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In a recent piece posted to the Grist website, David Roberts tells us that "there's an emerging right-wing divide on climate change."

Now I suppose that by "right wing" Roberts means Republicans, because of course all of the Important People want to give the Democrats some space to claim that they are not conservatives.  

Even so, I wanted more evidence from Roberts that this was in fact a "divide."  I felt reinforced in my belief that Republicans have no solid opinions on climate change, but rather that they have a knee-jerk reaction to anything like climate change that would threaten their precious capitalist system (as Naomi Klein points out at the beginning of her book This Changes Everything).  What appears to be most prominently the case is that prominent Republicans are backtracking on claims that climate climate change isn't happening, or that it isn't caused by human beings.  They're starting to waffle on denial claims.  This appears most prominently in the Dana Milbank piece which Roberts cites.  Here's Dana Milbank:

But on Christmas Eve, Justin Haskins, a blogger and editor at Heartland, penned an article for the conservative journal Human Events declaring: “The real debate is not whether man is, in some way, contributing to climate change; it’s true that the science is settled on that point in favor of the alarmists.”
There's also the issue of ALEC threatening to sue people who argue that it's a denier organization, which I suppose is a landmark too.

At any rate, the new status quo after the forthcoming "conservative" (i.e. Republican) shift in position is laid out best in Roberts' conclusion:

Conservatives don’t need to deny that the healthcare system sucks to fight all healthcare solutions; they don’t need to deny that the immigration system sucks to fight all immigration solutions. Why should they need to deny climate change to fight all climate solutions?

They don’t. Denialism has just become an unnecessary distraction, one that’s hurting them culturally. They are better off just opposing any bill or regulation that comes up on the usual grounds: big government, overreach, economic misery, blackouts, blah blah. That kind of thing has worked for decades and there’s no reason it couldn’t work against climate solutions too.

So here is my question, for Roberts and others: where are these "climate solutions" that the "conservatives" (read: Republicans) are so interested in opposing?  By "climate solutions" here I don't mean symbolic stuff that is meant to improve the resumes of legislators without doing anything about the problem.  Those are career solutions, not climate solutions.  The important thing about non-solutions is that they create lots of glorious tempests in lots of pricey teapots while things get worse.  Let's argue forever about cap-and-trade systems which won't solve the problem, y'know.  Or maybe we can improve fuel efficiency standards without recognizing Jevons' Paradox, or we can set up climate change information centers which recommend more insufficient stuff, or something like that.

Let's start with the fundamental principle any and every "climate solution" must have: keeping the grease in the ground.  If it isn't extracted, it won't be burned.  So here's how it could work, in the most reformist, meat-axe way I can spell it out:

1) Every nation on Earth, as cemented by treaty, nationalizes its oil and coal and tar-sands reserves.

2) Every nation on Earth, as cemented by treaty, phases out its oil and coal and tar-sands production.

3) Everyone receives free solar panels or windmills or other non-fossil-fuel energy devices.  (This will also be cemented by treaty.)

If the Republicans don't like this solution, well, I'm sure they can put up their usual bluster about socialism and the free market being God and all that.  The thing is that, since very few people are really proposing it, the Republicans need not expend any energy opposing it.  So in reality the Republicans need not cling to climate change denial, not because real solutions involve some degree of that "socialism" which said Republicans so hate, but because real-solution denial is the status quo nearly everywhere.

Discuss

Thu Apr 02, 2015 at 03:00 PM PDT

The critique of relationships

by Cassiodorus

Relationships and nature

Much recent literature labels this time in which we live as the "Anthropocene Era" -- the term refers to a specific era of natural history in which human beings institute drastic changes upon life on Earth -- in other words, the present time.  The term "anthropocene" literally means "the era of humans."

The ecosystemic meltdown currently taking place on planet Earth, the ecological disaster we currently face, is defined through the "Anthropocene Era" term as the result of "human activity," without any reference to the human social relationships which stand as the most proximate causes of this meltdown.  In short, what we're being told is that human beings are ecological monsters pure and simple.  The Wikipedia entry on the Anthropocene offers a simple definition:

The Anthropocene is a proposed geologic chronological term for an epoch that begins when human activities have had a significant global impact on the Earth's ecosystems.
A number of questions are begged by this definition.  The most obvious one is that of what counts as a "significant global impact."  From the Wikipedia entry again:
The Anthropocene has no precise start date, but based on atmospheric evidence may be considered to start with the Industrial Revolution (late eighteenth century).[4][7] Other scientists link the new term to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture and the Neolithic Revolution (around 12,000 years BP).
But we can of course dig even further.  The human race has been on this planet for around 200,000 years.  What is so special about this portion (and indeed we are talking about a small portion indeed, maybe 6% of the total timespan) of human existence on the planet that it is characterized by such pronounced ecosystemic impact?  Well, clearly, human organization was at one point characterized by the development of agriculture, and then at later points by sophisticated technologies, from metalworking to electrical systems to air and space travel.  Perhaps, then, we might speak of a "technocene," an era of geological history in which technologically-empowered humans changed the planet.  Insofar as our relationship to the planet was massively altered by technological dissemination, we can say that we have changed the ecosystems of the planet.  It isn't just us, then -- it's our technology.  But the fact that we have technology doesn't mean we're obliged to use it destructively.  Our relationships, to the planet and to each other, are at fault.

An approach that gets us closer to the human relationship problem is suggested in an article highlighted in Jacobin online magazine this week: "The Anthropocene Myth."  Its subtitle is: "Blaming all of humanity for climate change lets capitalism off the hook."  Author Andreas Malm does not regard humans as ecological monsters: rather, for him "capital, not humanity as such" is the ecological monster in the house.  It isn't just us, then, it's capital, that changes our ecosystems, and for that we can speak of a "capitalocene."

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On Thursday of last week, Mark Lynas responded to The Guardian's decision to publish excerpts of Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything" in a response-piece titled "We must reclaim the climate change debate from the political extremes."  

