Friday, August 23, 2019

Hannah Arendt's On Violence

Unfortunately, this is really timely.

Arendt wrote this short book in 1970, but there's nothing in it that needs to be updated today. Absolutely nothing significant has changed; it's just more. She was responding to the violence of WWII, Vietnam, the student riots in Paris, and, most specifically, the People's Park protests in Berkeley, where she was teaching at the time as students attempted "transforming an empty university-owned lot into a 'People's Park'." Sheldon Wolin and John Schaar wrote about how the event unleashed an unnecessarily strong police backlash:
"A rock was thrown from a roof-top and, without warning, police fired into a group on the roof of an adjacent building. Two persons were struck in the face by the police fire, another was blinded, probably permanently, and a fourth, twenty-five-year-old James Rector, later died. Before the day was over, at least thirty others were wounded by police gunfire, and many more by clubs. . . . Tear gas enfolded the main part of the campus and drifted into many of its buildings, as well as into the surrounding city. Nearby streets were littered with broken glass and rubble. At least six buckshot slugs entered the main library and three 38 calibre bullets lodged in the wall of a reference room in the same building. Before the day ended, more than ninety people had been injured by police guns and clubs."
That was on May 15, 1969, known as "Bloody Thursday." The Kent State shootings in Ohio were almost exactly one year later. Arendt tries to make sense of it all through a look at the changing view of violence in society.


GOVERNMENT AGENTS DON'T THINK CLEARLY:

The problem with the "brains" in the councils of governments is
"not that they are cold-blooded enough to 'think the unthinkable,' but that they do not think. . . . The logical flaw in theses hypothetical constructions of future events is always the same: what first appears as a hypothesis . . . turns immediately into a 'fact,' which then gives birth to a whole string of similar non-facts, with the result that the purely speculative character of the whole enterprise is forgotten. Needless to say, this is not science but pseudo-science, 'the desperate attempt of the social and behavioral sciences,' in the words of Noam Chomsky, 'to imitate the surface features of sciences that really have significant intellectual content.' And the most obvious and 'most profound objection to this kind of strategic theory is not its limited usefulness but its danger, for it can lead us to believe we have an understanding of events and control over their flow which we do not have" (6-7). 

THE HISTORY OF REVOLUTIONARY THOUGHT:

She explains how Marx's non-violent ideas were warped over a telephone game of interpretations. In Marx's writings he advocates for no violence. Revolution is something that happens by chance when everything lines up, when the people have had enough and could do nothing other than revolt:
"the revolutionary Left under the influence of Marx's teachings ruled out the use of violent means: the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'--openly repressive in Marx's writings--came after the revolution and was meant, like the Roman dictatorship, to last a strictly limited period. . . . [The Left knew] only too well that revolutions are not made intentionally and arbitrarily, but that they were always and everywhere the necessary result of circumstances entirely independent of the will and guidance of particular parties and whole classes" (11-12).
Then George Sorel wrote Reflections on Violence, in 1908, wherein he combined Marxism with Henri Bergson's philosophy of life to develop ideas similar to Sartre's later "amalgamation of existentialism and Marxism--thought of class struggle in military terms; yet he ended by proposing nothing more violent than the famous myth of the general strike, a form of action which we today would think of as belonging rather to the arsenal of nonviolent politics" (12). Sartre did advocate for violent protest. Most influentially, he wrote a preface to a popular piece of writing, Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, in 1963, which was widely read (at least the first part) by Arendt's students in the late 60s. Unaware of his own basic disagreement with Marx on violence, Sartre wrote that "irrepressible violence . . . is man recreating himself,' that it is through 'mad fury' that 'the wretched of the earth' can 'become men' . . . the idea of man creating himself . . . is the very basis of all leftist humanism" (12). Hegel said man produces himself through thought. Marx turned Hegel's idealism upside down to conclude that "labour, the human form of metabolism with nature, that fulfilled this function" (13), but Sartre began a "new shift toward violence in the thinking of revolutionaries . . . No doubt all this has a logic of is own, but it is one springing from experience, and this experience was utterly unknown to any generation before" (13).

Sartre's experience of the war affected his views of the necessity of violence, which then affected a generation of views, even those who had no first hand experience with war. Arendt goes on to explain the pathos of the New Left was
"closely connected with the weird suicidal development of modern weapons; this is the first generation to grow up under the shadow of the atom bomb. . . . Their first reaction was a revulsion against every form of violence. . . . But it is no secret that things have changed since then, that the adherents of nonviolence are on the defensive, and it would be futile to say that only the 'extremists' are yielding to a glorification of violence and have discovered that 'only violence pays'" (14). "In George Wald's words, 'what we are up against is a generation that is by no means sure that it has a future. . . To the often-heard question Who are they, this new generation? one is tempted to answer, Those who hear the ticking'" (18).
At this point, unlike any other, we have the double barrel effects of nuclear weapons and climate change for a generation with the least hope possible to reach a healthy old age.

While student rebellion is a global phenomenon, it's in the United States where the "student movement has been seriously radicalized wherever police and police brutality intervened in essentially nonviolent demonstrations" in part because of race relations at the time (and now). She writes about a phenomenon also discussed by Martin Seligman in his overview of university psych departments. It feels distasteful to reiterate it, but they both complain of universities admitting black students without any academic qualifications who are ill-equipped to do the work. For a brief time, while the more prestigious schools typically admitted 25% of people who applied, in the late 60s they began to admit 75% of people who applied and also identified as having black heritage. Arendt explained, "The yielding of university authorities to black demands has often been explained by the 'guilt feelings' of the white community" (19). That's something I haven't heard openly discussed before reading these two books. I ignored it in Seligman's work as the musings of a slightly racist older man until I saw it reiterated here. I'm not sure if it should be classified as an attitude of old-school racism or an authentic description of a problematic policy of the time.

Back to warping Marx's ideas: "The new undeniable glorification of violence by the student movement has a curious peculiarity. While the rhetoric of the new militants is clearly inspired by Fanon, their theoretical arguments contain usually nothing but a hodgepodge of all kinds of Marxist leftovers . . . [Sartre] "has given expression to the new faith: 'violence,' he now believes, on the strength of Fanon's book, 'like Achilles' lance, can heal the woulds it has inflicted.' If this were true, revenge would be the cure-all for most of our ills" (20). Fanon wrote in a provocative manner, asking, "who has ever doubted that the violated dream of violence, that the oppressed 'dream at least once a day of setting' themselves up in the oppressor's place" (21), but this is NOT what Marx was saying:
"The point, as Marx saw it, is that dreams never come true. The rarity of slave rebellions and of uprisings among the disinherited and downtrodden is notorious; on the few occasions when they occurred it was precisely 'mad fury' that turned dreams into nightmares for everybody. . . . To identify the national liberation movements with such outbursts is to prophesy their doom--quite apart from the fact that the unlikely victory would not result in changing the world (or the system), but only its personnel" (21).
This is the plot of Animal Farm. Arendt explains further that we can't have a unity of the third world because "The Third World is not a reality but an ideology" (21).

I'm not sure I agree with her, and Marx, that the downtrodden rarely successfully rise up against their oppressors. There was the Haitian uprising for instance. Or, I certainly don't want it to be the case that it's impossible or unlikely to do successfully. However it appears clear that the chance of revolution decreases as the strength of the weapons of the government increase. She addresses that later. But here she adds one positive result of the new movement: "the claim for 'participatory democracy' . . . derives from the best in the revolutionary tradition--the council system" (22).


PARTY MACHINES

She laments the change that took over left-wing politics which lost touch with their working class affiliations and were completely swept up by bureaucracy:
"The New Left has remained in a declamatory stage, to be invoked rather inarticulately to lose even its merely representative function to the huge party machines that 'represent' not the party membership but its functionaries) and against the Eastern one-party bureaucracies, which rule out participation on principle. Even more surprising in this odd loyalty to the past is the New Left's seeming unawareness of the extent to which the moral character of the rebellion clashes with its Marxian rhetoric. Nothing, indeed, about the movement is more striking than its disinterestedness" (23). 
"To be sure, every revolutionary movement has been led by the disinterested, who were motivated by compassion or by a passion for justice. . . . Still, they too had first to espouse the nonspeculative, down-to-earth interests of the working class and to identify with it; this alone gave them a firm footing outside society. And this is precisely what the modern rebels have lacked from the beginning and have been unable to find despite a rather desperate search for allies outside the universities. . . . the complete collapse of any co-operation with the Black Power movement, whose students are more firmly rooted in their own community and therefore in a better bargaining position at the universities, was the bitterest disappointment for the white rebels" (24).
She suggests it's absurd to join all youth together as one while ignoring class. Today, calling everyone middle class has a subtle way of separating, instead of unifying, people as a group because we can easily look to one another and see, You have so much more, or less - Your troubles are not like mine. It's a start to be aware of privilege, but it doesn't erase the effects of poverty or the marks of difference within this giant class that imagines it's classless. This current pretence of equality is a barrier to real class equity.


