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John Passant

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March 2014



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Capitalism is killing our environment

Environmentalists have focused on the dangers of global warming. But there is more to the damage being done by the capitalist system, including the release of toxins into the atmosphere, water and the rest of the biosphere writes Barry Shephard in Socialist Worker US.

Two egregious examples have occurred in the first months of the new year in the United States.

We know of the greenhouse gases released by the burning of coal, but there are also problems in how coal is produced. In January there was a massive spill of 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM, a chemical mixture used in coal production, into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia. The water supply of some 300,000 people was poisoned. The authorities told people not to drink, bathe or wash dishes in the polluted water. Some got sick. This caused a major crisis, as people had to use bottled water or water trucked in. After about a week, the federal and state authorities lifted the ban, but very few were stupid enough to resume drinking the stuff, as what was coming out of the taps stunk of the liquorice smell characteristic of the poison.

Officials had to backtrack repeatedly, at first telling pregnant women not to drink the stuff and then resuming distribution of bottled water. This hardly was reassuring. After two weeks, another chemical was discovered in the water. A month after the spill, schools in Charleston had to send students home when students and staff smelled the chemical in the schools’ tap water. People correctly don’t trust the state and federal authorities as to what is a “safe” level of MCHM to drink, as there are no reliable studies. Some residents have taken to collecting rainwater.

The MCHM leaked from storage tanks operated by Freedom Industries – perhaps better named “Free Market Industries”. The tanks were not subject to any regulations or inspections. In fear of massive lawsuits, Freedom Industries has filed for bankruptcy. The Elk River spill concerned part of the coal production process.

Another spill in February relates to coal ash. The company involved was Duke Energy, which operated a coal-fired power plant on the Dan River, located along the North Carolina-Virginia border. Some 82,000 tons of coal ash (later Duke reduced the estimate) and 27 million gallons of water contaminated by coal ash spilled from the holding pond into the river. Toxic metals including arsenic, lead and mercury threatened the communities that use the river water. The spill coated the river bottom 70 miles downstream, threatening not only drinking water but also aquatic life.

In these two instances, reactionary state governments that oppose proper environmental protections were implicated, but lax regulations and enforcement are a national problem.

More fundamentally, they illustrate how the capitalist system itself is an enemy of the natural environment that humanity is ultimately dependent on.

Freedom Industries and Duke Energy were operating under the imperative to protect and if possible increase profits by minimising costs – refusing to take even minimal steps to guard against these leaks. The costs to society at large were disregarded. In their analyses, they balanced the costs of protecting against possible leaks against any costs to them of being forced to pay for some of the clean-up. Part of the calculation was that, in the event of leaks, some of the clean-up costs would be paid by state and federal governments, and most of the damage done to the population would never be compensated at all.

These types of calculations are not limited to the capitalists of Freedom Industries and Duke Energy. All capitalists must make similar decisions, not because they are evil people but to protect profits under the lash of capitalist competition.

Individual capitalist enterprises cannot be expected to solve the social problem of environmental destruction they are the source of. Social solutions must be found.

Reforms are possible. For example, because of the public outcry from the people affected by the Elk and Dan River spills, there may be some tightening of regulations. Such reforms will only come about through mobilisations from below – by working people and those of good conscience. But the bulldozer of capitalism riding roughshod over the planet – global warming, billions without safe drinking water, people in Beijing walking around in masks and unable to see more than 100 metres, spills, Fukushimas, full steam ahead on fracking, droughts in California and Australia and much more – is making it clearer that it is the capitalist system itself that is at fault.

The ecological crisis in the end cannot be solved under capitalism. It will require socialism, the social ownership of the means of production under rational democratic planning, replacing anti-social capitalist calculations to maximise private profit.

Socialists today have a key role to play in the fight for immediate reforms, since real reforms will have to target the guilty capitalist enterprises and any in government who cover for them, which has an anti-capitalist dynamic.

They will also oppose fake “market” reforms, one of which is “carbon trading”, which boils down to paying for the right to pollute. At the same time, socialists should step up their efforts to win environmentalists to the understanding that the ecological problem is at root capitalism.



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