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Apocalyptic Capitalism


Apocalyptic Capitalism

Chris Hedges

The charade of the 21st United Nations climate summit will end, as past climate summits have ended, with lofty rhetoric and ineffectual cosmetic reforms. Since the first summit more than 20 years ago, carbon dioxide emissions have soared. Placing faith in our political and economic elites, who have mastered the arts of duplicity and propaganda on behalf of corporate power, is the triumph of hope over experience.


Everyone should read this article and highlight where they are part of the problem in red and where they can be part of the solution in green--and then act.


I take issue with one conclusion in this article and that the one where an anthropologist observes that In a collapse only the strong survive and that the weak are brutalized and victimized.

To be accurate this brutality against people is not so much a function of strength over weakness as it is one the willingness of the brutish mind , no matter their strength , to impose their will upon another. Yes there can be an element of physical strength here but a 90 pound person willing to kill and murder others with a gun knife or by privation or the hiring of thugs to do the work would prevail not so much out of strength but because he IS a brute.

In such a world, which I am sure some Social Darwinists look forward to as a means by which the species can become "stronger" , the opposite in fact occurs given our species evolved through cooperation.


Perhaps the idea of strength was not that of physical prowess but included the idea of weaponry, hired mercenaries and the brutish mind you mention. If so, sounds right. I am surprised he didn't mention Mad Max because it sounds a lot like what I remember about that movie.


Certainly, I do think about this issue more and more. I have cut down but not eliminated meat entirely from my diet but the statistics regarding greenhouse gases are very compelling. Much more so than holy-than-thou exhortations from one or another evangelical vegetarian or vegan. While I appreciate their passion for their food choice, I don't find them as convincing as this rational argument that day by day becomes harder to deny.


Well I would still suggest that a person willing to drop nuclear bombs on cities is acting out of murderous brutality rather then strength.

Social Darwinists like Ayn Rand equate brutality to strength in order to justify that brutality. She too spoke of her admiration for those that would act in brutish manners outside of what society found acceptable.


At the risk of being declared a heretic (My personal favorite in any case), Hedges has lost it.

So solar and wind are an airy distant solution but everyone going veggie is not? People reducing the consumption of meat is now Hedges solution to climate change? How long does he think it would take to change a species eating habits? Does he think that even a small but significant reduction in meat consumption is possible in a few decades? Like how many decades does he think we have left before global climate change becomes catastrophic?

I cannot believe that any sane intelligent person could dismiss our switching off fossil fuels in favor of solar and wind like he did in this article. He says they are distant solutions but we all see that they are very close and getting closer. Countries are now talking about becoming fossil fuel free in 20 or so years. What is Hedges talking about here? It is so bizarre to discourage a switch to solar and wind.

So call me a heretic... aside from the fact that I like it...

... please take a number and get in line.


That is right-- right down to the cellular level. Had it been otherwise NO species could have evolved. Homo "Sapiens" that fail to see the UNITY of Life have created the warring, separatist world around us.


"They will not limit the overconsumption that is the engine of global capitalism.": In a nutshell! And along with this, of course, are military hardware--don't imagine a solar or wind powered fighter jet, warship, or submarine do you? There fore Chris' first suggestion must take place to put the breaks on this murderous machine. Global civil disobedience growing into total Gandhian non cooperation.


"There are only a few ways left to deal honestly with climate change: sustained civil disobedience that disrupts the machinery of exploitation; preparing for the inevitable dislocations and catastrophes that will come from irreversible rising temperatures; and cutting our personal carbon footprints, which means drastically reducing our consumption, particularly of animal products... We have to let go of our relentless positivism, our absurd mania for hope, and face the bleakness of reality before us. To resist means to acknowledge that we are living in a world already heavily damaged by global warming. It means refusing to participate in the destruction of the planet. It means noncooperation with authority. It means defying in every way possible consumer capitalism, militarism and imperialism. It means adjusting our lifestyle, including what we eat, to thwart the forces bent upon our annihilation."

Seriously, hundreds of us read these words here, and recognize a hard kernel of truth in them, but what does it take to really move away from the "comforts" of "normalcy" in the existing social systems, and start speaking and struggling to live this truth?

Who's really down?

Not just no car, no meat, no cheap plastic crap, now in our own lives even before total collapse, because we have intelligence and compassion and choose to live with full accounting for the whole-systems impacts of our consumer choices...

But also civil resistance, mass civil disobedience, total non-cooperation as Giovanna consistently reminds us? And not just in the consumer / producer realm of the everyday economy, but also (and thank you Hedges for including) organized resistance to "consumer capitalism, militarism and imperialism."

Who's really down? In the immediate day-to-day, so much easier for those with a small slice of privilege as "employees" and "consumers" to just continue on the treadmill...


World history has been a river of blood orchestrated by sociopaths and psychopaths which the human race has not only survived but somehow progressed despite it. But in this era of weapons of mass destruction we have entered a new age of cyber war where keystrokes could destroy even the most powerful nation. Recently there has been hysteria over all the refugees that could contain terrorists. They should be more worried about terrorist keyboards.

