In Case You’ve Been on Mars

or perhaps if you are investigating our sorry epoch as a survivor sometime in the distant future, the single article that may best summarize our quandary might well be this one, Climate change: some reasons for our failures, by Robert Manne, via the Guardian.

While I don’t like framing this as a left/right issue, this bit is particularly insightful:

the challenge of the global warming crisis represents something the Left has never before faced—an injustice perpetrated not by one class or race or gender or majority on another but of one generation—ours—on all the generations of both humans and other species yet unborn.

The radical Left is used to fighting for justice for those presently living on the basis of class or race or gender or membership of a threatened minority. It has no experience of calling upon their own generation to wage a struggle for justice and to undergo sacrifices not for the present but for future generations. Fighting for the lives of generations not yet born is both a historically novel situation and one more distant and abstract than the great emancipatory struggles of the past.




  1. Pingback: Another Week of Climate Disruption News, July 28, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  2. Surprised to discover I don't like this much. It's close to the kind of style I learned in undergrad politics, I'm not sure it really gives us a great deal. Particularly, I really want to see climate change articles and reports that do *not* mention "psychological unwillingness of the character type produced within the consumer society to recognise the necessity for material sacrifice and even the existence of limits" // "neo-liberalism since about 1980 with its worship of the magic of the market and its ideological unwillingness to acknowledge that climate change represents" or any of that.

    There's a version of a climate future where massive gas-guzzling humvees have filthy races in the desert, where, generally, some people over-consume and where, by any leftie standards, there's awful inequality. It's one where the gas is some carbon-free fuel, but the principle will be the same. I might not like it politically, but it's perfectly possible - really, obviously possible. There have, thus far in human history, always been limits - economics is all about those scarce resources (and also about thinking how you might go about increasing them - again, within existing limits).

    Adjusting to climate change may mean back-tracking a bit on the limit line and that's a problem but, politically, if a market-oriented, right-of-centre bunch of ideas manage to address climate change effectively - for the time being - that beats my own personal desire for other left-of-centre ideals. I completely don't buy that you can only solve climate change by also ticking a number of equality boxes.

    The article makes this point itself ,really, by talking at length about the example of China: it's not neoliberal. It's a one-party economic powerhouse, maybe something new, politically - but at the very least it demonstrates that such a government is likely to prioritise short-term social stability over climate goals. Getting rid of neoliberalism wouldn't really help, would it?

    As I say, despite being instinctively left-of-centre, I want see somewhere where all vaguely leftie language has been extracted from climate articles. I want to see sharp right-wing thinkers arguing with us over this.

    Probably stupid: it's not as if they should be held back from doing so by the fact that so many people blur climate change and left-of-centre ideas. People from all points on the political compass should be able to clearly see what the science is telling us. But this article fits a particular left-of-centre university politics discourse that doesn't really help engender genuine political discussion.

  3. I'm not sure that I disagree with you but I am unaware of any right-wing thinkers who are not into a version of denial, e.g., at best, the "no need to worry as the technology will save us" crowd. Your "obviously possible" high consumption high inequality future sounds like it might fit that pattern. Given my understanding of the current situation, it amounts to nothing more than confidence, or a presumption, that someone will invent something and we'll all be saved. Business as usual. Am I missing a point?

    I have a vague notion that I have encountered a very very few right-wing enthusiasts who appear to agree that climate change is a human-caused problem, and a genuine problem at that, but if they exist they either don't talk much or are drowned out by the prevailing theme of denial or the technologically miraculous. Seriously, can you name someone who takes climate seriously and who hasn't been disowned by the right wing? That apparent inability to deal with the situation seems consistent with the implicit belief that if no one invents the new miracle technology, we're all better off as dead Ayn Rand followers anyway.

    The most promising ideas I've read about all seem to require a level of social cooperation and government involvement that hasn't been seen here since the New Deal and that seems virtually impossible at the moment given the current state of the federal government, i.e., conservative to neo-liberal. I am not at all happy with the idea that we all have to embrace left politics to get anywhere with climate, but I see no right-wingers anywhere in this discussion (again, short of business as usual it will all work out know-nothings). Again, what am I missing?

  4. Dan,

    but, politically, if a market-oriented, right-of-centre bunch of ideas manage to address climate change effectively – for the time being – that beats my own personal desire for other left-of-centre ideals.

    What ideas?

    Artificial carbon markets perhaps? Carbon based currency? (E.g. - As far as me European understands the U.S. right, their view of "the market" is maximum anarchy (e.g. deregulation, resulting in recent financial catastrophe). But since Aristotle it is well known that markets need regulation and oversight, which seems a lefty idea in U.S. minds. Worship of the Invisible Hand of the Market plus denial of physical reality look like the definition of the U.S. right. I can't imagine how anything helpful can come from this side. (And me cynic tries hard - e.g. I'm the inventor of the Greenland cannibal concentration camp 2077.) While there may be sharp right wing thinkers, the problem seems their thinking is not reality based. (Like e.g. pope emeritus Joseph Ratzinger's sharp thinking on population issues.))

    I completely don’t buy that you can only solve climate change by also ticking a number of equality boxes.

    Here I'm with you.

  5. Please feel free to identify the point I'm missing, but given the content of the article, wouldn't a more accurate title be "Why it's Useless to Talk about Climate Change with a Conservative"? The example of GE at the end of the article says as much, suggesting that we need to do a series of energy related technological fixes that eventually solve the problem without actually letting on that we're dealing with climate change. Tell me what I'm missing, but it looks like yet another variation on "no worries - technology will save us all" but we have to do it semi-secretly. And the "We're all a bit irrational" line looks like it was taken straight from the New York Times playbook on "objectivity."

  6. Everybody in America has a fantasy of starting a new party; nobody does it. Nothing of the sort has succeeded in over a century.

    The Republicans are irreparable. It's not clear that the Democrats are far behind.

    I have a modest proposal for Americans. I would suggest starting TWO new parties, the Somewhat Liberal Party and the Somewhat Conservative Party. They should hold debates between them, model reason and compromise, and ignore the extant parties. While the old line parties continue to hang on, in each contest one of them would withdraw at the last minute in favor of the other.

    It is perfectly possible to talk to a genuine conservative about conservation. American Republicans (and, unfortunately but increasingly, right wing parties elsewhere) are not conservative, not in any sense that doesn't do violence to the language. As a rootless wanderer, I was never much of a Tory myself, but I would love to see real conservatism come back in exchange for the lunacy that has claimed its mantle. Hell, I'm even nostalgic for Nixon sometimes.

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