This week: Watch ABC drum up fears about a terror attack on the United States. Plus we'll take a look at the state of the debate over war, and how big papers spun a study of how fracking leads to water contamination into a story about how we shouldn't blame fracking. Take a look:
Ahead of the People's Climate March, Neil Young has shared with Democracy Now! an acoustic recording of his new song, "Who's Gonna Stand Up." We will be airing the song during our 3-hour special broadcast live from the march on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EDT. Watch at DemocracyNow.org.
Who's Gonna Stand Up
Who's gonna stand up and save the earth?
Damn the dams, save the rivers
Who's gonna stand up and save the earth?
Ban fossil fuel, draw the line
Who's gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who's gonna stand up
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The idea that the United States is being forced to suspend any 'longtime concerns' about Egyptian human rights is hard to square with reality.
Yep, it's called Internet Platinum Reserve, and no, you can't afford it.
In one of the best moments of the genius webcomic Achewood, occasional protagonist Ray – a Scottish Fold cat who is also a wealthy playboy – goes on eBay while high and impulsively types, in the search bar, WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU GOT? The screen blinks, then lights up with the message “Welcome to eBay Platinum Reserve.”
“Congratulations. By thinking like the world’s greatest, you have unlocked a wealth of incredible opportunities,” the message continues. These are, to be specific, purchasing opportunities. Purchasing opportunities that, as it turns out, include the actual Airwolf helicopter ($20bn) and Keith Moon’s head in a jar ($4.7bn, “eyes may close in transit – there is no technology to guard against this”). It’s an entire hidden eBay, accessible only by password – and the password is the grasping entitlement of the rich.
Proponents of net neutrality worry about this happening for real. Or at least they worry about a future in which a small handful of monopoly-happy telecoms are able to throttle access to any website that doesn’t make them money or provide lower-paying customers with slowed and restricted service. Net neutrality boosters want government regulation to dictate that all sites and customers get the same treatment, rather than splitting the web into “slow lanes” and “fast lanes” along financial lines. Internet pinkos don’t want rich people to have better internet.
Well, it’s too late. Rich people already have better internet. Mercifully, cable modems are fairly common these days – remember when the best you could afford was DSL? – so for now, the rich don’t necessarily getfaster internet. But they do get Internet Platinum Reserve.
The rich have better dating sites, like The League, an invite-only dating app for “successful” people that’s basically snobby Tinder. The rich have better Facebook; the new social network Netropolitan costs $6,000 to sign up plus $3,000 a year, and is specifically geared towards “people with more money than time”. (Or, I might add, sense.) According to Scientific American, the rich get luxury ads and credit and loan offers that the rest of us never see. To be fair, though, I couldn’t read the second page of that article because it would have cost me $6; increasingly, the rich have more access to better news and writing as publications go subscription-based. There’s even a tech startup, lauded this month by Silicon Valley, that will let you rent a butler. That’s right: rich people have Ask Jeeves with ACTUAL JEEVES.
Netropolitan, which was just announced this week, seems like a particularly egregious example. It’s not even clear what, functionally, this new social network has over Facebook, other than allowing members to converse about “everything from fine wines to classic cars to vacation destination recommendations” (all illegal on regular Facebook, of course). The site has moderators, but stipulates that they are not concierges: “Our Member Service Associates will not book you a charter jet, or find you tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. They exist solely to help members technically navigate and find their way around the social club.” So the primary perk of Netropolitan appears to be that it has people who can help you figure out how to use Netropolitan.
But it also offers a significant intangible benefit: the guarantee that you’ll never accidentally encounter a poor. Netropolitan’s founder, the astoundingly dirty-named composer James Touchi-Peters (no shame in that, James!), cites his motivation as wanting “an environment where you could talk about the finer things in life without backlash.” Who wants to hear “#FirstWorldProblems” every time you complain about spilling fine wine on the upholstery of your classic car on the way to a vacation destination, am I right? The rich are willing to pay a lot just to know they have a separate internet from you. And the internet is willing to afford them every luxury.
What’s next: Richipedia? Reddit for rich people, with karma replaced by gold bullion? Words with Rich People? Maybe there’s business to be done in lolcat dressage or custom-painted animated GIFs. Or 4chan could offer the option to pay a huge lump sum and get a cruel hoax invented just for you.
If Internet Platinum Reserve is surprising, that’s only because we’ve been trying to fool ourselves that the web is a populist haven. For going on a generation now, we have insisted upon a place where accidents of birth and fortune are smoothed out. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a pedigreed dog. Maybe it’s not a completely equal-opportunity utopia, since there are still potentially costly barriers to entry (computer, ISP), but it is at least supposed to be free of the most restrictive forms of elitism. You don’t need connections or an Ivy League degree to set up a blog and, maybe, get heard. If you only want to comment on a website, you barely even need to be literate.
But that’s just a lie we tell ourselves out here on the poor people’s web. Over in Netropolitan, they’re hoisting glasses of Chateau Margaux (I Googled “very expensive wine,” but rich people Google probably would have given me a more accurate answer) and snickering at our naivete. The truth is, money gets you better everything, and always has. Better education, better internet, better Keith Moon’s head in a jar. Even if it isn’t that much better, at least it’s separate, and strictly reserved for you.
This is why we need net neutrality: because the net is not and never has been neutral. Income inequality is baked into it, the same way it’s baked into everything else; there’s nothing special about this series of tubes that makes it immune to capitalism. Profit is, in fact, its guiding spirit. Maintaining net neutrality is like maintaining the public school system; it’s a tiny, feeble kick against the elitism that shapes our lives. It means that, even if you’ll never get access to the secret rooms of the wealthy, you’ll get something. Corporations won’t be able to hold information hostage until you pay. Like public schools, a neutral internet acknowledges that information is the best currency some of us are going to get.
But it won’t buy you that Airwolf chopper. For that, you’re on your own.Related Stories
We look at the reality and the myths behind the Chinese e-commerce giant and its public offering.
With much anticipation, e-commerce giant Alibaba had its $25 billion initial public offering this morning, but just how important is the Chinese tech stock when compared to American web marketing Goliaths like as eBay, Amazon and Google?
Alibaba is certainly nothing to sneeze at. It’s a daunting megaplex of business-to-business portals, online escrow services, search engines and e-commerce retailers and the IPO is the largest in U.S. history. However, there seems to be a lot of media hyperbole about the company during its Wall Street debut.
From an investment perspective, while Alibaba is on the New York Stock Exchange, it’s not a U.S. company and will not be included on the Standard & Poors 500 index. This means that stock funds that track American indices will not be permitted to buy the stock and Alibaba’s shares will have very little impact on the performance of the broader market.
It will also not be included in the NASDAQ index, which is the preferred exchange of tech stocks. Because of this, analysts say it won’t be benchmarked against comparable stocks, possibly making Alibaba more volatile than a conventional tech stock.
If you were to buy shares in Alibaba, you really aren’t buying part of the company, and wouldn’t have any voting rights as a shareholder. Instead you would buy shares in something akin to a holding company.
China strictly prohibits foreign ownership of companies that it believes to be important strategic assets, such as Alibaba. The company listed on the NYSE is actually a Cayman Islands-registered corporation known as a “variable interest entity” that’s under contract by Alibaba to receive profits from the company, while not actually owning any of it.
Also, while Alibaba is a giant in Asia — China alone had more than 300 million online shoppers last year — the corporation’s e-commerce sites are relatively old-school and simple, resembling Western market sites built in the 1990s. So, you might say comparing Alibaba to eBay or Amazon is akin to comparing an Atari 2600 to a Sony PlayStation 4. Large as it is, Alibaba is a company that’s still finding its footing; it’s not likely to supplant Amazon, eBay, Google, or Facebook as the world’s biggest tech innovators anytime soon.
Alibaba also has a problem with counterfeit goods sold on its sites, which include Alibaba, Taobao, Tmall and AliExpress. This has hurt the company’s reputation as a purveyor of legitimate vendors. And while the company has been working to identify and remove vendors who market bogus goods, counterfeiters are hard to displace and it may take some time to win consumers’ confidence in the quality of the products sold through the site.Related Stories
"It's the kind of in-depth reporting you only get from Fox News, or Zappos."
Colbert went to town Thursday night on the whole oft-repeated phrase "boots on the ground" when it comes to the war on Iraq. Obama has repeatedly said that the U.S. will have "no boots on the ground," but Colbert wonders about the 1200 troops that are already there. "Do they not have boots?"
The comedian's confusion is understandable. The folks over at Fox News are completely befuddled. They brought a specialist in to discuss just what kinds of boots soldiers wear when they are on the ground. Unless, as Shep Smith pointed out, "they are riding on some sort of Michael J. Fox 'hoverboard.'"
Well, are they? Colbert wondered.
The absurdity of Fox's obsession with boots really has to be watched to believed, and Colbert's extension of the whole shoe metaphor is an outright laugh riot.
"Don't let a candy bar ruin your vacation."
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd traveled to Colorado for some marijuana tourism this June. Then she penned a panicked writeup describing a petrifying psychological breakdown that kept her trapped inside her hotel room after munching too much of a pot-laced candy bar.
In the column, she describes herself lying there in a “hallucinatory state” for eight hours and agonizes over the fact that Colorado is "unleashing a drug as potent as marijuana on a horde of tourists of all ages and tolerance levels seeking a mellow buzz.” She claims she wasn’t warned not to eat as much of the candy bar as she did (though Matt Brown, who took Dowd on a four-hour, behind-the-scenes tour of a cannabis factory prior to her edibles experience, claims to have given her plenty of warning).
Like Reefer Madness, the 1936 anti-pot propaganda film-turned-cult classic, Dowd's freakout over the experience was so full of hyperbole and panic that it was funny. Twitter users and Times commenters alike took merciless cracks at her over-the-top lament, berating her for not doing her research before trying a drug for the first time.
“Oh, goodness. You went all the way to Colorado to try pot and didn't do your homework on how to consume your pot candy? Wow!” wrote one Times commenter.
This week the Marijuana Policy Project launched a public service announcement that takes its own jab at Dowd, as part of an educational “Consume Responsibly” campaign aimed at teaching tourists how to consume edibles safely. In a statement, Mason Tvert, director of communications for MPP said, “Like most Americans, Ms. Dowd has probably seen countless silly anti-marijuana ads on TV, but she has never seen one that highlights the need to ‘start low and go slow’ when choosing to consume marijuana edibles.”
Extended web-exclusive interview with Naomi Klein about her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest for the hour is Naomi Klein, journalist, best-selling author, activist. He new book is called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Her past books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. As we move into this weekend of climate activism, hundreds of events taking place not only in New York, where a U.N. climate summit will happen on Tuesday, but a major climate people's march will be taking place on [Sunday], "Flood Wall Street," a different kind of activism, taking place on Monday. But, Naomi, I wanted to go back to the beginning of This Changes Everything, because part of the beauty and the power of the book are the specifics, the details. You begin on a hot tarmac with a U.S. Airways plane. Tell us this story.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, this was just, you know, a news story I came across while I was researching the book. And it was two summers ago, record-breaking heat in Washington, D.C., and it was so hot that the tarmac melted. And somebody posted a picture online of—he said, "This is my plane." And the wheels were stuck in the tarmac, and they couldn't get the plane out. So, everybody had to get off the plane, because they were hoping that by making the plane lighter, that they would be able to pull it out of the melting tarmac. But it didn't work, so they got, you know, a more powerful tow truck to pull it out, and they finally got it out. And so I start the book with this story. Everybody gets back on the plane, flies to their destination. None of the reports mention climate change or the fact that there could possibly be a link between emissions, like from flying, and the reason the tarmac is melting. It's just a sort of quirky story.
But, you know, what I say at the start of the book is we are all metaphorically passengers on that flight. You know, we're all doing—you know, faced with this crisis, experiencing it and doing the very things that are making it worse. And that's what our governments are doing when they move from conventional oil to tar sands oil and when they move from conventional natural gas to frack natural gas, which has higher rates of methane leakage. We're all passengers on that flight. So that's why I started it, because I think it sort of shows us where we're at.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you also say that we shouldn't delude ourselves to thinking that we can achieve some kind of a transformation in our use of energy without reordering the way we live our lives, and it's going to cost. How do you see paying for the transition that has to occur?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I mean, we often here, like, "We're broke." It's not that we're broke. It's that the money is in the wrong places, and we're not willing to go get it. We have politicians that aren't willing to go after the money that's stuck at the top of the economic pyramid. And we have corporations who fight every attempt to do so tooth and nail. So, you know, I don't like giving a sort of exact estimate for how much it would cost to seriously adapt to and mitigate, to use the U.N.—you know, lower our emissions and deal with the heavy weather already upon us. There's a lot of estimates out there. But, you know, at the low end, people talk in the hundreds of billions; at the higher end, a couple trillion dollars globally, that we need to do the transition away from fossil fuels and deal with the reality of climate change that's already locked in.
So I do, yeah, a rundown in the book of some of the places where we could get the money, like a financial transaction tax, which just slows down a part of our economy that is generally just sort of fueling mindless consumption, just money making money. And obviously we need to slash fossil fuel subsidies. We can get money from cutting back military spending. We could have a billionaires' tax. We can have a carbon tax. So, yeah, I make a list, and, sure enough, you know, it easily adds up to a couple trillion dollars. And so, the issue is not that the money's not there; the issue is that we have politicians who are not willing to go after that money.
And that comes back to the central thesis of the book, which is, we can talk all we want about how we have the technology and how we know what the policies are, but if we're not willing to have a full-throated ideological debate about what values we want to govern our societies, whether we believe that good can come out of collective action, whether we believe in defending the public sphere, then we're not going to get anywhere. And that's what I find hopeful, because there are so many movements that also are in the midst of defending the public sphere against, you know, brutal attacks. And that, if we are willing to link climate action with that broader ideological struggle, it'll build our coalitions for us.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you also talk about the divestment movement on the—and you mentioned it briefly earlier. Talk about more about that. That's really grown—
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —very rapidly now, and the impact that that's having.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, the fossil fuel divestment movement, I don't think I've ever seen a student movement spread so quickly. And, you know, there were a few campaigns on a couple of U.S. campuses, like Swarthmore, where there was—there were divestment movements specifically focusing on coal. And those predate this sort of national, and now international, fossil fuel divestment movement, which really comes out of the research that was first published three years ago by British researchers at the—it's called the Carbon Tracker project, where they did this breakthrough research, where—you know, we know the fossil fuel companies have a business model to continue to grow, and that's antithetical to climate action. We already knew that. But they crunched the numbers in this extraordinary way, where they said, "OK, we know that there is such a thing as a global carbon budget." And Bill McKibben, you know, popularized this research in Rolling Stone, and then with the Do the Math tour, in a way that I think just woke people up, you know, in a way that hadn't happened before.
And what Carbon Tracker showed and what Bill laid out so well, right, is we know how much carbon we can emit and still give ourselves a 50-50 chance of staying below two degrees' warming. The science on this isn't controversial. And what the Carbon Tracker people did is they added up what the fossil fuel industry already had in reserves. Now, these are the pools of carbon they've already laid claim to, that are already counted towards their stock price. They've essentially already spent the money, right? And that added up to five times more carbon than our atmosphere can absorb and still have that chance of staying below two degrees' warming. Two degrees is already a dangerous target. You know, as you guys know, it's very controversial at U.N. meetings when they set that two-degree target. You know, I remember in Copenhagen—and, Amy, I'm sure you remember, as well—African delegates were saying that this was a death sentence. But this is what our governments agreed to. The U.S. government agreed to it. The Canadian government agreed to it. And yet, the fossil fuel companies are planning to dig up five times more carbon than that. So they've essentially declared war on life on Earth, and they're also saying, "We don't believe these politicians are serious when they set that two-degree target." So, that's where the fossil fuel divestment movement comes in, which is, it's clear that, left to their own devices, you know, they will bring us towards this catastrophic warming.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to 2010. You know, we've been covering these climate summits. I remember, of course, seeing you in Copenhagen. We were in Cancún, in Bolivia for the People's Summit in Cochabamba. We were in Durban, Doha, this year in Warsaw, Poland. We're heading to Lima, Peru, next year in Paris. In 2010, Democracy Now! interviewed Bolivia's lead climate negotiator at the time, Angélica Navarro, when we broadcast from the summit just outside Cochabamba in Bolivia. She explained what the climate debt is and why it's needed.
ANGÉLICA NAVARRO: What we are trying to explain to the developed countries is that they have to think their actions in—also having into account the consequences to the others. And what are these consequences is that peasants are suffering more of drought or that there are more typhoons, or there are more floodings. How can you express to a farmer that has lost, as I just heard, part of their crops due to drought, and that it's not the responsibility of them? How can I explain them that it's something very far in the north that is causing this increase in drought? We call it that they have to have a debt and that they have to repay this debt. But I want to reassure the public it's not necessarily a financial debt. It's an emission debt. So you have to take out of the atmosphere the CO2 that you have put in and that is creating this problem to this farmer. That is the debt.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Bolivia's lead climate negotiator at the time, Angélica Navarro, in Cochabamba for the World People's Summit on Climate Change, a sort of non-official summit. Now, you quote Angélica Navarro in your book. Talk about climate debt.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, well, in the introduction to the book, I talk about meeting Angélica in 2009. I was working on a story, and somebody suggested I meet with her. And she put the argument to me about climate debt. I had never heard it before. And she described it in this incredibly hopeful and inspiring way. She said, if we take out—if we respond to climate change based on principles of equality and historical responsibility, which basically means that the people who got a 200-year head start on emitting have to lead, then it is a chance for what Angélica described as a "Marshall Plan for planet Earth," that it really would close the inequality gap between North and South.
