2022-07-01 Prof Julia Steinberger climate and ecology crises thoughts

Prof Julia ๐ŸŒ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒฑ #StandWithUkraine ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ (@JKSteinberger): My dears, I am in a delayed train, and I had a beer as grown-ups do, and I am too tired to work, and I have THOUGHTS. And BAD SPELLING probably. Thread.๐Ÿงต https://twitter.com/JKSteinberger/status/1542581174715011074 1/

The most important part we don't put forward about the climate and ecological crises are the ways we (a) refuse to shake up our thinking for them and (b) the ways our thinking is consolidated by them. I'll start (a) off with the example of left-right politics. 2/

The very fact that an existential near-term threat, very much predicted and described by established science, has not caused political parties to rethink their century-old positions should itself be a cause of great consternation. But we take it for granted. 3/

Left-wing parties continue to view the world through a general lens of inequality & potential for progress. Since this is generally congruent with climate measures (sufficiency for all, excess & deprivation for none, would work, given existing tech), they are not doing as bad. 4/

This further enrages right-wing parties. Now right-wing parties are sticking with expressed values of 'freedom' and 'riches for merit' and innovation/ingenuity as progress, and removal of public sphere obstacles to wealth accumulation, broadly. These positions fit ... 5/

with dominant narratives of neoliberalism, and long-term allegiance to ruling classes, but in climate/ecological terms leave them with nowhere to go but climate denial on the one hand, and techno-optimism and other 'discourses of delay' on the other. Not so great. 6/

Meanwhile, broad parts of the left also have major issues, since they are sticking like gum to a shoe with a view of progress which is the sharing of industrially-created wealth among the working class. Curbing industrial activities for planetary stability thus entails ... 7/

violating a more than century-long promise of these parties to their adherents, in their view. Many of them can't cope with this at all, leading to downright rifts and incoherence. But for both left and right, my question is why are they sticking to century-old positions? 8/

If someone came to you & said "Humanity is facing the greatest threat ever, totally new thinking is required" why in Gaia's name would you decide to fossilize (pun intended) your positions around thinking from a previous time? Wouldn't you take a step back & try something new? 9/

But that has not happened, by & large. What would new thinking look like from a โ€œleftโ€ perspective? From the social project, role of citizens & labour, have some inkling from combinations of Green New Deal and degrowth ideas. 10/

But new thinking around facing the fossil fuel & animal-based agriculture hegemon (not just โ€˜capitalโ€™ in general) is lacking, as are radical new projects of global solidarity for debt cancellation, migration welcome & learning from each other across borders. 11/

Effectively, the global North left is trapped in old ideas of colonial dominance, where living standards of global North working class depend on exploitation & poverty of those in the South. Any real conviction of solidarity and a possible different future is lacking. 12/

On the right, an alternative (for those that are not fundamentally racist & fascist, ok) might be around new forms of belief and expression in human ingenuity and innovation not focused on wealth accumulation, but on wellbeing for all. 13/

Not against the state, but within new configurations of individual, democratic and community-based initiative. This could fit within democratizing provisioning systems, btw. But the larger point remains: given the largest threat humanity has ever faced ... 14/

our 2 main political orientations decided, in their vast majority, to stick with modes of thinking that originated 100 years ago, give or take. And surely that is enough to give us pause. But they are not alone. Almost every human institution has done this. Including: 15/

Academia (rethinking disciplines, purpose, engagement, ways of working? Zilch. And academia's current way of working arguably goes back even more than a century. For absolute shame). Media. Culture (see @GhoshAmitav The Great Derangement here obvs). Pretty much everything. 16/

It's as though human societies, and all the groups that make them up, were the equivalent of nightmares where you want to scream and run from a disaster, but are trapped in silent slow-motion. Not sure what to do here, but as in AA, first step is to admit there is a problem. 17/

On to part (b): consolidating parts of our existing thinking that really shouldn't be. This part of the thread comes to you via @GhoshAmitav 's Nutmeg Curse and his point that the historical lesson learned by Western white folks is that "omnicide" ... 18/

(the deliberate destruction of other peoples and ecosystems) benefits them in the short and long run. It's a 'nasty' historical lesson to face, but one we have to grapple with. One way I have seen it manifest itself is the (groundless) belief that global North populations ... 19/

won't be harmed by climate impacts, because we are rich, smart & lucky (or something, it makes no sense, so I can't explain it). This is coupled to another belief, that environmental depredations, including climate, are caused by population growth ... 20/

i.e. brown people in the global South (this belief is again groundless, not arguing it here). My point is that these two beliefs, that rich-deserving-white folks will be spared, AND that the problem is caused by poor-brown-other folks anyway, coalesces in a horrific way. 21/

Because many people, deep down, believe that climate & ecological crises killing off large numbers of poor/brown people is an omnicidal version of "nature healing itself." This is wrong, on every dimension of wrong that can be imagined, but it is a real belief. 22/

And one we have to grapple with head on. Coupled with that is another belief, which amounts more to propaganda, or learned helplessness: that many people are sway to another toxic combination of beliefs again reinforced by climate. 23/

In no particular order, these are that: 1) humans are inherently evil, 2) humans can't work together, 3) prosperity and wellbeing are zero sum games where many must lose for one to win. These beliefs are wrong, but their dominance shuts down alternatives. 24/

Humans can be good: when they work together to curtail evil. Humans can and do work extremely well together, but not when they are under the sway of harmful ideologies. And wellbeing is not a zero sum game, but deeply intertwined with our ability to care for each other. 25/

We could be at the dawn of entirely new and exciting ways of running our societies, moving away from omnicide, dominance, extractivism, and towards emancipation, equality, dignity, belonging to life on earth. Or far more likely, it could be full on ecofascism. 26/

To avoid that, we need to face down the unpleasant facts of how we refuse to think in new ways, while sticking to the most harmful of old beliefs. End and good night all. ๐Ÿ˜˜