prevent the extinction of us all. And it won't be only the workers who will fight. This affects us all.
The subject is far too big to be dealt with in a short article. But it is necessary, necessary for human survival, for the working class and all social movements to examine these problems and work out a solution. Prof Paul Ehrlich says that if we don't, it will "certainly kill us all".
Our new problem no.1
'How to be a Survivor: a plan to save spaceship earth' 40p and
These books offer a tentative solution to these problems as well as giving them adequate minimal coverage. They also tell you what you can do to help. When you have read them you will not be able to think as you did before. If you don't read them you will be concentrating on problems of the past 200 years and neglecting the future. You will become a back number, you will allow your organisations to slip onto the scrap heap of history - obsolete.
If you can't afford them there are plenty of survival books in the library - bigger, more comprehensive but less dramatic, by Barry Commoner, Paul Ehrlich, W and P Paddock, Frazer Darling and many many others - all ecological scientists. The first and most important of such books is Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' written in 1962.
THIS is the Class Struggle
May I conclude with Rachel Carson's warning "What we have to face is not an occasional dose of poison which has accidentally got into some article of food but a persistent and continuous poisoning of the whole human environment".
The warning refers to but one aspect only of the destruction of the environment, namely what is done by the chemical industry alone.
S Jacoby BSc