John Bellamy Foster's book "The Vulnerable Planet" admirably fulfills its purpose as an introduction to the current ecological crisis and its economic, historical and social background. Written in an accessible style, Foster gives an overview of the history of man's interaction with nature and the successes and failures in doing this, as well as an analysis of the current crisis and its severity.
Unlike some introductions of this kind, the author takes care to discuss the ecological impact of our civilizations before the Industrial Revolution, and points out that even in ancient times, unsustainable forms and modes of production have collapsed even great civilizations and empires, such as the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, the Mayans in Central America and the Romans in North Africa. However, Foster takes pains to show how the Industrial Revolution transformed our prior relations with nature, interaction as equals, into seemingly unlimited mastery over all natural resources. Combined with a worldwide mode of production that sustains itself by unlimited accumulation on one pole, and a compulsion of billions to labor for the same on the other pole, it is obvious that the planet can ill afford this system existing for much longer.
Nations that have attempted to escape the domination of foreign capital and that have attempted to steer an independent course for their peoples have yet had to industrialize in the same manner to be able to maintain themselves politically, compelled by the same logic that they set out to resist. It is obvious therefore that to save our planet (and thereby ourselves), we must not only overthrow our current mode of production, but also do so in a manner that consciously resists the same logic of accumulation and resource destruction that has brought us into this crisis. The red and the green must always go hand in hand if humanity is to steer away from the abyss.
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