Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Against ecological catastrophe, all of humanity should be playing on the same side

Two recent podcast episodes that mention climate change, on the periphery, but in nuanced ways.

First, this episode of the Rachel Maddow show, "Steven Bannon indicted (again), giving new teeth to January 6th Committee" (13 November 2021). It is guest-hosted by Ali Velshi. At the end, climate activist Bill McKibben is interviewed about the failures at the COP26 climate conference. Velshi quotes an 11-page online article from McKibben's Substack blog: "It's gone from talking about phasing out coal to phasing out unabated coal, from talking about ending fossil-fuel subsidies to ending inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies. And on the deepest question, how much and how fast we're planning to cut emissions heating the planet, there's been no real advance." McKibben responds that the COP26 conference in Glasgow was hampered by U.S. politics. "Truly, this is not what people had hoped for. We're not catching up to the physics of global warming at this pace." (41:40–41:45) "For folks who don't think this is existential" — that is, not an emergency — "we're making progress" since any tiny incremental improvement, by definition, counts as progress over whatever we had before. "But better progress doesn't matter if the Earth is going to flood and burn." (43:00–43:17) McKibben responds: "Here's our problem: Most political questions that we talk about, we solve at some level by compromises. The problem with climate change is: it's not quite like that. The real debate that's going on isn't Republicans vs. Democrats, or industry vs. environmentalists, or Americans vs. Chinese. Those are all important subjects. But the real underlying debate is: Human beings versus physics. And the problem with that debate is: Physics is immature. It refuses to compromise. It doesn't know how to negotiate at all. It just does what it wants to do. And our job is to meet its challenge. The scientists have told us that if we wanted to meet those temperature targets we set in Paris which are a bare minimum for civilizational thriving then we have to cut emissions in half by 2030. That's possible. Scientists and engineers have done a great job in lowering the cost of solar power, wind power, and batteries to the point where this is the cheapest energy on the Planet Earth. But we still have to overcome both inertia and the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry which is on full display again in Glasgow. There are 500 fossil fuel lobbyists there; that's bigger than the delegation of any country gone to Glasgow."(43:18–44:42)

Second, this episode of the Ezra Klein show, "How Far-Right Extremism Invaded Mainstream Politics" (16 November 2021).

The historian Nicole Hemmer guest-hosts the episode. Her work "focuses on right-wing media and American politics. She is an associate research scholar with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project at Columbia University and the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics." Twitter: @PastPunditry. She is interviewing the historian Kathleen Belew, who co-edited A Field Guide to White Supremacy and wrote Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, "which tells the story of how groups — including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and Aryan Nations — coalesced into a radical white-power movement after the Vietnam War. These groups were united by a core set of beliefs about the threats of demographic change and governmental overreach, perceived hostility toward white Americans and the necessity of extra-political, often violent, action to achieve their aims." Twitter: @kathleen_belew

How does a sense of victimization influence right-wing politics? Hemmer said that these are "increasingly extreme and increasingly apocalyptic politics. Right? Because if you constantly feel that you are being victimized, that something is being stolen from you, there is a level of emotion that comes along with that." (52:30–53:00) "Different kinds of 'end times' scenarios," including climate change, can influence that, Belew responded. (53:28-53:35) In reality, "we have a series of imminent threats to our way of life...We have intensely polarized conversations about what that is and what it means." Unfortunately, "we are not talking to each other about anything, right to left, anymore," and "we're consuming different narratives about the end of the world and different imaginaries about what the future might look like. We have not had the big conversation, collectively, about our history." (54:05–54:35)

"Is there a difference between the apocalypticism around demographic change and the apocalypticism around climate change?"
"I think one huge difference is where it directs our energy. A fear of climate change directs people to work together to solve common problems and creates an idea of global citizens who will have to face a crisis together or perish. At its most extreme, a fear of demographic change as we see in the white power movement causes people to encamp, to guard resources, to isolate, and to — at its most extreme — commit acts of violence against people they see as 'other.'" (55:45–56:25)

Both comments are making a similar point: Against ecological catastrophe, all of humanity should be playing on the same side.

No comments:

Post a Comment

In case you missed it

Have you seen inside the book 'To Climates Unknown'?

The alternate history novel To Climates Unknown by Arturo Serrano was released on November 25, the 400th anniversary of the mythical First ...