Saving The World 101
March 11, 2019 10:28 AM   Subscribe

“The core question: is a politics of rejecting industrialism realistic given material conditions? Is it scientific in Engels’s sense? I will argue that this anti-industrial vision of ecosocialism is “unscientific”: its vision of the future is based in a romantic rejection of the material conditions that confront us.“ Ecosocialism: Dystopian and Scientific - On March 15, the Climate Kids Are Coming: A massive, international, youth-led mobilization will demand action on the climate crisis. (The Nation) “Remarkably, the US’ historically high percentage of federal spending during World War II would put it at the low end of present-day spending in Europe.” The Green New Deal Needs WWII-Scale Ambition - “So American workers are getting smacked in the head by a vicious federal administration, and the conservation groups are over in La La Land, trying to figure out 10 years later why they can’t implement the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Neither of those laws have ever been fully implemented, ever.” Meeting the Standard : Jane McAlevey On the strained relation between unions and environmentalists, the limits of narrative change, and a winning strategy for a Green New Deal.
posted by The Whelk (40 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
We are not going to de-technologize, at least not voluntarily. There is no version of the future in which we collectively and voluntarily dismantle the life support systems we are on. Like it or not, we now have to terraform earth if we are going to survive.

And we have to stop blaming our predicament on wealthy industrialists or the ruling class. If you got all the wealthy industrialists into one giant room and told them "stop it" in a way that was so convincing they decided to "stop it," they wouldn't know how -- and neither would you. This is not a story with a villain. The villain is an easy out.
posted by argybarg at 10:47 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


they wouldn't know how -- and neither would you. This is not a story with a villain

Especially the 2nd part. Some people imagine themselves as Captain Planet in some fashion, but humans, on average, will choose 10% cheaper tomatoes or whatever instead of doing what it takes.

[waits for placement of soap box and claims of "well I..."]
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 12:02 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


[B]iocommunism is ecological planning. Integral to Marx’s original concept of species being [Gattungswesen] was the need for a regulated metabolic exchange between nature and humanity that would prevent the “universal poisoning” of the new industrial cities. Such poisoning today reaches biospheric dimensions, dramatically discrediting the benevolence of the invisible hand. Chaotic climate change is compelling a tacit acceptance, even in reformist cap-and-trade or carbon tax schemes, that industry requires a discipline super-ordinate to profit, and even making utterable formerly unspeakable thoughts such as an equalitarian rationing of energy use across the planetary population. On all these fronts, the issue Marx saw as critical to human species-being, the possibility for its democratic, distributed, associative planning, comes to the fore.--Twenty-First Century Species-Being / Nick Dyer-Witheford
posted by No Robots at 12:07 PM on March 11


they wouldn't know how -- and neither would you. This is not a story with a villain

Especially the 2nd part. Some people imagine themselves as Captain Planet in some fashion, but humans, on average, will choose 10% cheaper tomatoes or whatever instead of doing what it takes.


This sounds like a lot of apologia for the ruling classes, if you ask me. In a just, egalitarian, and fully democratic society, nobody would allow their local lakes to be polluted or their planet to be baked just so they could spend 10% less on tomatoes.

Under capitalism, that's a choice that the people don't get to make. Ask the residents of Flint, Michigan how clean they'd like their water to be. Capitalism drives us toward constant, unrelenting economic growth and production, even if the goods being produced are unnecessary and their byproducts destroy our ability to survive as a species. This is a systemic problem.

But that doesn't mean there aren't villains. Those who profit off our current system and take major steps to prevent us from doing anything to fix it are surely villains. Do you think it's all good that Exxon executives knew about human-caused climate change in the 70's and spent the following 40 years intentionally sowing doubt about it so they could maintain their profit margins?
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 12:18 PM on March 11 [28 favorites]


This is not a story with a villain.

(Image of oil bros Bin Salman and Putin high fiving over how good they are at killing the rest of us)

As for getting a bunch of people in a room to stop it... we did that, and it’s the perennial UN reports, and they say: it’s solvable, we know how to solve it, it’s within our power, and we can do it.
posted by cricketcello at 12:54 PM on March 11 [7 favorites]


"In a just, egalitarian, and fully democratic society, nobody would allow their local lakes to be polluted or their planet to be baked just so they could spend 10% less on tomatoes."

Have we even had one of those before? Until we do, isn't how people would behave in that environment just an assumption?
posted by Selena777 at 1:12 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


Re: climate change and villains: There are certainly a lot of systemic factors, and a lot of societal inertia and human nature, but like, there's also a lot of very rich people who have protected their own interests through tactics that make everything much worse for everyone else.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:17 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Have we even had one of those before? Until we do, isn't how people would behave in that environment just an assumption?