PROGRESS: Quality over quantity

How we think of progress has also changed. We used to think of progress in terms of acquiring knowledge and character rather than land and possessions. The development of capitalism and constant growth forces us to constantly compare our lot with others, strive for more, and see each others as competitors. We have progress for the sake of progress; we can't stop changing and evolving, the faster the better.
"The notion that there is such a thing as progress of mankind as a whole was unknown prior to the seventeenth century. . . . The seventeenth century . . . thought of progress in terms of an accumulation of knowledge through the centuries, whereas for the eighteenth the word implied an 'education of mankind' whose end would coincide with man's coming of age. . . . Marx's classless society seen as the realm of freedom that could be the end of history actually still bears the hallmark of the Age of Enlightenment. . . . Now . . . 'the laws of movement alone are eternal. . . . As to man, all we can say is 'we are born perfectible, but we shall never be perfect" (26). 
"There is the obvious argument against progress that, in the words of Herzen, 'Human development is a form of chronological unfairness . . . or, in the words of Kant, 'It will always remain bewildering . . . that the earlier generations seem to carry on their burdensome business only for the sake of the later . . . and that only the last should have the good fortune to dwell in the [completed] building.' However, these disadvantages . . . are more than outweighed by an enormous advantage: progress not only explains the past without breaking up the time continuum but it can serve as a guide for acting into the future. . . . Progress gives an answer to the troublesome question, And what shall we do now? The answer, on the lowest level, says: Let us develop what we have into something better, greater, et cetera. (The, at first glance, irrational faith of liberals in growth, so characteristic of all our present political and economic theories, depends on this notion.) On the more sophisticated level of the Left, it tell us to develop present contradictions into their inherent synthesis" (27).
Hegel's dialectic wasn't about taking what we have and doing it more and more, but using the dialectical process that produces its opposite then creates something new in the synthesis. It's about better, not more, of quality, not quantity.  Arendt decides, "In either case we are assured that nothing altogether new and totally unexpected can happen, nothing but the 'necessary' results of what we already know" (28).

However, the previous century was full of unexpected leaps in the way student rebellion is inspired by moral considerations:
"This generation . . . has taught us a lesson about manipulation, or, rather, its limits. . . . Men can be 'manipulated' through physical coercion, torture, or starvation, and their opinions can be arbitrarily formed by deliberate, organized misinformation, but not through 'hidden persuaders,' television, advertising, or any other psychological means in a free society" (28).
She refers to "manipulation addicts" who think everyone is or can be manipulated into action, but she now sees this ability to override those forces. When the National Guard attacked the unarmed students at Berkeley, "some Guardsmen fraternized openly with their 'enemies' and one of them threw down his arms and shouted: 'I can't stand this any more'" (29). She connects the drive towards a progress in quantity to academic work, which has become a demand for a re-working of previous works rather than anything truly enlightened:
"Progress is a more serious and a more complex item offered at the superstition fair of our time. The irrational nineteenth-century belief in unlimited progress has found universal acceptance chiefly because of the astounding development of the natural sciences. . . . The ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy . . . or to the development of a pseudo-scholarship. . . . the rebellion of the young . . . has been chiefly directed against the academic glorification of scholarship and science, both of which, though for different reasons, are gravely compromised in their eyes. . . . Progress, in other words, can no longer serve as the standard by which to evaluate the disastrously rapid change-processes we have let loose" (29-30).
To conclude the Part I of her book,
"If we look on history in terms of a continuous chronological process, whose progress, moreover, is inevitable, violence in the shape of war and revolution may appear to constitute the only possible interruption . . . the preachers of violence would have won an important point. .. . . It is the function, however, of all action, as distinguished from mere behavior, to interrupt what otherwise would have proceeded automatically and therefore predictably."

USING TERMS PRECISELY

The problem with some of our thoughts around violence stem from imprecise use of terms.

There is a "consensus among political theorists from Left to Right to the effect that violence is nothing more than the most flagrant manifestation of power" (35). There is a same idea of power "from Right to Left, from Bertrand de Jouvenel to Mao Tse-tung." Marx calls it "the state as an instrument of oppression in the hands of the ruling class" (36). Max Weber talks about "the state as 'the rule of men over men based on the means of legitimate, that is allegedly legitimate, violence" (35). And C. Wright Mills says, "All politics is a struggle for power; the ultimate kind of power is violence" (35).

But some authors don't see the state as a coercive superstructure. Bertrand de Jouvenel: "To him who contemplates the unfolding of the ages war presents itself as an activity of States which pertains to their essence.' This may prompt us to ask whether the end of warfare, then, would mean the end of states. . . . a man feels himself more of a man when he is imposing himself and making others the instruments of his will' which gives him 'incomparable pleasure'" (36), but the meaning of this depends on what we think these words mean.

IF power is about commanding, then the greatest power is from the barrel of a gun, but "it would be difficult to say in 'which way the order given by a policeman is different form that given by a gunman'" as Alexander Passerin d'Entreves discussed in 1967. Is a state about power or force?

The idea that power is about control and command is useful, particularly considering power today, which is largely power of a bureaucracy:
"They derive from the old notion of absolute power . . . coincide with the terms used since Greek antiquity to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man--of one or the few in monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy and democracy. Today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion: bureaucracy or the rule of an intricate system of bureaus in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called rule by Nobody. . . . rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs, making it impossible to localize responsibility and to identify the enemy, that is among the most potent causes of the current world-wide rebellious unrest, its chaotic nature, and its dangerous tendency to get out of control. . . Moreover, this ancient vocabulary was strangely confirmed and fortified by the addition of the Hebrew-Christian tradition and its 'imperative conception of law'" (39).
This part about the state being unable to take responsibility is particularly germane to our current political issues. Then she explains that, beyond Nietzsche's idea that we all crave power over others, is another instinct for submission. We want to be told what to do:
"the many recent discoveries of an inborn instinct of domination and an innate aggressiveness in the human animal were preceded by very similar philosophic statements. According to John Stuart Mill, 'the first lesson of civilization is that of obedience . . . . If we would trust our own experiences in these matters, we should know that the instinct of submission, an ardent desire to obey and be ruled by some strong man, is at least as prominent in human psychology as the will to power, and, politically, perhaps more relevant. . . . Ready submission to tyranny is by no means always caused by extreme passiveness.' Conversely, a strong disinclination to obey is often accompanied by an equally strong disinclination to dominate and command. . . . If it were true that nothing is sweeter than to give commands and to rule others, the master would never have left his household" (39).
So, this notion of power fits well with the ancient Greeks and with our religious ideologies, but it's not the only way to conceive of it:
"However, there exists another tradition and another vocabulary. . . . When the Athenian city-state called its constitutions an isonomy, or the Romans spoke of the civitas as their form of government, they had in mind a concept of power and law whose essence did not rely on the command-obedience relationship and which did not identify power and rule or law and command. . . . when they discussed obedience to laws, they mean "support of the laws to which the citizenry had given its consent. . . . Under conditions of representative government the people are supposed to rule those who govern them. All political institutions are manifestations and materializations of power; they petrify and decay as soon as the living power of the people ceases to uphold them. . . . To suppose that majority rule functions only in democracy is a fantastic illusion . . . The king, who is but one solitary individual, stands far more in need of the general support of Society than any other form of government" (40-41).
The strength of government, in this view, is tied to the number of people in agreement, and the relationship between power and violence is a reverse correlation. So, tyranny,
"is therefore the most violent and least powerful of forms of government. Indeed one of the most obvious distinctions between power and violence is that power always stands in need of numbers, whereas violence up to a point can mange without them because it relies on implements. . . . To claim that a tiny unarmed minority has successfully, by means of violence--shouting, kicking up a row, et cetera--disrupted large lecture classes whose overwhelming majority had voted for normal instruction procedures is therefore very misleading. . . . What actually happens in such cases is something much more serious: the majority clearly refuses to use its power and overpower the disrupters; the academic processes break down because no one is willing to raise more than a voting finger for the status quo. What the universities are up against is the 'immense negative unity'. . . . The merely onlooking majority, amused by the spectacle of a shouting match between student and professor, is in fact already the latent ally of the minority" (42).
This is a pivotal point she's making that the parties and citizens in many countries would be wise to consider. When someone like Doug Ford or Trump or Bolsonaro makes rules that go against the people, it's because they are being allowed to make those rules through the silence of their colleagues and the relative inaction of too many of their citizens.

To use terms power and violence as synonyms, then, "resulted in a kind of blindness to the realities they correspond to." It leads us to think the most important issue is Who rules over Whom, but "it is only after one ceases to reduce public affairs to the business of dominion that the original data in the realm of human affairs will appear in their authentic diversity" (44).


SPECIFIC TERMS DEFINED: Power is the opposite of violence

Power is "the human ability to act in concert . . . it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together. When we say of somebody that he is 'in power' we actually refer to his being empowered by a certain number of people to act in their name" (44).

Strength is "designates something in the singular . .. belongs to its character. . . . the almost instinctive hostility of the many toward the one has always, from Plato to Nietzsche, been ascribed to resentment, to the envy of the weak for the strong, but this psychological interpretation misses the point. It is in the nature of a group and its power to turn against independence, the property of individual strength" (44).

Force is merely to "indicate the energy released by physical or social movements" (45).

Authority only appears two-fold: "Personal authority, as, for instance, in the relation between parent and child . . .  Its hallmark is unquestioning recognition by those who are asked to obey; neither coercion nor persuasion is needed. (A father can lose his authority either by beating his child or by starting to argue with him, that is, either by behaving to him like a tyrant or by treating him as an equal). . . . The greatest enemy of authority, therefore, is contempt, and the surest way to undermine it is laughter" (45). "University authorities, administrators and faculty alike, have lost the respect of many of the students . . . When authority leaves, power enters. . . . . The university today calls upon the police for protection exactly as the Catholic church used to do before the separation of state and church forced it to rely on authority alone" (45).

