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Energy Crisis, Climate Change and Ecological Collapse: a diabolical triangle

Energy Crisis, Climate Change and Ecological Collapse: a diabolical triangle

By Ramón Fernández Durán

In this way, as André Gorz told us, the development of the productive forces sponsored by the functioning of capital, and made possible by fossil fuels, has increasingly implied the development of the destructive forces that the urban-agro-industrial metabolism has generated ( Valdivielso, 2008). This has been especially true in recent years as the highest quality and most accessible fossil resources are depleted, and it is necessary to resort to the exploitation of new resources of less and less quality and more difficult to reach and put on the market (oil heavy, tar sands, oil in deep or very deep water, arctic oil or in rainforests, etc.). Impacts that are clearly accentuated with the increasing use of coal that is taking place to cope with an increasing energy demand, especially electricity. Coal is the most polluting fossil fuel and the biggest contributor to ongoing climate change.

And the 21st century is once again the century of coal, as was the 19th century (see figure 5) (Murray, 2009). However, in the 20th century, the Age of Oil, coal did not disappear from the scene at all, but its consumption multiplied by five, although it was not something so "visible" and known. Coal is currently responsible for almost half of the world's electricity generation, and in the US for 50% (Heinberg, 2009). Dirty coal is therefore the key energy of the current Hypertechnological Society, which depends for its operation on an ocean in crescendo cheap electric power.

Thus, the Energy Crisis, Climate Change and the global Ecological Collapse are closely related and are configured as a diabolical triangle for the future of Humanity and Planet Earth. It is curious, very curious, that from important instances of global power (although not at all from all of them), we are told about one of its vertices: Climate Change and its consequences (although not about its root causes). But the more than imminent global Energy Crisis and Ecological Collapse, which is also underway, and which is already acquiring the dimension of a true global Ecocide, is totally, or almost totally, at least until now. Not in vain it is said that we have already entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene (Fdez Durán, 2011). And above all, it is even more curious to see this trend when for the current Global Capitalism, energy decline is a greater problem in the short term, in which it necessarily operates, than Climate Change, whose consequences are still limited, despite its However, they do not yet affect the central dynamics of capital expansion and concentration, although of course they will in the medium and long term.

Even the Ecological Collapse, perhaps the most serious problem for the future of Humanity, is being a greater problem for the dynamics of growth and capital accumulation than the ongoing Climate Change, whose worst consequences so far are manifesting themselves especially in the ecosystems and territories of the most peripheral spaces and of the most impoverished populations. We will try to address the why, in our understanding, of this enormous paradox later in the text (Fdez Durán, 2011 b), since we must not forget that ecological problems must always be considered from a Political Ecology perspective. That is, from the logic of power. These problems are part of the functioning of a system, in this case the current Global Capitalism, and its world power structures (political, business, military) show some and hide others, according to their interests and tensions, and of course the social conflict that they generate, through the management and manipulation of language and dominant discourse.


The logic of operation and expansion of the current Global Capitalism is not only already colliding with the limits of the Biosphere, but internally it is creating increasingly unsustainable situations in terms of inequality and capacity for social reproduction of human societies that it has engulfed under its dominance. , especially in the great metropolises of the planet. Many of them are increasingly socially polarized and ungovernable, especially the Megacities of the Global South, where pathological behaviors are most prevalent, trying to confront a sharp increase in repression and the prison population. In these metropolises, poverty and violence prevail especially on women, on whose backs the tasks of social reproduction fall. There is thus a growing conflict between the logic of capital and the logic of life. In this way, capitalist expansion depends on two essential areas to continue growing: Nature and domestic space, both free to date and both largely at the limit of their carrying capacity at the beginning of the new millennium. One, due to the ongoing Energy and Ecological Crisis, and the other, due to the unstoppable crisis of care and reproduction tasks. And the two essential for the maintenance of human and non-human life. In addition, all human beings are interdependent and eco-dependent, since the Homo economicus competitive and independent from others and from Nature is an absolute fiction (Herrero, 2008; Orozco, 2008; Charkiewicz, 2009).

However, the invisibility of the Energy and Ecological Crisis and of social reproduction is clear. The tremendous capacity of concealment of the Global Village, and the fact that the institutional and corporate message is (until now) that despite everything we are walking towards “social and environmental sustainability”, had installed the new Global Capitalism in an unusual complacency , further lubricated by the consumption capacity of the middle classes, especially the central countries, and especially of the planetary elites. Moreover, the patterns of life and consumption of the same are those that serve as a claim to the world population, activated by the advertising industry that projects them to the entire world. Thus, the global urban-agroindustrial system is like an iceberg, of which its friendliest side is shown to us, the visible part, so to speak, but its darker and growing sides are hidden from us, which become invisible in the media, thus remaining submerged. Or they are projected from time to time as a way to instill collective fear, generate passivity and guarantee the governance of societies. However, this dark side is becoming more evident and difficult to hide every day, as a result of the ongoing multidimensional Global Crisis. A crisis that is causing a large part of Humanity to become superfluous for the dynamics of capital, since it is not interested in it either as producers (there is a lot of work force left over), or as consumers (there is a lot of misery). The Labor Society has entered into a severe crisis with the new Global Capitalism, but this situation will undergo important transformations when the Energy Crisis erupts with all its force and globalization breaks, demanding more human and animal labor.

Ecologists in Action



Video: Could climate change make Earth uninhabitable for humans? Niel Bowerman. EA Global: London 2019 (July 2021).