I'm not an anthropologist, and I haven't finished reading The Ecology of Freedom yet, so I can't really speak to the historical side of this question, but I have to say I think it's a pretty safe assumption that, when freed from hierarchical domination and empowered to govern themselves, people will opt to preserve a livable environment for themselves.

Actually, one real-world example does come to mind. The libertarian socialist society of Rojava bakes ecological sustainability into its constitution and is currently conducting enormous tree planting campaigns in their region.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:23 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


CNBC, 12/2018: Americans have reached consensus on the need to act in response to climate change with one conspicuous exception: Republicans. . . . Overall, 66 percent of Americans now say they've seen enough evidence to justify action, up from 51 percent two decades ago.

It's not a coincidence that the one group blocking popular will on climate change action is the party that has made itself into the staunchest cheerleaders for unchecked capitalism. Fossil fuel corporations have poured millions into disinformation to cover up the scope of their responsibility for climate change. There certainly are bad actors to blame here.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:34 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


I don’t deny that there are bad actors. The people who will be thought of as ignominious in the future will have earned it. But they didn’t cause this. Human behavior, in the aggregate, did.

If the oil companies covered up evidence of the fact of climate change, then shame on them. But the same information was freely available everywhere. I remember reading about the facts of climate change in the mid-80s. We’ve known what we need to know in order to act, and we haven’t done it.

If corporations made trillions off of polluting activities, it is because billions of people paid them for those goods and services. If we beheaded the CEOs we would still need (or want) what their corporations provide. And not for private jets; for oil paints, or hospital beds, or whiteboards for classrooms, or crocheting supplies, or lighting a concert, or dialysis pumps, or countless other benign or even wonderful goods and services.

We know all this. No one is hiding the information. We have not acted collectively.

Why? Well, science is hard, and climate change is kind of non-intuitive. The consequences haven’t really arrived yet. The solutions are all a ponderous cross-thread of dependencies, and all involve voluntary sacrifice. And it all might make things merely very bad instead of nightmarish.

As for a just, rational society with a lot of foresight — anyone against that? Not me. Count me in!
posted by argybarg at 2:29 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]




Under capitalism, that's a choice that the people don't get to make. Ask the residents of Flint, Michigan how clean they'd like their water to be.

Or you could ask the many people who lived under non-capitalism how that worked out for them.

Some of Europe’s most famously polluted towns didn’t happen under capitalism. Just once I wish western communists would have something to say about the absolute disaster that communism was all over the world for the social, political, economic, and environmental situation of the citizen who suffered under it.

Actually, one real-world example does come to mind. The libertarian socialist society of Rojava bakes ecological sustainability into its constitution and is currently conducting enormous tree planting campaigns in their region.

The communist dictatorship I grew up in had some nice things to say in the country’s constitution about the need to protect the environment (we even had little signs nailed to trees!) and lots of publicly praised tree-planting campaigns. The only thing that actually contributed to the preservation of some forest was the fact that our dictator liked to hunt and fancied himself a descendant of the kings who are frequently presented as succesful hunters in heraldry and legend. That, and the money to be made from selling hunting licences to (mostly) foreigners.

Please don’t present communism as a saviour unless you have the honesty to tackle the question of how communism v2 is going to differ from version 1.

I’m sorry, but a lot of this ‘we can preserve the same standard of living the western middle classes have enjoyed these last few decades, raise everyone else to the same standards, AND save the world at the same time if only we bash capitalism/ the patriarchy enough’ is wishful thinking from A to Z.

I wish thinking steered away from ideological platitudes and toward concrete strategies and solutions regardless of the 'church' proposing them. It's highly doubtful that a one-pronged solution exists, anyway, so derision and wholesale rejection of ecosocialism or techno-ecology or whatever else is just a way of passing time without doing anything.
posted by doggod at 3:07 PM on March 11 [10 favorites]


The point I was making was that people in a "just, egalitarian, and fully democratic society" wouldn't pursue ecological catastrophes the way capitalist society does. I don't see how Romania's one-party Marxist-Leninist dictatorship fits that description.

Please don’t present communism as a saviour unless you have the honesty to tackle the question of how communism v2 is going to differ from version 1.

I mean, you're not going to like this argument, but the USSR wasn't actually communist (despite what they said), it was a form of state capitalism that replaced the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with a dictatorship of an unaccountable, bureaucratic state apparatus. The eventual theoretical goal of communism as an ideology is to eliminate hierarchies of domination, and eventually the need for the state. Romania definitely wasn't trying to do that.

