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Communism against Earth

Looking at the communist side, I sometimes see climate obstructionism too, opposing any plan that doesn’t also solve humanity’s millenia-old (albeit amplified in the industrial age) inequality issues. There was this anti geoengineering site that made the rounds a few months back that mixed some very good points vs some of the worst and least thought-through geoengineering proposals with a foundational opposition to all change that didn’t address inequality.

And I get it, I do want to address inequality and if the sweeping changes that fix CAGW also fixes inequality then that’s freaking baller and absolutely yay.

But if they don’t, then we need ‘em anyway.

Because I don’t wanna kill the Earth (that one should be a “duh”, but…)

We’ve seen centuries of delay and obstruct and deny from the capitalists who are clinging to their wealth (both absolute and relative). And I get that we all wanna put ‘em up against the wall when the revolution comes. But.

My number one goal is averting doomsday. If that means we have to end up with 10000 years of Mikael Wiehe lyrics then I can live with that if we saved the planet. Anyone pulling the breaks on averting the crisis from either side of the proverbial aisle, whether they’re Exxon or Bakunin, needs to sober up and start living their life right. When a stick destroys the Earth, we’re not much happier if it’s called the people’s stick.

Tug of war on the brink will lead to both falling over.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for anti-communism either or for capitalism. You know I rant and rave against that dumdumdadadumdum on the daily. All I’m saying is that for me, the priority is pretty darn stark right now and it’s called Earth.


In other words

I sometimes see an idea on the left that I don’t fully vibe with:

That ecological == just. That climate change is this wonderful godsent opportunity to set things right.

My own view is that we’re juggling two separate chainsaws. And that’s not easy or a boon or a good thing. The unjust world is a problem. Climate change is a problem. If we can’t fix the first one, life sucks. If we can’t fix the second one, life will end.

Yes, the problems are connected. The unjust world is making it difficult to address climate change because the haves don’t wanna give up what they have (or, rather, what they think they have, since most of the world’s wealth is illusory, built on the sandcastle of unaccounted-for fossil externalities, on loan from our cinder wasteland future).

But the solutions are not necessarily as connected as the problems are. Having read a ton of Bakunin and Goldman and Marx and RMS and what have you, the leftist economics ususally don’t solve externalities either.

Climate change is a cruelly tightening vise, a runaway steamroller. It’s going to make treating each other humanely harder, not easier.

Let’s keep doing our best to stay human in the face of this calamity, and let’s keep trying to fight it. ♥︎

In my view it’s more important that the planet & humanity doesn’t die. There are many woes and injustices that we haven’t figured out a solution to for thousands of years. Let’s keep working on them 👍🏻 but let’s not make one calamity’s solution be contingent on the other.

We do need new modes of thinking and new ways to distribute resources & labor tasks given that market capitalism is a cruel and embarassing failure, so maybe the solutions will come hand in hand and if so that’s 💯 baller, I’ll be happy.

But I just don’t want us to try to solve these things on hard mode by overly tightly coupling them. 🤷🏻‍♀️

I didn’t try to uncouple climate change from capitalism. There are other injustices outside of workers rights issues (since the fascists have been intentionally driving wedge issues and bigotry in order to shift the discourse from workers vs owners to pluralists vs populists).

And it’s not just the richest 10% that are part of the consumption problem. Our entire society for the past three centuries have been built on that same unsustainable false foundation, that same fossil based faux-wealth.

I don’t drive cars, eat meat or cheese, or go on airplane rides, but I had takeout yesterday and it came in a styrofoam box. Ergo I’m also part of the problem. Everything is tangled up in the problem.

That’s not to say the private jets can stay. Of course not. Storm the palace.

I get the impression that we’re pretty much on the same page. It’s more a reaction to how I see people saying “no fighting climate change without also fighting this-or-that other injustice”—to an extent that would seem like a straw doll to you.*

Yes, capitalism needs to go, and I can’t wait to hear some more practical work in that vein, a gradual (yet rapid as heck) transition to new modes of resource distribution and rationing. Sustainability over hollowing faux growth.

*: And that said, I was talking to an old friend last month who was under the misconception that it’s the left that are driving the social justice issues (as opposed to just trying to stay alive and get out from under the stomping boot of the far right) and under the even bigger misconception that in order to unite the left, we need to drop those issues and get in with the bigots. He’s completely out to sea in that regard. He would throw away the justice questions for some nebulous hockey-team–politics goals (à la “the left must win even if it takes becoming exactly the right to do so”, which is wrong) with the end result that bigotry would be as tightly coupled with fighting climate change as anti-bigotry is today.

