1936-2018 Remembering Joel Kovel, a towering pioneer of ecosocialism

Michael Löwy reflects on the life and contributions of our friend and comrade, ecosocialist Joel Kovel, who died on April 30.

The passing of Joel Kovel is a great loss not only for us, his friends and collaborators, but for the broad international ecosocialist movement, of which he was a towering pioneer.

I first met Joel at an International Marxist Conference at the University of Nanterre (Paris), convened in 2001 by my friends of the journal Actuel Marx. We immediately sympathised, and found a common interest: the urgent need to bring together the “Red” and the “Green,” under the aegis of a new concept: Ecosocialism. We felt that the most of the left had not yet understood the need for an ecological turn, and we believed one should attempt to contribute to such a re-orientation. The Fourth International, with which I was associated, had just decided to adopt an ecosocialist program, and Joel felt encouraged by this decision.

Joel tells the story of our meeting in The Lost Traveller’s Dreambut, in his unassuming and modest way, does not say that the idea of writing an International Ecosocialist Manifesto was his. I immediately agreed with the proposition and we worked out the document together, after several drafts. As he says, it was like sending a message in a bottle thrown into the sea.
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Nigeria’s conflict is a result of environmental devastation across West Africa

Nigeria is experiencing a major conflict between nomadic herdsmen and indigenous farmers. In 2016, the conflict led to the death of 2,500 people, displaced 62,000 others and led to loss of US$13.7 billion in revenue, writes In January 2018 alone, the conflict claimed the lives of 168 people.

The herdsmen are predominantly Fulanis, a primarily Muslim people scattered throughout many parts of West Africa. The farmers, meanwhile, are mostly Christian. Therefore, when violence erupts between the two groups, with symbolic results like churches being burnt down, it is unsurprising that the dominant narrative in Nigeria and abroad is that this is a conflict motivated by religion and ethnicity.

What’s missing is the environmental perspective. Nigeria spans more than 1,000km from a lush and tropical south to the fringes of the Sahara Desert in the north. And, in Nigeria, the Sahara is moving southward at a rate of 600 metres a year. At the same time, Lake Chad in the country’s far north-east has largely dried up. Fulani herdsmen who once relied on the lake have thus moved further south in search of pasture and water for their livestock. The further south you move, the more the population becomes Christian, hence when resource conflicts emerge they appear religious. Continue reading “Nigeria’s conflict is a result of environmental devastation across West Africa”

The people v the richest man in Britain

Jim Ratcliffe, newly crowned by The Sunday Times as the richest man in Britain, is being given a run for his money by a vibrant anti-fracking campaign in North East Derbyshire, writes Peter Allen. Ratcliffe is the founder and principal shareholder of INEOS and wants to undertake fracking on green belt land near Eckington, in the hope of obtaining a cheap source of gas for his chemical plants.

‘JR’ has been unable to persuade the local community that fracking would not only be in his own financial interest but would also benefit the local economy and society .Frustrated by what he considered to be an unreasonable delay on the part of Derbyshire County Council in responding to his request for planning permission for an ‘ exploratory well’, he appealed directly to his friends in government. Planning permission is no longer being left to locally elected politicians. Instead there is to be a public inquiry to consider the proposal, beginning in Chesterfield on June 19th. Anti fracking campaigners are hoping for a large turnout from protesters on that day.

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An Anti-Forest Policy: Rhetoric or Sleight of Hand?

If the Indian government really meant what it said by “building on our rich cultural heritage” and “participatory”, would it not seriously review why the Forest Rights Act (FRA} and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA}, meant to give adivasis (indigenous people in South East Asia RGL} the self-governing space they need, are not implemented?

Forests have been the cultural and livelihood lifeline for hundreds of millions of people in India, not to mention home for thousands of species of plants and animals, write Madhu Ramnath and Ashish Kothari. They have an exalted place in virtually every spiritual and religious tradition, in their civilisational history, mythology and folklore, scientific traditions, and even in its politics. So when any government announces a new National Forest Policy, there should be widespread dialogue around the most important question: will it safeguard the most crucial values of India’s forests? From an examination of the draft policy put out by the government on 14th March 2018, the answer is a resounding no. Continue reading “An Anti-Forest Policy: Rhetoric or Sleight of Hand?”

