Political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote a brilliant commentary on a biography of Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish-German socialist revolutionary murdered in Berlin in 1919. I came across it recently in a collection of Arendt’s essays, and I just want to note a couple of points which really stand out for me.
Stephen Hale is a former environmental policy adviser to the UK government from 2002-2006 who now directs the think tank Green Alliance. In his 2010 paper on “The new politics of climate change”, Hale articulates the reasons for the present failure to take meaningful action on climate change. Based on that analysis of failure, he explains how a successful response climate change might still be achieved.
What can we do about the toxic textbooks that infest our education systems? How can we counter the pervasive neoliberal ideology which masquerades as ‘objective knowledge’?
I’m not a fan of book burning for any cause. A healthy dose of critical thinking is all that’s required. To help people along the way, here’s a handy warning you can spread generously around university libraries …
Source: Toxic Textbooks Facebook Group
As I described in my previous post, republicanism is founded on key concepts such as public politics and self-government. In an article published in The Good Society in 2008, John Barry notes that this “language of civic republicanism has been largely absent from debates within green politics” and from discussions of the politics of sustainability (p.5). In his article, Barry sets out to do something about that omission.
Drawing on ideas from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Barry notes that “humans’ relative weakness, our vulnerability to natural dangers, makes us not just dependent creatures, but interdependent.” The republic, he continues, is therefore founded on the desire to build “an enduring home for human lives in a world ruled by contingency and filled with potentially hostile agents, both human and non-human.” This is in stark contrast to the widely accepted individualistic and “optimistic view of humans’ ability to transcend their limits” (p.6).
Thus, in many respects, the republican understanding of the human condition is much the same as the green understanding. Republicanism has both a realistic understanding of “human’s complex relations of dependence on natural forces outside our control” and an appreciation of the importance of sustainable living (p.6).
Anyone who is paying attention knows what’s going on. We have the evidence of an inexorable increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. We are familiar with the many indications of changing climate and a warming planet. We see widespread denial, some active but most of it passive. And we have witnessed the repeated failure of nations to take any significant action, unilaterally or collectively. Given these circumstances, is there any cause for hope?
Clive Hamilton believes not:
clinging to hopefulness becomes a means of forestalling the truth. Sooner or later we must respond, and that means allowing ourselves to enter a phase of desolation and hopelessness, in short to grieve.
What we must grieve for is the future humanity has lost or, rather, methodically destroyed through our own handiwork. In his grimly titled Requiem for a species, Hamilton faces up to this grief. His concern is to get us to consider how we can best respond to the grief and despair brought on by climate change. He asks, how should we adjust to a future that will be so different from that which we have come to expect?
Over the past 30 years or so, green political thinkers have offered us a variety of approaches to dealing with the ecological crisis. These proposals range from a deeply unattractive authoritarianism (eg from Garrett Hardin) to an appealing but ultimately utopian anarchism (eg from Murray Bookchin). Both of these options reject the possibility of a liberal democratic state reorganising itself sufficiently in order to cope with the ecological crisis. Present circumstances might bear out that analysis.
But since authoritarianism and anarchism, for very different reasons, seem outrageous and/or impossible propositions to most of us, are we, therefore, forced to fall back on liberal democracy as the only possible framework for a green society? Or there are other green alternatives beyond authoritarianism and anarchism?