The high degree of regulations, taxes, and subsidies that will necessarily be part of elite responses to climate change bring the governments of nation-states back into a central role that they often did not have amidst the deregulations of Bretton Woods neoliberalism. Yet governments cannot prevent ecological collapse, and no current government of any influence is even trying. The progressive states of Europe proposed a mere 20-30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, to be accomplished primarily by the cheap disappearing act of carbon offset trading. The lack of governmental solutions only makes sense, because governments exist first and foremost to build and maintain the infrastructure necessary for commerce, to secure new markets for producers, and to protect the haves from the have-nots. Lately, new technologies have allowed them to approach their age-old dream of total social control, and this project makes them even less amenable to the idea of listening to activists or the idea of a natural environment that must be respected rather than controlled.
Governments rule, however, not by monopolizing force, but by monopolizing decision-making, by seizing the central ground of society and making themselves the arbiter of social conflicts and the implementer of solutions. Rejecting the solutions of world leaders, refusing to dialogue with powerful institutions, in fact trying to disrupt them, is a crucial part of our fight to save our place on this planet.
Those who think world leaders can be persuaded to adopt adequate responses to climate change, the environmental NGOs that sit down at the table in these climate summits, are mistaken. Other writers have amply demonstrated how the reformist climate justice movement is generating false solutions that will only make things worse (e.g. Tim Simons and Ali Tonak, “The Dead End of Climate Justice”). And environmental activists at the frontlines of the struggle against coal mining in Appalachia or deforestation in the Pacific Northwest remember how the big NGOs, standing on the backs of their sacrifices, betrayed the grassroots and rushed to Congress at the first chance to endorse and take credit for big legislation that only slowed the devastation.
Just as the earth is a holistic, interconnected system, piecemeal approaches to climate change are doomed to failure. Relevant factors that will determine the survival or extinction of species and peoples include forestation, soil health, fertilizer-caused dead zones in the ocean, integrity of habitats, population growth, forms of agriculture, and a hundred other things that are not being addressed by world leaders. Greatly boosting solar energy production would indeed require government subsidies and corporate investments, but this will not avert the ecological catastrophe that has already begun. To keep fossil fuels in the ground, check overpopulation, and protect and restore habitats, we will need to do nothing short of changing who holds power in our society, and how decisions are made; to change the way our culture views the planet, from seeing it as a dead thing that can be exploited and toyed with, to understanding it as an interconnected, living system on which we are dependent for our survival.
A popular solution to climate change will require a decentralization of economy and decision-making, the same decentralization prefigured by the global horizontal networks currently fighting back against those who are responsible for climate change. Our standard of living must be based on available local resources and not what can be purchased on the world market. Forms of food production like permaculture and local, organic gardening, developments that are already gaining global steam at the grassroots, can feed the world without the unacceptable human and environmental costs of industrial agribusiness. As for population, anthropologists have shown that local, pre-colonial forms of fertility control lost their effectiveness as decision-making, society, and identity went from the local to the national scale. We can and must reverse this process.
In 2009, Elinor Olstrom won the Nobel Prize in Economics for proving what anarchist scientist Peter Kropotkin demonstrated in his 1902 book, Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution, that common resources can be horizontally managed by the people who use them, without government regulation or privatization. In other words, the commons, which have been progressively stolen from us over the last 500 years by the very institutional predecessors of those who govern us now, are ours for the taking.
Climate change is already killing people and driving entire species to extinction every day. We can accept more of the same by trusting in the solutions of world leaders we know are lying to us, or we can take things into our own hands, and build solutions at the grassroots level while networking with other communities in resistance at the global level, and sabotaging the efforts of the powerful to manage and prolong the disaster they have created.
Peter Gelderloos is the author of How Nonviolence Protects the State and the forthcoming Anarchy Works.
article appeared firstly in CounterPunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/gelderloos02012010.html
Photography / artwork of this post made by the naturalist traveler photgrapher from Void Network