And, you know, there's an intimate connection between climate change and colonialism, and the debts of colonialism and the debts of slavery, because it was when Europeans adopted the steam engine that the colonial project was sort of superpowered, because it meant—it seemed at the time that they had transcended the natural world. You know, the ships no longer depended on the winds, and the factories no longer depended on the vagaries of water levels to fuel their water wheels. They seemed invincible. But climate change is a delayed response, right? Because all of that—all of the time that coal was being burned, since the Industrial Revolution, it's been building up in the atmosphere. So, it wasn't that we had transcended our relationship with the natural world. It was just that it took a while for the world to talk back. And now it's roaring. And that is climate change.
So, there is—it's really not a different story than the original story of how our world became so unequal. It's all the same story. It's another chapter in that story. And, you know, I'm arguing, Angélica has long been arguing, that we can respond to climate change in a way that heals those ancient wounds. And, to me, that is an amazingly inspiring and hopeful vision.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You also talk about others who have other ideas of how to deal with the problem—geoengineering—
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —and one conference that you attended during your research on geoengineering. Could you talk about that?
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, well, look, the point is, is that we have been emitting now for so long. We have been going in the wrong direction now for so long that, as Michael Mann says, the Penn State climate scientist who wrote The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, there's a procrastination penalty. So, we're now in a situation where, you know, if we had started in 1990 or 1992, we maybe could have done this gradually. But now, we have to do it so radically that it requires things like what we've been talking about—contracting, deliberately contracting parts of our economies, these huge investments in the public sphere. And this is so unthinkable to our economic elites that we are now increasingly hearing, "Well, it's inevitable, and because it's inevitable, we need to start thinking about these technofixes, like geoengineering." So, I mean, to me, it's very telling that it is more thinkable to turn down the sun than it is to think about changing capitalism. And—
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, "turn down the sun"?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, so, one of the geoengineering methods that gets taken most seriously is called "solar radiation management." Solar radiation management, managing the sun. So, what you—so the idea is that you would spray sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere, then they would reflect some of the sun's rays back to space and dim the sun and cool the Earth. So, climate change is caused by pollution in the lower atmosphere, and so they're saying that the solution to that pollution is pollution in the stratosphere.
And, you know, it's really frightening when you look at some of the modeling that is being done about what the possible downsides of this could be. And this is sometimes called the Pinatubo Option, because it would simulate the effects of a very powerful volcano. And we know that after these eruptions, these very powerful volcanoes, that send sulfur into the stratosphere, we do see cooler winters. And Mount Pinatubo is an example of that. But we also see interference with rainfall, interference with monsoons in Africa, in Asia. So we're talking about potentially playing with the water source, which in turn plays with the food source, for billions of people. And there's no way to test it. So, some models show this is very dangerous. Other models show that it can be managed. But the point is, you can't test something like this without deploying it. You know, you can test how—you could talk about nozzle test: You can make sure you can actually spray it. But the point is, we would not know how this would interact with an incredibly complex climate system until it was actually deployed. So you'd have to essentially use all of the world's population as guinea pigs.
And I think what's—you know, this is why I say this changes everything. There are no nonradical options left. And this is why I think climate change is particularly hard for centrist serious liberals to wrap their minds around, because they're always looking for those nonradical solutions, you know, splitting the difference and something that will seem reasonable and politically sellable. The problem is, we've got climate change which will radically change our physical world, or geoengineering, which is, you know, a deliberate attempt to radically change our physical world with absolutely unknown consequences and untestable consequences. Or we, rather than try to change the laws of nature, try to change what we actually can, which is the laws of economics.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you have the Heartland Institute describing geoengineering as, quote, "much less expensive than seeking to stem temperature rise solely through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions"; Cato Institute arguing "geo-engineering is more cost-effective than emissions controls altogether"; Hudson Institute saying that geoengineering, quote, "could obviate the majority of the need for carbon cuts and enable us to avoid lifestyle changes." The very point you're making.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, so, I mean, some of the scientists who are at the heart of this research—you know, people like David Keith or Ken Caldeira—they would say, "We absolutely do not see this as an alternative to emission reduction. We see this as potentially a stopgap measure." And you can understand why many climate scientists, who have been sounding the alarm now for decades, saying, you know, "We are in huge trouble. We need to cut emissions," seeing no action—in fact, seeing us going in the wrong direction—would be desperate enough to start trying to propose these technofixes.
AMY GOODMAN: What's wrong with seating the clouds over drought areas?
NAOMI KLEIN: Look, all of this is a huge gamble. But what you're talking about is—you know, you're talking about a regional response. And actually, that's not entirely new. There have been these attempts to do regional weather modification. Actually, it's banned in international treaties, because it was the first—the sort of first wave of discussion around this was not about responding to drought, it was using climate engineering as a weapon of war. And this was actually attempted during the Vietnam War, to try to flood deliberately the Ho Chi Minh Trail. So, there's a whole Cold War history around weather modification. So this is a new incarnation of an old story and the idea that this could be done at a global scale as a climate fix. But, of course, once you unleash these technologies, you don't—it's not well-meaning climate scientists who decide how it's going to be deployed. It's governments who decide how it's going to be deployed. And you can easily see a scenario where, you know, say, the U.S. and Europe do a sort of emergency geoengineering response that has a negative effect on China and India, and they then retaliate with their own.
You know, the point is, I don't think this is around the corner, but I do think it underscores just how radical a situation we find ourselves in, that serious people are seriously discussing this as if it's sane. It's not. And that should prompt us, I think, to talk about much saner solutions, like, hey, we can switch to 100 percent renewable energy. We have examples like Germany. They're heading for 60 percent renewable energy in a decade. You know, why don't we do that instead, because it's a lot lower risk? It does require us to challenge the—it does require that we have this ideological war, that we take on corporate power, which is why it is so important that we're having actions like Flood Wall Street and that we have a new generation of climate activists that understand who the actual barriers to climate action is, because I think most people would rather put a solar panel on their roof than turn down the sun.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Naomi, one of the climate scientists cited in your book is Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Democracy Now! spoke to him last year at the U.N. climate summit in Warsaw.
KEVIN ANDERSON: In the short term, the only way we can get our emissions down is to actually reduce the level of energy we consume. Now, we can also put low-carbon energy supply in place, you know, power stations that are renewable—wind, even nuclear, as well. These are all very low-carbon power stations and other energy sources. But they take a long time to put in place. And we now—we've squandered the opportunity we had to make those changes. So, we still need to do that, but it's going to take us 20, 30 years to do that. So what we need to do in the interim is to reduce the amount of energy we consume, and therefore reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that we emit.
And the levels of reduction we now need in carbon dioxide, and therefore energy consumption, are such that for many of us—for the wealthy of us, certainly—we can't carry on as we're going now. So we'll have to consume less. And there's absolutely no way out of that. The maths are absolutely clear.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre, who took a 25-hour ride by train to get to the conference.
NAOMI KLEIN: I quote Kevin a lot in the book, and Alice Bows. You know, their research is really hard to argue with, and they're the ones who are saying that we need to cut our emissions by 8 to 10 percent a year in the industrialized world. And that is not compatible with the economic system that we have. The only precedent for emission reductions at that level in a sustained way is in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Now, we don't want that. We don't want to just let our economy crash. So we need to manage it. We need to have a strategic economy, a deliberate economy. We need to grow the areas that are helping people and that are low-carbon, and we need to contract the areas are just mindlessly emitting.
AMY GOODMAN: So take us on a tour of this great transition. What would it look like today if the United States was serious about dealing with climate change? What first needs to happen?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think two things need to happen at once, and this is what the German experience shows us. You need to have bold national policies, like you need to have feed-in tariffs. You need to have clear goals—how much of your grid is going to switch to renewable energy, by what time. You need to have the right incentives in place. I think what Germany shows, too, is, you know, we often think that—and, you know, there are these groups that exist just to make this argument—that it's a big problem, so we need only big solutions, and so they argue in favor of nuclear power and industrial agriculture. But actually, what Germany shows is that the fastest transition we're seeing anywhere in the world is happening through a multiplication of small-scale solutions, with well-designed, smart national policies. But that's not enough. You also need to say no to the fossil fuel companies. So we need to close those carbon frontiers, right? We need to have clear no-go zones—no drilling in the Arctic, no new tar sands, and wind down the tar sands. We need to enshrine these fracking moratoriums into law. We need to turn the moratoriums into bans, and we need to expand them. So, it's the yes, on the one hand; it's the no, on the other hand.
And it's also—you know, I talk in the book about the connection with—in my country, in Canada, I think there's a really clear connection with respecting indigenous land rights, because some of the largest—it's simply a fact that some of the largest pools of carbon are under the lands of some of the poorest people on the planet, and much of it is under indigenous land. So, there are tremendous fights being waged by indigenous people around the world to keep the drillers out of the Amazon, to slow down the tar sands. But one of the most important things that needs to happen is that the benefits of this new economy, of this next economy, of the transition, the people who have been hurt the most, who have been on the front lines of the extractive economy and have got the worst deal in the unequal exchange powered by fossil fuels, need to be first in line to benefit, so that there are real options beyond just extractive economies, because people are being asked to choose between having running water and having an extractive project in their backyard which will potentially poison their water. That's a nonchoice. People need better choices than that.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about the position of the United States. I mean, we were both in Copenhagen when President Obama swooped in. This was in 2009. Describe the role of the U.S. in the climate negotiations.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think the most destructive role that the U.S. plays in these negotiations is insisting on pretending that the world was born yesterday. And, you know, the way these debates play out, the central stumbling block, the central debate, is over whether we are going to respond based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. And that means that we have to acknowledge that we have known about this, we have known about this for a long time, that the rich world got rich burning carbon, and that there is a historical debt that's owed to the developing world precisely because the effects of climate change are being felt first and worst there. So there needs to be an equitable response. And the most destructive role that the U.S. plays in these negotiations is just coming and saying, you know, "We don't acknowledge that. We don't accept the concept that we're more responsible because we started first." And that just derails every discussion.
And I think part of the responsibility for this, you know, is shared by the environmental movement in the United States, because there is this sense that that is a political no-go zone. You can't talk about any kind of redistribution of technology or wealth between North and South, that that is toxic. You hear that phrase a lot. And, you know, I don't think it's impossible for the U.S. government to have an equitable, equity-based response to climate change. But I think if they're not being pressured internally by the environmental movement to make equity a priority, then it's not going to happen. And I don't think that that has been enough of a priority for the U.S. environmental movement.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about the impact—much is made of the growing influence of the more advanced of the countries of the South and East, of China, India, Brazil. What's your sense of whether they're having any kind of a different road on the whole issue of being able to attack climate change?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, so, I mean, part of the reason why it is so important for countries like the U.S., Canada, the European Union to lead by example, to lead by cutting our emissions decisively, and also by committing to an equity response, which means, you know, helping the developing world to leapfrog over fossil fuels, whether that's with money or technology or both, is that if we don't, if our countries don't do that, it's an incredibly convenient excuse for governments in China and India to go, "Well, why should we do anything? They started it." And that's exactly what's happening. So we're in this no-win, tit-for-tat fight. So, you know, by leading, we take away the best arguments of regressive governments in those countries, which are using it with abandon.
The other thing that I think we need to acknowledge is that, you know, the fossil fuel resistance movement is a global movement. And, in fact, it was born in the Global South. You know, we talked about these amazing movements in North America, but in the book I talk about really how if we want to talk about where this all started, I would say it started on Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. I mean when Shell Oil was kicked out, and they still have not returned, and a huge amount of carbon has been kept in the ground because of that tremendously courageous struggle. And the whole slogan, "Leave the oil in the soil, leave the oil in the ground," I mean, this is a slogan born in Nigeria and Ecuador, in the incredible movements to save the Amazon from oil drilling and to save the Yasuní. And so, in a sense, what's happening now is that, you know, as the fossil fuel frenzy moves north and we pillage ourselves, we are starting to see some of the forms of resistance that were born in the Global South come to the North, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, you spent something like seven years writing this book, but you not only wrote the book in seven years, you also had a baby, Toma, who's two now. Can you talk about how you relate trying to get pregnant and issues of fertility with the environment?
NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm, yeah. I have a chapter at the end of the book called "The Right to Regenerate." And it's a very personal chapter. I struggled with whether or not to include it in the book or not. But I wrote about it because I kind of needed to write about it in order to write the rest of the book. I wrote it first, and it ended up being the end of the book. But it was—it's seven years since The Shock Doctrine, but I've really been working on this book for five years. And five years, you know, in my personal life, what I was going through is I was trying to have my first child. I lost several pregnancies, and then eventually was lucky enough to have a baby and become a new mother. So this was—you know, I was going through this process, doing these sort of high-tech fertility treatments, having a sort of disastrous experience with that, and then I started to see sort of intersections between what I was going through and the research I was doing into climate change. Because I was sort of hitting a biological wall myself, or being told that I was, I became—I felt like it helped me to understand, you know, in a kind of really personal way, what it means to hit those boundaries, those natural boundaries. See, I think we tend to see our bodies as machines, and we see the Earth as a machine, and we are incredibly resilient, we have all these built-in redundancies, but we are not invulnerable. You know, we bend, but we break. You can hit the wall. And having had that experience of just hitting a wall, of my body just telling me no, while I was doing this research, I found it actually really helpful to believe, actually, it is possible to hit the wall. So, you know, I tried to learn from that.
And I also started to notice that the way in which climate change was playing out in the natural world is also often as a fertility crisis, that we were making the world less fertile, whether we're making the soil less fertile, whether we're deliberately making seeds less fertile so that they can be patented and owned, or simply that warming temperatures and acidifying oceans are wreaking havoc on many species' ability to reproduce. The first example I noticed was a story about how the eggs of sea turtles were—you know how sea turtles amazingly go through that process of going up on beaches and digging holes and burying their eggs in the sand. Well, because the sand is just a little bit warmer, the eggs are cooking in the sand and not hatching. Or, the male eggs are dying, and the female eggs are hatching, and of course that creates a reproductive crisis later on. So I started to see all kinds of the examples of how climate change was playing up as a bottom-up extinction crisis, meaning that it wasn't the adults that were dying, but it was the very young who were losing their food sources or were just simply losing their ability to fight for life in those early days—you know, the ability of oysters to form their hard shells in the earliest days. We know that acidification has that impact. But what we didn't know, what scientists were surprised by, is how much more vulnerable the young are to that, that in those first early days of forming the shell, if there's even a slight change in pH levels, they won't be able to do it. So, these are some of the earliest signs of how climate change is playing out in making our world less alive.
So, just going through that personal experience, I think, kind of attuned me to see some of this. I always see my books as a process of pattern recognition, you know? Once you sort of identify a pattern, you kind of see it repeat. That's what happened to me with The Shock Doctrine. And that happened to me with fertility in this book.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you also talk in the book about, once your son was born, the impact it had on you of bringing much closer to home what climate change will mean for the future, for our offspring—
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —for our children and our children's children.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I didn't write the book because, you know, I was worried about my son's future. I started writing the book before he was born. But it has brought the crisis into my heart in a new way. And what I find is, you know, we all get scared reading these reports about melting glaciers, but sometimes it's kind of hard to wrap your head around, you know? And so, what I found in my personal experience, the moments where I was just sort of blindsided by the reality of this crisis and just sort of overwhelmed by emotion were not—was not when I was reading those scientific reports or even doing the reporting. It was when I was reading—when I read children's books to my son.
I had this moment early on when—you know, so, basically, this was my life for a while, just like writing this book, taking breaks and reading stories, board books, to Toma. And he has this favorite book, Looking for a Moose, where a bunch of kids set off on a journey to see a long-legged, bulgy-nosed, something-something-antlered moose. And I had read this book, you know, 75 times. And this slogan that they keep saying, "Have you ever seen a moose? Have you ever seen a moose? We've never seen a moose," and finally, they see all these moose. They say, "We've never, ever seen so many moose!" And it just hit me. I'm like, "Wait a minute. He might never see a moose," because I had been in northern Alberta and I had been talking to members of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation, and they had been describing how the moose were sick, when they would find moose covered in tumors, or they were just disappearing. And this is happening all over North America. You know, they're extremely affected by climate change and extremely affected by the toxins associated with fossil fuel extraction. I've only seen a moose a couple of times in my life in the wild, this extraordinary experience. But I just have those moments where it's like, "Wait a minute. He may never have these experiences that I've had."
AMY GOODMAN: What's happening to the oceans?
NAOMI KLEIN: So, it's a big question, but—you know, I wrote a lot of this book while I was living in British Columbia, is where my family lives. And it's an interesting vantage point from which to think about this, because the Pacific Northwest, the waters along that coast are some of the most rapidly acidifying waters, and it's for a variety of reasons. And one of them is climate change. Some of it's natural upwellings. But we're already seeing the impacts on oysters. I mean, oyster farms, some of them—there's one oyster farm that is actually—oh, I think it was in Washington state, and now it's opened a hatchery in Hawaii because it can no longer hatch—they can no longer have the hatchery in those waters, and they bring the oysters back—not exactly a low-carbon solution—back after they form their shells. We've seen scallops just wiped out in British Columbia in the past couple of years, linked to acidification. Strange starfish diseases—there's a wasting syndrome where suddenly like the limbs are falling off, and this is happening on a massive scale all along the Pacific Northwest. We don't know if that's linked to climate change or something else; it isn't exactly clear yet. But the oceans are definitely changing. And you see it. It's not like, OK, this is happening down the road. It's happening a lot faster than was predicted.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Naomi Klein, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Naomi Klein is a journalist, best-selling author, activist. Her new book is called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Thanks for spending this time with us.
NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you, guys.
AMY GOODMAN: I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much for joining us.
Stewart rebrands NFL the "League of Exculpatory Gentleman."