For the bloodiest empire in history permanent war is nothing new for the U.S. Since the United States was founded in 1776, it has been at war during 218 out of its 239 calendar years of existence. Since even before its founding war was used to pursue the geopolitical and economic interests of a ruling elite. The history of the United States is nothing but constant terrorism. It includes 30 million dead indigenous people(“Indians”) and the “great Institution" of slavery during which hideous time in our “exceptional” nation's genocidal history there is an estimated 40 million dead former African slaves. Both groups are still being terrorized as are the uncounted constantly demonized and exploited immigrants, most from imperialist impoverished countries.

So the destruction of the ecology and global warming will only be talked away as there’s not enough profit in doing anything serious about it and perhaps we’ve already passed the point of no return where even a massive worldwide effort would fail. Hedges effort would begin with a vegan diet for everyone and all the other, because we have not taken any real action, actions would be just as dramatic. Such an effort would require an international cooperation that is impossible under the competitiveness of capitalism. It probably would take a world dictator to accomplish at this point. That’s what makes the concept of a “new world order” so ludicrous. There has never been a way for the world’s capitalists to peacefully coexist, after all competition and the destruction of competitors is the essence of capitalism.

So it’s talk away the non profitable problems , as all good well paid managers will do, and rely upon “a security and surveillance apparatus, along with militarized police, that will employ harsher and harsher methods to cope with the chaos” while retreating to higher and higher ground. Capitalists are short term orientated so if they don’t destroy each other and us, in another world war, they’ll just depend on technological innovation and their privilege to keep them safe.

“We have little time left”. Possibly not enough left to mount the massive world wide effort now needed unless we could quickly replace capitalism with socialism. Still people have never taken action because they knew they would win but because inaction became too painful. Knowing the “bleakness of reality before us” and, worse, before our decendants, should make inaction impossible. People might not be able to do big actions, such as becoming vegans, but increasing numbers of people taking what action they can would definitely have an effect, The key is to have a snowballing momentum that could not be stopped. If coupled with a demand for socialism it might save the human race from extinction. If not one could at least die knowing one fought a good fight. Before that one can also enjoy the liberation of mind and spirit.


Permit me to add another dimension to the cattle question - and that is the synergy between MASSIVE meat packing corporations in Brazil and the US that wield stunning power - check their bank backing.
The FIRST wave in deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil is cattle - regardless of land rights, indigenous peoples in a modern day version of what was intensively done in the North, are seeing the coherence of the tropical biome being literally cut and trampled to death. By the way - the agribusiness sector in Brazil has an ongoing all-out- no holds barred drive to erase the Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution - indigenous rights to verified traditional lands - and do what? Hand that over to the legislators largely bought and paid for by agribusiness right now. That is being called 'genocide by legislature' by an increasing number of people.
What follows the cattle within a couple of years? Soy - hundreds of MILLIONS of hectares of GMO. What is one of the primary uses of soy? cattle and livestock fodder. This is accompanied by MILLIONS OF TONS of agrotoxins.year after year.- but none of that is aggregate - or is it? rivers? aquifers? and this is only one of the transnationals. See "[The Poison is on the Table
Now theres a new "agricultural frontier"in Brazil called Matopiba eyeing 73 million hectares in Cerrado biome (savanah) - primarily for export ...gosh, guess you need ports, railroads, highways all that good stuff too...

The problem is, the model is addicted to externalization and specific rates of growth. It CAN'T stop.
Try taking a peek at the Brazilian corporation JBS , which as been operating in the US for years - maybe visit its investors sections and check out some of the background on Wikipedia. Let me know if your hair doesn't stand on end.


Explaining why we should may offer some satisfaction to some people but I would like someone to detail just how to wean the world off meat?

It is a laudable goal to reduce meat consumption world wide but the how that can be accomplished seems left out of the explanations of why we should. So how to?

My point is simply to concentrate on getting off 'fossil fuel direct' -.that is the direct use of coal.oil and gas. As we do that (switching to solar and wind, we gain time to explore the less direct but still significant ways fossil fuels can and should be phased out. People need to realize just how little time we have to make drastic changes. Direct fossil fuel use is first.

By the way Bernie's carbon tax will make all use of fossil fuels less attractive including in the agricultural sector.


I personally think we're screwed at this point, though I'd like to think otherwise. You're talking about trying to alter the main core-think of civilization. It's current crop of master(s) have enough control now to thwart any real threat to their clubby little party of the 1%. Enjoy life, certainly do your part, but don't try to think you can save the world. You can't outfox mother nature.


