05 April 2006


the commonvision bus

Thanks to Grist for noticing this -- Salon.com put out an article by Kevin Sweeney trying to stir up some hope about the climate change situation. The article is noteworthy for its quote of Peter Kropotkin:

Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, wrote, "It is hope, not despair, which makes successful revolutions." While this is a notion most American generations haven't needed to understand -- ours has been a fortunate history -- it may be time for us to learn it. When we tell stories of potential desperation, we must also find ways of offering hope. Always.
Very nicely done. But let's take a look at Sweeney's solutions:

  • "Our federal government can commit to massive purchases of solar power..."
  • "We can change our tax code to drive people away from fossil fuels..."
  • "We can increase the CAFE standards -- fuel economy standards for auto fleets -- from the current 22 miles per gallon to 40 miles per gallon..."

Problem is, this isn't hope. Making fossil fuels more expensive? That will make life more expensive. Buying lots of solar panels? You'll just get lots of profiteering from the welfare bums of the solar industry. Neither more solar nor increased CAFE standards will in themselves reduce fossil fuel consumption. No, if you want to create hope for a solution to global warming, you'll have to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere rather than fudge around with ineffective proposals for reducing fossil fuel consumption, which will only slow down the climate change effect a bit. And how do we take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? Plant trees! That's how hope works.

Programs driven by entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurs are interested in profit, and profit is attained by producing and selling commodities. That's how we got into this fix; that's why we have a world economy that consumes 83 million barrels of oil per day. Why not create prosperity without entrepreneurs?

"Prosperity" under capitalism is dependent upon cheap energy -- and when the oil runs out, the next cheapest form of energy will be heavy oil, tar sands, and, ultimately, coal. "Cheap" will, ultimately, be determined by energy return on energy investment (EROEI), and fossil fuels will have the best EROEI. We can predict, too, that governments won't stand in the way of this equation, lest they lose the favor of globally mobile capital. This is the way entrepreneurial thinking transforms the world -- through for-profit businesses, which reduce energy costs through greater EROEI, externalize the costs of waste in the production process by polluting, so that production can continue for its own sake. The greater the production, the more profit on margin. And increasing profit means paying the bills. Higher taxes on fossil fuels? That's not hope for businesses -- it's another bill to be paid.

Now, eventually, and assuming we continue on the capitalist path, the other fossil fuels will run out too. But we can expect a raging greenhouse effect to accompany their further use -- the more global capitalism burns fossel fuels, the hotter the Earth will rage. Eventually, then, the capitalist path will die in a fiery blaze.

Now here's a thought -- how about giving some hope to the working people of the world, that they don't have to produce climate change? We can start by providing exemplars like commonvision.org, to show what can be done when people prioritize the Earth over the profit motive. We move from that to a revolutionary dismemberment of the profit structures, so that people can live in a world where they work locally, eat local food, and generally exist within ecologies that assure their survival without consuming fossil fuels.

We can start by getting rid of the "morning commute," in favor of working at home. We continue by changing the economies of necessity, so that transportation is no longer so necessary to survival.

The next step is to get rid of the professions that Marx called the "circulation sphere," the lawyers and insurance reps and bankers and security forces and bureaucrats and such. The "circulation sphere" is the category of people who don't produce anything but who exist to move money around. Wouldn't Mother Earth be better off if these people were busy planting trees instead?

Now there's hope for you.


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