Chris Williams

Chris Williams, a professor at Pace University, spoke at the University of Oregon recently. He was promoting his new book, Ecology and Socialism. He began by talking about the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. He pointed out those uprisings were in part a reaction to the rising cost of food, due to the rising cost of oil (one calorie of food requires ten calories of oil), and in part a reaction to the revelations in Wikileaks, which revealed the corruption in U.S. policy in the Middle East. He then went on to point out that Wikileaks documents show that the U.S. is not serious about fighting climate change. He criticized the U.S.’s behavior at the recent climate conference, pressuring countries to accept the U.S.’s terms. He pointed out that climate change is making the weather more unpredictable. “If you can’t predict the climate, you can’t grown any food,” he said, since farmers have to know when to plant their crops.

He discussed Obama’s State of the Union speech. Obama said his goal is to have 80% clean energy by 2035. Unfortunately, Obama considers “clean” coal and nuclear energy to be “clean energy”. In effect, the U.S. elite want to continue down a 19th century road to energy use. He pointed out that the Obama administration has approved zero solar energy projects and only one offshore wind project. The reason for the U.S.’s reactionary position is that the U.S. economy is based on the continual flow of cheap oil. There are plans to double oil production from the tar sands in Canada. He also talked about hydro-cracking, and it’s deleterious effect on the environment.

Williams went on to argue that capitalism is inherently anti-ecological and unsustainable. First of all, capitalism is based on continual expansion. Grow or die. This is a problem because we live on a finite planet. Also, under capitalism, exchange value is more important than use value. It’s more important to create things to sell than to create things for use. Also, because of the need to keep profits high, there is an incentive to cut corners, to build things that pollute.

Williams sees market solutions, such as cap and trade as false solutions. He was also dismissive of some technological solutions as capturing carbon in the ground. He was also opposed to the “blame ourselves” approach. He pointed out that only 2.5% of pollution is by individuals. The rest is by corporations and by the government. The U.S. military is the world’s biggest polluter. It produces more wast then the top 5 chemical companies.

Williams argues that by 2030 the world could be powered by renewable energy. In order, to achieve that, however, we need a world system that is not based on profit.

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One Response to “Chris Williams”

  1. gil anderson Says:

    I heard you speak today on 90.7 in CT and was quite impressed. I am one of those who wants to change the status quo but am not quite sure what to do. It seems that we cannot even have a discussion about the looming environmental disasters without being labelled anti-american communists. (to wit: S. Palin’s recent comments at the Reagan deal).

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