In referencing Rojava, I was talking about a society based on Murray Bookchin's Communalist theory, which differs from Marxism-Leninism in huge ways. Communalism is explicitly anti-statist, and prioritizes direct democracy above all, in the form of a federated network of hyperlocal communes. It's actually closer to anarchism than the typical marxist prescriptions. It's hard to say what a system like this would lead to, but probably not the same end-state as the USSR at least.

TL;DR: There are plenty of ways to be anti-capitalist without imitating the USSR.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 3:22 PM on March 11 [8 favorites]


This is not a story with a villain. The villain is an easy out.

I disagree. I am the villain. I am a villain.

It's the whole story of becoming woke. You wake up and you realize you're complicit. Deciding then "there are no villains" is a non sequitur. The better explanation is internalized oppression, or something.
posted by polymodus at 3:48 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


We have not acted collectively. Why? Well, science is hard, and climate change is kind of non-intuitive.

I sat in the room 14 years ago when Steven Chu gave his talk on climate change, nowhere did he predict that society would fail to deal with anthropogenic climate change because science is too hard and climate change has nonobvious properties.
posted by polymodus at 3:57 PM on March 11


We are not going to de-technologize, at least not voluntarily.

You know what I wish for? More than anything?

It's that we, as a society, could say "fuck the economy" and carve out spaces for people who really do want to live small lives with as little technology as possible. I'm a computer programmer, but every minute I spend doing tech stuff makes me miserable. I'm tired of filling out long pages of forms and spending countless hours on the phone with bureaucrats and tabulating figures. I'm much happier weaving and taking care of chickens and making wine out of elderberries and swinging an axe.

I know it'll never happen, but I'm sick of this world that we've created and how we're all miserable and enslaved to it. I just want to get off the ride. I don't need electricity. I just need time and space.
posted by ragtag at 4:03 PM on March 11 [10 favorites]


nowhere did he predict that society would fail to deal with anthropogenic climate change because science is too hard and climate change has nonobvious properties.

Since we live in a representational democracy and not Plato’s Republic, such a prediction would have been accurate. We can’t tackle this problem without widespread agreement and understanding.
posted by argybarg at 4:07 PM on March 11


we are not going to win the masses of workers with a socialist program based on what Leigh Phillips calls “drudgery for all.” Capitalism has produced the first society where the vast majority need not work in agriculture. A reversal of this is not politically possible or desirable.

QFT, and thanks for the the ammo, I keep having this argument with a friend who thinks we all need to go ‚back to the land‘. Mowing the lawn once a week is enough for me, personally.(*)

(*) carbon-neutral push mower, fwiw
posted by The Toad at 4:58 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


[One comment deleted. "Fuck you" is not okay here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:35 PM on March 11


It's that we, as a society, could say "fuck the economy" and carve out spaces for people who really do want to live small lives with as little technology as possible.

We have those.

The broader problem is that going off and living a small life with as little technology as possible is not going to be sustainable if the society around you destroys the planetary ecosystem that even (perhaps even especially) your small, technology-free society is dependent on. Running off to the Shire won't solve the problem.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:09 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


For once putting aside all the discussion about capitalism: I'm really excited about the March 15 action. It could be huge.

It's been all hands on deck organising for this the past couple of weeks. Postering, flyering, lecture bashing, making sure we don't know a single person who doesn't know about it.

The Trotskyists were passing motions in lectures to get entire units to agree to all walk off together, but then, in the single most progressive move any of us have ever seen the uni do, administration announced yesterday that they're not going to penalize anyone for striking on Friday.

Even without that, we've had great support from the faculty as well, comrades within the National Tertiary Education Union have also been onside and doing what they can, promoting it in their lectures and the like and giving us as much time as possible to spruik it in any possible gaps.

Not that we're going to be relenting until it's done and dusted, but penetration has been pretty good and we're getting a little hopeful. I suppose we'll just have to see.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:57 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Some of Europe’s most famously polluted towns didn’t happen under capitalism...Please don’t present communism as a saviour unless you have the honesty to tackle the question of how communism v2 is going to differ from version 1.

For starters, we wouldn't be attempting to rapidly industrialize a largely feudal/agrarian society, as was the case in the USSR. This is not a simple question, and I'm sure there are people more versed in the theory than I am, but I'd say this is a fairly significant difference.
posted by asnider at 8:34 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


There seems to be an awful lot of romanticizing of pre-industrial society. Most people on the planet today can credit industrial production of food, clothing, medicine, sanitation, communication, and much more for simply being alive. This forum exists thanks to industrialization and capitalism, for goodness sake.

