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by Andrew Simms

Pluto Press   www.plutobooks.com

"But now, as we look over each others shoulders , we can see a star falling. It is ours. The brief ascendance of modern human civilisation is set to fail. We have been a highly unlikely species in the great universal scheme of things, and therefore, you would think, worth doing everything to protect. But unless we can stop global warming, on the best evidence currently available, little else will shortly matter. Because the stake at play - a habitable planet - means that all other economic concerns , however important, become secondary."

So ends Simms' calmly alarming message . This well-argued and comprehensive book examines the growth of the "Climate Change" industries and the corresponding rise in the rationalisation of stupidity in society.

Ecological Debt is Simms' term for the debt the minority  imperialist 'first' World owes to the countries that it ripped off and raped in order to become the dominant nations they are today. This is to include what we owe them for our impact on their natural ecology, for it is the poor in the economically-captive 'third' world who, currently, suffer most from the changing climate (don't worry, it's our turn soon).The point of the book isn't to actually come up with a figure, a bill to be slapped on the laps of the G8, not that they'd pay up (and leave a tip).The System works very well, the poor are getting poorer because the rich get richer - that's how it works and it's working fine, we have the statistics to prove it. Forget the idea of a "trickle-down " economy. The dominant trend in this capitalist system is a "flood-up" of resources from the needy to the greedy. Simms is arguing for a new way of looking at how we interact with the planet, something beyond the miserable ambitions of the Kyoto (dis)Agreement.

Simms cuts through the bullshit dream-weaving of the State and it's propaganda wing, the advertising industry. The state, Simms argues, is doing its best to minimise and distort our perception of the problem of Global Warming, afraid of upsetting Business-as-Usual, while the advertisers simply ignore the consequences and are obsessed purely with sell and spin. The London motorist has plenty of time to gaze at the endless billboards of new cars promising greater power and individuality as they crawl past en masse in the rush-hour, moving slower on average than their horse-drawn predecessors. And cars cover and suffocate our lives "like black flies on nasturtiums. It is, he suggests, due to our species incredible ability to adapt that enables us to regard this "staggering everywhere-ness" of cars as not odd.

Since the first automobile took to the streets at the end of the nineteenth century,  30 million have lost their lives  in car accidents, more Americans were killed by cars than by Viet-Cong during the Vietnam War, and  cars are set to become the 3rd biggest cause of death and disability by 2020 (globally).

The notion of Debt - who owes what and to whom - is given a good going over, all the more timely in a media world where the extortion racket that is the IMF/World Bank is portrayed as a legitimate debt owed to a benign West by lazy and corrupt African States. Britain, Simms reminds us, still owes about $14.5 billion to the US since the first World War. Unlike the most recent "debts" of sub-Saharan Africa, Britain's debt is conveniently forgotten. Indeed, he argues that our world history since the end of WW2 has been characterised by the "strategically important friends of rich and powerful countries having their debts written off, and poor, strategically unimportant countries being bled dry to repay their often illegitimate debts."

There is hope in all of this, thankfully. Simms shows that societies can radically alter their habits in a very short space of time when required to do so - the rationing during and beyond the years of the World Wars, for example, or the very change from agrarian to industrial society which brought us to this point in the first place. Change, maybe, is the only constant, and imperative to our survival now as ever. 

" a problem cannot be solved from within the mindset that created it" A. Einstein

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