Many readers of Lynas' piece will see an immediate appeal in his argument.  Lynas starts off by defining himself as a moderate, thus his subtitle: "Alarmists and deniers need to climb out of their parallel trenches, engage with the developing world and work together to end the crisis."  On the one extreme you have deniers such as James Inhofe, and on the other extreme you have anticapitalists such as Naomi Klein, and Lynas wishes to position himself in the middle:

Climate change is real, caused almost entirely by humans, and presents a potentially existential threat to human civilisation. Solving climate change does not mean rolling back capitalism, suspending the free market or stopping economic growth.
One reader of this argument concludes that it rests upon a fallacy -- the blogger Dave Cohen, author of "Decline of the Empire,"  argues that "Lynas starts off with a common fallacy, more formally called the argument to moderation (Latin, argumentum ad temperantiam)."  Just because one is a self-defined "moderate" does not mean that one is correct.  Moreover, if one wishes to discover the truth, one starts by examining arguments in their own substance, rather than merely characterizing them as implying some sort of appealing or repellent image.

From this conclusion, we would be correct to examine Lynas' arguments to see if they hold water, rather than focusing upon his attempt to grant himself an image as a climate change moderate.  A few words on Lynas himself, however, should suffice to define whose argument this is.  Most pertinently, sometime in the late zeros Mark Lynas holed himself up in a library and read all of the pertinent research on climate change.  The book he produced, Six Degrees, not only built on his previous ethnography of climate change, High Tide, but provided us readers with the most convincing dramatizations of planet Earth as transformed by climate change yet produced.  I reviewed Six Degrees here at DailyKos.com back in 2007.  

In 2011, Lynas put out a book titled "The God Species," outlining his solution to the climate change problem (which assumes further capitalist growth and relies upon carbon capture, nuclear power, and genetic engineering).  Last year, Lynas issued "Nuclear 2.0," a defense of nuclear power in light of climate change.

Lynas' most recent argument will, then, be examined below the fold.

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We don't have time to do anything effective about climate change.  So let's do something ineffective and call it a day.  We can get the greenhouse gas emissions down 5% with a cap-and-trade scheme, buy an electric car and a solar panel, and "build on our successes."

Right?  Never mind that those global carbon dioxide emissions are accelerating -- we're "making progress"! Bourgeois green rules, and besides, there is no alternative, as Saint Margaret Thatcher told us all. (end snark)

Where do we start with this argument?  We might start by asking why the politicians of today are all so enamored of cap-and-trade schemes whenever the subject of climate change comes up.  The main reason, of course, is that they promote more capitalism as a "solution" for climate change.  All the Important People like more capitalism.  Cap-and-trade schemes create a new commodity, "carbon credits," and invest said commodity with 70 billion euros of value.  That's 70 billion euros of commitment to the idea that carbon consumption doesn't go away.

Or here's a fun one.  The greenies in Australia compiled a list of scientific opinions back in 2011 or so against the cap-and-trade option.  Here's my favorite:

6. Professor Barry Brook (Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia), 2009: “1. A cap and trade mechanism is by its nature, an all consuming policy instrument that extinguishes the effectiveness of voluntary actions, harming rather than enhancing the evolution of a low carbon economy. 2. With a cap and trade approach, the target is everything as both the emissions cap and emissions floor are locked in. No one can do better than the cap, and so the cap must be a science based all consuming sustainable target pathway that won’t lock in failure. As we don’t yet have the widespread political and economic preparedness to commit to an all consuming sustainable target pathway (either nationally or internationally), the cap and trade mechanism is the wrong approach and we should instead focus on a carbon tax with complementary mechanisms that would transform the economy more effectively than the [Australian] proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).”
By the way, that last consideration of Brook's is important: "As we don’t yet have the widespread political and economic preparedness" to make it work, it won't work.  The same reasoning invalidates the carbon tax Brook wants.  We don't have the "widespread political and economic preparedness" for that, either.  And, as long as capitalism is the consensus "only option," we'll never have that preparedness, either.

Bill McKibben's excellent piece in Rolling Stone back in 2012 expressed the dilemma of capitalist efforts to rein in climate change more baldly:

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today's market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you'd be writing off $20 trillion in assets.
That asset-writeoff is the catch, then: real climate change mitigation obliges us to keep the grease in the ground -- but under capitalism "the grease" still in the ground (specifically, fossil fuel reserves) is positioned to have a commodity value that just can't be surrendered!  That's $20 trillion, right there on the table.  Think they'll walk away from it?

OK, now let's imagine that they can walk away from those all carbon credit and fossil-fuel-futures commodity values and impose a carbon tax.  And let's hope (in this regard) for the most progressive option for that carbon tax, that promoted by James Hansen -- the fee-and-dividend option, which won't kneecap the folks just trying to get to work in their fossil-fuel-burning cars because they can't afford anything else.  John Bellamy Foster:

Hansen’s climate-change exit strategy represents what is clearly a calculated attempt to push through the maximum plan that the regime of capital could conceivably accept, and the minimum necessary to avoid complete disaster. It represents a heroic effort to promote the formation of political-economic conditions that will prevent the world from crossing a catastrophic climate tipping point. In fashioning his exit strategy Hansen says little or nothing about the world’s other immense environmental challenges, despite the fact that he is the coauthor of major scientific publications on the crossing of multiple planetary boundaries—signaling a planetary environmental crisis that extends beyond global warming to other critical areas as well.
The James Hansen fee-and-dividend scheme is then an attempt to promote "the maximum plan that the regime of capital could conceivably attempt."  This, as Foster points out, doesn't do anything about the other, manifold, flaws of the capitalist system.  Foster continues:
Hansen’s climate-change exit strategy thus has definite limitations. Despite its progressive features it is mostly a top-down, elite-based strategy of implementing a carbon tax with the hope that this will spur the introduction of necessary technological changes by corporations.
Yes!  The rich will save us!  Let's hope and pray that the capitalists will go along with this scheme, and that they will fork over the money necessary to change their favorite system to a cleaner, greener one.  Yeah right.

The real problem is that the current system of political economy, capitalism, isn't really designed for the sort of major change in its energy infrastructure (never mind its relationship with Earth's ecosystems) which will be required if we are to (in Naomi Klein's words) "save the climate."  Actually, capitalism is built for eco-destruction in a wide variety of areas, from chemical pollution to plastic pollution to species extinction.  Climate change is the only one that receives any publicity -- except, of course, in Florida and a number of other states, where the appropriate officials are not allowed to talk about it.  (Future generations will not recall those officials fondly.)

