Breathe deeply… clear the mind of distractions… and focus

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

So what would count as doing something effective about abrupt climate change?  This diary, then, is a thought experiment: what if we actually made abrupt climate change itself a priority rather than mere window-dressing for another legislative report?

(crossposted at Orange)  

I suppose this diary is prompted by RLMiller’s diary of Monday: the word is out that we’re not going to have “effective climate change legislation,” and so the pundits are placing hopes in the EPA or something like that.

But I don’t see the point in being pessimistic.  This all looks to me like an opportunity to step back and judge what really needs to be done.  At the very least, this diary can count as a laundry list of things to be done while the blogosphere, here, is waiting for the next opportunity to influence legislation.


My central point here is that we haven’t really focused our minds upon abrupt climate change, and so if we’re going to have a hiatus, here, we can use this as an opportunity to understand how we’ve seriously underestimated the problem of climate change.  There will be rather extreme consequences to the massive alteration of Earth’s atmosphere by the burning of what will be at least a trillion barrels of oil by industrial society.

The obvious evidence for our underestimate of the problem is that none of the legislation being proposed would really have been effective.   Cap-and-trade wouldn’t have saved us.  Fab new technologies won’t save us either.  Carbon taxes can be evaded through accounting tricks or by moving the “carbon consumption” outside of the taxed area.

The fossil fuel “producers” of the world are not going to “produce” 85 million bbls./day of oil, an equal carbon-equivalent of coal, and so on, and then nobody’s going to consume it.  Thus the answer is simple: to reduce “carbon consumption” you have to restrict “carbon production.”  Ah, but the “carbon producers” are not going to accept the opportunity costs of leaving the grease in the ground.  The Saudis have already told the world this, before Copenhagen.  Thus we need a system which will make the break with capitalism, and forge an international agreement to abandon the coal mines, plug up the oil wells, give up on natural gas.


Moreover, we haven’t considered the problem of abrupt climate change holistically, which would be to include all of the other damages we’ve inflicted upon the planet through industry.  A summary of the ways in which human industry depletes the planet’s biodiversity resources can be found in John McMurtry’s 2002 essay “The Planetary Life Crisis: Its Systemic Cause and Ground of Resolution” from Miller and Westra’s Just Ecological Integrity: The Ethics of Maintaining Planetary Life.  Industry has declared war upon the Earth’s ecosystems, one if by land, two if by sea, and three if by air.  The combined effects of industrial activity upon planet Earth deserve our study both 1) as to what we are doing to the planet and 2) as to alternative, “post-capitalist” ways of subsisting upon planet Earth which would not be so costly.

Doing the complete analysis of this, the “metabolism of society and nature,” will be something much more thorough than merely lobbying our legislators for climate change legislation.  It is, however, a prerequisite for better legislation.  We need to be adopting a holistic goal of ending the metabolic rift between the development of human society, and the rhythms of change in the natural world.

We aren’t, of course “there yet.”  And, just as we can’t rely upon the legislators as a crutch to solve our environmental problems, so also can’t we rely upon the experts to solve our environmental problems for us either.  The experts, as Kees van der Pijl reminds us, form a “cadre class,” which is responsible to two masters: 1) the future of the world, which would certainly be impacted by climate change, and 2) their paymasters in the various foundations and other employing agencies, who demand a sort of political allegiance (or at least a refusal to attack) in exchange for their monies.  Thus the experts may grant us the data we need to say that there’s a problem, yet may also not be willing to describe the revolutionary solution necessary to solve the problem.

One way of proceeding democratically is what Richard Kahn calls “ecopedagogy,” and Kahn’s ideas are outlined in his recommended new book “Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Planetary Crisis.”  Kahn’s ideas fall within what is now the mainstream of critical pedagogy — the central focus is upon education as the function of a social movement to change society, leaving education as the function of an inequitable, unjust, and destructive society to its own devices.  Do we have educational institutions dedicated to the social change necessary to solve the abrupt climate change problem?  Can we create such institutions?


So what I’m saying, then, is that we really need to spend time with society, with its “mainstream” members, if we hope to refocus the whole of society toward the goal of a solution to abrupt climate change.  “Mainstream” society, it can be assumed, has other priorities.  If the Senate could not be bothered to do anything about abrupt climate change, it’s not likely that a lot of public pressure was put upon said Senate.

It’s clear, then, that there are things getting in the way of the public’s interest in abrupt climate change.  The most important of these has got to be the economy.  How shall I put this delicately?  We are at a time in history in which the super-rich are consolidating their gains while the middle class is disappearing.  People are concerned about losing their jobs, about working conditions, about being able to appreciate the “good things in life” in their time off.  And it is generally understood that this is what people should be doing with their lives — politics junkies are generally regarded as a marginal subset of a society which pursues “leisure” in the hours not devoted to “work” (or at least to looking for work, an even more painful activity per se).  So we are in a bind here.  How are we to pay attention to abrupt climate change if we are too busy making a living?  Perhaps a more equitable economy would allow us to focus upon abrupt climate change.

Moreover, we really haven’t exhausted all of the strategies available to us for “doing something” about abrupt climate change.  Awhile ago I suggested a field of study around this topic — post-capitalist environmental design.  The ideas of the 21st century socialists need to be applied in this country.  And so on.

So you can see that there’s no need to mope, nor to spend a lot of time with “Democrat cowardice” (unlike Something The Dog Said, I didn’t have illusions), and plenty to do before we have the critical mass necessary to change world society.  But first: breathe deeply… clear the mind of distractions… and focus.