I think this is a prescient view of teaching and parenting as it has come to pass. We've lost authority by running our homes and classrooms as if the children are just as wise and capable as the adults. The more we ask, "What do you think we should have for dinner, or how do you wish to learn this material?" the more we lose our authority, and the more our wisdom falls into question until our charges take to learning manners and facts and morals from their peers as much as (or more than) any authority in the arena.

Violence is "distinguished by its instrumental character . . . it is close to strength, since the implements of violence, like all other tools, are designed and used for the purpose of multiplying natural strength until, in the last stage of their development, they can substitute for it" (46).

It's tempting, Arendt suggests, "to equate power with violence, in a discussion of what actually is only one of power's special cases--namely, the power of government. Since in foreign relations as well as domestic affairs violence appears as a last resort to keep the power structure intact against individual challengers--it looks indeed as though violence were the prerequisite of power. . . . On closer inspection, though, this notion loses much of its plausibility" (47).

Regarding the advent of fascism, some suggest that "Now every revolution is likely to meet the attack of the most modern, most efficient, most ruthless machinery yet in existence. It means that the age of revolutions free to evolve according to their own laws is over" (47), but Arendt argues that recent history disagrees: "the gap between state-owned means of violence and what people can muster by themselves--from beer bottles to Molotov cocktails and guns--has always been so enormous that technical improvements make hardly any difference" (48). But we still hold this mistaken notion that revolutions are by design:
"In a contest of violence against violence the superiority of the government has always been the absolute; but this superiority lasts only as long as the power structure of the government is intact--that is, as long as commands are obeyed . . . Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence are of no use; and the question of this obedience is not decided by the command-obedience relation but by opinion, and, of course, by the number of those who share it. . . . civil obedience . . . is but the outward manifestation of support and consent" (48-49).
This is similar to what Chomsky and Chris Hedges suggest: that a revolution isn't necessarily a matter of taking up arms, but a matter of refusing to obey, of refusing to allow the system to continue to work. It's harder to conceive of what that looks like, though. How do we begin?
"Even the most despotic domination we know of, the rule of master over slaves, who always outnumbered him, did not rest on superior means of coercion as such, but on a superior organization of power--that is, on the organized solidarity of the masters" (50). "In domestic affairs, violence functions as the last resort of power against criminals or rebels--that is, against single individuals who, as it were, refuse to be overpowered by the consensus of the majority" (51). Power needs legitimacy. "Power springs up whenever people get together and act in concert, but it derives its legitimacy from the initial getting together" (52).
Power and violence often appear together, and are related, but they're not the same: "violence can always destroy power, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What never can grow out of it is power" (53).

At Berkeley, the National Guard used gas outlawed by the Geneva Convention. "Politically speaking, the point is that loss of power becomes a temptation to substitute violence for power" (54).

Terror: "Terror is not the same as violence; it is, rather, the form of government that comes into being when violence, having destroyed all power, does not abdicate but, on the contrary, remains in full control" (55).

"Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power's disappearance. (56)

To conclude Part II: Arendt disagrees with the "time-honored" opinion that "evil is but a temporary manifestation of a still-hidden good." She thinks that's a dangerous idea shared only "for the simple reason that they inspire hope and dispel fear--a treacherous hope used to dispel legitimate fear" (56).  So, violence can't be derived from power, which is its opposite, so to understand violence, we have to look for its roots.



ROOTS OF VIOLENCE: It's about class control, not nature

Konrad Lorentz published On Aggression in 1963, which put forth the sticky idea that humans are, like all other mammals, programmed by nature to be violent. Arendt argues that there's no point in discussing any link between animal and human behaviours. Even if it's natural to be violent, it doesn't give it any legitimacy. We can still think and plan in ways that other animals cannot, so we cannot use "natural instinct" as an excuse for our behaviour. People and animals can be aggressive,
"independent of provocation . . . lack of provocation apparently leads to instinct frustration, to 'repressed' aggressiveness, which according to psychologists causes a damming up of 'energy' whose eventually explosion will be all the more dangerous. . . . we are distinct from other animal species in nothing but the additional attribute of reason . . . 'reason' makes man a more dangerous beast" (61-62). "Hence science is called upon to cure us of the side effects of reason by manipulating and controlling our instincts, usually by finding harmless outlets for them after their 'life promoting function' has disappeared. The standard of behavior is again derived from other animals species. . . .the specific distinction between man and beast is now, strictly speaking, no long reason but science, the knowledge of these standards and the techniques applying them" (62-3).
Rage is "Only where there is reason to suspect that conditions could be changed and are not does rage arise. . . . Absence of emotions neither causes nor promotes rationality. . . . Rage and violence turn irrational only when they are directed against substitutes" (63).

She calls out recommendations to atone collectively for our crimes as a people:
"Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing." So the claim that 'all white men are guilty' is not only "dangerous nonsense, but . . . serves quite effectively to give the very real grievances and rational emotions of the [offended or victimized] population an outlet into irrationality, an escape from reality" (65).
We can't solve the problem when we present it like this, as an attack by a group or a type of people. We have to acknowledge the individuals, specifically, if we hope to decrease violence.
"Not many authors of rank glorified violence for violence's sake; but those few--Sorel, Pareto, Fanon--were motivated by a much deeper hatred of bourgeois society and were led to a much more radical break with its moral standards than the conventional Left, which was chiefly inspired by compassion and a burning desire for justice" (65).
In Fanon's praise of violence he presented a view in which, "in this kind of struggle the people realize 'that life is an unending contest,' that violence is an element of life" (69). Violence is praised as a creative life force of producers, which then makes it a goal of individuals who see themselves as leaders and revolutionaries. He paints an image of bourgeois as complacent, bent on pleasure, without a will to power: "a late product of capitalism rather than its representative." These intellectual "theories are 'constructions' instead of 'expressions of the will.' . . . Sorel sees the worker as the 'producer,' who will create the new 'moral qualities, which are necessary to improve production.' . . . Except, "the new values turn out to be not very new. They are a sense of honor, desire for fame and glory, the spirit of fighting without hatred and 'without the spirit of revenge,' and indifference to material advantages. Still, they are indeed the very virtues that were conspicuously absent from bourgeois society" (70).

Sorel has significant insights about the motives that provoke people to glorify violence, ideas carried through by Fanon and Vilfredo Pareto, persuaded by the Dreyfus Affair in which, as often happens, the opposition used the same tactics of control they had just denounced. Again with Orwell's Animal Farm or, more recently, the ending of the Hunger Games series. But Arendt argues that there's something disastrous to his view since it's neither the managers nor the workers who have increased production in our times:
"The enormous growth of productivity in the modern world was by no means due to an increase in the workers' productivity, but exclusively the development of technology, and this depended neither on the working class nor on the bourgeoisie, but on the scientists. The 'intellectuals' . . . suddenly ceased to be a marginal social group and emerged as a new elite. . . . Its members are more dispersed and less bound by clear interests than groups in the old class system; hence, they have no drive to organize themselves and lack experience in all matters pertaining to power. . . . their potential power, as yet unrealized, is very great, perhaps too great for the good of mankind" (73).
"Biological justification of violence is closely connected with the most pernicious elements in our oldest traditions of political thought. . . . a concept of power equated with violence, power is expansionist by nature. It 'has an inner urge to grow'. . . . Revolutions, therefore, were directed against the established powers 'only to the outward view.' Their true 'effect was to give Power a new vigour and poise, and to pull down the obstacles which had long obstructed its development'. . . . Nothing, in my opinion, could be theoretically more dangerous than the tradition of organic thought in political matters by which power and violence are interpreted in biological terms" (75).
Sorel and Fanon and Lorenz lead us to talking about creation and destruction as two sides of the natural process, so violent action "may appear as natural a prerequisite for the collective life of mankind" (75).
"The danger of being carried away by the deceptive plausibility of organic metaphors is particularly great where the racial issue is involved. . . . Racism, as distinguished from race, is not a fact of life, but an ideology, and the deeds it leads to are not reflex actions, but deliberate acts based on pseudo-scientific theories. Violence in interracial struggle is always murderous, but it is not 'irrational'; it is the logical and rational consequence of racism . . . an explicit ideological system. Under the pressure of power, prejudices, as distinguished from both interests and ideologies, may yield--as we saw happen with the highly successful civil-rights movement, which was entirely nonviolent. But while boycotts, sit-ins, and demonstrations were successful in eliminating discriminatory laws and ordinances in the South, they proved utter failures and became counterproductive when they encountered the social conditions in the large urban centers--the stark needs of the black ghettos on one side, the overriding interests of white lower-income groups in respect to housing and education on the other. All this mode of action could do, and indeed did, was to bring these conditions into the open, into the street, where the basic irreconcilability of interests was dangerously exposed" (76).
"The riots are 'articulate protests against genuine grievances . . .  much the same is true for the backlash phenomena, which, contrary to all predictions, have not been characterized by violence up to now. It is the perfectly rational reaction of certain interest groups which furiously protest against being singled out to pay the full price for ill-designed integration policies whose consequences their authors can easily escape" (77).
This is something Marx described as well. The powerful will pit the powerless against one another so they end up fighting each other instead of looking at the very system that keeps them oppressed and hungry. It's a distracting tactic. A solid example she provides is around desegregation of schools, something most of us look back on with pride, but, "There are 535 members of Congress and a lot of theses liberals have children, too. You know how many send their kids to the public schools in Washington? Six" (101). Desegregation was another way to force greater competition between groups in the lower classes while having zero effect on the actual system - or people at the top of the system -  that maintains the class structure. It's not to say, however, that there aren't benefits to desegregation policies, of course, but that it's a small battle won that scarcely affected the war.  Look around at the incarceration stats and police brutality. To what extent has racism been resolved?


