The ecological crisis is no longer a threat. It is here. Even if all of the ecocidal practices of the global production system were halted tomorrow, irreparable damage has already been done. Mass extinction of species, destruction of the rainforests, loss of the protective ozone layer and the “greenhouse” global warming effect all will continue to have disruptive effects through the next century. We can only work to ameliorate the situation.
Processed World has consistently sought to puncture the myth of computer production and use as “clean” and “safe.” We have not been alone in criticizing electronic technology from an ecological viewpoint. What has set us apart, however, has been our focus on this technology as work—on the nature of this work, on the kinds of social relations and subjective experience it engenders, and on its goals and functions within the global economy.
From the start, PW has criticized most modern work as useless from the standpoint of the common social good, for damaging workers physically and psychologically, and for wasting precious resources including billions of hours of people’s time that could be used in far more worthwhile ways. Our critique differs from that of the environmental movement, which adopts the viewpoint of the citizen-consumer rather than the worker. The environmentalist’s perspective may be valid but by itself can lead to serious mistakes. Especially in the current anti-worker political climate, it tends to produce reformist, technocratic strategies. Either the movement engages in holding actions (e.g. lawsuits based on environmental impact reports) or it tries to persuade those in power to include ecological factors in their cost-benefit analysis.
Since the movement is composed largely of dropouts or converts from the technical-professional layers of the population, its critique of capitalist waste is too often
limited to guilt-tripping workers for doing their admittedly sometimes ecologically destructive jobs, for owning cars and for consuming too much. In its most extreme form, this kneejerk anti-consumerism leads to protofascist “deep ecology” diversions into species self-hate, racism and homophobia; all disguised as “honoring ecological balance.” By contrast, the Greens in Europe, particularly West Germany, have made a more cogent critique of the production system. While some Greens participate in the conventional electoral arena, others advocate direct democratic planning as a solution instead of telling the system’s victims (workers) to pay through conservation and austerity. As the forests of Northern Europe wither under acid rain, alternative plans are being elaborated by tens of thousands of ordinary working people as well as techno-dropouts and marginal youth. These people realize that the forests are not just a “resource” but are precious in their own right. For the most part, however, they have not yet made the leap of recognizing that they themselves must begin taking collective responsibility for the biosystem — that the big, centralized hierarchical institutions are obsolete, dangerous and must be replaced.
If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the most recent round of eco-disasters, it is that patchwork reform of these institutions and the industrial system they control is hopeless. We cannot return to a neolithic or medieval technological level, as some of the movement’s “radicals” propose. Necessary repairs to the planet will involve our most sophisticated scientific/technological knowledge, along with knowledge we haven’t yet acquired.
Equally important, production for profit’s sake has got to go. Much of the existing industrial base needs to be dismantled or radically converted. All technologies need to be evaluated according to the effects on their users, on the immediate surroundings, and on the long-term health of the biosphere. And this evaluation can only be made by the people most affected as workers and local residents, in consultation with “experts” under no pressure to exonerate hazardous methods and materials. Partisans of the green/ecology movement are keenly aware of the great cycles of the biosphere — the nitrogen and water cycles, the photosynthesis/respiration cycle, the food chains. They understand that the biosphere reproduces itself, not as a static entity but as an immensely complex web of living and non-living processes. Yet curiously, they fail to extend the concept of reproduction to our ‘second nature,” the social relations we inherit. The world that generations of workers (including scientists and engineers) have created by selling their time day after day to corporations and state bureaucrats is now terminally hostile. It is hostile not only to workers — who have always experienced its “laws” through war, unemployment, poverty, boredom, and attendant miseries — but to life itself.
The most powerful reproductive cycle now is the cycle of human social reproduction which currently takes the form of the reproduction of global capital. But unlike the other great cycles, it is human beings who — collectively, not individually—control social reproduction. If we all stopped going to our jobs tomorrow, the reproduction of society, the chains of command and circulation would quickly snap. And already we would have begun to reproduce another life, another world. Clearly, it’s not as simple as that. We would have to consciously renovate both natural and political biospheres. Seizing power to collectively rearrange human values almost happened two decades ago in France. Ten million people went on strike, occupied their workplaces, and began to live their lives, for a few weeks, in a new and intoxicating way. Perhaps for the first time since childhood, the majority of people in France were on their own time, living in the instinctive way that we know, deep down, to be our natural state as creatures on the earth. Unfortunately, they did not complete their break with the daily cycle by transforming the institutions they had temporarily vacated. But that road is still open...
As usual, this issue presents a cornucopia of perspectives on our theme. Lucius Cabins makes a return guest appearance with DOLLARS AND ECOLOGY, his analysis of the ambiguous nature of the environmental movement: Does it contain the seeds of a radical break with expertise and work as we know them, or is it more likely to politically legitimize capital’s attempted transition to a biologically sound form of production, leaving basic social relations intact? In this, and in other articles we explore ways the work environment effects and is reflected in the larger world environment. Green Fuchsia’s BAD ECOTUDE EVERYWHERE! tells of the author’s odyssey from steel mill to ecology magazine. Fuchsia finds that in both places workers’ perception of nature is warped by their daily workplace experience. Even in an environmentalist group, hierarchical organization leads to ecologicaly destruction. Our second Tale of Environmental Toil, MUDSHARK FOR HIRE, by Med-o, deals with reforestation work in the denuded Northwestern U.S. This saga examines collective self-management as practiced by more than a thousand tree-planters. AUTODESTRUCTION by Duncan Watry looks at the Demo Derby that constitutes our modern cities. The car dictates how and where we live, and its eventual demise will present us with great changes (and opportunities). The car/city nexus is examined in the surrounding pages. NEW UTOPIA by Richard Singer, dwells in the urban jungle as well, investigating some of the forced living patterns found in the metropolis.
In the more-or-less fiction department, we offer Primitivo Morales’ LEARNING CURVE, a starkly imaginative meeting of genetic research and politics set in an all too believable future. As for our other entry, DICK’S DAY by Dorothy Hamill, all we can say is yup-yup.
Our shorter pieces include an excerpt from an article by the now infamous Chaz Bufe, with a retort to those who would eliminate billions of people under the guise of environmentalism. In HOT UNDER THE AQUIFER Dennis Hayes tells how high-risk tap water gets riskier in Silicon Valley. PLANTS BURSTING WITH ENERGY by Mark Leger is a stroll down memory lane — both our historical memory and our genetic memory.
We’ve been discussing possible future themes, and thinking is centered around ab/uses of leisure time—vacations, shopping, travel, drugs.., you know, what you do when you’re not working. Of course we are still interested in our usual fare (technology, work/office, perspectives on modern life, and ways of changing how we love, live, and work) and irt intelligent rebuttals or extensions of previous material. We welcome your essays, fiction, poetry, letters and graphics. Please attach your name and address to everything submitted.
NOW LISTEN UP!!!
We think we had a pretty good issue last time, but our mailbox was virtually empty. Maybe you couldn’t find anything to say about most of it, but surely some of the pieces (e.g. the interview with Katya Komisaruk) advanced ideas not all of you agree with. This issue will (hopefully) raise some hackles. But we are not interested in being called names or endless recriminations. We are interested in sensible ideas. So write to us. We’d hate to find out that the most radical thing you do is read this magazine.
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