Category Archives: environment

Oil spill shows hazards of the profit system

It is still difficult to assess the scale of the disaster that followed the explosion on the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on 22 April, which killed eleven workers. BP claims that ‘only’ 210,000 gallons a day of crude oil have been released so far, but others calculate the figure could be as high as 4.2 million gallons a day.

By Pete Dickenson
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Haiti – Earthquake kills thousands

Impoverished masses face new disaster

By Niall Mulholland, CWI

Disaster has struck the impoverished people of Haiti once again; a powerful earthquake, early on 13 January, toppled buildings in the capital Port-au-Prince. The 7.0 magnitude quake – the biggest recorded in this part of the Caribbean – left the capital’s 3 million people who live on hillside slums made of wood, tin and cheap concrete, particularly vulnerable. There are growing fears that thousands of people were killed, with many more badly injured or missing. According to the Reuters news agency, “Bloodied and dazed survivors gathered in the open and corpses were pinned by debris.” Many buildings were destroyed, including the headquarters of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission (around 9,000 UN police and troops are stationed there to “maintain order”) and the presidential palace.

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Another climate conference… Another farce!

By Stephen Rigney

Held on the Indonesian island of Bali, December’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conference was yet another huge failure in a long line of conferences addressing the issues of climate change and global warming.

The conference, sponsored by the United Nations, was host to over 10,000 diplomats, scientists and lobbyists from 189 countries, yet was once again unable to offer any solutions or make any real decisions.

Typically, at a conference supposedly aimed at introducing cuts in carbon emissions, the two week long event was estimated to have been responsible for the release of nearly 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions, comparable with the annual emmissions of Chad.  The IPCC’s own recommendation of cutting industrialised nations’ emissions by 25-40% by 2020 and international emissions by the same amount by 2050, was resolutely ignored as the United States threatened to withdraw from the conference if binding targets were established. The Bali statement remained incredibly vague as to what exactly the outcome of the conference was and what steps would actually be taken to challenge climate change, agreeing on “reduction objectives” and “quantified emission reduction” which are empty phrases without any concrete targets.

The Bali conference was another farce and a smokescreen to give the impression that capitalist governments are genuinely concerned about the environment.  The lack of any concrete targets being established clearly shows that what’s at stake for them is not the environment, but economics and specifically, the effects that carbon emission reduction would have on the profits of industry at home.

The necessary research and development for creating low-emission industry and production techniques would cost billions, which capitalism is not willing to pay if it will damage its short-term profits.  While some of the more far-sighted European governments and a number of European businesses have attempted to “lead” the way in demanding binding targets, this has been entirely done to support their own interests in enlarging the $60bn European Trading Scheme.

The ETS is the largest carbon trading market in the world and has become a highly lucrative business since the introduction of carbon trading schemes under the Kyoto Protocol, which allow less industrialised nations to sell their “excess” carbon credits to the more advanced nations, allowing them to avoid cutting emissions by buying more credits. The vultures of Shell Oil, British Airways and the European banks, amongst others, were present at the Bali conference for this reason alone.

While the spectre of depleting oil resources has forced the multinational energy companies into developing renewable forms of energy, the struggle has been to develop patents over this technology to corner a share of the market, rather than to offer an alternative to fossil fuels.

The  production of bio-fuel crops, mainly in the developing world, has been heralded as big business’ committment to the environment, yet has had the gross effect of increasing food and milk prices for some of the world’s poorest people, as production switches from food production to bio-fuel.

The anarchic structure of capitalism and its drive for profits inherently creates these contradictions and offers no solutions to them.  To really address the crisis that faces the planet, it isn’t enough to merely tamper with the current system. We need a co-ordinated socialist plan to deal not just with climate change, but also with the whole of industry, removing unnecessary wastage and investing in renewable technology for the benefit of ordinary working people and not for the interests of profit.

People & planet before profits! For socialist change – Not climate change

This is the text of the leaflet distributed by Socialist Youth activists at the Global Day of Action against Climate Change protest in Dublin on December 8th. You can also view it as a PDF here.

Catastrophe faces our planet because of climate change. A whole number of studies, reports and films such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth have highlighted this fact.