The NFL is no stranger to scandal, but the last few weeks have witnessed a noteworthy barrage of shocking stories about player behavior. In last night’s segment “The Fault in Our Star Players,” Jon Stewart took on the recent controversies, from the newly released video of Ravens star Ray Rice hitting his wife in a casino elevator to the child abuse charges filed against the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. Stewart focused most of his attention on the league’s muddled response to these highly publicized incidents.
In the case of Peterson, the team suspended him for one game, reinstated him, and then, bowing to the pressure of sponsors like beer giant Anheuser-Busch, suspended him once more. Joking that the team succumbed to “beer pressure,” Stewart said it should be cause for concern when “a company that sells alcohol is the moral touchstone of the NFL.”
Watch the full clip below.
By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
The climate crisis is worsening faster than predicted, by every scientific measure, and is paralleled by another crisis: the failure of the U.N. climate negotiation process. “You have been negotiating all my life,” student activist Anjali Appadurai said as she addressed the formal climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, back in 2011. The climate negotiations have been in a virtual gridlock, with nations, most notably the United States under President Obama, blocking progress and protecting their national interests while the planet heats up, potentially irreversibly.
“I speak for more than half the world’s population. We are the silent majority,” Appadurai said as the designated youth speaker. “You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not on the table. What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money?”
Three years later, the United Nations is now holding a special climate summit in New York City on Sept. 23, with more than 100 world leaders expected. Unlike the formal U.N. climate negotiations, the goal of this non-binding summit, the U.N. says, is “to raise political will and mobilize action, thereby generating momentum toward a successful outcome of the negotiations.” After 20 years, U.N. officials have apparently realized that, if left to the usual suspects of government and industry participants, the efforts to achieve a legally binding climate accord, slated for Paris in December 2015, will fail. Grassroots action is now seen as a critical component for success.
Environmental activists protested in outrage at the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, when President Obama showed up and derailed the U.N. negotiations by holding closed-door meetings with the world’s largest polluting nations. Back then, the United Nations responded by ejecting the activists. The U.N. climate negotiations are held around the world, but always in tightly secured convention facilities, far from people most directly impacted by climate change, and far from the sight and sound of climate activists who converge at the summits, hoping to pressure the negotiators to reach a deal before it is too late.
Just days before Ban Ki-moon’s invite-only summit next week, a broad coalition will hold the People’s Climate March, expected to be the largest march addressing climate change in history. People from all walks of life will gather on Central Park’s west side on Sunday, Sept. 21. Organizers expect over 100,000 people. More than 1,200 marching bands have been confirmed.
People will march in “blocs.” At the front of the march, “Frontlines of Crisis, Forefront of Change” will include indigenous and other communities directly affected by fossil-fuel extraction and the impacts of climate change. Organized labor and students will march under the banner “We Can Build the Future,” followed by “We Have Solutions” — alternative energy and sustainable food and water groups. The “We Know Who Is Responsible” bloc will highlight fossil-fuel corporations, banks and other polluters. Scientists and interfaith activists will comprise “The Debate Is Over” bloc, followed by the final, all-inclusive bloc, “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.”
One of the principal organizers of the People’s Climate March is Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, the climate-change organization named after 350 parts per million, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists consider to be safe and sustainable. Says McKibben, “The only way we’ll change ... is by building a big movement. That’s why September 21st in New York, which all these groups are coordinating, is such an important day.”
During the weekend, Union Theological Seminary is hosting a conference of clergy from around the world, addressing the moral issues raised by human-induced global warming. On Monday, the day after the big march, some independent groups are planning to “Flood Wall Street.” “Flood, blockade, sit-in, and shut down the institutions that are profiting from the climate crisis,” the group’s website implores, with a check box to indicate if you are willing to risk arrest. A group calling itself the “Earth Quaker Action Team” will theatrically investigate New York City branches of PNC Bank for the crime of “climate disruption,” for the bank’s role in financing mountaintop-removal coal mining.
Sunday’s climate march won’t include speeches. It’s all about the movement. But on Monday, author Naomi Klein will be among those speaking at the Wall Street actions. Her new book is out this week, titled “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.” It is a powerful, passionate, paradigm-shattering call to action. In it, she reminds us, “climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.”
Listen to Amy Goodman's podcast of this column on SoundCloud.
A new study shows that gas leaks from fracking wells are responsible for water contamination. But some media outlets were keen to send the message that fracking isn't causing these problems.
The media depicts today's kids as having gone wild.
The following is an excerpt from Joel Best and Kathleen A. Bogle's new book Kids Gone Wild: From Rainbow Parties to Sexting, Understanding the Hype Over Teen Sex (NYU Press, 2014). Reprinted here with permission.
Twenty-year-old singer/actress Miley Cyrus’s performance on MTV’s 2013 Video Music Awards made headlines around the world. Cyrus, who became a teen sensation by starring in the Disney series Hannah Montana from 2006 to 2011, was widely criticized for “twerking” her sexually charged dance moves. Wikipedia defines twerking as “a type of dancing in which the dancer, usually a woman, shakes her hips in an up-and-down bouncing motion, causing the dancer’s buttocks to shake, ‘wobble’ and ‘jiggle.’ . . . To twerk is to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance.” This performance made headlines around the world:
“Miley Cyrus Twerkfest Sparks Cultural Freakout” —USA Today
Cyrus was not the first pop artist to push sexual boundaries onstage, so why did her performance touch such a nerve? It appears that Miley twerked into adults’ fears that today’s kids have gone wild.
This twerking scandal is just one example of the media’s fascination with stories about wantonly sexual kids in recent years. We have been told that schoolchildren are using sex bracelets to initiate sexual encounters, that junior high schoolers are attending rainbow parties, that high school students are not just sexting but also forming pregnancy pacts, and so on. But a closer look at these stories may tell us more about what adults fear than about what kids and teens are actually doing sexually. What has us so scared?
Much of the concern seems to be about girls. Some people worry that popular culture icons, such as Miley Cyrus, are a corrupting influence on their young female fans. Thus, we hear lots of discussion in the media about the bad examples set for impressionable kids when celebrities such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton, fall from grace. Pundits also point to the detrimental effect of sexually explicit content in movies, television shows, music, and video games aimed at kids. While some commentators view girls as victims of a misogynistic culture and worry about them being exploited sexually, others put a different spin on things and suggest that there has been a fundamental change in the character and morality of girls. They are troubled by the behavior of girls today who are doing things, in their view, that girls of yesteryear would not have dreamt of doing. They worry that behavior that was once limited to girls from the wrong side of the tracks has come to characterize mainstream America. The focus of reports about sex-crazed girls has been on white, middle-class, girl-next-door types, and the message is clear: it isn’t just other girls behaving badly; it might be your kid, too.
In some ways, media coverage about kids and sex can be justified for capturing the sentiments of a public that is deeply troubled about our youth. In other words, journalists are simply reporting what people are talking about—and people today are worried about the sexuality of young people, especially girls. However, it is not just the amount of coverage that teen sex receives but the ways the media—particularly television—present the story. Their stories are rarely hard news pieces, products of thorough investigative reporting, or at least interviews with experts who have actually conducted research; rather, TV usually opts for discussing teen sex in an “infotainment” format. For example, NBC’s top-rated Today Show ran a piece in 2008 about teen sex that featured host Matt Lauer interviewing model-turned-television-talk-show-host Tyra Banks. The piece discussed the results of a survey of young women conducted by The Tyra Banks Show, a nonscientific, unrepresentative online survey of 10,000 of the show’s viewers. Lauer set up the interview: “If you’re the parent of a teenage girl, you may want to sit down right about now. . . . The average age girls are losing their virginity: 15 years old.” This was followed by a clip from The Tyra Banks Show featuring an exchange between Banks and one of the teenagers she interviewed among a panel of eight girls:
Banks: How many partners have you had?
Guest: I’ve had nine partners.
Banks: Sixteen years old, with nine partners? How old were you when you lost your virginity?
Banks: Thirteen years old?
The interview then proceeded with a discussion of the survey’s shocking findings, including the percentages of teens having sex while at school and of girls who want to be teen moms.
An astute viewer may have been skeptical of the dubious survey’s results. However, the majority of people who watched this segment and consider NBC a reliable source of information may have been unable to discern how much of it was done for entertainment and promotional value (Banks was promoting both her show and The Clique—a movie from her production company based on a teen novel). And Lauer ended the segment with an endorsement: “Keep doing surveys like this and keep coming around to talk about the results of these surveys, because it’s important.”
The Today Show’s coverage of teen sex illustrates the trend toward tabloidization of the news, with stories becoming more sensationalized and the press more focused on commercial considerations. The media choose how to frame the stories they run, so that we receive a selective viewpoint of any topic, not a “mirror of reality.” In fact, “newsworthy” stories tend to capture the exceptions, not the norm: “If the weather report paid as much attention to sunny, mild days as it did to hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and cold spells, it might be a more accurate representation of the weather, but it would no longer be news.”
When it comes to stories on kids and sex, media executives could opt to present an academic analysis, which might give a more complete picture of the subject. Instead, with ratings in mind, their stories tend to be covered in a way that surprises, excites, and is tailored to appeal to the widest audience. Typical reports feature some shocking event and claim that it is a trend among average kids, one that is sweeping the nation. This is not a new phenomenon—warning white, middle-class parents about dangers teen sex poses to them and their children has been a news program staple for decades. For example, in the 1980s, the news was inundated with stories warning parents about the risk of kids contracting HIV/AIDS. More recently, we have been assured that hooking up, friends with benefits, and sexting are ubiquitous. These reported “epidemics” among white, middle-class kids have more to do with television ratings and selling newspapers than a balanced analysis of a given issue.
The question is, if the coverage of teen sex has been misleading (or at least giving an incomplete picture of what is going on), is it distorting public perception and exacerbating people’s fears? One recent survey by the Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that most Americans believe teen pregnancy has gone up since 1990, when, in fact, teen pregnancies and births have decreased by over 40% during that period. When you combine the media’s propensity to sell scare stories about kids with a public ripe to hear them, narratives about sex bracelets, rainbow parties, and sexting can get a lot of traction. As it turns out, it is not only Americans who are concerned about kids today; each of these topics has received considerable media attention around the globe. This book will analyze what all the fuss is about.
Note: On Thursday award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein joined us for the hour to discuss her new book, "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate." This kicked off Democracy Now! coverage of the People's Climate March in New York City, part of a global mobilization in advance of a U.N. special session on climate change. Tune in Sunday when we will broadcast live from the march, via our website, from 10:30am-1:30pm ET. More details here. ]
One Way or Another Everything Changes
(Excerpted from This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein. Copyright © 2014 by Naomi Klein. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
“Most projections of climate change presume that future changes—greenhouse gas emissions, temperature increases and effects such as sea level rise—will happen incrementally. A given amount of emission will lead to a given amount of temperature increase that will lead to a given amount of smooth incremental sea level rise. However, the geological record for the climate reflects instances where a relatively small change in one element of climate led to abrupt changes in the system as a whole. In other words, pushing global temperatures past certain thresholds could trigger abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes that have massively disruptive and large-scale impacts. At that point, even if we do not add any additional CO2 to the atmosphere, potentially unstoppable processes are set in motion. We can think of this as sudden climate brake and steering failure where the problem and its consequences are no longer something we can control.”
“I love that smell of the emissions.”
A voice came over the intercom: would the passengers of Flight 3935, scheduled to depart Washington, D.C., for Charleston, South Carolina, kindly collect their carry-on luggage and get off the plane. They went down the stairs and gathered on the hot tarmac. There they saw something unusual: the wheels of the US Airways jet had sunk into the black pavement as if it were wet cement. The wheels were lodged so deep, in fact, that the truck that came to tow the plane away couldn’t pry it loose. The airline had hoped that without the added weight of the flight’s thirty-five passengers, the aircraft would be light enough to pull. It wasn’t. Someone posted a picture: “Why is my flight cancelled? Because DC is so damn hot that our plane sank 4 inches into the pavement.” (3)
Eventually, a larger, more powerful vehicle was brought in to tow the plane and this time it worked; the plane finally took off, three hours behind schedule. A spokesperson for the airline blamed the incident on “very unusual temperatures.” (4)
The temperatures in the summer of 2012 were indeed unusually hot. (As they were the year before and the year after.) And it’s no mystery why this has been happening: the profligate burning of fossil fuels, the very thing that US Airways was bound and determined to do despite the inconvenience presented by a melting tarmac. This irony—the fact that the burning of fossil fuels is so radically changing our climate that it is getting in the way of our capacity to burn fossil fuels—did not stop the passengers of Flight 3935 from reembarking and continuing their journeys. Nor was climate change mentioned in any of the major news coverage of the incident.
I am in no position to judge these passengers. All of us who live high consumer lifestyles, wherever we happen to reside, are, metaphorically, passengers on Flight 3935. Faced with a crisis that threatens our survival as a species, our entire culture is continuing to do the very thing that caused the crisis, only with an extra dose of elbow grease behind it. Like the airline bringing in a truck with a more powerful engine to tow that plane, the global economy is upping the ante from conventional sources of fossil fuels to even dirtier and more dangerous versions—bitumen from the Alberta tar sands, oil from deepwater drilling, gas from hydraulic fracturing (fracking), coal from detonated mountains, and so on.
Meanwhile, each supercharged natural disaster produces new ironyladen snapshots of a climate increasingly inhospitable to the very industries most responsible for its warming. Like the 2013 historic floods in Calgary that forced the head offices of the oil companies mining the Alberta tar sands to go dark and send their employees home, while a train carrying flammable petroleum products teetered on the edge of a disintegrating rail bridge. Or the drought that hit the Mississippi River one year earlier, pushing water levels so low that barges loaded with oil and coal were unable to move for days, while they waited for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge a channel (they had to appropriate funds allocated to rebuild from the previous year’s historic flooding along the same waterway). Or the coal-fired power plants in other parts of the country that were temporarily shut down because the waterways that they draw on to cool their machinery were either too hot or too dry (or, in some cases, both).
Living with this kind of cognitive dissonance is simply part of being alive in this jarring moment in history, when a crisis we have been studiously ignoring is hitting us in the face—and yet we are doubling down on the stuff that is causing the crisis in the first place.
I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit. I knew it was happening, sure. Not like Donald Trump and the Tea Partiers going on about how the continued existence of winter proves it’s all a hoax. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most of the news stories, especially the really scary ones. I told myself the science was too complicated and that the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my “elite” frequent flyer status.
A great many of us engage in this kind of climate change denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or we look but then turn it into a joke (“more signs of the Apocalypse!”). Which is another way of looking away.
Or we look but tell ourselves comforting stories about how humans are clever and will come up with a technological miracle that will safely suck the carbon out of the skies or magically turn down the heat of the sun. Which, I was to discover while researching this book, is yet another way of looking away.
Or we look but try to be hyper-rational about it (“dollar for dollar it’s more efficient to focus on economic development than climate change, since wealth is the best protection from weather extremes”)—as if having a few more dollars will make much difference when your city is underwater. Which is a way of looking away if you happen to be a policy wonk. Or we look but tell ourselves we are too busy to care about something so distant and abstract—even though we saw the water in the subways in New York City, and the people on their rooftops in New Orleans, and know that no one is safe, the most vulnerable least of all. And though perfectly understandable, this too is a way of looking away.
Or we look but tell ourselves that all we can do is focus on ourselves. Meditate and shop at farmers’ markets and stop driving—but forget trying to actually change the systems that are making the crisis inevitable because that’s too much “bad energy” and it will never work. And at first it may appear as if we are looking, because many of these lifestyle changes are indeed part of the solution, but we still have one eye tightly shut.
Or maybe we do look—really look—but then, inevitably, we seem to forget. Remember and then forget again. Climate change is like that; it’s hard to keep it in your head for very long. We engage in this odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia for perfectly rational reasons. We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything. And we are right. (5)
We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. And we don’t have to do anything to bring about this future. All we have to do is nothing. Just continue to do what we are doing now, whether it’s counting on a techno-fix or tending to our gardens or telling ourselves we’re unfortunately too busy to deal with it.
All we have to do is not react as if this is a full-blown crisis. All we have to do is keep on denying how frightened we actually are. And then, bit by bit, we will have arrived at the place we most fear, the thing from which we have been averting our eyes. No additional effort required.
There are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything. For us high consumers, it involves changing how we live, how our economies function, even the stories we tell about our place on earth. The good news is that many of these changes are distinctly un-catastrophic. Many are downright exciting. But I didn’t discover this for a long while.
I remember the precise moment when I stopped averting my eyes to the reality of climate change, or at least when I first allowed my eyes to rest there for a good while. It was in Geneva, in April 2009, and I was meeting with Bolivia’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), who was then a surprisingly young woman named Angélica Navarro Llanos. Bolivia being a poor country with a small international budget, Navarro Llanos had recently taken on the climate portfolio in addition to her trade responsibilities. Over lunch in an empty Chinese restaurant, she explained to me (using chopsticks as props to make a graph of the global emission trajectory) that she saw climate change both as a terrible threat to her people—but also an opportunity.
A threat for the obvious reasons: Bolivia is extraordinarily dependent on glaciers for its drinking and irrigation water and those white-capped mountains that tower over its capital were turning gray and brown at an alarming rate. The opportunity, Navarro Llanos said, was that since countries like hers had done almost nothing to send emissions soaring, they were in a position to declare themselves “climate creditors,” owed money and technology support from the large emitters to defray the hefty costs of coping with more climate-related disasters, as well as to help them develop on a green energy path.
