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One of the main reasons our era is faced with intractable environmental problems is that we tend to look at the world with capitalist eyes, as an ensemble of commodities.  Specifically, our world is forced into a cycle of commodities, in which the ultimate end of things is determined not by regeneration but by commodification.  When something can no longer be a commodity, then, it is "externalized" -- made into trash.  This diary will explore the cycle of commodities, and suggest an alternative way which doesn't present such intractable environmental problems.

(crossposted at Docudharma)

The standard corporate perspective upon planet Earth is marked by the compulsion to sell commodities.  Everything upon Earth, then, is a potential commodity, to be sold to those who have money to buy.  

So how is this a problem?

Let's take a look, again, at that tight little graph I displayed on this diary (and numerous others).  

Remember that current CO2 levels are off the charts, and they're headed rapidly in the "further off the charts" direction.  In about 15 to 20 years, barring some great turnaround in fortunes, we will have catastrophic global warming.  This situation will persist for another, say, 100,000 years.  Can you wait?  The end result will be the breakdown of civilization, at least partially.  The phenomena described in Jill Richardson's rec'd diary are just a very small start for what is to come.

It's also good to remember that abrupt climate change is only the tip of the (melting) iceberg when it comes to human-caused ecological problems.  Deforestation, overfishing, species loss, desertification, and so on.

At any rate, whenever I bring up this state of affairs, the common response is that there is really no political will to do anything about abrupt climate change.  Of course, the problem with political will is that the "progressives," the people who ought to know better, do not know how to produce it.  "Progressives" are handicapped by "progressive ideology," which ensures that their resistance to the neoliberal monster eating the world is half-hearted.  Thus "progressives" vote for neoliberals: Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama.  Thus also we see these dawning realizations diaried daily here at "I feel so betrayed!!"  It's been twenty years of betrayal now.  When do you get out of "I feel so betrayed!!" and into "we need to do our homework"?

At any rate, in a diary I wrote in July, I confronted the situation of political will and no climate change legislation.  My suggestion was that the push to do something about climate change needed to be seriously rethought.  We need to "develop the critical mass necessary to change world society."

Here I will argue something even deeper.  To achieve this critical mass, we need to effect a sea-change in public opinion, resulting in a new orientation toward the world and toward life.  The model which needs to be rejected is called the cycle of commodities, and it details the forms in which capitalism fits the world, according to capitalist ideology.  In it:

The world is seen as a collection of natural resources.  Thus everything in the world is imagined as a "resource," something to be used for extraction.  This way of looking at the world presumes an elemental separation from nature, in which the reality of the human species as a production of the natural world, dependent upon the natural world, and going back to the natural world in death, is collectively ignored.  But here we are taking about the cycle of commodities, in which the commodity stamp is endlessly reimposed upon the world, so that the world can be bought and sold for profit.  In the cycle of commodities, natural resources, then, become --

raw materials.  As Marx showed at the beginning of volume 1 of Capital, when we conceive of something as a raw material, be it cotton or iron or water or corn, it's already a commodity.  In Capital, when Marx talked about labor being applied to raw materials to produce finished products, he was merely following the great masters of political economy: Adam Smith, David Ricardo.  So the next step in the cycle of commodities is the:

finished product.  Finished products are indeed the raison d'etre of the cycle of commodities, for the reason (of course) that they fetch the highest prices.  They're the products you see in the stores.  Invariably, however, the lifetimes of finished products are limited ones, and finished products become --

trash.  The uniform response of capital to trash, pollution, or waste of any sort is to externalize it.  Waste products must be gotten out of the way so that businesses do not have to pay money or attention to them.

The result of the endless amplification of the cycle of commodities is that the world is more and more becoming a repository of trash.  Here's the situation with plastic:

If you're keeping score of all the trash, you might also want to add the incredible quantities of carbon dioxide the human race has put into the atmosphere by burning Earth's endowment of fossil fuels.  It takes a LOT of carbon-burning (over at least a couple of centuries, mind you) to increase atmospheric carbon dioxide by 40%, but that's what has happened.

