Archive for December, 2011

Left and climate

Decadent left, eh?

Well, there is certainly something to be said about a serious thoroughgoing left as opposed to a narrow interest-group one.

But this is surely wrong, for instance, in arguing that the anti-Keystone pipeline movement is a narrow (NIMBY?) movement — it’s “game over for the climate” if it is built. There may be some narrow interest groups involved, but it’s in the broadest interest of the species and the biosphere, which is much broader any focus on Wall Street etc; this “killing off American jobs” is a standard right-wing talking point, and a red herring (plenty of better ways to employ people) or false (it actually doesn’t employ many people in the long term). Likewise for the unions — some may be decrepit and narrow in practice today, but almost all modern movements for social equality and justice involve unions; again the idea that unions are by nature a narrow interest group is more standard right-wing nonsense (the general population has become a “narrow interest group”, but corporations represent the “national interest”).

Add to that, that he is, in standard NYT fashion, displaying his credentials of respectability by throwing random insults at OWS — “flakes”, “fantasists”, ridiculous people who appreciate the historical value of the Paris Commune!

As for the climate justice movement, there certainly is some constructive criticism to be made. In general it has not been willing to make arguments against the economic system; Naomi Klein had a good article about this recently . The climate crisis is a vindication of everything the radical left has been saying for a century, and the best argument right now for a radical change in the economic system. Certainly this argument is not being made anywhere near enough.

But, the climate movement frames the issue just as I said above, not in terms of local issues, jobs, NIMBY, or narrow environmental questions (this forest, those turtles) but in terms of the climate and the planet and the species as a whole. The quote “game over for the climate” is James Hansen, NASA leading climatologist. Bill McKibben regularly talks in these terms and links it to indigenous struggles and the idea that the earth maintains all life, and OWS struggles. Occupy activists see the recent Keystone decision as part of a turning of the tide.

So, it seems that there are moves in the right direction, although there is plenty still to be done. To draw a clear distinction between single-issue, decadent climate justice movement and radical, whole-system OWS movement is not quite right; they naturally politically and philosophically run together, are partly already running together, and are increasingly running together.

And we must make it even more so!


Written by dan

December 4th, 2011 at 9:24 pm