Capitalism is in fact inherently eco-destructive.  The capitalists regard nature as mere "natural resources" productive of "raw materials" -- they are compelled by their fetish of commodity value to ignore nature as (as Jason W. Moore pointed out) "historically variant webs of life."  Moore again:

Capital's dynamism turns on the exhaustion of the very webs of life necessary to sustain accumulation; the history of capitalism has been one of recurrent frontier movements to overcome that exhaustion, through the appropriation of nature‟s free gifts hitherto beyond capital's reach.
What has bailed out the capitalists so far, what has kept them from seeing the eco-destruction of their ways for centuries, now, is that the frontiers of capital accumulation have been pushed back from time to time by industrial revolutions.  But industrial revolutions no longer facilitate the "green" expansion of commodity value like they used to do.  This is why I argued that alternative energy will not save capitalism late last year.

You know, a few decades down the road, people aren't really going to care a lot about our excuses, especially after much of the Earth becomes unsuitable for agriculture.  It's already happening in California.

Eventually the truth will break through to schoolchildren now trapped in school systems obsessed with what students think, rather than if they think at all.  This is because, true to the ways of capitalism, the school systems have become another cash cow.  When civilization loses its basis in agriculture, nobody's going to care if today's students pass the endless array of reading and writing and math tests to which they're now exposed.  Nor will future generations care about the present-day commodity value of Pearson stock options.  America just has to stop hiding from the connection between capitalism and climate change, and start getting the kids involved in their own real-world futures, and that's all there is to it.

"Power conceded nothing without a demand.  It never has, and it never will."  - Frederick Douglass

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This diary was provoked by a short article in Common Dreams, "On Climate, Humanity Must Rise Up Against 'Collective Shrug of Fatalism," by staff writer Jon Queally.

Overcoming "fatalism" about climate change is of course important -- but a more important goal of climate change activism is to project the right motivation (thus Queally's word, "fatalism") to attract a critical mass of activists and thus to constitute a global movement.  Telling people that climate change will result in the doom of civilization is a fair enough thing to do, by itself, but it doesn't provide them with appropriate motivation to seek efficacious solutions or to, in Naomi Klein's words, "save the climate."  

Importantly, Queally's short article is more generally about Naomi Klein's book This Changes Everything, which contains a number of ideas for providing the appropriate motivation to motivate activists to "save the climate."  In that book Klein implies that, as people join social movements and become motivated activists, the movements will at some point come together around the issue of climate change.  Thus the climate change movement is to work with already existing motivations of activists.  

Here I hope to push Klein's argument a bit further than Klein herself did.  I believe that bringing movements together can be facilitated by suggesting a movement goal beyond that of merely improving the character of more capitalism.  The movement goal I have in mind starts, but does not end, with the concept of "food sovereignty."  I will explain below the fold.

At any rate, Queally's piece in commondreams.org starts by discussing the renewed commitment of The Guardian to publish pieces about climate change, thus to overcome fatalism about it.  But Queally's piece is also about a draft version of a movie, currently being made by Klein's husband, as a sort of follow-up to Klein's book This Changes Everything:

According to sentiments shared by Rusbridger (the current editor of The Guardian) and expressed in both the film and the book, Klein and Lewis argue climate change, if properly understood, "could become a galvanising force for humanity" if a more appropriate response can overcome the pervasive denial, fear, and helplessness associated with the issue.
Much of the small segment of the movie which is embedded in Queally's piece is about tar sands mining in Alberta.  To be fair, the movie segment does recommend, through Klein's voice, a broader goal: that a number of other movements all join together in a climate change movement:
"What if," she asks, "we realized that real disaster response means fighting inequality and building a just economy – that everyone working for a healthy food system is already a climate warrior? So too, are people fighting for public transit in Brazil; housing and immigrant rights in the United States; battling austerity in Europe; extraction in Australia; pollution in China and India; environmental crime in Africa; and the bad trade deals that lock in all these ills everywhere."
Klein thusly suggests that we bring together a wide variety of social movements under the climate change banner -- she even wrote a piece on "Black lives matter," titled "Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate."  

But not all protest movements are equally effectual.  Protest movements are fine.  But protests, by themselves, are often relatively ineffectual when placed in relation to the enormous amounts of energy which goes into making them happen.  Let's say you can get thousands of people into the streets, all yelling the same thing at once.  Then they go home and business as usual continues on its merry way.  What was accomplished?  Thus Scott Walker: "If I can handle 100,000 protesters, I can defeat ISIS."  Attention Walker: it's not that you "handled" them, it's that they didn't achieve what they set out to achieve using the methods they selected.

Electoral campaigns are fine too.  But electoral campaigns which merely promote the lesser of two evils are not effective, or even important.  From that earlier diary, of 2010:

The problem with "lesser of two evils" voting is that it cedes the high ground that can be gained from having expectations of government.  All the "lesser of two evils" really has to do is to be less evil -- actually doing good does not have to be a prerequisite for obtaining (or maintaining) political office.  If you vote "lesser of two evils," then, your politicians are beholden to you for nothing.
And I don't think it's climate change, moreover, that is the main object of public attitudes of fatalism, or even of the "pervasive denial, fear, and helplessness" cited in Queally's short article as regards abrupt climate change.  Rather, it's capitalism that inspires popular fatalism, fatalism that centers around the question of what to do that doesn't just preserve the dichotomy of "capitalism vs. the climate" that is the subheading of This Changes Everything.  Or at least this is the fatalism common among those who don't assume that a mild carbon tax or a cap-and-trade scheme or a cheaper solar panel will solve all our climate change problems (and Naomi Klein is not one of those people).  

In this regard it may be useful to invoke the Naomi Klein of This Changes Everything who dared to finger capitalism as the problem.  More specifically, we should invoke the Naomi Klein of This Changes Everything who wrote a chapter in opposition to "extractivism," which she described as a "nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking" (169).  Creating a world that does not depend upon "extractivism" should be our first task.

So what to do?

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Awhile back, I wrote a diary on Star Wars, as a sort of critique of what happened to space opera and as a reminiscence of when I used to read that stuff back in high school.  I wasn't going to write a diary on Star Trek.  But this radical, visionary Leonard Nimoy obituary came out earlier this week in Jacobin on the topic of Star Trek ("Goodbye, Mr. Spock," by Leigh Phillips, 3/2/ 2015), and so as a consequence of reading it I decided to put forth my thoughts on Star Trek.

