Earth at Its Warmest In Past 12 Centuries

boddhisatva kbevans at
Sat Dec 12 01:27:18 PST 1998

To whom...,

Brett writes of global warming: "Farmers will go bankrupt as their land can no longer grow crops." First, there is no reason to think that the world will become more arid if there is global warming. It may, or it may become wetter. Second, much of the best plains land is too cold for growing most crops. The great plains of Canada, which are as large as or larger than those of the U.S. are very restricted in what kinds of crops they can grow. A warmer earth would let their fecundity be turned to more crops. Land mass would indeed be lost, but that coastal land mass is becoming increasingly citified. Global warming could be an agricultural boon. It's just a question of your attitutde.

Lest you think that this an argument pro global warming, let me get to my real point. People should look on global warming almost as something that has already happened. First, scientists suggest that much of the damage is already done and will not be felt for decades. Second, all the development which will produce yet more carboniferous pollution is not only inevitable in all but a doomsday scenario, much of it is greatly needed. Third, people are so vastly unlikely to heed warnings without a major object lesson for a large, highly visible, first-world population, that it is laughable to think otherwise. One need only consider the way residents of earthquake zones behave to see this.

The point is not that global warming is not a leftist issue. It is a tailor-made leftist issue. The point is that it engenders in regular people an even greater feeling of hopelessness, powerlessness, and even nihilism than they already feel. The problem is that people do not see the institutions they relied on in the 20th century - rebellion and government - as the answer to these problems. The problem of empowering regular folks to fight things like global warming is the problem of getting control of a vibrant, productive, flexible and innovative industrial economy into the hands of the proletariat. Idiotic world conferences on global warming are at worst playgrounds for "third way" hucksters and at best leftist circle-jerks stinking of Leninist decay.

The answer to the problem is simple: put the control of the polluting industry into the hands of those who feel its effects most keenly - in other words, economic democracy. The method is the trouble. Leninism/Maoism has left behind no institution of lasting value. While capitalism struggles desperately to create legal institutions to regulate, legalize and democratize the workings of finance capitalism (that's "democratize" strictly among the bourgeoisie, you understand) the extra-legal, anti-legal and authoritarian qualities of Leninism/Maoism are clearly counter-dialectical. It is equally clear we can do democracy better than capitalists and better than the autocratic centralist regimes did. Cuba is an admirable hold-out but Castro is not the way forward.

The problem we have as leftists is that we love to scare each other with things like global warming. We seem to have contests to see how many things we can dread simultaneously. We then try to convince ourselves to settle for scraps from the likes of Blair, Clinton and the E.U. or to settle for the comfort of warmed-over rhetoric from peasant revolutions, or the half-baked redistribution schemes of academics who are completely detached from reality. The business of getting a full-fledged industrial economy into the hands of working people (with all the necessary laws and good stuff like that still intact and without a world war) seems to fall well down the list.

I think that is why the socialist left is not exactly striking a resounding chord with the masses. Instead of worrying about global warming - which is a concern, don't get me wrong - I think we should be worrying about how to move the world towards real worker ownership. When I say "move", I would be satisfied just to see the idea discussed in a broad way. For example, I would be satisfied just to hear someone in a bar or the supermarket wonder aloud why the wealthy NBA players who are on strike don't just start their own league or to hear someone protest when a CEO or owner is given the credit for "building" or "making" or "creating" something that actually represents the work of thousands of other people. To hear such ideas championed or even taken seriously in a public forum would be refreshing to me. If I want to hear about global warming, I can listen to Al Gore. Who is going to tell me about worker control of factories and socialized micro-credit?

Failing that, how about a world without monarchies? How about we resolve that now that the 20th century is coming to an end, the time for monarchies is really past. Before the New York City subway system fills with sea water from global warming, wouldn't it be nice to see a world where people no longer bow to kings and queens? Maybe by 2050, Britons will stop doing "for Queen and Country" and start just doing for country. Let's keep our eye on the ball, comrades.


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