Saturday, 9 August 2008

Capitalism Will Strip The World Naked - If We let It?

Most of this week I've been following events in the news with regard to the climate camp, set up in the past week by environmental protesters near the Kingsnorth power station in Kent, Garden of England. Its the site of Britain's first coal-fired power station to be built in more than 30 years and the Eco-activists at the camp are campaigning to stop it's construction vowing to shut it down.
If that sounds familiar, then expert help was at hand; in the form of Arthur Scargill, who evidently extended his sympathies to the protesters on the the issue of over-zealous police officers. However Arthur was there to argue the case for coal and he said; "I agree with their campaign for a cleaner environment policy and agree that we should be putting an end to nuclear power, I do not agree with stopping coal power. I am saying that we can use clean coal by removing the CO2 by using a process called carbon capture, and I think that we can fit Kingsnorth, and any other coal-fired power stations, with the technology to do this. That way we can extract all the oil and gas we need from coal, just like we did during the war, without hurting the environment. It will also allow us to use up all the coal supplies that we have that will last us for 1,000 years."
Interesting hey? Well when you think about it, we only have about six thousand trillion cubic feet of gas reserves left in the world, that sounds a lot, but given our current rate of use, it equates to between 60 and 65 years of supply. And as for oil, it is estimated that there are about 1.27 million barrels left in current reserves across the world, while this may also sound a lot it represents about 44 years of supply at current usage levels.
This in all probability explains the rapid growth in bio-fuels, ethanol and bio-diesel. And with it comes a major impact on world grain and livestock provision. Even the IMF warned that an increasing global reliance on grain as a source of fuel could drive up food prices. The spectre of food shortages is upon us, casting a long shadow across the globe, causing riots in Africa, consumer protests in Europe and panic in food-importing countries. In a world of increasing affluence for the few, the hoarding of rice and wheat has begun. United Nations peacekeepers fired rubber bullets and used tear gas to control mobs rioting over rising food prices in Haiti in April of this year, is this a gustation of things to come?
In 2005 the United States overtook Brazil to become the world's largest producer of ethanol while the European Union is the largest bio-diesel producer, this trend could also exert additional stress on already high exploited land and water resources world wide, adding yet another dimension to the nightmare. However some optimistic experts give a vision that would see markets automatically readjust to food shortages, as higher prices make it more profitable once again to grow crops for people rather than cars.
Whatever experts say, there's one thing they don't say, and will never say, even if Hell freezes over, and that's under 'capitalism' human beings and the natural world are on a collision coarse. Human activities in the pursuit of profits and unrelenting greed, inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment, mankind and critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices under 'capitalism' put at serious risk the future that we wish for our descendants and human society the planet and the animal kingdom, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.
Whilst it is admirable for green politics, die-hard environmental campaigners and woolly-minded hippydom to spend a few nights in a field in Kent under the stars, drawing our attention to this one power station amongst many, it remains that bringing environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earths systems we depend on, we must first recognise that the larva that is capitalism needs to be replaced as a system whose interests are proven to be diametrically opposed to any sustainable relationship devoid of profits on a planetary scale, only in a world socialist society, a real world community, in which the Earth and its natural resources have become the common heritage of all humanity will we be able to manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively and in the interests of the whole community.


Dave said...

Another good piece, Jim, but check your figures on oil reserves as they are considerably greater than 1.27 million barrels. For example, in 2007, it was estimated that Saudi Arabia had oil reserves of 264 *billion* barrels which represented around 20% of all known conventional oil reserves.

Jim said...

Thanks for that Dave, I've seen various different sources estimating how much oil may be left in current reserves, its a difficult call to make, but what is a clear factor of agreement is the life expectancy between 40+ and 20 years of reserves, BP say 41 years. The other interesting thing is that Saudi Arabia refuse to disclose revenue information even to OPEC, and a geologist working for the UN said; "when we look at reserves figures reported by the OPEC countries in the 1980s, we see an interesting jump in the reported totals - sometimes doubling or even trebling the figures from one year to the next".
Currently OPEC say we have 1.2 trillion barrels and that they hold 78 per cent, and that crude oil reserves are more than sufficient to last more than 80 years?

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