She had recently given a speech at a United Nations climate conference in which she laid out the case for these kinds of wealth transfers, and she gave me a copy. “Millions of people,” it read, “in small islands, least developed countries, landlocked countries as well as vulnerable communities in Brazil, India and China, and all around the world—are suffering from the effects of a problem to which they did not contribute. . . . If we are to curb emissions in the next decade, we need a massive mobilization larger than any in history. We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth. This plan must mobilize financing and technology transfer on scales never seen before. It must get technology onto the ground in every country to ensure we reduce emissions while raising people’s quality of life. We have only a decade.” (6)
Of course a Marshall Plan for the Earth would be very costly—hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars (Navarro Llanos was reluctant to name a figure). And one might have thought that the cost alone would make it a nonstarter—after all, this was 2009 and the global financial crisis was in full swing. Yet the grinding logic of austerity—passing on the bankers’ bills to the people in the form of public sector layoffs, school closures, and the like—had not yet been normalized. So rather than making Navarro Llanos’s ideas seem less plausible, the crisis had the opposite effect.
We had all just watched as trillions of dollars were marshaled in a moment when our elites decided to declare a crisis. If the banks were allowed to fail, we were told, the rest of the economy would collapse. It was a matter of collective survival, so the money had to be found. In the process, some rather large fictions at the heart of our economic system were exposed (Need more money? Print some!). A few years earlier, governments took a similar approach to public finances after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In many Western countries, when it came to constructing the security/surveillance state at home and waging war abroad, budgets never seemed to be an issue.
Climate change has never received the crisis treatment from our leaders, despite the fact that it carries the risk of destroying lives on a vastly greater scale than collapsed banks or collapsed buildings. The cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions that scientists tell us are necessary in order to greatly reduce the risk of catastrophe are treated as nothing more than gentle suggestions, actions that can be put off pretty much indefinitely. Clearly, what gets declared a crisis is an expression of power and priorities as much as hard facts. But we need not be spectators in all this: politicians aren’t the only ones with the power to declare a crisis. Mass movements of regular people can declare one too.
Slavery wasn’t a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one. Racial discrimination wasn’t a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one. Sex discrimination wasn’t a crisis until feminism turned it into one. Apartheid wasn’t a crisis until the anti-apartheid movement turned it into one.
In the very same way, if enough of us stop looking away and decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one, and the political class will have to respond, both by making resources available and by bending the free market rules that have proven so pliable when elite interests are in peril. We occasionally catch glimpses of this potential when a crisis puts climate change at the front of our minds for a while. “Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for it will be spent,” declared British prime minister David Cameron—Mr. Austerity himself—when large parts of his country were underwater from historic flooding in February 2014 and the public was enraged that his government was not doing more to help. (7)
Listening to Navarro Llanos describe Bolivia’s perspective, I began to understand how climate change—if treated as a true planetary emergency akin to those rising flood waters—could become a galvanizing force for humanity, leaving us all not just safer from extreme weather, but with societies that are safer and fairer in all kinds of other ways as well. The resources required to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and prepare for the coming heavy weather could pull huge swaths of humanity out of poverty, providing services now sorely lacking, from clean water to electricity. This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond “mitigating” and “adapting” to it in the grim language of the United Nations. It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now.
After that conversation, I found that I no longer feared immersing myself in the scientific reality of the climate threat. I stopped avoiding the articles and the scientific studies and read everything I could find. I also stopped outsourcing the problem to the environmentalists, stopped telling myself this was somebody else’s issue, somebody else’s job. And through conversations with others in the growing climate justice movement, I began to see all kinds of ways that climate change could become a catalyzing force for positive change—how it could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new free trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights—all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them.
And I started to see signs—new coalitions and fresh arguments—hinting at how, if these various connections were more widely understood, the urgency of the climate crisis could form the basis of a powerful mass movement, one that would weave all these seemingly disparate issues into a coherent narrative about how to protect humanity from the ravages of both a savagely unjust economic system and a destabilized climate system. I have written this book because I came to the conclusion that climate action could provide just such a rare catalyst.
A People’s Shock
But I also wrote it because climate change can be a catalyst for a range of very different and far less desirable forms of social, political, and economic transformation.
I have spent the last fifteen years immersed in research about societies undergoing extreme shocks—caused by economic meltdowns, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and wars. And I have looked deeply into how societies change in these periods of tremendous stress. How these events change the collective sense of what is possible, for better but mostly for worse. As I discussed in my last book, The Shock Doctrine, over the past four decades corporate interests have systematically exploited these various forms of crisis to ram through policies that enrich a small elite—by lifting regulations, cutting social spending, and forcing large-scale privatizations of the public sphere. They have also been the excuse for extreme crackdowns on civil liberties and chilling human rights violations.
And there are plenty of signs that climate change will be no exception—that, rather than sparking solutions that have a real chance of preventing catastrophic warming and protecting us from inevitable disasters, the crisis will once again be seized upon to hand over yet more resources to the 1 percent. You can see the early stages of this process already. Communal forests around the world are being turned into privatized tree farms and preserves so their owners can collect something called “carbon credits,” a lucrative scam I’ll explore later. There is a booming trade in “weather futures,” allowing companies and banks to gamble on changes in the weather as if deadly disasters were a game on a Vegas craps table (between 2005 and 2006 the weather derivatives market jumped nearly fivefold, from $9.7 billion to $45.2 billion). Global reinsurance companies are making billions in profits, in part by selling new kinds of protection schemes to developing countries that have done almost nothing to create the climate crisis, but whose infrastructure is intensely vulnerable to its impacts. (8)
And in a moment of candor, the weapons giant Raytheon explained, “Expanded business opportunities are likely to arise as consumer behavior and needs change in response to climate change.” Those opportunities include not just more demand for the company’s privatized disaster response services but also “demand for its military products and services as security concerns may arise as results of droughts, floods, and storm events occur as a result of climate change.” (9) This is worth remembering whenever doubts creep in about the urgency of this crisis: the private militias are already mobilizing.
Droughts and floods create all kinds of business opportunities besides a growing demand for men with guns. Between 2008 and 2010, at least 261 patents were filed related to growing “climate-ready” crops—seeds supposedly able to withstand extreme weather conditions; of these patents close to 80 percent were controlled by six agribusiness giants, including Monsanto and Syngenta. Superstorm Sandy, meanwhile, has been a windfall for New Jersey real estate developers who have received millions for new construction in lightly damaged areas, while it continues to be a nightmare for those living in hard-hit public housing, much as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina played out in New Orleans. (10)
None of this is surprising. Finding new ways to privatize the commons and profit from disaster is what our current system is built to do; left to its own devices, it is capable of nothing else. The shock doctrine, however, is not the only way societies respond to crises. We have all witnessed this in recent years as the financial meltdown that began on Wall Street in 2008 reverberated around the world. A sudden rise in food prices helped create the conditions for the Arab Spring. Austerity policies have inspired mass movements from Greece to Spain to Chile to the United States to Quebec. Many of us are getting a lot better at standing up to those who would cynically exploit crises to ransack the public sphere. And yet these protests have also shown that saying no is not enough. If opposition movements are to do more than burn bright and then burn out, they will need a comprehensive vision for what should emerge in the place of our failing system, as well as serious political strategies for how to achieve those goals.
Progressives used to know how to do this. There is a rich populist history of winning big victories for social and economic justice in the midst of large-scale crises. These include, most notably, the policies of the New Deal after the market crash of 1929 and the birth of countless social programs after World War II. These policies were so popular with voters that getting them passed into law did not require the kind of authoritarian trickery that I documented in The Shock Doctrine. What was essential was building muscular mass movements capable of standing up to those defending a failing status quo, and that demanded a significantly fairer share of the economic pie for everyone. A few of the lasting (though embattled) legacies of these exceptional historical moments include: public health insurance in many countries, old age pensions, subsidized housing, and public funding for the arts.
I am convinced that climate change represents a historic opportunity on an even greater scale. As part of the project of getting our emissions down to the levels many scientists recommend, we once again have the chance to advance policies that dramatically improve lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs, and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up. Rather than the ultimate expression of the shock doctrine—a frenzy of new resource grabs and repression—climate change can be a People’s Shock, a blow from below. It can disperse power into the hands of the many rather than consolidating it in the hands of the few, and radically expand the commons, rather than auctioning it off in pieces. And where right-wing shock doctors exploit emergencies (both real and manufactured) in order to push through policies that make us even more crisis prone, the kinds of transformations discussed in these pages would do the exact opposite: they would get to the root of why we are facing serial crises in the first place, and would leave us with both a more habitable climate than the one we are headed for and a far more just economy than the one we have right now.
But before any of these changes can happen—before we can believe that climate change can change us—we first have to stop looking away.
“You have been negotiating all my life.” So said Canadian college student Anjali Appadurai, as she stared down the assembled government negotiators at the 2011 United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa. She was not exaggerating. The world’s governments have been talking about preventing climate change for more than two decades; they began negotiating the year that Anjali, then twenty-one years old, was born. And yet as she pointed out in her memorable speech on the convention floor, delivered on behalf of all of the assembled young people: “In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.” (11)
In truth, the intergovernmental body entrusted to prevent “dangerous” levels of climate change has not only failed to make progress over its twenty-odd years of work (and more than ninety official negotiation meetings since the agreement was adopted), it has overseen a process of virtually uninterrupted backsliding. Our governments wasted years fudging numbers and squabbling over start dates, perpetually trying to get extensions like undergrads with late term papers.
The catastrophic result of all this obfuscation and procrastination is now undeniable. Preliminary data shows that in 2013, global carbon dioxide emissions were 61 percent higher than they were in 1990, when negotiations toward a climate treaty began in earnest. As MIT economist John Reilly puts it: “The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing.” Indeed the only thing rising faster than our emissions is the output of words pledging to lower them. Meanwhile, the annual U.N. climate summit, which remains the best hope for a political breakthrough on climate action, has started to seem less like a forum for serious negotiation than a very costly and high-carbon group therapy session, a place for the representatives of the most vulnerable countries in the world to vent their grief and rage while low-level representatives of the nations largely responsible for their tragedies stare at their shoes. (12)
This has been the mood ever since the collapse of the much-hyped 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen. On the last night of that massive gathering, I found myself with a group of climate justice activists, including one of the most prominent campaigners in Britain. Throughout the summit, this young man had been the picture of confidence and composure, briefing dozens of journalists a day on what had gone on during each round of negotiations and what the various emission targets meant in the real world. Despite the challenges, his optimism about the summit’s prospects never flagged. Once it was all over, however, and the pitiful deal was done, he fell apart before our eyes. Sitting in an overlit Italian restaurant, he began to sob uncontrollably. “I really thought Obama understood,” he kept repeating.
I have come to think of that night as the climate movement’s coming of age: it was the moment when the realization truly sank in that no one was coming to save us. The British psychoanalyst and climate specialist Sally Weintrobe describes this as the summit’s “fundamental legacy”—the acute and painful realization that our “leaders are not looking after us ... we are not cared for at the level of our very survival.” (13)
No matter how many times we have been disappointed by the failings of our politicians, this realization still comes as a blow. It really is the case that we are on our own and any credible source of hope in this crisis will have to come from below. In Copenhagen, the major polluting governments—including the United States and China—signed a nonbinding agreement pledging to keep temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above where they were before we started powering our economies with coal. (That converts to an increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.) This well-known target, which supposedly represents the “safe” limit of climate change, has always been a highly political choice that has more to do with minimizing economic disruption than with protecting the greatest number of people.
When the 2 degrees target was made official in Copenhagen, there were impassioned objections from many delegates who said the goal amounted to a “death sentence” for some low-lying island states, as well as for large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact it is a very risky target for all of us: so far, temperatures have increased by just .8 degree Celsius and we are already experiencing many alarming impacts, including the unprecedented melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the summer of 2012 and the acidification of oceans far more rapidly than expected. Allowing temperatures to warm by more than twice that amount will unquestionably have perilous consequences. (14)
In a 2012 report, the World Bank laid out the gamble implied by that target. “As global warming approaches and exceeds 2-degrees Celsius, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.” (15) In other words, once we allow temperatures to climb past a certain point, where the mercury stops is not in our control.
But the bigger problem—and the reason Copenhagen caused such great despair—is that because governments did not agree to binding targets, they are free to pretty much ignore their commitments. Which is precisely what is happening. Indeed, emissions are rising so rapidly that unless something radical changes within our economic structure, 2 degrees now looks like a utopian dream. And it’s not just environmentalists who are raising the alarm. The World Bank also warned when it released its report that “we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world [by century’s end] marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.” And the report cautioned that, “there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.” Kevin Anderson, former director (now deputy director) of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the U.K.’s premier climate research institutions, is even blunter; he says 4 degrees Celsius warming—7.2 degrees Fahrenheit—is “incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable and civilized global community.” (16)
We don’t know exactly what a 4 degrees Celsius world would look like, but even the best-case scenario is likely to be calamitous. Four degrees of warming could raise global sea levels by 1 or possibly even 2 meters by 2100 (and would lock in at least a few additional meters over future centuries). This would drown some island nations such as the Maldives and Tuvalu, and inundate many coastal areas from Ecuador and Brazil to the Netherlands to much of California and the northeastern United States, as well as huge swaths of South and Southeast Asia. Major cities likely in jeopardy include Boston, New York, greater Los Angeles, Vancouver, London, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. (17)
Meanwhile, brutal heat waves that can kill tens of thousands of people, even in wealthy countries, would become entirely unremarkable summer events on every continent but Antarctica. The heat would also cause staple crops to suffer dramatic yield losses across the globe (it is possible that Indian wheat and U.S. corn could plummet by as much as 60 percent), this at a time when demand will be surging due to population growth and a growing demand for meat. And since crops will be facing not just heat stress but also extreme events such as wide-ranging droughts, flooding, or pest outbreaks, the losses could easily turn out to be more severe than the models have predicted. When you add ruinous hurricanes, raging wildfires, fisheries collapses, widespread disruptions to water supplies, extinctions, and globetrotting diseases to the mix, it indeed becomes difficult to imagine that a peaceful, ordered society could be sustained (that is, where such a thing exists in the first place). (18)
And keep in mind that these are the optimistic scenarios in which warming is more or less stabilized at 4 degrees Celsius and does not trigger tipping points beyond which runaway warming would occur. Based on the latest modeling, it is becoming safer to assume that 4 degrees could bring about a number of extremely dangerous feedback loops—an Arctic that is regularly ice-free in September, for instance, or, according to one recent study, global vegetation that is too saturated to act as a reliable “sink,” leading to more carbon being emitted rather than stored. Once this happens, any hope of predicting impacts pretty much goes out the window. And this process may be starting sooner than anyone predicted. In May 2014, NASA and University of California, Irvine scientists revealed that glacier melt in a section of West Antarctica roughly the size of France now “appears unstoppable.” This likely spells doom for the entire West Antarctic ice sheet, which according to lead study author Eric Rignot “comes with a sea level rise of between three and five metres. Such an event will displace millions of people worldwide.” The disintegration, however, could unfold over centuries and there is still time for emission reductions to slow down the process and prevent the worst. (19)
Much more frightening than any of this is the fact that plenty of mainstream analysts think that on our current emissions trajectory, we are headed for even more than 4 degrees of warming. In 2011, the usually staid International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report projecting that we are actually on track for 6 degrees Celsius—10.8 degrees Fahrenheit—of warming. And as the IEA’s chief economist put it: “Everybody, even the school children, knows that this will have catastrophic implications for all of us.” (The evidence indicates that 6 degrees of warming is likely to set in motion several major tipping points—not only slower ones such as the aforementioned breakdown of the West Antarctic ice sheet, but possibly more abrupt ones, like massive releases of methane from Arctic permafrost.) The accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers has also published a report warning businesses that we are headed for “4°C, or even 6°C” of warming. (20)
These various projections are the equivalent of every alarm in your house going off simultaneously. And then every alarm on your street going off as well, one by one by one. They mean, quite simply, that climate change has become an existential crisis for the human species. The only historical precedent for a crisis of this depth and scale was the Cold War fear that we were heading toward nuclear holocaust, which would have made much of the planet uninhabitable. But that was (and remains) a threat; a slim possibility, should geopolitics spiral out of control. The vast majority of nuclear scientists never told us that we were almost certainly going to put our civilization in peril if we kept going about our daily lives as usual, doing exactly what we were already doing, which is what the climate scientists have been telling us for years.
As the Ohio State University climatologist Lonnie G. Thompson, a world-renowned specialist on glacier melt, explained in 2010, “Climatologists, like other scientists, tend to be a stolid group. We are not given to theatrical rantings about falling skies. Most of us are far more comfortable in our laboratories or gathering data in the field than we are giving interviews to journalists or speaking before Congressional committees. Why then are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? The answer is that virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.” (21)
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. And yet rather than responding with alarm and doing everything in our power to change course, large parts of humanity are, quite consciously, continuing down the same road. Only, like the passengers aboard Flight 3935, aided by a more powerful, dirtier engine.
What is wrong with us?
Really Bad Timing
Many answers to that question have been offered, ranging from the extreme difficulty of getting all the governments in the world to agree on anything, to an absence of real technological solutions, to something deep in our human nature that keeps us from acting in the face of seemingly remote threats, to—more recently—the claim that we have blown it anyway and there is no point in even trying to do much more than enjoy the scenery on the way down.
Some of these explanations are valid, but all are ultimately inadequate. Take the claim that it’s just too hard for so many countries to agree on a course of action. It is hard. But many times in the past, the United Nations has helped governments to come together to tackle tough cross-border challenges, from ozone depletion to nuclear proliferation. The deals produced weren’t perfect, but they represented real progress. Moreover, during the same years that our governments failed to enact a tough and binding legal architecture requiring emission reductions, supposedly because cooperation was too complex, they managed to create the World Trade Organization—an intricate global system that regulates the flow of goods and services around the planet, under which the rules are clear and violations are harshly penalized.
