Wednesday, December 05, 2012
George Monbiot - Time to Ditch Our Malignant Politics
Guardian enviro-scribe George Monbiot writes that the road to saving the world has to be paved with the shattered remnants of today's corporatism. We must dismember corporatism and the plutocracy that drives it.
Humankind's greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that man-made climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.
Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business. In practice it looks nothing like this. What neoliberal theorists call shrinking the state looks more like shrinking democracy: reducing the means by which citizens can restrain the power of the elite. What they call "the market" looks more like the interests of corporations and the ultra-rich. Neoliberalism appears to be little more than a justification for plutocracy.
...Preventing climate breakdown – the four, five or six degrees of warming now predicted for this century by green extremists like, er, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and PriceWaterhouseCoopers – means confronting the oil, gas and coal industries. It means forcing those industries to abandon the four-fifths or more of fossil fuel reserves that we cannot afford to burn. It means cancelling the prospecting and development of new reserves – what's the point if we can't use current stocks? – and reversing the expansion of any infrastructure (such as airports) that cannot be run without them.
But the self-hating state cannot act. Captured by interests that democracy is supposed to restrain, it can only sit on the road, ears pricked and whiskers twitching, as the truck thunders towards it. Confrontation is forbidden, action is a mortal sin. You may, perhaps, disperse some money for new energy; you may not legislate against the old.
...The 1,000-year legacy of current carbon emissions is long enough to smash anything resembling human civilisation into splinters. Complex societies have sometimes survived the rise and fall of empires, plagues, wars and famines. They won't survive six degrees of climate change, sustained for a millennium. In return for 150 years of explosive consumption, much of which does nothing to advance human welfare, we are atomising the natural world and the human systems that depend on it.
...the struggle against climate change – and all the crises that now beset both human beings and the natural world – cannot be won without a wider political fight: a democratic mobilisation against plutocracy. This should start with an effort to reform campaign finance – the means by which corporations and the very rich buy policies and politicians. Some of us will be launching a petition in the UK in the next few weeks, and I hope you will sign it.
But this is scarcely a beginning. We must start to articulate a new politics, one that sees intervention as legitimate, that contains a higher purpose than corporate emancipation disguised as market freedom, that puts the survival of people and the living world above the survival of a few favoured industries.
Monbiot's ideas may sound radical, especially to those of you most committed to the Liberal Party or the New Democrats, because even our opposition parties sit squarely on the wrong side, the side that has to be dismembered and purged of its corporatist instincts.
Do you think Tommy Mulcair is going to bring down our corporatist way of government? Can you see Justin Trudeau championing the restoration of real democracy? Can you imagine those guys upending Canada's energy superpowerdom? If you can, you're delusional. In this one, they're on the same side as Harper.
I was pleased to note that Monbiot realizes that the corporatist hijacking of our democracy prevents action not just on climate change but also on "all the [other] crises that now beset human beings and the natural world." He recognizes, as written here so many, many times, that we cannot effectively deal with climate change unless we also deal with a host of other challenges. To fix any of them we must fix them all. There is a common thread, perhaps two or three, that run through them and connect them up. Once you identify the threads you cannot fail to see the solutions, the way forward. That way forward begins by reclaiming democracy.