Many zoos have an exhibit like this: a wall with a hatch, and under the hatch words like “Do you want to see the most dangerous animal in the world?”. Of course everyone does, and before they open the hatch they speculate as to what the animal behind the hatch will be. A lion? A crocodile? However, when you open the hatch there is a mirror, and you see yourself staring back. You are the most dangerous animal in the world.
A thoughtful and accurate commentary, thank you Alex! Often there are not nearly as many comments on environmental issues here as I would wish…but…
"We are the most dangerous species of life on the planet, and every other species, even the earth itself, has cause to fear our power to exterminate. But we are also the only species which, when it chooses to do so, will go to great effort to save what it might destroy" – Wallace Stegner 1909-1993
This article is a little off target. In the 1980s global warming was well understood but a lot questions remained about positive and negative feedbacks, Most importantly it was not clear whether negative feedbacks such increased plant growth and increase cloud formation would act as a thermostat and reduce the temperature after it increased to a certain point. Of course now it has become clear that negative feedbacks are not strong enough to do this. They can slow the warming somewhat but not stop it. Action in earnest did begin around 1990 with Rio Conference and the formation of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, And shortly thereafter, the Kyoto agree. To say what followed has been a disappointment is an understatement. Another unanticipated event was the tremendous rapid increase of the Chinese economy which was largely driven by burning coal for energy. Within about 15 years China surpassed the US as the leading nation in greenhouse gas emissions and now China accounts for about one-third of carbon dioxide emissions.
There are liberal, progressive humanists and neoliberal, conservative troglodytes.
As the former, I refuse to be polluted by “we”.
Interesting - one could look at the graph and say the 30% owned by the bottom 90% is an aberration - that the mid-20s where we are now is actually the median ownership percentage over the past 100 years (I’d love the see the extension back in time to the previous century).
Additionally, if wealth is correlated with climate breakdown, wouldn’t it be preferable for the environment to have relatively few very wealthy people, and as many poor people as possible?
I expect nothing more from you. Apology for, and diversion from, any responsibility laid at the feet of the neo-liberal DINO establishment! The only people that questioned and dithered about actually taking strong action were politicians (and their masters) including prominently the neo-liberal DINO establishment that was and is complicit to the rape of the planet, profits-over-people and a sustainable future…like the Clinton’s and Obama, sellout whores to free market vulture capitalism who did a lot of rotten things that empowered exploitation, but not conservation and environmental action!! - deaf, dumb and blinded by corporate cash and a corrupt politics that serves exploitation, greed, “growth” and wealth over sustainability and a livable planet!!
The never has been ANY “action in earnest” in the US either R’s or D’s with few (very) exceptions, it was a great disappointment tho, and symptomatic of the neo-liberal agenda.
“The idea that all humanity is equally and collectively responsible for climate change – or any other environmental or social problem – is extremely weak.”
That said, global human overpopulation IS about ALL humanity. Imagine if all rabbits kept breeding UNCHECKED like humans! Imagine if rabbits kept CONSUMING the lion’s share of the planet’s resources, leaving all other species in desperation. Key word is UNCHECKED.
This is an egregious crime against sentient MORE-THAN-HUMANITY.
But I’ll agree that Western industrialized civilization, founded upon a Judeo-Christian domination-hierarchy of value and power, is the Godfather of all organized criminals.
“Neoliberalism” is a misnomer – it’s actually Neo-Feudalism, and we’re already 99 & 44/100 percent of the way along the path to a neo-feudalistic “society” of eight billion or so serfs controlled by one or two dozen families
of (slum-) “Lords” and (slum-) “Ladies” — just like in Europe six or seven hundred years ago.
* * * * *
Which of course lets all the rest of our grossly overpopulated planet off the hook. SURE it does.