The assertion that we have been held back by a lack of technological solutions is no more compelling. Power from renewable sources like wind and water predates the use of fossil fuels and is becoming cheaper, more efficient, and easier to store every year. The past two decades have seen an explosion of ingenious zero-waste design, as well as green urban planning. Not only do we have the technical tools to get off fossil fuels, we also have no end of small pockets where these low carbon lifestyles have been tested with tremendous success. And yet the kind of large-scale transition that would give us a collective chance of averting catastrophe eludes us.
Is it just human nature that holds us back then? In fact we humans have shown ourselves willing to collectively sacrifice in the face of threats many times, most famously in the embrace of rationing, victory gardens, and victory bonds during World Wars I and II. Indeed to support fuel conservation during World War II, pleasure driving was virtually eliminated in the U.K., and between 1938 and 1944, use of public transit went up by 87 percent in the U.S. and by 95 percent in Canada. Twenty million U.S. households—representing three fifths of the population—were growing victory gardens in 1943, and their yields accounted for 42 percent of the fresh vegetables consumed that year. Interestingly, all of these activities together dramatically reduce carbon emissions. (22)
Yes, the threat of war seemed immediate and concrete but so too is the threat posed by the climate crisis that has already likely been a substantial contributor to massive disasters in some of the world’s major cities. Still, we’ve gone soft since those days of wartime sacrifice, haven’t we? Contemporary humans are too self-centered, too addicted to gratification to live without the full freedom to satisfy our every whim—or so our culture tells us every day. And yet the truth is that we continue to make collective sacrifices in the name of an abstract greater good all the time. We sacrifice our pensions, our hard-won labor rights, our arts and after-school programs. We send our kids to learn in ever more crowded classrooms, led by ever more harried teachers. We accept that we have to pay dramatically more for the destructive energy sources that power our transportation and our lives. We accept that bus and subway fares go up and up while service fails to improve or degenerates. We accept that a public university education should result in a debt that will take half a lifetime to pay off when such a thing was unheard of a generation ago. In Canada, where I live, we are in the midst of accepting that our mail can no longer be delivered to our homes.
The past thirty years have been a steady process of getting less and less in the public sphere. This is all defended in the name of austerity, the current justification for these never-ending demands for collective sacrifice. In the past, other words and phrases, equally abstracted from daily life, have served a similar purpose: balanced budgets, increased efficiency, fostering economic growth.
It seems to me that if humans are capable of sacrificing this much collective benefit in the name of stabilizing an economic system that makes daily life so much more expensive and precarious, then surely humans should be capable of making some important lifestyle changes in the interest of stabilizing the physical systems upon which all of life depends. Especially because many of the changes that need to be made to dramatically cut emissions would also materially improve the quality of life for the majority of people on the planet—from allowing kids in Beijing to play outside without wearing pollution masks to creating good jobs in clean energy sectors for millions. There seems to be no shortage of both short-term and medium-term incentives to do the right thing for our climate.
Time is tight, to be sure. But we could commit ourselves, tomorrow, to radically cutting our fossil fuel emissions and beginning the shift to zerocarbon sources of energy based on renewable technology, with a full-blown transition underway within the decade. We have the tools to do that. And if we did, the seas would still rise and the storms would still come, but we would stand a much greater chance of preventing truly catastrophic warming. Indeed, entire nations could be saved from the waves. As Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s former ambassador to the United Nations, puts it: “If I burned your house the least I can do is welcome you into my house ... and if I’m burning it right now I should try to stop the fire now.” (23)
But we are not stopping the fire. In fact we are dousing it with gasoline. After a rare decline in 2009 due to the financial crisis, global emissions surged by a whopping 5.9 percent in 2010—the largest absolute increase since the Industrial Revolution. (24)
So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house?
I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets. That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when those elites were enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s. Indeed, governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988—the exact year that marked the dawning of what came to be called “globalization,” with the signing of the agreement representing the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship between Canada and the United States, later to be expanded into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the inclusion of Mexico. (25)
When historians look back on the past quarter century of international negotiations, two defining processes will stand out. There will be the climate process: struggling, sputtering, failing utterly to achieve its goals. And there will be the corporate globalization process, zooming from victory to victory: from that first free trade deal to the creation of the World Trade Organization to the mass privatization of the former Soviet economies to the transformation of large parts of Asia into sprawling free-trade zones to the “structural adjusting” of Africa. There were setbacks to that process, to be sure—for example, popular pushback that stalled trade rounds and free trade deals. But what remained successful were the ideological underpinnings of the entire project, which was never really about trading goods across borders—selling French wine in Brazil, for instance, or U.S. software in China. It was always about using these sweeping deals, as well as a range of other tools, to lock in a global policy framework that provided maximum freedom to multinational corporations to produce their goods as cheaply as possible and sell them with as few regulations as possible—while paying as little in taxes as possible. Granting this corporate wishlist, we were told, would fuel economic growth, which would trickle down to the rest of us, eventually. The trade deals mattered only in so far as they stood in for, and plainly articulated, this far broader agenda.
The three policy pillars of this new era are familiar to us all: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sector, and lower corporate taxation, paid for with cuts to public spending. Much has been written about the real-world costs of these policies—the instability of financial markets, the excesses of the super-rich, and the desperation of the increasingly disposable poor, as well as the failing state of public infrastructure and services. Very little, however, has been written about how market fundamentalism has, from the very first moments, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith.
The core problem was that the stranglehold that market logic secured over public life in this period made the most direct and obvious climate responses seem politically heretical. How, for instance, could societies invest massively in zero-carbon public services and infrastructure at a time when the public sphere was being systematically dismantled and auctioned off?
How could governments heavily regulate, tax, and penalize fossil fuel companies when all such measures were being dismissed as relics of “command and control” communism? And how could the renewable energy sector receive the supports and protections it needed to replace fossil fuels when “protectionism” had been made a dirty word?
A different kind of climate movement would have tried to challenge the extreme ideology that was blocking so much sensible action, joining with other sectors to show how unfettered corporate power posed a grave threat to the habitability of the planet. Instead, large parts of the climate movement wasted precious decades attempting to make the square peg of the climate crisis fit into the round hole of deregulated capitalism, forever touting ways for the problem to be solved by the market itself. (Though it was only years into this project that I discovered the depths of collusion between big polluters and Big Green.)
But blocking strong climate action wasn’t the only way that the triumph of market fundamentalism acted to deepen the crisis in this period. Even more directly, the policies that so successfully freed multinational corporations from virtually all constraints also contributed significantly to the underlying cause of global warming—rising greenhouse gas emissions.
The numbers are striking: in the 1990s, as the market integration project ramped up, global emissions were going up an average of 1 percent a year; by the 2000s, with “emerging markets” like China now fully integrated into the world economy, emissions growth had sped up disastrously, with the annual rate of increase reaching 3.4 percent a year for much of the decade. That rapid growth rate continues to this day, interrupted only briefly in 2009 by the world financial crisis. (26)
With hindsight, it’s hard to see how it could have turned out otherwise. The twin signatures of this era have been the mass export of products across vast distances (relentlessly burning carbon all the way), and the import of a uniquely wasteful model of production, consumption, and agriculture to every corner of the world (also based on the profligate burning of fossil fuels). Put differently, the liberation of world markets, a process powered by the liberation of unprecedented amounts of fossil fuels from the earth, has dramatically sped up the same process that is liberating Arctic ice from existence.
As a result, we now find ourselves in a very difficult and slightly ironic position. Because of those decades of hardcore emitting exactly when we were supposed to be cutting back, the things we must do to avoid catastrophic warming are no longer just in conflict with the particular strain of deregulated capitalism that triumphed in the 1980s. They are now in conflict with the fundamental imperative at the heart of our economic model: grow or die.
Once carbon has been emitted into the atmosphere, it sticks around for hundreds of years, some of it even longer, trapping heat. The effects are cumulative, growing more severe with time. And according to emissions specialists like the Tyndall Centre’s Kevin Anderson (as well as others), so much carbon has been allowed to accumulate in the atmosphere over the past two decades that now our only hope of keeping warming below the internationally agreed-upon target of 2 degrees Celsius is for wealthy countries to cut their emissions by somewhere in the neighborhood of 8–10 percent a year.27 The “free” market simply cannot accomplish this task. Indeed, this level of emission reduction has happened only in the context of economic collapse or deep depressions.
I’ll be delving deeper into those numbers in Chapter 2, but the bottom line is what matters here: our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.
Fortunately, it is eminently possible to transform our economy so that it is less resource-intensive, and to do it in ways that are equitable, with the most vulnerable protected and the most responsible bearing the bulk of the burden. Low-carbon sectors of our economies can be encouraged to expand and create jobs, while high-carbon sectors are encouraged to contract. The problem, however, is that this scale of economic planning and management is entirely outside the boundaries of our reigning ideology. The only kind of contraction our current system can manage is a brutal crash, in which the most vulnerable will suffer most of all.
So we are left with a stark choice: allow climate disruption to change everything about our world, or change pretty much everything about our economy to avoid that fate. But we need to be very clear: because of our decades of collective denial, no gradual, incremental options are now available to us. Gentle tweaks to the status quo stopped being a climate option when we supersized the American Dream in the 1990s, and then proceeded to take it global. And it’s no longer just radicals who see the need for radical change. In 2012, twenty-one past winners of the prestigious Blue Planet Prize—a group that includes James Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway—authored a landmark report. It stated that, “In the face of an absolutely unprecedented emergency, society has no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilization. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us.” (28)
That’s tough for a lot of people in important positions to accept, since it challenges something that might be even more powerful than capitalism, and that is the fetish of centrism—of reasonableness, seriousness, splitting the difference, and generally not getting overly excited about anything. This is the habit of thought that truly rules our era, far more among the liberals who concern themselves with matters of climate policy than among conservatives, many of whom simply deny the existence of the crisis. Climate change presents a profound challenge to this cautious centrism because half measures won’t cut it: “all of the above energy” programs, as U.S. President Barack Obama describes his approach, has about as much chance of success as an all of the above diet, and the firm deadlines imposed by science require that we get very worked up indeed.
By posing climate change as a battle between capitalism and the planet, I am not saying anything that we don’t already know. The battle is already under way, but right now capitalism is winning hands down. It wins every time the need for economic growth is used as the excuse for putting off climate action yet again, or for breaking emission reduction commitments already made. It wins when Greeks are told that their only path out of economic crisis is to open up their beautiful seas to high-risk oil and gas drilling. It wins when Canadians are told our only hope of not ending up like Greece is to allow our boreal forests to be flayed so we can access the semisolid bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. It wins when a park in Istanbul is slotted for demolition to make way for yet another shopping mall. It wins when parents in Beijing are told that sending their wheezing kids to school in pollution masks decorated to look like cute cartoon characters is an acceptable price for economic progress. It wins every time we accept that we have only bad choices available to us: austerity or extraction, poisoning or poverty.
The challenge, then, is not simply that we need to spend a lot of money and change a lot of policies; it’s that we need to think differently, radically differently, for those changes to be remotely possible. Right now, the triumph of market logic, with its ethos of domination and fierce competition, is paralyzing almost all serious efforts to respond to climate change. Cutthroat competition between nations has deadlocked U.N. climate negotiations for decades: rich countries dig in their heels and declare that they won’t cut emissions and risk losing their vaulted position in the global hierarchy; poorer countries declare that they won’t give up their right to pollute as much as rich countries did on their way to wealth, even if that means deepening a disaster that hurts the poor most of all. For any of this to change, a worldview will need to rise to the fore that sees nature, other nations, and our own neighbors not as adversaries, but rather as partners in a grand project of mutual reinvention.
That’s a big ask. But it gets bigger. Because of our endless delays, we also have to pull off this massive transformation without delay. The International Energy Agency warns that if we do not get our emissions under control by a rather terrifying 2017, our fossil fuel economy will “lock-in” extremely dangerous warming. “The energy-related infrastructure then in place will generate all the CO2 emissions allowed” in our carbon budget for limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius—“leaving no room for additional power plants, factories and other infrastructure unless they are zero-carbon, which would be extremely costly.” This assumes, probably accurately, that governments would be unwilling to force the closure of still-profitable power plants and factories. As Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, bluntly put it: “The door to reach two degrees is about to close. In 2017 it will be closed forever.” In short, we have reached what some activists have started calling “Decade Zero” of the climate crisis: we either change now or we lose our chance. (29)
All this means that the usual free market assurances—A techno-fix is around the corner! Dirty development is just a phase on the way to a clean environment, look at nineteenth-century London!—simply don’t add up. We don’t have a century to spare for China and India to move past their Dickensian phases. Because of our lost decades, it is time to turn this around now. Is it possible? Absolutely. Is it possible without challenging the fundamental logic of deregulated capitalism? Not a chance.
One of the people I met on this journey and who you will meet in these pages is Henry Red Cloud, a Lakota educator and entrepreneur who trains young Native people to become solar engineers. He tells his students that there are times when we must accept small steps forward—and there are other times “when you need to run like a buffalo.” (30) Now is one of those times when we must run.
Power, Not Just Energy
I was struck recently by a mea culpa of sorts, written by Gary Stix, a senior editor of Scientific American. Back in 2006, he edited a special issue on responses to climate change and, like most such efforts, the articles were narrowly focused on showcasing exciting low-carbon technologies. But in 2012 Stix wrote that he had overlooked a much larger and more important part of the story—the need to create the social and political context in which these technological shifts stand a chance of displacing the all too profitable status quo. “If we are ever to cope with climate change in any fundamental way, radical solutions on the social side are where we must focus, though. The relative efficiency of the next generation of solar cells is trivial by comparison.” (31)
This book is about those radical changes on the social side, as well as on the political, economic, and cultural sides. What concerns me is less the mechanics of the transition—the shift from brown to green energy, from sole-rider cars to mass transit, from sprawling exurbs to dense and walkable cities—than the power and ideological roadblocks that have so far prevented any of these long understood solutions from taking hold on anything close to the scale required.
It seems to me that our problem has a lot less to do with the mechanics of solar power than the politics of human power—specifically whether there can be a shift in who wields it, a shift away from corporations and toward communities, which in turn depends on whether or not the great many people who are getting a rotten deal under our current system can build a determined and diverse enough social force to change the balance of power. I have also come to understand, over the course of researching this book, that the shift will require rethinking the very nature of humanity’s power—our right to extract ever more without facing consequences, our capacity to bend complex natural systems to our will. This is a shift that challenges not only capitalism, but also the building blocks of materialism that preceded modern capitalism, a mentality some call “extractivism.”
Because, underneath all of this is the real truth we have been avoiding: climate change isn’t an “issue” to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions— telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.
Coming Out of Denial
Some say there is no time for this transformation; the crisis is too pressing and the clock is ticking. I agree that it would be reckless to claim that the only solution to this crisis is to revolutionize our economy and revamp our worldview from the bottom up—and anything short of that is not worth doing. There are all kinds of measures that would lower emissions substantively that could and should be done right now. But we aren’t taking those measures, are we? The reason is that by failing to fight these big battles that stand to shift our ideological direction and change the balance of who holds power in our societies, a context has been slowly created in which any muscular response to climate change seems politically impossible, especially during times of economic crisis (which lately seems to be all the time).
So this book proposes a different strategy: think big, go deep, and move the ideological pole far away from the stifling market fundamentalism that has become the greatest enemy to planetary health. If we can shift the cultural context even a little, then there will be some breathing room for those sensible reformist policies that will at least get the atmospheric carbon numbers moving in the right direction. And winning is contagious so, who knows? Maybe within a few years, some of the ideas highlighted in these pages that sound impossibly radical today—like a basic income for all, or a rewriting of trade law, or real recognition of the rights of Indigenous people to protect huge parts of the world from polluting extraction—will start to seem reasonable, even essential.
For a quarter of a century, we have tried the approach of polite incremental change, attempting to bend the physical needs of the planet to our economic model’s need for constant growth and new profit-making opportunities. The results have been disastrous, leaving us all in a great deal more danger than when the experiment began.
There are, of course, no guarantees that a more systemic approach will be any more successful—though there are, as will be explored later on, historical precedents that are grounds for hope. The truth is that this is the hardest book I have ever written, precisely because the research has led me to search out such radical responses. I have no doubt of their necessity, but I question their political feasibility every day, especially given that climate change puts us on such a tight and unforgiving deadline.
It’s been a harder book to write for personal reasons too.
What gets me most are not the scary scientific studies about melting glaciers, the ones I used to avoid. It’s the books I read to my two-year-old. Have You Ever Seen a Moose? is one of his favorites. It’s about a bunch of kids that really, really, really want to see a moose. They search high and low—through a forest, a swamp, in brambly bushes and up a mountain, for “a long legged, bulgy nosed, branchy antlered moose.” The joke is that there are moose hiding on each page. In the end, the animals all come out of hiding and the ecstatic kids proclaim: “We’ve never ever seen so many moose!”
On about the seventy-fifth reading, it suddenly hit me: he might never see a moose. I tried to hold it together. I went back to my computer and began to write about my time in northern Alberta, tar sands country, where members of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation told me about how the moose had changed—one woman described killing a moose on a hunting trip only to find that the flesh had already turned green. I heard a lot about strange tumors too, which locals assumed had to do with the animals drinking water contaminated by tar sands toxins. But mostly I heard about how the moose were simply gone.
And not just in Alberta. “Rapid Climate Changes Turn North Woods into Moose Graveyard,” reads a May 2012 headline in Scientific American. A year and a half later, The New York Times was reporting that one of Minnesota’s two moose populations had declined from four thousand in the 1990s to just one hundred today. (32) Will he ever see a moose?
