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

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Fri Sep 1 17:30:37 MDT 2017

Well done, Lou. This is a fine contribution to the understanding of what is
a very deep crisis, as the disasters triggered by Harvey in Houston show
all too plainly.  Here in Australia I recall Drew Hutton, one of the
founding leaders of the Green Party, saying at a meeting that he did not
like using the word "capitalism". It is only when the Greens do the hard
work of understanding the link between capitalism and the current
ecological crisis that we will progress.



On Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 11:25 PM, Louis Proyect via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> 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?
> full: https://louisproyect.org/2017/09/01/hurricane-harvey-and-the
> -dialectics-of-nature/
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