CJW: This bonus was originally going to be a chunk of last week’s newsletter, but as it grew unwieldy, we decided to save it for a bonus, which also gave Dan some time to expand on it a little.
I decided to send it out to the full list with a reminder that you can support us to get all of these bonuses as they drop. They’re always pretty varied in content and form, so you never quite know what you’re going to get. That’s half the fun though.
Some of us know what we want: private sufficiency, public luxury; doughnut economics; participatory democracy and an ecological civilisation. None of these are bigger asks than those the billionaire press has made and largely achieved: the neoliberal revolution that has swept away effective governance, effective taxation of the rich, effective restraints on the power of business and oligarchs and, increasingly, effective democracy.
So let’s break our own silence. Let’s stop lying to ourselves and others by pretending that small measures deliver major change. Let’s abandon the timidity and tokenism. Let’s stop bringing buckets of water when only fire engines will do.
I joked with Corey the other day that the UK had finally joined the climate catastrophe. This was around the same time that we shattered heat records three times in a matter of hours.
The U.K.’s infrastructure wasn’t designed for this brutal heat. Rail, water, and electricity systems buckled during the heatwave and will continue to do so until they’re redesigned.
Firefighters in London were their busiest since the blitz. Fires erupted in Croydon, Wembley, Upminster, Dagenham, Southgate, and Eltham. A major blaze ravaged the small village of Wennington. More than 100 firefighters were assigned to the area. That’s ⅓ of the population of the village itself.
A study from an international group of scientists determined the climate crisis made the UK’s extreme heat ‘10 times more likely.’ And as we see at the macro level with the climate crisis, the poor felt the worst of it.
The study also found that the impact of the heatwave was “unequally distributed” across communities, with inequalities experienced even within London with certain, often poorer, neighbourhoods lacking green space, shade and water.
As my friend Matt Webb opines, The blue sky – threatens. It is an omen overheard:
It’s a quiet reminder of the climate crisis. It’s not going to get cooler from here on out. This is a warning from the future: as I get older this will happen more regularly at first; then this will happen every summer. Wild burns and sea levels rising; fire and flood. The ghost of summers yet to come. A silent glance cloaked innocuously in a calm July sky; it’s blue right now with wisps of cloud. It’s always going to be there now, that feeling. I mean, I still enjoy it, it’s still a beautiful day, but.
Thankfully the heatwave has subsided. Now we’re facing a drought.
Matt’s poetry and Monbiot’s call to action reminded me of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2018 declaration that the end of the world is over. Now the real work begins
One way of being anti-anti-utopian is to be utopian. It’s crucial to keep imagining that things could get better, and furthermore to imagine how they might get better. Here no doubt one has to avoid Berlant’s “cruel optimism,” which is perhaps thinking and saying that things will get better without doing the work of imagining how. In avoiding that, it may be best to recall the Romain Rolland quote so often attributed to Gramsci, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” Or maybe we should just give up entirely on optimism or pessimism—we have to do this work no matter how we feel about it. So by force of will or the sheer default of emergency we make ourselves have utopian thoughts and ideas. This is the necessary next step following the dystopian moment, without which dystopia is stuck at a level of political quietism that can make it just another tool of control and of things-as-they-are. The situation is bad, yes, okay, enough of that; we know that already. Dystopia has done its job, it’s old news now, perhaps it’s self-indulgence to stay stuck in that place any more. Next thought: utopia. Realistic or not, and perhaps especially if not.
Besides, it is realistic: things could be better.
Bold emphasis mine. Hard to believe that things can get better but we have to try.
The deal, struck between the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and longtime holdout Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, would invest $369bn over the decade in climate change-fighting strategies including investments in renewable energy production and tax rebates for consumers to buy new or used electric vehicles.
It includes $60bn for a clean energy manufacturing tax credit and $30bn for a production tax credit for wind and solar, seen as ways to boost and support the industries that can help curb the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. At Manchin’s insistence, $306bn is earmarked for debt reduction.
The package, called the Inflation Reduction Act, would cut US emissions 40% by 2030, a summary released by Schumer’s office said, and earned praise from clean-energy advocates and Democratic party elders.
Here’s hoping this can get passed before Congress goes into recess and before the midterm elections. Obviously this legislation is riddled with compromises–Manchin gets a pipeline out of this deal–and it’s no Green New Deal but it’s finally some sort of progress. It’s clear we need more state intervention to avoid drinking pee on floating prison barges.
For decades organisations like The World Bank, The UN Environment Programme, and The Rockefeller Foundation have advocated for climate adaptation. That is, massive infrastructure developments to help at-risk regions to create better systems for resilience.
Of course the current regime and frameworks are mired in neoliberal and colonial agendas that privatise public services, extract resources, and muster reserve armies of labour. As Casey Williams writes in Dissent Magazine–and as David Broder and Kasia Paprocki argue in recent books–a more humane form of adaptation is possible:
Against this, working-class struggles offer models for a more just adaptation. For instance, the fight for social ownership of energy production, or “public power,” is a fight for just adaptation, insofar as it aims to guarantee a reliable and affordable supply of electricity as cold snaps and heat waves intensify. In terms of land, a recent report argues that returning lands to indigenous North Americans would go a long way toward reducing their climate vulnerability. Meanwhile, movements like Cooperation Jackson envision a “survival communism” that views collective ownership of the means of survival (land as well as various industries) as key to any humane response to climate change.
Adaptation does not have to mask the social causes of ecological destruction, nor does it have to provide cover for burning coal and oil. When you think about climate change in the terms laid out in their accounts—not as inevitable catastrophe, but as an intensification of uneven and long-standing patterns—adaptation starts to look a lot like bread-and-butter socialist politics. Whether our response involves agricultural communes or nationalized industries, the aim is to give people, rather than capital, final say over how to reconfigure their lives in the face of climatic shifts.
Public power? Survival communism? Sign me up.
Kali Akuno co-founded Cooperation Jackson as a bottom-up community led movement dedicated to economic democracy and Black self-determination. In a 2019 interview with Jacobin, he outlined two overarching strategies for community action in light of the climate crisis:
Organizing is the answer. We have to organize a strong independent base to advance the transition program we need, be it the Green New Deal or anything similar. Without that this epic issue will be held hostage to forces seeking to maintain the capitalist system as is, whether it be the Democratic or Republican variety of this worldview and its articulated interests. And we have to build this base to advance two strategies at once.
One, we have to organize a mass base within the working class, particularly around the job-focused side of the just transition framework. We have to articulate a program that concretely addresses the class’s immediate and medium-term need for jobs and stable income around the expansion of existing “green” industries and the development of new ones, like digital fabrication or what we call community production, that will enable a comprehensive energy and consumption transition. This will have to be a social movement first and foremost, which understands electoral politics as a tactic and not an end unto itself.
The second strategy calls for mass civil disobedience, as we witnessed at Standing Rock. We have to recognize that the neoliberal and reactionary forces at the heart of the Democratic Party are only part of the problem. The main enemy is and will be the petrochemical transnationals. We have to weaken their ability to extract, and this entails stopping new exploration and production initiatives. This is critical because it will weaken their power, particularly their financial power, which is at the heart of their lobbying power. If we can break that, we won’t have to worry about the centrists, as you put it.
The Free Market is not going to save us. The State is still largely shambolic. It really is eco-socialism or death.
Cooperation Jackson’s initiatives shine a light on an alternative. We need to embrace a solidarity economy. One driven by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.
This is the work. Time to roll up sleeves and get to it.