Science

The Anthropocene or Capitalocene?

Author: 

Neil Laker

In 2008, the International Commission on Stratigraphy created a Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA) to examine the addition of a new epoch to the geological time scale. In August 2016, all but one of the WGA’s 35 members agreed that the Anthropocene is “stratigraphically real”, and 30 agreed that the new epoch should be formally added to the time scale.

Majority opinion also indicated in favour of the view that globally synchronous changes to the Earth System most clearly intensified in the “Great Acceleration” of the mid-20th century.1

For a Marxist understanding of global ecology, relations of class, gender and race under capitalism must be central, alongside and informed by the work of natural science.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

Prescription opioids: the opiate of the people

Author: 

Les Hearn

The 2016 World Congress on Pain, meeting in Yokohama in late September, held a packed Special Session on Opioids. The theme was their role in pain medicine. This might seem fairly settled since the analgesic properties of opium have been known for at least 3,000 years. Not so!

Nearly two million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014, a quarter of those taking prescription opioids; over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids every day. Eighty per cent of opioid prescriptions world wide are in the US, with just 5% of the population.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Around the world: 

Publications: 

The story of banning legal highs

Author: 

Les Hearn

“Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain”, Goethe.

Towards the end of January, “mostly supine” MPs passed a bill after a “clueless debate”.
The Psychoactive Substances Act which is intended to ban “legal highs” (novel psychoactive substances — NPSs) is “one of the stupidest, most dangerous and unscientific pieces of drugs legislation ever conceived."

Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This just about sums up successive governments’ policies towards drugs.

Publications: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

Women who changed the world

Author: 

Les Hearn

Women are notoriously under-represented in science, but the situation seems worse because such women scientists as there are tend to be misunderstood, misinterpreted, under-rated or ignored.

A review of Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World by Rachel Swaby (Broadway Books).

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Homeopathy: the one NHS cut we should support

Author: 

Les Hearn

Homoeopathic medicines do nothing that a placebo does not do. This is because they contain no active ingredient... like a placebo. But the NHS spends our money on them.

Homoeopathic medicines do nothing that a placebo does not do. This is because they contain no active ingredient... like a placebo. But the NHS spends our money on them.

Publications: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

Yes to automation, under workers' control

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Bruce Robinson replies to me on automation (Solidarity 372) that he opposes, not all automation or sidelining of traditional skills, but automation of complex and skilled processes (as in the chemical industry) and driverless vehicles.

Safety depends on union organisation as well as technology.

Publications: 

Around the world: 

Trade Unions: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

Chemical warfare in the First World War

Author: 

Les Hearn

A hundred years ago, on 22 April, poison gas was first used in warfare. Though about 95% of casualties in World War One were caused by explosives, sickness and malnutrition, there is a peculiar horror associated with the use of chemical weapons. It is also true that, apart from isolated examples, World War One was the only instance of the systematic and widespread use of gases in war.

A hundred years ago, poison gas was first used in warfare. Though about 95% of casualties in World War One were caused by explosives, sickness and malnutrition, there is a peculiar horror associated with the use of chemical weapons.

Publications: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

Automation, deskilling and safety

Author: 

Bruce Robinson

Martin Thomas’ criticisms of my review of Nicholas Carr’s book on automation (Solidarity 370) focus on two related issues: the deskilling effects of automation and my rejection of the full automation of safety-critical systems through e.g. driverless cars or pilotless planes. On deskilling, I think there is one misunderstanding and one difference.

Even the most highly automated tasks require scope for human intervention or override.

Publications: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

A workerful world

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Eighty-four years ago, John Maynard Keynes wrote: “The increase of technical efficiency has been taking place faster than we can deal with the problem of labour absorption”, and predicted that that generation’s grandchildren (that is, the “baby boom” generation now in their sixties) would work only three hours a day.

Twenty years ago Jeremy Rifkin published a book entitled “The End of Work”, and predicting “a near-workerless world”.

Driverless cars and autopiloted planes are an advance, not a step backwards.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

Another automation is possible

A review of The Glass Cage: Where Automation is Taking Us by Nicholas Carr.

Automation is everywhere. From robots on production lines to the cockpits of planes; from automated market trading to highly skilled medical diagnosis via a whole range of blue and white collar occupations, few jobs seem to be immune to the replacement of human, living labour by computerised systems.

One report has recently predicted that as much as 47% of US employment is at risk. This is not just futuristic hype: the US has just gone through a “jobless recovery” from the 2008 crisis.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

Pages