Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ecology and Socialism

We're excited to announce that longtime environmental activist Chris Williams will be taking part in an event on Saturday, November 6th entitled ECOLOGY AND SOCIALISM. Williams is professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University and chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute. In addition he is a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review (ISR) magazine. Ecology and Socialism is his first book, and ISO Pittsburgh is happily hosting him to speak on the issues that it raises.

Williams writes, in the first part of his 2008 piece "Hothouse Earth: Capitalism, climate change, and the fate of humanity":

Solving the problem of global warming requires understanding the relationship between capitalism and the environment, examining the solutions on offer within the framework of the system, and determining whether those solutions are up to the task of preventing a runaway greenhouse effect. The world system of capitalism has been, and will continue to be, largely impotent in the face of climate change, not because there are evil, uneducated, backward individuals in power--though this is arguably true in many cases--but because capitalism's own social relations prevent effective solutions from being realized. The blind, unplanned drive to accumulate that is the hallmark of capitalist production--the profit motive--has created the problem of climate change, not individuals' profligate natures or overpopulation. Therefore, the system of economic production and distribution needs to be transformed or we will be living on a much less hospitable planet.

The intersection of environmental issues and economics is especially relevant to us as Pittsburghers--our region's natural resources and the multifaceted industrial history of the area have exposed generation after generation to the realities of the nature of capitalism. From the early days of glass production, to the steel industry that swept over a huge swath of northern Appalachia and then sharply contracted, to the nascent growth of high-tech and "green industry" that could be reshaping the Rust Belt, Pittsburgh has reflected America's economic and industrial pulse.

Currently, the issue of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has come to the fore, as numerous energy companies vie for leasing rights to drill into the ground and pump rock deposits with chemicals that release natural gas. The chemicals--kept as trade secrets--are flammable and toxic. In a piece for Socialist Worker entitled "Don't frack with Pittsburgh", ISO Pittsburgh members Russell and Nick outlined the issues surrounding fracking from a region-specific perspective: "Energy corporations are again on the prowl in rural Pennsylvania."

ECOLOGY AND SOCIALISM will be held on Saturday, November 6th at 4:00 p.m. at University of Pittsburgh's Frick Fine Arts Building, room 202.

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