Sunday, October 16, 2011

wall street and climate change

but what do they want? (full comic here)

Occupy Wall Street has spread to all major cities in the U.S. and is now in the second month.  A friend of mine complained that the message of the movement is too one-dimensional and too clear-cut.  There are other things, next to economic injustice, that are also important, arguably even more so, such as climate change.  The irony, of course, is that the capitalistic media have tried for the longest to maintain the precise opposite, as if the message of the protesters were not sufficiently clear.  The complaint touches a nerve, because there are so many things to engage with, so many things to worry about.  Thus, indeed: where should we start, and what should come first?

Here's a leaflet from the Occupy Tampa folks (I quote):
The top ten percent own more than the bottom ninety percent put together.  Lobbyists pour money into the government to get whatever the corporations want.  Wars are fought while we can't feed our children and can't keep our homes.  Most of us can't afford insurance.  Schooling no longer assures employment, trapping our new graduates in burger-flipping positions and saying, 'would you like fries with that?'  Our 'duly elected representatives'  listen to money instead of the people's cries of anguish ... No longer can we close our eyes and believe in the fairy tales of benevolent powers that be.  No longer can we hide the growing number of homeless in jail cells and junk yards.  Peaceful resistance is the only way to save our country.
The remarkable thing about this statement is that it is a set of truisms.  Every single sentence is true, in a humble, erring-on-the-safe-side way (in one case by one order of magnitude; see below).  Paul Krugman calls the Republican agenda that exacerbates this crisis rabbit-hole economics.  Current rightist proposals, such as Cain's 9-9-9 plan, are barely veiled deceptions serving the oligarchy, and any quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows how bad such a plan would be for people with college loans or medical bills.  Even a columnist as conservative as Nicholas Kristof points out three factoids that underscore the demands for economic justice, namely that the 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans; that the top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, and that 65 percent of economic gains in the Bush expansion had gone to the richest 1 percent. 

So how does climate fit in all this?  Or, why would the blistered orb blog, whose Notes on the Looming Darwin Award concern climate change, problematize economic injustice?  Well, for the mystic, everything is connected, including economic injustice and climate change.  But that's of course shallow.  As a matter of fact, the economy and the environment are intertwined; the condition of the one affects the condition of the other.  The economic-environmental connection is particularly close between economic injustice and climate change.  Here the links are strong and direct.  Economic injustice is the cause; climate change is the effect. Moreover: just as economic injustice worsens climate change, climate change worsens economic injustice.  And finally: the mitigation of climate change is not merely a technological challenge; on the structural level, mitigating climate change presupposes stopping environmental injustice.

Chris Hedges puts it succinctly:
Tinkering with the corporate state will not work.  We will either be plunged into neo-feudalism and environmental catastrophe or we will wrest power from corporate hands.
The capitalist oligarchy perpetrates climate change.  The exceptional capitalist control of the U.S. society is the essence of economic injustice.  It manifests itself in all the known ills the Occupy Wall Streeters are fighting against.  It shows itself in the environmental deregulation that has made the U.S. into the world's climate fiend.   And it drives the exceptional climate denial of the U.S. society.  This is the world we are living in now: the German railways recently announced that all of its bullet trains will run on carbon-free electricity in the near future, while on the other side of the Atlantic, scientifically illiterate Texas politicians drive in oversize gas guzzlers to prayer meetings to ask their Lord for the drought to end--with the support of the public.  This denial happens not because Americans, or Texans, are stupid or evil; they are neither.  It happens because U.S. citizens are at the mercy of a media juggernaut pounding home a message of doubt.  This is reminiscent of the rise of antisemitism in Nazi Germany that led to the Holocaust.  A decade-long mass media pounding from 1933, when Hitler seized power, to 1942, when the Final Solution was launched, eroded common sense, subverted decency, and fueled collective madness.  Anyone hearing lies long enough may eventually become insecure, feel tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt, and adapt to the new norms, thereby aiding and abetting the perpetration of lies.  And all the individuals doing so become, in Goldhagen's polemic terms, 'willing executioners'.  Then it was the Nazis murdering the Jews.  Now it is U.S. oligarchs and their dark Republican helpers who devastate the world's climate and who steal the future from the children.

That's how this is connected.

Sixty-two months left.

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