ON ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST

Here she gets at the complexity of issues that often goes unnoticed or is somehow beyond our scope. It's clarified for me, at least, how I'm sometimes guilty of looking at some economic issues too simplistically. I do generally think the best answer is the one that works best for the many in the long run, but that neglects the immediate impacts, which could be devastating for people involved:
"It goes against the very nature of self-interest to be enlightened. To take as an example from everyday life the current interest conflict between tenant and landlord: enlightened interest would focus on a building fit for human habitation, but this interest is quite different from, and in most cases opposed to, the landlord's self-interest in high profit and the tenant's in low rent. The common answer of an arbiter, supposedly the spokesman of 'enlightenment' namely, that in the long run the interest of the building is the true interest of both landlord and tenant, leaves out of account the time factor, which is of paramount importance for all concerned. . . . Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin. . . . To expect people, who have not the slightest notion of what the res publica, the public thing, is, to behave nonviolently and argue rationally in matters of interest is neither realistic nor reasonable. Violence is rational to the extent that it is effective in reaching the end that must justify it. . . . . Violence . . . serves to dramatize grievances and bring them to public attention. . . . Sometimes 'violence is the only way of ensuring a hearing for moderation.' To ask the impossible in order to obtain the possible is not always counterproductive" (79).
Elites will give an inch so you'll forget the mile. They'll kowtow to the minor details of life, but continue to benefit from the greater injustices.
"No doubt, 'violence pays,' but the trouble is that it pays indiscriminately . . . since the tactics of violence and disruption make sense only for short-term goals, it is even more likely . . . that the established power will yield to nonsensical and obviously damaging demands . . . if only such 'reforms' can be made with comparative ease. . . . Moreover, the danger of violence . . . will always be that the means overwhelm the end. If goals are not achieved rapidly, the result will be not merely defeat but the introduction of the practice of violence into the whole body politic. . . . The practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world" (80).
"The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted" (81).


THE BUREAUCRATIZATION OF GOVERNMENT

I think this is one of the most important points she makes: a bureaucracy is a "tyranny without a tyrant" (81). It leads to a belief that these are just the rules we have to follow, nobody made them and nobody can effectively change them - the system never changes. It can't be fought against because it's not a thing, not an entity.
"On the level of ideologies, the whole thing is confusing; it is much less so if we start from the obvious fact that the huge party machines have succeeded everywhere in overruling the voice of the citizens, even in countries where freedom of speech and association is still intact" (81).
"The disintegration processes which have become so manifest in recent years--the decay of public services, schools, police . . . the death rate on the highways and the traffic problems in the cities; the pollution of air and water--are the automatic results of the needs of mass societies that have become unmanageable. They are accompanied and often accelerated by the simultaneous decline of the various party systems, all of more or less recent origin and designed to serve the political needs of mass populations--in the West to make representative government possible when direct democracy would not do any longer because 'the room will not hold all' (John Selden) and in the East to make absolute rule over vast territories more effective. Bigness is afflicted with vulnerability; cracks in the power structure of all but the small countries are opening and widening. And while no one can say with assurance where and when the breaking point has been reached, we can observe, almost measure, how strength and resiliency are insidiously destroyed, leaking, as it were, drop by drop from our institutions" (84).
"Moreover, there is the recent rise of a curious new brand of nationalism, usually understood as a swing to the Right, but more probably an indication of a growing, worldwide resentment against 'bigness' as such . . . the new, for America, experiment of centralized administration--the federal government overpowering state powers and executive power eroding congressional powers. It is as though this most successful European colony wished to share the fate of the mother countries in their decline, repeating in great haste the very errors of the framers of the Constitution had set out to correct and to eliminate. . . . its political result is always the same: monopolization of power causes the drying up or oozing away of all authentic power sources int eh country" (85).
It's like she wrote this this morning!

She ends it like this:
"We do not know where these developments will lead us, but we know, or should know, that every decrease in power is an open invitation to violence--if only because those who hold power and feel it slipping from their hand, be they the government or be they the governed, have always found it difficult to resist the temptation to substitute violence for it" (87).
It's not to say that we should honour power in order to avoid violence, but that we have to be prepared to cope with violence whenever power structures are challenged.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

We Don't Need a Scientist; We Need a Priest

PhilosophyTube is one of my favourite channels for in-depth analysis of issues in a philosophical and comedic yet profoundly heartfelt manner. Today Ollie tackled "Climate Grief" by working through the stages of grief. It's curious how similar it is to my previous post: "Seven Shades of Green."



In brief:

1. Despair (Non-Green and Light Green) - We run an increased risk of anxiety and depression when we hear there's nothing being done about climate change. We can't get our heads around climate change because of the "Non-Identity Problem." In a nutshell, climate change is a bad thing for future people, many of whom don't exist yet. Timothy Morton says climate change is an example of a hyperobject: it's real, but we can't see the whole thing at one - like five blind men describing an elephant, or like grief. It's like asking where the university is while being shown around each building. It's hard to grasp something so all encompassing. We're in the mess we're in due to thinking of the environment as separate from ourselves. Instead we have to think of climate change as an object we're inside of.

2. Denial (Shiny Green) - This is the tech fix. We expected to have all our problems solved by technology by now, or at least be on our way to Mars. Moore's Law, the idea that tech doubles in capacity at half the price every two years, isn't a law at all. It's a myth that help tech companies profit. The reality is that there is no solution to climate change that doesn't also include solving labour rights issues. The solution must turn over the entire capitalist system because it's colonialism and profit motives that got us here in the first place.

3. Bargaining (Emerald Green) - Ollie does a great job of summarizing the Standing Rock event. In January 2018, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) route was going to be close to Bismarck, so it was rerouted to avoid it due to concerns with 200 leaks in the previous six years. Instead they decided to send it through unceded indigenous land. This led to a huge occupied protest. At Standing Rock, protesters tried a new way of sustainable living where everyone got free shelter and food with minimal impact to the land. It was an attempt to create a brand new world. Obama said we need to wait a bit to figure it all out, but the military, which was hired by the oil company, responded with violence - chemical weapons and dog attacks.

The military, gun control, overfishing, and climate change, is all one big problem. Indigenous authors have talked about this already. Nick Estes says that indigenous peoples are already living in a post-apocalyptic world. We have different attitudes to the land that has to be addressed: Abrahamic tribes mark sacred land that was involved in a specific event, like Mecca. But indigenous groups see land as sacred because "there's a piece of me in that land and a piece of that land in me." The land and people are enmeshed, and they're already living this philosophy. Extinction Rebellion has been cagey about linking climate change and police brutality, but the indigenous at Standing Rock are clear that the police enforced a set of values that aligned themselves with the oil company. They didn't wait for Obama to figure it all out.

4. Acceptance (Muted Deep Green, Deep Green, and Dark Green) - The idea of climate despair speaks to the notion that there's nothing we can do anymore. The apocalypse is coming. Jem Bendell's Deep Adaptation starts with the assumption that society is going to collapse. The controversy around this idea is whether or not it helps the cause to spread despair. Ollie appreciates that it allows us to experience grief over what's happening in the world - that leaders at Exxon, BP, and the North Dakota government should face justice, but won't.

We need to acknowledge the tragedy of the way things are right now, acknowledge that things suck. One advantage of facing grief is that once we recognize that everything is part and parcel of one big problem, then we have a lot more allies to work with. Another benefit is that confronting the possibility of the world ending, as we know it, offers us a chance to ask what were the good bits. We need to dwell in gratitude for what we've had as we take our leave from it.

But "apocalypse" doesn't mean end of the world. It means, literally, a revealing of knowledge. Can we learn from this before it's too late?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Seven Shades of Green

I'm trying to sort out all the solutions to the current and ongoing climate catastrophe. This is all getting very complicated, and I'm not sure I completely have my head around who's who and which organization is promoting what, so this is just a partially completed overview of current ideology around climate change. I've listed the shades from the least immediately painful solutions (possibly ineffective in the long run) to the most dramatic solutions (and possibly, but not necessarily, the most effective - certainly the most impactful, though).


SO FAR FROM GREEN IT'S ALMOST RED 
(but not commie-red)

The Cons's Joe Oliver thinks climate change will be good for Canada, and Trudeau wants to expand oil extraction to fund clean energy projects.

Concerns: Ya.... nope. This is not remotely green.


LIGHT GREEN

The United Nations

Climate Change is number 13 of the UN's SDG (sustainable development goals), and their
proposal is to gently encourage the public sector, each government, to minimize the negative impacts they have on the environment. This might include more stringent regulations on construction and resource extraction.

Concerns: It's tricky for governments to do anything that might harm their own economy, so they need more than just encouragement. Governments are notoriously short-sighted. Industrial revolution 4.0.