(public domain image, from Wikimedia Commons)

Star Trek originally came into focus for me with televised reruns of the original series.  When the original series came out, between 1966 and 1969, I was really too young (and not interested yet) to know what it was.  My interest in science fiction came later, in the 1970s.  When I was in sixth grade, my teacher had a small library in the back of the classroom with copies of Analog: Science Fiction/ Science Fact magazine, which is where my original interest in science fiction came from.  Star Trek, by contrast, appeared to me to be a cheap version of science fiction, adapted for television.  I was mostly interested in written science fiction, science fiction which explored ideas you wouldn't see on Star Trek.  (Another big limitation of Star Trek back then was its repetition of the spaceship-meets-planet plot mold, a mold which was only broken in 1993 with the first broadcast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.)

One of the most promising aspects of Star Trek, however, was its invitation to serious writers of science fiction to write episode screenplays.  From the Wikipedia page:

In its writing, Star Trek is notable as one of the earliest science-fiction TV series to use the services of leading contemporary science fiction writers, such as Robert Bloch, Norman Spinrad, Harlan Ellison, and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as established television writers.
Moreover, a few Star Trek episodes attempted to use science fiction as a serious vehicle to probe contemporary social issues.  Wikipedia again:
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" presented a direct allegory about the irrationality and futility of racism. Anti-war themes appear in episodes such as "The Doomsday Machine", depicting a planet-destroying weapon as an analogy to nuclear weapons deployed under the principle of mutually assured destruction, and "A Taste of Armageddon" about a society which has "civilized" war to the point that they no longer see it as something to avoid.
However, Star Trek appeared to me to be as much fantasy (as opposed to serious science fiction as a category, which I thought was supposed to use its scientifically-now-impossible plot devices sparingly) as Star Wars did when it came out in 1977.  The most fantastic Star Trek plot device, as I pointed out in my Star Wars diary, was time travel -- but then Star Trek also relied for narrative purposes upon matter transmitters (although Wookieepedia claims that someone used them in Star Wars writing), "aliens" who looked more or less like people and spoke English (through imagined technical devices of course), and "aliens" capable of magical powers (of which the ultimate example was Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation).  

Star Trek, then, relied upon a quick-and-dirty imagined version of future "science," with few narrative concessions to realism and a spirit of we-can-know-it (and "fantastic things are out there") utopianism.  As Leigh Phillips pointed out in "Goodbye, Mr. Spock,"

In his 1964 pitch for the show, Roddenberry had initially intended Spock to be half-Martian, but later changed his home world out of fear that part way through the series, if it were successful and had a long run, it was not out of the question that humanity could land on Mars and ruin the believability of the storyline.
 The instinct behind Star Trek was that alien life was everywhere in the universe, that technology could in utopian fashion ultimately satisfy all of our desires regardless of its necessary foundation in what we today call "science," and that the universe would ultimately be rendered understandable despite its initial attempts to defy our understandings of it.

These Star Trek themes became mere literary conventions.   Today they serve as reminiscences of what we once thought the future might hold, and as context for bright shiny movies (see e.g. the JJ Abrams contribution) bearing no relation to our present-day Year 2015 expectations of what the future holds.  The fact that we no longer believe in the Star Trek technological utopia in any sense is elucidated in a wonderful David Graeber piece, "Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit," which I'd encourage you all to read if you haven't done so yet.  Graeber argues that our shiny visions of the future have been replaced by bureaucratic, neoliberal, capitalism.

In this regard, Leigh Phillips' piece, the main topic of this diary, is admirable especially for its attempt to pay tribute to Spock, and thus the recently-passed actor Leonard Nimoy who played him (and who in passing removed his Spock from the realm of reality), as a major contribution to the Star Trek mythos.

Science officer Spock was of course as much a creation of actor Leonard Nimoy, who died on Thursday (2/27/2015) at age eighty-three, as of Roddenberry and the other writers who built and continue to build the Star Trek mythos. In a production memo from 1968, Roddenberry wrote: “In the beginning of the Star Trek episodes, Mr Spock was a fellow who occasionally said ‘illogical’ and that was about it. We all worked hard to build him into a fully dimensional character, and a lot of people, including Leonard Nimoy, deserve credit.”
I also liked the connections the piece makes to Spinozist logic and to socialism (as would be appropriate to a publication like Jacobin).  On Star Trek and socialism:
Discussions abound online as to whether the Federation in the various series is intended as a socialist utopia (What about the Ferengi? Does Chateau Picard mean their is still private ownership of land?), and while the series makes no explicit references to democratic planning or the market, the consensus is that, well, it does appear to be a post-scarcity socialist economy of some description, albeit with a highly hierarchical, even militarist tinge.
As regards the Ferengi: The Ferengi were intended as an alien species of "beings" (really, people) who were more or less trapped in problems of capitalism and sexism which humanity proper had overcome a long time ago.  This allowed Star Trek writers to portray critiques of capitalism within the Star Trek universe -- so, for instance, in the episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled "Bar Association," the workers in Quark's bar go on strike, and the ultimate resolution of this strike becomes a series of pretenses -- the strikers win the strike, but Quark asks them to pretend that the union never existed because he feels obliged to look good as a Ferengi businessman.  Thus a fundamental problem of wages and of worker power is transformed into a mere cultural conflict with the socialist society of Star Trek, resolvable through the manipulation of appearances.

Ultimately, though, the appearance of Star Trek in our own culture represents a problem of our present-day capitalist culture.  The dwindling away of the "Space Age" is itself a problem of capitalism.  Since there is no perceived profit in "going where no-one has gone before," the space program, and the fantastic dreams which once accompanied it, have been dramatically scaled back -- and thus Phillips concludes that the reinvigoration of the public sector is a prerequisite to the rediscovery of those dreams, because the profit motive won't get us there by itself:

Whether manned or otherwise, space exploration is simply too expensive with too little promise of profitable return for the private sector to care about anything beyond the servicing of low-Earth-orbit satellites.
And then he laments:
Could it be that an unrecognized casualty of neoliberalism has been the forward-looking optimism of both the Left and Right? That neoliberalism and the global defeat of workers’ movements have resulted in a decadent bourgeoisie more interested in looting short-term profits than investing in new technology, research, and exploration?
The problem, of course, is that the "Left" has become a mirage Left, offering tantalizing visions of utopia which become "sold out" once anyone tries to put them into practice. We should have ended hunger and poverty a long time ago, for instance, but is anyone even thinking of doing that anymore?  And, as for the "Right," all there really is there is a reactionary historical residue, a series of different tint-shadings for the longing for some imagined past (much in the way in which 1968's Presidential candidate George Wallace was motivated by a longing for the return of racial segregation).  Political vision, then, has more or less congealed in a competition between varieties of conservatism, or pushed to the margins.