Three high impact policies to protect and improve our natural environment

Photo: Konstandin Minga

The Labour Party’s consultation document, A Greener Britain, seeks proposals about different aspects of environmental policy. In this series of articles, Redgreenlabour supporters offer their thoughts. Please comment on these contributions which the authors may well revise and submit to the consultation in due course. We also urge you to submit your own responses to the Party – whether as individuals or through your branches, CLPs, unions, SERA or other environmental groups. The deadline is 24th June.

There are vast numbers of environmental policies that it would be good to see a future Labour government pledged to adopt, but if our manifesto is to inspire people to vote for us we need to persuade people that we can really make a difference. To do this I think that our manifesto needs to focus on a few key policy pledges, with maximum potential to make a difference. These pledges also need to be specific and clearly deliverable.

In the area of bio-diversity and the natural environment I would like to suggest 3 policy pledges that I think would fit this bill. Continue reading “Three high impact policies to protect and improve our natural environment”

Memo to Labour : let’s have energy systems integration for the many

The Labour Party’s consultation document, A Greener Britain, seeks proposals about different aspects of environmental policy. In this series of articles, Redgreenlabour supporters offer their thoughts. Please comment on these contributions which the authors may well revise and submit to the consultation in due course. We also urge you to submit your own responses to the Party – whether as individuals or through your branches, CLPs, unions, SERA or other environmental groups. The deadline is 24th June.

The UK electricity system needs “radically different forms of grid planning and operation” if it is to stop using fossil fuels, researchers at the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College argue in a briefing paper published last month, writes Gabriel Levy. Continue reading “Memo to Labour : let’s have energy systems integration for the many”

Fracking, climate change and the labour movement

The anti-fracking struggle is well alive in the UK and protesters across the country have made the headlines with their brave resistance against this extreme method of extracting gas by pumping large amount of water, sand and chemicals into the ground. Many communities supported by environmentalist and climate campaigners are resisting the fracking industry and the labour movement is playing an increasing role in supporting those struggles, writes Clara Paillard.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership included a ban on fracking as part of its 2017 General Election  programme.
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Low carbon future: making it fair

The Labour Party’s consultation document, A Greener Britain, seeks proposals about different aspects of environmental policy. In this series of articles, Redgreenlabour supporters offer their thoughts. Please comment on these contributions which the authors may well revise and submit to the consultation in due course. We also urge you to submit your own responses to the Party – whether as individuals or through your branches, CLPs, unions, SERA or other environmental groups. The deadline is 24th June.

Q:How can a future low-carbon energy system be made to work for consumers?

Britain has an ageing population and nearly a decade of Tory cuts to public services has had a devastating impact, creating a crisis in housing, social care and the NHS. A Corbyn government would end austerity and aim for a well-funded public sector with local council, health organisations and community groups working in better partnerships with each other, writes Jay Melia-Jones.

Britain has ambitious targets to tackle climate change – an 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050. To realize this we need to take control of our energy network, bringing it into public ownership and giving power to local communities to reduce rising inequality.
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Green space: a right not a privelege

The Labour Party’s consultation document, A Greener Britain, seeks proposals about different aspects of environmental policy. In this series of articles, Redgreenlabour supporters offer their thoughts. Please comment on these contributions which the authors may well revise and submit to the consultation in due course. We also urge you to submit your own responses to the Party – whether as individuals or through your branches, CLPs, unions, SERA or other environmental groups. The deadline is 24th June.

Q: How can access to green spaces be improved and how can the use and function of these spaces be maximised?

The national policy forum consultation document which asks this question also talks about: “green spaces such as national parks and areas of outstanding national beauty.” It’s certainly the case that access to these spaces, as well as to our beaches, seas, lakes and river is hugely important for the physical and mental well-being of millions of people writes Terry Conway.

The barriers to regular access are legion and include: Continue reading “Green space: a right not a privelege”

Time to strengthen Climate Change Act

The Labour Party’s consultation document, A Greener Britain, seeks proposals about different aspects of environmental policy. In this series of articles, Redgreenlabour supporters offer their thoughts. Please comment on these contributions which the authors may well revise and submit to the consultation in due course. We also urge you to submit your own responses to the Party – whether as individuals or through your branches, CLPs, unions, SERA or other environmental groups. The deadline is 24th June.

Q:  What steps need to be taken for the UK to put itself on course to meet climate targets?

The Climate Change Act 2008 was a notable Labour Party achievement, making the UK the first nation to set a legislative obligation to tackle climate change, writes Sam Mason.  Progress towards the target “to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline” has been made. Largely achieved through emissions reductions from the power sector by phasing out coal for example, it’s now time to urgently tackle the more difficult areas of transport, buildings, and industry.

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