All posts by Don Fitz

What Can We Learn from Cuba? Medicare-for-All Is a Beginning, Not the End Point

As a coup de grâce to the Bernie Sanders campaign Joe Biden declared that he would veto Medicare-for-All.  This could drive a dedicated health care advocate to relentlessly pursue Med-4-All as a final goal.  However, it is not the final goal. It should be the first step in a complete transformation of medicine which includes combining community medicine with natural medicine and health-care-for-the-world.

Contrasting Cuban changes in medicine during the last 60 years with the US non-system of medical care gives a clear picture of why changes must be all-encompassing.  The concept of Medicare-for-All is deeply intertwined with attacks on Cuba’s global medical “missions” and the opposite responses to Covid-19 in the two countries.

Going Forward or Going Backward?

Immediately after the 1959 revolution Cubans began the task of spreading medical care to those without it.  This included a flurry of building medical clinics and sending doctors to poor parts of cities and to rural areas, both of which were predominantly black.

As the revolution spread medicine from cities to the country, it realized the need to expand medical care across the world.  This included both sending medical staff overseas and bringing others to Cuba for treatment.  Cuba spent 30 years redesigning its health care system, which resulted in the most comprehensive community-based medicine in the world.

Throughout the expansion of health care, both inside the country and internationally, Cuban doctors used “allopathic” medicine (based largely on drugging and cutting, which is the focus of US medical schools).  But they simultaneously incorporated traditional healing and preventive medicine as well as respecting practices of other cultures.

Today, the most critical parts of the Cuban health care system include (1) everyone receives health care as a human right, (2) all parts are fully integrated into a single whole which can quickly respond to crises, (3) everyone in the country has input into the system so that it enjoys their collective experiences and (4) health care is global.

In contrast, the call for Medicare-for-All by the left in Democratic Party is a demand for Allopathy-for-US-Citizens.  It would extend corporate-driven health care, but with no fundamental change towards holistic and community medicine.  Though a necessary beginning, it is a conservative demand which does not recognize that a failure to go forward will inevitably result in market forces pushing health care backward.

There is already a right-wing effort to destroy Medicare and Medicaid in any form and leave people to only receive medical treatment they can pay for.  It is part of the same movement to destroy the US Post Office and eliminate Social Security.  It is funded by the same sources trying to get rid of public education except for a few schools that will prepare the poor to go to prison or be unemployed.  These are neoliberals who believe that Black-Lives-Do-Not-Really-Matter.  They hate all the gains won during the last century-and-a-half and want to overturn any form of environmental protection, any workers’ rights, the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, and civil rights, including voting rights.

Destroying Health Care Advances of the Cuban Revolution

What does the Cuban health care have to do with Medicare-for-All in the US?  Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy than the US while spending less than 10% per person annually on health care.  It has provided medical education to so many from other countries that in 1999 it opened the Latin American School of Medicine to bring students from impoverished countries to study and become doctors.  By 2020 it had trained over 30,000 doctors.  It had also trained huge numbers of other health professionals from beyond its shores.

Even before Cuba brought in students, it sent its own professionals on “missions” to help those in other countries.  Over the past six decades more than 400,000 Cuban medical professionals have worked in 164 countries and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The US response to this incredible international medical revolution documents that it is not satisfied to stop medical care from improving but has an irresistable urge to reverse gains across the globe.  The US government glommed onto complaints from physicians in multipe countries who whined because Cuban doctors would go to jungles and other dangerous areas where the rich urban doctors refused to venture.  Of course, the US had its own reasons to despise Cuban medical assistance.

Cuba has long done humanitarian work in education as well as medicine which puts its northerm behemoth to shame.  Its actions expose that health care can be done vastly cheaper with better outcomes than corportate medicine, which traumatizes financiers of the sickness industry.

Republicans and Democrats are firmly united with corporate media in hiding Cuban medical accomplishments from the US population.  They defnitely do not want other poor countries to replicate Cuba’s system.  Horrifed at the prospect that Cuban health care would shine as an example, the US went to work to undermine and destroy Cuban medical internationalism in any way it could.

In August 2006 the George W. Bush administration began the “Cuban Medical Professional Parole” program to encourage Cuban medical staff on international missions to desert and move to the US, with no questions asked. Only 2-3% did so; but their departure left those poor countries with less care.

This is in line with any corporate goals to destroy local health care and replace it with profit-based health care across the globe.  Driven by the same market factors that compel extraction, transportation and food production industries to go international, the US sickness industry likely feels the urge to create and control a global market of “health care providers.”  One of its main obstacles will be community health systems, which actually work much better for poor people.

As the knowledge of the success of Cuba’s medical information spread, its detractors flew into a frenzy and clutched onto wild hallucinations.  As accurately explained by Vijay Prashad, they fantasized that Cuba was engaging in “human trafficking” by forcing its doctors to work internationally.  The accusation is blatantly absurd since Cuban doctors always have the choice of whether to broaden their medical knowledge by going abroad and treating diseases that have been eradicated in Cuba or to stay at home.

It is true that its doctors have incredibly low wages (as do all working people in Cuba) due to the destructive effects of the US embargo.  In one of the great ironies of propaganda machines, the US seeks to criminalize Cuba in the eyes of the world by screeching that medical wages are low while itself being the cause of meager pay.

Results of this attacking Cuba during Covid-19 have been murderous.  After Lenín Moreno became president of Ecuador in 2017 he abruptly veered from what he promised and ordered Cuban doctors to leave.  At the same time Venezuela and Cuba had a total of 27 Covid-19 deaths, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, had an estimated death toll of 7,600.  Similarly, when the neoliberal Jair Bolsonaro took power in Brazil in 2019, he threw out Cuban doctors.  This left the country with rising infant mortality and so unprepared for Covid that even inviting them back was unable to undo the damage.  Following the 2019 anti-democratic coup in Bolivia, the ultra right-wing Jeanine Áñez had herself anointed as president and expelled Cuban doctors, which devastated that country’s health care system.  Although Bolivia is a physically isolated country with a population of only 8.7 million it had 2200 deaths by June 2020.

Who Coped with Covid-19?

The fact that Cuba had gone far, far beyond Medicare-for-All is what allowed it to have such spectacular control over Covid.  Its politicians unified behind the ministry of health which developed a national strategy.  That strategy was in effect before the island’s first victim had succumbed to the disease.  Social distancing, masks and contact tracing were universally accepted.  According to Susana Hurlich, medical students went door-to-door collecting data, distributing homeopathic medication (PrevengHo-Vir), and, most important, finding out what problems people needed help with.

Neighborhood doctors collected data to send to polyclinics and helped make certain that residents’ medical and other needs were met.  Clinic staff met needs that neighborhood doctors could not provide and sent patients they could not care for to hospitals.  Hospital doctors slept at hospitals for 14 day shifts before being quarantined for another 14 days so they would not infect their families or communities.

On July 18, deaths from Covid-19 numbered 140,300 in the US and 87 in Cuba.   Though its population is only 30 times that of Cuba, the US had 1,612 times as many deaths.

As US politicians conspired with corporations to see how much profit could be made from the pandemic, Cuban health care went international.  When northern Italy became the epicenter of Covid-19 cases, one of its hardest hit cities was Crema. On March 26, 2020 Cuba sent 52 doctors and nurses. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power.

On March 12, 2020 nearly 50 crew members and passengers on the British cruise ship Braemar either had Covid-19 or were showing symptoms as the ship approached the Bahamas, a British Commonwealth nation. During the next five days, the US, the Bahamas, and several other Caribbean countries turned it away.  On March 18, Cuba became the only country to allow the Braemar’s over 1000 crew members and passengers to dock.

The incidents of Crema and the Braemar were hardly without precedent.  They resulted from 60 years of medical internationalism by Cuba.  Just as Cuba’s actions during Covid-19 reflected its development, so the horrible expansion of the disease in the US, Brazil and India showed the lack of concern under reactionary rule.

Capitalism has exterminated hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in order to consolidate growth and power.  Whether enslaving Africans, or slaughtering native Americans to steal land, or experimenting with nuclear bombs during WWII, or destroying health systems that would prevent mass death during a pandemic, these are merely “costs of doing business” to capitalism.  Driving native peoples off of land is not unique to US in the past, but continues today throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Trump has terribly bungled coping with Covid-19, but the approach of Democrats is not essentially different.  Neither corporate party has any intention of providing Cuban-type care within the US. And they certainly do not even imagine putting protection of the world’s poor from Covid above profit potentials for US corporations.  They never had any intention of telling US public that 72 countries had requested Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B for treating Covid-19.  They wanted people to believe that only an American or European country could discover treatment.

Is Thinking Beyond Medicare-for-All Part of the Real World?

Is the idea of a radical health care transformation even worth talking about as right-wingers seem to be on the move across much of the world?  Let’s remember our past.  During the time the reactionary Richard Nixon was president (1969-1974), despite an overwhelming pro-war victory, the following were accomplished under his reign: declaration of an end to the Vietnam War, start of the Food Stamp program, decriminalization of abortion, recognition of China, creation of Environmental Protection Agency, passage of Freedom of Information Act, formal dismantling of FBI’s COINTEL program, creation of Earned Income Tax Credits, formal ban on biological weapons, and passage of the Clean Water Act.

We have never won as many gains since then, even when there was a Democratic House, Senate and president.  The essential difference between then and now was the existence of mass movements.  Perhaps it is the time for today’s movements to ask if a fair and just payment of reparations by the US and western Europe for the pain and suffering they have caused throughout the world should include providing medical care for those billions of people who Cuba cannot afford to help.  Health care is not genuine health care if it fails to be health-care-for-the-world.

A Statue of Hatuey

Chief Hatuey

If you look at a US $20 bill, you might notice Andrew Jackson nervously watching statues of Columbus and Robert E. Lee coming down and wondering if his face is going to disappear from currency. As Democrats ponder which militarist they wish to glorify in the next round of monuments, it is critical to realize that statues which go up are at least as important as the ones that come down. Perhaps the best nominee for a new statue is Hatuey.

A few years ago, while visiting my daughter and grandson in Havana, I learned that his favorite playmate was Hatuey. “I recognize a lot of Spanish names,” I told my daughter. “But I’ve never heard that one.”

“It’s not Hispanic,” she let me know. “It’s the name of the great Taino warrior killed by the Spaniards.”

Long, long ago, before slavery existed in the colonies that would become the US – even before the first Dutch and British slave ships ventured to Africa, Spanish invaders discovered the Taino people in Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Cuba. In 1512, the Taino invited the Spaniards to a great feast in their honor.

After the Spaniards ate the food and drank the beverages prepared for them by 2500 Taino, they drew their swords and hacked their hosts – men, women and children – to pieces. Those who were not slaughtered were dragged by the Spaniards to forced labor. They ordered them to carry loads they could not possibly lift and joked among themselves as they killed more.

As the Taino lay dying, priests knelt down to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. If they would let Christ into their hearts, they would enjoy eternal salvation.

About 400 Taino managed to escape from the massacre and took canoes from Hispaniola to eastern Cuba. Unfortunately, most of the Tainos in Cuba would not believe that people existed who were as cruel as those in the story they heard (somewhat like those in the 21st century who do not believe the potential outcomes of climate change for humanity).

Hatuey led the first guerrilla warfare against European invasion of the western hemisphere. His band conducted several hit-and-run attacks against the invaders and were not defeated in battle. But a traitor informed the Spaniards of the mountain where they hid and they were surrounded and captured.

Hatuey was brought before the Spanish general who told him, “If you accept the King of Spain as your sovereign and Jesus Christ as your savior, then we will kill you quickly and you will pass to everlasting paradise. But if you do not accept the King and Jesus, then we will burn you alive and you will be damned to burn in hell for eternity.”

Hatuey burned

Hatuey asked, “Are there Spaniards in heaven?”

“Oh, yes,” the general chuckled. “Heaven is full of Spaniards.”

Hatuey’s last words were, “I would rather burn in hell forever than spend one day in paradise with Spaniards.”

*****

One time I was telling the story of Hatuey, a listener replied, “I heard that, but I thought that Hatuey was from a tribe in Mexico. Another time, a person told me he thought Hatuey was an Inca resisting Pizarro’s invasion of Peru.

Wanting to make sure that I had it right, I checked on Google, which Wall Street would have us believe has replaced the bible as the ultimate source of wisdom and truth. Sure enough, Google confirmed Hatuey’s existence in Cuba.

But then a thought entered my mind. What if Hatuey, in some way, did exist in Mexico, Peru, and in tribes throughout North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean? Could it be possible that the flames which consumed Hatuey’s body now burn in the hearts and minds of those who resist oppression everywhere?

*****

A monument to Hatuey is in Baracoa, Cuba. The plate at the base reads “To the memory of Chief Hatuey, unforgettable native, precursor of the Cuban liberty, who offered his life, and glorified his rebellion in the martyrdom of the flames on 2/2/1512. Monuments Delegation of Yara, 1999.”

Should NYC’s Wall Street Be Renamed “Eric Garner St.?”


Scenes of sorrow spread across the US. Football teams apologize. Cops march with demonstrators. Democratic Party politicians call for “structural change” in police departments.

Some of these are sincere. Others are crocodile tears shed in hopes that people will be pacified with assurances that turn out to be vague rhetoric devoid of meaning or else empty promises that will never be fulfilled. Yet, there are changes that would cost little, could happen quickly, and be reminders to future generations of what happened in 2020.

St. Louis offers a unique opportunity which is being addressed by a coalition of the Universal African Peoples Organization, Green Party of St. Louis, Tauheed Youth Organization and Beloved Streets of America. Delmar Blvd., which spans both the City and County of St. Louis, and intersects with Sgt. Mike King Dr.

In 2008, policeman Mike King was murdered on Leland Ave. When the police asked that a street be named after him, no one objected. The City Hall of University City (part of St. Louis County) is now at the corner of Delmar Blvd. and Sgt. Mike King Dr. The coalition believes that anyone who agrees with naming a street after a cop killed by a civilian should also agree to name a street after a civilian killed by a cop.

We came together saying that Delmar Blvd. Should be renamed “George Floyd Divide.” Why “Divide?” Jesse Todd, a black Alderperson from the 18th Ward, explained the racial divide for the June 23 press conference co-sponsored by the Universal African Peoples Organization and the Green Party of St. Louis:

St. Louis is two separate cities: one north, one south. Separate and unequal. I support renaming Delmar to George Floyd Divide. People living north of Delmar do not get the same city services as those living south of Delmar. North of Delmar the poverty rate is higher, life expectancy lower, and the infant mortality rate is higher. In many places there is a food desert. This is a historical time. Future generations will know about this movement.

One reason for including the word “Divide” in a street name is that it would slice like a hot knife through a stick of butter, separating those who demand that the US forever remember its history of racist crimes versus those who utter soft words of sympathy which they know will soon be forgotten.

Tamala Turner, speaking on behalf of the Green Party of St. Louis remarked:

Decades from now, when many of us will be gone, children will look at the intersection of George Floyd Divide and Sgt. Mike King Dr. and ask why the streets have those names. Their relatives might say, ‘You will need to ask your grandparents because they were teenagers who marched in the great demonstrations of 2020. In those days police killings were common and the old Delmar Blvd. served as a divide between whites who enjoyed civil rights and blacks who were disrespected and brutalized, not only in St. Louis, but throughout the country.’