As for neoliberalism -- well, for a postcapitalism of Star Trek caliber to emerge on Earth, first capitalism has to die, and since this hasn't happened we have neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the "picture of Dorian Gray" version of capitalism, in which both eternal youth and total corruption are granted the bourgeoisie, at the expense of that increasingly terrifying face which can today be seen in the portrait of working-class life under capitalism.

And, lastly, about the Star Trek universe: Phillips reminds us in passing that the Star Trek universe went through World War III -- between 2049 and 2053 -- but perhaps this isn't just an incidental fact. What sort of transformative, millenarian event (which we can hope will be relatively peaceful) will in fact prepare our capitalist world-society for a more realized utopia than the one we currently inhabit?

Discuss
Reposted from don mikulecky by don mikulecky Editor's Note: honor a great man on his birthday -- don mikulecky

I am proud to honor a great man.  He was a big influence on my life as well as on leaders of our country.  These are some of the things Democratic Socialists of America    (DSA) Had to say on his birthday:

Remembering Michael Harrington

In a lifetime of political engagement, Michael Harrington must have given ten thousand speeches, and of those, probably a thousand in New York City, where he had made his home since his arrival in 1949, age 21.  He gave his final speech in the city 40 years later, in May 1989.  Suffering from the cancer of the esophagus that would end his life in less than three months, he spoke that day to reporters and editors from the city’s union press.  

Over the years, Mike met and worked with many important and famous people, including Dr. Martin Luther King, United Auto Worker president Walter Reuther, Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, and Prime Minister Olof Palme, leader of Sweden’s ruling Socialist Party, to name but a few.  The publication in 1962 of his landmark study of poverty, The Other America, helped spark the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty. He had another best-seller in 1972 with the unlikely title of Socialism, which sold over 100,000 copies in paperback and influenced many readers with its argument that the “real Karl Marx” was a radical democrat, not a would-be dictator. His last book, Socialism: Past and Future, came out shortly before his death.  He was an editor of Dissent, a commentator on National Public Radio, a frequent contributor to leading opinion magazines like the Nation and the New Republic.  As a public intellectual and a moral tribune, in the 1970s and 1980s, he had few equals on the left, or indeed across the political spectrum.  Harrington, Senator Ted Kennedy would write, “has made more Americans more uncomfortable for more good reasons than any other person I know.”

 Read on below for more.
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Sun Jan 04, 2015 at 02:00 PM PST

Of radicals and mass movements

by Cassiodorus

This essay was prompted by two recent pieces.  Perhaps this essay would be better off if it were published in some of the places where the pieces were published: ZNet, or Jacobin.  I'm more used to working here, and at Firedoglake.

The first piece is Paul Street's "Because We Let Them," which critiques a famous George Carlin routine -- you know the one, the one about the "big club" which controls America.  Here's the routine, for your reference:

As Street suggests, the working class does not revolt because, among other reasons, there is a general defeatism of politics in America and elsewhere.  Here Street makes the common radical suggestion that a mass movement against the "big club" will be necessary if the human race is to solve its problems.  To quote Street:

As the radical philosopher Istvan Meszaros noted in early 2001, “Many of the problems we have to confront – from chronic structural unemployment to major political/military conflicts…as well as the ever more widespread ecological destruction in evidence everywhere – required concerted action in the very near future…The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.”
It seems fair to assume, here, that radicals would be smart to estimate that their chances of achieving radical change would be highest in the context of a mass movement.  What I'd like to suggest, in this regard, is that not all mass movements are radical, and that mass movements often have the potential to be a number of different things.  We'll really just have to use our best judgment as regards which movements merit our participation (and active attempts at change), and which ones don't.  No mass movement is going to grant us a readymade radicalism.

Occupy, for instance, was a mass movement which was fundamentally premised upon the idea of holding the banks accountable, with a consciousness-raising goal of promoting the interests of the "99%" -- that vast majority which lost ground in the so-called "recovery" of 2009-2011.  The actual political focus of Occupy, however, was reflected in its membership -- a mish-mash of liberals, Democrats, Rainbow Family members, radicals of various stripes, single-interest activists, and so on.  There were, in retrospect, hundreds of different Occupies, with varying degrees of mastery of consensus process, and varying political opinions.  Overall, and here I argue as a radical, public opinion was improved by Occupy.  It's important, at least, for people to know that mass movements are possible in 21st-century America.

Mass movements are, then, potential vehicles of radical change, just as political parties are potential vehicles for radical change.  There can be mass movements which are not yet radical but which radicals can join in hopes of radicalizing them.

The other piece which attracted my attention was Sam Gindin's review of Naomi Klein's new book, "This Changes Everything.," which is dated New Year's Eve.  Klein's book suggests, as I do, that capitalism is the main problem with climate change.  But Klein assumes that the primary hope for "saving the climate," as she calls it, is in actually existing movements.  These movements, as Klein points out well in her book, have a great variety of different causes and motivations.  

At any rate, here is Gindin's criticism:

Klein deserves enormous credit for putting capitalism in the dock. Yet she leaves too much wiggle room for capitalism to escape a definitive condemnation. There is already great confusion and division among social activists over what “anti-capitalism” means. For many if not most, it is not the capitalist system that is at issue but particular sub-categories of villains: big business, banks, foreign companies, multinationals.

Klein is contradictory on this score. She seems clear enough in the analysis that pervades the book that it is capitalism, yet she repeatedly qualifies this position by decrying “the kind of capitalism we now have,” “neoliberal” capitalism, “deregulated” capitalism, “unfettered” capitalism, “predatory” capitalism, “extractive” capitalism, and so on. These adjectives undermine the powerful logic of Klein’s more convincing arguments elsewhere that the issue isn’t creating a better capitalism but confronting capitalism as a social system.

