A poem by Anne Waldman:
Here’s a handy chart made by Albert Bates on Dimitri Orlov’s blog, which categorizes major doomer writers/bloggers on two axes: prediction for success or collapse, and the need for/likelihood of peaceful vs. violent transformation:
Ran Prieur would remake the chart as such:
If I made my own chart, I would have one axis for tech crash vs no tech crash, another axis for pessimist vs optimist, and two different charts for what the writers want and what they predict if everyone doesn’t do what they say. So Derrick Jensen would be a low-tech optimist on the first chart and a low-tech pessimist on the second, because he believes in an inevitable and permanent hard crash that will be worse if the earth is dead. Al Gore would be a high-tech optimist on the first chart and a low-tech pessimist on the second, because he thinks climate change will crash our wonderful world but we can stop it. Ray Kurzweil would be a high tech optimist on both charts, because he believes techno-utopia is unstoppable. John Michael Greer would be low-tech, balanced between optimist and pessimist, and the same on both charts because he knows we can only change our local environment and not the world.
I think I’m slowly gravitating down to McPherson’s dot (at the bottom, middle): more certain about the likelihood of collapse and at the same time more ambivalent about both the ways that have been tried in the past and the more recently proposed ways to guide, ameliorate, slow, or halt the crash. Maybe guiding the crash is the only option left.
On Prieur’s scale, I would be an almost absolute pessimist, technology-wise, and somewhere in the middle, general optimism-wise. I think the crash is both inevitable and being rapidly expedited by our actions, “our” meaning the actions of the corporate, industrial-military oligarchy, but also our actions, like driving cars and voting for Republicans. The methods for redress that I propose are not violent, but instead include not having kids, advocating for others to have the rights and access necessary not to have kids, planting native flowers, and building communities of support and solidarity for when water doesn’t come out of the tap. There will be a day in history—like the day when the last Roman left Britain—when water doesn’t come out of the tap anymore, and that’s when most of this theory will become action.
“My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years—especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask—and rightly so—what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., from A Time to Break the Silence
When it rains it pours, as they say, and this week that metaphor was even more apropos, as three articles conspired to give us, in my estimation, a great look at (and critique of) our view on climate change and its role in environmental organizing efforts.
First, we have this article (“The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency'”) in The Nation, effectively describing the impending clusterfuck. The article quotes Guy McPherson (one of my favorite people to link to on this blog), among other scientists:
“Some scientists are indicating we should make plans to adapt to a 4C world,” Leifer comments. “While prudent, one wonders what portion of the living population now could adapt to such a world, and my view is that it’s just a few thousand people [seeking refuge] in the Arctic or Antarctica.”
That’s a best-case scenario. To borrow from one of the subheadings of the article: “Things are looking really dire.”
Then we have two articles when, taken together, summarize why no one has or will really give a shit about these scenarios, let alone the mountain of evidence supporting their increasing likelihood. (As an acquaintance commented on one of the articles yesterday:
A conversation that took place in London over xmas:
Seasoned climate activist: Have you read any of the latest IPCC report?
Him: Me neither. Just can’t be bothered.
The first article is from Mother Jones: “Global-Warming Denial Hits a 6-Year High“. Almost a quarter of Americans think climate change isn’t happening. 68% of Americans say they will not change their mind about climate change.
Add in this Newsweek article, “You’re Only Human. That’s the Problem,” about how humans cannot comprehend very large patterns—especially ones that take a very long time to materialize—and you get a pretty clear picture: humans, but especially Americans, some of the most energy-wasting and ideologically stubborn humans, will not even accept that climate change is happening, let alone change their lives in any way (recall that Sun Chips had to recall their biodegradable bags because Americans thought they were too loud) in the name of even the slightest mitigation of its many interconnected ramifications.
Let that sink in: Americans will not accept that climate change is happening, and will do nothing about it. At least, not enough Americans to make any kind of difference. Yes, you might quickly point out, the graphs also show that more than 60% of Americans believe climate change is happening. However, not only is that number down from previous years’ data, but for the most part that 60% has no decision-making power whatsoever in this country (or, are you still under the impression that we live in a Democracy™?), and even if they did, time and time again it has been shown that climate change is not a motivating factor even for personal decisions like whether or not to recycle.
What has been shown—time and time again—as a motivating factor is economics. This fact should be plainly obvious, since economics are what drive almost every personal and political decision, as any Marxist off the street will tell you. This is why we environmentalists, nature lovers, ecosystem protectors, and/or people who just give a shit about fellow beings living on this earth need to shelve climate change and talk about immediate ecological problems—mostly in terms of how they affect local economies.
That kind of messaging needs to be primary now, even though I myself cringe at the fact (but it is a fact) that mentioning the 200 species that went extinct today is not motivating people. I don’t write to make myself or others sad. I write to try to motivate myself and others to actually do something (recycle that bottle, vote for that green candidate, plant that garden, not have that second kid, etc.), and I have seen the writing on the wall.
We can wring our hands about the corporate media all we want—and it is atrocious—but simply resigning ourselves to “oh, well Fox News is just horrible,” or “we need CNN to do a better job educating people” is not getting the job done. Dolphins are being born in the Gulf of Mexico without eyes. People in West Virginia don’t have water. There’s dioxin in breast milk. Currently. Right now. No statistical models needed. No long-term trends needed. No analysis needed, other than taking a look around.
