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Restoring the Climate: War Is Not the Answer


Restoring the Climate: War Is Not the Answer

Judith Schwartz

Author and climate activist Bill McKibben has published a manifesto to “declare war” on climate change. While I agree about the urgency, I question the wisdom of invoking warfare. For one, how well have our battles against vast, multifaceted problems worked out?


It's time we nationalize the fossil fuel industry.


Excellent article. Regenerating healthy complex ecosystems is the primary work of restoring the Earth's climate system. That's not war, that's peace.

We need to end war, really end it. We need to transform the meaning of economics, from valuing extractive activity, to instead value ecological activity. The extractive economic structure of the economy drives military war; the war on nature and human wars are intimately intertwined.

This is not the only author pointing out the problems with McKibben's war metaphor. i hope to see him shift his writing in response.


I may agree with the need to improve our lot generally but in a race against time, one concentrates on winning the race and not redoing the decor of the waiting rooms. If your house is on fire then you don't decide that now would be a good time to fix the garage roof too.

Lots of things need doing in the future but unless we concentrate on surviving then the chances of any of them ever getting done are minimal. If you are starving then you only want food. You don't need to start baking bread and creating a five course meal because when you are starving you want to eat right away. Right away is the priority.

First things first because there are always lots of things that also need doing but survival takes priority.

Quibbling over incidental wording is silly. It is meaningless and fuzzy thinking as opposed to clear analysis. Wage peace over climate change? Is that really significant in any realistic way? We need to get serious and fight for survival. Oops...maybe Miss Manners doesn't like using the word fight even against climate change? Let's form several committees and study groups to discuss which metaphors and similes would pass a PC test where one isn't even necessary? Maybe the author would prefer a rousing call to action like >>> "Let's make nice about climate change!"

Couldn't we instead focus on priorities and not on such unimportant peripherals?


What do Hillary and Obama call it, "incrementalism?"
Slow and steady wins the race.

We need a war on the for-profit fossil fuel industry and we need it now.

We don't have the time to evolve on this issue.


We need to end our civilization's reliance on fossil fuels plain and simple. Alternatives exist but the profit motive is holding us back. That will guarantee certain levels of misery will come to exist because we started late or took our time (incrementally) making the needed changes.

The world in effect was not ready to think about never using oil and coal so abruptly. Hillary and Obama and certainly many others seem to feel rushed and pressured about needing to stop fossil fuel use so quickly.

The problem is that they think the misery index will also rise incrementally but therein lies humanity's desperate gamble. Climate change could very well accelerate without warning because we just don't know the mechanisms involved. What if ten years from now is too late? There could be much greater misery in a span of ten years. Look at the last ten btw.

We gamble with our eyes closed. IMO ... It sure seems to have gotten a lot hotter a lot faster than they ever predicted.

They are predicting things still.


Those in charge never want to give up two things: their money or their power.
And they certainly don't want to be forced to do it quickly by the "unwashed masses."


What the hell does "winning the race" mean to you? What does actually it mean in terms of real change? Sounds good to say we must "fight" climate change, but what does that actually involve? And what are the anticipated consequences, because there will be effects intended and unintended.

I'm for addressing climate change comprehensively and sustainably, not in some up to this point non-descript yet seemingly knee-jerk attack on climate change.


Exactly: Comprehensively and sustainably.

Not a consumerist and capitalist pipe dream "alternatives to fossil fuels," so we can keep "civilization" exactly as it is but magically "alternative fuel" our way out of ecological catastrophe.

We need a comprehensive, holistic, ecological economics, not based in "extracting" profit from nature, "endless growth," and ever-increasing energy use.


While I see the point being made here by those who don't want to quibble about wording, I fully agree with the author that our 'war on this, and war on that' description of addressing problems is very much over used. And, unfortunately, it keeps the 'war' mentality front and center, 24/7.

On the other hand, 'waging peace' seems silly, particularly when she talks about "detonating some peace grenades". Huh?


But you can't just eat the raw flour. Restoration is about balance. Yes, walk away from fossil fuels, which are running out anyway. But not all of those trees take forever to grow up. I need to wield yang power to stop the invasive stick grass in my (unpaved) driveway. But the back yard has gone from an unstable slope that had to be mowed to a grove of poplar and beech trees mostly by benign neglect, yin power.


What a great article. The mind set that goes along with climate change needs adjusting. Native American's for the most part have that positive mind set. We could learn much from them about being stewards of the land and ultimately the climate.
I really appreciated reading this, as the approach to climate change remedies have totally centered on fossil fuels. No doubt a serious problem, but since lack of time and almost no help from the government is hampering efforts, turning to rebuilding the land is vital and something that can be done while the fight against fossil fuels rages on.


How about declaring war on war?

