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Climate Anarchists vs Green Capitalists

Discourses on the ecological question

Following Dryzek, environmental discourse can be classified along the prosaic/imaginative and reformist/radical axes. The resulting 2X2 matrix allows classification of the ideas and ideologies animating the different social actors on the climate issue today in the world. The emergence of global warming as the single overarching problem confronting humankind, and the prevalent role of energy extraction and consumption, capitalist manufacturing and mass consumerism in all of this has vindicated the unheeded warnings made by the green movement over the last 30 years. Today, the ecological question stands as the equivalent of the social and colonial questions in the past century. If everybody is going green all too fast, from Schwarzenegger to the Trotskyists, from Wal-Mart to BP, it becomes all the more important understanding the field of actors and forces at play, so that we can sketch the likely macropolitical scenarios emerging from today's twin economic and environmental crises. Capitalism, in its historical corporate and financial incarnations, is the cause of the ecological crisis and of the job crisis. I believe that a socially regulated (as opposed to government-regulated) non-corporate market economy next to a blossoming p2p horizontal economy of social production can deliver what we need (uprooting of the fossil economy) and what we want (augmented freedom and transnational solidarity), more than either the violent overthrow of state and market or the vastly more likely "common ruin of the contending classes" (Marx's Manifesto), i.e. ecological catastrophe.

Current Types of Environmental Discourse

  1. Reformist
  2. Radical
  3. Prosaic
  4. Technocratic Pragmatism
  5. Malthusian Survivalism
  6. Imaginative
  7. Environmental Sustainability
  8. Green Radicalism

Source: Dryzek (2005)

Green radicalism is the ideological discourse that mobilizes climate anarchists in actions of civil disobedience, unrest and ecotage for environmental justice. It is in itself a fairly wide spectrum going from the NGO professionalism of Greenpeace to the militancy of ELF and ALF, from Monbiot to Zerzan. In the middle are the growing climate action movements which will provide the main thrust for the protests at the upcoming Climate Summit in Copenhagen. All these movements share in varying degrees the belief that existing forms of politics and business are the root causes of the climate crisis. Changing individual behaviors, like Malthusians and UN sustainability types advocate, is not enough, there needs to be a political drive to change the social infrastructure. Until the issue of global warming finally made it to the top of the media news agenda in 2006-2007 (it had also dominated the news in the 1987-1992 period, only to fade back again into oblivion during the Roaring Nineties), environmental discourse had been monopolized by either environmental sustainability (also called "natural capitalism") or the more pragmatic imperatives of increased environmental efficiency and responsibility that firms have had to face since the rise of the green movement. The guys belonging to the sustainability approach want to make capitalism greener by changing its sectoral composition, the technocrats just want to make the existing energy and manufacturing systems more efficient. The emergence of green capitalism clearly means that victory in the moderate camp goes to the advocates of sustainability, the key policy concept first put forward in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio which has become the platform of choice for European green parties and other environmental reformists. Sustainable growth is clearly a self-deceiving oxymoron, yet it has been jollily pronounced by government heads the world round. Sustainable development is little different. Nevertheless green capitalism clearly markets sustainable development as a way out of the twin crises as the first decade of the new century draws to a close. Sustainability is more concerned by the relative rather than the absolute impact of economic activity. It aims to provide incentives for companies to go green, but it's reluctant to measure whether basic ecological targets are indeed met ex post. Until now, all the talk about sustainability has just served to postpone the radical action needed to wean the economy off fossil fuels.

Environmental malthusianism was inaugurated by The Limits to Growth body of scientific literature, which, appearing in the aftermath of the 1973 first oil crisis, seemed to capture the essence of those times, only to be later shelved when the oil prices went back to levels equivalent to those before the 1979 second oil crisis. Today it's the outspoken ideology of James Lovelock, and the implicit discourse of many IPCC reports, where for instance disaster in coastal regions is correlated with degree increases in global temperatures. The rhetoric is gloomy and survivalist: let's do this or most humans will be dead before the century's end. Only polar regions and rainy large islands should be able to host what's left of humanity, we're told. Many in this camp think that the backlog of emissions has already overstepped the critical threshold after which runaway climate change become nearly certain: we just have to brace for it. The creativity and imagination of the countless climate action camps that the British climate camps have inspired since 2006 in Europe and the rest of the world, of radical ecomovements like Klimax and Rising Tide (to name two of the networks, one local, one transnational, active in organizing environmental dissent at the COP15 UNFCCC climate summit), of the struggles of Vestas workers to save their wind turbine factory in the Isle of Wight, are missing from the minds of Malthusians. They care about objective constraints and cold estimates. Green radicals believe in subjectivity and its collective possibilities of radical transformation. Still, if the survivalists were right, organizing for a post-apocalyptic society might be the only option left to the opponents of state hierarchy and corporate exploitation.

