Neither extractivism nor the red tide: global capitalism is the catastrophe of Chiloé

Neither extractivism nor the red tide: global capitalism is the catastrophe of Chiloé

By Lucas Miranda

These types of responses make the opportunism impatient, which - as Lenin pointed out - is characterized by not knowing how to wait, always looking for the line of least resistance. But it is the answer that must be given if we intend to stop applying palliatives to be able to beat the vampire that feeds on living labor and destroys nature at once. The invisible protagonist of this catastrophe has operated through two visible henchmen: global warming and the salmon industry. We will analyze how these capital representatives operate separately and together.

As the College of Marine Biologists [1] has pointed out, global warming has produced an increase in ocean temperatures, water acidification, eutrophication of inland waters and in 2015 and 2016 an exacerbated child phenomenon that NASA has called 'Godzilla' . The intensity of the El Niño phenomenon has increased the temperature of the Pacific coasts by 3 °, which decreases the available oxygen and affects the survival of the cold water species that inhabit the coasts of Chile. This increase in temperature would have been a triggering factor for an excessive flowering of the microalgae of the Chattonella spp. Type, in the region of the lakes and Aysén in January and February 2016. This microalgae was responsible for the death of wild fish and salmon in culture in that period, since it consumed the available oxygen, producing an anaerobic condition that killed by anoxia in the fish, in addition to being toxic for them. On the other hand, this microalga impaired the mechanical functioning of the fish's respiratory system. Later in April, the same global climatic causes would have triggered the excessive flowering of the Alexandrium Catenella microalgae, which produces the red tide. This algae does not kill shellfish, but instead introduces a toxin that is not eradicated by cooking and is called Paralizing Shellfish Poison (VPM). [2] Both microalgae blooms have drastically reduced the marine resources on which the fishermen, shellfish and the Chiloé population live, producing the socio-environmental crisis that Chiloé is experiencing today.

But there is another person responsible for the situation of the Chilotes: the salmon industry. Even if there was no causal relationship between the dumping of nearly 5,000 tons of decomposing salmon and the current destruction of marine fauna, this industry bears responsibility for the socio-environmental crisis in Chiloé. As Nayadeth Arriagada [3] has pointed out, there is research showing that organic waste produced by the salmon industry (such as feces and undigested food) generates the development of bacteria that consume the oxygen that marine fauna requires to live. The Chilean salmon industry produces about 40 kilos of salmon for every cubic meter of water, being what SERNAPESCA recommends 15 kilos and for every 1000 kilos of salmonids it produces about 800 kilos of waste, so that the waste thrown contributes to the condition. anaerobic in different areas of the Chilean sea where the possibility of marine life decreases.

On the other hand, the salmon industry has generated a growing eutrophication in the region of the lakes and Aysén. Eutrophication means an increase in nutrients that makes biomass grow but decreases biodiversity. The main limitation for the production of red tides and other harmful algal blooms is the amount of nutrients available in the sea, especially nitrogen in salt water. This nitrogen has been contributed mainly by the feed used in the salmon industry. For this reason, as Héctor Kol points out, “the climatic variable IS NOT ENOUGH to initiate a bloom [flowering] of algae… nutrients are needed. And the salmon industry provides them in spades: one kilo of salmon feed provides the same amount of total Nitrogen as the sewage of 15 people. ”[4] Kol's thesis is that the phenomenon of the exacerbated child was a trigger for the mega-flowering that has produced the anaerobic condition in the sea and that has killed fish, shellfish and crustaceans, but the latent cause is the eutrophication or accumulation of nutrients produced by decades of development of the salmon industry at an indiscriminate rate. This situation of lack of oxygen and the blooming of harmful algae that has annihilated the marine fauna of Chiloé has left fishermen and collectors without sustenance.

But the salmon industry, by using - according to Arriagada - between 5 and 10 kilos of wild fish to produce a kilo of salmon, also leaves fishermen without sustenance in this way, who in the face of this marine misery have sought work in the same industry salmon farm that today, in the midst of crisis, throws them back into unemployment. Finally, the excessive use of antibiotics by salmon farms has generated antibiotic resistance genes in salmon, which have also developed in wild fish close to salmon farms. Through the consumption of salmon and the exposure of salmon workers, this resistance can be transmitted to humans, making -according to Arriagada- that infections caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics produce 2.5 times more mortality than that produced by non-bacterial bacteria. resistant and increasing the days of hospitalization by 30%.

Thus, even if the dumping of 5,000 tons of decomposing fish is not what caused the current shellfish failure and fish kills, the salmon industry has cultivated the latent conditions for the godzilla child phenomenon to trigger a mega bloom of microalgae. On the other hand, in the event that the dumping of fish had effectively contributed to the current loss and death of marine fauna, what we observe is a synergistic relationship between the predation produced by the salmon industry and climate change: change The climate that has exacerbated the El Niño phenomenon would have triggered the excessive bloom of Chattonella spp. microalgae in January and February, killing farmed salmon. This event, added to the indifference of the salmon industry for everything that does not increase its profits and the complicity of the Chilean State with this capitalist niche, has made possible the massive dumping of decomposing salmon. And there is reason to believe that these wastes have at least contributed to the shellfish wave produced in late April, since the microalgae that produce red tide do not normally kill shellfish that assimilate their toxins.

We therefore have that both global warming and the salmon industry, through independent and crossed causal chains, are responsible for the current socio-environmental disaster in Chiloé. But the paternity of both destructive factors of society and of nature corresponds to global capitalism. On the one hand, global capitalism in all its versions, from China to the US via Europe and developing countries, has the world on the brink of a global climate catastrophe. The variation and mortality of the marine fauna is only one of the expressions of this imminent catastrophe, one of whose tests is being carried out today in Chiloé. On the other hand, the salmon industry is the product of capitalist development that seeks accumulation niches, producing miserable, unstable working conditions and devastating nature in complicity with the State. Thus, there is a long turn and a short turn to arrive at the same central cause: a mode of production in which profit-maximizing local rationality produces a catastrophe-maximizing global irrationality.

The fight today must also go both ways. The left that emphasizes only the responsibility of the salmon industry and ignores the causal role of climate change, is making a serious mistake. This error turns into complicity with the current order when world capitalism is not seen as the cause of the development of the salmon industry, but rather in a supposed perverse version of capitalism (“extractivism” or “neoliberalism”). With this, this left suggests that there would be benign versions of capitalism that would not have caused the socio-environmental crisis in Chiloé, nurturing illusions on which new catastrophes will flourish. But on the other hand, there are those who - such as Adolfo Velásquez, responsible for the declaration of the College of Marine Biologists and director of a consultancy that produces reports for salmon farms - attribute all responsibility to climate change, exonerating the salmon companies. With this, they produce arguments to appease the struggle that the Chilotes are fighting today on the island and that have correctly recognized the salmon industry as an enemy to attack with all their might. Faced with both unilateralities, it is necessary to emphasize that from the struggle that is taking place today against immediate and local causes, a struggle must be born that is the grave of global capitalism, if we do not want it to become the grave of humanity.







Video: Red tide toxic algae outbreak in Florida prompts health concerns (September 2021).