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The following article appeared in Left Business
Observer #72, April 1996. It was written by Doug Henwood, editor and
publisher. It retains its copyright and may not be reprinted or redistributed
in any form - print, electronic, facsimile, anything - without the permission
A follow-up to last issue's piece on globalization.
A few days before sending #71 to press, I faxed Doug Tompkins, the Esprit clothing tycoon turned deeply ecological philanthropist, a letter asking how he reconciled his fortune made in sweatshop labor with his current activities on behalf of the earth and its poor. His response, which arrived too late for inclusion: "Maybe you've mixed me up with someone else."
As staff reporter J.W. Mason points out, one virtue of the greenish postmodern critique of modern capitalism is that it does pose questions about the organization of production and work, even if it doesn't come up with the right answers, a critique that has receded on the more canonical left. Sure, technology has allowed some of us to publish radical newsletters on a shoestring, but it's created deadening shitwork for lots more. Since so many people are grateful just to have a job now, the dehumanizing aspects - boredom, danger, surveillance - of too many jobs are barely mentioned. It may seem utopian to bring up the matter, but utopianism has its place, another point often lost on the canonical left, hotly in pursuit of respectability.
Also, a couple of readers objected to the characterization of Earth First! as the folks who spiked trees in the 1980s, pointing to their activism as proof that this was cruelly inaccurate. OK, point conceded; they do do things like sit in trees to stop clear-cutting. But the law and the timber industry can always pick them out of the trees and get to cutting; changing the law and the timber industry requires politics, and EF!'s political theory is fundamentally appalling. Deep Ecologists believe humans themselves are the problem, and politics is just another human institution.
Here's a recent burst of EF! thinking, posted to the Internet by theoretician Kelpie Wilson (supplied by Jeff St. Clair): "I want greedy, scumbag corporations to be cut down to size and I want all men sterilized at birth with an operation that is only reversible if a man can pass comprehensive tests for social and environmental responsibility, gentleness and nurturing ability!"
In a neglected passage in his famous 1991 memo, in which he argued that Africa was "vastly under-polluted," former World Bank chief economist Lawrence Summers also said this, in commenting on a draft of a Bank report:
What's new? Throughout the outline I struggle with the evidence showing wha