Wednesday, June 30, 2021

What Will It Take?

A friend posted a link to this piece on the Neiman Lab journalism site by Sarah Miller, recommending it with the words, "Really good and really human."

The title of Miller's article is "All the right words on climate have already been said." 

I feel that way pretty often (well, all the time, if I let myself). It just seems so obvious. I look for reasons why people may not be aware of the climate crisis, or why it's not in the front of their awareness — kind of a Maslow's hierarchy of first-hand extreme problems. That's no excuse for oil companies and billionaires, of course.

The last few sentences of Miller's article are this:

It is hard to accept the way things are, to know that the fight is outside the realm of argument and persuasion and appeals to how much it all hurts. It is terrifying to know that the prize for many who care may be prison or worse. But all the right words about climate have already been deployed. It’s time for different weapons.

Which calls to mind Kim Stanley Robinson's novel The Ministry for the Future, and particularly the role played by the mysterious group called the Children of Kali, who hijack airplanes to prevent commercial flight, destroy pipelines and giant container ships, and maybe were responsible for temporarily inconveniencing the billionaires at Davos enough to reeducate them for a while (as if).  

On that note, this interview with Swedish historian Andreas Malm is worth checking out. In reading it, I couldn't help seeing echoes of Elizabeth Hinton's America on Fire, which I am just finishing. It reveals the buried history of the many uprisings against police brutality in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S. The idea that only nonviolence can work to create needed change (especially if property destruction is considered violence) is not borne out by history, as Malm says and Hinton shows.

As Malm put it,

...if you think that the sanctity of private property stands above everything else, then you need to protect the sanctity of private property in fossil fuels, which means you’re all fine with ExxonMobil and all the rest of them going on exploring, producing, and selling fossil fuels — and then we’re finished! So, it really is a very stark choice that I don’t see how you can get away from. An end to fossil fuels by definition means an end to private property in fossil fuels.

But here is also the point from an activist standpoint. Because almost no governments in the world have shown themselves willing to put any limit to this kind of private property, then it is the task of the people who are not part of the state apparatus, ordinary citizens if you like, to demonstrate that private property is not sacred. It doesn’t stand above everything else, because a habitable biosphere is the container for all moral values, and this is what we have to choose between — a biosphere that we can inhabit, or continued free private property in fossil fuels. It’s not very hard to make the moral case.

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