As publicity went out, opposition swiftly came from those who seemingly did not want their descendants to be taught the true history of St. Louis. Some criticized use of the word “Divide” as being divisive at a time when we “all need to unify.” Of those who raised this concern, not one proposed that the name “Sgt. Mike King Dr.” be changed because it was “divisive.” When a reported asked Anthony Shahid why the coalition would ask for a change in the name of a street which had no connection to racism, he reiterated that the entire city is well aware that Delmar is a divide between black and white St. Louis.

Even before the press conference began, a reporter from Channel 4 called me and demanded to know if focusing on something minor like street names would divert attention from the meaningful issue of police reform. Despite my repeating multiple times that those advocating this change had been protesting police brutality for decades, the reporter insisted that he “was not being argumentative” but that we must recognize how unimportant street names were. He was unable to grasp that statues and street names throughout the world exist to glorify the most murderous heroes of the ruling class. One of the first acts of any revolution is to remove monuments of the oppressor and replace them with images of those who have suffered and resisted.

This is why one of the main speakers at the event was Melvin White, who heads “Beloved Streets of America (BSA).” For years, that organization has focused on the realization that US streets named after Martin Luther King tend to be some of the most neglected streets in town. BSA desires to rebuild them to become beautiful icons of the man who is their namesake. White pointed out that we were gathered on Delmar, one of the nicest streets in the St. Louis area. He would love having a black person’s name attached to an attractive street for a change.

The Universal African Peoples Organization (UAPO) has challenged police murders and cover-ups for over a quarter century. Zaki Baruti spoke on behalf of the UAPO, emphasizing that having a major street in St. Louis be called “George Floyd Divide” is but “one tiny step in the fundamental changes” necessary for remaking the US. The next “small step” is changing the street in Ferguson, Missouri which made the phrase “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” famous during 2014 demonstrations. One side of signs printed by the Green Party of St. Louis said “Rename Delmar Blvd. to George Floyd Divide” while the other side read “Rename W. Florissant Ave. to Michael Brown Jr. Ave.”

The coalition to rename Delmar and W. Florissant agrees that our efforts are a critical component of a much greater goal of undoing colonial capitalism and replacing it with a society based on justice. That larger goal includes demilitarizing the police, reallocating massive over-funding of the police to necessary social services, ending economic and power divides that require violent suppression, and establishing community control over social problems which will lay the foundations for abolition of the police. Of course, addressing police violence in the US fits into even broader goals of undoing colonial domination throughout the world. We hope that others join us because what names we put on signs and what statues we build is at least as important as the old ones that come down.

Perhaps St. Louis should consider renaming another street after Anthony Lamar Smith, who was killed by cop Jason Stockley in 2011. When suppressed evidence surfaced in 2016 that the gun which Stockley claimed Smith pointed at him did not have the victim’s DNA on it but did have the cop’s DNA, Stockley was charged with his murder. On September 15, 2017 a judge found Stockley not guilty of any crime and set him free, which prompted demonstrations in St. Louis not seen since the murder of Michael Brown Jr.

Is it time for Florida citizens to ask if a street should be named after Trayvon Martin, murdered by vigilante George Zimmerman in Sanford on February 26, 2012?

Should those in Georgia rename a street after Ahmaud Arbery, murdered by vigilantes on February 23, 2020 in Brunswick?

Should residents of Louisville, Kentucky select a street to rename after Breonna Taylor, murdered by cops invading her home on March 13, 2020?

And, should Chicago residents recall events of half a century ago when Black Panther Fred Hampton was also murdered by a police home invasion on December 4, 1969 and rename Michigan Ave. after him?

What if we look back at all the police murders, all the post-Civil War lynchings, all the killings of slaves, all the Native Americans slaughtered for the theft of their lands, all the Latin American immigrant descendants of Native Americans who have been killed even though they have more claim to US soil than do European descendants, as well as every other person of color exterminated to enrich white rulers?

Listing all of these victims would both fill the pages of an encyclopedia and perhaps be enough to give a distinct name to each street, boulevard and rural road in the US. Would this be a fitting way to remind our descendants of the true American legacy every time they travel?

Of all the streets that could be renamed, one stands out as a reminder that the consolidation of finance capital is built upon America’s ethnic cleansing. Do you remember Eric Garner, who was executed by New York cops for the crime of selling cigarettes? Has the hour arrived to rename NYC’s Wall Street as “Eric Garner St.?”

*****

A movie of the June 23, 2020 press conference co-sponsored by the Universal African Peoples Organization and the Green Party of St. Louis is available at this link.

How Che Guevara Taught Cuba to Confront COVID-19

Beginning in December 1951, Ernesto “Che” Guevara took a nine-month break from medical school to travel by motorcycle through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. One of his goals was gaining practical experience with leprosy. On the night of his twenty-fourth birthday, Che was at La Colonia de San Pablo in Peru swimming across the river to join the lepers. He walked among six hundred lepers in jungle huts looking after themselves in their own way.

Che would not have been satisfied to just study and sympathize with them – he wanted to be with them and understand their existence. Being in contact with people who were poor and hungry while they were sick transformed Che. He envisioned a new medicine, with doctors who would serve the greatest number people with preventive care and public awareness of hygiene. A few years later, Che joined Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement as a doctor and was among the eighty-one men aboard the Granma as it landed in Cuba on December 2, 1956.

Revolutionary Medicine

After the January 1, 1959, victory that overthrew Fulgencio Batista, the new Cuban constitution included Che’s dream of free medical care for all as a human right. An understanding of the failings of disconnected social systems led the revolutionary government to build hospitals and clinics in under-served parts of the island at the same time that it began addressing crises of literacy, racism, poverty, and housing. Cuba overhauled its clinics both in 1964 and again in 1974 to better link communities and patients. By 1984, Cuba had introduced doctor-nurse teams who lived in the neighborhoods where they had offices (consultorios).

The United States became ever more bellicose, so in 1960 Cubans organized Committees for Defense of the Revolution to defend the country. The committees prepared to move the elderly, disabled, sick, and mentally ill to higher ground if a hurricane approached, thus intertwining domestic health care and foreign affairs, a connection that has been maintained throughout Cuba’s history.

As Cuba’s medical revolution was based on extending medical care beyond the major cities and into the rural communities that needed it the most, it was a logical conclusion to extend that assistance to other nations. The revolutionary government sent doctors to Chile after a 1960 earthquake and a medical brigade in 1963 to Algeria, which was fighting for independence from France. These set the stage for the country’s international medical aid, which grew during the decades and now includes helping treat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the late 1980s and early ’90s, two disasters threatened the very existence of the country. The first victim of AIDS died in 1986. In December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, ending its $5 billion annual subsidy, disrupting international commerce, and sending the Cuban economy into a free fall that exacerbated the AIDS epidemic. A perfect storm for AIDS infection appeared on the horizon. The HIV infection rate for the Caribbean region was second only to southern Africa, where a third of a million Cubans had recently been during the Angolan wars. The embargo on the island reduced the availability of drugs (including those for HIV/AIDS), made existing pharmaceuticals outrageously expensive, and disrupted the financial infrastructures used for drug purchases. Desperately needing funds, Cuba opened the floodgate of tourism.

The government drastically reduced services in all areas except two: education and health care. Its research institutes developed Cuba’s own diagnostic test for HIV by 1987. Over twelve million tests were completed by 1993. By 1990, when gay people had become the island’s primary HIV victims, homophobia was officially challenged in schools. Condoms were provided for free at doctors’ offices and, despite the expense, so were anti-retroviral drugs.

Cuba’s united and well-planned effort to cope with HIV/AIDS paid off. At the same time that Cuba had two hundred AIDS cases, New York City (with about the same population) had forty-three thousand cases. Despite having only a small fraction of the wealth and resources of the United States, Cuba had overcome the devastating effects of the U.S. blockade and had implemented an AIDS program superior to that of the country seeking to destroy it. During this Special Period, Cubans experienced longer lives and lower infant mortality rates in comparison to the United States. Cuba had inspired healers throughout the world to believe that a country with a coherent and caring medical system can thrive, even against tremendous odds.

COVID-19 Hits Cuba

Overcoming the HIV/AIDS and Special Period crises prepared Cuba for COVID-19. Aware of the intensity of the pandemic, Cuba knew that it had two inseparable responsibilities: to take care of its own with a comprehensive program and to share its capabilities internationally.

The government immediately carried out a task that proved very difficult in a market-driven economy – altering the equipment of nationalized factories (which usually made school uniforms) to manufacture masks. These provided an ample supply for Cuba by the middle of April 2020, while the United States, with its enormous productive capacity, was still suffering a shortage.

Discussions at the highest levels of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health drew up the national policy. There would need to be massive testing to determine who had been infected. Infected persons would need to be quarantined while ensuring that they had food and other necessities. Contact tracing would be used to determine who else might be exposed. Medical staff would need to go door to door to check on the health of every citizen. Consultorio staff would give special attention to everyone in the neighborhood who might be high risk.

By March 2, Cuba had instituted the Novel Coronavirus Plan for Prevention and Control. Within four days, it expanded the plan to include taking the temperature of and possibly isolating infected incoming travelers. These occurred before Cuba’s first confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis on March 11. Cuba had its first confirmed COVID-19 fatality by March 22, when there were thirty-five confirmed cases, almost one thousand patients being observed in hospitals, and over thirty thousand people under surveillance at home. The next day it banned the entry of nonresident foreigners, which took a deep bite into the country’s tourism revenue.

That was the day that Cuba’s Civil Defense went on alert to respond rapidly to COVID-19 and the Havana Defense Council decided that there was a serious problem in the city’s Vedado district, famous for being the largest home to nontourist foreign visitors who were more likely to have been exposed to the virus. By April 3, the district was closed. As Merriam Ansara witnessed, “anyone with a need to enter or leave must prove that they have been tested and are free of COVID-19.” The Civil Defense made sure stores were supplied and all vulnerable people received regular medical checks.

Vedado had eight confirmed cases, a lot for a small area. Cuban health officials wanted the virus to remain at the “local spread” stage, when it can be traced while going from one person to another. They sought to prevent it from entering the “community spread” stage, when tracing is not possible because it is moving out of control. As U.S. health professionals begged for personal protective equipment and testing in the United States was so sparse that people had to ask to be tested (rather than health workers testing contacts of infected patients), Cuba had enough rapid test kits to trace contacts of persons who had contracted the virus.

During late March and early April, Cuban hospitals were also changing work patterns to minimize contagion. Havana doctors went into Salvador Allende Hospital for fifteen days, staying overnight within an area designated for medical staff. Then they moved to an area separate from patients where they lived for another fifteen days and were tested before returning home. They stayed at home without leaving for another fifteen days and were tested before resuming practice. This forty-five-day period of isolation prevented medical staff from bringing disease to the community via their daily trips to and from work.

The medical system extends from the consultorio to every family in Cuba. Third-, fourth-, and fifth-year medical students are assigned by consultorio doctors to go to specific homes each day. Their tasks include obtaining survey data from residents or making extra visits to the elderly, infants, and those with respiratory problems. These visits gather preventive medicine data that is then taken into account by those in the highest decision-making positions of the country. When students bring their data, doctors use a red pen to mark hot spots where extra care is necessary. Neighborhood doctors meet regularly at clinics to talk about what each doctor is doing, what they are discovering, what new procedures the Cuban Ministry of Public Health is adopting, and how the intense work is affecting medical staff.

In this way, every Cuban citizen and every health care worker, from those at neighborhood doctor offices through those at the most esteemed research institutes, has a part in determining health policy. Cuba currently has eighty-nine thousand doctors, eighty-four thousand nurses, and nine thousand students scheduled to graduate from medical studies in 2020. The Cuban people would not tolerate the head of the country ignoring medical advice, spouting nonsensical statements, and determining policy based on what would be most profitable for corporations.

The Cuban government approved free distribution of the homeopathic medicine PrevengHo-Vir to residents of Havana and Pinar del Rio province. Susana Hurlich was one of many receiving it. On April 8, Dr. Yaisen, one of three doctors at the consultorio two blocks from her home, came to the door with a small bottle of PrevengHo-Vir and explained how to use it. Instructions warn that it reinforces the immune system but is not a substitute for Interferon Alpha 2B, nor is it a vaccine. Hurlich believes that something important “about Cuba’s medical system is that rather than being two-tiered, as is often the case in other countries, with ‘classical medicine’ on the one hand and ‘alternative medicine’ on the other, Cuba has ONE health system that includes it all. When you study to become a doctor, you also learn about homeopathic medicine in all its forms.”

Global Solidarity in the Time of COVID-19

A powerful model: Perhaps the most critical component of Cuba’s medical internationalism during the COVID-19 crisis has been using its decades of experience to create an example of how a country can confront the virus with a compassionate and competent plan. Public health officials around the world were inspired by Cuba’s actions.

Transfer of knowledge: When viruses that cause Ebola, mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa, increased dramatically in the fall of 2014, much of the world panicked. Soon, over twenty thousand people were infected, more than eight thousand had died, and worries mounted that the death toll could reach into hundreds of thousands. The United States provided military support; other countries promised money. Cuba was the first nation to respond with what was most needed: it sent 103 nurse and 62 doctor volunteers to Sierra Leone. Since many governments did not know how to respond to the disease, Cuba trained volunteers from other nations at Havana’s Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine. In total, Cuba taught 13,000 Africans, 66,000 Latin Americans, and 620 Caribbeans how to treat Ebola without themselves becoming infected. Sharing understanding on how to organize a health system is the highest level of knowledge transfer.

Venezuela has attempted to replicate fundamental aspects of the Cuban health model on a national level, which has served Venezuela well in combating COVID-19. In 2018, residents of Altos de Lidice organized seven communal councils, including one for community health. A resident made space in his home available to the Communal Healthcare System initiative so that Dr. Gutierrez could have an office. He coordinates data collections to identify at-risk residents and visits all residents in their homes to explain how to avoid infection by COVID-19. Nurse del Valle Marquez is a Chavista who helped implement the Barrio Adentro when the first Cuban doctors arrived. She remembers that residents had never seen a doctor inside their community, but when the Cubans arrived “we opened our doors to the doctors, they lived with us, they ate with us, and they worked among us.”

Stories like this permeate Venezuela. As a result of building a Cuban-type system, TeleSUR reported that by April 11, 2020, the Venezuelan government had conducted 181,335 early Polymerase Chain Reaction tests in time to have the lowest infection rate in Latin America. Venezuela had only 6 infections per million citizens while neighboring Brazil had 104 infections per million.

When Rafael Correa was president of Ecuador, over one thousand Cuban doctors formed the backbone of its health care system. Lenin Moreno was elected in 2017 and Cuban doctors were soon expelled, leaving public medicine in chaos. Moreno followed recommendations of the International Monetary Fund to slash Ecuador’s health budget by 36 percent, leaving it without health care professionals, without personal protective equipment, and, above all, without a coherent health care system. While Venezuela and Cuba had 27 COVID-19 deaths, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, had an estimated death toll of 7,600.

International medical response: Cuban medicine is perhaps best known for its internationalism. A clear example is the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010. Cuba sent medical staff who lived among Haitians and stayed months or years after the earthquake. U.S. doctors, however, did not sleep where Haitian victims huddled, returned to luxury hotels at night, and departed after a few weeks. John Kirk coined the term “disaster tourism” to describe the way that many rich countries respond to medical crises in poor countries.