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  1. as anyone with a subscription to FishOutofWater’s diaries can tell you.  Now we just need some rethink.

    • Edger on July 27, 2010 at 18:41

    they push us past the point of no return, then they figure they won’t have to make any attempt at doing anything about it and they’ll be off the hook?

    • Edger on July 27, 2010 at 18:49

  2. …. in any way, shape, or form, have the ability to influence legislation.

    It was some pretty awesome stagecraft, that was.  

    Apparently this particular Administration and the Senate leadership (not necessarily the Majority Leader)  have cut some sort of deal that the domestic price of fuel stays relatively low, and stable in supply, and in return, no body will rock the boat and let through any sort of policy changes for the duration.

    I think the House Democrats are rather shell shocked at this point because they have to go out there and campaign on this crap.  After they dutifully vote on passing yet another war supplemental to keep throwing money down the mid east rathole.  The President is perfectly willing and able to backstab whomever necessary to remain popular with the Republican base he thinks he has-  and does not.  

    If they thought this was a “real” problem, they’d be doing something about it-  they don’t think it’s a real problem.

    Which leads to the “other problem-”   does anyone in the MSM have enough nerve to ask directly why the President is deliberately bagging on climate change, because God knows they will never let any of the now nearly neutered blogosphere, other than the right wing, near the guy ever again.  

    How about the science community ?  Should they just stop teaching it to save their jobs in academia at this point ?  Because we’re dumping a whole lotta CO2 into the atmosphere and the governments are saying Keep Going, we don’t care ?

    The paymasters-  we keep on insisting on devoting an immense chunk of our wealth to protecting the supply of, and burning stuff that is harder and harder to find, and the burning dissipates up into the atmosphere where it will slowly suffocate us all out-  seems like “they” decided to let it run its course until the fossil fuels run out.  

    • banger on July 28, 2010 at 13:58

    Very simple. First of all, from a political point of view the situation is hopeless. The the overwhelming majority of the American people don’t want to do anything much about climate change other than recycle or get better light bulbs etc. Americans don’t want to stop being Americans. The essence of being an American is being an economic animal that sees value in the ability to use money to create a “dream” a fantasy reality and, more to the point, a fantasy self. This is why we live in a culture of narcissism. It’s all about “me.”

    Cassiodorus, for some reason I feel this is the most important diary we have had around here for some time. In the end, the existence of climate change as an issue is the only real issue we face as a culture. Not poverty, war, jobs, the economy can touch it–they are candles in the sun. The issue of climate change is a direct challenge to all of us. Even if the actual science turns out to be fundamentally flawed (very unlikely) the fact that, as far as we know, this could well lead to a number of tipping points (see With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change for an examination of some of those tipping points). Since in our society science and reason stand as pillars of our society to reject climate change science is to reject science and reason both.

    The evidence for the mass rejection of science and reason is stunning and should be obvious to all readers here. Say you were to tell someone that there was a 40% chance that their house would blow up in two hours–what would happen. I won’t answer that but it is the same. Risk analysis is a central part of any sane business plan yet, when it comes to climate change risk analyses are not made by societies leaders. Why?

    Frankly, we can only conclude that our society has gone mad. I think the evidence is everywhere. The wars we are fighting are insane except for those who profit and those soldiers who just plain enjoy killing injuns like General Mattis but it’s pretty much embedded in military culture, something the American people choose to ignore in their boundless admiration for men in uniform–maybe because they too enjoy seeing people killed as is exhibited by the fascination with violence in popular culture.

    We are a culture without a center, without leadership, without purpose other than feeding the lower-brain junk, i.e., William Burroughs saw the heart of America and riffed on it. Junkies! We are fucking junkies and the sooner we face up to that fact the better for each of us—yes, I include myself in this.

    I see no movement anywhere addressing any of the central problems we face. I see no creative solutions or proposals that are based on reality perhaps, in part, because of the internet itself–see Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. My point, ladies and gentlemen, is that we’re seriously fucked collectively and personally. In fact, suicide bombers are looking less insane as time goes on.

    I agree with you Cass on taking a breather. This situation is way too important to just react. We are all deeply implicated here. And we have to take the time here and think this whole thing out very carefully and rigorously without running away into ego-trips or wanting to be right.

    Personally I have come to some tentative conclusions. We need to find out who we really are. If you can shut your mind off for a moment you will see that you still exist. You will also see, as when you see something of great beauty or you are encountering great danger that you continue to exist yet you feel a curious sense of peace and a spaciousness you never knew was there before. This experience of the Self is very important and, I believe, without which we are fucking doomed. All roads are blocked politically, socially, economically. We have two choices, go to war or go inside for strength because right now we ain’t got any fucking strength. Since the last election the White House has been kicking sand in the face of the left and only a very small segment reacts–when Jane Hamsher suggested some possible and sensible alliances with the right she was demonized to an absurd degree. There is no political way to address climate change. There is no economic way, particularly now, to address climate change. There is no cultural way to address climate change, even the thought of a few artists standing up and holding concerts will not do anything to the constant onslaught of fantasy violence, sex, and silly lower brain drama’s that stream out of the corporate sewer to feed the majority populations need for junk and ever worse junk. There is no way out. There is no fucking way out! Except in.

    When we go inward and discover who we really are something can happen. If I just do it then I just have peace. To me complete destruction of the world or myself is sad but, ultimately, so what. The “I” that is realy me is pure consciousness and it cannot disappear. At the same time, I know that I must work with others to fulfill something. I know I need to write this in order to bring others to be fully present in the real, in the now, before any of the laudable political changes can be made.  

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