Bill McKibben has done great work, but it’s not enough, and there’s no time to waste. I don’t sit around thinking about 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—do you? I think about losing my job, water not coming out of the tap, not having enough seeds or soil to feed myself, fellow humans without water, fracking earthquakes, tar balls and plastic in the seafood I’d like to eat, and so on. I simply contend we should concentrate on the things that people actually think about and base their decisions on.
And no, we will not have a revolution here in America, akin to Greece or even Spain. So the simultaneous strategies should be creating communities of support where skills can be collected, shared, and honed; and scaling back empire—some of which will happen naturally (as anyone who has played the computer game Civilization can attest: it’s hard to have troops across the globe or to hold on to far-flung positions for very long, especially after peak oil production), but most of which we need to direct, by having less kids (which means fighting for education about and access to safe contraception and abortion).
“In the future, whatever people are left after the crash will be huddled near the poles.” That’s a fascinating (and ever more likely) scenario. But it’s not a motivational vision around which to organize or resist.
“More and more people in the US are taking prescribed anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. The numbers are one in five men, and one in four women are taking these mind altering drugs. If industrial civilization and capitalism provide such a wonderful ‘standard of living;’ if this way of life is the pinnacle of human existence, why does almost a quarter of the population require a drug to make them feel better about it? Add in the number of people who drink alcohol or smoke marijuana, and it’s likely that a large majority of the population needs to achieve an altered state of consciousness on a regular basis merely to cope with the daily requirements leveled on their shoulders by this society. But if we zoom out, we see happy shoppers and smiling twenty somethings taking ‘selfies’ by the thousands.” – Eamon Farrelly, from Mechanistic Progress; Holistic Wisdom
“Europe is not so small,” Nietzsche wrote in a letter to his sister, Elisabeth, in March of 1885, “and if one does not want to live in Germany (and in this I am like him), one still does not need to go so very far away. But of course I do not have his enthusiasm for ‘things German,’ and even less for keeping this ‘glorious’ race pure. On the contrary, on the contrary—”
The “him” in this case is Dr. Förster, husband of Nietzsche’s sister and all-around horrible person. He left Germany in 1886 to emigrate to Paraguay, and in the following year he set up a colony known as “Nueva Germania”—sort of like a Jonestown for delusional Right-Wing ideologues.
Nietzsche earlier wrote in a letter to his friend, Malwilda, about the rift with his sister over the good doctor:
Meanwhile the situation has been changed by my radical break with my sister; for heaven’s sake, do not think that you should mediate between us and reconcile us—there can be no reconciliation between a vindictive anti-Semitic goose and me.
Now read this article by David B. Dennis, professor of history at Loyola University in Chicago, (“How the Nazi Party Recast Nietzsche”) about how the Nazis, with the help of Nietzsche’s sister, of course, co-opted (and by co-opted I mean completely changed) Nietzsche for their own twisted ends. He writes (apologies for the long quote, but it’s telling):
Cultural renewal in accordance with such perceptions of intellectual history was a central premise of the larger project of the Third Reich, fundamental to Hitler’s aims. But this agenda also contributed to the most destructive impulses of the movement. Indeed, German cultural identity as shaped by the Nazi regime did not merely justify anti-Semitism or policies of extermination, it led to them. Hitler’s racist standards of judgment were grounded in cultural terms, as he stated in Mein Kampf: “If we were to divide mankind into three groups, the founders of culture, the bearers of culture, the destroyers of culture, only the Aryan could be considered as the representative of the first group.” According to the Völkischer Beobachter, Jewish creators such as Heine, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, Mahler, and Schoenberg—among many others—supposedly belonged in the latter, so they and their kind had to be eradicated.
Demonstrating that great cultural figures of the past would have agreed with these premises was a priority in the Nazi newspaper. One contributor put it in these stark terms: “to win over to our movement spiritual leaders who think they see something distasteful in anti-Semitism, it is extremely important to present more and more evidence that great, recognized spirits shared our hatred of Jewry.”
In the case of Nietzsche, however, this process required a little more “spin” than the “selective scavenging” for biographical and textual evidence that scholar Steven Aschheim identified as the usual mode of such politicization. Some Völkischer Beobachter contributors recognized that Nietzsche had not been a committed anti-Semite, and had even criticized the anti-Semitic views of Richard Wagner, his own sister, Elisabeth, and her husband, Bernhard Förster. One editor, for instance, said about Nietzsche: “His work contains other crass contradictions and obscurities, especially in his treatment of the Jewish Question, where he sometimes confesses himself as an Anti-Semite, and then as a philo-Semite. Equally obscure is what he understood as race and nation. This may be a result of the eruptive nature of his creativity and the shortness of his life, which didn’t allow him enough time to go into these issues deeply.”
But other contributors wrote as if aligning Nietzschean ideas with Nazi anti-Semitism posed no difficulties at all. One article listed carefully selected passages from Beyond Good and Evil to show that Nietzsche “expressed himself extraordinarily farsightedly on the Jewish Question.” An article entitled “Nietzsche as Warner about the Jewish Danger” insisted that Nietzsche concerned himself with the Jewish Question, “as every clear thinking, every sensitive Aryan-German person must.” Nietzsche, the paper said, recognized the danger threatening Germans in the form of a completely foreign and utterly different race, and “warned us—and like so many hundreds of great, significant men who warned us before him, he warned in vain!”
And so, like usual, Nazis ruin everything for everybody.