Now, there is (of course) an attempt within the capitalist system to mitigate the commodity cycle, to make its end products less onerous, through recycling.  Recycling, however, will only restore raw materials -- it won't bring natural resources, much less nature, back into existence.  Recycled raw materials, moreover, often make poor commodities because the cost of recycling often outstrips the value of the reclaimed materials.  Take a look, for instance, at newspaper recycling in America -- where is it really "worth it" to recycle newspaper?

At any rate, the political sea-change we need will have to be undergirded by a sea-change in human thought -- a paradigm shift, if you will.  Environmentalism has, up until now, attempted to do without this paradigm shift -- and gotten itself lost as a result.  Increasing efficiency is an alibi; the problem is not that it takes a lot of energy to do X amount of activity, but that there really are no limits on the amount of activity dreamed by the capitalists, and so to "save the Earth" you have to take the Earth, bit by bit, out of the cycle of commodities.  Hybrid vehicles, for instance, still consume gasoline, and add to the sum total of Earth's fossil fueled vehicles (and thus their pollution) at any rate.  "Alternative energy" will, unless there is a sea-change, prove to be a mere supplement to fossil energy.  Regulation will at best only temporarily restrain the hungry machines which would destroy Earth for profit if only the resulting destruction would produce a beautiful quarterly corporate report.

The alternative paradigm will, of course, focus upon ecology, and the alternative cycle is of course the cycle of life.  We move from birth through life to death, and then into regenerative capacities -- reproduction, decay, and so on.  We need an economy which promotes the proliferation of life.  For thousands of years, human beings managed the ecosystems in which they lived, albeit more or less haphazardly; today we need an economy which will refocus upon ecosystems management for the long run.

Our relations to the world will have to be reconceptualized, then, as a collective management of ecosystems.  We will need a radical perspective, looking for fundamental changes in belief and practice.  New values will include:

Biodiversity -- this is the topic of a science called "conservation biology," and it relates to the ability of human beings to manage ecosystems while allowing for large animal and plant habitats.  Biodiversity needs to be important now because ecosystems simplification can have unfortunate consequences.  Education, then, is the route to biodiversity -- we need educational institutions which will enable future generations to celebrate biodiversity, and the animal and plant habitats which make it possible.

Throughput -- this is the ability of human beings to reintegrate raw materials rather than merely externalizing them as "waste."  Throughput will become more and more important as a principle as the side effects of the capitalist system's wastes dominate planet Earth.  Everything we use for purposes of daily living will have to have throughput considerations installed, so that trash and pollution are put to a final end.

Use-value as opposed to exchange-value -- Joel Kovel makes a lot of this distinction in The Enemy of Nature, favoring production directly for use as opposed to production for an anonymous "free market."  This will become more important as "exchange" founders as an organizing principle for society.  To be clear, what is being proposed by Kovel and others is the substitution of democratic planning for planning by a political oligarchy which uses marketplaces as a means of extraction, which is what we have now.  We can promote use-values by creating networks of production for direct use -- Food Not Bombs is the one in which I'm involved.

***** Conclusion: denial is more realistic *****

I am sure that this diary will be dismissed by much of the crowd here at Orange as "unrealistic."  I doubt that it will get many readers.

The question I want to raise, though, is one of our interest in a real solution to abrupt climate change.  The "establishment" response to the phenomenon is one of 1) against denial and 2) restoring faith in the existing system.  But the existing system doesn't deserve our faith -- thus such faith needs to be spelled out so that it can be repudiated, and a new way of looking at things (this time not necessarily so faithful) can be eventually adopted.

On balance, the Republican deniers have a better way.  You might as well be a denier, disbelieving in global warming until the famine, the drought, or other weather phenomenon finally wipes you out.  If you're not really going to do anything proactive, you might as well believe in fairies and unicorns, or the second coming of "Jeeeezus" or whatever.  The fact that you have sacrificed your children to this reality is nothing, because they're going up in the Rapture too.

