The environmental impact of Anthropogenic Climate Change is the biggest problem facing humanity, because it is the greatest consequence of humanity’s greatest failure. Our existential crisis. There is no Planet B.
This is a follow-up to my previous post Extinction Rebellion Backlash.
At root it is a failure of our collective decision-making to act in our best interests – “ours” in the widest inhabitants of the shared cosmos sense. We’re simply the species wielding the greatest power in our neck of the cosmic woods. It’s a failure of our democracy in a word.
When I first mentioned Greta Thunberg (GT) – in suffer the little children or emperor’s suit of clothes mode – I was loathe to criticise her. In fact I described the approving response, to my suggestion she was wrong, as a scary symptom of the problem. It’s easy to criticise, easy to find things wrong, agree to them being wrong, and promote the disagreement rather than dialogue on solutions.
Down with this sort of thing.
With Extinction Rebelling (XR) gaining traction and GT being held up as a spokesperson, she and Rupert Read (RR) are the face of a “movement”.
Protest – including civil disobedience by those prepared for the social & legal consequences – is a fine democratic tradition. A fine tradition mostly in those democratic countries already taking climate change seriously that is.
Prediction – especially about the future – is hard. That’s as true of science as it is of politics. With science the point is to be as objective as possible in evaluating evidence, but to exclude human subjectivity in assumptions and conditions in using the analysis to make predictions. With politics prediction is more about wishful vision, making happen what we want to happen with the people we are. Once science is making predictions beyond its control volume, it too is politics.
And the problem with politics in our times of failed democracy is that not only is it easiest to criticise what’s wrong, it’s even easier if what’s wrong can be personified in a bogey-man or a bogey-tribe. Once science is criticising establishment politics, using its own politics (a) it’s not science and (b) it is simply part of the us and them fetish.
For this reason, I’ve long since stopped being concerned with any specific numbers in science’s claims – they’re not the point. In politics, numbers on the side of a bus are not objective facts, they are weapons with which to beat the other guy. (Climate science has been mostly politics and bad science for decades – but it doesn’t change the urgent existential nature of ACC.) The idea of the 12 years (or 10 or 20) is the call to urgent action. Urgent in political timescales. GT’s “house fire” analogy is badly misleading. It’s more like a ship of Theseus. When your house is on fire, top priority is to save yourself and rescue the other inhabitants and only then to fight the fire. But there is no Planet B. We have to fight the fire and rebuild this house from which we cannot escape whilst it is on fire. The panic – fight or flight – response is not the one we require.
We need urgent enlightened action. But … see failure of democracy. A call to action (by almost any means, by rhetorical use of words and symbolic actions) is fine. It works. It has worked. But in deciding the action, the words and arguments really do matter.
So again, as the face of XR, we need to further analyse GT’s claims. No only did I not want to criticise her individual childlike concern, I didn’t mention her individual self-proclaimed autism. It is sad to hear her talk her black and white position – “there is no partial sustainability, either you are or you aren’t”. Politically, I hear you are either with us or against us.
Those are intelligent people. Careful what you wish for.
The autistic spectrum disorder of one individual isn’t a problem. Indeed, as a basket of inputs, more variety has more value. As the face – voice, god forbid – of a movement we have to be concerned with the autistic position. In fact I’ve spent decades pointing out the dangers of scientism as autism. Using literal science as the driver and basis of belief in politics and economics, as if subjective considerations must be excluded from all human endeavours, not just science itself. A mantra of science or nothing. Another us and them, with us or against us, fetish.
Populist democracy. This is the real root of our existential crisis.
As I’ve said, civil disobedience direct-action protest is a good thing. It has gained the attention required, even though it was manned by people on their kids Easter vacations whilst parliament were out of town. As GT and XR invoke science in their corner. With us or against us, With science or against it, they are committing the scientistic error, but they also debase real science. Worse still, beyond that, we have to question the cause to which XR are actually signed-up.
Are XR really concerned with climate change?
I pointed out in the previous post that XR is not only exploiting direct action in the name of ACC, and cynically invoking science in its support, its active membership has a pedigree of direct action causes – the common thread of which is simply anti-establishment, anti-capitalist revolution. In fact I see it is now clear that is their real cause.
Be careful what you wish for. It’s child abuse coaching kids in revolution against the adult establishment. I thought I was being provocatively tongue-in-cheek when I invoked Pol Pot in Suffer the Little Children, now I’m not so sure. We grown-ups need to wake up to the march of fascism as populist democracy.
Ironically, the fact GT can’t speak to Trump is a microcosm of the problem. The idiot already dismisses claims of “science” – for good but irrelevant reasons – he’s undoubtedly an idiot. And the scientific response is to put up an autistic view of their position – making Trump’s denial even easier.
The reason society is having trouble getting to grips with ACC urgently enough is because it’s already wrestling with all the other consequences of the reactionary, populist, protest-vote problem. The problem could not be clearer. The solutions ever more complex and interconnected.
[POST NOTES: And a few more follow-ups:
A more brutal “put down” of GT
– but close to the truth – (see *added below.)
Oh, and did I mention conspiracy theories – all populist “enemies” depend on one:
(*added) Brutal I said. Fair to say this this opinion piece by Brendan O’Neil in Spiked and another by Toadmesiter in the Spectator got hammered for being grown men “mocking” a 16 year old autistic girl communcating in her second language, etc. They and their publishers have previous form too. As I say, she is 16 and she is not only autistic but makes it part of her pitch, so the real issues are there – some truth as I said – but the decision to focus on her personally, rather than on GT and RR as the (now established / adopted) voices of XR is the ad hominem error. The problem is choosing to do it. My choice is to focus on what is being communicated and why – and likely effectiveness.
But there’s many more enlightened responses than the idea of total block on all Oil&Gas business or big businesses generally:
A local MP coincidentally, today
Carbon sequestration and capture. Industrial (CCS) or natural (tree-planting) on an industrial scale.
Meanwhile (as I mentioned in the previous post):
Panic is a great call to action – it’s been call crying wolf for centuries – but it’s a lousy strategy for action. Careful what you wish for.
And what about China? (My position above, it’s part of the dialogue and the solution, but not any argument against XR. The argument against XR is much deeper than that.)
Facts matter when we’re talking about enlightened actions, but they don’t affect the call to action. Capiche?
The underlying problem is our democracy is broken. We need people prepared to work to fix the system, not people whose aim is to smash it.
And another PR stunt. Kinda impressed May didn’t fall for it.