We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate…. what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light…this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it.
– Bill McKibben 2012
Global Climate Disruption used to be an issue I focused on as much as trans-species justice, but since having become focused on food justice and more extensively on privilege and identity, it’s been an issue I’ve direly neglected.
I write direly, because this is THE issue of the century, and perhaps of all of human existence given it may be the greatest tragedy in the last 100,000 years or more. From a god-like position, this is “nothing’ given the existence of life on the planet. But we are HUMANS, and this affects us and all the other species who brought us into existence and came into existence with us, many species also populated by sentient and social beings.
But this isn’t something humans in the universal have reaped upon the earth, but modern Western civilization in general, and the capitalist, engineer, and political elite specifically. Something like 40% of all anthropogenic contributions come from the US and China (and China has been polluting a lot only recently and its population is four times ours!). The elite, however, who control the capital and political candidates are not even the .1% Yet, the elite indirectly pull the strings for no greater reason than making a profit (as if their millions of dollars weren’t sufficient).
Yes, we all contribute, especially the more affluent of us in first world nations; and institutions do need to be changed to reduce all of this. But is it not the case that the enemy is equally the apathy, ignorance, and dis-empowered-feeling of the 99% as much as the arrogance and decadence of the 1%?
The power of numbers is in our favor, but the social organization, education, and empowerment is missing. And this is not an accident. The political and economic elite prefer it be this way and so our education, political, media, and economic systems are designed to dullen critical thinking, prepare us to be cogs, and give us bullshit “solutions” that don’t address the fundamental problem of democracy’s subordination to capitalist gain. Some environmentalists will refer to population growth as cancerous, but the truth of the matter is that the cancer is the political-economic imperialism of the ruling elite, their lords in congress. and the ideologue conservative (including most democrats) constituency and consumers.
Since global climate disruption is an issue that disproportionately falls on the backs of those whose backs have nearly been broken by growing markets and “development,” it is an issue which all progressive/radicals should be united on. Given all these movements dream of a just future and that GCD makes any just future impossible, it’s clearly in the interest of the 99%. This should be an opportunity for the greatest solidarity between socialists, first world environmentalists, third world decolonialists, and students and professors everywhere.
We need coalition building if this is going to work, even beyond that of efforts to make incremental changes to policy. This is an urgent issue that cannot be put on the backburner, because if it is, not only the dish will be cooked, but the house it’s cooked in will be as well.
Unfortunately, it’s even hard to convince people who are already sympathetic to the issue to socially organize and be politically mobile. This is because the majority of people are struggling to maintain what they have now and either gain back what they have lost or achieve what has always been unfairly out of reach. Yet, GCD is only going to make these unfortunate and unjust situations much, much worse for them and their children and their children’s children.
I think it’s sound to speculate that GCD will further bifurcate the haves and have-nots, and the solutions to addressing the corruption in political systems will become more limited and desperate. Not only do we all face a looming ecological crisis that will translate into food, refugee, and economic crises, but these will in turn translate into political crises. The non-violence revolutionary movement in Egypt may not be an option as the small number with half the world’s wealth control the militaries and police to protect their hoards of wealth and technologies from a righteously angered populous. The worse part is that this is all irreversible and that we may be at a tipping point, meaning we can’t even predict what technologies to develop and where to deploy them as the global climate is drawn into a torrent.
But as people repeatedly note, there is opportunity in crisis. Either way, the world WILL be radically altered. It is our action, however, that will dictate whether it be altered by techno-science, capitalist patriarchy or by human solidarity with one another and with other species. Will everyone’s fate be contingent upon the entrenched values and institutions of the past or the political aspiration of international justice for the downtrodden and their allies?
*The poor political and media interest in the Rio conference may very well correspond to the increasing apathy and burnout many of us advocates have fallen into and be part of a larger social phenomenon. Bill McKibben’s latest article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” in last month’s Rolling Stone, however, inspired me to write a several page long reaction to something I read online–something I haven’t done in a long while but used to do regularly between undergraduate and graduate school.
I haven’t posted much update on my adventure lately due to priority commitments, exhausting work days, lack of privacy, and an otherwise frustration. I promise to update the blog more in the upcoming month!