These days it is pretty common for progressive media consumers to come across a small plethora of outlets and attendant talking heads who pontificate mightily about the mean old Mr. President Donald Trump and his dastardly administration’s climate change policies. Noam Chomsky has chimed in every so often on Democrats -er- Democracy Now with Amy Goodman to proclaim the Republican Party the most dangerous organization on the planet. Meanwhile over at the Real News Network, they recently released a short documentary about the way the Koch organization funded Republican denialism in the electoral realm for decades in order to preserve their petrochemical profits.
But all the while a much more effective and unnoticed current of denial is making headway through the halls of power. And unlike the Republican operators, who are cynical but also cognizant of the reality, these pwogwessives seem to be totally unaware of their proliferation of denialism, giving a brilliant example of Slavoj Žižek’s notion of ideology as an unconscious project.
The most recent formulation of this denialism is in the form of the Democratic Party’s articulation of a Green New Deal, a notion they have adopted from the third party movement much in the way Pres. Franklin Roosevelt adapted the original New Deal from the policy demands of the Socialist Party of America. The perennial Socialist presidential candidate, Norman Thomas, in fact was once asked what he thought about seeing FDR implementing the Socialist platform, to which he responded “Sure, he’s carrying out my program…on a stretcher!” That rumination bears merit to consider here.
The first problem with the Democratic Party approach is their refusal to openly acknowledge the true level of catastrophe that the climate is already at. Environmental scientists (not known for their radicalism by nature) have been telling us for a long time now that the magnitude of global warming’s impact is far greater than commonly understood. Green New Dealer Democrats talk today with a pitch and tone that should have been used twenty years ago. Indeed, the true moment for massive action equivalent to the New Deal’s radical restructuring of society and legislation was probably at the very latest over a decade ago. The Democrats are like the firemen who show up two hours too late in that, yes, they can put out some flames but they unfortunately are saving what amounts to a pile of ashes.
Democrats furthermore refuse to acknowledge the system colloquially called the petro-dollar. It is in the vested interests of not just the elites but everyday Americans to continue seeing oil and gasoline used for fuel in various areas of our lives because, were that to change, it would deflate the dollar’s value overnight. The petro-dollar system was created during the Nixon administration over several years as we were taken off the gold standard, replacing the $35 per troy ounce of gold exchange with a system linking the value of the dollar to the daily exchange rate for Saudi Arabian oil on the international market. Those arrangements have maintained America’s standing in the world economy as the reserve currency and therefore dominant power in world affairs. While there are efforts on the part of the Chinese to undermine this system with their own work with Riyadh to create a new “petro-yuan,” there are no such efforts on the part of the Democratic Party in even their Progressive caucus. Trying to unmake the very basis of our contemporary political economy, the money commodity, is far outside of what the Democratic Socialists of America are capable of at this point.
Problem three is the perpetual growth vision of the economy. For most politicians and many progressive economists like Dr. Robert Pollin, the climate catastrophe can be fixed by adapting our existing economy to a sustainable model, basically meaning that we keep living in the style and manner that we do today but using and making stuff that can be recycled or composted. The problem here is that, as with everything else in the universe, the basic laws of physics say that everything has a limit and perpetual, never-ending growth is insane. Think of a swimming pool: if I put a garden hose in it and turn the spigot on, water goes into the pool. But if I don’t turn the water off, the water overflows and spills out of the pool. Why is it that almost every aspect of human civilization except economic thinking acknowledges that overflow phenomenon?
Furthermore, this is not a new human habit. It was not until fairly recently, with the advent of mass marketing and consumerism bred by the professional advertising industry, that we began to implement planned obsolescence into our manufacturing systems. Before planned obsolescence, consumers used to buy things that they would own and pass down for generations. Today you are lucky if table kit you buy at a Home Depot lasts a decade. Unless we get serious about that overflow phenomenon and scale back our production of consumer refuse, we are very quickly going to find we have to sleep in a bed of garbage that we made.
Making matters worse, numbskulls like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who claims to be an advocate of environmentalist concerns, along with several other colleagues, have bought into the idiotic claim that natural gas is a “bridge fuel.” In the name of a solution that does not actually exist, fracking has been proliferated nationwide, poisoning watersheds and causing earthquakes in regions that never had them before while more greenhouse gases have been spewed into the atmosphere. Genius!
To be fair, I recognize that one must acknowledge the notion of extremity and the argument that these contradictions could be challenged as over-the top.
My response to such challenges is that we are in a moment when the climate emergency is that extreme. Despite an administration populated with lobbyists and executives of the fossil fuel industry, there are plenty of government-produced and published reports coming out today that say things are in such a dire situation that we need to seriously ramp up our efforts or face nothing less than the complete collapse of human civilization as we know it.