SHINY GREEN 

Global CCS Institute, International Energy Agency...

Technology will save the day. Give them enough money, and they'll save the world. CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) means we can continue as is by sucking up all the carbon in the atmosphere.

Concerns: It won't work at the scale necessary or nearly fast enough to have an effect. It perpetuates the status quo to the point that there will be no net gain in the long run.


EMERALD GREEN

Elizabeth May, the NDP, AOC, Howie Hawkins, Green New Deal, Sunrise Movement, Leap Manifesto, Project Drawdown  -  Maybe also Sierra Club, 350.org, Bill McKibben, and all those guys (??).

We need to fix the system while working within the system. We'll have inclusive capitalism. A "Clean Caring Economy" sounds great! When we look at climate change as "the greatest business opportunity in our species' history" (Forbes), we can all prosper from the new system. We can have green growth! Renewables will save the day.

Concerns: Some strong ideas, but t's not going to happen fast enough. The focus on profits and the economy, likely to placate the masses who still think the economy matters more than the environment we live in, will take us though mild changes at a glacial pace - the old school glaciers that didn't melt in a season. Green growth is an oxymoron. We have to stop over-consumption, not redirect it. Electrification of everything doesn't stop the mining necessary for metals, etc. But, definitely keep pushing better rail systems to take more cars out of circulation. That's a keeper.


MUTED DEEP GREEN - Non-Violent

Extinction Rebellion (XR), Roger Hallam, Earthstrike, Greta Thunberg
James Lovelock, Jem Bendell and Deep Adaptation,  Scientists Warning.org
Toni Spencer, the Emergence Network

Boots on the ground strikes in order to show the world the importance of the issues and to show the politicians that the people are on board for some big and necessary changes. They call for ordinary people to get together, non-violently, to provide legitimacy for massive changes that are now necessary. Check out Chris Hedges interview with Roger Hallam - Hedges is all about non-violent resistance to the status quo.

Strike every Friday afternoon, but Fridays for Future lists a longer strike from Thursday, September 19 at 8 pm to Friday, September 27 at 8 pm, and there's also a Worldwide Rebellion strike set for Monday, October 7th to Friday, October 18.

Concerns: They're generating tons of attention, but will anyone actually listen?? Is refusing to go to school or work going to adversely affect a machine willing to throw more people into those positions? Masses in the streets could provoke counter-measures of control and then we'll end up with fascism.


DEEP GREEN - Some Violence is Necessary

Deep Green Resistance, Derrick Jensen's EndGame , Lierre Keith, Aric McBay
See this document on Debating Strategies of Transition by Samuel Alexander and Jonathan Rutherford
Decisive Ecological Warfare

We need to shift to a zero growth economy and stop producing green products. They're adamantly against biofuels and other solutions that allow us to keep living the way we live. We can only change the system by destroying it.
"Physically, it’s not too late for a crash program to limit births to reduce the population, cut fossil fuel consumption to nil, replace agricultural monocrops with perennial polycultures, end overfishing, and cease industrial encroachment on (or destruction of) remaining wild areas. There’s no physical reason we couldn’t start all of these things tomorrow, stop global warming in its tracks, reverse overshoot, reverse erosion, reverse aquifer drawdown, and bring back all the species and biomes currently on the brink. There’s no physical reason we couldn’t get together and act like adults and fix these problems, in the sense that it isn’t against the laws of physics. But socially and politically, we know this is a pipe dream. There are material systems of power that make this impossible as long as those systems are still intact. Those in power get too much money and privilege from destroying the planet. We aren’t going to save the planet—or our own future as a species—without a fight."
They quote George Orwell: "Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other." It's easy to stop industrial civilization, which depends on a fragile infrastructure with just few centralized ports and processing facilities. They advocate attacking property, not people: things like pipelines, infrastructure, etc. to directly stop the system from continuing. Superficial solutions are ineffective and reinforce existing power disparities. "The worst shortcoming of most suggested solutions is that they are not consonant with the severity of the problem, the window of time available for effective action, or the number of people expected to act. . . . Ultimately, of course, effective solutions must directly or indirectly work toward taking down civilization." We need legal remedies as well as direct action - civil disobedience:
"No single action, whether “inside” or “outside” whatever system of power, is going to be definitive. A serious resistance movement understands that. Instead of closing off whole sectors of a power’s organization, a successful movement aims at wherever power is vulnerable compared to the resources at hand. The “inside” and the “outside” actionists need to see themselves as working together toward that larger goal."

Concerns: Violence begets violence.


DARK GREEN (or maybe GRAVE GREEN)

Dark Mountain (manifesto), Paul Kingsnorth, Dougald Hine  - Hal Niedzviecki wrote about them, Daniel Drumright's suicide stuff

It's all over, and it's time to prepare for the crisis that's definitely coming. "We are in an inexorable period of 'slow collapse' . . . the problems are intractable. There is no turning back, halting global warming, ending our lifestyle of rampant overconsumption and environmental destruction." Their goal is a forum of voices acknowledging that we are living in a time of disintegration and ongoing loss. "Ecocide demands a response. . . . Artists are needed. . . . Where are the poems that have adjusted their scope to the scale of this challenge? . . . What gallery mounts an exhibition equal to this challenge?" They seek out "uncivilised" writing,
"which attempts to stand outside the human bubble and see us as we are: highly evolved apes with an array of talents and abilities which we are unleashing without sufficient thought, control, compassion or intelligence:Apes who have constructed a sophisticated myth of their own importance with which to sustain their civilising project."Apes whose project has been to tame, to control, to subdue or to destroy."

Concerns: But what if it's not all over and there's still time to do something?!


* * * * *

My attitude hasn't changed significantly since writing on people being too stupid to live back in 2013 (where Joe Oliver also gets a mention!). Nothing is better and a whole lot of things are much, much worse. I think I've worked my way down to the bottom of this list although I still often hover around emerald green and muted deep green much of the time. I still advocate doing less damage on an individual basis (buying less, travelling less, using fewer resources and energy, eating less meat, etc.) because it's good for our mental health to maintain an illusion of having a positive effect on the world and because people who get better at living with less will have an easier time of it when that's no longer a choice. I'm not ready for suicide pills yet, but I do agree with the importance of art at times of chaos. And that's right now.



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The 1619 Project

From the opening:
"The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are."
I don't love the navigation layout wherein stories interrupt other stories so you have to remember to go back to read that:


And, when I click on "Read More," nothing happens! And then you have to find the beginning of it all again to read other essays, which takes ages to load on my old mac. Why not one title page with links appearing at the very beginning of it all and again at the end of each article? It's probably just me, so anyway...

Here's a bit from the first article I was able to access:  Matthew Desmond's "In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation." It was an excellent read, starting with the various types of capitalism that we could choose to have.
"In a capitalist society that goes low, wages are depressed as businesses compete over the price, not the quality, of goods; so-called unskilled workers are typically incentivized through punishments, not promotions; inequality reigns and poverty spreads. In the United States, the richest 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, while a larger share of working-age people (18-65) live in poverty than in any other nation belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.). . . . Recently, historians have pointed persuasively to the gnatty fields of Georgia and Alabama, to the cotton houses and slave auction blocks, as the birthplace of America’s low-road approach to capitalism. . . . The combined value of enslaved people exceeded that of all the railroads and factories in the nation. . . . What made the cotton economy boom in the United States, and not in all the other far-flung parts of the world with climates and soil suitable to the crop, was our nation’s unflinching willingness to use violence on nonwhite people and to exert its will on seemingly endless supplies of land and labor. Given the choice between modernity and barbarism, prosperity and poverty, lawfulness and cruelty, democracy and totalitarianism, America chose all of the above. . . .

Slavery did supplement white workers with what W.E.B. Du Bois called a “public and psychological wage,” which allowed them to roam freely and feel a sense of entitlement. But this, too, served the interests of money. Slavery pulled down all workers’ wages. Both in the cities and countryside, employers had access to a large and flexible labor pool made up of enslaved and free people. Just as in today’s gig economy, day laborers during slavery’s reign often lived under conditions of scarcity and uncertainty, and jobs meant to be worked for a few months were worked for lifetimes. Labor power had little chance when the bosses could choose between buying people, renting them, contracting indentured servants, taking on apprentices or hiring children and prisoners. . . . In recent decades, America has experienced the financialization of its economy. In 1980, Congress repealed regulations that had been in place since the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, allowing banks to merge and charge their customers higher interest rates. Since then, increasingly profits have accrued not by trading and producing goods and services but through financial instruments. Between 1980 and 2008, more than $6.6 trillion was transferred to financial firms. After witnessing the successes and excesses of Wall Street, even nonfinancial companies began finding ways to make money from financial products and activities. Ever wonder why every major retail store, hotel chain and airline wants to sell you a credit card? This financial turn has trickled down into our everyday lives: It’s there in our pensions, home mortgages, lines of credit and college-savings portfolios. Americans with some means now act like “enterprising subjects,” in the words of the political scientist Robert Aitken. . . . 
Some historians have claimed that the British abolition of the slave trade was a turning point in modernity, marked by the development of a new kind of moral consciousness when people began considering the suffering of others thousands of miles away. But perhaps all that changed was a growing need to scrub the blood of enslaved workers off American dollars, British pounds and French francs, a need that Western financial markets fast found a way to satisfy through the global trade in bank bonds. Here was a means to profit from slavery without getting your hands dirty."





Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Giant Hamster Wheel of Political Rhetoric

I really believe that the arts are vital in times of strife, and that's particularly true with witty orators and writers. They are the court jesters who get away with more than the rest of us can, and they're necessary to any rebellion. So I appreciate how Anthony Jeselnik discusses politics at the end of this conversation with Colin Quinn (at 53:53 min.):



He talks about deciding not to use a prepared joke about a shooting in the wake of a recent shooting:
"I don't want anyone to think I'm on that side. . . . even though I like playing with that side. . . . People go, 'You joke about the things we're all thinking but can't say.' No, I'm not. . . . I do not pander to that crowd. . . . I'm not more careful, I'm just more conscious about what I represent. . . . I want people to be scared of me, but I also want to be able to do good and be the kind of villain that other villains don't want to fuck with."

I think that's the kind of attitude we need, not just in comedy, but in politics. I think of all the Dems running, really only Bernie has that no bullshit stance. He spoke to Joe Rogan recently about the soundbite non-debate method used in the primaries, gun control, medicare, climate change, etc.:



But, yesterday in Truthdig, Chris Hedges made it clear that no democrat will change the system. Not Bernie, not AOC, nobody who's part of the system. He wrote about the activism of Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, who recently gave a 90 minute speech, "Time to Act Now," and about the Green New Deal, first promoted by Howie Hawkins, who's running as the Green Party nominee in the U.S. presidential election. Hawkins might be this year's Ralph Nader, taking much needed votes away from the less bad party, or he might have no effect at all in the machine that's running the world into the ground. Hedges writes,
The drivel and invective that passes for political discourse is a giant hamster wheel that goes nowhere. It masks the root causes of our political and economic decline and fractures the population into warring camps that increasingly communicate through violence, which is why the United States has suffered mass shootings with three or more fatalities more than 30 times this year. We will save ourselves only by pitting power against power. And since our two major political parties slavishly serve corporate power, and have few substantial differences on nearly all major issues from imperialism to unfettered capitalism, we must start from scratch. . . . The Democrats, if they had a functioning political party and were not owned and managed by corporations, could easily displace Trump and demolish the Republican Party in electoral landslide after landslide. . . . A genuine populism and New Deal socialism are the only hope of thwarting the rise of neofascist movements. This, however, will never be permitted by the Democratic Party hierarchy, led by figures such as Pelosi, Joe Biden and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who are acutely aware they would instantly lose their power without the prop of hundreds of millions of corporate dollars. They, and their corporate sponsors, will block all reform even if it means another four years of Trump and the extinguishing of democracy. The only thing they have to sell us is fear—fear of Trump and the Russians. While Trump sells the fear of immigrants, Muslims, people of color and those he brands as socialists. This is a toxic diet. . . . 
All meaningful resistance takes place outside the formal political structures. The 10-day protest in April in London led by Extinction Rebellion—which saw 1,130 people arrested as crowds repeatedly shut down major parts of the city in demonstrating against the failure of the ruling elites to confront the climate catastrophe—is what we must emulate. . . . “We’re looking at the collapse of the world’s agriculture systems,” Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, told me when we spoke in London. . . . “We need to insulate all housing stock,” he said. “We need to turn over the economy so that it’s completely electrified. We need to have all the energy coming from renewables. We need a social transformation, so the rich are taxed and pay their fair share. We need to organize communities around quality of life so that people can learn to adapt to these changes, these traumatic changes. This is a matter of physics. It’s not a matter of political opinion. These changes are coming. It’s far too late for massive increases in temperature not to happen. What we’re looking at now is whether we’re going to go extinct or not. I know that sounds like science fiction, but it’s true. We need to look at the figures. It’s like going to the doctor. This is cancer. You don’t like it, that’s fine, but it’s not going to stop you from dying. The only option is do you want to accept that this is the situation? Or don’t you? If you don’t, you’re going to die. If you do, there is a chance. But you’re going to have to get a move on it.” . . . 
[The Green New Deal] was articulated 12 years ago by the Green Party, which called for massive job and public works programs to transition our energy infrastructure to renewable energy. The deal was promoted by Howie Hawkins when he ran for the governorship in New York in 2014 and by Jill Stein during her 2016 presidential run. The proposal for a Green New Deal by the Green Party has a fundamental difference from what is touted by progressive Democrats. It does not argue that structural change and a transition to renewable energy will come by making alliances with corporate power. Instead, it insists that we bring about a transformational change in our economy by crushing corporate power and establishing a socialist system. [Hawking says,] 'Trump is a racist scapegoater. He is a freeloading leech who doesn’t pay his own employees, contracts, taxes. He lies to the people. He needs to go. But if you replace him with a Democrat, they’re not going to enact ‘Medicare for All.’ They’re not going to do a Green New Deal. They are backing Trump, who now wants a war for oil in Venezuela, while the planet is burning from burning oil. It’s madness.' . . .  We have to reorganize all sectors [of the economy]—agriculture, manufacturing, the military, transportation—toward sustainability. Or we’ll never get to 100 percent clean energy.” Switch off the electronic images. Ignore the media burlesque. The endless political shows, which turn presidential campaigns into mind-numbing, two-year-long marathons, are entertainment. Do not trust anyone in power. We will save ourselves by building mass movements to overthrow corporate power. I am not certain we will succeed. But I am certain that if we fail, we are doomed.


At this point, it feels like we're doomed. I can't get any students remotely interested in rebellion. The bread and circuses on their phones has melted their energy - most of them anyway. But it could all turn a corner on a dime. We could be one good, rousing speaker - political or otherwise - away from changing the world. Just maybe.

Friday, August 9, 2019

IPCC - On Land Use

The most recent IPCC special report is on "desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems". The video at Lorne's post does a nice summary, and Climate and Capitalism has a thorough run-down, but Mound's has more flavour to it. GlobalEcoGuy has some good graphs as well as commentary: "Imagine that: Electricity generation and land us and agriculture are basically equal in terms of their global impact on climate change, yet addressing emissions from electricity gets far more attention and funding."

But although it suggests we have to reduce meat consumption and production, in the Guardian, George Monbiot critiqued the report as irresponsibly understating "the true carbon cost of our meat and dairy habits." The problem is in how the report calculates the land use. They've added up the impact of tractors and fertilizer and so on, but a study in Nature, instead, compares the land used for cattle to land that could be forested to show a much more dire result: "One kilo of beef protein has a carbon opportunity cost of 1,250kg: that, incredibly, is roughly equal to driving a new car for a year, or to one passenger flying from London to New York and back."
"If our grazing land was allowed to revert to natural ecosystems, and the land currently used to grow feed for livestock was used for grains, beans, fruit, nuts and vegetables for humans, this switch would allow the UK to absorb an astonishing quantity of carbon. This would be equivalent, altogether, the paper estimates, to absorbing nine years of our total current emissions. And farming in this country could then feed everyone, without the need for imports."
That actually sounds hopeful, except I'm losing faith in anybody actually sacrificing anything in their lives, particularly steak.

BUT, in other land-related news, in Australia, the government bought up an entire suburb and returned the land to little penguins that lived there. This is the ultimate in rewilding. The population of penguins has almost tripled since. Imagine if we were required to keep a certain percentage of our land 'wild' and completely uncommodifiable!



Planet of the Humans Coming Film Release

Jeff Gibbs, a close associate of Michael Moore, has directed a new doc about the problems with green solutions to climate change. The doc isn't out yet, but the promotional material suggests it will reveal how solar panels and electric cars are making the situation worse. So NOW what do we do??

There's still cutting back on (or eliminating) beef in our diets. George Monbiot says we need to eat what uses the least land resources possible, and beef uses the most. It doesn't appear that the new film debunks that one.

Based on articles about the film, they take down Bill McKibben for supporting biomass and other environmental groups for getting in bed with corporations. They use as a deterrent to renewables the fact that the Koch brothers are making money off them. But they would be idiots not to invest in all sides of energy, so that's not remotely a good argument. A tie to a corporation isn't necessarily a problem for the earth.

CounterPunch reports (it's really weirdly written) that they say,
"Forget all you have heard about how “Renewable Energy” is our salvation. It is all a myth that is very lucrative for some. Feel-good stuff like electric cars, etc."
They report that all renewable energy sources use fossil fuels in their production: "none of these could exist without fossil fuels". I don't think that's a surprise for anyone. The idea of using solar panels was never to eliminate all fossil fuel use, but to dramatically decrease its use. I'm not sure if they present information that suggests using solar panels is just as bad as burning coal for energy, but the sound bites are making that implication. I've been praising renewables all these years for having less impact from cradle to grave, not zero impact. I look forward to seeing the film (and scrutinizing their sources) to see if I need to change paths.

Non-Fiction Film offers a clearer look at what the film suggests,
The ultimate problem is that there are too many people consuming too much. . . . Gibbs sees climate change as symptomatic of a larger problem - overpopulation and consumption of Earth's resources. . . . putative solutions to our global environmental dilemma, such as switching to renewable sources of energy, building more wind farms and electric cars, offer false hope. . . . the development of "alternative energy" sources like wind, solar and biomass has not, in fact, led to a reduction in consumption of fossil fuels. "Building out an electric car and solar and wind infrastructure and the biomass, biofuel infrastructure, is going to run us off the cliff faster," Gibbs declares. "Because it's an additional round of mining and destruction that does not replace the one [fossil fuels] that's already destroying the planet!" . . . "Environmental groups have been collaborating on the lie of growth by helping us pretend that there will be 'green growth.' As if you can have wealth or stuff that doesn't destroy the planet. News flash: that's an impossibility of physics and biology," the director tells me. "There is nothing you will ever have in your life that's not an extraction from the planet earth. And so we've all lost touch with that."