Torturing yourself with the idea of global warming, while limiting your purview to ineffective measures, is the surest route to unhappiness.  I honestly don't see how the environmentalists who commonly post here at DKos do it.  Carbon taxes will be unpopular, because "realism" in this era demands that only the poor and so-called "middle classes" be taxed.  Cap-and-trade is a scam, as I've pointed out in at least a couple of diaries -- and then there's the piece in Harper's of last February.  In the end, nobody is going to want to embrace this path -- it will be twisted around by DC insiders until it becomes a plan for saving neoliberal elites while tossing the world overboard.  Your children will not forgive you for adopting this path.

I suppose there is an intermediate path, which understands that with the current state of affairs we're doomed, but which seeks to celebrate life while we've still got something left to celebrate.  This is perhaps more rational than either of the above two approaches, but you can see where it ultimately leads.  (Of course, if you choose this path, don't have children; oh well, too late.)  There is really no point in believing that we're doomed; those who choose this path will ultimately choose to forget about global warming, having given up on real solutions.  There is no point in paying sustained attention to phenomena which you can do nothing about, unless it's pretty stuff like stars in astronomy, or Justin Bieber or America Ferrera or whatever.

So if you're going to think about global warming at all, you might as well think big, and adopt a radical position.  What I've suggested, above, eviscerates the capitalist view of the world, and suggests an alternative, proactive approach in place of what is essentially nothing.

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 11:36 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If you haven't done so already (22+ / 0-)

    please go visit Jill Richardson's diary and then come back here.

    "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

    by Cassiodorus on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 11:30:28 AM PDT

  •  As what you call a "neoliberal" I fully agree (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, WarrenS, soothsayer99

    with you about the cycle of commodities and the exorbitant unsustainable external costs.

    But what you propose is 100% disruptive and thus has no chance of being implemented.

    Good diary.  Maybe its time for another mass extinction.

    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

    by shrike on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 11:47:56 AM PDT

    •  As long as it's mere "other people" (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      potatohead, WarrenS, shaharazade, Edger

      whose lives are extinguished, right?

      Got kids?

      "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 12:01:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And of course I do appreciate your praise (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      potatohead, WarrenS, shaharazade, Edger

      and rec.

      "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 12:09:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  However, if the system of commodification ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... does not fit the planet earth, it is not the planet earth that will crack first. Webs of the biosphere may be torn and shredded, but in a game of chicken between humanity and the biosphere, the biosphere is the guaranteed winner. Battered beyond all recognition of our ancestors, perhaps, but we will only be outlived by descendants if they bow to that simple fact of life.

      If its going to crack, and the sooner it cracks the better, the more leverage we can add to it cracking faster, the better.

      End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

      by BruceMcF on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 10:25:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  decolonizing our minds (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The piece of equipment (blow out preventer) that could have possibly stopped the disastrous BP oil geyser cost 500,000 dollars and was labeled as 'prohibitively expensive for the industry' by Dick Cheney and not required.

      Isn't it time sane, logical people decide what is necessary?

      This world is a maze and mass of constructs.  What we need is some kind of unifying organization of some kind that could press us toward a construct that makes any sense.  Maybe its time to be disruptive.  

      And where is our imagination?  If we cannot even envision a way for us to create a world that is harmonious and fecund for our great-great-great grandchildren, we certainly won't be able to create it.  I think the status quo has colonized our minds.

      Society is created from what we have envisioned.  We need to emerge from the crisis of our imaginations.  

  •  amen! (6+ / 0-)

    So if you're going to think about global warming at all, you might as well think big, and adopt a radical position.

