Occupy Theory has decided to set up weekly themed assemblies. Like Barcelona, only with about 39,900 fewer people: so come along, Sunday at noon in Washington Square Park. So I’m supposed to come up with some discussion ideas on climate and the commons, and thought I might try them out here. They have to be short so it can go on one side of paper. Please comment! Too depressing? Not depressing enough? Clear? not so much? what else should be here? FB, email, carrier pigeon, even here on the blog.
Ideas and Actions
1. In the seventeenth century, English revolutionaries declared “the earth a common treasury for all.” Climate change is the polite name for the one percent robbing the commons. The overdeveloped world as a whole is the “one percent” in relation to the dominated world.
2. Capitalism began with the enclosure of the commons and continues to expand today through the fossil fuel and mining industries. All these actions were and are thefts from the commons. To stop climate change, we have to stop neoliberal capitalism. It is a political choice, not an argument as to who is right or wrong about data.
3. What we call the climate and the economy are both complex systems with real effects. Since the beginning of the industrial era, what we call climate has become the product of the economy. This includes temperature, rainfall, sea levels, drought, ice melt, species extinction, flooding, and other variations in formerly stable conditions.
4. There are no longer such things as nature or the environment. You can argue if there ever were but human action in the industrial era has transformed everything that there is, from the rocks to the air: it is real in the sense that it exists and artificial in the sense that humans made it. What we also now know is that it will do so until it is made to desist.
It’s a Good Thing
1. The response to the neo-liberal destruction of the commons will open a new age of leisure for all. Automated production powered by renewable energy can sustain our needs, including modern conveniences and medicines, without the built-in obsolescence, waste and endless debt-slavery of the current system.
2. For half a millennium, priests, colonizers, industrialists and moralizers of all stripes have been bemoaning the laziness of the common people, while extolling the leisure required by the monk, the scholar and the aristocrat. Reclaiming the commons opens the contemplative life to all those who might want it and ends the necessity of pointless labor.
Another World Is Necessary
1. Agriculture and non-nomadic settlement became possible during a geologically brief window that we are now closing. You can measure it: 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere allowed for the climate our parents remember. Right now we’re at 393 or so. The International Energy Authority says that we’ve already used all the extra fossil fuels that will take us up to 450 parts per million at which point no one really knows what will happen. It has to stop.
2. The Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan flooded last year for the simple reason that there is now more water in the Western Pacific than there used to be thanks to climate change. High sea-level events like tsunamis and hurricanes multiply small sea-level rises by factors of up to 10,000. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced this in Delhi. No Western media reported it.
3. Conservative estimates predict that such sea-level rise will mean 33 million people in the U.S. will have to move, part of 250 million worldwide. That’s one in ten of the current U. S. population. Live in New York? That’s you. And me.
4. Flooding is first affecting the island cultures of the Pacific (see the island of Huni above, divided in two). Indigenous peoples have created the least emissions and are paying the highest price. One-third of the world’s existing spoken languages are found in this region. Capitalism is stealing our cultural commons as well as the air, sea and land. It’s ours and we want it back.