Allan Todd’s Comments

Allan Todd
Allan Todd

New blog welcomed

This thoughtful and interesting comment on my new blog – and on the ‘welcome to readers’ statement on the home page in particular – is from the long-time ecosocialist writer and campaigner Allan Todd.* His comments are much appreciated – AT

Alan Thornett’s decision to launch his new ecosocialist blog could not have been more timely. Just this week, we’ve had UK public health warnings about a heatwave (with such extreme weather events acknowledged to be occurring more frequently because of Climate Change); a UEA report that predicts 200,000 UK homes will be lost to rising sea levels by 2050 because of Climate Change; whilst this year’s BBC’s flagship environmental programme Springwatch (2022) carried daily reports as to the increasing number of UK species now at high risk of extinction because of Climate Change.

In case anyone may have failed to join the dots, I’ve highlighted the four most significant words in the previous paragraph: because of Climate Change! Yet governments are currently using Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to encourage and facilitate the fossil fuel companies to develop NEW dirty energy projects – and so totally ignore the stark warnings given by COP26 and the most recent IPCC Climate Reports.

Perhaps the most important point that the ‘welcome to readers statement’ makes is that ecosocialism should inform everything we do. Throughout the 1970s, and even into the 1980s, I was one of many socialists who tended to put environmental issues towards the bottom of the immediate political agenda. It was my late wife – who, from as early as the late 1960s, argued: “You can’t have socialism on a dead planet.” – and the ‘Red-Green’ writings of Edward Thompson and Raymond Williams in the early 1980s, that made me realise being ‘Red’ with a ‘Green’ stripe wasn’t enough – and that what was urgently needed was for anti-capitalists to be ‘Red’ AND ‘Green’ in equal measure. What was clearly true in the 1980s is so much more true 40 years on.


A blockade outside the Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site
A blockade outside the Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site

As part of what’s needed to avoid a “dead planet,” Alan Thornett has, rightly, raised two of the most contentious issues in debates on the left about ecosocialism: continuous economic growth/de-growth; and the size of the planet’s human population. BOTH are important elements if we are to achieve a planet that is ecologically-sustainable, AND real economic and social justice.

As regards growth/de-growth, Marx was the first to identify the dangerous ‘metabolic rift’ that ever-increasing capitalist production inevitably causes between humans and the rest of the natural world – of which we are but a part, and on which we therefore depend. He consequently spoke of the need for a communist society to move away from merely producing more and more ‘things’/’stuff,’ to a society where other aspects could ‘grow’ – such as health, education and leisure. Engels also warned that, for each of capitalism’s ‘victories’ over nature, “nature takes its revenge on us” – a warning tragically borne out by Covid-19 (or Nature’s ‘Walt Kowalksi’! See ‘The Natural World & Covid-19’ in Transform, 8/2020) and the other zoonotic viruses that have crossed over from wild animals to humans because of the ways ever-increasing production is destroying what’s left of the natural world.

More recently, in 2005, Sheila Malone reminded us how “Capitalism operates on the basis that the earth’s resources are there for limitless exploitation”; such endless ‘growth’ will still be a problem even when capitalism’s rule is ended. In 2016, US biologist E. O. Wilson’s Half-Earth argued for the need to alter human activities so that, for our own sakes, we could give over 50% of land and sea to Nature, seeing this as the only way we can “save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilisation required for our own survival.” (see: While John Bellamy Foster’s The Return of Nature (see: ) underlined the need to “dethrone the idol of capital” and its permanently-increasing production which “now imperils the ecology of the Earth.”

Part of that whole problem is linked to the other – probably even greater – contentious issue: the global population. I’ll be honest: I have shifted ground on this. Once again, my late wife had argued for decades that one – though NOT the only – thing that needed to be addressed was that of the total population that could be sustainably-supported by the planet. I had argued against, seeing it as a distraction – but the ever-worsening Climate and Ecological Crises, and Alan Thornett’s Facing the Apocalypse, have brought about a change of mind. To say that numbers matter is NOT to take a ‘crude Malthusian attitude’ – apart from how globally-available birth control could enrich the lives of all by empowering women to have more control over their bodies and lives, the total world population is inevitably linked to the whole question of ever-increasing production and consumption of ‘stuff’.
Finally, as regards what individuals can do – whilst recognising that the main thrust has to be on corporations and governments – Gandhi was right to argue that individuals should “be the change you wish to see in the world.” And one way to address the whole question of growth AND the destruction of the natural world is by, at the very least, cutting back drastically on meat consumption. Even better, by also drastically reducing dairy consumption, as the second biggest single thing an individual can do (after not having children!) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of the natural world is to become vegan:
Alan Thornett’s ‘welcome statement’ – and the articles to be found on his new site – thus deserve to have serious study by a much wider audience, in order for the most relevant demands and urgent actions to be taken. Because, quite frankly, we don’t have that much more time left for making the necessary changes to prevent runaway climate and ecological breakdown.

* Allan was the organiser of the highly successful anti-fracking ‘Green Monday’ protests at the Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire from August 2017 to October 2019. More recently, he helped form the Ecosocialist Alliance, and is a member of Left Unity’s National Council. He is also the author of Revolutions, and Trotsky: The Passionate Revolutionary.

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Alistair Grey

Well said Allan. Population growth is hardly mentioned in the climate discussion. It has risen fourfold in just the last hundred years from around 2 billion to around 8 billion. And nearly every one of those individuals aspires to a “western” lifestyle with their own house full of the latest gadgets, cars, unlimited aeroplane flights and more.
In the UK alone one third of births are unplanned. ONE THIRD!
Yes, Allan, global birth control must be much more freely available.

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