In February of this year, a report written by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that temperatures could rise as much as 6.4OC by the end of this century. Already climate change has resulted in the doubling of category four and five storms in the last 30 years, while arctic ice has thinned by 40% in the last 40 years.

For socialist change - Not climate change

While climate change effects our planet as a whole, it is the world’s workers and poor who will bear the brunt. If major action is not taken to halt climate change then 600 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa will go hungry from collapsing agriculture, 400 million more will be exposed to malaria and 200 million people will be forced to migrate due to rising sea levels, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Kyoto II?

This week, the representatives of 169 countries will meet at a United Nations summit in Bali, Indonesia. The supposed aim of this conference will be to tackle global warming and produce a “Kyoto Treaty II”. However, the Kyoto Treaty itself was completely insufficient in reducing carbon emissions. Now, 150 of the world’s major companies have come in favour of a treaty that will cut climate change. The commitment of multinationals such as these and their representatives such as Bush, Brown and Sarkozy to tackling climate change is as hollow as their supposed aim of “Making Poverty History” a number of years ago!

Big Business opposes tackling climate change

It was oil and car companies who lobbied to stop the development of environmentally friendly electric car ten years ago in the US. They were afraid that the production of such a car would cut across the obscene profits that they make annually. When the IPCC report came out this year, Exxon oil offered $10,000 to any scientist who could discredit its findings.

When it comes to tackling climate change big business is the problem not the solution! In Ireland, it is the profiteering of property developers that has led to the unsustainable development of our cities. This development has meant an enormous urban sprawl, without the necessary infrastructure such as a properly funded public transport system. This has led to massive gridlock on our roads. It is hardly surprising that CO2 emissions in this country have increased by 25% in the past 15 years, while transport emissions have increased by 125%!

Green Party sell-out

In this weeks budget Fianna Fail and the Green Party introduced changes to VRT and motor tax aimed at reducing carbon emmissions. These changes are tokenistic and when related to the scale of the problem they are irrelevant. Contrast these superficial changes with what else the Greens have done. As government ministers, Eamon Ryan has allowed Shell to continue with its refinery in Bellanaboy, and John Gormley now supports the construction of waste incinerators!

Socialist Youth and the Socialist Party believe that parties such as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael represent the interests of big business and are therefore incapable of effectively reducing carbon emissions. We believe that any party that claims to have our planet’s interests at heart should not enter government with parties such as these. The experience of the Green Party in government since then went into coalition with the Fianna Fail and PDs in June proves this point.

Build a movement for system change

Socialist Youth stands for the building of a mass movement of working and young people to challenge climate change. We need to fight for a democratic publicly owned and properly funded transport system as an alternative to cars. We should demand that adequate resources are put into renewable energy as a step to phasing out our reliance on fossil fuels.

The international dictatorship of big business means climate change, war, poverty and attacks on the rights of workers and young people. In a socialist society the democratic public ownership and planning of our world’s resources could make the necessary investments into challenging climate change, while at the same utilising our planet’s wealth to abolish want and insecurity. This could be done by getting rid of the wastage that capitalism produces such as the $800 million spent on the arms trade each year and the unnecessary duplication of goods as well as the $1 trillion spent on advertising yearly.

We demand:

No to the exploitation of the environment for the profits of big business

No to nuclear power – For clean, safe and renewable sources of energy to be used in place of fossil fuels

For a massive injection of resources into reversing global warming

No to working class people paying the price of the bosses’ pollution

For a democratic and sustainable socialist plan of production that prioritises the needs of the world’s majority not the profits of big business

UCD: International solidarity wins a victory for victimised students

By Paul Murphy

The close to a hundred emails and phone calls received by the UCD authorities from around the world protesting against their attack on the right to protest has forced them to back down.

Darren Cogavin and Enda Duffy, both of whom were facing possible fines for engaging in peaceful protest against Shell and Green Party Minister, Eamon Ryan, have met with Martin Butler, the Vice President for Students.

At both meetings, he was very defensive, having been stung by the unexpected international solidarity. Apparently, he was completely shocked about getting so many emails from students and staff in UCD, activists around the country, and from people around the world. He was particularly perplexed about getting emails from Greek trade unionists and American students!

As a result, all the indications are that Darren and Enda will face no punishment. This will be finally confirmed by a letter they are due to receive this week. From Butler’s response, we are very confident that they have been forced to back down.