The Rise of Green Capitalism

Obama's environmental keynesianism has changed the nature of the game of social and political conflict in the West and the world at large. Green capitalism is in the making, as Silicon Valley switches from chips to panels, and billions are invested in a new energy policy and "green jobs". The SPD in Germany is running for the upcoming elections on a somewhat improbable (coming as it is from diehard industrialists) platform calling for corporatist (i.e. state- and labor-mediated) ecofriendly innovation in its manufacturing strongholds. Local produce, grow your own food, community gardens, even permaculture are all the rage. The rich and famous are converting to green lifestyles. The bushist age of the Hummer looks decidedly uncouth. Hybrid and electric cars are no longer confined to the attention of green enthusiasts. The neoliberal policies and neoconservative militarism the anti-globalization movement dramatically opposed over the last decade have been exposed as failures by history. From Hayek's hegemony, we're back to Keynes' supremacy. Our opponent is no longer evil. He has the human face of liberal capitalism, the genuine desire to provide health coverage to all and make the lives of millions more bearable and knowledgeable. Obama is no fake, he's simply the last hope for enlightened capitalism in the world. Hey, but don't we want out of capitalism? Yes, we do. But rather than violently overthrowing it, we should substitute it with something more participatory, grassroots, open to contestation, socially and ecologically sustainable, that is what John Jordan and others call postcapitalism, to distinguish it from nostalgic, red-style anticapitalism, which despises private enterprise only to embrace party bureaucracy.

In terms of the reduced form of the model that I have developed - which basically mixes Kondratiev's theory of long waves with the French theory of regulation - the least you need to model the dynamics of the capitalist system is the interplay between accumulation and regulation, and the exogenous effects of ideology and geopolitics on these two endogenous variables. It's noteworthy that the model I present here somehow "predicted" the Great Recession. When there's too much accumulation and too little regulation, you have a demand crisis (investment and consumption are insufficient for employment). When there's too much regulation, a supply crisis ensues (costs rise too much due to hikes in wages and raw materials costs), depressing profitability to alarming levels. The 1930s and the 2000s are examples of the former. And the 1910s and the 1970s are examples of the latter. The present Great Recession is thus a regulation crisis, brought by the inadequacy of neoliberal/neocon regulation with respect to the paradigm of digital network technology that since the 1980s has changed the way we live and work. Note that the same technological paradigm can be associated with either prosperity (the 1950s and 1960s) or stagnation (the 1930s and 1940s), depending on the set of regulating national and international institutions. The technological and organizational features of fordism were already in place after WWI, but only when wage-earners were brought into the circuit of mass consumption after WWII Western did industrial society prosper. Regulation crises are particularly momentous because they open historical bifurcations whose sociopolitical outcomes tend to be drastically polar. While in normal times decisions and investments are predictable, and keeping the middle of the road is the best political course, in depressions anything can happen and the times reward the bold, both on the radical right and on the reformist left: Hitler, but also Obama, can unexpectedly rise to power; less ucronically, it can be either the Popular Front or the Fascist Axis winning the contest. Regulation crises are exceptional times when political action carries tremendous results with respect to times of stability, but overthrowing the system is not an option, simply because the old system has collapsed on its own and there isn't much left to destroy. Revolutions are instead more likely to be effective and victorious during crises when accumulation has exhausted its course and existing capitalists rest on shaky economic foundations.

