Readings on the environment

Tom Condit tomcondit at igc.apc.org
Mon Oct 30 07:09:03 MST 1995


Louis asked me in a private post for some readings on ecology.
This isn't a very extensive list, but I thought I'd post it to
everyone anyway.

First, on the subject which got us all onto this a little while
ago (forests), a good beginning is John Bellamy Foster's
"Capitalism and the Ancient Forest", _Monthly Review_, October
1991.  An expanded version of this was later published as a joint
pamphlet by _Monthly Review_ and _Capitalism, Nature, Socialism_
under the title "The Limits of Environmentalism Without Class:
Lessons from the Ancient Forest Struggle of the Pacific
Northwest." (This and other Monthly Review Press titles are
available from Monthly Review Press, 122 W. 27th St., New York
City, NY 10001 in the U.S., in Europe from Central Books, 99
Wallis Rd, London, E9 5LN, U.K. or in Canada through Fernwood
Publishing, P. O. Box 9409, Station A, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K
5S3.  For anywhere else, e-mail a query to: mreview at igc.apc.org.)

John Bellamy Foster has also written _The Vulnerable Planet: A
short economic history of the environment_ (Monthly Review Press,
1994). This compact (160pp.) little book is part of Monthly
Review's "Cornerstone" series of socialist propaganda texts. It's
an excellent introduction to the basic problems of ecological
degradation, environmental justice and the destructive logic of
capitalism.

The best introduction to the problems of pollution, etc., that
I'm aware of remains Harry Rothman's _Murderous Providence: a
study of pollution in industrial societies_ (London: R. Hart-
Davis 1972). (I think the U.S. edition is Little, Brown from a
year or two later, but I've sprained my ankle and can't get to my
copy.) The title is from Blake, and Rothman shows that the
increasingly unhealthy environment of the cities (London, as I
recall, is his focus) from the 18th century on led to reluctant
public health measures--sewage systems, "sanitation" in general,
pollution control, only to the extent that the health and lives
of the ruling classes themselves were endangered.

For good solid ecological science in a popular form, the works of
Barry Commoner such as _The Closing Circle_ are quite valuable.
Commoner isn't a Marxist like Foster and Rothman, but he
acknowledges his debt to Marx and uses the labor theory of value
as one of the bases of his analysis of shifts in capitalist
production to increasingly unsound practices.

Finally, just so Scott Marshall won't be unhappy, Gus Hall
(secretary general of the Communist Party U.S.A.) has written two
little booklets, _Ecology: Can we survive under capitalism?_ (NY:
International Publishers, 1972) and _The energy rip-off_ (1974).
Both are of the "socialism will end all these problems" school of
propaganda--very comforting to the faithful, but not very
convincing to the ecologists.

And finally again, Alexander Cockburn recommends a book I haven't
read, _Environment Under Fire: Imperialism and the ecological
crisis in Central America_, by Daniel Faber (also Monthly Review
Press). Cockburn and Susanna Hecht's book _The Fate of the
Forest_ (NY: HarperCollins, 1990) is a good intro on the
Amazonian basin.

And finally the third time, there's lots of good stuff from Food
First.

Tom Condit


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