    "....while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Eugene V. Debs

    by soothsayer99 on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 11:50:41 AM PDT

  •  It seems unlikely (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    claude, Cassiodorus, WarrenS

    that we will manage to make big enough changes fast enough. Climate change theory has some substantial variables  and it could already be too late...huge things have been set in motion. But since humans are bad at contemplating how huge forces interact, it seems less likely that we have more time than is generally considered. And ten or fifteen, twenty years is not really very long at all.

    The irony of this diary is that you left out another path, one best illustrated by your user name...the lifeboat approach, the approach that assumes it's likely that things are going down, but also considers the possibility of another chance later on down the road (even with our species), and asks what we might try to preserve, and how best to do so.

    "Unlike every other nation in the world, the United States defines itself as a hypothesis and continues itself as an argument." - Lewis Lapham

    by Miep on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 01:10:25 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the excellent (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, Cassiodorus, WarrenS

    and informative diary.  I'm newly taken with the concept of "use-value as opposed to exchange-value".  That idea will be visiting my head frequently, in the future.  Very interesting.

  •  Use Value... (4+ / 0-)

    This conflict with our capitalist dominated economic world runs deep with me.

    Value comes from labor applied to materials over time.  Materials can be natural, or man made, and labor can be thought, or labor, or the product of energy as with machines.

    Wealth comes from innovation applied to labor over time.  In other words, when we work smart, we multiply our labor products, freeing time, which enriches our lives.

    Note, neither of these things are connected to money, unless we want them to be.

    The conflict then comes from use value actually creating "boom and bust" markets.  A niche opens up, and opportunity runs huge.  People interested in money, jump in producing products.

    Coupla things happen.  Innovation creates a variety of products, and ideally produces the very best products over time.  It's rare that the growth of need associated with a product comes even close to our ability to produce said products, and there is the dilemma.

    Because we are locked into the idea of a growth economy, either we always come up with new innovations and products, or we reach a stasis, where the market has been served, needing only a fraction of the products so produced to meet the need.

    Of course, that checks innovation too, because nobody will re-engineer a product without a significant market niche to pay the effort back.

    This sucks, because our work around is planned obsolescence.  Instead of engineering the very best products, thus extending use value to the maximum, and our energy consumption and resource consumption to minimums, we make the cheapest products, operating under the assumption that lower cost = a better solution.

    Truth is that's rarely the case.

    I find it interesting when I use products made during the 60's and 70's.  At that time, American production of things started to shift away to foreign countries, and the escalation of revenue also began.

    Products from that time period are extremely robust.  Many of them operate perfectly today, if well maintained.

    Used to be, the product niche was filled, and then service, support, and ongoing new product development were the focus, getting the most out of that product effort.

    Now, it's different.  They want regular revenue, and assign use value a discrete cost per use, and engineer for X uses, instead of just to complete the task, deliver the value to the user of the product, and keep cost of ownership low.

    Many products today are connected to services, or engineered to fail, or to require a consumable when it's not strictly necessary, or ideal.

    Longer term, this is simply not sustainable, contributing to the problems we have today.

    One anecdotal story I have is my older car.  It's a 89, Toyota.  At that particular time, the gas powered cars were very long lived and efficient.  I get about 40mpg out of that car, and have done so for 310K miles.  Annual maintenance is modest, and the engineering of the car is such that a ordinary person can perform most repairs with common tools.

    This is a great car!

    Honestly, rather than buy a new car, I would simply like to convert this one to run on Alcohol, and continue extracting my use value over a very long time.  

    That same exact car, produced a few years later, saw very significant engineering changes.  Those are not such good cars.  They wear faster, because the cost has been removed from the various mechanical parts, being deemed "over-engineered", which means "not long term profitable to produce, not that there was anything wrong with the design otherwise.

    This is seen all over the place, with all kinds of products, and I think the whole works is excessive.

    Starting out in life, I did a "buy once" policy, where I would spend significant amounts for quality devices that had high and longer term use value.

    Where I did that, those devices were a solid investment.