Then, the other day, I was slain by a miniature board book called Snuggle Wuggle. It involves different animals cuddling, with each posture given a ridiculously silly name: “How does a bat hug?” it asks. “Topsy turvy, topsy turvy.” For some reason my son reliably cracks up at this page. I explain that it means upside down, because that’s the way bats sleep. But all I could think about was the report of some 100,000 dead and dying bats raining down from the sky in the midst of record-breaking heat across part of Queensland, Australia. Whole colonies devastated. (33)
Will he ever see a bat?
I knew I was in trouble when the other day I found myself bargaining with starfish. Red and purple ones are ubiquitous on the rocky coast of British Columbia where my parents live, where my son was born, and where I have spent about half of my adult life. They are always the biggest kid pleasers, because you can gently pick one up and give it a really good look. “This is the best day of my life!” my seven-year-old niece Miriam, visiting from Chicago, proclaimed after a long afternoon spent in the tide pools.
But in the fall of 2013, stories began to appear about a strange wasting disease that was causing starfish along the Pacific Coast to die by the tens of thousands. Termed the “sea star wasting syndrome,” multiple species were disintegrating alive, their vibrant bodies melting into distorted globs, with legs falling off and bodies caving in. Scientists were mystified. (34)
As I read these stories, I caught myself praying for the invertebrates to hang in for just one more year—long enough for my son to be amazed by them. Then I doubted myself: maybe it’s better if he never sees a starfish at all—certainly not like this ... When fear like that used to creep through my armor of climate change denial, I would do my utmost to stuff it away, change the channel, click past it. Now I try to feel it. It seems to me that I owe it to my son, just as we all owe it to ourselves and one another.
But what should we do with this fear that comes from living on a planet that is dying, made less alive every day? First, accept that it won’t go away. That it is a fully rational response to the unbearable reality that we are living in a dying world, a world that a great many of us are helping to kill, by doing things like making tea and driving to the grocery store and yes, okay, having kids.
Next, use it. Fear is a survival response. Fear makes us run, it makes us leap, it can make us act superhuman. But we need somewhere to run to. Without that, the fear is only paralyzing. So the real trick, the only hope, really, is to allow the terror of an unlivable future to be balanced and soothed by the prospect of building something much better than many of us have previously dared hope.
Yes, there will be things we will lose, luxuries some of us will have to give up, whole industries that will disappear. And it’s too late to stop climate change from coming; it is already here, and increasingly brutal disasters are headed our way no matter what we do. But it’s not too late to avert the worst, and there is still time to change ourselves so that we are far less brutal to one another when those disasters strike. And that, it seems to me, is worth a great deal.
Because the thing about a crisis this big, this all-encompassing, is that it changes everything. It changes what we can do, what we can hope for, what we can demand from ourselves and our leaders. It means there is a whole lot of stuff that we have been told is inevitable that simply cannot stand. And it means that a whole lot of stuff we have been told is impossible has to start happening right away.
Can we pull it off? All I know is that nothing is inevitable. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.
1. Mario Malina et al., “What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change,” AAAS Climate Science Panel, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014, pp. 15–16.
2. “Sarah Palin Rolls Out at Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Ride,” Fox News, May 29, 2011.
3. Martin Weil, “US Airways Plane Gets Stuck in ‘Soft Spot’ on Pavement at Reagan National,”Washington Post, July 7, 2012; “Why Is My Flight Cancelled?” Imgur, http://imgur.com.
4. Weil, “US Airways Plane Gets Stuck in ‘Soft Spot’ on Pavement at Reagan National.”
5. For important sociological and psychological perspectives on the everyday denial of climate change, see: Kari Marie Norgaard, Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011); Rosemary Randall, “Loss and Climate Change: The Cost of Parallel Narratives,” Ecopsychology 1.3 (2009): 118-29; and the essays in Sally Weintrobe, ed.,
6. Angelica Navarro Llanos, “Climate Debt: The Basis of a Fair and Effective Solution to Climate Change,” presentation to Technical Briefing on Historical Responsibility, Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Bonn, Germany, June 4, 2009.
7. “British PM Warns of Worsening Floods Crisis,” Agence France-Presse, February 11, 2014.
8. “Exponential Growth in Weather Risk Management Contracts,” Weather Risk Management Association, press release, June 2006; Eric Reguly, “No Climate-Change Deniers to Be Found in the Reinsurance Business,” Globe and Mail, November 28, 2013.
9. “Investor CDP 2012 Information Request: Raytheon Company,” Carbon Disclosure Project, 2012, https://www.cdp.net.
10. “Who Will Control the Green Economy?” ETC Group, 2011, p. 23; Chris Glorioso, “Sandy Funds Went to NJ Town with Little Storm Damage,” NBC News, February 2, 2014.
11. “ ‘Get It Done: Urging Climate Justice, Youth Delegate Anjali Appadurai Mic-Checks UN Summit,” Democracy Now!, December 9, 2011.
12. Corinne Le Quere et al., “Global Carbon Budget 2013,” Earth System Science Data 6 (2014): 253; “Greenhouse Gases Rise by Record Amount,” Associated Press, November 3, 2011.
13. Sally Weintrobe, “The Difficult Problem of Anxiety in Thinking About Climate Change,” in Engaging with Climate Change, ed. Sally Weintrobe (East Sussex: Routledge, 2013). 43.
14. For critical scholarship on the history and politics of the 2 degree target, see: Joni Seager, “Death By Degrees: Taking a Feminist Hard Look at the 2 Degrees Climate Policy,” Kvinder, Køn og Foraksning (Denmark) 18 (2009): 11-22; Christopher Shaw, “Choosing a Dangerous Limit for Climate Change: An Investigation into How the Decision Making Process Is Constructed in
15. “Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century,” World Bank, press release, November 18, 2012.
16. Ibid.; Hans Joachim Schellnhuber et al., “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided,” A Report for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, November 2012, p. xviii; Kevin Anderson, “Climate Change Going Beyond Dangerous—Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope,” Development Dialogue no. 61, September 2012, p. 29.
17. For general overviews synthesizing scientific research on the likely impacts of a 4 degrees C world, refer to Schellnhuber et al., “Turn Down the Heat,” as well as the special theme issue entitled “Four Degrees and Beyond: the Potential for a Global Temperature Increase of Four Degrees and its Implications,” compiled and edited by Mark G. New et al., Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A 369 (2011): 1-241. In 2013, the World Bank released a follow up report exploring the regional impacts of a 4 degree temperature rise, with a focus on Africa and Asia: Hans Joachim Schellnhuber et al., “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience,” A Report for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, June 2013. Even for the most emissions-intensive scenarios that could lead to 4 degrees of warming, IPCC global sea level rise projections are lower than those cited here, but many experts regard them as too conservative. For examples of research informing this passage, see Schellnhuber et al., “Turn Down the Heat,” p. 29; Anders Levermann et al., “The Multimillennial Sea-Level Commitment of Global Warming,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (2013): 13748; Benjamin P. Horton et al., “Expert Assessment of Sea-level Rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300,” Quaternary Science Reviews 84 (2014): 1-6. For more information about the vulnerability of small island nations and coastal areas of Latin America and South and Southeast Asia to sea level rise under “business as usual” and other emissions scenarios (including more optimistic ones), refer to the Working Group II contributions to the 4th and 5th Assessment Reports of the IPCC, both available at http://www.ipcc.ch. See chapters 10, 13, and 16 of M.L. Perry et al., ed., Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); and chapters 24, 27, and 29 of V.R. Barros et al., ed., Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Part B: Regional Aspects, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). On California and the northeastern United States, see Matthew Heberger et al., “Potential Impacts of Increased Coastal Flooding in California Due to Sea-Level Rise,” ClimaticChange 109, Issue 1 Supplement (2011): 229-249; and Asbury H. Sallenger Jr., Kara S. Doran, and Peter A. Howd, “Hotspot of Accelerated Sea-Level Rise on the Atlantic Coast of North America,” Nature Climate Change 2 (2012): 884-888. For a recent analysis of major cities that may be particularly threatened by sea level rise, see: Stephane Hallegatte et al., “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities,” Nature Climate Change 3 (2013): 802-806.
18. For an overview of regional temperature increases associated with a global rise of 4 degrees C or more, see: M.G. Sanderson, D.L. Hemming and R.A. Betts, “Regional Temperature and Precipitation Changes Under High-end ( ≥4°C) Global Warming,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369 (2011): 85-98. See also: “Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia,” Committee on Stabilization Targets for Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, 2011, p. 31; Schellnhuber et al., “Turn Down the Heat,” pp. 37–41. TENS OF THOUSANDS: Jean-Marie Robine et al., “Death Toll Exceeded 70,000 in Europe During the Summer of 2003,” Comptes Rendus Biologies 331 (2008): 171-78; CROP LOSSES: “Climate Stabilization Targets,” National Academy of Sciences, pp. 160–63.
19. ICE -FREE ARCTIC: Ibid., pp. 132–36. VEGETATION: Andrew D. Friend et al., “Carbon Residence Time Dominates Uncertainty in Terrestrial Vegetation Responses to Future Climate and Atmospheric CO2,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (2014): 3280; “4 Degree Temperature Rise Will End Vegetation ‘Carbon Sink,’ ” University of Cambridge, press release,
20. “World Energy Outlook 2011,” International Energy Agency, 2011, p. 40; “World Energy Outlook 2011” (video), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, November 28, 2011; Timothy M. Lenton et al., “Tipping Elements in the Earth’s Climate System,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (2008): 1788; “Too Late for Two Degrees?” Low Carbon Economy Index 2012, PricewaterhouseCoopers, November 2012, p. 1.
21. Lonnie G. Thompson, “Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options,” The Behavior Analyst 33 (2010): 153.
22. I n the U.S., Britain, and Canada, terms for “victory gardens” and “victory bonds” differed between countries and from World War I to World War II; other terms used included “war gardens” and “defense bonds,” for example. Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption, 1939–1955 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 54–55; Amy Bentley, Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 138–39; Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Statement Encouraging Victory Gardens,” April 1, 1944, The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu.
23. Pablo Solón, “Climate Change: We Need to Guarantee the Right to Not Migrate,” Focus on the Global South, http://focusweb.org.
24. Glen P. Peters et al., “Rapid Growth in CO2 Emissions After the 2008–2009 Global Financial Crisis,” Nature Climate Change 2 (2012): 2.
25. Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
26. Corrine Le Quéré et al., “Trends in the Sources and Sinks of Carbon Dioxide,” Nature Geoscience 2 (2009): 831, as cited in Andreas Malm, “China as Chimney of the World: The Fossil Capital Hypothesis,” Organization & Environment 25 (2012): 146; Glen P. Peters et al., “Rapid Growth in CO2 Emissions After the 2008–2009 Global Financial Crisis,” Nature Climate Change 2 (2012): 2.
27. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows, “Beyond ‘Dangerous’ Climate Change: Emission Scenarios for a New World,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369 (2011): 35; Kevin Anderson, “EU 2030 Decarbonisation Targets and UK Carbon Budgets: Why So Little Science?” Kevin Anderson.info, June 14, 2013, http://kevinanderson.info.
28. Gro Harlem Brundtland et al., “Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act,” joint paper by the Blue Planet Prize laureates, The Asahi Glass Foundation, February 20, 2012, p. 7.
29. “World Energy Outlook 2011,” IEA, p. 40; James Herron, “Energy Agency Warns Governments to Take Action Against Global Warming,” Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2011.
30. Personal interview with Henry Red Cloud, June 22, 2011.
31. Gary Stix, “Effective World Government Will Be Needed to Stave Off Climate Catastrophe,” Scientific American, March 17, 2012.
32. Daniel Cusick, “Rapid Climate Changes Turn North Woods into Moose Graveyard,” Scientific American, May 18, 2012; Jim Robbins, “Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists,” New York Times, October 14, 2013.
33. Josh Bavas, “About 100,000 Bats Dead After Heatwave in Southern Queensland,” ABC News (Australia), January 8, 2014.
34. Darryl Fears, “Sea Stars Are Wasting Away in Larger Numbers on a Wider Scale in Two Oceans,” Washington Post, November 22, 2013; Amanda Stupi, “What We Know—And Don’t Know—About the Sea Star Die-Off,” KQED, March 7, 2014.
"The Throwaways": New Film Spotlights Impact of Police Killings and Mass Incarceration in Upstate NY
Amidst national outrage over police brutality across the country, we look at a new film that documents police shootings and the consequences of mass incarceration in upstate New York. The Throwaways focuses on the idea that certain lives in our society are considered disposable. It follows activist and filmmaker Ira McKinley, a former felon, as he seeks to document and mobilize his community of Albany, the state capital of New York.
One of the voices featured in the film is Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness_, who has said of the film, "_The Throwaways courageously explores the most pressing racial justice issue of our time: the mass incarceration and profiling of poor people of color." We're joined by the film's co-directors, Bhawin Suchak and Ira McKinley, who is also the subject of the film, along with Messiah Rhodes, associate producer of The Throwaways and a former Democracy Now! video fellow.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. The past few months have seen protests over police shootings across the country, from Ferguson, Missouri, to Ohio, where John Crawford was shot dead while holding a BB gun in a Wal-Mart, to right here in New York, where Eric Garner died after being placed in an illegal police chokehold in Staten Island. As he shouted, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" he died.
We turn now to a film about the connections between police brutality, mass incarceration and the idea that certain lives in our society are considered disposable. This is a trailer for the new film, The Throwaways.
IRA McKINLEY: They're not even listening to us, and it's going to stop. It's going to stop.
INTERVIEWER: And you gave me your name at the beginning. Can you give it to me one more time and spell it?
IRA McKINLEY: Ira McKinley, I-R-A M-C-K-I-N-L-E-Y.
INTERVIEWER: And how did you identify yourself? Community activist?
IRA McKINLEY: I'm a community activist. They know who I am.
UNIDENTIFIED: I know who he is.
IRA McKINLEY: Yeah, he knows who I am. You can research all that stuff, you know what I'm saying?
INTERVIEWER: All right. Thank you.
IRA McKINLEY: You have a blessed day.
I want to get my community involved. I want to show the people that are being affected the most by these economic crises, these budget cuts, that you can stand up, and you can demand certain things. Everything here is just take, take, take—take away from everything, take away your dignity, take away your self-esteem, take away everything. Even your rights are being taken away—slowly. But I'm standing up.
When I was 14 years old, my father got shot and killed by a police officer. I've been beat up twice. This past summer, I almost got tased. So I know these things happen to those of us of color.
I was told not to do this, because—man said, "They're going to kill you," all this other stuff. And I was like, "Man, what else do I have? What do I got to lose right now? I mean, I'm homeless. I ain't got no job. You know, I'm cold. I'm hungry. What do I have to lose by me speaking out?" I said, "They're killing me already by not speaking out."
VAN JONES: We don't have any throwaway cans. We don't have any throwaway children, either, OK? We don't have any throwaway bottles and cans and paper. We don't have any throwaway neighborhoods, either. That's true environmentalism, because it's all sacred. God didn't make any junk.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: That's ultimately what The Throwaways is all about, right?
IRA McKINLEY: Yes, that's what it is.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Groups of people who are defined as different enough that you don't have to care and can be just thrown away.
ALBANY RESIDENT 1: This is the hood. This is where black people are supposed to—well, we do what we do, but we're supposed to die.
ALBANY RESIDENT 2: People's friends and families is getting shot, killed. [bleep] Everybody in prison. Half the people I grew up with, they in prison right now.
CAROLYN McLAUGHLIN: One at a time, Miss!
SANDRA McKINLEY: They're killing off our kids! They're killing our kids, Carolyn!
UNIDENTIFIED: One at a time!
CAROLYN McLAUGHLIN: Speak one at a time!
COURTNEY: Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!
CAROLYN McLAUGHLIN: Thank you, Courtney [phon.].
CAROLYN McLAUGHLIN: Thank you, Courtney.
COURTNEY: Stop! What the hell, y'all?
UNIDENTIFIED: We angry.
COURTNEY: I know! I'm angry, too!
UNIDENTIFIED: Everybody knew the end of the story before it even started.
IRA McKINLEY: These are whole city blocks—decimated, you know? To me, it's by plan. Yes, I'm saying it. This is a planned thing for gentrification, to get these people out of here. And if you want—make me a liar. Make me a liar. Make me—show me that what I'm saying is not true, by helping us put together some community buildings and getting some jobs for our own community. If you could do that, then I'm a liar.
AMY GOODMAN: That's activist and filmmaker Ira McKinley, the subject and co-director of the new film, The Throwaways. Ira and the film's co-director, Bhawin Suchak, join us in the studio, along with Messiah Rhodes, associate producer of The Throwaways, also a former Democracy Now! video fellow.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Can you talk, Ira, about why you made this film?
IRA McKINLEY: Well, I made this film from my years of after coming out of prison in 2002. I was actually in prison at Arthur Kill in Staten Island, and I was there when the World Trade Center went down. But coming out and years and years of just trying to get back into society. I thought my debt was paid to society after I came out of prison. But just knowing that, like Michelle Alexander talks about, that, you know, you have to—you're always subjected to being, you know, a convict. And just going through my life, you know, being—felt like that nobody really got me and to being thrown away in different situations.
AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to where you talk about this in your film, The Throwaways.
IRA McKINLEY: Before I went to prison, I was addicted to—you know, I was addicted to crack. And, you know, I had to be real about it. And I got addicted to the lifestyle more. I really did. I got addicted to the lifestyle more, and the women, the drugs, all that, you know? So, it got to the point where it got really bad for me, the addiction, that I started robbing bodegas around here. And I got sent to prison for robbing a bodega. It was just a lifestyle of getting that quick fix, and it all is just a vicious cycle.
