The fact that liberals are making waves on climate policy is a good thing. But there are a few things that the optimistic headlines aren’t telling you. First, and foremost, you cannot reconcile a reduction in both emissions and overall resource usage / traditional pollution within a finite living physical system with an infinite growth paradigm. It’s illogical. It’s a fantasy of the oligarchs, and politicians who smile too much, that they can put batteries in cars and plant a few forests and keep on with business as usual.
Second, these ambitious programs are going to a) cost a lot of money / human resources, and b) lead to further resistance from entrenched economic class interests. To the first point, they’re depending on an economic recovery in the coming years (growth) to swell the budget to the extent that it will pay for these initiatives. Even if that were to happen as they project, which is unlikely over the long term because the American political system is a dumpster fire, that would mean that they’re going to need to continue to put the burden of all of this on workers and exploited externalities in the economic system itself. So, you’re gonna be working in your green workplace and making $8 an hour with no health insurance or pension, and the Wall Street / finance sector would be integral as a revenue stream to this project, so that means continued instability and inequity within the overall system. It means more ‘too big to fail,’ meaning immune to any kind of real reform. Which leads us to our next point.
People are saying that there is a consensus, now. That reactionary positions on climate are dinosaurs waiting for the bureaucratic state’s asteroid. They’re saying that anti-climate-reform voices are so irrational that they are rendering themselves extinct. That’s what they said about racists. That’s what they said about fascists. That’s what they said about colonial invasions. It wasn’t true in that context, and it’s not true within the context of climate reform. There are ALWAYS people willing to screw everyone else on the planet over for five minutes of gratification or for a dollar more than their neighbor. There are people in very fine clothing who would eat you in front of your family for the small amount of money in your pocket, if it wasn’t against the law. And there are always people, liberal or reactionary, who are willing to facilitate that on some level for their own social, political, or economic gain. These people are the ones with legislative and judicial authority in the government, and with the financial influence over the same. These are the people with real power. And in a few years, they’ll worm (or coup) their way back into executive power, if we don’t change the system. If a fascist wins in 2024, he or she will take every bit of Biden climate reform and erase it, thus dooming the world.
You absolutely cannot rely on the political or economic systems as they exist today to solve this climate problem, the issue of police murder, militarism more broadly, economic inequality, or fascist reaction, because it is a system that was built upon and built for perpetual exploitation. It’s set up to maintain that. And that system spread throughout the world during the twentieth century. And there are factions within that system, within business, within finance, within the Democratic Party, within the Republican Party, within think tanks, within education, within religion, and within culture who feed off of the reactionary impulses resulting from systemic victimization and under-education. Those are the people you’re fighting, on climate change, on militarism, on capitalist exploitation, on inequality, on fascism, and all the rest of it. You are fighting the users who benefit from cultivating reactionary impulse. And you have to change the structure of the system itself from one of pay-to-play, class-oriented exploitation to one that is genuinely democratic, to one that compassionately embraces both reason and wisdom and that treats every life, including the holistic life of the biosphere of the planet itself, with respect. You have to reform the government from an exclusionary class hierarchy built by slaveholders (and still held by a kind of slaveholder capitalist class) into a genuine democracy. You have to solidify the rules of the game and make them fair, so that there are fewer sociopolitical and economic systemic weaknesses for reactionaries to exploit.
Like every living thing on the Earth itself, all of these things are connected. You’ve got to repair all of them holistically and stop treating each individual problem with small-scale solutions. You’ve got to start thinking systemically and looking at the larger picture. And we have to change the way we all live. We need walkable cities and mass transit, not billions of electric cars. We need sustainable local agriculture and industry, not factory farms and energy pipelines and genetically modified monocultures. We need more investment in people, in communities, and in applied research and the utilities required to put that into practice in daily life. We need to make living well the focus, rather than acquisition.
No more wars. No more imperialism. No more empire building, large or small. No more fantasies about infinite growth or being ‘greater’ than something or someone else because of our ability to take or exploit. No more hand-wringing about how to effectively work with fascists or capitalist world destroyers. We need to be figuring out how to ensure that they cannot stop us from repairing our world, and how to ensure that they never have the chance to destroy it again. The word bipartisanship is poison when one group of partisans is evil and overtly bent upon obliterating life. We can have that argument in a structured, civil way, now, through the structures of a reformed democracy, or we can have it in a far more chaotic, destructive manner later everywhere, when the time for civility and rationality and restraint has given way to the harsh realities of a ruined world. Now is the time to make these hard choices. Not a year from now. Not a decade from now. We have to change dramatically and systemically, for all our sakes, and for the sake of the people who will come after us.