Notes on Cop-15
Notes on the Copenhagen Climate Conference
I have qualified sympathy with the Green movements; qualified in the sense that I cannot go along with all of them without reservation. So here are a few notes of solidarity and critique.
First, let those of us who understand the worth of protest notice that in Europe and perhaps especially in England, the Green movement seems the most active and organised and their protests are often well attended. It pleases me to see them out together on the streets! And it must be so cold! I have a couple of theories as to why the Green movements are so popular:
i) Whilst the ‘science’ gives the Green movement social credibility, the basics are so simple that a 5 year old can understand them (contrast this to certain elements of leftist theory).
ii) Further to the above, this science has been taught in British schools, at all levels, for at least the last 10 years, whereas leftist politics and theory is not only shunned, but also badmouthed, and simplified in order to make it easily dismissable (even at University level).
iii) Many in the Green movements feel there is a constantly ticking clock, and that when the alarm bell rings (as it may do any second) everyone will die (note the prevalence of the clock in Green imagery). This adds a certain element of manic urgency which is not simply denied to leftist movements, but actually militated against by capitalist strategies (see earlier post quoting Marcuse).
iv) Finally, simply that there is something distinctly misanthropic distilled into the citizens of the West that makes them far more ready to cry over the death of a fluffy rabbit, or write angry letters over the removal of trees, than to act in solidarity with their fellow human beings (or even to protect themselves). Of course, it is a simplification to blame this on individuals, for again there are manifold capitalist strategies which work to erode solidarity and complicate (bureacratise) more ‘political’ matters beyond comprehension. By contrast, ‘green’ matters are not only socially-acceptable, but actually officially endorsed by certain MPs (e.g. that clown Mayor who uni-cycles to work).
Of course, although (or perhaps because) the Green movements are fairly popular, when a Green opens their mouth usually all we hear is bullshit. Let me be frank: I do not care to hear about the difference between 2˚C and 3˚C. I despise your scientific rhetoric. I’m frustrated by your eschatological techno-babble. Not because I am a ‘denier’, but because I don’t base my opposition to capitalism on the conclusions of environmental scientists.
More important than debating a scientific rationale is opening our eyes to the human consequences of certain capitalist operations. We might remember, for example, the story of the Peruvian subsistence farmers and other local people who were brutally mistreated, tortured and in one case murdered, for protesting at a British owned copper mining plant (here is the Guardian’s report). This is only one example of the logic of capitalism, which seeks to disenfranchise people, to strip them of their dignity and autonomy; this is simply one example of the logic of separation that characterises our current politics, and which works to alienate people from each other, from their environment, from the means of production and of governance.
Taking this further, some very good points are made in the ‘Cop 15 Notes From Below’, Freedom Press article, which questions how carbon reduction measures will be introduced, and who it will be that makes these decisions. In Britain we are currently seeing the negative effects on workers caused by ‘modernisation’ plans undertaken without proper consultation with workers. I should note here both my solidarity with these workers, and my shame at the mainstream response (echoed everywhere with little thought or critique) which was, of course, to tentatively offer token support whilst roundly condemning the workers, blaming them for the failure of the industries they work for, and complaining over trivial service cuts. We must ask, if these workers are suffering now, how much further will they suffer (and be condemned for it by the pseudo-left as well as the right), when ‘carbon reduction’ provides an alibi for further restructuring?
To return to science and its precious numbers, though, one particularly striking figure is that of the Stern economic review of climate change for the UK government’s prediction that a rise of 3˚C would mean up to 170 million more people suffering severe coastal floods and 550 million more at risk of hunger. We should note, however, that these people will all be the poorest, and procede to see that it is not simply climate change that is the problem here, but also poverty. We do not simply need accord on climate pledges, but a complete overthrow of the system: one that would put political power and the means of production back in the hands of the people.
Please do not think that I have any faith in Cop-15 – even to type it makes me want to spit. I have no faith in our ‘world leaders’. But, it is a mistake to speak of ‘faith’. I am not talking of my beliefs. That is another thing I despise: reduction of politics to faith (certainly another manoeuvre of the centre/right). Anti-science though this post may seem at times to be, I am not anti-analysis. No – analysis should be the basis of politics, and the correct analysis leads to revolution!