    I can't always do that today!!  Those products are offered less and less, and I find myself looking for used products, repairing them, so that I capture a solid use value over time exchange.

    With all this cyclic work, we consume huge amounts of energy, and products turn from investments to consumables, and that makes us poor, as the cost of use and the cost of ownership are high, due to replacements and failures, instead of only the cost of acquisition being high, other costs being modest at best.

    Good diary.  There is some food for thought there.


    by potatohead on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 08:35:48 PM PDT

    •  Well okay. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      potatohead, ybruti

      What you're talking about, here, is "planned obsolescence" -- if the manufacturers make your products less durable, they can get you to buy more of them.  And this suits their goal, but not yours.

      This is a meaningful complaint if one accepts the goals common to capitalist industry in the Golden Age of Capitalism (from the fifties through the seventies).  Even those goals are torn to shreds when one looks at the operation of neoliberal capitalism.  See my second diary at DKos for historical background.

      Here I'm suggesting a different goal.  But first let's examine the initial goal:

      Wealth comes from innovation applied to labor over time.  In other words, when we work smart, we multiply our labor products, freeing time, which enriches our lives.

      Why would we want "free time" in a world brought to ruin by abrupt climate change?  Would "free time" allow us to dream of unicorns and fairies (or "Jeeezus" or whatever) over a greater portion of each day while our ecosystems experience dieoff?

      "Free time," then, enriches the possibilities for global warming denial, which will ostensibly grant us happier lives up to the point at which we experience that dieoff ourselves.  Any butcher will tell you that it's good to keep your animals docile up to the point at which they're slaughtered -- and that's the point of "free time" in this era of ecosystems crisis.  It keeps us docile.

      So let's imagine a different version of "innovation" and of "work smart" here.  How does innovation preserve our habitat within the rest of our planet's ecosystems?  Does it lengthen our lives so that we can spend more time improving the world in which our children get to live?

      Look, for instance, at the Land Institute.  Their innovation is to show prairie farmers how to grow edible perennials on the Great Plains.  Are they doing it to save labor time?  No.  The Land Institute is interested in innovations in throughput so that future generations will be able to grow food.  Moreover, they also innovate in terms of biodiversity for the same reason, and also so that our diets will be more diverse and allow us to live longer.  

      Oppose this to Monsanto, which genetically engineers the genepool of Zea Mays so that generations of Americans can eat lots of corn syrup and die early of diabetes.

      Does this help any?

      "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 03:05:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think part of my point was missed. (0+ / 0-)

        When we are poor, enslaved to the machine, we cannot realistically do anything but serve that machine.

        When we are wealthy, as in we have time that is not allocated --time that we may choose, then we have options.

        Yes, one of those might be to dream of faeries and unicorns.

        Another may well be serving the environment we live in.

        In the context of what you wrote, I was highlighting two things:

        1. We are being kept artificially busy.
        1. Our labor is contributing to the climate problem.

        If one buys the idea that we are faced with having to deal with our environment and it's climate, one of the first things to be done is to deal with the burden of our basic needs, and let's face it, wants, so those are not consuming the human resource, so that potential exists for change and thus survival.

        Really, I thought the conflict was in synergy with the material you presented here.

        One other thing comes to mind then, and that is will we transition to mere survival mode willingly?

        Doubt it.  A lot of people will die, if in fact, this kind of scenario comes to pass.  A great many people will simply choose to live in the now, ignoring this whole thing, capturing wealth in the sense I just outlined, leaving the problem to others, justifying that with selfish and theological means.

        Hell, I'm tempted to do that.  


        by potatohead on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 09:01:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think it's instructive to look at people (0+ / 0-)

        who live in extreme places.

        Their overall living condition demands a lot of their time.

        Money, things, production, are not central to their lives.

        Family, culture, survival, reproduction is.

        I think the human species may fail in a work to live, live to work scenario.  There needs to be some gratification in life, or it's purpose becomes diluted, and the motivation then less than optimal.