Before Masanobu Fukuoka's "One Straw Revolution", I was casting seeds, legal and not, wherever they could grow. Tossing fruit and vegetable seeds and tops in the garbage seemed unnatural.

Making seed balls came later. Now they're air dropping them. Unfortunately, they are doing it for monocultures, not for reforestation. One advantage of using different kinds of seeds is that the ones most suited to the spot they are cast will tend to grow best there. And diversity is life


Dear Ms. Schwartz,

I've exposed the war framing in print for more than 10 years. So while I really appreciate you doing likewise, and suggesting a more nurturing relationship with the great Mother Nature, I would have to challenge your frame here:

"The vocabulary of war pervades in part since it reflects how we see the world. We learn it’s a dog-eat-dog world, a zero-sum game in which only the strongest survive—so it’s imperative to “destroy” enemies and “vanquish” rivals. Darwin’s take-home message has been that competition drives evolution. However, recent research suggests that symbiosis—shared beneficial relationships—is even more important in providing the opportunity and impetus to evolve."

This idea that WE see the world through a war frame is not accurate. What it does is reflect the world as seen through the Mars Rules prism.

It's a frame that has been IMPOSED by the dominant culture in its wish to dominate everything.

This dominator mode, explained at length with wisdom and depth by Riane Eisler (in "The Chalice and the Blade") is the cornerstone of patriarchy.

There are some writers who explain the intersection between how women are treated in most nations and how (mother) nature is treated.

The reason why Mr. McKibben for all his significant good intentions fell into the War frame--as means to fight climate change is due to the prevalence of the Mars Rules mindset.. It is imposed and taught in academic fields and pushed throughout the MSM. It is also that which is preferred by the capitalists who have essentially declared war on nature and all Native peoples by financial means and the MIC, itself which reverts to that old habit of brute force.


Next question: what is the answer?

First observation: in a rough, very rough sense, one does exist. It is mostly known and very doable--given moderately reasonable human response and action. That latter is of course as ever the devil in the details and the elephant in the kitchen and so on and so forth. But it might help involve people to know that this can be solved and that the solution is actually quite pleasant, assuming only that it is actually done. The name does not much matter, and it incorporates solutions to localized problems worked out independently by many people and hailed by many names and so forth, but you can find the ideas that pull these together as a working system under the name permaculture. This is worth doing.

Then, the answer is to care for people and the Earth by returning surplus (the excesses of our labor and use, not some Econ 101 entity) back to the Earth-systems that support us. This involves designing the systems that support our needs and livelihood in ways that run the produce back into the system. It involves sharing most goods and services and specialization only over very short distances, though ideas still need to travel globally.

It is fun, and it works. It does require some investment of time and energy and sometimes money up front, but mostly less than what people are throwing away already. Had I known what I could have accomplished even in the urban apartment complex I lived in, I would have started many years ago.


I live in a lake community in NW NJ that was developed in the 1930s as a summer retreat for working families from along the other edge of the state. I came here 18 years ago to live in the woods and have encouraged my double lot to return to that state. But the sounds of monoculture and removal of biomaterials (mowers and leaf blowers) resound around me. Just a couple of weeks ago, I suffered the trauma of having my milkweed garden, banks of ferns, and a native shrub newly planted to displace invasive day lilies weed-whacked to clear the way (didn't, in fact, come near) for fresh oil and gravel on the roadway. The ferns are amazingly recovering, and the milkweeds are trying (though the time was past for blooming and reseeding), but it's the daylilies and low-down English ivy and vinca that are prevailing. I used to say "If it's green, it's good," but there are limits.


Problematic metaphor!? Climate change is not politically correct whatever you call it.


Consider transpiration, the upward movement of water through plants. This is a cooling mechanism, transforming solar radiation to latent heat embodied in water vapor. According to Czech botanist Jan Pokorny, each liter of water transpired converts 0.7 kilowatt-hours of solar energy, an amount comparable to the capacity of, say, a large room air conditioner.

Good lord! please this is completely out of bounds with respect to the science of climate change! Transpiration may provide a regional cooling effect but this will only work to slow down a regional warming much as an urban heat island may increase regional warming rates. This has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the energy imbalance caused by increasing CO2 in the earth's atmosphere where the WHOLE EARTH absorbs more heat energy than it emits each day (now equal to over 800,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs PER DAY of additional energy absorbed).

The only feasible economic model that produces the scale of global transformation is the societal mobilization that has occurred during times of extreme crisis. The scale of this crisis has only happened during times of war. Even if we DO mobilize on that scale, we will likely fail as the earth's natural feedback mechanisms start producing more CO2 than the U.S. emits every year and the warming oceans absorb less CO2 every year. We do not have another option it is all or nothing right now.


Make loam, not war


A world war ll style mobilization is just a metaphor. Don't be pedantic. Just make your substantive points which have merit.