In fact-Klein’s Green New Deal entirely skirts the larger issue of resources – that is, the extent to which the planet faces steadily-declining natural resources (above all water, land, soil, forests, oceans, scarce metals). Economic predictions indicate that leading industrialized nations (U.S., China, India, the EU, Russia, Japan) could easily double their GDP output within the next two or three decades. It is delusional to believe vulnerable ecosystems could endure such overburdening “development” very far into the future. One specter is that intensifying global resource competition, endemic to the logic of both perpetual growth and geopolitical rivalry, could be what most hastens planetary disaster.
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Less of What We Don't Need
Stories about Less of What We Don't Need.
Ocean out west. Photo by Manuel García, Jr.
How long has science known about CO2-induced climate change, and are we clever enough today to geo-engineer our way out of cooking ourselves to extinction?
In brief: a long time, and most likely no.
How effective is individual action when it is systemic social change that is needed? Individuals do make choices, but these are facilitated and constrained by the society in which they live. Therefore, it may be more useful to question the system that requires many of us to travel and consume energy as we do....
Advances in energy efficiency have not resulted in lower energy demand, because they don’t address new and more resource-intensive consumption patterns that often emerge from more energy efficient technologies. Likewise, renewable energy sources have not led to a decarbonisation of the energy infrastructure, because (total and per capita) energy demand is increasing faster than renewable energy sources are added.
The chapter in Latin American history that opened in 1998 with celebrations in Venezuela has ended with a coup and violence in Bolivia. As with all tidal waves, the “pink tide” recedes to reveal a terrain transformed. The left movement landscape that produced variously striped socialist governments in a dozen countries is fractured and disillusioned. Central and South America face a resurgent right and the return of austerity, often through a scrim of tear gas. This state of disarray also marks the continent’s literal terrain: the forests and mountains cleared and ripped open, their minerals and hydrocarbons sent to port and shipped abroad in the name of a socialist project whose achievements have proven fragile, temporary, and superficial. Trying to maintain a “green” version of global consumer society could lead to a scramble for rare metals to make previous waves of extractivism look gentle by comparison.
A decent human future—perhaps any human future at all—depends on our ability to come to terms with these limits.
The most prominent in the United States is the Green New Deal’s call for legislation that recognizes the severity of the ecological crises while advocating economic equality and social justice.
A surge in natural gas has helped drive down coal burning across the United States and Europe, but it isn't displacing other fossil fuels on a global scale. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are also failing to cut emissions fast enough, the report says, as much of their growth has provided new energy supplies instead of displacing fossil fuels.
There is no shortage of plans for how to beat climate breakdown before it breaks down civilization. There is no shortage of action in the form of demonstrations. There is a shortage of action around a single realistic plan.
If nothing else, the last few months have heightened awareness of the desperately parlous predicament that now faces humanity, with an accelerating climate and ecological crisis. So attempts to design assertive policy proposals are very welcome. The Green New Deal is the one that currently is getting the most attention and perhaps traction. So I want to ask some critical questions that generally seem to be ignored in the infectious enthusiasm for the idea. In doing that I’ll also be rehearsing some insights from the degrowth perspective.
Palestinian water tanks vandalized by Israeli settlers in Hebron. (Photo: ISM Palestine / Flickr)
It is written that “Enannatum, ruler of Lagash,” slew “60 soldiers” from Umma. The battle between the two ancient city states took place 4,500 years ago near where the great Tigris and Euphrates rivers come together in what is today Iraq.
The matter in dispute? Water.
More than four millennia have passed since the two armies clashed over one city state’s attempt to steal water from another. But while the instruments of war have changed, the issue is much the same: whoever controls the rivers controls the land.
Scientists disagree on the timeline of collapse and whether it's imminent. But can we afford to be wrong? And what comes after?