My local congressman, Joe Barton (R), is probably one of the most despicable persons to roam this planet. He has beady little eyes and a shady smile. I have had the displeasure of encountering him in person at a town hall meeting years ago.
Some call him “Smokey Joe” because of his consistent support on behalf of polluters, who conveniently fund his campaigns.
During the month of December 2009 he was active running his mouth about climate change. In a C-Span interview he had the audacity to say that Global Warming was a net benefit to humanity.
Then he released a press conference (Copenhagen Climate Conference: Rep. Barton fights against economy-killing worldwide pact) where he claimed a binding international agreement to curb carbon emissions below 350 ppm would kill our economy.
Now, I thought to myself, “Hmm, what an interesting verb to use, ole Smokey!”
Let’s talk about killing, Smokey.
The US accounts for 5% of the world’s population yet we spend half of the world’s military budget to finance the largest polluter that is a non-country entity: the Pentagon. We pay for over one thousand foreign military bases and to finance wars of aggression and to prop up tyrannies the world over. A lot of killing is done through this imperialist machine.
The US accounts for 5% of the world’s population yet we account for 25% of the world’s consumption.
Our economy is not really our economy, Smokey. Much of it relies on the exploitation of other countries to fuel that “modern lifestyle” you say are happy with. Considering this I would really like a straight answer, yes or no, on if what you are saying is, "The cost of my ability to live an extravagant life is paid for by the wretched inhabitants that proliferate on this planet, and I don’t want that changed."
We take much of what Africa exports – diamonds, coffee, chocolate, oil, gold, etc. This is a continent that dominates the least developed as well as the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI).
Last year I talked to the Director of the Forum for African Alternatives, and contributing researcher for a council of NGO’s, CONGAD, Demba Moussa Dembélé, on the continents place in the global economy,
In Africa, after nearly 30 years of policies associated with the "Washington Consensus" imposed by the IMF and World Bank, the situation is very bleak. 33 African countries out of 49 in the world are classified as "Least Developed Countries" (LDCs) by the United Nations.
Trade and financial liberalization have led to the collapse of domestic industries and increased capital flight. The imposition of cash crops has resulted in greater food dependency while the export-led growth model has deepened Africa’s specialization in the production and export of commodities and raw materials.
The ideology of "minimal state" led to collapse of many States. No wonder Africa is bearing the brunt of the current crises: food, energy, financial and economic crises. Africa has the lowest human development indicators. Of course, the US has a big responsibility in all this since it is the leading power behind the IMF and World Bank. Its "free trade" and "free market" stance lay the foundations of the "Washington Consensus". It also contributed sweeping trade liberalization imposed on African countries. Furthermore, US subsidies -especially for US cotton growers- have hurt African farmers and contributed to the decline of African agricultural sector.
Our economy is literally killing an entire continent.
Our economy is also playing the largest role in why over one billion people around the world are starving. The Food crisis was explained this way by Walden Bello in his book The Food Wars
To capital, food, feed, and agrofuels are interchangeable as investment areas, with rates of profit determining where investment will be allocated. Satisfying the real needs of the global majority is a secondary consideration, if indeed it enters the calculation at all. To the critics of capitalist agriculture, it is this devaluation and inversion of real relations into abstract relations of exchange – otherwise known as commodification – that is at the crux of the crisis of the contemporary food system.
The global markets say whether corn produced will go to biofuels in the US or for food in Mexico, and since we vote with our dollars in the market, the dollars for biofuel trump the bellies of Mexicans. The markets also say that clearing forests in Brazil to raise cattle to be slaughtered to be shipped to China trumps food and climate concerns.
The same problem that is wrecking Africa, starving a billion people, that lies behind our imperialism and wars of conquest/aggression, is also the same problem that lies behind not only climate change but ecological destruction as well: capitalism.
Recently the political economist, Robin Hahnel, wrote that it is
the central pillars of capitalism are the underlying cause of climate change. Private ownership of the means of production and market forces make those who fight to protect the natural environment swim upstream against the current because they reward those who adopt environmentally destructive technologies and life styles and penalize those who attempt to develop new, sustainable habits.
A professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin, Robert Jensen, said not too long ago that “unsustainable systems cannot be sustained.” They are destructive. They kill.
It is not likely that Smokey Joe will acknowledge this. He has made it clear that the only thing he doesn’t want to see killed is the killer economy that funds his career. He knows quite well that if he spoke out against imperialism and capitalism that he would not only lose funding for his re-election campaigns, but any prospect of a good job in the “private sector” once he retires from politics.
Fortunately for him, though unfortunately for us, Obama sabotaged the climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He stuck up his nose to the UN and Kyoto treaty, showed his contempt for democracy and produced a “political agreement” that did nothing. President Evo Morales of Bolivia has already called for the creation of an alternative conference. If they can reach a binding agreement then this would be helpful for the Left in the US to mobilize to force our leaders to sign and honor.
In Mexico City from November 29th until December 10, 2010 there will be another UNFCCC conference. We have until that time to get Obama to accept a binding agreement on reducing carbon emissions. He will likely pull the same stunt he did in Copenhagen unless we all create a movement "too big to fail."
The binding international treaty is only a temporary solution to get our carbon emissions below 350 ppm. In the long run we must abolish capitalism and replace it with participatory socialism. We need to begin discussing our vision and strategy for doing both ASAP!d to begin discussing our vision and strategy ASAP!