Climate Strike

I’ll take the day off here in solidarity, by republishing a post I wrote eleven years ago this month:

As a country we’ve made a living bragging about how ambitious we are, how audacious our concepts of freedom, liberty and happiness are as to make their fulfillment just a matter of conquering a lesser will.

Well, here’s the way to defuse most every geopolitical conflict for the next century or so, at least until things even out and Republicans can get elected again and start whining about socialism or how unjust their tax burden is. Cheap desalination powered with clean energy is the key to making the fossil fuels conundrum exit stage left. As the article points out these are massive public works projects with very sophisticated interactions with the natural environment; The question is not will they work, but do we have the will to make them work.

In the speech by House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday that had all the Republican house members whining and crying with hurt feelings, she recalled that people around the world constantly tell her that the greatest emerging market in the world is rebuilding the public infrastructure of the United States of America. She said it could be done in a fiscally responsible manner. Even with only what we know how to do right now, it could also be done in a highly innovative manner, geared toward sustainably shifting our transportation and land-use conventions in the permanent direction of clean water and low-carbon power.

Building a green house isn’t green, but takes a lot of green. The reviewer says it at the end:

Maybe the real meaning of being green is closer to what modest Kermit had in mind: learning to make the best of what we already have rather than having to create, spend and construct something “eco-friendlier.”

Yes it is. One household living off the grid does not a difference make; we need to get the grid off the grid. Meanwhile, live close to work, know where your food comes from, spend and buy accordingly.

Image: Climate strike in Sydney, September 20, 2019. Photo from Kym Chapple on Twitter

Sustainability tie-ins

Ed Kilgore reflects on the First Earth Day and what he was able to learn about it, how it was discussed, way back in a super conservative county in Georgia. Weep for the past, cry for the present:

we had a big Earth Day program, complete with a speech by actor Hal Holbrook, who had identified with the environmentalist cause in some manner that eludes me today.

That amazes me, now that being identified as an “environmentalist” leads so many people to identify one as a secular-socialist elitist. On the first Earth Day, Georgia was governed by none other than Lester Maddox, and my home turf was about to be represented by Larry McDonald, soon to become president of the John Birch Society (with whom Lester was identified as well). But I don’t recall my school or its principal getting any serious flak for spending a good chunk of a taxpayer supported day talking about the damage we were doing to the environment and what we could collectively do about it.

Take this with Taibbi’s reporting on Wall Street feminine hygiene product Dan Loeb and you get an idea of how even the language of sustainability has been turned into a rationale for a revenue stream, completely separate from the very low bar of its environmental context. Fine. Language is free. Do with it what you will. Just know that this is happening:

In the age of Citizens United, it’s going to become more and more important for ordinary people everywhere to find out if their tax dollars or their retirement money is being used to fund political lobbying against their own interests. There are, after all, lots of people on Wall Street with obnoxious political interests who want to get their hands on your union or state retirement money, your federal social security benefits (just think of how screwed we’d all be now if they’d privatized Social Security before 2008), and, through bailouts, your tax dollars.

And now that some of them, like Loeb, have taken a hit for dabbling in politics while feeding at the retirement trough, Wall Street is panicking and crying foul. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal this morning stooped to accusing the American Federation of Teachers of “bullying hedge funds to cut off funding for kids in Harlem,” as if terminal greed patients like Dan Loeb or the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal gave even half a shit about kids in Harlem. They should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking about going there.

Earth. Night.

For many reasons, I try not to go down this road too often – attempting to understand, and then perhaps parse, why we have taken such gigantic steps in the opposite direction of Earth Day since what seemed to have been a collective awakening in 1970. As Cole says, the pollution issues we identified back then seem trite in comparison to what we face now, as we crank the atmosphere and the oceans toward higher temperatures.

So how have we been able to establish, project and re-enforce such a counter narrative to global warming that it, rather than the way of life that fostered it, now seems like an issue with a legitimacy problem? It brings to mind that cunning and incisive riposte from Tonto, “What do you mean we, white man?”

Because what was established, what is entrenched, is simply a hard corporate line. It’s in the short term interest of huge industrial, agro, and energy concerns to question the science supporting global warming. They have effectively conjoined our will with theirs, made us believe that it is an option to refuse to believe AGW and we have gladly, and with great relief, accepted. There is nothing individual or human about it, and they have curiously obscured any short/long term distinctions. And you see why I try not to go down this road too often.

Because it sounds like conspiracy; such is the power of this counter-narrative. We could say it is of a piece with the way people are conditioned to support, and vote for, candidates and issues that go against their own interest. There is profit in division – apply all cliches here. Because they are true. A plainly available set of established facts all flow in one direction. And yet the question wins the day; the science of global warming itself has been impugned as dishonest, corrupt, heavy-handed and coercive. I accuse you of what I am guilty. It’s tricky. And we’re vulnerable.

We are highly susceptible to corporate propaganda, to marketing, especially for what we want to believe about ourselves. Our ability to project wonderful images about who we are has far-outstripped our ability to be critical of this imagery, much less the ideas behind them. We’re afraid to ask who or what is behind them. And we settle back into a state of existential fear – not of what might happen, but fear of even thinking honestly about what might happen. At least during the nuclear age, everyone had a clear image of the mushroom cloud if not what it meant. The specter of annihilation remained abstract but, again, it was part of a plainly available set of established facts. Constantly invoked, and yes opening us to manipulation. But we reckoned with even this, and life went on.

Not reckoning with the specter of planetary peril puts the developed world in its greatest danger – as it threatens the rest of the world with utter catastrophe. This is a brutal and vicious calculation. But see it for what it is. By all means let’s pick up trash on the side of the street – today, any day. But there is all manner of detritus we are allowing into our homes and heads on a constant basis, supplying our own evidence to continue ignoring what is happening. It is a truly a form of darkness, though fortunately self-imposed. Unfortunately, portending an even greater one.

And so we need to turn on some lights. And so I have another reason to hate irony.