The commitment that Cuban medical staff show internationally is a continuation of the effort that the country’s health care system made in spending three decades to find the best way to strengthen bonds between caregiving professionals and those they serve. By 2008, Cuba had sent over 120,000 health care professionals to 154 countries, its doctors had cared for over 70 million people in the world, and almost 2 million people owed their lives to Cuban medical services in their country.

The Associated Press reported that when COVID-19 spread throughout the world, Cuba had thirty-seven thousand medical workers in sixty-seven countries. It soon deployed additional doctors to Suriname, Jamaica, Dominica, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. On April 16, Granma reported that “21 brigades of healthcare professionals have been deployed to join national and local efforts in 20 countries. The same day, Cuba sent two hundred health personnel to Qatar.

As northern Italy became the epicenter of COVID-19 cases, one of its hardest hit cities was Crema in the Lombardy region. The emergency room at its hospital was filled to capacity. On March 26, Cuba sent fifty-two doctors and nurses who set up a field hospital with three intensive care unit beds and thirty-two other beds with oxygen. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power. Cuba’s intervention took its toll. By April 17, thirty of its medical professionals who went abroad tested positive for COVID-19.

Bringing the world to Cuba: The flip side of Cuba sending medical staff across the globe is the people it has brought to the island—both students and patients. When Cuban doctors were in the Republic of the Congo in 1966, they saw young people studying independently under streetlights at night and arranged for them to come to Havana. They brought in even more African students during the Angolan wars of 1975–88 and then brought large numbers of Latin American students to study medicine following Hurricanes Mitch and Georges. The number of students coming to Cuba to study expanded even more in 1999 when it opened classes at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). By 2020, ELAM had trained thirty thousand doctors from over one hundred countries.

Cuba also has a history of bringing foreign patients for treatment. After the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, 25,000 patients, mostly children, came to the island for treatment, with some staying for months or years. Cuba opened its doors, hospital beds, and a youth summer camp.

On March 12, nearly fifty crew members and passengers on a British cruise ship either had COVID-19 or were showing symptoms as the ship approached the Bahamas, a British Commonwealth nation. Since the Braemar flew the Bahamian flag as a Commonwealth vessel, there should have been no problem disembarking those aboard for treatment and return to the United Kingdom. But the Bahamian Ministry of Transport declared that the cruise ship would “not be permitted to dock at any port in the Bahamas and no persons will be permitted to disembark the vessel.” During the next five days, the United States, Barbados (another Commonwealth nation), and several other Caribbean countries turned it away. On March 18, Cuba became the only country to allow the Braemar’s over one thousand crew members and passengers to dock. Treatment at Cuban hospitals was offered to those who felt too sick to fly. Most went by bus to José Martí International Airport for flights back to the United Kingdom. Before leaving, Braemar crew members displayed a banner reading “I love you Cuba!” Passenger Anthea Guthrie posted on her Facebook page: “They have made us not only feel tolerated, but actually welcome.”

Medicine for all: In 1981, there was a particularly bad outbreak of the mosquito-borne dengue fever, which hits the island every few years. At the time, many first learned of the very high level of Cuba’s research institutes that created Interferon Alpha 2B to successfully treat dengue. As Helen Yaffe points out, “Cuba’s interferon has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles, HIV-AIDS, and dengue.” It accomplished this by preventing complications that could worsen a patient’s condition and result in death. The efficacy of the drug persisted for decades and, in 2020, it became vitally important as a potential cure for COVID-19. What also survived was Cuba’s eagerness to develop a multiplicity of drugs and share them with other nations.

Cuba has sought to work cooperatively toward drug development with countries such as China, Venezuela, and Brazil, Collaboration with Brazil resulted in meningitis vaccines at a cost of 95¢ rather than $15 to $20 per dose. Finally, Cuba teaches other countries to produce medications themselves so they do not have to rely on purchasing them from rich countries.

In order to effectively cope with disease, drugs are frequently sought for three goals: tests to determine those infected; treatments to help ward off or cure problems; and vaccines to prevent infections. As soon as Polymerase Chain Reaction rapid tests were available, Cuba began using them widely throughout the island. Cuba developed both Interferon Alpha 2B (a recombinant protein) and PrevengHo-Vir (a homeopathic medication). TeleSUR reported that by April 20, over forty-five countries had requested Cuba’s Inteferon in order to control and then get rid of the virus.

Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology is seeking to create a vaccine against COVID-19. Its Director of Biomedical Research, Dr. Gerardo Guillén, confirmed that his team is collaborating with Chinese researchers in Yongzhou, Hunan province, to create a vaccine to stimulate the immune system and one that can be taken through the nose, which is the route of COVID-19 transmission. Whatever Cuba develops, it is certain that it will be shared with other countries at low cost, unlike U.S. medications that are patented at taxpayers’ expense so that private pharmaceutical giants can price gouge those who need the medication.

Countries that have not learned how to share: Cuban solidarity missions show a genuine concern that often seems to be lacking in the health care systems of other countries. Medical associations in Venezuela, Brazil, and other countries are often hostile to Cuban doctors. Yet, they cannot find enough of their own doctors to go to dangerous communities or travel to poor and rural areas as Cuban doctors do.

When in Peru in 2010, I visited the Pisco policlínico. Its Cuban director, Leopoldo García Mejías, explained that then-president Alan García did not want additional Cuban doctors and that they had to keep quiet in order to remain in Peru. Cuba is well aware that it has to adjust each medical mission to accommodate the political climate.

There is at least one exception to Cuban doctors remaining in a country according to the whims of the political leadership. Cuba began providing medical attention in Honduras in 1998. During the first eighteen months of Cuba’s efforts in Honduras, the country’s infant mortality dropped from 80.3 to 30.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Political moods changed and, in 2005, Honduran Health Minister Merlin Fernández decided to kick Cuban doctors out. However, this led to so much opposition that the government changed course and allowed the Cubans to stay.

A disastrous and noteworthy example of when a country refused an offer of Cuban aid is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the hurricane hit, 1,586 Cuban health care professionals were prepared to go to New Orleans. President George W. Bush, however, rejected the offer, acting as if it would be better for U.S. citizens to die rather than to admit the quality of Cuban aid.

Though the U.S. government does not take kindly to students going studying at ELAM, they are still able to apply what they learn when they come home. In 1988, Kathryn Hall-Trujillo of Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded the Birthing Project USA, which trains advocates to work with African-American women and connect with them through the first year of the infant’s life. She is grateful for the Birthing Project’s partnership with Cuba and the support that many ELAM students have given. In 2018, she told me: “We are a coming home place for ELAM students—they see working with us as a way to put into practice what they learned at ELAM.”

Cuban doctor Julio López Benítez recalled in 2017 that when the country revamped its clinics in 1974, the old clinic model was one of patients going to clinics, but the new model was of clinics going to patients. Similarly, as ELAM graduate Dr. Melissa Barber looked at her South Bronx neighborhood during COVID-19, she realized that while most of the United States told people to go to agencies, what people need is a community approach that recruits organizers to go to the people. Dr. Barber is working in a coalition with South Bronx Unite, the Mott Haven Mamas, and many local tenant associations. As in Cuba, they are trying to identify those in the community who are vulnerable, including “the elderly, people who have infants and small children, homebound people, people that have multiple morbidities and are really susceptible to a virus like this one.”

As they discover who needs help, they seek resources to help them, such as groceries, personal protective equipment, medications, and treatment. In short, the approach of the coalition is going to homes to ensure that people do not fall through the cracks. In contrast, the U.S. national policy is for each state and each municipality to do what it feels like doing, which means that instead of having a few cracks that a few people fall through, there are enormous chasms with large groups careening over the edge. What countries with market economies need are actions like those in the South Bronx and Cuba carried out on a national scale.

This was what Che Guevara envisioned in 1951. Decades before COVID-19 jumped from person to person, Che’s imagination went from doctor to doctor. Or perhaps many shared their own visions so widely that, after 1959, Cuba brought revolutionary medicine anywhere it could. Obviously, Che did not design the intricate inner workings of Cuba’s current medical system. But he was followed by healers who wove additional designs into a fabric that now unfolds across the continents. At certain times in history, thousands or millions of people see similar images of a different future. If their ideas spread broadly enough during the hour that social structures are disintegrating, then a revolutionary idea can become a material force in building a new world.

• Author’s Note: Updates since this article was written for the June 2020 print issue of Monthly Review include the following:  By May 22, seventy-two countries had requested Interferon Alpha 2B. Cuba has sent healthcare professionals to at least thirty-seven countries to collaborate in combating the pandemic.  Over the past six decades over 400,000 Cuban medical professionals have worked in 164 countries and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Soaring Beyond the Green New Deal

When Stan Cox was writing his book, The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can, he scripted these prophetic words: “The oft-predicted national decline in use of fossil fuels is nowhere to be seen, and it is unlikely to occur on its own, at least until the next economic meltdown.”  He became one of those few people who dare predict the future; but it was unfortunate for humanity that his prediction came true.  Between the time that Cox foresaw the conditions under which fossil fuel usage would go down and his book appeared in print, the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, production crashed in country after country, and CO2 emissions dropped even more than they did during the 2008 financial crisis.

Among ideas for decreasing emissions to a sustainable level none has generated more enthusiasm than proposals for a Green New Deal (GND) to replace fossil fuels with a massive increase in solar, wind and hydroelectric power. Yet the GND is criticized by “deep greens” who worry that increases in any type of production, solar panels and wind turbines included, will worsen environmental crises.  In an incredibly thought-provoking analysis Stan Cox jumps into this fray with the most pragmatic attempt to blend the two perspectives which has yet been written.

An Inspiration

The powerful draw of the GND is that it links climate change to social problems, tracing both to a corporate-dominated system that puts profits above environmental protection and human welfare. Its advocates insist that both need to be addressed together.  In addition to promoting alternative energy (AltE) supporters propose to expand public transportation, build housing with maximum energy efficiency, forgive student loans, provide medicare-for-all, and offer new green jobs at good pay, all of which would be powered by a growth in manufacturing that would be so immense as to dwarf growth during WWII.

Stan Cox is one of those intense thinkers who are highly cautious about unbridled support for a concept that might have drawbacks.  In his forward to the book Noam Chomsky notes that pro-GND US congresspersons do not directly challenge the fossil fuel industry. And Naomi Klein, who enthusiastically endorses what Cox writes, precautions that we must be wary that good paying green jobs do not morph into high-consuming lifestyles that add to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

These two apprehensions become the cornerstone of how the author proposes to go “beyond” the GND.  First, it is necessary to eliminate fossil fuels on an accelerated schedule. Second, society must reverse ecological damage caused by economic growth.

Demolishing the Myths

One of the strongest parts of The GND and Beyond is its systematic exposés of myths regarding energy, many of which are directly from the fossil fuel industry, and others which come from those who are so enthusiastic about AltE that they overlook its downsides.  Here are a few of the key myths:

MYTH 1: “Current versions of the GND require elimination of fossil fuels.” As both Chomsky and Cox point out, Congressional proposals do nothing to reduce fossil fuels. A major point Cox raises is that there must be legislated guidelines quantifying annual decreases in fossil fuel production.

MYTH 2: “Increasing AltE automatically decreases fossil fuels.” Cox describes how new energy sources add to existing energy.

MYTH 3: “FDR’s New Deal (ND) sought to foster racial equality and environmental protection while solving unemployment.”  The truth is that the ND preserved racial inequities, exacerbated environmental problems with construction of dams and only temporarily dropped unemployment, which had gone from 3% just before the 1929 financial crisis, peaked at 24.9 % in the year following the 1932 presidential campaign, dropped to 14.3% in 1937, but climbed back to 19% in 1938 and after involvement in WWII bottomed out to 1.2% in 1944.

MYTH 4: “Shifting from gasoline-powered to electric cars is essential for a quick reduction in CO2 emissions.”  Actually the huge increase in mines, smelters, factories and transportation required for this transition would continue to heighten CO2 levels long before any emission savings would be realized.  Additionally it is highly doubtful that enough cobalt and lithium exist for every adult on the planet to own an electric car.

MYTH 5: “The US can obtain minerals needed for a complete transition of AltE.”  But most of the 23 metals critical for solar and wind energy are outside of the US.  Estimates are that 40% of conflicts within these countries are due to extraction, meaning that large increases in obtaining raw materials could cause a new round of resource wars.

MYTH 6: “The economy can separate economic growth from CO2 emissions, meaning that it is possible to produce more stuff while having fewer emissions.”  In reality this “decoupling fallacy” is wishful thinking which has never happened on a sustained basis and mainly shows up when rich countries like the US shift their production to other parts of the world such as China.  Increasing production of consumable commodities requires the machines necessary to make them and this is why Cox was prophetic when before COVID-19 he accurately predicted that the next downturn in CO2 emissions would happen when the economy contracted.

MYTH 7: “It is possible to meet GND goals for expanding infrastructure for 100% AltE by 2030.” In fact, meeting GND goals by this target date would require a 33-fold increase in industrial expansion, far more than has ever been achieved anywhere and would result in complete ecological devastation.  Also such colossal industrial growth would require more land space than used for all food production and living areas in the 48 contiguous US states.

MYTH 8: “AltE can provide enough energy for at least 139 countries, including many poor ones.”  This claim, dogmatically propounded by Mark Jacobson and his associates, may be the biggest myth of all.  Cox thoroughly debunks it, showing that such research (1) is based on technology that does not exist or has never been proven; (2) rests on guesswork regarding energy storage that is completely unrealistic; (3) assumes that poor countries can reach energy efficiency levels of rich countries even though they do not have the infrastructure to do so; and, (4) believes that people in poor countries should be content to subsist with energy per person which is less than one-tenth of what Americans enjoy.

A Broader Solution

Fully supporting GND social justice goals, the author outlines how they can be accomplished without a monstrous economic buildup.  Necessities could be provided for everyone via three steps of a “capping” program.

  1. “Cap and adapt” requires establishing a maximum quantity for each corporation that extracts and sells fossil fuels and, of course, reducing the cap each year.
  2. “Cap and cope” means coping with difficulties that are certain to happen as society reduces the amount of fossil fuels that are available, but without changing the amount of reduction.
  3. “Cap and ration” builds upon a previous work by the author, Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, and Future of Rationing. To help reach GND goals a point system would rate the amount of CO2 required for the production and use of each commodity.

Each person would receive a rationing card that assigns the number of points for every purchase. This “Tradable Energy Quota” (TEQ) approach would set a limit on how many points a person could use each week. The beauty of the TEQ system is that it would not dictate how much of each commodity a person could use–it would be up to each person to decide how to allocate their own carbon points.

Something that the author could have spent more time discussing is reduction in the hours of work. This is critical because a major way to persuade those reluctant to participate in the system is explaining that as society produces less the result will be progressively shorter work weeks and more free time.

The Unresolved

Just as there are difficulties with the GND that Stan Cox points out need correction, there are concerns with his analysis that deserve more thorough examination.  One problem happens when the author addresses Mark Jacobson’s claim that AltE can provide sufficient energy for poor countries.  The book argues that he is short-sighted for the reasons covered in MYTH 8.  But is this critique too kind?

What rosy forecasts of AltE providing energy for the world tend to leave out is infinite economic growth.  At a 3% growth rate the economy doubles every 25 years.  That means that in 50 years four times as much energy would be needed; in 100 years 64 times as much; and in 250 years 1024 times as much energy as currently being used.  Besides many rare earth metals not being available in quantities remotely close to such requirements, a 3% growth rate would make the earth totally uninhabitable for humans long before 250 years arrived.

