'/> Uncommon Hours: The paradox of climate change: John Bellamy Foster's The Ecological Revolution reviewed
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

The paradox of climate change: John Bellamy Foster's The Ecological Revolution reviewed

John Bellamy Foster, The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet (Monthly Review Press, 2009). Paperback, $17.95.

Reviewed by Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

 A simple contradiction at the core of our economic system accounts for the dire ecological situation in which we find ourselves.

“Capitalism,” John Bellamy Foster points out in his new book, The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet, “… embodies a logic that accepts no boundaries on its own expansion and its exploitation of the environment. The earth as a planet, in contrast, is by definition limited.”

Foster has written a compelling and informed synthesis of the current state of the global environmental crisis and the historical path that led to these extreme ecological and social imbalances. Particularly fascinating is his chapter on “The Jevons Paradox”―that is, the concept that increased efficiency in the use of resources actually creates a greater demand for those resources.

“What we call ‘the environmental problem,’” Foster writes, “is in the end primarily a problem of political economy. Even the boldest establishment economic attempts to address climate change fall far short of what is required to protect the earth―since the ‘bottom line’ that constrains all such plans under capitalism is the necessity of continued, rapid growth in production and profits.”

Assembled from articles and talks over a number of years, The Ecological Revolution provides an overview of the climate change crisis and a refreshing look at the work of Karl Marx in an environmental context.

Foster edits The Monthly Review, where several of the chapters originally appeared. If the book has any flaw, it is that some of the chapters have overlapping information that was not edited out for purposes of a book-length work. That said, this is an important book that goes to the core of the climate change crisis. Until we re-evaluate our economic philosophy in the context of its root causes and the planet’s limitations, we’re not likely find an answerable, long-term solution.

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