So, according to Gindin, Klein "leaves too much wiggle room" for the critics of "some" capitalism.  Here radicals would do well to remember that the critics of "some" capitalism are the folks we'll need to persuade once they, and we, are part of a genuine movement to "save the climate" by building an alternative to capitalism.  

As for her book, I'm not sure Naomi Klein sees herself as the sort of radical who is out there to persuade everyone that we need to take a hard line against capitalism.  I think her book was intended to put out some basic guidelines as regards what sort of movement could "save the climate" without being co-opted by the powerful forces within capitalist society that have turned "environmentalism" as a dependency upon foundation grants and as a public-relations support for "moderate" politicians.

In this regard, I think it's reasonable to assume that radicals should be picky, but not too picky, about what sort of movements and organizations they'd be willing to work within.  Postcapitalism makes a good consensus prerequisite in this regard.  As for the radical potential of political parties with long histories as vehicles for co-optation, I'll let you decide.

Discuss

What will come after capitalism?  

When the Roman Empire collapsed in the west in the 5th century after Christ (going by Dionysius Exiguus's calendar), very little in the way of imagination was put forth as regards what would replace it.  For the most part, the successor regimes were modeled on the old Germanic kingdoms, though in vastly different circumstances -- since the successor kings ruled portions of the Roman Empire, they had to govern Roman subjects as well as those of their particular ethnic groups.  

So there were at that time two different types of law in post-Roman entities such as the Frankish Kingdom, and the Germanic rules of kingly succession proved to be disastrous when applied to such new kingdoms, as one can see from a reading of Gregory of Tours' "History of the Franks."  Over the centuries, Gaul became Francia, which later became France, and post-Roman rule eventually became feudalism.  But that was centuries later.

My point is this: when two such traditional societies came together, as with the collapse of the Roman Empire after its invasion by various Germanic groups, the changed circumstances of the post-Roman kingdoms did not result in any great bout of innovation.  Rather, old traditions were readapted to new circumstances.  Other old traditions, such as Roman architecture or Roman mass production, disappeared altogether, and some old traditions, such as print literacy or urban life, were continued on a much smaller scale because the post-Roman states stopped supporting them.  (These last phenomena are cited by historians such as Bryan Ward-Perkins to support the notion that there really was a "Dark Ages.") This might be what happens to capitalism when it collapses, although we may hope it doesn't happen that way.  

Much as the capitalists like to talk among themselves as if they were the founders of "innovation," capitalism is really a traditional practice -- the capitalist tradition is that of the exploitation of nature and of society as "free gifts" to capital, for the sake of commodity production in a "free market" with a set of established rules.   The capitalist system also relies upon other traditions such as economic growth and business profit for its well-being.

What are the alternative options?  The most paranoid defenders of the system like to talk in terms of "omigod the Soviet Union," though it's safe to say that authoritarian rule by Stalinists suggests only one of a great number of economic possibilities.  At any rate, does anyone today still believe that anything like the Soviet Union is still possible in the age of the Internet?

In the future, then, we could have some version of a gift economy taking place somewhere on planet Earth, or perhaps a barter economy, or perhaps also some version of online feudalism in which people would apply online to be vassals to the corporate lords of their choosing.  As for money, the current system, in which banks create money, hardly exhausts the realm of creative options -- much of that is discussed in Hutchinson, Mellor, and Olsen's "The Politics of Money," which highlights the old Fabian notion of "social credit," among numerous other options.

The more systematic, librarian-type, creatives among us like to talk of stuff like participatory economics, or "parecon" -- Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel spent a lot of time thinking up an alternative economic system which would "involve the participation of all persons in decision-making on issues in proportion to the impact such decisions have on their lives."  The ethnographers, grounded in real-life human practices, like to study stuff in this regard like the "misiones" programs in Venezuela or maybe what the Zapatistas are doing, or maybe the Mondragon cooperatives.

The one prerequisite for all of these alternative economic options, however, is that we have power over our lives -- and such power will not be provided to us by the capitalist system.  We need to go out and seize such power for ourselves.  The power we'll need will be power to make economic decisions -- how money is to be printed, how its value will be respected, how production decisions will be made, and so on.  Arguably, then, having such power will count as the ultimate economic security in light of the possibility that the capitalist system might not last forever.

So what would possibly make the capitalist system collapse, and would thus create the impetus for the creation of a new economy?  There are plenty of reasons -- the most obvious one is that the global economy is a house of cards waiting to topple.  But, in the medium run, what will eventually get capitalism is climate change -- as Naomi Klein suggests in her new book, through the voice of climatologist Lonnie G . Thompson, who speaks for his professional colleagues when he says: "virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization." (p. 15)  No civilization, no capitalism.  So something must be done.

Remember that kewl "New Climate Economy" report telling us all that climate change mitigation and economic growth were totally awesome things that would be even more powerful if put together?  You know, the one that was advertised by Paul Krugman?  It wasn't.  Sam Bliss:

Remember that the NCE report is about climate action not climate protection. That is, the report looks at economic benefits of climate-friendly investments, not at the economic realities of fixing the climate.
Just because talk of a "climate fix" makes a nice selling point for "clean energy" doesn't mean the fix is actually going to happen, even if the "clean energy" sale is itself completed.  Bliss continues:
Lord Stern, the big-name economist on the study’s commission, already knows that the necessary deep emissions cuts can’t be made while growing the economy. In his well-known Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change from 2006, the limit for carbon reductions in the company of growth was set at 3 to 4 percent a year. He also acknowledges that, historically, emissions decreases of larger than 1 percent per year have coincided with periods of upheaval or recession — when, by definition, there is a negative growth rate.
So what Bliss is saying is that even the people who write these sales pitches know they have nothing to do with saving the climate, and that an honest rap (even according to the folks who write this stuff) would demand far more in the way of "degrowth" than is possible under the current system except under conditions of a recurrence of the Great Depression.  Why, then, did we spend so much time talking about Paul Krugman's pronouncements on economic growth and abrupt climate change?
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Reposted from don mikulecky by don mikulecky Editor's Note: this is it! -- don mikulecky

I can't be there.  I remember all the Marches of the sixties and seventies I was at.  My spirit will be there.  As I approach the end of my time here I am more and more concerned about what we are leaving behind for future generations.  I may be naive, but I believe that the world will change tomorrow.  Awareness is irreversible.  Once you know you can not go back.