An odd problem pops up when the book asks how the GND could pay for expansion of energy which Cox estimates would be $15 trillion for the US and $100 trillion for the world.  The author responds that the tax burden would fall on the richest 33% of Americans (not just the upper 1%) who would sacrifice the most.

Why is this answer odd?  Because he argues throughout the book that society must not expand energy production but reduce it.  This is the same trap that many Medicare-for-All proponents fell into when asked how they would pay for the extra expenses.  The answer is not to say “Tax the rich!” The answer should be “There are no extra expenses for something that costs less.”  (Yes, there are other good reasons for taxing the rich, including that having a few obscenely wealthy people creates an example for others to aspire to rather than learning how to live simply.)

Similarly, asking how to completely eliminate CO2 emissions does not seem like it is the right question to ask.  After all, fossil fuels are necessary to create the heat required to produce (1) silicon wafers for solar panels, (2) concrete and steel used in construction of windmills and dams, and (3) plastic coverings for industrial windmill blades.  Would it not be better to suggest realistic goals of reducing fossil fuel usage by 80%, 90% or 95%?

As the author says, a good step in moving toward lowering emission would be big decreases in the military and mass incarceration.  It would have been good to point out that while none of the Democratic Party presidential candidates advocated doing this, the front-runner in the Green Party, Howie Hawkins, has been advocating precisely this for at least 10 years.

Yet another question arises with the way the “cap and adapt” financial system would actually work.  Cox proposes to set limits on how much fossil fuels each corporation can produce.  This is strange, given that market forces push each corporation to maximize profits by ignoring and lobbying to overturn any limits on production.  Instead of suggesting that limits be managed by the very institutions that abhor those limits, why not propose that fossil fuel industries be nationalized as so many eco-socialists are doing?  After all Bernie Sanders made “socialism” a household word and fewer young people fear ogres from Moscow than capitalists on Wall Street.

Still looking at the financial system, Cox endorses a TEQ scheme that would grant each adult a weekly amount of carbon credits.  This seems like a very workable proposition to restrain purchases that embody a large amount of carbon in their production and use.  What happens when a person has not used all the carbon credits at the end of the week?

According to the TEQ plan, they would then get cash back, which they could use to purchase additional items.  But this defeats the greater goal of reducing production.  It would be much better to return unused carbon credits as time off work for the same pay.  This would create a social dynamic for people to figure out how to use less junk and have more time to enjoy life.

There is one last issue with what is overall a truly great contribution to an ongoing discussion of limits to growth.  Since every form of the GND, from the 2008 version presented in the United Kingdom to later European versions through those backed by Democratic Party candidates in 2019, proposes economic growth that would be titanic (in both meanings of that word), then why continue using the phrase Green New Deal?  Why not coin a term like “Deep Green Alternative?”

Can We Simultaneously Oppose Bayer/Monsanto’s Biotechnology and Support Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B?

Genetically engineered crops are a form of food imperialism.  This technology allows mega-corporations like Bayer/Monsanto to patent seeds, lure farmers into buying them with visions of high yields, and then destroy the ability of small farmers to survive.

Genetic engineering produces an artificial combination of plant traits which often results in foods with less nutritional value while introducing health problems to animals and humans who eat them.  It increases costs of food production, pushing millions of farmers throughout the world into poverty and driving them off their land.

Agricultural corporations get control of enormous quantities of land in Africa, Latin America and Asia which they use to control the world’s food supply and reap super-profits from the cheap labor of those who work for them, sometimes people who once owned the same land.  These crops can be developed in open-field testing which allows the novel pollen to contaminate wild relatives of the engineered crops.

Agro-industries which dominate this process have the resources to lobby two sections of governments.  They tell one government agency that their plants do not need to pass safety tests because they are “substantively equivalent” to already existing plants.  Yet, out of the other side of their mouths, corporate lawyers argue that, far from being equivalent to existing plants, their engineered ones are so novel as to deserve patents, patents which allow companies to sue farmers who save seeds for planting during the next season.

As a resident of St. Louis, a veritable plantation of Monsanto (now Bayer), I have participated in and organized dozens of demonstrations at the company’s world headquarters, as well as forums and conferences. It is necessary to compare the use of biotechnology by food corporations with that of Cuba to decide if they are the same or fundamentally different.

Medicine in Cuba

John Kirk’s Health Care without Borders: Understanding Cuban Medical Internationalism (2015) provides a wealth of information regarding Cuba’s early use of biotechnology in medicine.  It is a poor country suffering effects of a blockade by the US which interferes with its access to materials, equipment, technologies, finance, and even exchange of information.  This makes it remarkable that Cuba’s research institutes have produced so many important medications.  Even a partial list is impressive.  The use of Heberprot B to treat diabetes has reduced amputations by 80 percent.  Cuba is the only country to create an effective vaccine against type-B bacterial meningitis, and it developed the first synthetic vaccine for Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), which causes almost half of pediatric meningitis infections.  It has also produced the vaccine Racotumomab against advanced lung cancer and has begun clinical tests for Itolizumab to fight severe psoriasis.

By far, the best known efforts of Cuban biotechnology followed an outbreak of dengue fever in 1981 when its researchers found that it could combat the disease with Interferon Alpha 2B.  The same drug became vitally important decades later as a potential cure for COVID-19.  Interferons are signaling proteins which can respond to infections by strengthening anti-viral defenses.  In this way, they decrease complications which could cause death.  Cuba’s interferons have also shown their usefulness and safety in treating viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles and HIV-AIDS.

A Tale of Two Technologies

There are marked differences between corporate biotechnology for food and Cuba’s medications for health.  First, corporations produce food that fails to be healthier than non-engineered food which it replaces.  Cuba’s biotechnology improves human health to such a degree that dozens of nations have requested Interferon Alpha 2B.

Second, corporate food production drives people off of their land while making a few investors very  rich.  No one loses their home due to Cuban medical advances.

Third, food imperialism fosters dependency but Cuba promotes medical independence.  While corporate biotechnology drains money from poor counties by monopolizing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Cuba strives to produce drugs as cheaply as possible.

Patents for its many medical innovations are held by the Cuban government. There is no impetus to increase profits by charging outrageously high prices for new drugs – these medications become available to Cubans at much lower cost than they would in a market-based health care system like that of the United States. This has a profound impact on Cuban medical internationalism. The country provides drugs, including vaccines, at a cost low enough to make humanitarian campaign goals abroad more achievable.  Its use of synthetic vaccines for meningitis and pneumonia has resulted in the immunization of millions of Latin American children.

Cuba’s other phase of medical biotechnology is also unknown in the corporate world. This is the transfer of new technology to poor countries so that they can produce drugs themselves and do not have to rely on purchasing them from rich countries.  Collaboration with Brazil has resulted in meningitis vaccines at a cost of 95¢ rather than $15 to $20 per dose. Cuba and Brazil worked together on several other biotechnology projects, including Interferon Alpha 2B, for hepatitis C, and recombinant human erythropoletin (rHuEPO), for anemia caused by chronic kidney problems.

In Perspective

The bigger picture is that technology of all types is not “value free” – it reflects social factors in its development and use.  Nuclear plants require military forces for protection from attack, making them attractive in any society dominated by those who employ a high degree of violence to suppress dissent.

Market forces within capitalism select technologies that are profitable, even if they are destructive to human welfare.  Of course, medicine such as antibiotics benefit humanity even if their original goal was profits for pharmaceutical giants.

At other times, products that damage society as a whole are pursued because they augment corporate profits by weakening labor unions.  Planting and harvesting equipment have been used to undermine organizing efforts of agricultural workers.  In the mid-1880s Chicago McCormick adopted new molding machines which could be run by unskilled workers.  The company used them to replace skilled workers of the National Union of Iron Molders.

Expensive technologies can destroy small competitors so that large companies with more capital can better control the market. No case is clearer than the use of GMOs in agriculture.  By use of market control (making non-GMO seeds unavailable), financial terrorism (such as lawsuits against resistant farmers), and the pesticide addiction treadmill, GMO giants such as Bayer/Monsanto have increased the cost of food production.  This destroys the livelihood of small farmers across the globe while transforming the large farmers who remain into semi-vassals of these multinational lords of seeds and pesticides.

Though a century separated them and they affected different types of labor, actions by McCormick and Bayer/Monsanto had something in common.  They both utilized novel technology which resulted in less desirable products but increased profits.

Because they were an invaluable weapon against the union, McCormick used molding machines that produced inferior castings and cost consumers more.  GMOs in agriculture result in lower-quality food.  Since two-thirds of GMOs are designed to create plants that can tolerate poisonous pesticides such as Roundup, pesticide residues increase with GMO usage.

GMOs are also used to increase the production of corn syrup which sweetens a growing quantity of processed foods, and thereby contributes to the obesity crisis. At the same time, food engineered to be uniform, survive transportation, and have a longer shelf life contains less nutritional value. The use of GMOs in corporate agriculture is one of the largest contributing factors to the phenomenon of people simultaneously being overweight and undernourished.

Cuba’s use of biotechnology to create medications is in sharp contrast to both McCormick and Bayer/Monsanto.  Its drugs, especially Interferon Alfpha 2B, are used to help people overcome illnesses.  They are created to share throughout the world rather drive people into worse poverty.  Making a distinction between the biotechnology of Bayer/Monsanto and Cuba requires understanding the difference between bioimperialism and biosolidarity.  Imperialism subdues.  Biosolidarity empowers.

Cuba: From AIDS, Dengue, and Ebola to COVID-19

Preparing for a pandemic requires understanding that a change in the relationship between people is primary and the production of things is secondary and flows from social factors. Investors in profit-based medicine cannot comprehend this concept. Nothing could exemplify it more clearly than Cuba’s response to the corona virus (COVID-19).

The US dawdled for months before reacting. Cuba’s preparation for COVID-19 began on January 1, 1959. On that day, over sixty years before the pandemic, Cuba laid the foundations for what would become the discovery of novel drugs, bringing patients to the island, and sending medical aid abroad.

For twenty years before the 1959 revolution, Cuban doctors were divided between those who saw medicine as a way to make money and those who grasped the necessity of bringing medical care to the country’s poor, rural, and black populations. An understanding of the failings of disconnected social systems led the revolutionary government to build hospitals and clinics in under-served parts of the island at the same time it began addressing crises of literacy, racism, poverty, and housing.

By 1964, Cuba began creating policlínicos integrales, which were recreated as policlínicos comunitarios in 1974 to better link communities and patients. By 1984, Cuba had introduced the first doctor-nurse teams who lived in the neighborhoods they served. This continuing redesign of Cuban primary and preventive health has lasted through today as a model, allowing it to surpass the US in life expectancy and infant mortality.

It had an overarching concern with health care, even though it had never escaped from poverty. This resulted in Cuba’s eliminating polio in 1962, malaria in 1967, neonatal tetanus in 1972, diphtheria in 1979, congenital rubella syndrome in 1989, post-mumps meningitis in 1989, measles in 1993, rubella in 1995, and tuberculosis meningitis in 1997.

The Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) became a key part of mobilization for healthcare. Organized in 1960 to defend the country, block by block if necessary, from a possible US invasion, the CDRs took on more community care tasks as foreign intervention seemed less likely. They became prepared to move the elderly, disabled, sick, and mentally ill to higher ground if a hurricane approached. They currently help in removal of mosquito breeding places during episodes of dengue fever, participate in health education programs, ensure distribution of children’s vaccination cards, and help train auxiliary staff in oral vaccination campaigns.

AIDS in a Time of Disaster

Two whammies pounded Cuba in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first victim of AIDS died in 1986, and Cuba isolated soldiers returning from war in Angola who tested positive for HIV. A hate campaign against Cuba claimed that the quarantine reflected prejudice against homosexuals. But the facts showed that (1) soldiers returning from Africa were overwhelmingly heterosexual (as were most African AIDS victims), (2) Cuba had quarantined dengue patients with no outcry, and (3) the US itself had a history of quarantining patients with tuberculosis, polio, and even AIDS.

The second blow landed quickly. In December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, ending its $5 billion annual subsidy, disrupting international commerce, and sending the Cuban economy into a free fall that exacerbated AIDS problems. A perfect storm for AIDS infection appeared to be brewing. The HIV infection rate for the Caribbean region was second only to southern Africa. The embargo simultaneously reduced the availability of drugs (including those for HIV/AIDS), as it made existing pharmaceuticals outrageously expensive and disrupted the financial infrastructures used for drug purchases. If these were not enough, Cuba opened the floodgate of tourism to cope with lack of funds. As predicted, tourism brought an increase in prostitution. There was a definite possibility that the island would succumb to a massive epidemic that would rival the effects of measles and smallpox which had arrived with European invaders to the New World.

The government response was immediate and strong. It drastically reduced services in all areas except two which had been enshrined as human rights: education and health care. Its medical research institutes developed Cuba’s own diagnostic test by 1987. Testing for HIV/AIDS went into high gear, with completion of over 12 million tests by 1993. Since the population was about 10.5 million, that meant that persons at high risk were tested multiple times.

Education about AIDS was massive for sick and healthy, for children as well as adults. By 1990, when homosexuals had become the island’s primary HIV victims, anti-gay prejudice was officially challenged as schools taught that homosexuality was a fact of life. Condoms were provided free at doctor’s offices. I witnessed the survival of the education program during a 2009 trip to Cuba; the first poster I saw on the wall when entering a doctor’s office had two men with the message to use condoms.

Despite high costs, Cuba provided antiretroviral (ART) drugs free to patients. One of the great ironies of the period was that those who screeched most noisily about Cuba’s “anti-homosexual” quarantines remained silent as the Torricelli Bill of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, designed to “wreak havoc” on the island,” seriously hindered the government’s efforts to bring ART drugs to HIV victims.

Cuba’s united and well-planned effort to cope with HIV/AIDS paid off. At the same time Cuba had 200 AIDS, cases New York City (with about the same population) had 43,000 cases. NYC residents were far less likely to have recently visited sub-Saharan Africa, where a third of a million Cubans had just returned from fighting in the Angolan war. When the HIV infection rate in Cuba was 0.5 percent, it was 2.3 percent in the Caribbean region and 9.0 percent in southern Africa. During the period 1991–2006, Cuba had a total of 1,300 AIDS-related deaths. By contrast, the less populous Dominican Republic had 6,000 to 7,000 deaths annually. In 1997, Chandler Burr wrote in The Lancet that Cuba had “the most successful national AIDS programme in the world.” Despite having only a small fraction of wealth and resources of the United States, Cuba had implemented an AIDS program superior to that of the country seeking to destroy it.

Dengue and Interferon Alpha 2B

The mosquito-borne dengue fever hits Cuba every few years. Its doctors and medical students check for fever, joint pain, muscle pain, abdominal pain, headache behind the eye sockets, purple splotches, and bleeding gums. What is unique about Cuba is that its medical students leave school and go door-to-door making home evaluations.

Students from ELAM (Spanish acronym for the Latin American School of Medicine) come from over 100 countries and speak with a huge number of accents. They have no trouble walking through homes, looking for mosquito-attracting plants, and peering onto roofs to see if there is standing water.

During a 1981 outbreak of dengue, expanded surveillance techniques included inspections, vector control education, spraying, and “mobile field hospitals during the crisis with a liberal policy of admissions.” Cuba also increased testing for potential cases during a 1997 dengue outbreak. Increased testing of hospital patients was combined with surveillance data to produce predictions concerning secondary infections related to death rates. These campaigns, which combined citizen involvement with health care professionals and researchers, have resulted in reduced incidence of dengue and decreased mortality.