        So then, in this world where a lot of work is required because of the climate change, what's the goal?  Survival first?

        Is there some dream of a harmonious existence between humans and the world they live?  That one is appealing to me, and would drive the capture of wealth, in the sense I defined it above.

        I used that definition, because it, and the one associated with value, are the classic anthropological ones, as in "how we are and how we work", not what we do at the moment, and why the world is.

        Strip away a lot of things, and we are left with people, and their basic operating parameters, and that's what is left.

        Which is why I asked the goal question.

        Also, those definitions are the core of some human rights we hold dear.  Are you suggesting those rights are somehow not valid in the new climate mode?  Very curious about that one!


        by potatohead on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 09:08:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Crap... three replies. Sorry. (0+ / 0-)

        This is what happens when I think a little.

        Well, another thing I stated very poorly, is those defintions are what make things possible.

        Making things possible is why wealth is valuable, and I mean as wealthy people, not wealth in terms of dollars or accumulation of things.

        Those are specific manifestations of wealth, measured in our capitalist mode.

        Your comment about throughput is confusing to me.  I get that they are investing in the ability to grow food.

        This is innovation.  They are innovating for the future to come, and that will make them wealthy.

        Wealthy, in that things are possible.  

        If they were not to grow food, say that innovation was not done, they would be poor people, working extremely hard in that time, likely poor enough not to survive.

        Circle around then, to serving the current machine.  Doesn't the definition I gave make sense then?  If that machine were rolled back, similar efforts all over the place would bring enabling technology, understanding, all of which are products of labor, and that have high value, because they will save time in the future.

        ...time that makes that future possible.


        by potatohead on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 09:17:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  -- Throughput -- (0+ / 0-)

          As I've pointed out above, the process of commodity production typically regards much, if not all, of what is produced as eventually belonging to the category of "waste."  Not intentionally, of course: commodity production intends to produce finished products, but finished products have a limited shelf-life, thus after this shelf-life you have waste.  The problem, then, is that waste eventually takes over the entire process.

          Innovations in throughput seek to eliminate waste as a category by "designing" complete ecosystems.  This is the point of sustainable agriculture -- see esp. the works of Masanobu Fukuoka...

          "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 09:47:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've always thought of this as (0+ / 0-)

            both holistic and cyclic and sustainable.

            Ideally, we can exist with a modest impact on the world as a whole.  That runs in conflict with seeing our vision of the possible though.

            I understand your point above now however.

            One comment on products.  We need products.  That's not going away, unless one is advocating a very simple life.  Maybe that's the overall direction we will be forced into.  I don't know.

            Without products, we will struggle to capture the value of our labor.  Again, not money, just value.

            One thing stored value can do is mitigate risk!  When we accumulate a high value society, we can pay down risk.

            Risk always comes to pass in terms of cost.  Always.  

            The cost of risk is massive amounts of time required to deal with the product of risk, and stored labor value, innovations, technology, food, medicine, and many other things, can be spent against risk, keeping the burden of time modest, and the people wealthy enough to endure.

            Seems to me, part of the vision here is producing the right kinds of products, for the right reasons, not just attacking the process of making products itself.


            by potatohead on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 09:55:49 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Great link, BTW. (0+ / 0-)


            by potatohead on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 10:01:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Please keep writing on this subject. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, ybruti, Cassiodorus

    What you're saying is very important.

    While it may be asking too much for our political systems to make such a shift (since the influence of commodity capitalism is all-pervasive in our politics), we can try and transform the rest of the culture around it, leaving our politicians no choice but to follow.

    Or that's the way it works when I'm feeling vaguely hopeful, anyway.  

    If you have more suggestions and thoughts, I will be very interested.

    Thanks for this diary.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 09:17:35 PM PDT

  •  Since the unrealistic thing is to imagine ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, veritas curat

    ... that things impossible in the real world, like an endless supply of crude oil consumed with no impact of its waste product, are in fact possible.

