[Marxism] Fwd: Hurricane Harvey and the dialectics of nature | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Sep 1 07:25:52 MDT 2017


Between 1872 and 1882, Frederick Engels worked on a book titled “The 
Dialectics of Nature” that sought to apply Marxist dialectics to the 
natural world. Although it was never completed and is filled with dated 
ideas about science, it is a work that has earned the respect of some of 
the most important scientists on the left such as Stephen Jay Gould who 
praised its best known chapter that was issued separately as a 
pamphlet—The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. 
Long before people such as Barry Commoner and Rachel Carson were laying 
the groundwork for the eco-socialism of today, Engels anticipated the 
kind of contradictions that have led to three disastrous hurricanes: 
Katrina, Sandy and now Harvey. Engels wrote:

	Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human 
victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on 
us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the 
results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite 
different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The 
people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed 
the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing 
along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture 
they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries.

If you understand that the prairies surrounding Houston, the wetlands to 
the south of New Orleans and the brush that grew across the coastline 
around greater New York were closely related to the forests of the 
earliest class societies that Engels refers to, you will realize that 
“each victory” will bring us closer to the ultimate defeat of 
civilization itself. Just consider the words that follow those above:

	When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern 
slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no 
inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy 
industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were 
thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part 
of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious 
torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons.

Furious torrents. Are there any words better matched to the pictures of 
Houston seen on television every night?


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