Laissez-faire capitalism and unfettered industrialization can lead (and has led) to excesses and inequality, and thus needs more regulation, oversight and enforcement. We are seeing that start to happen. However replacing the current system with some sort of “eco-communism,” would amount to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

In fact our best chances for developing the technologies that can save us from ecological disaster are to incentivize the creative forces of capitalism and industrialization to addressing the issues. Solar and wind energy, better batteries, electrification of ttransportation, and even removing CO2 from the air are some of the technologies that companies and individuals are pursuing in the hopes of making money.
posted by haiku warrior at 10:07 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


As Marx was very happy to point out, Capitalism did muster far more powerful forces of innovation and production than previous economies, even if this comes at the cost of massive exploitation and environmental wreckage. Most leftists are not calling for a reversion to a more primitive mode of production (unless you're talking to anarcho-primitivists, who we can safely ignore imo). Rather, communists, socialists, and even most anarchists are calling for an evolution to a more innovative and rational form of economy. If the public were in charge of where our own money goes, and if workers were in charge of the work we do, imagine how much more easily we could prioritize the development of green tech and how much more efficient we could be in designing and implementing it.

Decouple our economy from the profit motive and you don't need carefully tinkered incentives that only lightly touch capital's rapacious and inherent environmental destructiveness. All we would need is popular will, and we already have that if we could just remove our shackles.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 10:18 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


In a just, egalitarian, and fully democratic society, nobody would allow their local lakes to be polluted or their planet to be baked just so they could spend 10% less on tomatoes.

This sounds like an article of faith to me. I think people absolutely would do something like that, and in fact make all sorts of totally stupid, shortsighted decisions all the time, even when they are not under external pressure to do so.

At the very least, I think assuming that everyone would just hold hands and sing Kumbaya if the right political environment is built is... a dangerous assumption.

There's always going to be somebody who doesn't give a shit about the lake and thus doesn't care about it and eats a lot of tomatoes, so as far as they're concerned it makes perfect sense to pollute the lake to save money on tomatoes. Or maybe they don't think that animals have souls or whatever, so they're fine with industrial-slaughterhouse beef. Some people are going to do that stuff, and aggressively promulgate their justification for doing so, just to fuck with other people.

There are people who will look at your hypothetical just, egalitarian, and fully democratic society, and put their whole hearts into trashing it; they will literally shit in the lake for zero reason at all, just because they can, absent a compelling and immediate reason not to. Not everyone, and certainly not the majority of people, but enough that if there's not some system that provides a feedback mechanism to keep that sort of thing in check, they'll eventually ruin it for everyone else.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:42 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


It's not possible for people to govern themselves rationally in an egalitarian society? That's really reactionary stuff, and sounds like a lot of bull to justify maintaining an unjust system where the wealthy and powerful decide what happens to our lakes (or our communities, or our medicine, or our climate) without our input.

Yes, there will always be people who want to do the wrong thing. The solution to that problem in a democracy is to engage in politics. A level playing field would result in healthier democratic politics. An egalitarian, post-capitalist, locally-oriented, directly democratic society wouldn't always make perfect decisions, but we'd get more positive outcomes than we do now.

Unless you think the few unaccountable and unreachable billionaires controlling our society's purse strings can make more ethical and ecologically sound decisions for the rest of us than we can ourselves, in which case I don't know what world you're living in.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 12:10 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't say it's not possible for people to govern themselves rationally. But it makes such scarce appearances in human history that I think we need some compelling material and structural changes before we can reasonably believe in it. I don't quite know what "a level playing field" is — lotsa missing and crucial details in that phrase, let alone a plan for how to arrive at one.

As for "egalitarian, post-capitalist, locally-oriented, directly democratic" -- those are more outcomes than they are means. "Post-capitalist" is missing just about every crucial detail. It's not as if there's some easily definable paradise just past capitalism, if only we would go there.

A locally-oriented and directly democratic society could also produce nightmares. Remember the segregations felt they were fighting for their self-determination and right to govern themselves without interference. It won't due to say that such bad outcomes won't happen because we'll be wiser and more egalitarian. Why will we? Because we say so?

