Archive for capitalism

Impermissible Exchange

Posted in Ecological resilience, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2017 by Rob Wallace

Rich Skeleton 1The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.” –Philip K. Dick (1969)

For some, Jean Baudrillard writes in postmodern twaddle. I recommend reading him first as heady science fiction that suddenly rewards that suspension of disbelief. After all, even a scientist in the age of agribusiness R&D, freighted with the humiliation of the end of curiosity-driven science, must retain a morsel of self-respect.

While Karl Marx illuminates the capitalist machinery in–as Francis Wheen pointed out–the surrealist digressions of Tristam Shandy, a favorite novel, and István Mészáros in commodization’s epistemological costs, I find Baudrillard’s enigmatic aphorisms debone some of the metaphysical gobbledygook even modernity’s opposition accepts.

Don’t get me wrong, some Baudrillard is outright bullshit. His quantum physics envy is the hiding place of every pseudoscientific quack with an exit through the gift shop. I once walked out of a rapt Bay Area screening, wallet intact, for that cheap scam.

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Red Earth

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2017 by Rob Wallace

Red Earth 4They lived like monkeys still, while their new god powers lay around them in the weeds. ― Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars

For a column to be published on Earth Day, the day of the March for Science, a reporter asked me three questions: Why are capitalism and environmentalism inherently incompatible? Why is industrial farming harmful to the environment? And why are corporate sustainability and carbon footprint reduction programs so often a farce?

Drawing from previous essays, the newly emergent ecological Marx, both sides of the John Bellamy Foster and Jason Moore debate, and the clash over environmental destruction under pre-capitalist formations, I answered all three together in what follows, parts of which the columnist may excerpt.

Capitalism is fundamentally different from any other social organization in human history. There is the matter of scale, of course. The environmental destruction arising from the system’s mode of production is now global and geological.
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Von New Man

Posted in Ecological resilience, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , on November 6, 2013 by Rob Wallace

1368191281_gravity-oo6We feel compelled to open the Pandora’s boxes we search for:

The protagonist of Alastair Reynolds’s first space opera discovers an ancient alien artifact. Despite all warnings, his curiosity and ingenuity–and by extension humanity’s–drives galactic archeologist Dan Sylveste to ‘solve’ it.

The artifact proves a von Neumann machine, suddenly weaponized to destroy the civilization a threat enough to open it.

The irony that the aliens are by this time long extinct provoked the thought that should we fail to check the most myopic of our own practices–in my view, capitalism’s first and second contradictions, the Jevons trap, Lauderdale’s paradox, and a self-fulfilling declensionist rationalization–humanity may act as its own von Neumann.

Whose Food Footprint?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Rob Wallace

Inside the network of NGOs and intergovernmental agencies addressing food insecurity, disease, and environmental crises, the ‘c’-word–and it isn’t ‘cancer’–is rarely, if ever, publicly uttered.

Last year a trio of us attempted to say the word plainly, if only in passing, in a broad history of food crises we submitted to an OIE bulletin. But the piece was bowdlerized in its editing and all references to capitalism and critiques thereof excised.

More recently, in a more informal venue, my politic comments on the capitalist origins of epizootic outbreaks were repeatedly deleted from what was until then an ecumenical One Health Facebook page.

It is in this context we wrote a paper, now just published in Human Geography, explicitly connecting capitalism, agriculture and the environment. HG is put out by a non-profit foundation in an effort to skirt academic profiteering by multinational media conglomerates. It is at this point one of the few journals willing and able to publish such a piece.

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