We are in big trouble and the forces of greed and oligarchy want to keep us marching to our destruction.  Capitalism is unsustainable, inequality has to be reversed, and we need to change the way we live.

Read on below and I'll say a bit more.

Poll

the People's climate March

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| 27 votes | Vote | Results

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(Crossposted to Humanitarian Left and Firedoglake)

Every time I publish a diary like this one ("Promoting an Effective Discussion: Capitalism Causes Climate Change," 8/3/14), I get responses from patrons of alternative energy.  Solar panels and wind farms will save the Earth, the world-society, and the capitalist system, from the prophesies of doom accompanying abrupt climate change, they imply.

Now, to be fair, I have no problem with the idea of saving the Earth or the world-society.  And I'm certainly not against the proliferation of solar panels and wind farms.  But I don't think that "alternative energy" will save the Earth while leaving the capitalist system intact.  Rather, capitalism will come to a terminal crisis at some point, and "alternative energy" will not save it.  Or maybe capitalism will continue to a point such as to put the habitability of planet Earth into question, as Paul Prew suggested.  And then there's the option I laid out in last Sunday's diary:

The likelihood, I believe, is that for some time we will struggle along with a system which will pretend to be capitalism in much the same way in which "Communism" pretended to be communal.  The more fervently we believe in capitalism, the more likely a system of faux-capitalism will continue.
Here are the reasons why I think as I do:

1) "Alternative energy" is poised to remain a supplement to fossil-fuel energy.

Advocates of "alternative energy" capitalism imagine a sense in which increased production of alternative energy replaces fossil-fuel production.  You buy a solar panel and, see, you're not using as much fossil power.  The problem arises when we consider the human race as a whole, and not just individual solar panel buyers.  Instead, as energy becomes cheaper with the addition of new sources, market forces push down the cost of the fossil-fuel energy, and the fossil energy you don't consume is bought by someone else.  Ian Angus:

A new study by Richard York of the University of Oregon shows that it isn’t that simple. Rather than displacing fossil fuels, green energy sources have proven to be mostly additive.

“Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels?” published this month in Nature Climate Change, discusses what happened when alternative energy sources were introduced in countries around the world, over the past fifty years.

Contrary to the accepted wisdom that new green energy replaces fossil-fuel use,  York found that on average each unit of energy use from non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than a quarter of a unit of energy use from fossil-fuel sources.

The picture is worse with electricity, where each new unit generated from green sources displaced less than one-tenth of a unit of fossil-fuel-generated electricity.

The effect, in general, of "efficiency" and "alternative energy" (as touted "solutions" to the problem of carbon-burning leading to abrupt climate change) is to facilitate the further expansion of the system, thus leading to increased energy use.  Fossil fuel energies (and fossil fuel interests!) can be expected to piggyback onto that increased energy use.  This is the modern day effect that Foster, Clark, and York call "Jevons' Paradox."  Foster, Clark, and York:
What is neglected, then, in simplistic notions that increased energy efficiency normally leads to increased energy savings overall, is the reality of the Jevons Paradox relationship—through which energy savings are used to promote new capital formation and the proliferation of commodities, demanding ever greater resources. Rather than an anomaly, the rule that efficiency increases energy and material use is integral to the “regime of capital” itself. As stated in The Weight of Nations, an important empirical study of material outflows in recent decades in five industrial nations (Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, and Japan): “Efficiency gains brought by technology and new management practices have been offset by [increases in] the scale of economic growth.”
So that's the argument.  If a revolution in "alternative energy" were to benefit the capitalist system sufficiently, the system's own tendencies toward economic growth would bring the fossil-fuel sector back into economic solvency.  You don't think so?

2) As "alternative energy" technologies improve, so also do fossil-fuel extraction technologies.

In the early 2000s there was a popular discussion of "peak oil" -- the notion being that global oil supplies were fast approaching a moment of peak production, and that after "peak oil" we would be in a world of declining supplies and increasing crisis.  Part of the discussion of "peak oil" relies upon arguments concerning the difficulty of finding substitutes for oil in the world economy.  Walter Youngquist:

In regard to substitutes for oil: There is no comprehensive substitute for oil in its myriad end uses, high energy density, ease of transport and handling, and in the volumes in which we now use it. Oil is much more than energy, the context in which most people think of it. There are miles and miles of roads paved with billions of tops of asphalt―the bottoms of oil refining operations for which there is absolutely no substitute. Try paving roads with hydrogen in the projected “hydrogen economy.”
Now, it may not be good news that the "peak oil" prophesy of doom may be too early, because discoveries of more oil may hasten the realization of "global warming" prophesies of doom.  And this appears to be the case, as "peak oil" is not imminent, fossil-fuel extraction technology continues to improve, and the world-society continues to consume more fossil fuels.  Daniel Cusick, in Scientific American:
While the U.S. boom in shale gas helped push the fossil fuel's share of total global energy consumption from 23.8 to 23.9 percent, coal also increased its share, from 29.7 to 29.9 percent, as demand for coal-fired electricity remained strong across much of the developing world, including China and India, and parts of Europe.

As such, coal is expected to surpass oil as the most consumed primary energy source in the world, the report said. In 2012, China alone accounted for more than half the world's total coal consumption, mostly for electric power generation.

So it's certainly possible that at some late date "alternative energy" may displace fossil-fuel energy in the context of a global capitalist economy.  But when?  And what sort of raging climate change effect can we expect soon after that point in time?

3) Infrastructure conversion costs are too high, and late-capitalist government is not currently positioned to "foot the bill" for all of this.

Let's imagine a capitalist world-system running entirely upon solar and wind power.  What is going to be done with the old infrastructure, the one dependent upon oil, coal, and natural gas?  Will all of the fossil-fuel cars disappear?  How about the financial infrastructure, with those financial interests dependent upon fossil-fuel extraction?  Will they stop buying our politicians?  Oh, sure, indefinite fossil-fuel capitalism is mass suicide.  The problem is that, given a commitment to the continuation of capital accumulation, economic expansion, and the profits system, it puzzles me to wonder how the capitalist world-system is going to dump the hegemonic role of fossil fuel interests.  Bill McKibben:

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today's market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you'd be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren't exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won't necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can't have both.
So how are we to keep the grease in the ground under the existing political and economic dispensation?  Said dispensation, both in terms of physical infrastructure and political economy, is geared toward further expansions of the regime of fossil-fuel burning.  Should we just get ready for Hillary?

