Climate Change Forum


Up coming forums:

  • November: Malcolm Cleaveland and The Republican War on Science
  • December: Jeanne Neath, The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy by Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen. Zed Books and Spinifex Press. 1999.

 

November 5

Presenter Malcolm
Mooney, Chris. 2006. The Republican War on Science, Revised and Updated pb edition. New York, Basic Books. 357 p., notes with references, index.

Why talk about a book first published in 2005 and updated for the paperback edition in 2006? A couple of quotes from the preface may give a clue, “… it reaffirms central suspicions about Bush nourished even by many who once supported him: that he’s in a bubble walled off from reality; that he takes matters on faith; that he allows ideology to trample expert opinion; that he staffs the government with cronies who run it incompetently.” And, “If mistreatment of science reverberates as an issue, it is because it is emblematic of why so many Americans oppose George W. Bush to begin with. They think he is unfit to lead and that those he appoints cannot competently administer a government with such a wide range of duties, virtually all of which require some form of expertise (often scientific) if they are to be carried out properly.”

If you substituted Trump for Bush in the above, it would be a perfect description and it demonstrates that Republicans have disregarded reality, scientific and otherwise, for a long time to favor ideology. That ideology has destabilized the Middle East, resulting in millions of civilian deaths and involved us in two unnecessary wars with a price tag of well over $3 trillion (Stiglitz and and Bilmes, 2008, The Three Trillion Dollar War, New York, Norton) while welcoming a resurgence of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Republican refusal to acknowledge climate change and its potentially catastrophic effects is the perfect example of wilful blindness to reality. As Jared Diamond pointed out in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005, New York, Viking Press), failure to acknowledge and cope with reality is the sign of a society bound to fail. The fact that Trump was elected and is still supported by many, despite the fact that anyone who was paying attention knew exactly how immoral, corrupt, and irrational he is, which he demonstrates on a daily basis, just proves the corruption of Republicans in general and Republican politicians in particular.

Let’s hope when our society collapses it does not take the rest of humanity down with it, as it threatens to do.

December

The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy by Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen. Zed Books and Spinifex Press. 1999.

Presentation and discussion led by Jeanne Neath

A recent study published in Nature concluded that there is only a 5% chance that global warming can be held down to a 2 degree centigrade rise through the year 2100 (see Washington Post article at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/07/31/we-only-have-a-5-percent-chance-of-avoiding-dangerous-global-warming-a-study-finds/?utm_term=.13b6c88a9572 ). Two degrees centigrade is the amount of warming that scientists and world leaders consider to be “dangerous” climate change (though if you look at Puerto Rico it’s clear that we are already experiencing dangerous climate change). In June of 2017 Christina Figueres (the leader in charge of the Paris climate agreement negotiations) and a number of prominent scientists and other heavyweights issued a statement saying we have til 2020 to set the world on a clear path of diminishing greenhouse gas emissions ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/06/29/these-experts-say-we-have-until-2020-to-get-climate-change-under-control-and-theyre-the-optimists/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.9a375b69738a ).

World leaders have had since 1988 to find ways to turn the impending climate disaster around and they have failed. Activists and scientists have had since 1988 to find ways to pressure world leaders into making the changes necessary to stop dangerous climate change. Clearly it is time for new understandings of the climate crisis, understandings that are able to provide new strategies for addressing this emergency. This month’s Climate Forum will discuss a book that provides exactly what climate activists need in this time of impending climate disaster.

Although economic growth is clearly a key driver of global warming and capitalism is clearly a key driver of growth, the climate movement has not focused on the need to end capitalism. In The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy, ecofeminist authors Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen provide a clear and fearless analysis of the problem of capitalism. But, they go much further than a simple ecosocialist analysis and help the reader understand that the problem is not simply capitalism, but the combination of patriarchy and capitalism.

Mies and Bennholdt-Thomsen are social scientists who have each worked extensively with women in the global South and these authors consistently take the perspective of village women (“the view from below”) to understand and provide solutions to the problems created by a globalized capitalist economy. The village women of the global South have an insight that escapes many of us: people can live very good lives without all the massive amounts of consumer goods that seem so essential to people living in the industrialized world. These village women know not to believe the capitalist propaganda that one day they too will have a rich lifestyle.

As is clear in the title of this book, one primary solution to the problems created by the expanding capitalist economy is a re-invigoration of the subsistence economy in the industrialized world. (The subsistence economy is the core, essential human economy that underlies every economy, including capitalism.) The beauty of the subsistence economy is that it is in the power of every individual and local community to build the subsistence economy (and reduce the capitalist economy) starting right now. If you are turning your nose up at the notion of subsistence, Mies and Bennholdt-Thomsen will turn your head around by showing how capitalism has carried out a war against subsistence and brainwashed “modern” peoples. The Subsistence Perspective includes chapters on globalization and subsistence, markets and subsistence, subsistence in the city, reinventing the commons, and much more. One of the intriguing ideas this book has brought up for me has to do with the power of the consumer to create social change, an idea that we can explore further at Climate Forum.

Do not be fooled by the 1999 publication date of this book! The Subsistence Perspective could not be more current or relevant to the climate emergency we face.