The world does not need to be weaned of meat it just has to eat grass fed and pastured meat, dairy and eggs. The problem is industrial meat production that feeds medicated soy and corn grown on plowed, fertilized, pesticide and herbicide soaked soil to cattle, pigs and chickens in confined feeding operations.
Consider that the Great Plains supported 100 million grazing animals and their predators including humans on grass that was not plowed, fertilized or covered with pesticide. The top soil was 6+ ft deep and the aquifers were full. Now the top soil is almost gone along with the microbes so what is left is dead.
Eat the grass fed animal products produced by local farmers that can be found in your local markets. As the market expands, more small farmers will switch and even JBS, Cargill and ADM will see the light and start producing on grass.
As Chris says even if carbon emissions are zero the carbon already in the atmosphere will propel global warming. The soil can store 2-3 times the carbon that is in the atmosphere and in above ground trees and other plant matter. Instead of growing corn to feed cattle farmers can turn their land into pasture and by using managed grazing techniques developed by Allan Savory, Joel Salatin and others can work less and make more money as in this video. https://vimeo.com/80518559
The soil microbes supported by grazing animals urinating and defecating on their food then moving on as buffalo did will eat and transform most of the methane and oxides of nitrogen that are the apocalyptic bogeymen of the anti meat people. It is a non issue or global warming would have happened when the earth was swarming with grazing animals before humans appeared. We can reverse global warming with each forkful of grass fed meat and every glass of pastured milk and eat healthy at the same time. What's to argue with that.


Don't think you're a heretic. Hedges may have lost it, or not. But he's at least closer to the edge than usual. Don't get me wrong, I like reading and listening to Chris's opinions. The thing about Chris is he is so very "dark" all the time. Saturday nights at his house must be a real blast, I tell you! His criticism of any showing of any degree of "hope" is what I can't get past. True, he is accurately describing the real world around us; but he is so down, so negative, and his unrelenting mantra of "sustained revolution is the only answer" just doesn't acknowledge reality for lots of us. Again, I think Chris is right about most things he writes, and he has "walked the walk" by getting arrested, being in the streets,etc. But I believe that without that (reasonable level of) hope-not the Oprah Winfrey/afternoon coffee-clutch bullshit hope- we are lost. Whats to fight for, without hope that we can make a change? Hell, maybe I'M the one who is missing the picture, but I can't deal with too much negativity without thinking, "ok, should I slit my throat, or fall out of a 5th story window" after reading Chris.


C'mon, Chris. don;t throw the baby out with the Co2-infused bathwater! Give wind and solar power a realistic chance at making a difference before you lead us off the cliff into your dark(yet accurately described) world. I love ya man but your a downer. It isn't about meat/no meat; it's about a host of changes we must make-fast, no doubt- but not just about "pass the zucchini and no steak for me". I'll catch hell for this but that's OK. Heck I car pool and recycle aluminum cans.


I would submit that as mentioned by Hedges, we see the the ag-gag laws, which to me are emblematic of the systemic mindset. That is, education of the public as to the hidden aspects such massive centralized private profit represents a threat to that monopoly. Just look at fuel use in every aspect and input of monopolistic agribusiness as opposed to local agroecology earth regeneration. Look at the sea problems and the profits from dictatorship of the system choices requiring constant growth not only of ports, but more power, more energy generation - just taking some time to contemplate what we're REALLY looking at seems to be one of our tasks.
I find it all too easy to forget that the metrics that this system uses is founded on an entire legacy of 'externalized costs' accounting, feeding the entire monopolistic agribusiness ideology.
Yup, it will take massive education and this is already underway. Just as 'trade agreements' are so destructive that they have to be kept secret - another form of externalization/exclusion - its a dictatorial profoundly destructive and unsustainable process. The massive power dissociates those who profit from it from the actual consequences.
If the goal is to get off fossil fuels why not add knowledge of the reality of one of the most usurious, unhealthy, monopolistic and ubiquitous industrial sectors driving the 'growth' delusion that EVERYONE is connected to? food production and our choices.Then there is advertising - a form of dissociative magical thinking - based on externalized 'consumer' awareness - double trouble there - enforced ignorance through another billion $ industry of marketing and advertising along the lines of a child not exposed to reality 'milk doesn't come from a cow' (and an entire life cycle), but a box on a store shelf.
I agree, there isn't much time left and the ideology of constant growth, based on profoundly destructive forms of silos of predatory 'privilege' and willful ignorance need ongoing engagement. There's a full spectrum of areas for everyone to find their natural energizing contribution points.


Time argues against it.maybe Hedges believes that we have many more decades ahead of us to get off fossil fuels? He talks of long term changes like for third pArties to grow and phasing out meat consumption.

Hedges waves a magic wand but nothing happens when he does. He says rise up like he is parting the Red Sea but nothing happens.

So people will be willing to significantly reduce meat consumption over the next two decades because why? People will rise up to overthrow the PTB in the next two decades why?
Hedges is not talking in real world terms anymore. He inhAbits the poetics of dialectics...not reality.

His rise up isn't there and as climate change overtakes us, it will grow further away as government will be increasingly relied on to repair damage cities and build shore line dikes etc.

Everyone commenting keeps saying we should but not how we can do such things. In the midst of catastrophic climate change people want others to go vegetarian? Say what? I find that an astounding absurdity. Switch to solar and wind or we face immense difficulty and suffering. Stay focused on surviving...first things first before it is too late. Switching off fossil fuel bAsed energy is the priority.


The industrial model of large scale agriculture runs across the spectrum of foods produced. In brazil it deforestation for cattle. In Indonesia entire forets burned down to make way for palm oil plantations.

Neither is because without those cattle or that palm oil people would starve. It because it generates the most profits.

Profit IS a dirty word.