    When the greatest "politically possible" change is less than the minimum "reality demanded" change, we need a different name for what is named the unrealism of demanding the politically impossible because nothing else will do.

    It is not unrealistic, after all, to accept that in a fight between the stories that we tell each other and the actually real real world, the real world wins.

    Its not unpragmatic, after all: there is no pragmatism in searching for your lost keys under the lamppost to use the light, when the keys were dropped fifty feet away. A pragmatic response is to search for how to crack past the limit of the politically possible to reach through to the realistically necessary.

    What it is, is unconventional. When the conventions demand that we walk off a pier to dive into the lake, even though the lake has dried up, its the conventions that must give way.

    Pragmatic, unconventional, realism is what the times demands.

    End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

    by BruceMcF on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 10:22:00 PM PDT

    •  Yes, what is required is politically impossible (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking, Cassiodorus

      and since what is required can't be changed, somehow the politics needs to be transformed in a more radical way than the present situation of corporate ownership of the political system will allow.

      It's being between a rock, a hard place and an anvil. Hard to see a way out.

      Right now, if CO2 production stopped immediately, we'd still be locked into some pretty disastrous changes - changes that have already started and will continue over the next few thousand years.

      muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

      by veritas curat on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 10:53:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If the hard place aint going nowhere ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        veritas curat, violeturchin

        ... nohow, and the anvil is too heavy for the people there to lift to try to crack the rock, we need more people.

        If we need the rock there to prevent an avalanche, then we got to find a way through or around the hard place.

        If this is the slavery fight, this is 1948, and we are still organizing. And at least one of the main political parties are going to collapse under the pressure of the fight, as the Whigs did in the 1850's, so we better not put all of our eggs into the two party basket.

        End 2010 with Lesbian Creative Works from ALC Publishing on your Holiday list.

        by BruceMcF on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 05:34:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Denial Changes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, banger

    People have very little sense of how much change the human race is causing on the earth. They only see directly a very small part of it. So, it looks like thinks are going well, more or less, where they're at, while the big picture is changing alarmingly.

    Motivating them to change may come down to giving them a real window into the macro changes so that they can't avoid taking responsibility. Of course, in the end, they will not be able to ignore global warming. My prediction is (and has been) that they American public will demand an immediate solution to this problem when the Arctic melts because they will have to explain to their children why Santa can't live at the North Pole any more.

    But will that be too late?

    I'm not very optimistic about this. Even if you had a solution the logistics of getting over 7 billion people to change their behavior sufficiently is overwhelming. Granted, fully half of these people have very little impact in an economic sense. (Although, those people are still out there burning down the forests, which has a huge impact on carbon released and carbon not stored.) Even if you just wanted to change the behavior of the 2 billion or so in the "modern world" you'd be hard pressed to do so.

    I think we could mitigate some of these changes with technology. We could, for example, put a reflective band around the earth in low earth orbit. This is probably technologically feasible and (barely) economically feasible, but it would require that sadly-lacking political will. And it would only get at the overheating problem, not the many other devastations caused by humans (species extinction, ocean acidification, and so on). Still, it might give us time to react to those other problems.

    I like your idea of changing their paradigm. If widely adopted, this would change their behavior. But I frankly don't see how you get people to move to a new paradigm here. The old paradigm is deeply ingrained in the way they spend money. Asking them to think about this in terms of the life cycle goes against their daily motivation to make money and spend it on immediate comforts. And, even if you get consumers to think different(ly), you can't much change the industrial system unless you de-commercialize extraction. How do you do that?

    BTW, you needn't blame me. I didn't vote for Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, or Kerry. I admit to voting for Obama, not so much because I thought he would be a great leader on climate change but because I believed (and I still believe I was correct) that another four years of Republican rule would have ended life on earth as we know it--in my lifetime. Will Obama rise to the challenge? I think we'll know by the end of 2012. Frankly, if he hasn't made some pretty sweeping moves by the end of 2011 then he'd better have a progressive challenger, one that has neither "new democrat" nor "neoliberal" in his background.