I'm very much in favor of what Benjamin Barber calls "strong democracy," with extensive citizen participation at all levels. I think marginal tax rates on the ultra-wealthy should go way up. I also don't think either will magically resolve the disconnect between individuals, who generally reason and plan and behave according to some moral code, and the human aggregate, which is more like a weather system. And I certainly don't think such societal improvements will put less than a tiny dent into the dilemma we're in with climate change.
posted by argybarg at 2:20 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Would love to hear stories from anybody participating at any of tomorrow's strike locations. I've been involved with the multi-city coordination here in Italy - and though it's taken a bit for the local kids to find their voice, the groundswell, both of the reiterated Italian Fridays For Future as well as for the imminent Global Strike has been really notable to feel/watch.

Here's a delegation of strike inspirers from various countries at the European parliament yesterday; to see an empty chamber there, too... is a sign this won't be over any time soon.
posted by progosk at 10:35 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Today started so fucking well and now it's just fucking shit.

The protest was huge. 20k plus I'm told, although at that point it's impossible for me to judge with any accuracy. Great vibes, wonderful politics, huge energy.

The bloody horse cops tried arresting one of us for jaywalking but people were able to get them de-arrested. Get those animals off those horses.

And then Christchurch broke. Apparently he's from Sydney. Several of my coms left because they didn't feel safe at all any more. I'm just a wreck. I know this happens but this feels so close to home. If this is how it feels for me I can't begin to imagine what it's like for hijabi coms.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:37 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Here's a Twitter mega-thread (70+ tweets) with pictures and video clips of student climate protests around the world. Every continent is represented. The protests in the US are growing. Apparently Italy had around a million protesters country-wide. Nelson College students in New Zealand did a haka. It's pretty damn inspiring.

"[THREAD] Greta has been on #ClimateStrike for 30 weeks now. Today, she will be joined by students all over the world in over 123 countries on all continents. Only one word for this. Historical."
posted by homunculus at 2:51 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]






As I mentioned in the political megathread, one of the things that makes me hopeful about this is that the international bonds these politically conscious young people are forging through this movement could make them the first truly global cosmopolitan generation in history, if they can hang on to their idealism, and their connections to each other, of course. This may be where the pendulum starts swinging back from the nationalization that's been on the rise world-wide for sometime.
posted by homunculus at 9:47 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]




The youth are reading Marx again!
posted by The Whelk at 11:31 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]




The youth are reading Marx again!

I wonder if any of them have seen China’s dreamy Karl Marx anime.
posted by homunculus at 4:35 PM on March 18


Greta's latest statement is her most elaborate to date.

People keep asking me ”what is the solution to the climate crisis.” And how do we ”fix this problem”. They expect me to know the answer.
That is beyond absurd as there are no ”solutions” within our current systems. No one ”knows” exactly what to do. That’s the whole point. We can’t just lower or heighten some taxes or invest in some ”green” funds and go on like before.

Yes there are many many things that are very good and necessary, and improves the situation. Such as solar- and wind power, circular economy, veganism, sustainable farming and so on. But even those are just parts of a greater picture.

We can no longer only focus on individual and separate issues like electrical cars, nuclear power, meat, aviation, bio fuels etc etc. We urgently need a holistic view to adress the full sustainability crisis and the ongoing ecological disaster. And this is why I keep saying that we need to start treating the crisis as the crisis it is. Because only then - and only guided by the best available science (as is clearly stated throughout the Paris Agreement) can we together start creating the global way forward.
But that can never happen as long as we allow the ”yeah-but-what-about-nuclear-power-then-debate” to go on and on and on. This is wasting our time. This is climate delayer-ism. We need to keep a great number of thoughts in our head at same time and yet move forward with the changes at unprecedented speed.


[...]

Once you have done your homework, you realize that we need new politics. We need a new economics, where everything is based on our rapidly declining and extremely limited carbon budget.

But that is not enough. We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win. To get power. That must come to an end. We must stop competing with each other. We need to start cooperating and sharing the remaining resources of this planet in a fair way. We need to start living within the planetary boundaries, focus on equity and take a few steps back for the sake of all living species.
We are just passing on the words of the science. Our only demand is that you start listening to it. And then start acting.

posted by progosk at 12:40 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


This weekly news broadcast from Radio Sweden (in English, 22min), in addition to briefly interviewing Greta, says that this year will be the second unusually dry year in a row in Sweden. I wonder if that means we'll be seeing forest fires above the Arctic Circle there again.
posted by XMLicious at 2:37 PM on March 21




Here is Greta addressing the audience of the German TV Oscars the other night, in another timely lesson of how to use even the most unlikely platform to maximum effect.
posted by progosk at 12:47 AM on April 1


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