Capitalism and global warming
Capitalist enterprises have been synthesizing thousands of chemicals and drugs. They have been fishing and over-fishing the oceans with technologies of mining. They even built atomic and nuclear weapons, which could bring life to an end. Industrialists have been excavating the planet, both its surface and waters: logging forests, dredging swamps, wetlands, lakes, rivers and land for minerals, including silver, gold, coal, petroleum and natural gas.
Converting a forest to a farm is a holocaust for the creatures that lived in the forest. Cultivating the land that used to be a forest brings more danger to myriads of birds, insects and small animals because the farmer sprays the land with dozens of highly poisonous chemical pesticides.
Pesticides are synthetic chemicals that are a legacy of chemical warfare. This connection to war makes them unsuitable for farming. The alliance of agribusiness and politicians have brought into being so much pro-pesticides corruption that laboratories usually employ fraud in 'testing' farm sprays. The owners of pesticides 'test' their own products. Pesticides are designed to kill 'pests.' But what is a pest? Who has the right to classify insects of birds as pests? Honeybees are insects. Are honeybees pests? And who is to say that, if we accept such arbitrary interference in nature, we will not also be classified as pests?
There are some things we cannot change, and one of those is the laws of physics. Ice melts when the temperature rises. Crops die in a drought. Trees are burning in forest fires. Because these things are real, we can also be certain about what the future holds. We are now heading into a period of extreme ecological collapse. Whether or not this leads to the extinction of the human species largely depends upon whether revolutionary changes happen within our societies in the next decade. Recent science shows permafrost melting 90 years earlier than forecast and Himalayan glaciers melting twice as fast as expected. Feedbacks and locked-in heating will take us over 2�C even before we factor in additional temperature rises from human-caused emissions over the next 10 years.
The story of global warming is similar to that of pesticides. Pesticides and industrialized farming fuelled by pesticides constitute a major source of warming the planet. Just like agrichemical corporations have been defending pesticides, powerful fossil fuel companies do the same for coal, petroleum and natural gas. They squashed efforts to abandon their money-in-the-bank for solar and wind energy. They documented the catastrophic effects of the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas. But they kept those secrets to themselves.
Instead, they have been funding misleading studies spreading doubt
about the science of climate change. Meanwhile, the warmer planet is wrecking both human communities and wildlife. Decrying the timidity of their elders, children are taking on the cause of defending the planet. Melting ice wipes out food for large animals, including birds. Sea birds like puffins, for example, are starving to death in the millions per year.
Moreover, pesticides are absorbed by crops, fruits, and vegetables. And since they are deleterious to insects and birds, they are equally deleterious to humans eating sprayed food. Of course, the amount of sprayed toxins reaching food is miniscule. But the impact of the sprayed chemicals in the body is cumulative.
Nevertheless, spayed food rarely kills people outright. What it does is undermining health, slowly over years and decades. Once pesticides are in the human body, they disrupt hormones and store themselves in the fatty tissues.
In 1972, eight years after the death of Carson from breast cancer in 1964, Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT. This was a heavy-weight among poisons. In the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, DDT was the undisputed magic bullet against malaria mosquitoes, insects and everything else farmers and pest controllers did not like. Knocking down the king of sprays cost EPA dearly. The chemical and agribusiness industries turned their guns against EPA, accusing it for overreach, bad science, and interfering with the rights of farmers to do as they pleased. They promised to each other this would never happen again. Capitalism triumphed at a tremendous price to human and planetary health.
The writer is an Environmental
Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association