In 1981, Cuba’s research institutes created Interferon Alpha 2B to successfully treat dengue. The same drug became vitally important decades later as a potential cure for COVID-19. According to Helen Yaffe, “Interferons are ‘signaling’ proteins produced and released by cells in response to infections that alert nearby cells to heighten their anti-viral defenses.” Cuban biotech specialist Dr. Luis Herrera Martinez adds that, “its use prevents aggravation and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death.”

Since 2003, Interferon Alpha 2B has been produced in China by the enterprise ChangHeber, a Cuban-Chinese joint venture. “Cuba’s interferon has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles, HIV-AIDS, and dengue.” Cuba has researched multiple drugs, “despite the U.S. blockade obstructing access to technologies, equipment, materials, finance, and even knowledge exchange.”

Ebola and International Aid

AIDS and dengue were problems that affected the Cuban population; but Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was quite different. Viruses that cause EVD are mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, an area that Cubans had not frequented for several decades.

When the Ebola virus increased dramatically in fall 2014, much of the world panicked. Soon, over 20,000 people were infected, more than 8,000 had died, and worries mounted that the death toll could reach into hundreds of thousands. The United States provided military support; other countries promised money.

Cuba was the first nation to respond with what was most needed: it sent 103 nurse and 62 doctor volunteers to Sierra Leone. With 4,000 medical staff (including 2,400 doctors) already in Africa, Cuba was prepared for the crisis before it began.

Since many governments did not know how to respond to Ebola, Cuba trained volunteers from other nations at Havana’s Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine. In total, Cuba taught 13,000 Africans, 66,000 thousand Latin Americans, and 620 Caribbeans how to treat Ebola without themselves becoming infected.

This was hardly the first time that Cuba had responded to medical crises in poor countries. Only fifteen months after the revolution, in March 1960, Cuba sent doctors to Chile after an earthquake. Much better known is Cuba’s 1963 medical brigade to Algeria, which was fighting for independence from France.

In the very first days of the revolution, there were insufficient medical staff and facilities in rural parts of Cuba that were predominantly black. It was perfectly natural for those who learned of lack of treatment and disasters that plagued other parts of the world to go abroad to assist those in need.

Revolutionary solidarity was often a collective family choice. Dr. Sara Perelló had just graduated from medical school when her mother heard Fidel say that Algerians were even worse off than Cubans and called on doctors to join a brigade to assist them. Dr. Perelló wanted to volunteer but was worried that her elderly mother suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Her mother responded that Sara’s sister and husband would help her as would the government: “Now the thing to do is go forward and don’t worry about your mother, who will be well taken care of.”

Cuban solidarity missions show a genuine concern that often seems to be lacking in health care providers from other countries. Medical associations in Venezeula and Brazil could not find enough of their own doctors to go to dangerous communities or travel to rural areas by donkey or canoe as Cuba doctors do. When Cuban doctors went to Bolivia, they visited 101 communities that were so remote that they did not appear on a map.

A devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. Cuba sent medical staff who lived among Haitians and stayed months or years after the earthquake was out of the news. US doctors did not sleep where Haitian victims huddled, returned to luxury hotels at night, and departed after a few weeks. The term “disaster tourism” describes the way that many rich countries respond to medical crises in poor countries.

The commitment that Cuban medical staff show internationally is a continuation of the effort that the country’s health care system made in spending three decades to find the best way to strengthen bonds between care-giving professionals and those they serve. Kirk and Erisman provide statistics demonstrating the breadth that Cuba’s international medical work had reached by 2008: it had sent over 120,000 health care professionals to 154 countries; Cuban doctors had cared for over 70 million people in the world; and, almost 2 million people owed their lives to Cuban medical services in their country.

There is a noteworthy disaster when a country refused an offer of Cuban aid. After the 2005 Katrina Hurricane, 1,586 Cuban health care professionals were prepared to go to New Orleans. President George W. Bush rejected the offer, acting as if it would be better for American citizens to die than to admit the quality of Cuban aid. This decision foreshadowed the 2020 behavior of Donald Trump, who searched for a treatment for COVID-19 while pretending that Interferon Alpha 2B does not exist.

Contrasts: Cuba and the United States

These bits of history are background for contrasts between Cuba and the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those of us old enough to remember that in the 1960s, we could still have a relationship with a doctor without an insurance company interceding can appreciate that social bonds between physicians and patients were eroding in the United States at the same time they were being strengthened in Cuba.

Testing. Since Cuba brought both AIDS and dengue under control with massive increases and modifications of testing, it was well prepared to develop a national testing program for COVID-19. Similarly, China was able to quickly halt the epidemic, not simply from lockdowns, but also because it quickly tested suspected victims, took necessary steps for isolation and treatment of those found to be positive, and tested case contacts who were asymptomatic.

It is no accident that the United States is a global leader in neoliberal efforts to reduce or privatize public services, proved incapable of mounting an effective testing campaign, and, by the end of March 2020 was on the way to leading the world in COVID-19 cases. In mid-March, the United States had been able to test 5 per million people, though South Korea had tested more than 3,500 per million.

Symptomatic of governmental incompetence in the United States was Trump’s putting vice-president Pence in charge of COVID-19 control. It was Pence, who as Indiana governor, had drastically cut funds for HIV testing (urging people to pray), thereby contributing to an increase in infections.

Costs of care and medication. Medical care in Cuba is a human right with no costs for treatment and only very small charges for prescriptions. Pharmaceutical companies were some of the first industries nationalized after the revolution. US policies routinely hand over billions of tax dollars to Big Pharma, which routinely gets away with gouging citizens mercilessly.

There are no insurance companies in Cuba to add to medical expenses and dictate patient care decisions to doctors. Even if testing becomes free in the United States, people must still decide if they can afford treatment for COVID-19. Those who think that their insurance will cover their COVID-19 bills, “may receive a large out-of-network bill if the ER has been outsourced to a physician staffing firm that is not covered by the insurance.”

Protecting Workers. When natural disasters halt work, Cuban workers receive their entire salaries for one month and 60 percent of salaries after that. Cuban citizens receive food allotments and education at no cost, and utilities are extremely low. Cuba was able to shift production in nationalized factories so quickly and was able to churn out so much personal protective equipment (PPE) that it could send it to accompany the medical staff going to Italy when it was the pandemic’s center.

In the United States, there were nearly 10 million unemployment compensation claims by the end of the first week in April, and the country is not well-known for helping the unemployed by increasing taxes on the rich or reducing the military budget. There could be over 56 million “informal workers” in the United States who are not entitled to unemployment benefits. Forcing many US citizens to go to work because they cannot afford to go without basic necessities threatens the entire population with further spread of the pandemic. US health care workers have been short of PPE, including masks, gowns, gloves and test kits. Yet, President Trump is allowed to hold ventilators as “rewards” for states whose governors write that they appreciate him.

Comprehensiveness of Health Care. The Cuban revolution immediately reorganized the country’s disconnected health services and today has an integrated system beginning with neighborhood doctor-nurse offices tied into community clinics linked to area hospitals, all of which are supported by research institutes. The health system is connected to citizens’ organizations that have decades of experience protecting the country. This “inter-sectoral cooperation” is a keystone of health care. In Cuba, it would be inconceivable to have fifty different state policies that may or may not be consistent with national policies and may allow counties and cities within them to have their own procedures.

Instead of integrating plans for an effective approach to combating disease, the United States dismantles and/or privatizes whenever it can. Trump disbanded the pandemic response team, tried to underfund the pandemic prevention work of the World Health Organization, and sought to weaken nursing home regulations, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.

Lest anyone think that this is peculiar to Republicans, please remember that Democrats have long been in the forefront of neoliberalism and utilization of the “shock doctrine” approach that Naomi Klein described. Both parties have contributed to dismantling environmental rules so desperately needed.

Rebecca Beitsch reported on March 26 that “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.” Not wanting to be left out, “the oil and gas industry began asking the federal government to loosen enforcement of federal regulations on public lands in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” They sought an extension of two-year permits and the ability to hold onto unused leases. If pandemics such as COVID-19 recur in the future, will added pollution and climate-related diseases weaken human immune systems, making them more vulnerable to infections?

If so, universal medical coverage would be essential to protection for tens of millions of Americans. A recipient of huge donations from medical and pharmaceutical companies, Joe Biden has supported efforts to undermine social security and “suggested he would veto any Medicare for All bill that the House of Representatives passed.”

The Reality of Preparing to Deal with Medical Crises. Pascual Serrano noted that Cuba had already instituted the Novel Coronavirus Plan for Prevention and Control by March 2, 2020. Four days later it updated the Plan by adding “epidemiological observation,” which included specific measures like temperature taking and potential isolation, to infected incoming travelers. These occurred before Cuba’s first confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis on March 11. By March 12, after three Italian tourists were identified as having symptoms, the government announced that 3,100 beds at military hospitals would be available. Vulnerable groups such as seniors receive special attention. Cuba put a cohesive plan into motion that provides citizens with straightforward information, mobilizes workers to protect themselves and the country, and shifts production to necessary supplies.

At the same time, Donald Trump precautioned Americans to be wary of “fake news” about the virus. Then he said, “It will go away.” On February 26, he falsely said the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” He claimed, “It’s going to disappear thanks to what I did… ” Then he told everyone they should go to church on Easter Sunday and that Americans should go to work even if they had the virus. Unquestionably, Trump’s behavior contributed to the spreading of the disease. His statements were consistent with the desires of industry to resume business as usual.

While the United States produces a surplus of unnecessary junk, Cuba produces a surplus of health care professionals. Consequently, Cuba has 8.2 doctors per 1,000 people while the United States has 2.6 doctors per 1,000. While I was on a 2019 trip there, a recently graduated Cuban doctor told me that he only works about 20-25 hours per week. But during medical disasters, it could easily be 80-100 hours per week.

Education. Cuba has used mass education to effectively change behavior during epidemics. In 2003, Dr. Byron Barksdale pointed out how Cuba’s six-week program for AIDS patients was “certainly a longer time than is given to people in the United States who receive such a diagnosis. They may get about five minutes of education.” During dengue outbreaks, medical professionals who go to homes explain in detail why water must be drained or covered and what plants augment mosquito breeding.

The United States confronts health crises with “campaigns” that are grossly inadequate. TV ads run for a few weeks or months, and physicians may receive brochures to give to patients. There is nothing even approaching visits to every home to inspect how families can be contributing to their own illness and how to adopt behaviors to counter the disease.

Donald Trump’s inconsistent rantings about COVID-19 are the epitome of miseducation campaigns. Climate denial has served as a dress rehearsal for COVID-19 denial. The Trump reign has been a practice session in stupefying millions into believing anything a Great Leader says no matter how ridiculous it is. His tweets have a pathological similarity to the intensely anti-intellectual perspective that is dismissive of education, philosophy, art, and literature and insists that scientific investigation should never be trusted.

The day before yesterday, they insisted that the world was flat. Yesterday, they believed that evolution was a theory from Satan. This morning, they insisted that heating of the globe is a fantasy designed to choke corporate expansion. How close must it get to midnight before those drunk with Trump’s Kool-Aid are willing to see the facts of COVID-19 growth unfolding before their eyes?

International Solidarity. Cuba made international headlines the third week in March 2020 when it allowed the British cruise ship MS Braemar to dock with COVID-19 patients aboard. It had been turned away by several other Caribbean countries, including Barbados and the Bahamas, which are both part of the British Commonwealth. There were over 1,000 passengers on board, mainly British, who had been stranded for over a week. Braemar crew members displayed a banner reading “I love you Cuba!” Undoubtedly, Cuban officials felt okay letting the ship dock because its doctors had gained so much experience being exposed to deadly viruses like Ebola while knowing how to protect themselves.

The same week in March, a medical brigade of 53 Cubans left to Lombardy, one of the worst hit areas of Italy, the European country most affected by COVID-19. Soon they were joined by 300 Chinese doctors. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power. Cuba had also sent medical staff to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Suriname, Grenada, and Jamaica.

Meanwhile, the US administration was refusing to lift sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, sanctions that interfered with these countries receiving PPE, medical equipment, and drugs. Yet, it continued sending thousands of personnel to Europe for military maneuvers. It manufactured a smear campaign against President Maduro of Venezuela, portraying him as a drug trafficker. Trump disgraced America by pandering to his most racist supporters by referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus.”

As Cuba shared anti-virus technologies with other countries, reports surfaced that the Trump administration offered the German company CureVac $1 billion if it could find a remedy for COVID-19 and hand over exclusive rights “only for the USA.” This meant endangering the lives of Americans in two ways. By trying to monopolize a drug that had not yet been developed, Trump was trying to distract attention from the existing Interferon Alpha 2B which China was already including among thirty treatment drugs for the disease. By continuing the sixty-year-old blockade, Trump hampered Cuba from receiving supplies for the development of new anti-COVID-19 medications.

What Do Researchers Look For? When Cuban labs created Interferon Alpha 2B to treat dengue, it was just one of many drugs researched to investigate treatments, especially those that would help people in poor countries. Its use of Heberprot B to treat diabetes has reduced amputations by 80 percent.

Cuba is the only country to create an effective vaccine against type-B bacterial meningitis. It developed the first synthetic vaccine for Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), as well as the vaccine Racotumomab against advanced lung cancer. Cuba’s second focus has been to manufacture drugs cheaply enough for poor counties to be able to afford them. Third, Cuba has sought to work cooperatively, with countries such as China, Venezuela, and Brazil, in drug development. Collaboration with Brazil resulted in meningitis vaccines at a cost of 95¢ rather than $15 to $20 per dose. Finally, Cuba teaches other countries to produce medications themselves, so they do not have to rely on purchasing them from rich countries.

In virtually every way, corporate research has been the opposite of that in Cuba. Big Pharma spends millions investigating male pattern baldness, restless legs, and erectile dysfunction because these could reap billions in profits. The COVID-19 pandemic promises to bring in super-profits, and governments are acting to make sure that happens. At the same time Trump was making promises to the German CureVac company, his administration was looking into giving exclusive status to Gilead Sciences for developing its drug remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19. US taxpayers would dole out millions to create a medication that could be too expensive for them to buy.

Though Donald Trump is the nadir of national chauvinism countering global cooperation, it is important to remember that it is the market system that pushes research into investigations that yield the greatest profit instead of where it will do the most good.

Future Pandemics. Cuba’s dengue epidemic in early 2012 seemed odd because outbreaks usually happen in the fall and are over by December. It is rare for them to last into January and February. Climate change is making local conditions more suitable for the mosquitoes that are vectors for dengue. During the last half-century, Cuban health officials have calculated a thirty-fold increase of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main vector.

Corporate media regularly tells us that COVID-19 is “unprecedented,” as if nothing like it will happen when it subsides because, after all, nothing like it has happened before. Not really. Claiming that COVID-19 is the “worst pandemic” to ever hit this continent is either saying that smallpox had no effect on Native Americans or that Native American deaths are irrelevant to medical history.

Many Americans may be receiving a one-time “stimulus check,” which will not recur every time bills need to be paid and will be infinitesimally smaller than sums bestowed upon corporations. But people don’t need a “stimulus” to pay $100-$1,000 for a test. They don’t need a one-time cash payment to cover $200-$2,000 for vaccination. They don’t need $1,200 for partial reimbursement of a $30,000 COVID-19 bill. They don’t need dribbling financial “aid” to pay for bills that go on without end. People need medical testing, treatment, and vaccination for all as a collective human right.

