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Paris: The End of the Beginning


Paris: The End of the Beginning

Tom Athanasiou

As I write this, the United Nations climate conference is only weeks away. And now, of course, it will take place in an atmosphere of mourning, and crisis, and war. Beyond this change of tone, what difference will the 11/13 attacks make on the outcome of the negotiations? It is impossible to say, though it’s not too much to hope for heightened clarity, and seriousness, and resolve. This is a time to attend to the future. On this, at least, we should be able to agree.


A picture is worth a 1000 words. The following visuals of just THIS past month's climatic events should catalyze an immediate response in anyone who views them... and is in a position to influence or enact policy:

When the expenditures for the uptick in all of these floods, tornadoes, droughts, reactivated volcanoes, sinkholes and so much else factor in... remedial action becomes worth more than pounds of cure.

Unmentioned in this lengthy article are the faux supplies of virtually unlimited capital that come from fractional reserve banking and all of the exotic instruments dreamed up by Wall St. to make money appear out of thin air; and the equally impossible sums invariably made available for weapons, soldiers, and wars.

Since these 2 arenas seem to be unlimited in expenditures, it's a matter of priorities. Lots of $ exists... it's just that it's being vacuum-suctioned to the top of the financial pyramid where it no longer can shape the futures and would-be sustainability of 6 billion OTHER persons, added to countless other species.


A fourth component i see as essential to be added to the author's three “bare essentials" for "success" at COP 21:

4) a commitment to ramp down wasteful and non-essential economic activity in "advanced" economies, and a fundamental re-draft of the models used to project future energy "needs".

i know there are innumerable benefits to humans from mass production and mass consumption in fossil-fueled economies. There are also mountains of resource-intensive useless crap, and endless supplies of marginally useful but not actually needed goods and services produced.

If we can begin to wrap our heads around the actual crisis that we face, then we can begin to demand that privileged sectors give up some of their privileges, and not just in terms of justice and equity but in absolute terms. (i do appreciate the author's blunt language on many aspects, but not his "this is capitalism, after all".)

Not just fossil fuel corporations, but many other sectors, need to drastically rewrite long-term strategies in light of reality. For example, projections of "future demand" for building new airplanes and airports are completely ludicrous, in light of what we need to do about atmospheric carbon. 100 years ago no one flew anywhere. How many flights are actually needed? Similarly, projections of "future demand" for electricity generation, include electricity for producing entire mountain ranges of useless crap.

We need a strong new paradigm of personal and collective economic "access to goods and services" that is blunt and realistic about what is a "need," and also about what is a privilege.

This includes war manufacture. The Pentagon is "strategic planning" to INCREASE its role as climate chaos unfolds. We need to impose an END to war, and shut down the war machine, as a central element in our climate justice platform.

But it also includes privileged consumerism in general. If 9 billion humans each have 20 small plastic bottles of skin toners and hair fresheners and other manufactured "needs" in their bathrooms, that's almost a trillion bottles in just five years, and millions of tons of frivolous atmospheric carbon. Could we just use soap and water? Oh the suffering! Detergent uses far more energy than soap. Could we do our washing with soap instead of detergent? Could we survive without commercial mouthwash? The concept of "suffering" that is discussed in the article should be crafted to bluntly exclude the "suffering" of privileged consumers who must learn to do without the manufactured "needs" they have learned from corporate advertisements that they have. The engineered social "need" to be "fashionable" will surely look silly to survivors in a dis-integrating ecology.

We need a profound shift in our assessment of social norms. As the harsh facts of climate chaos hammer our awareness increasingly from year to year, the ratcheting analogy can be extended to ratcheting our consciousness away from many things that the economically privileged have learned to "know" they "need".

Please note i have not laid out here a COMPREHENSIVE analysis and platform. CAFOs and industrial agriculture need to be shut down, and replaced with agroecology. Other key things are not mentioned in my brief post. i have not touched on appliances, devices, and planned obsolescence. But the key point is, we need to put the entire economy on the table, and not plan for climate chaos and transition and adaptation as if this rampant extractive corporate military economy is the sole model we can imagine or live with.

i recognize that for many, including some of the activists playing the "inside the hall" part of the strategy in Paris, such framing as i've outlined here is "unrealistic". It will be virtually unthinkable for many of the negotiators. But with the "consciousness ratcheting effect" of unfolding climate chaos, it will grow increasingly more thinkable with each passing year.




Thank you Rich! Welcome to CD.


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