The Ecology of Destruction

The Ecology of Destruction“, Monthly Review vol. 58, no. 9 (February 2007), pp.1-14. DOI: 10.14452/MR-058-09-2007-02_1

I would like to begin my analysis of what I am calling here “the ecology of destruction” by referring to Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1969 film Burn!. Pontecorvo’s epic film can be seen as a political and ecological allegory intended for our time. It is set in the early nineteenth century on an imaginary Caribbean island called “Burn.” Burn is a Portuguese slave colony with a sugar production monoculture dependent on the export of sugar as a cash crop to the world economy. In the opening scene we are informed that the island got its name from the fact that the only way that the original Portuguese colonizers were able to vanquish the indigenous population was by setting fire to the entire island and killing everyone on it, after which slaves were imported from Africa to cut the newly planted sugar cane.

  • Reprinted and published in Norwegian in Torstein Dahle (and to artikler av John Bellamy Foster, Ødeleggelsens Økonomi (Tidsskrifter Rødt!, 2008), 100-16.
  • Chinese translation by Dong Jinyu, Foreign Theoretical Trends (China), no. 6, 2008, and translated separately by Liang Yongqiant, Internet Fortune (China), no. 4, 2009.
  • Persian translation in Paul M. Sweezy, et. al., Capitalism and the Environment (Tehran: Digar Publishing House, 2008.
  • French translation in La Brèche-Carré Rouge, December 2007-January February 2008, pp. 46-53.
  • German translation in Perspectiven: Magazin Für Linke Tehoerie Und Praxis, 2007, no. 2 (Vienna);
  • Portuguese translation in O Comuneiro, no. 4, 2007,
  • Norwegian translation in Rødt–special edition in Norwegian daily Klassekampen (Class Struggle), June 2007.
  • Translated in Monthly Review, Turkish edition, 2007.
  • Korean translation October 15, 2009, at
  • Bangla translation in Bangla Monthly Review, no. 3 (June 2007). Translated by Tushar Chakrabarty.


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