Though creating tests, treatments, and vaccines are essential parts of fighting disease, they will not be sufficient in a society suffering from a pandemic of profit-gouging. The restructuring of social relationships is critical not only to unleash the creative power to invent new things such as necessary medicines, but also to ensure those things benefit all who need them.

Dammed Good Question about the Green New Deal

Hydroelectric power from dams might be the thorniest question that proponents of the Green New Deal (GND) have to grapple with. Providing more energy than solar and wind combined, dams could well become the backup for energy if it proves impossible to get off of fossil fuels fast enough.

Rivers and lakes are an integral part of human existence, with virtually all major inland cities being located next to one of them. They provide water for drinking, bathing, food, and medicine. Their sustenance is not just for humans but for untold numbers of tiny organisms, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Rivers integrate plant and animal life forms and connect human communities to each other.

As capitalism grew, rivers transported huge quantities of lumber from clear cuts, oil from under the ground and coal ripped from mountains. Rivers have been used for trash disposal, as if carrying it somewhere else would make it vanish. Nor can rivers make industrial and agricultural poisons disappear but can only carry them until they create huge dead zones. Victors of battles have let rivers float human bodies to remind those living downstream of their military prowess.

The advent of electricity meant that those seeking to dominate nature found an extraordinary tool at their disposal – hydro-electric power from dams. There are 57,000 large dams in the world and more could be on the way. Thus, it is important that GND advocates clarify whether they support building more dams or endorse a moratorium on their construction.

Dams were an integral part of economic expansion under Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal. Building new dams continued past FDR, providing about a third of US electrical power in the 1950s. That has declined in the twenty-first century, mainly because of expanded fossil fuel use. The greatest wave of global dam-building has been since World War II and 80% of their current use is for hydro-power. Dams have fragmented over two-thirds of long rivers.

One of the most infamous is Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River. Planned in 1975, it would be the second largest dam system in Brazil and the fourth largest in the world; but opposition stalled it. It was revived during the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and tension over its construction mounted under Dilma Rousseff’s government. In May 2016 the first turbine went online; 16 main turbines were functioning in September 2019, and completion is scheduled for 2020.

Mongolia hopes to use dams as part of a strategy to move away from fossil fuels. It’s action plan is called the “Green Development Policy,” which seems to echo “Green New Deal” proposals of western countries. The Selenge River, a transnational body of water originating in Mongolia, contributes over half the water to Russia’s Lake Baikal which is so huge that it contains about “20% of the worlds unfrozen fresh water.” Area lakes are already shrinking due to water withdrawal and Lital Khaikin writes that “encroachment of heavy industry threatens the fragile balance of the Baikal and the river-systems that are connected to it.”

With many calling for expansion of large dams, it is necessary to consider what this would mean for river life forms, people living next to or downstream from dams, economics of hydro-power, climate change and unforeseen dangers. Here are 10 potential problems with dams.

1. Dams destroy species and disrupt balances between species that make up ecosystems.

According to International Rivers: “The number-one cause of species extinction is habitat loss.” Due to the assault on rivers, freshwater ecosystems probably have the highest reduction in biodiversity, higher even than those on land.

The decline of a species often has ripple effects on other species. When salmon reproduction is interrupted on the lower Snake River Dams in the Pacific Northwest orcas may starve because so few reach the ocean. River dolphins of the Yangtze were the first human-caused extinction of dolphins, due to construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam. Less well-known examples abound. The Kihansi Spray Toad of Tanzania became extinct in the wild because of the Kihansi Dam in the southern Udzungwa Mountains. The dam reduced the spray zone around the waterfall by 90%, dooming the toad.

Plants, are likewise threatened by dams. Rowan Jacobsen’s 2019 article describes how the Falls-of-the-Ohio scurfpea, whose habitat was limited to a few Ohio River islets, became extinct in the 1920s due to dam construction. Another 2019 Scientific American article explains that 85% of bugs along the Colorado River lays eggs along its banks. As water levels go up and down according to power needs, the insect eggs often get too dry to survive, upsetting the balance between species in the ecosystem. This is particularly unnerving because a 2017 paper in PLOS ONE documented a greater than 75% decline in flying insect mass in Germany.

The plants and animals mentioned here are a small cross-section of known species rendered extinct by dams. The key phrase is “known species:” It is impossible to know how many reptiles, amphibians insects, microorganisms and even birds and mammals which were never discovered no longer exist due to dams. It is also unclear how these extinctions affect broader ecosystems.

Why do dams have such devastating consequences for life forms? They block fish migration and sometimes “completely separate spawning habitats from rearing habitats.” Still water in a dam’s reservoir is a profoundly different environment than flowing water in a river to which species have adapted over millennia. Sediments are critical for maintaining river life downstream but accumulate at the bottom of the reservoir. As International Rivers explains, “Changes in temperature, chemical composition, dissolved oxygen levels and the physical properties of a reservoir are often not suitable to the aquatic plants and animals that evolved with a given river system.” Industrial and agricultural chemicals that settle and concentrate in the reservoir are not healthy for fish and other living things.

2. Dams drive people out of their homes.

Those of us who grew up watching American TV in the 1950s and 60s had a steady diet of troops driving Indians off the landscape of the country’s West. An even more effective tool of America’s ethnic cleansing was undermining the species on which Indians depended, such as buffalo and fish. Roosevelt’s New Deal promised that building dams would help lift people out of poverty. Unfortunately, the Hoover Dam took reservation land from Yuma Indians during 1933-35. By the early 1940s, 22 dams were planned for North Dakota which required evacuating 20,000 people, including many Indians.

In Mexico, building 4000 dams from 1936 to 2006 involved the removal of 185,000 people. As Brazil built Belo Monte, the government claimed that only 16,000 people were displaced. But those affected indicated that a more realistic number was 40,000. As dams expanded, they pushed an estimated 80,000,000 out of their homes globally.

3. Dams undermine indigenous cultures.

Cultural traditions are often closely connected to specific plants, animals, landmarks and bodies of water. When the New Deal’s Grand Coulee Dam robbed land from Native Americans, it broke their connection to salmon. Little known in the western world are efforts by Mongolia to expand dam construction in its norther provinces on the Selenge River and its tributary Eg River. The proposed Shuren Dam on the Selenge would flood sacred heregsuurs (graveyards) and archaeological sites in neighboring areas. The Egiin Gol Dam on the Eg would cause extensive displacement which would include Mongolian herder communities whose link to (Omul whitefish) would be severed. Though opposition led to both projects’ being canceled in 2017, what remains is Mongolia’s hopes to attract foreign investment from multinational corporations seeking resource extraction and hydro-electricity to power mining operations. Similar projects are reaching their tentacles across the planet.

Re-emergence of stagnant plans is exactly what happened with the Belo Monte Dam, which was only a gleam in investors’ eyes in 1975. Its enormous displacement of native peoples required destroying their ways of life. When it was being massively opposed, a coalition formed between the Munduruku and other Amazonian tribes of Juruna, Kayapo, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakana, and Arara who occupied the main construction site of the $14 billion undertaking.

In June 2013, Munduruku leaders released a letter (translated by Glenn H. Shepard) which included the following:

We know how the law of nature works through the teachings of the ancients … animals teach us things that we don’t know, and we can interpret the messages … The animals warn us of dangers that are about to happen… Non-Indians say these are just superstitions but it is for real… You should not play with nature: for us, this is very dangerous… All animals have have mother-spirits, whether fish, or forest animals, birds, plants, fire, earth, wind, waters, even spirit beings, they all have lives… We have sacred places along our Tapajós river and we, the Munduruku, do not disturb these places… What government is this that is speaking against us? And declaring war to finish us off in order to then give our lands to the big landowners, agribusiness, hydro-electric dams and mining companies?

4. Dams affect far more people than they displace.

People do not have to be pushed out of their homes or watch the flooding of sacred places to be affected by dams. An estimated 400-800 million people in the world who live downstream from dams lose access to clean water, are poisoned by industrial development, and watch resources such as fish shrink along with the quantity of water flowing through rivers. Especially those living in tropical areas can experience an increase in diseases such as malaria, filariasis, yellow fever, dengue, and schistosomiasis.

5. Conflicts over dams result in the arrest and killing of earth protectors.

Since 2009, the massive growth of dams in Mexico led to the arrest of over 250 and at least 8 deaths. Global Witness tabulated that “dams and other water resources” were the third leading industries (behind mining and agribusiness) to be associated with deaths of environmentalists in 2018.

Dams have also been linked to imprisonment and/or killings in many countries, including Burma, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Sudan. The greatest number of indigenous people massacred was when 440 were killed “to make way for Gautemala’s Chixoy Dam in 1982.” Extreme civil rights violations will undoubtedly rise in proportion to efforts to expand hydro-electric power.

6. Dams can increase the likelihood of wars over water resources.

Any time a river runs through two or more countries, there is a potential conflict over dam-building, especially if hostile relationships already exist. Shortly after Pakistan was created, on April 1, 1948 India began taking water from canals that went into Pakistan. The following month, the Dominion Accord required Pakistan to pay India in return for removing water. But a permanent solution was stalled until 1960 when Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Mohammad Ayub Khan of Pakistan signed the Indus Water Treaty. Many disputes were settled via the Permanent Indus Commission. But in 2017 India built the Kishanganga Dam in Kashmir and developed the Ratle hydro-power station in the Chenab River despite objections from Pakistan. With Narendra Modi’s siege of Kashmir, dams can only intensify hostilities.

Access to water is central to tensions in the Middle East. The Tigris-Euphrates basin, which includes Turkey, Syria, Iraq and western Iran, is rapidly losing water. Conn Hallihan writes “For Syria and Iraq, the problem is Turkey and Ankara’s mania for dam building. Since 1975, Turkish dams have reduced the flow of water to Syria by 40% — and to Iraq by 80%… Israel also takes 87% of the West Bank aquifers, leaving the Palestinians only 13%.” Water conflicts will get worse over time – by 2030, 4 out of every 10 people in the world may not have access to water.

Rivers cross international borders of 145 countries, not all of whom get along well. Rivers crossing 9 to 11 countries include the Congo, Nile, Rhine and Niger. Like nuclear power plants, dams would be sitting duck targets during a no-hold-barred war, especially for a country deprived of water due to its opponent’s dam.

7. Dams contribute to climate change.

It would be a tragic irony if dams were used to combat climate change because they are a huge source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Currently, rivers remove about 200 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, both by carbon absorption and by carrying silt to the sea where it feeds plankton. Yet, dams interfere with rivers’ being a carbon sink and increase their functioning as a carbon source in multiple ways.

Building the giant Hoover Dam required 6.6 million tons of concrete. The larger Grand Coulee Dam required 24.3 million tons. Since enormous heat must be used to produce concrete, each ton manufactured releases one ton of CO2 into the atmosphere. In addition, producing steel to reinforce the concrete and build other dam components requires enormous heat, resulting in CO2 releases. Of the tens of thousands of large dams in the world, these two required creating 30.9 million tons of CO2 just for the concrete: building dams has taken a huge bite out of the carbon sequestered by rivers.

In addition to CO2 release during manufacture of building materials for dams, organic matter rots in their reservoirs and produces the potent GHG methane. Far from being a minor source of carbon, this methane is estimated to “account for 4% of all human-made climate change, equivalent to the climate impact of aviation.”

Third, dams interfere with rivers’ transporting silt and nutrients downstream, which impairs their ability to remove carbon. Finally, some hydro-electric projects can create higher GHG emissions than coal-powered plants producing an equivalent quantity of electricity. Putting these together, dams are hardly a clean, green, carbon-free energy machine.

8. Dams increase differences between rich and poor.

Approval for building dams often begins with investors’ going to politicians who act as a link between them and the population. Politicians promise that the project will bring wealth to all. By the time it becomes clear that this is not happening, the politician is out of office or distracting people with another big promise.

In 1933, construction of the New Deal’s Hoover Dam meant pushing the Yumas off their reservation land so that a boom in energy production could swell corporate profits in the US Southwest. As a sop for losing the reservation, Yumas received five acres apiece with assurance that they could grow more crops due to new irrigation systems. Meanwhile, land was “sold to whites in 40- to 100- acre parcels.”

Construction of the Belo Monte Dam reflects a common occurrence. Though thousands of Indians were displaced, the energy created did not benefit them, but businesses such as aluminum smelters.

Since they can be constructed in small quantities, wind and solar power are often the best source of energy for sparsely populated areas. In contrast, “large hydro-power dams depend on central electric grids, which are not a cost-effective tool to reach rural populations, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Himalayas.”

9. Dams cost much more than promised.

Many factors feed into making dams hyper-expensive. The most obvious is construction costs which amounts to $2 trillion since 1950. A small country persuaded to use hydro-power as its major source of energy can find that the average cost overrun of 96% leaves it more indebted to and controlled by international lenders than it ever anticipated.

Dams lead to more dams. As investors and industrial manufacturers and mine owners reap riches from one dam, they have an incentive to construct more. This contributed to the US Colorado River’s being fragmented by at least 60 dams. Awareness that the Belo Monte Dam would make more upstream dams economically viable was a major source of opposition to it.

A third reason for dams’ being more expensive than promised is that maintenance is hardly, if ever, fully accounted for. Silt eventually interferes with the dam’s functioning. Turbines malfunction, cracks occur, design flaws appear and maintenance can be insufficient. For a combination of reasons, over 1000 dams have been removed in the US and the price of removal is rarely mentioned in cost projections.

The fourth, and most costly source of expense overruns for dams, is when they break. This brings us to the last of 10 problems. When negotiating over price, the construction company is highly unlikely to admit its life expectancy.

10. Dams break.

Unlike the extinction they cause, dams are not forever. And with today’s standards for privatized construction, they can be expected to last for shorter time periods than Roman coliseums and vastly less than Egyptian pyramids. As Worster wrote:

Steel penstocks [structures that carry water from the forebay tunnel to the power house to run the turbines] and headgates must someday rust and collapse. Concrete, so permanent-seeming in is youth, must turn soft and crumble. Heavy banks of earth, thrown up to trap a flood, must eventually, under the most favorable circumstances, erode away.

On March 14, 2019, the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River in Nebraska, which was 90 years old, broke due to heavy rain and flooding. The community was left wondering if a missing person had been drowned.

Americans who are old enough might remember the February 1972 collapse of the Buffalo Creek Dam for coal waste that burst and sent water flowing into nearby mining towns, drowning 125. In June of the same year the Canyon Lake Dam in South Dakota got clogged with debris until it broke and downstream communities around Rapid City lost 238 lives.

Failure to learn from these events led to completion of the Teton Dam in southeastern Idaho. Scientists wrote of dangers of putting a large structure in one of the most active earthquake zones in the US, adjacent to cracked and fragile canyon walls. In less than a year after completion it began springing leaks and in June 1976 it collapsed, killing 11 people and 13,000 cattle and washing away homes and a billion tons of topsoil.

The New England Historical Society documented the first major disaster as the Mill River Dam collapse of 1874 which caused 139 deaths. The worst such disaster in the US happened only 15 years later when warnings regarding the South Fork Dam near Johnstown, Pennsylvania were followed by its collapse, which killed 2209.

Eric Fish penned the disturbing story of the 1975 Banqiao Dam collapse, by far the most deadly the world has experienced to date. As part of the “Harness the Huai River” campaign, the dam was completed in 1952 in China’s Henan Province. By the 1970s, thousands of dams had been built across China. Scientific studies warned that projects could raise Henan’s water tables over safe levels. More warnings were issued that deforestation and mining could further increase the danger of building yet more dams in an earthquake-prone zone already fraught with landslides. Committed to rapid economic growth, the government ignored the warnings.