International solidarity has forced the college authorities to back down, and defended the right to protest on campus. A big thank you from Darren and Enda to all those who emailed and phoned in!

For background to this campaign see: UCD students victimised for protesting against Shell and government ministers

Shell gets our gas for free – Protestors get Garda brutality!

By Danny Byrne

On 9 November, over 300 protestors gathered at Shell’s proposed refinery site at Bellanaboy, North Mayo.

The protest brought together the local community, whose health and livelihoods are under attack by the profit-maximising onshore gas pipeline and refinery planned for their area, with protestors from around the country. Many came to fight the government’s criminal giveaway of up to ?600 billion worth of natural resources for free, to satisfy the greed of multinational oil companies, with no benefit to ordinary people.

Protestors were greeted with the now familiar spectacle of at least 300 Gardai who as per usual displayed serious brutality: punching, kicking, choking and throwing protestors into ditches. One protestor narrowly escaped life-threatening injury when a lorry carrying huge boulders was forced through a crowd of protestors, running over his foot causing serious damage. The blatant disregard of Gardai for the well-being of protestors underlines the fact that to the state, Shell’s profits come before the health, safety and wellbeing of local residents, warranting the provision of a virtual army of Gardai as a private security force for Shell.

Protestors successfully slowed down work on the life-threatening refinery on numerous occasions, at one stage holding a lorry up for over an hour, showing the potential that mass action could have in the future. Further days of solidarity are likely to be called in the near future. All who wish to support a besieged community against a multi-national corporation and their hired goons, and who oppose the theft of Ireland’s natural resources should travel up and show their support. Only through mass action by ordinary people from across the country can Shell be stopped.

Parasites that suck the poor dry – Protest against the World Bank

By Conor Payne

On the 12 & 13 November, the World Bank meets in Malahide in Dublin. The Irish government will no doubt pour money into hosting this summit and keeping the delegates in luxurious conditions. At the same time workers and young people need to “welcome” these representatives of big business by protesting against their summit and its agenda.

The decisions this small, unrepresentative minority make behind closed doors will affect the lives of billions, especially in the third world. This institution offers loans to some of the poorest countries, demanding in exchange that they introduce “Structural Adjustment Programs”- a fancy term for neo-liberal policies of privatisation, cuts, deregulation and elimination of protection for workers. For example, the privatisation of South Africa’s water service resulted in 10 million people who were unable to pay being cut off from their water supply.

This year the World Bank ranked Georgia as the best country in the world in the area of “employing workers”, because it passed a law allowing workers to be fired without any reason and prohibiting trade unions if they contribute to “social conflict”! Disgustingly, the World Bank, along with the IMF, has been responsible for the imposition of “user fees” within the health services of African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, which have been devastated by AIDS and poverty.

The World Bank also seeks to squeeze money for debt repayment from the neo-colonial world. The underdeveloped world pays out $13 in debt for every dollar it receives in aid, with many governments spending significantly more on debt repayment than on social services such as health and education. Roughly two thirds of the money loaned out by the bank’s International Development Association (IDA) is sent back to the World Bank in the form of debt repayment.

This neo-liberal agenda is not isolated to the neo-colonial world. In Ireland, the government is imposing extensive cuts in the health service, while providing support to private, profit-driven healthcare through its co-location scheme. Meanwhile in the workplace there is a race to the bottom underway in terms of wages and conditions. The policies of the World Bank provide no future for young people anywhere.

We live in world where half the planet’s population live on less than a dollar a day and 1.7 million children die a year as a result of poverty. Meanwhile, the 3 richest people on earth control more than the 48 poorest countries and over $1 trillion is wasted on arms every year. The massive wealth and resources of the world are concentrated in the hands of big business which runs it purely in the interests of profit, for a privileged tiny minority. The agenda of the World Bank is to deepen this situation even further. We need to protest against the World Bank and show them that their right-wing, neo-liberal agenda will not go unchallenged. At the same time we need to put forward an alternative to the capitalist profit system, a democratic socialist society where the wealth is democratically controlled by and for ordinary people rather than for the greed of a minority.

If you are interested in protesting against the World Bank then contact Cillian at 087 1274315 or 01 6772592.