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A scientist’s warning on how climate change is rooted in violence

Originally published: Countercurrents on December 10, 2023 by Hasan Abdullah (more by Countercurrents)  | (Posted Dec 12, 2023)

Basics of Climate Change

Natural ecosystems comprise a particular physical environment and a set of living organisms. The ecosystems keep evolving as different organisms act and interact. The energy of the universe is constant, but its entropy tends to a maximum. Useful energy that can perform work is out-of-equilibrium energy with low entropy. An excessive increase in entropy raises the temperature. Hence more free energy becomes available to drive the weather. That leads to frequent extreme weather events and climate change. So, watch out for avoidable entropy increase as every act, even simple breathing, produces heat and increases entropy. That means, the outcome of the act is crucial. And ‘social benefit v/s entropy increase’ criterion is an apt yardstick to judge desirability of an action, as entropy is the record keeper of all actions across space and time. Not only climate change, even phenomena such as COVID-19 is a consequence of disturbance to harmonious evolution of the ecosystems!

Major Follies

i) Metabolic Rift

Metabolic rift is Karl Marx’s key conception of ecological crisis tendencies under capitalism. It signifies the irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism. Humankind consumes the constituent elements of soil through food and clothing. Our urine and excrete contain elements useful for the soil. Capitalism creates village-town dichotomy, which stops these elements from returning to the soil. Thus, metabolic rift is a fundamental source of avoidable entropy increase, because of three reasons.

One, the artificial replenishment of soil involves expenditure of resources. Two, the resources are spent to dispose of our urine and excrete! And, third, the capitalist production robs long-lasting sources of that fertility, though it increases the fertility of the soil for a while. It undermines the original sources of the wealth — the soil and the worker. During England’s second agricultural revolution, soil fertility became an issue. Britain and other powers initiated policies for the importation of bone and guano.

ii) Furthering Arms’ Industry

At the end of WWII, the U.S. was the only nuclear power; and she was the only country that did not agree to halt further development of nuclear arms, thereby starting an arms’ race. To justify this, despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki presenting horrifying scenarios, she used othering of the USSR, a WWII ally, as the ideological prop. Whereas the U.S. imperialism needed a flourishing arms industry to promote wars to concentrate resources—through usurpation of other nations’ resources and waste of resources.

The production of weapons is a waste of natural resources and labour power. Besides, the military spends a humongous amount of resources. Also, the use of weapons destroys useful products. Thereafter, reconstruction consumes huge natural resources and labour power. Thus, war helps imperialism waste resources and snatch other nations’ resources. Moreover, arms’ imports are a major contributor to most nations’ debt. And because of the debt, these nations lose their independence to the imperialist U.S.

iii) Ignoring Environment

The ruling classes focus on production and consumption—not distribution, rejuvenation, and sustainability—as a peaceful egalitarian society is an anathema. Our actions’ adverse impact on the environment, the ultimate repository, is ignored. Else, for long, humankind has been privy to the concept of entropy. And excessive increase in entropy results in climate change.

For over three decades, the rulers have held the Conference of Parties to discuss climate change, every year. But the situation has kept worsening, as the scientists’ suggestions are ignored. Meanwhile, global military expenditure, violence, and inequality have continually increased! Despite being preventable, increase in the above negatives means that these are systemic!

The Violence

Under the ‘social good v/s entropy increase’ criterion, armed violence, especially war—the most horrendous source of increased entropy and climate change—fares worst, as it wastes labour power and natural resources in large quantity, and without any social good. Larger the scale of violence, more the entropy increase! Hence, we need to probe the violence-prone system that furthers arms industry and encourages wars.

In short, the ideology of othering creates exclusivity, which transforms to hatred and thereafter enmity—the fodder for violence. The internal othering helps the ruling classes divide the people and rule over them. It also leads to societal violence. The external othering prepares ground for war between nation states.

The education system kills innate curiosity and hinders the development of scientific attitude and is thus conducive for the philosophy of othering. Even this lopsided knowledge is not available to all. Thus, people become oblivious to the universality of humankind and species’ interdependence.

Truman’s March 1947 speech to Congress reflected imperialism’s philosophy of othering. It started the Cold War. It designated the USSR as the other and provided justification for violence globally. Thus, any country, under the influence of the USSR, was considered a threat to imperialism and a potential enemy to make a proxy war with.

In 1991, the USSR’s disintegration unnerved imperialism, as vanishing of the designated other inadvertently promoted peace and adversely impacted Defence-related industries. In 1993, Samuel Phillips Huntington came to imperialism’s rescue, when he proposed The Clash of Civilizations theory and filled the vacancy of the other with Muslim civilisation. Before losing steam, that served imperialism for over a quarter century.

NATO looks East, because imperialism cannot survive without hegemony and wars! But the U.S. realises that it can ill afford a direct confrontation with China. However, the U.S. successfully incited Russia to start war with Ukraine. That started in February 2022 and continues (as of December 8, 2023). Meanwhile, after the attack by Hamas on October 7, 2023, Israel (with the U.S. support) unleashed ethnic cleansing and has been committing war crimes daily. The point is that in the absence of such wars, resources cannot be wasted nor capital concentrated.

It is rightly said that war is the continuation of politics through other means! And, in normal times, the policies of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, WIPO, and NATO—influenced by the US—help U.S. imperialism usurp resources and egg on countries to purchase arms. Imperialism corrupts, co-opts, and coerces ruling classes of different countries to buy arms, create violence-prone environment, and wage wars. It punishes or overthrows the governments that refuse to fall in line.

The legislature, executive, judiciary, and media are supposedly a nation state’s pillars of democracy. But it is the Deep State and the secrecy that are crucial for a government. With the help of all these, the ruling classes indulge in internal violence and war.

Salvaging Future!

A global movement—based on the Philosophy of Coalescing—working for peace and debt cancellation appears to be our best bet to salvage future. The Philosophy of Coalescing that considers Nature as all-encompassing, interconnected and in continual motion—with peaceful and shared coexistence as its cornerstone—is antithesis of the Philosophy ofOthering, the ideological basis of violence.

The Movement’s agenda should be disarmament and cancellation of international debts because armaments lead to war and debts to inequality. Only after the Movement captures the levers of power, can the armaments and wars—the most abominable source of excessive entropy increase—be eliminated. With focus on Nature, we can also adopt other ways to minimise entropy increase. That will help improve the climate change scenario to the extent possible.

Hasan Abdullah is a member of the Alliance of World Scientists

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