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We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution? [Stoat]

Monday, October 31, 2016 16:09
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Way to go, lefties. Via ATTP on Twitter I find Eric S. Godoy and Aaron Jaffe in the Op-Eds of the NYT1. I think it popped up because of Marx thought of the human body as part of the natural world and called nature an extension of our bodies. Following Marx, contemporary theorists like… and if you’re trying to alienate the right wing – and indeed, almost everyone – invoking Marx is an excellent way of doing it2.

The ostensible theme of the article – that it might be better to think of climate change in terms of “revolution” rather than “war” – I find uninteresting. The bit worth commenting on is perhaps best summed up by their summing up:

In this light, Exxon and its climate science obfuscation is not so much an enemy as a paradigmatic symptom of the worst kinds of behavior generated by profit-driven systems. The enemy is the violence perpetrated by racial, gendered, political, juridical and existing economic metabolisms with nature. Their exploitative organizations would remain unconcerned with climate justice even if the nation were mobilized to mass produce solar panels and wind turbines. In other words, Climate change demands not only a race to develop and deploy new energy technologies, but a revolution to democratize all forms of power — fossil fuels, wind, solar, but most important, economic and political power.

So – perhaps via Climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response? – there are two4 (have I said this before? It is sounding awfully familiar in my mind. Perhaps I’ve just thought it a lot) contrasting approaches to “solving” Global Warming:

1. Revolution! As exemplified near-perfectly by the above. Capitalists are evil but not only that, our entire society is riddled with violence perpetrated by just about anyone you can think of, except for the Marxists of course. Any solution that leaves people or organisations “unconcerned with climate justice” in unacceptable, regardless of it’s actual effects on climate.
2. Just slap on a carbon tax.

Approach number 1 appeals very strongly to all those people who, for whatever reason, don’t like our society anyway. Or who like it, but can see ways that it could be so much better if they and their nice friends were in charge. As a way of actually solving GW it is a disaster area of course, since it will alienate large numbers of people you need to convinced. If you’re of the Marxist persuasion this is no great problem: you’re writing from an ivory tower, it is all more of an intellectual exercise in speculative world-building, and your life has no real problems to solve anyway other than finding outlets for your wurblings. Plus, of course, it is “your sort” of solution. people like solutions that are within their domain of expertise. Pols like solutions that involve negotiating and talking. Teachers in the department of social science and cultural studies like solutions that involve interesting social and cultural change. None of these people have much of a clue about economics, so the last thing they want is a solution mediated by expertise other than their own, that they don’t really understand, and which if adopted would diminish their ability to write Op-Eds in the NYT.

Approach number 2, alas, appeals to all too few people. Those on the left can’t quite bring themselves to abandon option 1, and those on the right are so busy being riled by people pushing option 1 that they have the perfect excuse not to settle down quietly and think about option 2.

I find I’ve written a rather more cynical and bleak article than I intended.


1. And I quote: Eric S. Godoy teaches in the department of social science and cultural studies at the Pratt Institute. Aaron Jaffe is an assistant professor of philosophy and liberal arts at The Juilliard School. This is not promising.

2. Ooooh, even better: “Perhaps, as some have suggested, “revolution” is the better path.” And the link is to I am, BTW, largely ignorant of Marx – and intend to stay that way, please don’t bother to try to “educate” me – so I’m prepared to believe he might have said some sensible things. But if you find yourself tempted to say that, you’ve missed the point.

3. I think the stuff about “the poor” is confused, too. “…refers to the world’s poor, who have contributed only a small amount of the total greenhouse gases while richer countries produce higher carbon emissions… solar panels won’t purify Flint’s lead-ridden water or lower asthma rates in the Bronx”. But essentially no-one in the USA is amongst the poor, as measured by world-grade poverty. The two need to be clearly distinguished.

4. Or these are two ends of the spectrum. Or something. Don’t push me too hard on this one.


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