Like in the 1930s and 1940s, free-market ideas no longer have any appeal on public opinion, while existing institutions command little loyalty since they are run by governments and international organizations whose loss in legitimacy has only been accelerated by the crisis. The hegemonic ideology of yesterday, neoliberalism, had in turn emerged from the crisis of fordism, i.e. from the crisis of the intensive industrial accumulation paradigm regulated by keynesian, christian/social democratic policies, whose demise was signaled by the social, currency and energy crises of the early 1970s. The fordist social compromise had been Europe and America's answer to the privations of the Great Depression and the horrors of world war; it meant to remedy to the failures of laissez-faire liberalism in dealing with the new industrial system of mass production and consumption which had emerged in the earlier part of the 20th Century. The Great Recession is a regulation crisis like the Great Depression. It is a major recession but not a major depression, because monetary policy has been expansionary and deficit spending aggressive (unlike after 1929). In a regulation crisis, ideological power matters enormously, since it provides the ideal blueprints to rebuild the failed economic and social institutions of the previous phase. So far trillions have been given to bankers, the makers of the crisis, and peanuts to the precarious and the unemployed, the victims of the crisis. The more banks deleverage, the more people try to save, the more demand sags and unemployment rises. The structural root of the crisis lies in the crushing inability of thirty years of neoliberalism to redistribute the gains in productivity to the population at large (which was thus forced to take on debt to finance consumption, as banks speculated on debts repackaged as securities). Fordism once redistributed productivity to blue and white-collar employees. Green capitalism will have to do the same toward service and knowledge workers it is to solve the major demand crisis affecting Western economies. A quarter of a century of digital revolution has made only a tiny elite fat and wealthy. Social movements for redistribution have never had a better chance, but the left is in serious disarray, still attached to socialism and other ideologies that are historically outmoded in overdeveloped countries, while labor unions are still on the defensive after three decades of neoliberal onslaught, and most crucially are still pyramidal organizations where neither Web 1.0 nor Web 2.0 has yet unraveled the internal bureaucracy of middle-aged delegates preaching neocorporativism, so are organizationally and culturally unequipped to attract precarious and/or immigrant workers.

Critical Dynamics of Capitalism from Great Depression to Great Recession

MACRO variables

 

1. 1950s & 1960s

2.

 

postkeynesian reformism

 

 

 

 

1. 1970s

2.

 

social crisis of accumulation

 

 

 

 

1980s & 1990s

 

 

 

neoliberal counterrevolution

 

 

 

 

1. 2000s

2.

 

Great Recession: regulation crisis and

 

 

 

historical bifurcation

 

 

 

 

1. 2010s?

2.

 

Antidystopian Future:

 

 

 

ecosocial progressivism

 

 

 

ACCUMULATION

 

 

 

(Capital)

 

 

 

endogenous

 

 

 

 

intensive industrialism: economies of scale, mass production, mass consumerism, durable private goods, multinational groups, oligopolistic competition, rising manufacturing prices, declining prices for agricultural goods and raw materials

 

 

 

Bretton Woods system: dollar standard (fixed exchange rates), moderate inflation, creation of GATT, IMF, World Bank constraints on capital mobility, gradual liberalization of trade, growing US trade deficit

 

 

 

 

transition from intensive to flexible accumulation : stagnation in productivity, wage rigidities, scale diseconomies, bureaucratic paralysis, emergence environmental constraint, two oil crises and hikes in energy prices, inflation in industrial prices and consumer goods

 

 

 

Dollar crisis and end of Bretton Woods regime, euro/petrodollars: creation of world financial market, North vs South neoprotectionism, stagflation and end of Phillips curve

 

 

 

 

informational flexible: third industrial revolution, recovery of productivity growth, economies of scope, customized mass consumption, transnational concentration, competition among global production, communication, knowledge networks, decreasing manufacturing and oil prices

 

 

 

flexible rates and deregulation: currency instability and accords between mark, dollar, yen; accelerated liberalization of trade and capital movements: creation of EU, NAFTA, WTO

 

 

 

 

informational flexible: high growth of productivity due to digital network technologies, systemic diseconomies due to climate crisis, crisis due to financial overaccumulation and lack of effective demand, deflation of industrial prices, extreme volatility in the prices of oil and other raw materials

 

 

 

financial globalization: birth of euro, dollar-euro-yuan tensions, currency crises in emerging economies (Russia, Argentina, South-East Asia), subprime crisis, collapse of Wall Street banks and global financial markets

 

 

 

 

informational scalable: green capitalism, hi productivity growth, reduction in energy intensity of production, low-carb economy and dematerialization, demand growth form excluded sectors of global society, regulated competition among economic organizations and regions, rising agricultural industrial prices

 

 

 

re-regulation: fixed but adjustable exchange rates and curtailment of speculative financial flows, socialization of credit, abolition of derivatives and private equity funds, opening of Northern markets to Southern imports; global ecological and labor standards, continental/ regional socio-economic unions

 

 

 

(Continues)

 

 

 

 

1. 1950s & 1960s

2.