Cracks appeared almost as soon as the reservoir began filling up. With Soviet help, the structure was reinforced and it was called the “Iron Dam” to assure everyone of its safety. Nevertheless,

on Aug 5, 1975, a typhoon collided with a cold front over Henan and dropped the area’s average yearly rainfall in less than 24 hours. The 106 cm of rain that fell that day dwarfed the 30 cm daily limit the dam’s designers had anticipated. Witnesses said that the area was littered with birds that had been pummeled to death by the intense rainfall.

In an effort to mitigate downstream floods that were already severe, Banqiao was ordered not to fully open its sluice gates early in the storm. Then communication lines were knocked out, leaving operators guessing as to how the situation outside was unfolding. By the time the gates were fully opened, it was too late. Water was rising faster than it could escape.

A hydrologist had recommended building 12 sluice gates (which let water flow out at the base of a dam), but only 5 went into the final design and they were partially blocked by silt. Collapse of the Banqiao unleashed a 50 km/hour tidal wave down the river that knocked out 62 additional dams. Entire villages were swept away within minutes. One survivor recalled “I didn’t know where I was – just floating around in the water, screams and cries ringing in my ears. Suddenly, all the voices died down, leaving me in deadly silence.”

During the six hours that water poured out of the reservoir 26,000 lives were lost. Those living downstream soon envied the dead. The same torrent that flooded the reservoirs also washed out roads and knocked out rescue communication systems. When the rescue teams finally arrived, they found people standing on rooftops, holding onto trees or stranded on bits of dry land. They had kept themselves alive by eating tree leaves, animal carcasses that floated by or scavenged food that was often rotten. Hunger was joined by disease and summer heat.

For every person who died after the initial dam collapse, five more died from disease or plague. The total estimated death count was 171,000.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the Banqiao is that the same dynamics for economic growth that laid its foundations continue to flourish. In 2011, Zhang Jinxuan, director of the Nujiang National Development and Reform Commission, spoke of China’s growth: “We must proceed. The resources here are too good. Not to develop is not an option.” China has thousands of dams at risk of breach, either because they are wearing out due to age or they are newer with poor construction. Zhou Fangping, with the Water Resources Department of Guangdong Province, has serious worries about the huge quantity. He told China Economic Weekly:

We have so many rivers to manage and so many irrigation and water conservancy projects. If there’s only one project, we can handle it, but there are so many… either we promise to complete all the projects but we don’t actually meet the targets, or we finish them all but with sub-standard quality.

China is hardly the only country which refuses to learn from Banqiao. Scientists still make recommendations that are ignored, either from a corporate desire to make more profits or from a bureaucratic state desire to expand its power. In the US, 24 of every 25 US dams are privately owned, with financial incentives to minimize repairs. Across the globe, more and more industrial plants full of toxic chemicals are located next to rivers, increasing potential hazards of flooding. Decision makers refuse to understand that climate crisis means that weather events which cause dam disasters are becoming more frequent and more extreme. They continue to build multiple dams on the same river. They seek to assure their citizens that past disasters were due to design problems and that “Generation Next” dams will be safe.

After thousands of years of warnings from philosophers and religious prophets that humanity can live prosperously by having less grandiose desires, political leaders insist that happiness flows from a fountain of possessions, which, in the 21st century, is a fountain of energy. The more power that leaders have over other people, the more power they seek over nature. Instead of trying to work with nature to strengthen local communities, they cling to technocratic ideologies that “bigger and more complicated” is better. If a previous dam broke, they fail to see the problem as the dam’s existence – they insist that if the next dam is bigger, with more concrete and more electrical parts, then the river can be controlled.

Though efforts to subdue rivers have long caused problems, modern capitalism has transformed this pathological view to cultural psychopathy. Psychopathy reflects a lack of guilt or shame over the damage that one causes. A corporation is a social entity which is unable to feel guilt or shame for undermining the survivability of humans and millions of other life forms.

After thousands of years of disrupting natural water flow, which has been exponentially accelerated during recent decades, it is past time for humanity to restore rivers and streams while maintaining a high quality of life. This is why “500 organizations from 85 countries call on governments, financiers and other institutions to keep large hydro-power projects out of their initiatives to address climate change.”

A critical question addresses what would happen if the goal of eliminating fossil fuels usage within 10 years cannot be accomplished with solar and wind power. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the massive growth of solar/wind technology cannot expand at such an enormous rate in this time period, and, if it were seriously attempted, it would cause disastrous ecological and human health problems. Though every source that provides data on sources of energy assigns different percentages to each sector, a reasonable estimate is that in 2018, global energy was supplied by 85% fossil fuels, 7% hydro-power, 4% nuclear power and 4% solar and wind power. Hydro-electric power from dams and nuclear power are obviously next in line for huge increases in sources of energy if solar/wind cannot replace fossil fuels rapidly enough.

There is another option; but GND plans are silent on it. That option is called “energy conservation.” It includes using vastly less energy by having compact communities that require less transportation, smaller home space that requires less heating and cooling, less production of energy-absorbing gadgets designed to fall apart or go out of style and a shorter work week via manufacturing less junk.

GND enthusiasts need to say which road they advocate traveling. Should we build more dams and nuclear plants even if that means sacrificing biodiversity and human health? Or, would it better to abandon the dream of infinite economic growth? Are GND proponents willing to consider the possibility that life would be better for all species, including humans, if corporations and governments are not allowed to increase energy production? If so, we might even save a few aquatic ecosystems.

Politicians Agree: “Any White Cop Can Kill a Black Man”

In 2017 Dissident Voice ran my article, “Any White Cop Can Kill a Black Man at Any Time,” which told how St. Louis cop Jason Stockley killed a 24-year-old black man, Anthony Lamar Smith.  Though Stockley claimed he had fired in self defense when Smith pulled a gun on him, evidence showed that he had planted the gun after the killing.  When Stockley was found “not guilty” protests by thousands in St. Louis lasted for months, just as in 2014 when another white cop Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in neighboring Ferguson.

Crises of cops indiscriminately killing black men keep intensifying throughout the area.  In 2018, Stockley sued the City of St. Louis for putting him on trial in a case that could have created a precedent for cops being able to kill without ever being held accountable.  Then, on September 20, 2019, news broke that in 2012, soon after the killing, the Missouri Attorney General’s office had suppressed evidence regarding Stockley’s DNA being found on the gun he claimed belonged to his victim.  This is after months of the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) harassing the City’s first black female Circuit Attorney for attempting to defend citizens from racist attacks.

We cannot limit ourselves to looking at only actions by white cops because those killings are interwoven into a pattern which includes rampant police violence, political cover-ups, political scandals, courtroom injustice, orchestrated suppression of demonstrations, and attacks on any effort to challenge the status quo.  Post-Michael Brown racism in St. Louis reflects a coordinated effort by multiple right wing forces for an all-out attack on civil liberties.

Let’s back up to get a better picture of how the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith fits into the big picture.  When Jason Stockley pumped 5-7 shots into Smith in 2011, the cop claimed that he had to defend himself from a heroin dealer.  Local press briefly covered it as a drug deal gone bad.

But it turned out to be much more than that.  Kirkwin Taylor reported that he and his 5-year-old son had been riding with Smith before going to a fast-food restaurant.  Taylor disputed the claim that Smith had drugs and a gun.  “I wouldn’t have had my son in there if there was a gun.

When Stockley first approached Smith’s car, he carried his own unauthorized AK-47as well as his police gun.  It is very possible that Smith sped away because he was terrified of the gun-toting cop.  Stockley got a 30 day suspension for the AK-47 and resigned from the police force in 2013.  He left to Houston TX where he took a lucrative management job.

Also in 2013 Missouri Assistant Attorney General Dana Tucker filed a summary report on the case that said “the currently available evidence raises serious questions as to whether the shooting occurred as stated.”  The year before, investigators found Stockley’s DNA on the gun he claimed he took from Smith’s car after killing him.  Smith’s DNA was not on the gun.  Additionally, Stockley’s DNA appeared on a screw in the gun, indicating that the cop had handled it considerably.

Gun that Stockley was accused of planting on Anthony Lamar Smith

On Saturday, September 21, 2019, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Missouri Attorney General’s office had “concealed that information from lawyers, city officials and reporters“.  The facts surrounding Smith’s death were not available to his family in 2013 when they settled a wrongful death suit for $900,000.

The DNA evidence was made available in 2016 when Stockley went to trial for murder.  At the trial, it was brought out that a police car device recorded Stockley telling his partner, “I’m gonna kill that ******!” as they chased Smith at over 80 miles per hour through city streets.  A video documented that after Stockley killed Smith, he went back to the police car, grabbed an object and placed it by the victim.

Pointing out that it would make no sense for an officer who had killed a suspect to handle evidence, the prosecuting attorney charged that Stockley had planted the .38-caliber revolver so he could claim “self-defense.”  Stockley decided to not request a jury trial, leaving his fate to a single judge.  Of 83 cops charged with killing civilians during the previous 12 years none has ever been convicted in a “bench trial.”

As St. Louis waited for the verdict, media reviewed possible sentences of death or life imprisonment or conviction of second degree murder.  The corporate press almost skipped over a theoretical option of “not guilty.”  But in the days leading up to revelation of the judge’s decision, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens and St. Louis City politicians urged “calm,” as if they knew a storm was about to break.

During the wait for the verdict, St. Louis civil rights activists remembered that on the first anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, several police in Columbia MO announced they were having “Darren Wilson Day” in order to celebrate that cop’s killing the unarmed Michael Brown.  Two days before the judge’s decision was made public, Richard Geisenheyner, of Liberty Plaza MO, hung a sign by his confederate flag saying “SLAVES 4 SALE.”  He explained that he was “tired of the government telling him what to think.”

On September 15, 2017, the St. Louis community was stunned to learn that Jason Stockley would not get the death penalty, not life imprisonment, and not even one day in jail.  The judge decreed that Stockley was innocent and set him free.  Free to become a cause célèbre of the Ku Klux Klan.

Within minutes of the news hitting the air, Zaki Baruti, leader of the Universal African Peoples Organization and Green Party candidate for governor in 2000, had pulled together nine people to protest by the courthouse.  The crowd of demonstrators soon mushroomed to hundreds.

September 15, 2017 protest of Stockley acquittal

The meaning of the verdict was clear:  If Jason Stockley could not be convicted of any crime, the judge’s decision said that no white cop should ever be convicted of killing a black man, regardless of the evidence against him.

St. Louis police were pulled from many regular duties and announced that they were unable to provide security for weekend events which were canceled across the city.  Investors moaned the loss of revenue from cancellation of concerts.  Dozens of schools let students out early that day.

By Monday, students had walked out of class in at least 3 high schools and 2 universities.  In addition to street demonstrations, hundreds marched through shopping malls.  There have been so many spontaneous marches that no one knows for sure how many people have participated – several thousand for certain by Wednesday, September 20.

Demonstrations spread across St. Louis City and County and Governor Greitens re-appeared with National Guard tanks announcing his willingness to do whatever necessary to maintain order.  Area cops had a field day attacking and pepper spraying demonstrators after boxing them in or when they were trying to disperse.

The Riverfront Times reported that at 7:30 pm on September 17, a cop  “driving an unmarked patrol car put the blue Impala in reverse and shot through an approaching crowd, narrowly missing protesters.”  Everyone was acutely aware of the murder less than a month before of anti-racist Heather Heyer by a white supremacist racing his car into a crowd in Charlottesville VA.

The Green Party of St. Louis had intense internal discussions regarding how to respond to both the 2014 killing of Michael Brown and the 2017 acquittal of Stockley.  Several Greens had led demands for body cameras and civilian oversight boards for the police.  But many felt that these did not get to the heart of the matter, which was that killer cops walk free regardless of the evidence against them.

What cops need more than cultural sensitivity training is an understanding that they can and will go to jail for their own criminal behavior.  With the idea in mind that the best therapy for a racist cop is witnessing another cop doing hard time behind bars, in 2014 St. Louis Greens had multiple signs printed advocating consequences for the killer of Michael Brown: “Jail Darren Wilson for Life!”  In 2017, the Party recycled these signs by taping the name “Jason Stockley” over that of Wilson.

Green Party recycles sign to imprison Darren Wilson

The months of protesting the freeing of Stockley was barely over when a new scandal shook Missouri.  The same Governor Eric Greitens who had urged calm while putting the National Guard on alter announced during his January 11, 2018 “State of the State” address that he had had an affair and that he and his wife had come to terms with it.

That admission left out details of bondage and sexual blackmail that made it the center of news stories for months. The woman in the affair had been Greiten’s hair stylist in 2015, when he asked her to his home.  After she arrived he invited her to his basement for a “real thrill.”  There, he allegedly taped her wrists to exercise equipment and blindfolded and began undressing her.

In a report from her husband, who secretly taped her confession, she had not objected to anything at that point.  But she became terrified when seeing a camera flash from edges of the tape covering her eyes and heard the threat “You’re never going to mention my name, otherwise this picture will be everywhere.”

As details of the scandal unfolded, Missouri Republicans became increasingly uneasy about their wonder boy in the governor’s mansion.  They easily overlooked his being a former Democrat who campaigned for Obama.  Greitens won them over during his 2016 run for governor when TV ads featured his holding an automatic weapon.  Once in office, he got the Missouri legislature to undermine unions by promoting laws on “right-to-work” and prohibiting cities from having a minimum wage above the state level.

Oozing self-confidence, he had reserved a “Greitens for President” website.  Most Missouri Republicans would not come out against Greitens, instead having a wait-and-see attitude.  If he could escape prosecution for terrorizing a woman, he might just be the gun-toting, union-busting guy to be their man in the White House.

Yet, this was not to be.  Greitens lived in St. Louis, which allowed Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner to bring charges against him in January, 2018.  The first black woman to hold that post, she pursued the case and kept the scandal in the public eye until he resigned in June 2018.  Zaki Baruti clearly remembers Greitens’ vowing to “destroy her reputation” as he left office.  Indignant that a black woman could bring down such a promising and handsome white man, Missouri Republicans have been seething ever since.

They soon found allies in their anti-Gardner crusade.  The Circuit Attorney wants to develop a “diversion program” to keep first-time offenders out of prison by developing community supports.  This is a direct affront to the “lock ’em up” mentality which seeks to punish and hurt whoever cannot afford to hire an expensive lawyer.

Even more upsetting to some, Gardner made a list of several dozen cops who should not be trusted as witnesses in court due to making racist remarks online or otherwise indicating that their testimony would be suspect.  The St. Louis Police Officers Association became outraged and demanded that Gardner recant.

Instead of taking any action to reduce cop violence SLPOA is going along with members who repeatedly file lawsuits against the City of St. Louis when attempts are made to discipline them.  Thus, a city scrapped for money is forced to pay for both civil judgments resulting from police wrongdoing and suits brought by cops themselves.

Jason Stockley’s lawsuit charging “defamation and malicious prosecution” was the epitome of cops’ thumbing their noses at any efforts to make them abide by the same standards of human decency that the rest of us are held to.  When it was thrown out of court on February 14, 2019, Kim Gardner called it a “tremendous victory” and condemned such “baseless lawsuits” and “shameful behavior” of the SLPOA.