AMY GOODMAN: In this next clip from The Throwaways, Ira McKinley talks about the struggles he faced after he was released from prison.
IRA McKINLEY: I'm not going to say I always been like this, but, boy, I tell you, for the last 10 years of my life, since I've been out of prison, it's been a reality for me to see how hard the struggle is, you know, that new Jim Crow system, you know, a way of keeping me down, you know. Once you get that felony, you're marked. You can't get food stamps. I went through that. They turned me down for food—how do you turn a homeless person down for food stamps? You know what I'm saying? This is the kind of scams that's being run on the people that are poor.
AMY GOODMAN: That's from the film The Throwaways. Ira McKinley is with us, who is both the subject of it and the co-director. Explain how food stamps works for people who have been in prison.
IRA McKINLEY: You go in, and you try to apply. They have control. It depends on which county you're in. They have control if they want to give it to you or not. And if they don't give it to you, there's a process which you can appeal it. And basically, if they tell you know and you appeal it, you're not going to get it anyways. And so, you know, it's a demeaning process, in the whole thing of coming out, you know, going through the process of trying to get the food stamps to get some food. And, I mean, what can I really say? Because they turned me down, and for like years I didn't have any food stamps. So I had to go to soup kitchens and learn—in different places to eat.
AMY GOODMAN: Bhawin Suchak, you co-directed the film with Ira McKinley. How did you get involved with The Throwaways?
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Yeah, so, you know, my involvement started when Ira literally walked up to me in the street. I run a program called Youth FX, which I teach young people filmmaking.
AMY GOODMAN: Called Youth?
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Youth FX. And I was standing outside the site that we do our summer program, and Ira literally just walked up to me and said, "You're Bhawin, right?" And I said, "Yeah." And he said, "You make films." I said, "Yeah." And he says, "You're going to help me make this film called The Throwaways" And, you know, as you see in the film, Ira is a very outspoken person, and he really goes after what he believes in and what he feels. So, he kind of just, you know, pursued me and said, "You know, this is something that I want to make." And actually, after a few weeks of helping Ira to film of the stories he was documenting, and learning Ira's story himself, you know, being an ex-felon and trying to struggle to sort of have a voice and find himself, you know, as a social justice activist, and how much—you know, how many challenges he was facing, I said, "You know what, Ira? I think your story is really the story we should be focusing on." And, you know, Ira, it was hard for him to get on board, because he didn't want to be in front of the camera, but, you know, after a little bit of coaxing and after visiting Michelle Alexander, who also said, "Ira, you have a powerful story that needs to be told," we actually started turning the camera more on Ira, and he became the focus of the film.
AMY GOODMAN: You had had video training. You trained as a journalist in Western Mass, right?
IRA McKINLEY: Yes, through community television. When I was homeless, sleeping in a tent, I wanted to document my journey. So I put—actually, what happened, I put together a homeless artist showcase one year. Because of me being homeless, I wanted to show the goodness of homeless people. And I wanted to document that. But I lost control of the project, so they said, "Well, if you want to do it, you need to learn how to do it yourself." So I went to Northampton Community Television, and I learned how to film and edit there.
AMY GOODMAN: I was particularly affected by the description of the capital of New York. Many people outside New York might think it's New York City, but it isn't. It's upstate, Albany, New York, where most of the film takes place. In this clip in The Throwaways, we hear from residents about what it's like to live in New York's capital.
ALBANY RESIDENT 3: It's terrible how this is supposed to be the capital, and it seems like the city is very misguided, to the point where there's different areas that's all fixed up, and you're like, "Oh, this is the capital," and then you can go around the corner, and then these buildings look like this. And then, it's a very—from what I understand, it's a very big population of homelessness. It just doesn't seem like it's a community-based capital of New York.
ALBANY RESIDENT 4: The landlords are slum landlords. They live out of town. They don't fix nothing. Nobody lives across the street. Nobody lives down the block. Nobody lives down the block. We have to call National Grid. The lights don't work. It's dark outside. You know what I mean? Come on, it's crazy. They got all this money out here they spend on wars, right? They spend trillions and trillions of dollars on foreign aid for other countries, right? And then over here, where we live at, in our own backyard, it's terrible.
IRA McKINLEY: These are whole city blocks—decimated, you know? To me, it's by plan. Yes, I'm saying it. This is a planned thing for gentrification, to get these people out of here. And if you want—make me a liar. Make me a liar. Make me—show me that what I'm saying is not true, by helping us put together some community buildings and getting some jobs for our own community. If you could do that, then I'm a liar.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, that last voice is Ira McKinley, the subject of this film. But I want to go to another voice, a young resident of Albany, New York.
ALBANY RESIDENT 2: A lot of [bleep] that, you know what I mean, the city do, I don't understand it. This is deserted now. You know what I mean?
IRA McKINLEY: Yeah, yeah.
ALBANY RESIDENT 2: This is deserted. Everybody's in prison, you know what I mean? People's friends and families is getting shot, killed. This one strip alone, used to be a hundred people out, 200 people, up and down the street. You're lucky if you see five people out here right now. There's probably about two houses that people live in on this whole block right here. It's ridiculous. It's got more abandoned houses than anything out here.
AMY GOODMAN: These are voices describing the capital of New York state, Albany. But it could be many cities in this country. Messiah Rhodes, you're the associate producer of The Throwaways. You worked very hard on this, also covered Occupy and were recently in Ferguson. Talk about the connections.
MESSIAH RHODES: Well, the first connection is, I guess, the militarization, like the war on drugs. You know, pretty much my mother, Ira, like pretty much everyone around me have been affected by the war on drugs, incarcerated, faced police raids, you know, and that's the connection I see, when I went down to Ferguson. Also, I went up to Newburgh, New York, which is almost a carbon copy of Albany. It's desolate, desolate, desolate. You know, so that's the connection that I've seen. So...
AMY GOODMAN: Interesting, in Newburgh, in some of the interviews you did, people talked about a food desert.
MESSIAH RHODES: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
MESSIAH RHODES: Some people called it a food apartheid, in the sense that it's like it's kind of planned, you know. In Newburgh, there's only one meat market for a population of about 5,000 people. There's only one homeless shelter, with beds—about 20 beds. So, pretty much people have to like go outside of the community to get food. And because of that, the nutrition is bad. You know, the job prospects are bad. And that's the same thing that's happening in Albany. That's the same thing that was going on in Ferguson. So...
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Ferguson is about the killing of a young black man, a teenager, 18-year-old Mike Brown. At a key moment in the film The Throwaways, there's a police shooting of Nah-Cream Moore. This is a clip from the film of a young man speaking at a makeshift memorial at the scene of the shooting.
ALBANY RESIDENT 5: So, I just wanted to let people know that Nah-Cream was a good, loving kid, man. He was funny as hell. He also knew about what goes on in these streets. So he was a victim of whatever goes on in the streets. I mean, the whole main thing is I want justice—justice for me, justice for him, justice for everybody who it could happen to.
AMY GOODMAN: A climactic moment in The Throwaways takes place when Albany residents attend a police news conference the day after the police shooting of Nah-Cream Moore. Police Chief Steven Krokoff tells a room packed with community members that police were conducting a traffic stop when a struggle ensued, and Nah-Cream Moore went to lift a loaded handgun, leaving police no choice but to shoot him. A woman questions the chief's account.
ALBANY RESIDENT 6: You said that the two officers were—
UNIDENTIFIED: Hey, can we hear, please?
ALBANY RESIDENT 6: You said that the two officers were riding behind the vehicle that Nah-Cream was in. And you said at some point they determined that they were looking for that person. They recognized him from behind? While he was still in the car?
POLICE CHIEF STEVEN KROKOFF: I did not—I don't know yet exactly what led up to the traffic stop.
ALBANY RESIDENT 6: Well, could you repeat what you said?
ALBANY RESIDENT 7: You have trained officers on whatever you had to do. He didn't let off no gun. He didn't shoot at your officer. So you should have been trained to get the gun away from him.
ALBANY RESIDENT 8: That was a kid! He was a kid!
ALBANY RESIDENT 7: You lied! You lied!
ALBANY RESIDENT 8: You ought to be trained for the kids! That was a kid, shot and killed!
POLICE CHIEF STEVEN KROKOFF: We understand, and we are—we feel it. We want—we are part of this community also. We are not against you. We are with you. And we will continue to work with you.
ALBANY RESIDENT 9: The community is here! We're here! The community is here!
POLICE CHIEF STEVEN KROKOFF: I promise you. There are so many people in this room—
ALBANY RESIDENT 10: I have something to say to my community, because this right here now, all of y'all n****s put them guns down! It's about us now! Put the guns down, and let's come together! Let's come together!
CAROLYN McLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Can I just ask—I know everybody was given the opportunity to come here, because we wanted you to hear from the chief himself. Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait a minute! But everybody is speaking at one time! But everybody is speaking at one time! Why don't you give him a chance to answer each question?
SANDRA McKINLEY: They're killing off our kids! They're killing our kids, Carolyn!
AMY GOODMAN: That's activist Sandra McKinley, Ira's sister, interrupting Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, from the film The Throwaways. Messiah, we just recently saw a City Council meeting in Ferguson, you know, after weeks of protests and arrests, tear gas and armored personnel carriers in the streets of Ferguson. Then, the funeral, there was a period of no more protests, and then the protests erupted again, because of the distrust, the anger.
MESSIAH RHODES: Yeah, I mean, when I went down there, Amy, like the first people I talked to was the kids, like, you know, pretty much like—now there's a group called the Lost Voices, but, like, pretty much verbatim they said, like, you know, "You failed us in the '60s. You failed us in the '70s. You failed us in the '90s. You know, and now it's our turn." And these are like kids who have already been in and out of jail like three, four times already. So they're not afraid, and they know what's at stake. So, and that's what I've seen. And you're actually seeing it now, like you saw the highway blocks. We saw what happened in the council meeting. So they're not afraid, you know, and they're willing to fight, because, you know, what happened to Mike Brown, like they had his body laying there for four hours. That could have been anybody.
AMY GOODMAN: Laying on the street, much of the time not covered, outside of the apartment buildings where he was living with his grandmother and so many others lived. At one point in The Throwaways, Ira McKinley actually films his own encounter with police. This clip starts with Ira speaking.
IRA McKINLEY: I was told not to do this, because—man said, "They're going to kill you," all this other stuff. And I was like, "Man, what else do I have? What do I got to lose right now? I mean, I'm homeless. I ain't got no job. You know, I'm cold. I'm hungry. What do I have to lose by me speaking out?" I said, "They're killing me already by not speaking out."
POLICE OFFICER: Back up a few more feet.
IRA McKINLEY: No, I'm not going to back up, bro.
POLICE OFFICER: Back up a few more feet.
IRA McKINLEY: Oh, that's right. Don't touch me. Don't touch me.
POLICE OFFICER: Back up.
IRA McKINLEY: Don't touch me. Don't touch me.
POLICE OFFICER: Back up. [inaudible] right now.
IRA McKINLEY: Don't touch me. I have a right to film you. I have a right to come over here. Don't touch me. Don't touch me. Don't touch me. Don't touch me. Don't touch me. I have a right to film you.
EYEWITNESS: You asked him to back up.
POLICE OFFICER: Step back, or you'll get arrested.
IRA McKINLEY: I backed up.
EYEWITNESS: He's doing what you asked him to do, but you're still walking up on him. Just give him a break.
POLICE OFFICER: So "back up" means to stay right here, not walk up on me.
IRA McKINLEY: Stay right here? And do what?
EYEWITNESS: He did back up. He did what you asked him.
IRA McKINLEY: And do what? Yo, take the film. Take the film. Take the film. Take the film, because I'm about to get arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, that's what happened, Ira McKinley? When was this? And did you get arrested right then?
IRA McKINLEY: This happened—and all this stuff led up, because we were—we'd seen Trayvon. This happened like right after Trayvon. And that right there, in that incident, they had stopped these young men. And we were in a community center right across the street. And I'm looking at it, and I'm like, "Well, why do they got all these cops here for these men?" So I brought my camera out, because I wanted to film what was going on. And so, I went across the street to get a better angle, and that's when they approached me. You know, I guess the felt—you know, when you start filming the cops, they get nervous, so—and that's what you've seen. You know, I just wanted to make sure that they handled that situation with those young men correctly, so I wanted to capture it on film.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you had already been to jail. Were you afraid of being arrested.
IRA McKINLEY: No. No, I've been—Amy, I get stopped and arrested like—since this, since we've been there, I've been stopped and arrested, charged with things, about 10 times. I have a case in Albany, New York, right now that I have to go through. But I'm not scared to get arrested, because that's part of it, you know what I'm saying, to stand up to it, you know what I'm saying, and to have your voice.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, it's about filming. I wanted to go to an earlier time in this next clip in The Throwaways where you talk about a much earlier encounter with the police, during a time before cellphone cameras.
IRA McKINLEY: On New Year's Day, in January of 1989, I was charged with disorderly conduct, secondary assault. I was actually beaten up by the police. We didn't have any video cameras like we do today. This happened two years before Rodney King, the video of him being beaten up by the police. That was my first-ever arrest that night; I had never been arrested before in my life. By the time I went to trial, I had been arrested 10 more times.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Ira McKinley in The Throwaways. Ira McKinley, with us here, the issue of police shootings goes way back in your family.
IRA McKINLEY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your father. What happened?
IRA McKINLEY: My father came from—first, I want to say he was a migrant worker, and he brought us up into Ithaca from the South and to give us a better education, during the civil rights movement. In 1979, he went back down to Florida and got into an altercation with a police officer, and he got shot and killed, when I was like 14 years old at the time. But—
AMY GOODMAN: So you lost your father at 14.
IRA McKINLEY: Yes, I lost—yes, at 14. But if you were to—the thing I want to connect it to was the Miami riots. So the next year, there was a bunch of police shootings, in 1980, and he was one of the statistics of why they rioted in Miami in 1980.
AMY GOODMAN: So let's go to the bigger picture, which you do very well in this film, in The Throwaways, to Michelle Alexander, a frequent guest on Democracy Now!, the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Actually, in this clip, she's speaking to you, Ira McKinley, this from The Throwaways.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: The system of mass incarceration itself stems from an effort to divide people along racial lines, poor people along racial lines, keeping them divided and distracted. It is in many ways a backlash against the poor people's movement and the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King launched. You know, as I describe in my book, the get-tough movement in the war on drugs was part of a deliberate strategy adopted by the Republican Party in an effort to appeal to poor and working-class white voters who were anxious about, threatened by many of the gains that were made by African Americans in the civil rights movement. And pollsters and political strategists found that get-tough rhetoric on issues of crime and welfare could appeal to poor and working-class whites and pit poor and working-class whites against poor folks of color. And that's ultimately what The Throwaways is all about, right?
IRA McKINLEY: Yes, that's what it is.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Groups of people who are defined as different enough that you don't have to care and can be just thrown away.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, speaking to the subject of The Throwaways, Ira McKinley, co-directed by Bhawin Suchak. Bhawin, talk more about putting this in this global context, and particularly how this relates to Ferguson.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that's interesting when we show the film is that we screen it, and some people say, "Well, you're talking about mass incarceration and then talking about police brutality. There's too much going on. What's the connection?" And I think that, you know, it's interesting for people who are living in poor communities, predominantly African-American communities, that connection is very visible, because you see it every day. And I think, you know, Ferguson is just a perfect example of the sort of—you know, the storm of circumstances that collided, because Mike Brown was a tipping point for that community, because this is a community that's 70 percent African-American that has no representation in their city government and has been consistently and systematically, you know, abused by policies, by traffic stops and things like that, that result in—the increase in fines result in people having bench warrants, having police knock down their doors and take them to jail, continuously. I mean, three arrest warrants per household in 2011 was some of the statistics. And so, you see that—
AMY GOODMAN: One of the highest in the country.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: Their statistics are off the chart.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: It's completely, you know, the same as comparing the sort of racist policies of the drug war, that have decimated black communities across this country for decades, you know. And I think that when you see that coupled with the cops coming out and treating people through racial profiling and stop-and-frisk, and then just coming after people and abusing their rights, and then taking it that last step to shoot people and choke Eric Garner—on video. You know, John Crawford, it's been revealed that—you know, the video has not been released, but that he was simply just standing there in the Wal-Mart, in an open-carry state, but as a black man, he was immediately viewed as a threat. And I think that's the concept of a—
AMY GOODMAN: He was holding one of their products.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: One of their products, right.
AMY GOODMAN: The plastic gun in the store—
BHAWIN SUCHAK: A plastic BB gun, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: —in an aisle.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Right. And now the so-called witness is recanting his story—
AMY GOODMAN: And they killed him.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: —saying he never pointed at anybody, that that was completely fabricated. But again, it's like—you know, it's the same thing we're talking about with the film, is that, you know, black people, specifically black men, are viewed as throwaways. They are not—their humanity is not as valued as other people in the society. And I think that is at the core of the film, The Throwaways. And that's where, to me, mass incarceration and police brutality intersect.
AMY GOODMAN: Messiah, you and I covered the protests around Eric Garner's death, right after we were in Ferguson. That was on Staten Island. And there—and this goes to your and Ira's work and, as well, Bhawin's work with filmmaking and the power of the camera, because when we were at the site of the death of Eric Garner, 43-year-old father of six who was taken down in a police chokehold in front of a beauty spa, we saw Ramsey Orta, the young man who had filmed that encounter with police, filmed the death of Eric Garner with his cellphone. And right after the coroner announced that this was a homicide, first Ramsey Orta, then his wife Chrissie, who we also saw, were arrested—the people who did the filming. Can you talk about your own experience with being a videographer, a journalist, covering these issues?