 

postkeynesian reformism

 

 

 

 

1. 1970s

2.

 

social crisis of accumulation

 

 

 

 

1980s & 1990s

 

 

 

neoliberal counterrevolution

 

 

 

 

1. 2000s

2.

 

Great Recession: regulation crisis and

historical bifurcation

 

1. 2010s?

2.

Antidystopian Future:

ecosocial progressivism

REGULATION

(Capital-Labor-State Relation)

endogenous

keynesian/fordist:

capital-labor compromise, expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, welfare state, full employment, high wages, high social spending, balanced distribution of income conflictual: working-class protest and crisis of neocorporativism, distributional conflicts and stagflation, return of unemployment, monetization of growing deficits

neoliberal/ monetarist: pro-business state, financial deregulation and deindustrialization, monetarism and fiscal conservatism, hig unemployment, low wages, contraction in social spending, polarized distribution of income and wealth

conflictual: global movement vs megacorps, bushist militarism, resistance against the privatization of natural and digital commons, precarious and immigrants against social exclusion, european monetarism and american keynesiansm

ecokeynesian and ecoschumpeterian: monetary and fiscal expansion, public investment in health, energy, education and ecological reconversion, redistribution from profits and rents to wages and salaries, green jobs, new welfare state of individuals and talents, reregulation of labor market, basic income, increase of leisure time, right to free education, free media, culture, knowledge, participatory democracy/technology, ecoradical mutualism

 

IDEOLOGY

(Political Mobilization)

strong exogenous

social democracy, christian democracy, technocratic managerialism, liberationist marxism, generational anarchism,

'68, '77 and the global democratic revolution; feminism and East-West antinuclear movement; Islamic revolution

neoliberalism, postmodernism, environmentalism, liberation theology, ethnonationalism

radical islamism, neoconservatism,

bolivarianism, global justice movement, transgenderism

green liberal capitalism, national developmentalism, radical ecology, anarcho-autonomy, indio socialism

GEOPOLITICS

(Balance of World Power)

weak exogenous

stable bipolar: US-USSR military and ideological competition, NATO vs Warsaw Pact, EEC vs COMECON, free world vs popular democracies; decolonization, non-aligned countries, pro-American and pro-Soviet dictators; European and Japanese economic miracles unstable bipolar: Soviet stagnation, post-Vietnam US crisis, US-China rapprochement, marxist-leninist revolution, reactionary counter-revolutions, secret wars, armed struggle unbalanced unipolar: US rearmament and hyperpower, decline and deflagration of Soviet Empire, neoliberal cosmopolitism, European integration, Asian tigers, ascent of China and India; nationalist civil wars and ethnic genocides, first Pan-African war failure of US potential hegemony (American Empire): stalemate in systemic war vs Sunni terrorism, geopolitical counterbalancing, rise of Iran, China second world power, end of the Monroe Doctrine, South America's shift to the left balanced multipolar: Global UN Democracy: Liberal America, Confederated Social Europe, Eurasian Russia, Bolivarian Latin America, Shia Crescent, China-led ASEAN, Pan-African Union led by South Africa

The geopolitical balance of power tends to reflect, albeit with a lag, the shifts in economic hierarchy, viz. China's rise as world power following its transformation into workshop (and sweatshop) of the world. Of course an ill-chosen war or crumbling defeat can rearrange the distribution of international might, for instance Bushism's quagmire in Iraq has transformed the unipolar world that sprang from the fall of the Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union into the tentatively multipolar world of today, where China, India, Brazil are emerging as new giants in world affairs next to America, Europe, Japan. Actually, the world could also evolve toward a bipolar system based on the US and China, reminiscent of Cold War's bipolarism but not based on ideological antagonism. So far it's the G20, but it could drop a zero along the way.