That’s not what I want. I’m not asking to drop either of the two juggled chainsaws. I just see the chainsaws as related-but-not-identical. As two related but separate problems that might (or mightn’t) end up needing very separate & different solutions & efforts.


Skyfaller wrote in, saying:

It may be too late for a soft landing, but it’s never too late to demand justice.

What’s the alternative to climate justice? Eco-fascism, where billions are sacrificed so the master race can inherit the Earth? That might be used as a rhetorical device, but I no longer believe eco-fascism will ever be a major force. Basically all real-world fascists seem to be doubling down on climate denial, and no matter how they justify mass murder, I don’t think any will ever take real climate action

No, fuck the self-proclaimed “master race”, that’s not what I’m going for here. As you say, the brownshirts are gasoline populists and climate deniers or delayists. Let’s keep fighting fascism.

The label “climate justice” is broad and a lot of the stuff under that label is cool but some of it’s another form of delayism.

Unfair distribution of resources and tasks is wrong and evil, but it has been a problem for ages; it predates recorded history (even some animals do it) and is now the worst it has ever been, but I’m never giving up on trying to fix that. Another world is possible.

So far, so much in agreement. When I criticize parts of what’s put forward under the climate justice banner, I only mean to say this:

Holding the fate of world hostage until we’ve solved a problem that humanity hasn’t been able to solve for thousands of years even though we’ve thrown brains, blood, guns and love at it isn’t exactly something I’m sympathetic to now that we’re this close to the edge or possibly over it already.

We didn’t tie regulating freons to a six-hour workweek. We didn’t connect fixing the Y2K bug to equalizing bank accounts. My number one goal is averting doomsday.

Now for the good news. The same thought virus that created the climate crisis also exacerbated social injustice: capitalism. One way or another, this is the end of the self-proclaimed “laissez-faire” systems of unchecked exploitation. Telemachus has sneezed one too many times. Putting the kibosh on capitalism to save the trees is probably best done through regulatory frameworks that we can also use for justice, and vice versa. So there can be a common path forward here.

I mostly agree. But by what mechanism will you build the political power necessary to end capitalism, and take other drastic action to save civilization & the biosphere?

You seem to argue a narrow focus is necessary, only fix GHG emissions.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my position here.

If, in the course of fighting climate change, we managed to build a better world and end 100000 years of injustice, I’m all for that.

It’s less that my proposed solution is to be deliberately narrow. Quite the opposite; I oppose capitalism and I argue against it at every opportunity I get.

It’s more that I am arguing against the “hostage keeping” strategy, acknowledging that that mentality is a very narrow sliver of what gets put forth under the guise of the overly broad (and generally appealing) label “climate justice”.

I have seen a foundational opposition to all change that didn’t address inequality. Geoengineering serves as a great example here. First, let me acknowledge that so far, the specific geoengineering proposals I’ve seen are all really bad and self-foot-shooting. But I’m also seeing a general opposition to it based on the idea that “we’re against saving the world if it’s still gonna be a world of bosses”. And that’s a bridge too far for me now that we’re this close to the edge. I feel that that’s underestimating the gravity and urgency of the problem.

(Note that I’m not protesting against a general opposition to it based on other factors—although I’d disagree, seeing it as one of many pillars we could work on simultaneously—I’m just arguing agaist the “it’s better that every human, animal and plant die than the labor tyranny survives” school of thought. To the extent that that “hostage-keeping” school of thought doesn’t apply to you, we’re in agreement—I’m not trying to strawdoll anyone here, just arguing very specifically against something that I have actually seen out there.)

Successfully addressing the climate crisis requires changing almost everything about our culture.

Yes, I agree with that.

A broad coalition is required to mobilize all of society.

Maybe. In the 1970s, we introduced energy rationing in spite of that solution not having broad public support. Energy rationing is one of the things I argue we should put in place as soon as possible and it’s a tragedy that we haven’t already.

What we have here is a strategic question, an empirical question: Are we more likely to succeed politically by fixing only one thing, or by fixing many things?

Right. And while I think the fixing-many-things approach has merit, I don’t want to over-commit to that route. I wanna go “Yes, let’s head down that path because it seems the best” (so you and I are in agreement there), but I don’t cut of other routes. If we, through some unforseen cockamamie unlikely (since we both believe the many-things route is the more likely) we end up in a position where we can fix only climate change, you know what? I’ll take it.

As an analogy, when we were fighting software patents in the 90s and 00s, I wasn’t too happy with the camp that only wanted to fight software patents by proposing a solution where the legislation for “technical” and “medical” patents would get even more draconian as a “compromise” against software patents. I was like “no wait what? I’m against all patents!”