MESSIAH RHODES: Yeah, I've had, I think, two sound recorders broken by police. I mean, I haven't been arrested. I just have—I was visited by counterterrorism FBI in 2008. And I was just doing an outline for a documentary, and I got visited by them. They're asking questions like "Who were you talking to? Who are you?" So I faced that kind of repression. I faced random cops asking me questions at a march. So I face that kind of stuff, you know? And as a filmmaker, and also just someone who has like a cellphone with a camera, you know, we shouldn't be afraid to film the police.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how you came to become a videographer, how you came to use filmmaking as a way of documenting communities.
MESSIAH RHODES: I mean, I guess growing up in Far Rockaway and growing up in a place that—now people know about Far Rockaway because of Hurricane Sandy and stuff, but before, no one knew what was going on in this town. And I just felt these stories, these amazing people, these strong people here, who are surviving such repression, such poverty, their voices need to be heard. And I started working doing stuff a little before Occupy. You know, there was like an occupation in Albany. There was Bloombergville, the two-week-and-a-half thing against Bloomberg. You know, he's out of here now, so that's good.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn to use a video camera?
MESSIAH RHODES: Oh, on my own. I mean, I started doing grip and electric work on film sets, and eventually I saved up money to get my own equipment. So, and then I just went out there.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Ira got to this community media center in Western Mass. What was the center for you?
MESSIAH RHODES: The center for me was DCTV, so that's where I went to get my—first saw the equipment.
AMY GOODMAN: A community media center in New York, where Democracy Now! also used to broadcast from.
MESSIAH RHODES: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: So it's these open centers where anyone can come in and learn how to use a camera that have—
IRA McKINLEY: You don't have to go to a film school. You can—you know, like community television. I think—was this a community television before? Yes, and see how it grew? And the same thing with us. And what, you know, Bhawin, with his Youth FX, and he learned how to do it, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, that's FX, like the letter F, X.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Yes.
IRA McKINLEY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain why it's called Youth FX.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Well, I mean, the FX is sort of like an acronym. It's like "film experience." But really what it is, it's about immersing youth from underresourced communities and giving them—providing them the tools and the training to become filmmakers, to become, you know, people who are going to document things that are going on in their community, because for these communities, a lot of young people, it's like they're not—they're not seeing themselves on television. They're not seeing themselves represented in films and in television shows. And when they do, often it's very stereotyped, you know. So what we do is we sort of—you know, we're trying to give them the power to learn how to use the cameras, learn how to edit. They actually do narrative short films and documentaries. And some of the stuff has been all over the country. And, you know, for a lot of them, it's like they're sick and tired of seeing all the negativity, and they want to show something positive. So that's really what we're trying to do with the program, is empower them in that way.
AMY GOODMAN: It's a new weapon.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: It is a new weapon, absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Van Jones, the environmental advocate, President Obama's former green jobs czar, filmed in The Throwaways.
VAN JONES: The true environmental movement, there's no distinction between social justice and ecology. The true environmental movement says we don't have any throwaway cans. We don't have any throwaway children, either, OK? We don't have any throwaway bottles and cans and paper. We don't have any throwaway neighborhoods, either. That's true environmentalism, because it's all sacred. God didn't make any junk. OK? That's true environmentalism. So, this generation is going to have to tear down the distinction between human rights and ecology. If it's consistent, you can't be for people and be against the planet; you can't be for the planet and be against the people.
AMY GOODMAN: Van Jones. Ira McKinley, you named the film The Throwaways.
IRA McKINLEY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how it links to the environmental movement.
IRA McKINLEY: Well, like we're saying, we have—we're living in a food desert. In a lot of ghettos, that's what's happening. And there's a way for us to get the nutritional value that we need—by growing our own food. And see, that, to me, is the solution to a lot of these issues that we're having. That's a trade that—you know, that's what I'm saying with migrant workers. That's something my family was doing from way, way back. And we—in this new age of technology, we lost that. But we need to learn to use those vacant lots and all these other, you know, rooftop gardens, and, you know, just to have food that we could grow our own food.
There's things that I'm hooked up with, like Ted—Ron Finley, Ron Finley, the guerrilla gardener; Will Allen out of Milwaukee. There's Leah and—Leah Penniman and Jonah Vitale-Wolff, Soul Fire Farms. And we need to go and teach people how to grow food again. As you understand, Obama cut the food stamp bill by a considerable amount. And that is—that's something that's going to relate to how we're going to be able to eat. So, the thing is, is like we need to get back to our planet and back to the environment, by planting seeds again. And I want to—you know, so there's a big movement going on right now. And the movement is—it's also collaborating together with the New Jim Crow out of Riverside Church and other organizations—like I said, Ron Finley, the Growing Power in Chicago, and Erika Allen and Will Allen, and just growing food.
AMY GOODMAN: Does this make you hopeful?
IRA McKINLEY: Yes, it does. It really does make me hopeful, because right now I'm learning to grow, too. I'm in the process of—at a person's house in Corning, New York, and we're growing food, Arthur and Renata Brenner, and learning how—you know, how chickens in the environment, and how composting, and just how these things work. And, you know—and to grow seeds and to see it grow from a seed to a plant and to, you know, a fruit, that's something that's beautiful.
AMY GOODMAN: Bhawin, how are you hoping to—what are you hoping to accomplish with The Throwaways, and where are you showing it?
BHAWIN SUCHAK: Yeah, so, you know, I mean, I think the thing with The Throwaways, at this point, we're finishing. We're trying to—you know, we're screening it in as many places—
AMY GOODMAN: It just screened at the Harlem Film Festival.
BHAWIN SUCHAK: We were just at the Harlem International Film Festival this past weekend. Two weeks ago, we were at Long Beach Indie Film Festival, where we won best documentary feature there. And hopefully we'll be doing a week in L.A. screening it there. We're going to be in Colgate University and then in Toronto on Wednesday. Actually, it's a special screening for high school students who are from communities that are represented in the film.
But ultimately, for me, it's like, you know, as a filmmaker and someone that's documenting these stories and these communities, I think it's important to put a human face to these issues and to humanize, you know, the stories, because ultimately, you know, when we don't have a connection with people and with certain communities, we don't care about them, and they become invisible and throwaways to people, you know? And I think I'm hopeful because what I see in this film is not just, you know, the tragedy of Nah-Cream Moore and the sadness and despair of a community, but I see a community that's fighting back, you know, and that has some hope and is not going to sit there and not—they're going to have their voice. And I think we see that happening in Ferguson right now with the young people raising their voices up, too.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Messiah, you've made a number of films, from editing Wounds of Waziristan about drone attacks in Pakistan. You were in Ferguson, doing this film in Albany, at Occupy and all around dealing with brutality. Do you hold out hope?
MESSIAH RHODES: Yeah. Yeah, I hold hope. I mean, at the screening last night, there was—Ira brought up about Palestine, and we had one Palestinian that was there. Like, you know, it felt so good that we were able to connect anti-blackness to what's going on in Gaza and Palestine. And I feel like internationalism is what we're trying to regain, what was going on in the '70s and stuff, like to regain that kind of solidarity with people all over the world who deal with white supremacy and deal with this type of oppression. And also, a shout-out to co-producer Adele. She's working on a piece now about nails and the nail industry and the Vietnam War and stuff like that. And yeah, because like drone strikes, you know, militarization of police, that's all the same thing. I mean, they're all using the same hardware. It's stop-and-frisk, and it's stop-and-bomb.
IRA McKINLEY: I really would like to thank Michelle Alexander, because we cold-called her, and she picked up the phone, and I told her about what I was doing, and she jumped right on it. And it's people like her and Dr. Wilmer Leon and the people that, you know, seen this from the beginning that gave us and empowered us to keep—to continue and make this film.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ira McKinley and Bhawin Suchak, thank you so much for being with us, the co-directors of the film, The Throwaways. And Messiah Rhodes, associate producer of this film. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.
The voice from the left on PBS wants a serious debate over Obama's war plan--but also makes it clear that airstrikes are great.
Here's what A.O. Scott's lamentation about adulthood in pop culture misses: our economic transformation.
In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, film critic A.O. Scott writes an extended and provocative diagnosis of what he calls “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” It’s a topic Scott addresses with considerable erudition and impressive range, stretching and shaping the idea so that it encompasses the final half-season of “Mad Men,” Leslie Fiedler’s critical study “Love and Death in the American Novel” – a reference that marks Scott (as it marks me) as a literary nerd of a particular generation – the rise of underappreciated TV feminism, and the inarguable fact that “young-adult” fiction has become a deceptive term of art, since it’s widely read by actual adults.
Scott is too smart to get trapped by the most obvious pitfalls in this kind of borderline-reactionary cultural jeremiad, a set of pitfalls that can be summarized with the brain-deadening phrase “David Brooks.” He’s aware that by rooting his essay in the (presumed) impending demise of Don Draper, Jon Hamm’s character in “Mad Men,” he risks defining “adulthood” in terms of a certain model of mid-century masculinity, a model simultaneously mocked and idolized by that show and the model that men of Scott’s generation and mine were raised to aspire to, or to reject, or to do both at once. Scott includes several paragraphs on the transformative force of feminism in contemporary culture, and correctly notes that in retrospect “Sex and the City” may have been the most important TV series of the 2000s. (I should say here that I’m on cordial terms with Scott, but don’t know him all that well.)
You can almost feel Scott manfully struggling to resist lamenting the fact that no one knows how to dress for dinner anymore, or how to mix a cocktail that isn’t some funny color. Even as he complains about middle-aged men wearing flip-flops, or female colleagues wearing plastic barrettes in their hair (the horror!), he tries to fend off charges that he’s a “scold, snob or curmudgeon” with self-mockery, admitting that his instinctual responses to such phenomena are “absurd,” “impotent” and “out of touch.” His piece is full of astute “aha” moments – I particularly admire the connection he draws between the man-child heroes of classic American literature, the anxious bro-comedies of Judd Apatow et al., and the critique of male privilege embedded in the persona of Louis C.K. But by the end he finds himself pinned on the horns of a dilemma, clearly displeased with “the general immaturity of contemporary culture” but not quite willing to reject its ethos of perennial liberation, borderless exploration and “perpetual flux,” no doubt for fear of looking like a hopeless troglodyte.
This fundamental confusion and ambivalence reflects a deep-seated blind spot, I would argue, one that’s endemic to the culture-vulture trade. Scott carefully anatomizes the trees but misses the forest, or to speak more precisely ignores the condition of the soil. There really is something beneath his “death of adulthood” premise, whether or not you like the prejudicial phrase. But to coin a phrase: It’s the economy, stupid. Scott’s essay appears to treat “culture” as a sealed and self-referential system, one that shapes and reflects human consciousness but has only an incidental relationship with economic, political and social factors that lie outside its purview. We have moved so far from the old Marxist view of culture as an ideological “superstructure” erected upon the economic base of society that we now pretend it’s an entirely autonomous force, or a mystical-cum-psychological shadow play that gives “human shape to our collective anxieties and aspirations,” in Scott’s phrase. There are clues in his article suggesting that he doesn’t entirely buy that, and we need to remember that he works at the Times, where critics are not encouraged to venture into contentious ideological terrain or to suggest that they may have political opinions.
Well, if Scott gets to play frustrated English professor in his article, I get to play former college Marxist in mine, and insist that sometimes economic forces really do shape the cultural zone. Real wages have fallen since Don Draper’s heyday, especially for American men and double-especially for the middle-class and working-class white men who were once the bulwarks of the mid-century model of adulthood. We now live in a culture (using the word in its anthropological sense) of diminished expectations and permanent underemployment, where many or most young people will never be as affluent as their parents. Lifetime job security is an antediluvian delusion, and in many metropolitan areas home ownership is out of reach for all but the rich. It’s just as useless to object to those changes as it is to complain about grownups reading Harry Potter books, but certainly those things were the essential underpinnings of classic adulthood, and without them it’s no surprise to see the old order fading away.
It’s all very well to discuss feminism as a force of cultural liberation expressed by Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham, but for millions of women in the Western world it has also been an economic imperative, one that set them free from some (but not all) traditional expectations and thrust them into a job marketplace where they are often underpaid relative to their male counterparts. This is too complicated an argument to develop here, but I suspect that the “death of adulthood” is so much more evident among men than women because women are still called upon to perform productive labor – the bearing and nurturing of children – that cannot be or generally is not performed by men. In that sense the death of adulthood is just another name for the fabled “crisis of masculinity” we’ve been hearing about for 30 years or longer, in which men often feel that their power has been undermined by ball-busting feminists when what’s really happening is that their economic role has changed and they don’t know what the hell to do about it.
With the outsourcing of most traditional manufacturing jobs and the rise of the service economy, in which most people who work stare into a screen all day — whether they work at Target or on Wall Street — has come a set of cultural shifts Scott does not mention. Work and entertainment exist on a continuum with no clear dividing line between the two, and the distinction between producer and consumer has become confused. Indeed, an individual citizen’s most important economic role, in the post-industrial West, is that of a consumer, inhaling goods, products, services and entertainment, as much of that as possible delivered electronically or shipped to your door. (Consumption power has grown even as real income has fallen and inequality has grown, one of the many paradoxes in late capitalism.) Being a producer in the old-fashioned sense comes second if it comes at all. Many of us — myself and A.O. Scott very much included — produce things that aren’t even things, and whose exchange-value and social utility are nebulous at best.
I shouldn’t overstate matters by claiming that consumption is an entirely passive activity, and risk a torrent of angry missives from the downtrodden cultural-studies majors of the earth. But to use Scott’s schema, the old-style masculine adult clearly thought of himself as productive first and foremost, even if (like Don Draper) he was actually a species of cultural parasite. The consumer, on the other hand, is a distinctly childlike figure, a dependent who demands pleasurable stimulus 24/7 from the comforting and/or imprisoning info-bubble around him. “The elevation of every individual’s inarguable likes and dislikes over formal critical discourse, the unassailable ascendancy of the fan, has made children of us all,” Scott writes. “We have our favorite toys, books, movies, video games, songs, and we are as apt to turn to them for comfort as for challenge or enlightenment.”
He is right that this happened, but he doesn’t appear to see (or doesn’t want to say) exactly how and why it happened. The suit-wearing, gin-drinking 35-year-old Organization Man of 1964 and the couch-bound, action-figure-collecting 35-year-old fanboy of 2014 are dialectical mirror images of each other, economic archetypes called forth by their respective eras. The freedom and autonomy each perceives in himself is better described by some other term, a force of compulsion or overdetermination (there’s the college Marxism again) that disguises itself as liberation from the stodginess of yesteryear. For better or worse, the “crisis of authority” Scott sees in contemporary culture is not a matter of “choosing” to emulate childhood long into adulthood, or to read J.K. Rowling instead of Philip Roth. (A choice for which I cannot blame anyone!) It’s the latest manifestation of the corrosive, creative and revolutionary force of capitalism, which may or may not be in terminal decline but continues to shape us into its instruments.
Consumers Union calls on FCC to support stronger net neutrality rules, apply equal standards to wireless and wired services
WASHINGTON, DC – In comments filed today at the Federal Communications Commission, Consumers Union called on the FCC to support stronger net neutrality rules, saying the same protections should be applied equally to wireless Internet networks and fixed, wired Internet services.
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has long argued that the best way for the FCC to restore the principles of net neutrality is to reclassify broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act. This would help protect against practices that harm consumers and competition, and help ensure consumers can reap the benefits of an affordable and accessible Internet. Open Internet standards for wired services should apply to wireless networks as well, especially as more consumers use mobile devices to access the Internet, the group said.
“Consumers deserve strong net neutrality protections whether they access content online from a computer or from a mobile phone,” said Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, in today’s filing. “Our concerns regarding mobile broadband are not unlike those in the fixed Internet-service-provider marketplace. With enormous subscriber bases and control over the means by which content reaches consumers, the largest wireless carriers are in a prime position to exert leverage over smaller competitors, app developers, and consumers, with the power to dictate how consumers can receive content, and what prices they must pay.”
The FCC collected initial comments on its proposed Open Internet rules this past summer. Today marks the deadline for replies to those initial comments. Consumers Union’s reply comments today are available here. Its initial FCC filing from July is online here.
Ms. Derakhshani will participate in the FCC’s Open Internet Roundtable Discussion about the application of net neutrality rules to mobile broadband on September 16 at FCC’s headquarters. More information about the roundtable is available here.
A key element in the shift in US public opinion toward attacking ISIS is the idea that the country could be attacked by the group. Where do people get this idea? TV news might be one place.
CBS host Bob Schieffer believes that ISIS poses a threat to the American "homeland" and tells viewers: "This evil must be eradicated. These forces must be destroyed."
Celebrated independent journalist joins AlterNet's stable of writers.
AlterNet is pleased to announce that the accomplished independent journalist Max Blumenthal has come aboard in the role of senior writer. AlterNet and Blumenthal have an editorial relationship dating back to 2004, and he has emerged as one of our most popular writers. We have published dozens of Blumenthal's investigative reports on issues ranging from the influence of the Christian right to police brutality and his current area of focus, the Israel-Palestine crisis.
Fresh off the success of his most recent book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, Blumenthal will focus on the deepening crisis in the Middle East and its role in shaping political dynamics and public opinion in the US, particularly the special relationship with Israel. He will also continue his occasional investigative coverage of essential domestic political issues from corporate media consolidation to education privatization. Blumenthal has published a number of important stories for AlterNet this year, from an exclusive expose about the breakdown in relations between Obama and Muslim Americans to an inside account on how MSNBC stifled discussion of Israel's assault on Gaza from a Palestinian perspective. Most recently, he began a series of on-the-ground reports from the Gaza Strip, gathering exclusive testimonies from victims of previously undocumented war crimes.