This pattern of collaboration between cops who kill black men, courts who don’t charge them or let them off, politicians who cover up evidence, and police organizations that seek to undo any challenges to white supremacy could have repercussions throughout the US and other countries.  It forebodes coordinated efforts to protect cops from ever being arrested and tried not just for deadly racism, but also for homophobic killings, femicide and anti-labor and anti-environmental death squads.

Events in St. Louis are occurring in a context of a Trumpist cancer that is rampantly spreading throughout the global body.  This disease is clearest in the case of anti-immigrant hatred directed against Hispanics who are victims of US-inspired dictatorships and corporate-inspired climate change.  People throughout the world are increasingly fleeing from climate disasters as right-wing forces increase vitriolic intolerance of “outsiders.”

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro watches the rainforest burn so indigenous peoples and earth defenders can be driven out as resource extraction increases.  In India, Prime Minister Modi declares war on dalits (“untouchables”), adivasi (native people) and Muslims of Kashmir.  Throughout Europe, neo-Nazi cliques are on the rise, blaming the troubles of capitalism on immigrants who flee their homes for the same reasons immigrants seek asylum in the US.

As climate catastrophe heightens, ruling classes are telling the more privileged to shut out the “other.”  Yet, tomorrow’s definition of “privileged” will be narrowed so that most of those on the inside today will themselves become the “other” in the future.

We cannot afford for our separate efforts for human rights to be apart from each other while anti-human rights forces are sharpening their strategies of exclusion.  It is an objective historic necessity to understand that barbarity against any group anywhere is a crime against all.  Though it has been said many, many times before, it is critical that campaigns for human liberation hang together or divergent struggles will hang separately.

What Is Energy Denial?

The fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day of 1970 will be in 2020. As environmentalism has gone mainstream during that half a century, it has forgotten its early focus and shifted toward green capitalism. Nowhere is this more apparent than abandonment of the slogan popular during the early Earth Days: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

The unspoken phrase of today’s Earth Day is “Recycle, Occasionally Reuse, and Never Utter the Word ‘Reduce.’” A quasi taboo on saying “reduce” permeates the lexicon of twenty-first century environmentalism. Confronting the planned obsolescence of everyday products rarely, if ever, appears as an ecological goal. The concept of possessing fewer objects and smaller homes has surrendered to the worship of ecogadgets. The idea of redesigning communities to make them compact so individual cars would not be necessary has been replaced by visions of universal electric cars. The saying “Live simply so that others can simply live” now draws empty stares. Long forgotten are the modest lifestyles of Buddha, Jesus and Thoreau.

When the word “conservation” is used, it is virtually always applied to preserving plants or animals and virtually never to conserving energy. The very idea of re-imagining society so that people can have good lives as they use less energy has been consumed by visions of the infinite expansion of solar/wind power and the oxymoron, “100% clean energy.”

But… wait – can anyone really challenge the belief that solar and wind power are inherently clean? Yes, and that is the crux of the problem. Many have become so distraught with looming climate catastrophe that they turn a blind eye to other threats to the existence of life. Shortsightedness by some who rightfully denounce “climate change denial” has led to a parallel unwillingness to recognize dangers built into other forms of energy production, a problem which can be called “clean energy danger denial.”

Obviously, fossil fuels must be replaced by other forms of energy. But those energy sources have such negative properties that using less energy should be the beginning point, the ending point and occupy every in-between point on the path to sane energy use. What follows are “The 15 Unstated Myths of Clean, Renewable Energy.” Many are so absurd that no one would utter them, yet they are ensconced within the assumption that massive production of solar and wind energy can be “clean.”

Myth 1. “Clean energy” is carbon neutral. The fallacious belief that “clean” energy does not emit greenhouse gases (GHGs) is best exemplified by nuclear power, which is often included in the list of alternative energy sources. It is, of course, true that very little GHGs are released during the operation of nukes. But it is wrong to ignore the use of fossil fuels in the construction (and ultimate decommissioning) of the power plant as well as the mining, milling, transport and eternal storage of nuclear material. To this must be added the fossil fuels used in the building of the array of machinery to make nukes possible and the disruption of aquatic ecosystems from the emptying of hot water.

Similarly, examination of the life cycle of producing “clean” energy reveals it requires machinery that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Steel, cement and plastics are central to “renewable” energy and have heavy carbon footprints. One small example: The mass of an industrial wind turbine is 90% steel.

Myth 2. “Clean energy” is inexhaustible because the sun will always shine and the wind will always blow. This statement assumes that all that is needed for energy is sunshine and wind, which is not the case. Sunshine and wind do not equal solar power and wind power. The transformation into “renewable” energy requires minerals which are non-renewable and difficult to access.

Myth 3. “Clean energy” does not produce toxins. Knowledge that the production of fossil fuels is associated with a high level of poisons should not lead us to ignore the level of toxins involved in the extraction and processing of lithium, cobalt, copper, silver, aluminum, cadmium, indium, gallium, selenium, tellurium, neodymium, and dysprosium. Would a comparison of toxins associated with the production of clean energy to fossil fuels would be an open admission of the dirtiness of what is supposed to be “clean?”

Another example: “Processing one ton of rare earths necessary for alternative energy produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste.” Similar to what happens with Myth 2, toxins may not be produced during the operation of solar and wind power but permeate other stages of their existence.

Myth 4. “Clean energy” does not deplete or contaminate drinkable water. Though water is usually thought of for agriculture and cooling in nuclear power plants, it is used in massive amounts for manufacturing and mining. The manufacture of a single auto requires 350,000 liters of water.

In 2015, the US used 4 billion gallons of water for mining and 70% of water comes from groundwater. Water is used for separating minerals from rocks, cooling machinery and dust control. Even industry apologists admit that “Increased reliance on low ore grades means that it is becoming necessary to extract a higher volume of ore to generate the same amount of refined product, which consumes more water.” Julia Adeney Thomas points out that “producing one ton of rare earth ore (in terms of rare earth oxides) produces 200 cubic meters of acidic wastewater.”

Myth 5. “Clean energy” does not require very much land usage. In fact, “clean” energy could well have more effect on land use than fossil fuels. According to Jasper Bernes, “To replace current US energy consumption with renewables, you’d need to devote at least 25-50 % of the US landmass to solar, wind, and biofuels.”

Something else is often omitted from contrasts between energy harvesting. Fossil fuel has a huge effect on land where it is extracted but relatively little land is used at the plants where the fuel is burned for energy. In contrast, solar/wind power requires both land where raw materials are mined plus the vast amount of land used for solar panels or wind “farms.”

Myth 6. “Clean energy” has no effect on plant and animal life. Contrary to the belief that there is no life in a desert, the Mojave is teeming with plant and animal life whose habitat will be increasingly undermined as it is covered with solar collectors. It is unfortunate that so many who express concern for the destruction of coral reefs seem blissfully unaware of the annihilation of aquatic life wrought by deep sea mining of minerals for renewable energy components.

Wind harvesting can be a doomsday machine for forests. As Ozzie Zehner warns: “Many of the planet’s strongest winds rip across forested ridges. In order to transport 50-ton generator modules and 160-foot blades to these sites, wind developers cut new roads. They also clear strips of land … for power lines and transformers. These provide easy access to poachers as well as loggers, legal and illegal alike.”

As the most productive land for solar/wind extraction is used first, that requires the continuous expansion of the amount of land (or sea bed) taken as energy use increases. The estimate that 1 million species could be made extinct in upcoming decades will have to be up-counted to the extent that “clean” energy is mixed in with fossil fuels.

Myth 7. “Clean energy” production has no effect on human health. Throughout the centuries of capitalist expansion workers have struggled to protect their health and families have opposed the poisoning of their communities. This is not likely to change with an increase in “clean” energy. What will change is the particular toxins which compromise health.

Creating silicon wafers for solar cells “releases large amounts of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Crystalline-silicon solar cell processing involves the use or release of chemicals such as phosphine, arsenic, arsine, trichloroethane, phosphorous oxycholoride, ethyl vinyl acetate, silicon trioxide, stannic chloride, tantalum pentoxide, lead, hexavalent chromium, and numerous other chemical compounds.” The explosive gas silane is also used and more recent thin-film technologies employ toxic substances such as cadmium.

Wind technology is associate with its own problems. Caitlin Manning reports on windmill farms in the Trans Isthmus Corridor of Mexico: “which is majority Indigenous and dependent on agriculture and fishing. The concrete bases of the more than 1,600 wind turbines have severely disrupted the underground water flows … Despite promises that they could continue to farm their lands, fences and security guards protecting the turbines prevent farmers from moving freely. The turbines leak oil into the soil and sometimes ignite … many people have suffered mental problems from the incessant noise.”

Though the number health problems documented for fossil fuels is vastly more than those with solar/wind, the latter have been used on an industrial scale for a much shorter time, making it harder for links to show up. The Precautionary Principle states that a dangerous process should be proven safe before use rather than waiting until after damage has been done. Will those who have correctly insisted that the Precautionary Principle be employed for fracking and other fossil fuel processes demand an equivalent level of investigation for “clean” energy or give it the same wink and nod that petrochemical magnates have enjoyed?

Myth 8. People are happy to have “clean energy” harvested or its components mined where they live. Swooping windmill blades can produce constant car-alarm-level noise of about 100 decibels, and, if they ice up, they can fling it off at 200 miles per hour. It is not surprising that indigenous people of Mexico are not alone in being less than thrilled about having them next door. Since solar panels and windmills can only be built where there is lots of sun or wind, their neighbors are often high-pressured into accepting them unwillingly.

Obviously, components can be mined only where they exist, leading to a non-ending list of opponents. Naveena Sadasivam gives a few examples from the very long list of communities confronting extraction for “clean” energy components: “Indigenous communities in Alaska have been fighting to prevent the mining of copper and gold at Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and a crucial source of sustenance. The proposed mine … has been billed by proponents as necessary to meet the growing demand for copper, which is used in wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels. Similar stories are playing out in Norway, where the Sámi community is fighting a copper mine, and in Papua New Guinea, where a company is proposing mining the seabed for gold and copper.”

Myth 9. No one is ever killed due to disputes over energy extraction or harvesting. When Asad Rehman wrote in May 2019 that environmental conflicts are responsible for “the murder of two environmental defenders each and every week,” his data was out of date within two months. By July 2019 Global Witness (GW) had tabulated that “More than three people were murdered each week in 2018 for defending their land and our environment.” Their report found that mining was the deadliest economic sector, followed by agriculture, and water resources such as dams in third place. Commenting on the GW findings, Justine Calma wrote “Although hydropower has been billed as ‘renewable energy,’ many activists have taken issue with the fact large dams and reservoirs have displaced indigenous peoples and disrupted local wildlife.”

GW recorded one murder sparked by wind power. Murders traceable to “clean” energy will certainly increase if it out-produces energy from fossil fuels. The largest mass murder of earth defenders that GW found in 2018 was in India “over the damaging impacts of a copper mine in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.” Copper is a key element for “clean” energy.

Myth 10. One watt of “clean energy” will replace one watt from use of fossil fuels. Perhaps the only virtue that fossil fuels have is that they are more efficient than solar/wind power because they are relatively easy to store for use. It is not nearly so easy with solar and wind power because they are intermittent, which means they can be collected only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Thus, solar/wind energy must be stored and retrieved by complex processes, all of which result in substantial loss of energy. Additionally, the wiring characteristics of solar panels means that tiny fragments such as dust or leaves can block the surface.

Therefore, their efficiency will be much less under actual operating conditions that they are under ideal lab conditions. A test described by Ozzie Zehner found that solar arrays rated at 1000 watts actually produced 200-400 watts in the field. Similarly, Pat Murphy notes that while a coal plant operates at 80-90% of capacity, wind turbines do so at 20-30% of capacity. Since they perform much lower than expected, both solar and wind energy require considerably more land than misleading forecasts predict. This, in turn, increases all of the problems with habitat loss, toxic emissions, human health and land conflicts.

Myth 11. “Clean energy” is as efficient as fossil fuels in resource use. Processes needed for storing and retrieving energy from intermittent sources renders them extremely complex. Solar/wind energy can be stored for night use by using it to pump water uphill and, when energy is needed, letting it flow downhill to turn turbines for electricity. Or, it can be stored in expensive, large and heavy batteries. Wind turbines “can pressurize air into hermetically sealed underground caverns to be tapped later for power, but the conversion is inefficient and suitable geological sites are rare.” Daniel Tanuro estimates that “Renewable energies are enough to satisfy human needs, but the technologies needed for their conversion are more resource-intensive than fossil technologies: it takes at least ten times more metal to make a machine capable of producing a renewable kWh than to manufacture a machine able to produce a fossil kWh.”

Myth 12. Improved efficiency can resolve problems of “clean energy.” This is perhaps the most often-stated illusion of green energy. Energy efficiency (EE) is the same as putting energy on sale. Shoppers do not buy less of something on sale – they buy more. Stan Cox describes research showing that at the same time air conditioners became 28% more efficient, they accounted for 37% more energy use. Findings such as this are due both to users keeping their houses cooler and more people buying air conditioners. Similarly, at the same time as automobiles showed more EE, energy use for transportation went up. This is because more drivers switched from sedans to SUVs or small trucks and there were many more drivers and cars on the road.

EE parallels increased use of energy not just because of increased use of one specific commodity, but also because it allows people to buy other commodities which are also energy-intensive. It spurs corporations to produce more energy-guzzling objects to dump on the market. Those people who do not want this additional stuff are likely to put more money in the bank and the bank loans out that money to multiple lenders, many of whom are businesses which increase their production.

Myth 13. Recycling “clean energy” machine components can resolve its problems. This myth vastly overestimates the proportion of materials that can actually be recycled and understates the massive amount of “clean” energy being advocated. Kris De Decker point out that “… a 5 MW wind turbine produces more than 50 tonnes of plastic composite waste from the blades alone.” If a solar/wind infrastructure could actually be constructed to replace all energy from fossil fuel, it would be the most enormous build-up in human history. Many components could be recycled, but it is not possible to recycle more than 100% of components and the build-up would require an industrial growth rate of 200%, 300% or maybe much more.

Myth 14. Whatever problems there are with “clean energy” will work themselves out. Exactly the opposite is true. Problems of “clean” energy will become worse as resources are used up, the best land for harvesting solar and wind power is taken, and the rate of industrial expansion increases. Obtaining power will become more vastly difficult as there are diminishing returns on new locations for mining and placing solar collectors and wind mills.

Myth 15. There Is No Alternative. This repeats Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing perspective which is reflected in the claim that “We have to do something because moving a little bit in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all.” The problem is that expanding energy production is a step in the wrong direction, not the right direction.

The alternative path to overgrowing “clean” energy is remembering what was outlined before. The concept of conserving energy is an age-old philosophy embodied in use of the word “reduce.” Those who only see the horrible potential of climate change have an unfortunate tendency to mimic the behavior of climate change deniers as they themselves deny the dangers of alternative energy.

Kris De Decker traces the roots of toxic wind power not to wind power itself but to hubristic faith in unlimited energy growth: “For more than two thousand years, windmills were built from recyclable or reusable materials: wood, stone, brick, canvas, metal. If we would reduce energy demand, smaller and less efficient wind turbines would not be a problem.”

Every form of energy production has difficulties. “Clean, renewable energy” is neither clean nor renewable. There can be good lives for all people if we abandon the goal of infinite energy growth. Our guiding principle needs to be that the only form of truly clean energy is less energy.