* * * * *
IIRC, an experiment of this nature – with rabbits, no less – was (quite accidentally) tried in Australia a decade or two ago, and it didn’t turn out well for either the rabbits or any of the other occupants of that semi-continent. And didn’t a similar problem occur with rats (or was it mice?) a few years later? I’m afraid that any attempts to reduce population in a humane and equitable way will fall victim to naysayers shouting “racism” or “nationalism” or “classism” or some other false accusation. The task will therefor fall to Mother Nature eventually, and her methods will be far less humane than merely lowering the birth rate of humans . . .
Fester, when you’re right you’re right…
Unfortunately, food resources while they have been growing steadily are eventually going to run into a wall. Natural resources, although we continue to come up with ways to make things stretch further and further, are finite. Eventually, we hit the wall of carrying capacity.
When we do, it ain’t gonna be pretty. Fortunately for me, I’m old enough - I’ll probably be dead anyway before everything collapses.
But my shade shall wag a finger…
A glaring omission from thsi article is the name RONALD REAGAN. Starting with his removing POTUS Carter’s photovoltaic panels from the White House roof during his first week in office in 1981 and going full throttle with fossil fuel dominance, Ron was the point man driving all of the forces addressed in this article. The .1 % could not have done it without him.
I would argue that the glaring omission is capitalism. Neoliberalism is the current phase of capitalism, but previous forms of capitalism were not good for the environment either. Neoliberalism, sometimes called globalization, represents the spread of capitalism to the entire globe, this happened after WWII (when science has determined that when the anthropocene begins) and rapidly accelerates after 1975 (see the Powell memo).
Recall that under capitalism, pollution (the cause of AGW) is an externality. This was true before neoliberalism.
Take a look at Eastern Europe, Russia and China. Capitalism has been better for the environment than socialism.
Socialism is when workers control the means of production, that’s from Karl Marx. Name one county described as socialist that ever - even minimally - could meet that basic criteria. Among socialists, those countries are usually referred to as state capitalist. For example: both the US and the Soviet Union referred to the USSR as “socialist” each for their own propaganda reasons. For the Soviets the reason was to attach itself to the remaining cache that socialism had then. For the USA it was to demonize socialism by exposing the realities of the Soviet system. To this day genuine socialism remains obscured in the muck of anti-communism/McCarthyism.
To an enormous extent, China manufactures and transports goods for American and European markets. That does not mean that the Chinese do not share some responsibility for Chinese manufacturing. It does mean that the Western empire does as well.
Good stuff. Could substitute capitalism for neoliberalism without a hitch, though.
Most environmental destruction does not show up on a quarterly profit and loss sheet.
Look again, compare imperial hubs vs colonies, and recall that China and Russia manufacture largely for the West.
When China accepts money to take on American garbage, that does reflect badly on China’s autocratic and nominally “communist” leaders. But it is still fallout from capitalism, and China’s work-for-fee is still a holdover from days when the Opium Wars were fought in China and not in Afghanistan.
Indeed, not only does China manufacture for the American and European markets, often, it is the multi-national corporations that run the show. They operate the manufacturing, set the rules, and choose which laws they will follow.
The graph is a representation of wealth distribution, not ownership. Your rationale (“…if wealth is correlated with climate breakdown, wouldn’t it be preferable for the environment to have relatively few very wealthy people, and as many poor people as possible?) may be correlated to some cognitive health breakdowns with yourself. The article references the distribution of wealth, which correlates to greed. That should have been the 1st Commandment Moses carried down from the mountain. The mechanisms used to redistribute wealth from the non-wealthy to the considerably more wealthy destroys functioning democracy, which in turn acts as a resistance against making necessary measures to parry the know causes of climate change. Yet another kind of dangerous feedback.
Your further narratives about capitalism/socialism demonstrate that you’ve been an obedient Cold War puppy for some time. Did you pay attention to the counter comments by Tom_Larsen? It’s never too late to pull out those fish hooks of propaganda. It clears the mind and can even keep one’s face from sagging.
They all have votes. At present the worst side of human nature is dominant, supported by an amoral, aggressive pursuit of money and power under the flag of an ideology that pretends it is just a law of Nature, and so democracy demands we keep on digging this hole.