But what are the main ideological sources mobilizing people into action today? Green liberalism is certainly one. It cannot be liquidated as simply greenwashing, because the apparatus of production, transportation and consumption is going to change as effect of the shift to green tech. While investments in renewables and energy efficiency are bound to rise, it's unlikely that this approach will result into the drastic cuts in emissions that are needed to mitigate climate change. Developmentalism (see India's opposition to mandatory cuts) is another, shared by all governments of the BRIC bloc. The developmental, often authoritarian state, bases its internal consent on delivering growth in consumption standards. The Communist party won't last a year in China if unemployment rises to the percentages witnessed today in Spain, Ireland, Germany, and other EU countries. Countries like India and Brazil will resist a climate deal in Copenhagen, citing the obvious fact that most of the CO2 in the atmosphere was spewed out by Europe and America in their two centuries of industrialization. On the other hand, climate radicals prefer no deal on climate to a bad deal that would frustrate further political efforts to put ecology ahead of economy. In particular they are opposed to carbon trading (a gimmick not to cut on fossil fuel consumption) and to the refusal of countries in the North to acknowledge the climate debt they owe to poorer countries: as James Hansen says, England, Germany, the US are the major culprits in climate change because of all the emissions their industries have historically released in the atmosphere. It's their past emissions driving global warming, although China has now matched US emissions. Other strong ideologies in the early 21st century are political islamism, particularly in its Shia variety, in the Middle East as well as in Europe, and bolivarianism and indio liberationism in Latin America.

Closer to home, the mutation of the global justice Seattle-Genoa movement has given life to a climate justice movement that could potentially emerge as the strongest opponent of green capitalism in the overdeveloped world. The organizations, networks and collectives animating the climate action camps in Europe and around the world are distilling a new postcapitalist ideology of out of environmental justice struggles. Postcapitalism advocates a commons-based peer production based on postmaterialist and postindividualist values, and the praxis of gender and ethnic equality. It organizes the sustainable living of communities (minimization of ecofootprint through self-produced renewable energy, vegan food, water recycling etc), it imparts ecological education to curious people from toddlers to pensioners, it practices non-violent mass direct action targeting the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Keeping true to the Seattle spirit, all this is achieved via collective decisions by consensus. In a recent article, The Ecologist, wondered if climate campers were anarchists or the best hope for the environmental movement. I would argue that they are climate anarchists AND the best hope for the environmental movement. Pink queer and black anarchist influences in climate action movements are crucial in making the climate justice movement the most important heir of the anti-globalization movement, one in which libertarianism is kept alive against police repression, technocratic regimentation and top-down decision-making. Indeed, the success of the climate justice movement in Europe depends on the anarchoautonomist networks joining the fight vs corporate greenwashing and its fossil civilization in large numbers. Only direct action ultimately affects power. In our current predicament, power to the people shall also mean power generated by the people.

The core struggle between climate anarchists and green capitalists will determine whether and how drastic reductions in carbon emissions are achieved, and how the ecological redesign of cities and their logistics, of energy and food production systems and the like, is implemented, if at all. There is no other social conflict more important for the future of the world today. While opposition to bushist militarism had to be frontal (it was either us or him, war or peace) the conflict with green capitalism requires a more clever strategy, since both green capitalists and climate anarchists arguably both vie for the empathy and support of public opinion on a climate crisis whose existence both fronts acknowledge. The opposition to Obama- and Barroso-style green capitalism constituted by the climate camp movement, and the other forms of environmental direct action currently federated around the Climate Justice Action network ahead of the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen, can make the rest of society advance toward a world where global heating is the top political priority, a world where "less climate change, more social change", to quote a climate camp slogan, is what drives radical and reformist politics alike. It is not yet the case today. It's still Exxon, big business, and big banks that are determining the direction of carbon regulation. If climate conflict leads to progressive effects, i.e. if it forces major policy changes by activating so-called "civil society" against economic power for bottom-up environmental transformation, then the world might progress toward a future worth living, inasmuch as labor conflict made the world emerging from the ashes of fascism progress toward social reform and welfare provisions, the ones later dismantled by the Reagan-Thatcher counter-revolution. If instead green capitalism is too weak to confront fossil lobbies and is insufficiently prodded by ecomovements, then environmental collapse and ecofascism are likely to carry the day, in a planetary-scale replica of what happened to the poor of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. I surmise that the present ecological crisis (in the sociopolitical context highlighted by the bifurcation opened by the Great Recession) can lead to one or a combination of the macropolitical scenarios discussed in the next session.

