Thursday, July 2, 2009

now more than ever

I return to this blog prompted by two specific events in the political world, not in France but here in the US. First, the publication by Elizabeth Kolbert, in the recent New Yorker, of a perfectly shocking profile of Jim Hansen, the NASA climatologist whose work on global warming has been path-breaking for three decades. Hansen himself is not the shocking part: he comes across as measured, factual, reasoned as usual. But what he has to say is appalling: far worse data than even a few years ago, strong evidence that we have passed the tipping point in the feedback loop of carbon retention in the atmosphere, and thus decades closer than we thought to eco-catastrophe. Even worse, though, are the remarks of people in government, congressional staffers and the like, who suggest that Hansen is being hopelessly intractable--he just doesn't 'get it.' And what he doesn't 'get' is that there is no way in hell the US political establishment can respond to this slow-motion train wreck in any appropriate way. Too much to lose, not enough political capital to spend, etc. So these people think Hansen should just lighten up, admit that politics is what it is, and ...  what exactly? Just watch as a climatic cataclysm that could end human life on the planet, or at least disrupt every form of civil order, slowly takes shape? Is this really the 'common sense' view? Apparently, and despite the undeniable truth of what Hansen says, that the laws or geo-physics are immutable, whereas human behavior is in theory adjustable. But no--politics as usual as driven by American finance capital and practiced in Washington DC is equally immutable. If desertification, flooding, dislocation, vast mortality are the consequences, that's just how things are.

Event 2 is the Carbon Trading bill, passed by the Congress with much fanfare though facing some trouble in the Senate. This is Obama's big initiative, a historic change in American policy, etc. etc. Of course the bill as passed is totally inadequate to address in any meaningful way the disastrous data Hansen puts forth, but  ... but what? Well, at least we're not in total denial any more, we're trying, it's a start. Bullshit! Sorry, but every word of praise heaped on this sham bill is a continuation of the American joy-ride to extinction. Folks just don't get it--THIS IS AN EMERGENCY, and the best we can offer is token half measures? 

To my mind this legislation is all the proof we need that our systems of power and governance DON'T WORK. The current world-system, Capitalist or what have you, under the aegis of our United States, is on a death trip. Our present leaders may die rich and self-satisfied, their children may use their stockpiled fortunes to fend off the inevitable (while climate dislocation wreaks a holocaust of unimaginable proportions on the world's poor). But the generation of their/our grandchildren will no longer find the Earth habitable. Are you OK with that, dear reader? Shall we just chill while we can and think about something else? Isn't our system 'working' if it gets us through the next two or three  decades without compromising our unprecedented and disproportionate habits of consumption? What do we care about posterity? That's what the smart folks in Washington seem to be saying to Jim Hansen, but he's not buying: at 68 he is embarking on non-violent resistance to the status quo. And in the same spirit I'm still pulling for an eco-socialist movement in Europe to show us Americans the way to an alternative. Only by socializing our governance can we hope to escape the trap of free-riderism, aka greed, that keeps real fundamental change in consumption off the table. Socialism may not be the solution, but it offers at least some  chance of collective response.  Some may find it quixotic or fanciful. But what should we call the complacency that simply accepts the suicide of our species as 'how things are'?


At July 3, 2009 at 1:05 AM , Blogger David said...

I can't really add anything except that I agree 100%...


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