Wednesday, August 9, 2023

A Return to Social Cohesion

 Bill McKibben wrote about being asked Where Should I Live to avoid the climate change issues. He outlined the problems with many places that might seem ideal, and concluded that we're best off staying where we are if possible, but working on building social cohesion:

"Get to work building that kind of social trust in as many places as possible, because we’re going to need it. We’ve come through 75 years where having neighbors was essentially optional: if you had a credit card, you could get everything you needed to survive dropped off at your front door. But the next 75 years aren’t going to be like that; we’re going to need to return to the basic human experience of relying on the people around you. We’re going to need to rediscover that we’re a social species, which for Americans will be hard—at least since Reagan we’ve been told to think of ourselves first and foremost (it was his pal Margaret Thatcher who insisted ‘there is no such thing as society, only individual men and women.”) And in the Musk/Trump age we’re constantly instructed to distrust everyone and everything, a corrosion that erodes the social fabric as surely as a rampaging river erodes a highway.

But it’s not impossible to change that. Joe Biden has been frustratingly dunderheaded about approving new pipelines and oil wells, and hydrocarbon production has been soaring on his watch. He has been much better about trying to restore some sense of national unity—he has been trying to scale down national division by rebuilding left-behind economies, and also by appealing to our better angels. And those angels exist: the most hopeful book for our time remains Rebecca Solnit’s Paradise Built in Hell, which recounts how communities, whenever natural disaster strikes, pull together, just like Vermont this summer. It happens in cities as easily as in rural areas—maybe more easily, since cities are places where the gregarious gather.

An appeal to social trust is not an appeal to some airy idea of universal brotherhood. Vermont Digger, our local news service, had a reporter in a neighboring town yesterday, as it began to dig its way out of the flood. At a washed-out road crossing he encountered a pair of what I think you could only call hippies, trying to join a “Rainbow Family gathering” at a national forest campground nearby."


Cap said...

Income inequality strongly correlates with declining social cohesion. As long as we continue to allow unlimited hoarding of resources by billionaires at the expense of everyone else, social cohesion will continue to decline as more and more people are pushed into poverty. If we want to build social cohesion, we will need among other things to return to the confiscatory upper tax rates of the post-war years.

Marie Snyder said...

Absolutely. I'm just reading "How to Blow Up a Pipeline." Something big has to happen to change the path we're on. Maybe today's greenbelt scandal will have enough teeth to make a dent in it all.