To avoid the potential extinction of the human species, Gibbs believes nothing short of a radical reordering of perspective is needed. "There are too many people consuming too much for a finite planet to support. Infinite economic growth is suicide," he remarks. "We must take back the environmental movement from the corporate interests that have taken it over and we must convene and begin to plan how we're going to humanely, lovingly, sustainably re-vision how we live." . . . "Why don't we provide family planning to everyone in the world? That's not even on the environmental agenda," he states. "Why aren't we sharing our resources here with those people that don't have enough so they don't have to chop down a tree to live?... We need to change the laws in this country and the world so that corporations are not allowed to be addicted to infinite growth. We run the planet, there's no reason they should be allowed to do whatever they want." . . . if you were really worried about climate change you'd be demanding that we have an interstate bus system and an interstate rail system that would plummet our carbon footprint, not more individual electric cars."
I completely agree with population reduction and with the end of growth. We need to buy less and expect individual transportation to be a thing of the past, for sure. And I'm not sure if we will ever do that. GHGs rise every year despite all we try to do to slow it down.

There's a poignant bit at Doom for DummiesGail Zawacki writes,
"There is a man who lives on the other side of my village (it is said) who one day, setting out for errands, inadvertently ran over his child as he backed out of the driveway. Ever since I heard this tragic tale, I have thought I can imagine the moment that, thunderstruck with horror and frozen in disbelief, he gazed upon that little mangled body. I think I know the ferocious dread that overcame him when first he realized that the car of which he was so proudly enamored - that quintessential symbol of success, the pinnacle of modern technology and shiny avatar of individual freedom - was the very same mighty instrument of folly that had literally crushed the one thing most important to him - his progeny, his future. 
I suffer his tumultuous and inconsolable grief because that is how I greet every new day since abruptly I came to understand that the splendid, intricate, exquisitely entwined tapestry of life is unraveling."
This bit from Atwood's Oryx and Crake also fits nicely:
 “As a species we’re doomed by hope, then?” By hope? Well, yes. Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create ever more dangerous messes. Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism."

h/t Gail

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Being a Gadfly or Just a Bitch

Or perhaps we should be casual observers watching the end without comment. Hmmm....

A few years ago, a friend with a similar house as mine in a similar neighbourhood complimented my laundry line, but bemoaned the fact that it wouldn't be possible for her to have one. As I provided ample rebuttal to each point of opposition that started with "I'd would, but", she eventually stopped me with, "I'd would, but I just don't care enough about it. I wish I wanted to more, but reducing electrical demand is not a priority for me."

We need to get to a point where people make it a priority, where people are shocked into action.  Hailstorms in Mexico might be a start. But some of my travel-loving friends, and one of my own kids, still have no intention of slowing down despite further evidence that air travel is even worse for the environment than we thought. Denial in the form of "I'll just drive a little less to compensate for a couple air trips each year," isn't going away fast enough. Or, more recently and disturbingly, a friend's solution: "Travel more and have lots of kids and grandkids and enjoy life, and then we can all just take suicide pills when it gets too dark out there." Her only concern with her plan, if I'm remembering correctly, was if her kids died before administering doses to their children, leaving the little ones behind. Yikes.

I sat mute to this suggestion and concern, then offered that she might enjoy the film Melancholia, but I have SO many questions, like, How do we know when that final moment is - when the grocery store is near empty or when marauders come to our neighbourhood to rape and pillage or just when a heat wave lasts a little too long for our comfort? and What should we do with all our bodies? Do we offer up mass open graves for the suicidal to plunge themselves in (with their children) far from the city centre to avoid affecting the 'remainers'? What about people too poor or sickly to travel to the suicide pits? We can't just have bodies rotting in every other home! But, the most important question that went unasked is this: Have you really and truly given up on the idea that, with a tiny bit of self restraint and a change of lifestyle to one that's not significantly less enjoyable, we won't have to have mass suicides??? If we can't convince our nutty leaders and heads of CEOs to change policies and legislation (because they must all have some underground castle-like bunker they're looking forward to inhabiting one day soon), then WE have to change. The big change makers include completely eliminating air travel and beef products (that includes dairy, unfortunately), and significantly reducing car travel, home energy use, unnecessary purchases, and babies. Some of these have a dual purpose: We should avoid A/C in order to acclimatize to the new weather conditions anyway, provided we're healthy enough to do that, and why would anyone want to add another person to the tally at this point! We need more people to override reproductive instincts for children and grandchildren in favour of long term survival for the people who are already here.

Back in 2006 George Monbiot suggested we ground ourselves, literally, – unless there’s a family emergency. There’s no such thing as eco-tourism. Ten hours in the air produces 100% of a typical Canadian’s yearly carbon emissions per passenger. It produces the same emissions as absolutely everything else that each person on the flight does all year long. A slow train is a better option, but staying within city limits is best. In his words, “If you fly, you destroy other people’s lives.” And that calculation was before we knew that contrails left by airplanes "are now so widespread that their warming effect is greater than that of all the carbon dioxide emitted by aeroplanes that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the first flight of the Wright brother." Flying for fun is no longer feasible.

Some argue that the planes are going to fly anyway, whether one extra person is on them or not, but that's just like arguing that the cow is already dead when considering whether or not to buy steaks for dinner. Here's the thing: only if WE reduce our purchases of these things, will fewer planes and cows be used to service our desires. Why fly to a business meeting when you can skype yourself in, and is your vacation really worth the effect it has on the world and all the other people on the planet? Well, it's either that or massive government legislation. We'll change our habits by choice now or by force later, and wouldn't it be nice if we could do it by choice.


SHOULD WE SAY SOMETHING?

I lean towards complaining and questioning. Sometimes I question my never-ending questioning. Like a recent incident in a Shoppers where I just couldn't keep my bloody mouth shut about self-service checkouts. I kinda regret making a thing about it but am also kinda proud that I did. It helped when a colleague had a similar experience:


Then there's this:


Then, on a cancer message board, someone posted that all cancers are caused by viruses that can be cured with algae supplements and that cancer isn't transmitted through genes like some in the medical profession (which is obviously out to get us) would have us believe. I jumped all over that, which only made the original poster upset and brought many to her side to try the supplements. But, some might quietly question her claims in the face of my litany of studies to the contrary, right?? Is it better to just leave them unquestioned and let people get scammed, and, more dangerously, let people ignore medical science that shows a strong correlation between certain genes and certain cancers?? I think not.

The question I'm pondering today is, when we have friends who are BBQing steaks while planning a trip to Aruba, what is the most ethical reaction to that (or to any unethical choices)? Because another whole necessary part of this ending, however fast or slow it goes, is compassion. Brené Brown, whom I listen to very skeptically, recently said something that might be a keeper: "We have to assume people are doing their best." It changes our reaction to others when we assume that this is the best they can do. And I almost entirely agree. But...  There's a line out there where, if we say nothing, if we assume this is their best and it's not up to us to fix people but only to love them, then we're complicit in their stupid or otherwise selfish actions that are harming others.

Direct violence is the clearest case where we obviously can't just shrug and say, "He's doing his best." The recent insistence, by a local group of grown ups, that bashing faces in at an LGBTQ rally is justified because the other side started it, clarifies that many of those childhood lessons on civility that used to be trained into us, simple mottos like, "Use your words!" need to be reinforced more frequently and clearly. People have forgotten how to behave in the face of antagonism. If smashing in faces is the best this dude can do, then he needs to be locked up forever. But I think it's NOT his best. I think, maybe, with some long, calm and patient discussions, just maybe these guys can understand the errors in their reasoning and do better. At least let's keep trying that discussion thing over and over in hope that a few of them see the light.

We should definitely step in to stop direct harm, but it's always a guessing game to calculate if someone is actually causing harm or provoking harm in the future and if our intervention will have an overall positive effect. You might turn a deaf ear to grandma's racist rant because she likely won't affect anyone beyond her home, but then you might find out she's amassed a significant militia as @unitethewhite online in the wee hours. And you thought it was a reference to her hair!

Environmental discussions are murkier cases. People flying around the world for fun are harming people and many other species, definitely, but indirectly and over a longer timeline - unfortunately not too much longer - and as a group. If we stand by quietly and watch acts of direct violence, without calling the police, then we could be charged with accessory-after-the-fact - and for good reason. We all have to work on making our world less violent. But if we stand by quietly while our loved ones book a flight, if we believe they're not doing their best and that we really do need to help them change, then...  But, on the other hand, if we bug others about their behaviours, it's not going to make our last years any friendlier. We won't be seen as a saviour, but as that annoying bitch. We'll be adding to the fray, and, perhaps worse, we might lose important allies in the apocalyptic battles that happen near the end, where, according to Jared Diamond, the elites will turn to cannibalism, and they'll be so hungry that they'll break our bones to suck out the marrow. Imagine Trump and Ford at a trough eating all us plebs. How important is that next vacation now!!

