Lately, I was reading “Eaarth” by Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, and enjoyed it a lot. It accurately describes our predicament, as a society that has breached the safe limits of carbon in our atmosphere.
It’s key proposal, to take to local solutions, is something I completely underwrite. At some points of the book I only missed some steps in the argumentation. It doesn’t discuss, for example, the environmental cost of producing “green” alternatives (solar panels, wind turbines). It would benefit from some more psychological, economical, anthropological, and mathematical insights – which made me think that as a philosopher, with some remote understanding of these disciplines, as well as a healthy dose of self-irony and humor, I could add something useful to this and similar publications (Carbon Zero by Alex Steffen; World on the Edge by Lester Brown), that are something like the Great Narrative of our time.
Perhaps I should state a more modest goal. I would like to reach a few more people with my book, I’d like to try and convince just a few more that the dominating civilization is not sustainable. It takes effort to get through to people. The PR-apparatus of the system never sleeps. They might have conceded that man-made (men-made?) global warming is a fact, but they have moved on to manufacture “reasons” for inaction and business as usual. Cynicism abounds. I talk to many people who believe we can’t do anything anyway, and we’re doomed lest Big Corporate Technology finds out how to move us to Mars for the after party.
They hijack our words. Sustainable, solid, resilient, reliant, independent, green, liberating, communal, transitional, ecological. All these words (McKibben uses them to denote who we need to be) are used as adjectives for the word “Growth”. Growth means expansion, it means acceleration of the use of energy (and that means: fossil fuels according to every honest researcher). Economic growth has always, and will always mean the destruction of ecosystems and dangerous disruption of the planetary balance . (This is a point that I think will need solid statistical support in the book)
Growth is God. It is the only way capitalism can “allocate resources”, remember, that thing she does insanely well: she needs to “create wealth”, money needs to “generate profit”. Every consequence for our real planet is immediately captured – and distorted – in actuary and monetary terms. Even neo-liberal authors like Nial Ferguson admit the flaws of the financial sector, but only to dub it the “mirror of our society” (in the conclusion of “The ascent of money”). But the real problem is that society is being held captive by the idea of Growth, the fundamental delusion that will continue to render not only its monetary mirror image, but humanity itself and the very planet it inhabits, into a fucked up wasteland.
Do you see what we’re up against?
A section of the book should be dedicated to the concept of “green growth” and how it at best postpones our self-destruction, but is normally a scam to accumulate more “wealth” and hence power more dirty growth.
We live in profoundly religious, – and hence delusional – times. I would perhaps dedicate a chapter on religion, drawing from people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches and the Dalai Lama.
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I would like to ask my readers if they have a suggestion for this book. How big should it be? Should it combine the necessary slew of bad news and gripping anecdotes with a fictional tale? A frame narrative that, for example, features our grand children when they spoon feed our barely breathing carcasses in the desparate wasteland that is left of the world. Or should it be a more hopeful, magical, or even funny story? Could it be in some way interactive? Could we jump back and forth between observations on a planetary scale and hands-on examples of how it is done locally? Could we deploy some sort of symbolism?