4) Capitalism is still predatory, and alternative energy does not in itself make a sufficient technological revolution to keep the system expanding.

My argument here follows Jason W. Moore in predicting that an industrial revolution in "alternative energy" will not save the capitalist system all by itself.  Moore's logic is encapsulated in this essay.  Moore argues that the expansion of the capitalist system is maintained by the continuing cheapness of the Four Cheaps (labor-power, food, energy, and natural resources).  The problem with capitalism in the current era, for Moore, is that the costs of the Four Cheaps are all in fact rising.

The most obvious indicator of a declining ecological surplus is the rising price of the Big Four inputs. Labor, food, energy, and raw materials become more and more expensive. The Four Cheaps stop being cheap. This usually doesn’t happen all at
once, although this is in fact what we have seen since the start of the 2003 commodity boom. The point at which the Four Cheaps stop becoming cheaper and cheaper and start to become more and more expensive is the signal crisis of a phase of capitalism. Such crises signal the exhaustion of an accumulation regime (Moore, 2012).  For the neoliberal phase of capitalism, this signal crisis—far more important than the near-meltdown of the financial system in 2008—began around 2003. Since that time, the ecological surplus has been falling, and there are few signs that the decline will be reversed soon, if ever. Why? Largely because the greatest frontiers have been exhausted, and because, at the same time, the mass of surplus capital continues to rise.
The problem, then, is that if there were a forthcoming revolution in "alternative energy," it would be a revolution in only one of the Four Cheaps.  The cost of the other "cheaps" would continue to rise, and capitalism would continue to exhaust the planet of its resources.  The system will, it is predicted, collapse regardless of what happens in energy.

From Moore's perspective, capitalism tends toward ecosystem simplification.  Capital tends to view both nature and society as a "free gift," to be packaged into commodities in profit-making business.  The question for any particular era, then, is one of whether or not industrial revolution can save nature and society from capital's tendency in that regard.  

From my perspective, it seems bizarre that advocates of "alternative energy" would also be advocates of more capitalism.  If the world-situation is as severe as has been reported, wouldn't it just be better to give the stuff away?

And then, lastly, there is:

5) Solar power (at least) could be subversive of capitalist growth itself.

Imagine a world in which everyone had a solar panel.  What sort of radical politics would be possible then?  People could secede from the grid, and work further to end their dependency upon entrenched fossil energy interests.  It's easy to imagine an anti-fossil-energy movement gaining traction in such a world, but on the basis of independence from capitalism, rather than of more capitalism.  You don't like that idea?

Discuss

(crossposted at Humanitarian Left and at Firedoglake)

When I see headlines like this on my Facebook feed:

"Even if a small fraction of the Arctic carbon were released to the atmosphere, we're fucked," he told me. What alarmed him was that "the methane bubbles were reaching the surface. That was something new in my survey of methane bubbles," he said.
What comes to mind, for me here, is the issue of argumentative appeal.  Should we be trying hard to get everyone's attention merely by producing ever-scarier stories about global warming?  Separate this, if you will, from the actual and ongoing catastrophe of climate change, which merits our full attention.  The truth may be scary.  But is that all we've got?

My question, more exactly, is pointed at those who would continue to scare us without proposing anything radically new.  See for instance "Climate Tipping Requires Precautionary Accumulation of Capital and an Additional Price for Carbon Emissions," as posted on Naked Capitalism yesterday.  Its initial analysis wrong-foots the whole idea:

Climate policy aims to internalise the social cost of carbon by means of a carbon tax or a system of tradable permits such as the Emissions Trading System set up in the EU. But how do we determine the social cost of carbon?
Answer: we don't.  Climate change is not going to be solved by further entrapping people in a system of "costs," i.e. commodities exchange.  

Moreover climate change is not going to be mitigated if you place all of the onus for "doing something" (i.e. doing something effective -- there are plenty of Panicky Petes out there shouting "DO SOMETHING!!!" without having anything effective in mind to do) upon wealthy and powerful capitalists, who are still not likely to care.  Capitalists don't care about the social cost of carbon, and more panic won't make them do so.  Capitalists don't care about some ostensibly "far off" future (and that future will remain "far off" until it actually happens!) in which the social cost of carbon shows up on their balance sheets.  Capitalists live in an extremely attenuated time horizon.  The future is the next quarterly report, and the next interoffice memo.  Capitalists struggle with questions like: should I sell today?

Talk about ending capitalism doesn't change this reality either: the capitalists' standard reaction to that kind of talk is "omigod my current privileges!"  That would of course explain one important thing: why you aren't going to get the capitalists (and their clients in government) to care about the future.  You aren't, at any rate not to the extent you want.  This of course explains the current dilemma.  I'm imagining a roundtable meeting in a corporate office, with the climatologists on one side and the business leaders and their officials-in-tow on the other.  Here's the deal, explain the business leaders: first you guarantee us a profit rate, and then we'll "do something" about your whatever it was.  'Kay?

No wonder things have gotten so much worse.  This thinking goes all the way down to James Hansen, whose populist attitudes are otherwise admirable.  John Bellamy Foster argues:

Hansen’s climate-change exit strategy thus has definite limitations. Despite its progressive features it is mostly a top-down, elite-based strategy of implementing a carbon tax with the hope that this will spur the introduction of necessary technological changes by corporations. To be sure, Hansen stresses the democratic nature of the plan, and has argued that Obama could have mobilized the population around such a tax at the height of his popularity in his first term through a series of fireside chats.  He also suggests that the 100 percent redistribution element in the fee-and-dividend strategy must be backed up by the threat of the wider public to “fight” if this is interfered with. And he has himself joined in mass mobilizations against coal and tar sands oil. Yet, his plan includes no call for a general ecological-cultural revolution against the U.S. power structure
In other words, Hansen's idea looks nice on paper but it should be pretty easy to shut down unless the public can be roused to support something even more radical.  When we debate Hansen we are still in the paradigm that asks us to plead our cases before people who aren't likely to mitigate climate change.  What is the alternative?
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