Perhaps the key is convincing people that this trajectory can be changed. We can survive this, but we have to live a little differently RIGHT NOW. Why is that so hard?


HOW TO CHANGE MINDS

I hate working out, but I started a regular routine when several doctors insisted that I had to (backed by many studies I found myself because I didn't want to believe them). I still really really hate working out, but I drag my ass to a gym and make it happen in order to eke out a few more years of healthy living with four working limbs. AND this was in the face of one of my very own kids who, at the time, and for questionable reasons, was digging up contrary evidence suggesting that weight loss is impossible and that there's no correlation between weight and cancer or between weight and lymphedema. That my doctors had seen the correlations first hand, and that studies were very clear about the correlations, was enough to tip the scales for me and get me on a program. I want to live longer and keep doing things, so it's worth it to take a few hours a week to increase the odds of that happening.

So, similarly...  We really don't want to believe that there is a correlation between air travel, beef consumption, electrical use, and general unfettered consumerism, and the extinction of animals, the heat, the icebergs melting, the rising sea levels displacing people, food shortages, and then the violence exacerbated by these effects, but there is an enormous body of evidence, studies conducted by expert in the field, that show us it's true. AND these experts are telling us what we need to do to slow it all down. Don't we want to live longer and keep doing things, and don't we want our kids to be able to keep doing things?? Isn't it worth a few restrictions on our lives for the longterm benefits of many?

BUT, so the rationalizations go, if everyone else has fun while I'm ruining my life staying in town eating salad, then they win, and I'm just a sucker! Bring on the suicide pits! The exercise analogy falls apart because, while exercising can help me live longer, restricting any actions that produce a ton of GHGs will only help us live longer if everyone gets on board. It's the tragedy of the commons problem. From that perspective, the best solution is to give each person an "icecap card," as described by Monbiot, that limits how many GHGs we can each emit through our choices each month. But that's not going to happen. It would be handy for someone on high to limit our behaviours, but we're going to have to take this one on ourselves.

According to B.J. Fogg's behavioural model, we need motivation, ability, and a trigger to converge at the exact same moment in order to change anything. With my exercise analogy, my doctors gave me the very necessary motivation to just do it. I have the ability to go because I live a life of privilege. And while cancer was the big starting gun, my calendar is my regular trigger. If I go more than two days without, then I'm reminded that today IS THE DAY, like it or not.


With climate change, most of us in this part of the world, the people creating many of the problems, have the ability to reduce many GHG-causing activities. It's not so much that we have to DO something, as it is merely avoiding doing things that might have been fun but are really truly unnecessary to our enjoyment of the world. None of these changes are particularly difficult, but some require more time than we're used to, particularly using public transport instead of driving or cutting vegetables instead of grabbing McDonalds. It saves money, but might require a bit more organization.

Now we need a trigger to remind us regularly about the world. I teach this stuff, so that helps, but years ago I found that by mid-July, I'd sometimes find myself in a WalMart buying crap I don't need. It's really easy to forget and slip into selfish abandon. So I designed a tattoo for my Visa holding right forearm to remind me that my purchases affect the world. That was more than a decade ago, and it still works.


Surely regular headlines can be the trigger to remind us to take our bike instead of the car, or to buy chicken over beef, or to plan a vacation visiting local landmarks or relaxing on the front porch instead of spending time and money to get far away. If not, and in lieu of permanent ink, we need to post pictures or messages on our fridge, dryer, steering wheel, wallet, and desktop so we don't forget the impact we have.

I can be really lazy when it comes to doing anything tedious. For many people, so I've been told, a single plate beside the sink is enough of a trigger to provoke dish-doing activities. For me, it's when I run out of forks. What provokes us to consider acting is really individual, so, if we care, then we have to try out a few things until something works, like hiding some forks to get dishes done more frequently. We're willing to do this if we're trying to lose weight or otherwise improve our appearance, but not so much if we're trying to prevent many different species from going extinct.

So, the big one, how do we get the motivation; how do we get people to care enough to hang a simple clothesline, FFS?! Studies are clear that knowledge about issues isn't enough to foster deep feelings about the issues. Fogg writes about three core motivators: Pleasure/Pain, Hope/Fear, and Social Acceptance/Rejection. They all really boil down to pleasure/pain, but on different scales and with a different focus. The pain of climate change is too far away from many of the primary GHG producers for us to act to avoid a punisher, and not going on vacation or eating steak reduces pleasures, so that one doesn't work - except for those of us who take a Challenge accepted! attitude.

Acting on hope of a better future and out of fear of the worst case might motivate some people towards action. People still have hope or there wouldn't be so many joining online dating forums. We expect to continue merrily on our way, so maybe we need a bit more fear that we won't. That's a very tricky line to find.

So it's that final core social motivator that might be the key. During the Australian drought, an unflushed toilet was seen as a sign of character. Many people changed on a dime triggered by the realization that running out of fresh water was imminent, but social forces further spurred on that change, praising people who reduced water waste, and punishing those, socially, who were negligent. The frightening part is the idea that we need to look out the window at dying trees before we'll act, like needing to get cancer to provoke fitness. Prior to the diagnosis, people shaming me or cajoling me had zero effect on my exercise habits because it was all overridden by my dad's attitude that exercising is self-centred: "If you want to work out, then shovel the neighbour's driveway!" It just takes one little line like that to justify continuing on our current trajectory. We have a lot of inertia. But social inclusion or ostracism might be our best bet regardless the limitations.

Some people have changed because they read all the news and IPCC reports, but we might only spread this change with social forces, since many many people don't read depressing stories. This is a call to be a gadfly in the arena, like Socrates, which sounds so much better than 'guilting people' or 'being a bitch about it all,' but it's largely the same thing. They killed Socrates for his rabble-rousing, but imagine if he had kowtowed to the people, instead, and stood silent in the face of ignorant and immoral actions (he'd argue they are one and the same). I might be teaching English instead of philosophy, and that would be the real tragedy here!  Fogg explains,
"The power of social motivation is likely hardwired into us and perhaps all other creatures that historically depended on living in groups to survive. As fables and folktales show, being banished from a community was a severe punishment for humans. For other creatures, being ostracized from a pack may have meant certain death. Regardless of the origin of the social motivator, the power over us is undeniable. Today, with social technologies a reality, the methods for motivating people through social acceptance or social rejection have blossomed. In fact, Facebook gains its power to motivate and ultimately influence users mostly because of this motivator. From posting profile pictures to writing on The Wall, people on Facebook are driven significantly by their desire to be socially accepted."
BUT, it's also tricky because we are selective about which groups we want to be part of in the first place. There isn't one pack to join, but disparate polarized choices. Some vegan groups have turned people off merely through their own obsessiveness with veganism, spurring on a display of meat eating. Nobody likes to be told. If an uber-vegan ostracizes someone for eating a cheese string (which, it seems to me, is more plastic than dairy anyway), then many people would be relieved to be excluded from their group. It's all very complicated. One step over that fine line in any direction and all is lost, literally. I recognize that I lean towards saying something rather than nothing in a 'witnessing' sort of way. Again, it comes down to the idea that if we just watch it all happening before our eyes without saying anything or doing anything to stop it, then we are complicit. But are we also complicit if we say something that provokes people to retaliate - to sit in their driveway and rev their engine just because they can??

The attitude that keeps the fossil fuels burning, in this part of the world, is one that allows us to believe that our luxuries are more important that the world's necessities. And to an extent, it's our general childishness and a glorification of freedom-at-any-cost that keeps us from a willingness to care.



We have to decide that our lives are more important than superfluous modes of entertainment. There are many many ways to enjoy life without harming it in the process. Being aligned with the privileged few means wanting to live that lifestyle instead of living with less. We're on a quest for social status through things instead of ideas. Everything -  this attitude, capitalism, how we display status -  everything has to shift.

In a recent interview, Michael Mann said that all we need is a "'mass mobilization of the sort that we saw in World War II, or that we saw with the Apollo project, where it just focused our effort on a key goal.' It sounds daunting, but so did putting a man on the moon." Yup. Except space travel didn't affect our individual choices. So we need to remember how much climate change will dramatically impede our ability to make any choices every again.


AND IT'S ALL SO MUCH WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT


We've been saying we have 12 years for over a year now, but more recent projections suggest we really have to make some significant changes in the NEXT 18 MONTHS!! By the end of 2020, if we're not on a clear and determined path towards dramatically reducing GHG emissions, then we really will need open distribution of fatal narcotics.
"One of the understated headlines in last year's IPCC report was that global emissions of carbon dioxide must peak by 2020 to keep the planet below 1.5C. Current plans are nowhere near strong enough to keep temperatures below the so-called safe limit. Right now, we are heading towards 3C of heating by 2100 not 1.5. As countries usually scope out their plans over five and 10 year timeframes, if the 45% carbon cut target by 2030 is to be met then the plans really need to be on the table by the end of 2020."
Between then and now, there will be a climate summit in New York this September, followed by COP25 in Chile, and COP26 in the UK next year. This is THE most pivotal time in our lives to come together to convince political leaders, corporate CEOs, the flippin' Koch Brothers, our friends and families, and ourselves that we can do better for the world.

Something like that.

But WWMRD?


ETA: Europe has a flight-shaming movement going on!

ETA: But then again... I was just directed to this essay by Daniel Drumright, written six years ago, about why we have to prepare for the worst and be ready to kill ourselves.