    •  There is no chance of change (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      No chance at all. We will continue the course we are on. The political system is locked up tight with no chance of reform. If I felt there was any sign of any movement I would feel differently. If you see any sign let me know.

      •  I Do (0+ / 0-)

        I do see one sign of change, and that is the Internet political community. Right now it does look bleak because we see the Republicans and other deniers taking over the government. But, in the longer term, the online community is getting stronger. In that community, it is much harder for facts to go unchallenged and for people to stay uninformed. (Not impossible, just more difficult when information is passed person to person and the underlying truth is just a click away.)

        Before long the community will make its decision independent of what the media tells it. When that happens, no amount of money will matter. What will matter is the unvarnished truth.

        It's only a question of whether this transformation happens before or after we have a chance to end climate change. I'm still hoping for before, but time is slipping away. We'll probably soon know whether we've got a winner in Al Gore's Revenge.

  •  new values (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    These new values are essential for humans to realize a world that is not collapsing.  Although it does seem impossible, many other humans throughout history have been in 'impossible' situations that have resolved.

    It is really sad that humans don't want to change until they've terribly damaged their ecosystems.  Then again, it has never been 'the majority' that implements revolutionary change.  Perhaps the people that see the need for such change need a cohesive strategy on how to implement it.  

    Ecological Economics is a sane economics accounting that recognizes that all economy and society is rightly nested inside ecology.

    Biomimicry is also a great idea for making human communities, agriculture, what-have-you, more in tune with the natural cycle by copying it.  

    There are plenty of great ideas and strategies to take us a different way.  What we need is a cohesive plan of how to force the conversation forward.  The other side (buy a jeep now) spends a lot of dough on marketing their ideas.  Perhaps we need a marketing plan for ours too.

    •  Indeed. As I've suggested, though (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Perhaps the people that see the need for such change need a cohesive strategy on how to implement it.

      here this is posted, at, and the self-defined progressives who are its audience need to get to the point where they can stop "feeling betrayed" and start telling themselves, "we need to do our homework."

      "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 08:54:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  though I might add -- (0+ / 0-)

        that the audience which actually tipped my tip jar and clicked on my "Recommended" box is pretty much composed of people who have already been radicalized.  Soothsayer99?  Miep?  BruceMcF?  Radicals.

        If you could, violeturchin, perhaps you could log in to the "anticapitalist meetup" today at 3pm PT/ 6pm ET here at

        "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

        by Cassiodorus on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 09:01:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  'progressives' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, Cassiodorus

    So the marketing thrust would somehow lasso progressives into the fray.  I'm often reminded in my interactions with those with whom I disagree that we must listen to would-be comrades, address their concerns, and then give them a way to reach the goals they'd like.  (like Saul Alinsky did)

    What do 'progressives' want?  

    •  Well, right now I think the progressives want (0+ / 0-)

      Keith Olbermann back on MSNBC -- which is why all of those diaries made the Rec List and mine here was only rescued ;)

      but I might go to Netroots Nation next year to listen to them some more...

      "Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa." -- Professor Farnsworth, in Futurama

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 09:53:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Creative destruction may be the only path (0+ / 0-)

    What I mean is that your idea of "use-value" networks would only be possible in a relatively de-centralized system which the Tea Baggers offer. More specifically, I regard the Tea Party movement as one that seeks, literally, to wreck the country and break into fragments and this may be our only chance. Currently both parties share the same ideology of "growth" and mass consumption by destroying the government, the educational system, the transportation system and all our infrastructure that is not metered by large corporations.

    Thanks so much for posting this diary--I think this and other diaries that try to bring a reasoned response to this ongoing crisis (the crisis of denial in the American body politic both left and right) will have a the effect of alerting people that there are other ways of viewing the world.

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