But the literal ecosystem of the entire planet wasn’t at stake with that. This time it is.

I would argue that if we have to change everything anyway, we might as well change it for the better.

That’s probably not going to be possible (at least for the next few generations; there might be a way to rebuild sustainably in the longer term). Everyone’s quality-of-life is going to be negatively impacted since the fossil economy was based on stealing from the future. The past stole from our present. We’ve built society as a flimsy house of cards on the dusty dream of recklessly underaccounted-for environmental externalities and now the piper’s calling.

The wealth gaps are at the greatest they’ve ever been because the rising tide that was gonna lift all boats lifted them very unevenly to the point of exacerbating the unfairnesses that were already there. But. It did do some lifting of most of the boats and the ebb tide is gonna wreck a lot of ships. I agree fully that we want the richest to change their lives the most, the private jet setters who eat steak every day in their five palaces. But even the life of the average western voter is gonna get completely up-ended.

That is a huge challenge for populism and all populist strategies.

And then you have ways to convince people who don’t understand how they are being affected by the climate crisis (yes, of course they are affected already) to sign on to your ambitious program: solidarity with their struggles.

That would be disingenuous given how I believe that it’s gonna get worse for all of us (or we’ll all die).

CFCs and Y2K could be effectively addressed by experts working in their fields, backed by government policy. The general public didn’t need to do anything, or know or understand anything.

That’s a good point; with one important exception that the general public did need to provide: the mandate for the goverment to legislate and execute that policy. And that is the biggest challenge climate change legislation faces, too: mandate from the electorate.

I agree that these issues are braided together since capitalism led to a corrupt system of lobbyists and dishonest political advertising (and “news” like Fox and its ilk).

The climate crisis requires an informed & engaged public, which is a heavy lift. How do you motivate them? Fear might get people involved (worked for me), but it won’t keep the movement going in the long run; and we’ll be dealing with climate change for the rest of our lives. How do you give them hope?

I agree with you that that’s a problem; I’m not fully onboard with your solution or at least I have the multiple caveates outlined above.

So when I say “climate justice”, I’m not just talking about what is ethically the right thing to do. I’m talking strategically, how do you get people to sign up for completely re-imagining society and rebuilding it from the ground up, to eliminate fossil fuels and capitalism? That’s a lot of work!

I think some sort of climate justice framing is the only way to build the mass movement that can succeed at this daunting task at this late date.

I hope there are other ways. If a climate justice framing is part of the solution, I’m for that, to the extent that it’s honest about the quality-of-life impact for all of us, and that it’s not using a hostage-taking approach.

One positive subset of climate justice that I’ve seen that I can get behind (as one approach among many) is the “eat the rich” slogans where the megacorps and jetsetters and rich countries are gonna pay more, give up more, have their lives changed more. That’s an approach that seems to appeal to some and I can agree with it.

(That approach still doesn’t seem to come with a “how”, though. Step two question marks, step three profit? Especially since the rich and their corporations still do have the political power in plutocrat countries like the United States.)

The first couple of times I heard the phrase “climate justice”, it was in the context of “developing countries should be allowed to continue burning fossils”, which I disagree with, and then I saw it phrased as “developed countries should pay for the transition”, which I do agree with, and then I’ve been seeing it in the context of labor rights, a cause I agree with but not sure I wanna tie the fates of these two causes together, the two “juggling chainsaws” as I phrased it above.

The good news is that the regulatory framework that we need to put in place to regulate environmental externalities is also applicable to fight labor exploitation. ← And if the capitalists read that sentence they’re gonna freak out because they think fighting climate change is some sorta communist agenda because they believe that burning the world to save their wealth is a possible option, but it’s not. We need to fix this or we’ll all die. There’s no being the richest exploiter on the cinder.

I used to have a strategy that I tried to kid myself into thinking that the chances we had at saving the world was around 15%, something I told myself was a sweet spot; if I thought it was any less, I’d get despondent and do nothing, if I thought it was any more, I’d get complacent and do nothing.

I couldn’t keep that up given that what I really think is that we have less than one percent. But even in the face of that, I have not given up hope and I am keeping up the fight.

Hope that the world won’t die is already plenty audacious for me at this point, which is why I get so spooked by the “hostage-taking” rhetoric (and I’m grateful that you haven’t come across as supporting that particular line of thinking and I want to be explicit that I’m not putting all of what’s ever been said or done in the name of “climate justice” on you. Thank you).

Let’s save the world.