The ecological crisis “time limit”

More on my thoughts about the “soft denial” that permeates a lot of “Progressive/Liberal” thinking re: the Ecological Crisis.

This quote from McKibben has a lot to say to illuminate my sense of how inadequate are all of our accustomed-to political language. 

“The question of time is the question that haunts me. I remain optimistic enough to think that in general human beings will figure out the right thing to do eventually, and Americans will somehow get back on course. Of course, there’ll be a lot of damage done in the meantime. But with climate change in particular — the gravest of the problems we face — time is the one thing we don’t have. It’s the only problem we’ve ever had that came with a time limit. And if we don’t solve it soon, we don’t solve it. Our governments so far have not proven capable of dealing with this question. They simply haven’t been able to shake off the self-interest and massive power of the fossil-fuel industry. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort to get us onto renewable energy quickly and everywhere. It’s doable technically; the question is whether it’s doable politically or not. There I don’t know.”

An example given to the commenter listed as “Them” , and with which I totally agree for those issues, is NOT , IMHO, the same kind of problem we face with the Ecological Crisis. 

It goes , something like this: To chop off the extremes of the conversation and arrive , from that “middle”, at a “reasonable” set of positive actions that all can support. This is “the way it’s been accomplished in the past with a lot of big issues (and it’s ok not to get everything you want from the very start. Get what you can ; “don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good”

I have heard this argument from several people with whom I agree on most everything else. But here, I have what I think is good reason to be skeptical of what comes of the “agree[ment] on positive actions that can be implemented”

The difference is this, what McKibben just talked about above. All these other problems were intensely important and crucial to the just functioning of a livable civilization. But they all were feasibly approached with the knowledge that incremental , but significant changes could be built over time. Many of these took decades. The movie Lincoln chronicled the fight to get the amendment passed, and was done with political savvy in order to get an important milestone from which ,and onto which, much would be built. But we don’t have decades to apply incremental “wait and see” and “we’ll do better tomorrow” small patches and fixes. We have to have an overhaul of energy, which will also require radical economic changes to enable this rapid transition. The report that came out that said we had 12 years (now 11 and change) to get done enough change to slash global greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050, in order “to limit global warming to moderate levels”. As many in the movement are apt to be heard saying: “It requires a World War II style effort (style meaning “scale”) This is why the language of “incremental” and “compromise” is a bit dangerous. The kind of things we usually think of as “compromise” solutions will not fit this moment. It is literally unprecedented in its existential impact and scale of disaster. This is why I throw up the stop sign when I hear such language.


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