Guest post: They are definitely going to take us over the edge if we let them

Originally a comment by Bjarte Foshaug on The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating.

At the beginning of the decade we are about to leave behind – the decade of Trump, the alt right, and post-truth politics – the 2010s were described as the last decade in which the human species still had a realistic chance of keeping global warming below 2 °C. Of course we didn’t seize this realistic chance while we had it, but kept running as fast as we could in the wrong direction, which means that any lingering hope must be sought in the more or less unrealistic realm. We already know where such hope will definitely not be found: It will not come from our elected politicians. That’s the option that has already failed for 30 years and can safely be ruled out. (If we ask why this is so, the answer doesn’t put the electorate in a very flattering light either). Nor is there any real hope that each of us (i.e. the same people who have consistently been opting for increased consumption at every turn and voting for politicians spouting “Drill, Baby, Drill!” and “All of the Above”) is individually going to cut his/her emissions to the degree required by the laws of physics, especially not within the context of a world order that capitalism has turned into a global version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma with permanent defection as the only viable strategy.

A slightly more hopeful route (advocated years ago by James Hansen) might be taking the guilty parties to court. This is currently happening in my country where an alliance of environmentalist organizations is suing the state to prevent drilling for oil in the Arctic. The environmentalists lost the first round, however, and although I fully support the ongoing appeal (including putting my money where my mouth is), I can’t honestly say that I’m optimistic. If the Trump-era has taught us one thing, it’s that the division of power is largely fictional, that foxes are guarding all the hen-houses, and that power and money tend to prevail regardless of what the law might say.

The least unrealistic hope as I see it is to get a minority of people sufficiently riled up to engage in massive acts of civil disobedience and physically block the extraction, transportation and burning of fossil fuels at every turn with their bodies. This is already happening to some extent of course, and we have already seen some partial victories, but not on a large enough scale to make a serious dent. Every government, as well as every major political party, in the industrial world has made it abundantly clear that they are definitely going to take us over the edge if we let them. My last desperate hope at this stage is that enough people will decide to not let them. Of course in a world of collective ego-centrism, instant gratification, short-term thinking, and even shorter attention spans, a world of alternative facts and rampant anti-intellectualism, a world where the only ideology more powerful than both neo-liberalism and the alt-right is a bland, indifferent centrism that would rather see the Earth turned to a desert than take a strong, bold stance on anything, this is a very faint hope indeed.

13 Responses to “Guest post: They are definitely going to take us over the edge if we let them”