The Climate Question: Macropolitical Scenarios (2010s and 2020s)

  • Ecofascism
  • Steampunk Anarchy
  • Ecosocial Reform
  • Green Liberalism
  • Green Jacobinism

If the biosphere fast becomes inhabitable for much of the human species, a global civil war for resources is likely to ensue, with areas where military despots have absolute rule over the lives and deaths of survivors, i.e. ecofascism. In this nightmare scenario of a return to violent feudalism, brutal overlords rule over a present of misery and a future of regression. In such a setting, pockets of steampunk anarchism can survive, similar to when free cities in the Middle Ages managed to hold their own againts the feudal lords, bishops and monarchs. These will be self-managed communities organizing for self-defense and food production, surviving and perhaps thriving through the recycling and hacking of old machinery enabled by the transfer of pirate knowledge across generations. They will be under constant threat from ecofascists and climate refugees, forced rewilders in a Hobbesian world where civilization (meaning water from the tap, public health and schooling, Internet etc) has collapsed. Those who don't organize will either prey and/or perish, with ecohacking providing an important edge for survival. Are primitivists cheering for the imminent collapse of electricity- and silicon-based civilization? Sometimes it's best not to get what you wish for.

Let's now see the dream scenario. Antidystopia turned on its head and made into utopia. An ecosocial future for the seven (soon nine) billion human beings that people Gaia. A Green Deal that's in the interest of society, not corporations. A social pact that imposes the binding regulation of emissions to power plants, factories and vehicles, which is enforced thanks to the social control and pressure of active multitudes, watchful of large emitters and mindful of entrenched interests. Overdeveloped countries finance the technology needed in underveloped countries to curb emssions. Viral experiments in urban and rural communities lead to distributed energy production, economic mutualism, social ecologism. Green jobs are created to compensate those lost in industry and mining. Regionalization of trade and relocalization of food consumption take place. A multipolar world leading to transnational human rights governance, where strong green parties take on the role of the social democracies of yesteryear. A society where barricades are burnt and conflicts keep occurring, for access to water or knowledge, for instance, but that are managed and solved through reform and compromise. A society where the economy starts to dematerialize, downshifting from material goods to immaterial leisure, as climate change unfolds slowly, but surely. The climate crisis thus becomes an occasion for catagenesis, to use Homer-Dixon's expression, when the crisis becomes a green opportunity to change the structures of society. Environmental groups stand to become mass organizations in such a world. Climate anarchists won't like to hear it, but their climate action and opposition to green capitalism is likely to lead to ecosocial reform, not revolution, since the field of forces stacked in the Great Recession favors either reformist or fascist outcomes, with nothing either in the middle or to the left. It was of course O'Connor the first thinker positing and articulating the possibility of ecosocialism. However I differ in one fundamental aspect from this school of thought, as I don't buy into Marx's labor theory of value (Tugan-Baranovsky and Sraffa proved it wrong), and so I don't think the ecological crisis will negatively affect profits, just as it was wrong to assume a trend toward proletarianization of the working class and that the accumulation of fixed capital would lead to falling rates of profit (the historical record says otherwise). Indeed the possibility of green capitalism rests on the potential of a productivity boost afforded by green tech that allows both wages and profits to grow, i.e. on the exact opposite of what O'Connor argues ("Put simply, the second contradiction states that when individual capitals attempt to defend or restore profits by cutting or externalizing costs, the unintended effect is to reduce the 'productivity' of the conditions of production and hence to raise average costs.").

The more likely short-term scenario is simply green liberalism, i.e. the technocracy of government and international agencies overseeing the ecological modernization of the economy by responding to and reconciling the interests of corporations and organized science. Such modernization is being marketed as "green revolution" to a wary public. In fact, the Great Recession has shaken the self-confidence of liberal elites but has not unsaddled them like they feared a few months ago. The financial elites responsible for the crisis have so far gone unpunished, still unaffected in their political influence, with many investment banks having reverted to their previous haughtiness. Neoliberalism has been defeated, but not the neoliberals, and this is even truer in Europe, where monetarism still rules and old EU elites are still in power, than in the US, where monetary and fiscal keynesianism have been voted into office. Free markets are passe, and the state is back. But not in the interest of society, but of capitalism itself. Lord Stern and Oscar-Nobel Gore as salesmen of the human face of corporate capitalism. It's carbon trading and industrial innovation, not carbon taxes and sustainable living like in ecosocialism. Sacrifices for the many, not the few. Dirigisme can be mightily unequal. Yet any return to decent macroeconomic conditions shall require redistribution from profits and rents to wages and salaries as condicio sine qua non, if (im)material consumption is to resume and green capitalism is to be kickstarted. On the other hand, although capital does seek to incessantly expand itself, this expansion occurs in money terms, not in material terms, as incorrectly assumed by Marxists.

A final setting, largely hypothetical but within the realm of possibilities, might be defined as Green Jacobinism, or possibly ecoleninism, if you prefer. To explain it, think of an Earth Liberation Army motivated by a radical green ideology preached by devoted cadres that manages to conquer the whole world, and sets up an intransigent government dedicated to the strict regulation of economy and society to halt climate change and the defrosting of tundras and glaciers. A revolutionary army that enables a revolutionary party to seize power with one mission: reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to 350ppm (the by now well-known consensus level at which mean global temperatures don't increase with respect to pre-industrial averages). Everybody would be entitled to no more of 3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, in the form of ration coupons to be spent on global-warming-inducing activities. Private possession of internal combustion engines would be outlawed. Reluctant SUV owners would be hanged to show people that the revolutionary government means business. Civilian air transport would dismantled. Coal mines closed, gas rationed, oil used mostly for pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals. Nuclear energy would be exploited until the Hubbert's Peak of uranium is reached. Any form of unauthorized combustion would be actively discouraged. Smoking would be heavily taxed if not banned. Mandatory ecology and science classes since an early age would enforce correct regimes of nutrition, mobility, power consumption. Corvees of free labor in public parks and victory gardens would be required from every adult citizen. Paramilitary corps would be assigned to reforestation projects, and scout-like formations of green bioneers would be instituted by the Ecoist Committee for Global Safety, overseeing the greening of the world with dictatorial powers limited only by the fear of causing an insurrection with a too harsh rule. What to make of this scenario? Hangings of addicted drivers aside, it's hard to see, without resorting to authoritarian measures, how to persuade producers and consumers to change habits and investments with the rapidity necessary to avert disaster, thus reducing emissions by 20-30% within a decade, and by 80% within forty years. It seems that only an enlightened dictator, or a planetary salvation committee endowed with full powers, can manage to achieve that feat and win the resistance that will inevitably emerge from special interests, but also from people that don't like to be bossed around, even if it is supposedly in the name of the right cause. (Think of the uproar being caused by Obama's modest proposals of health care reform.)

I bet on the ecosocial scenario, because climate camps and protests are spreading as fast as forest fires and because Cohn-Bendit and Bove's Europe Ecologie did great in France at the EU elections, so the Greens might be on the verge of becoming Europe's new social democracy. But if I were at Ladbrokes I'd say: 30% ecoliberalism, 25% ecofascism, 20% ecosocialism, 10% ecoleninism, 5% ecoanarchy. Out of metaphor, it's likely that combinations of these scenarios will emerge simultaneously in different continents, which are also differentially affected by climate change: only ecojacobins need to seize the whole world to impose their planet-saving plan. However, it's likely that in the future there will be either an ecoliberal/ ecosocial dialectic (the conflict between green capitalists and climate anarchists) or an ecofascist/ ecoanarchist dialectic (envirodespots fighting steampunks), depending on the severity of global warming and its effects on human settlements.

 

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Tom Levitt, "Climate Camp: anarchist or saviour of the environmental movement?", The Ecologist online, http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/296747/climate_camp_anarchists_or_saviours_of_the_environmental_movement.html, August 6, 2009

James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, Basic Books, 2006.

Juan Martinez-Alier, The Environmentalism of the Poor: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation, Edward Elgar, 2002

D.H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update, Earthscan, 2004

George Monbiot, Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, Allen Lane, 2006

Tadzio Mueller, Alexis Passadakis, "20 Theses against Green Capitalism", http://slash.autonomedia.org/node/11656, December 2008

Arne Naess, David Rothenberg, Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1993

James O'Connor, Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism, Guilford Press, 1997

Peter Singer, One World: The Ethics of Globalization, Yale University Press, 2002

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, Nation Books, 2005

Seth Tobocman, Disaster and Resistance, AK Press, 2008

Derek Wall, Babylon and Beyond: The Economics of Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Globalist and Radical Green Movements, Pluto Books, 2005

John Zerzan, Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization, Feral House, 2008

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