Last week’s UK election might have a bright side after all.
After the return of the Tories there is now a distinct possibility that in 2020 we in the Anglo-American capitalist countries – also known as the (five eyes spy) club – will have hardcore neoliberal governments with David Cameron in the UK, Jeb Bush in the US, Stephen Harper in Canada, Tony Abbott in Australia and John Key in NZ. A scary prospect in anyone’s book especially for those of us who love our children and grandchildren and are concerned about the world we will leave them.
The Elephant in the room for all of us is of course Climate Change.
One of the traits these governments have in common is their attitudes and policies on climate change. From the most destructive and environmentally damaging tar sand mining in Canada, the fracking bonanza in the US, the undiminished expansion of coal mining and shipping through the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the “Drill Baby Drill” in- and off-shore oil exploration in NZ and the pandering to the fossil fuel industry in the UK the neoliberal ideology driven policies by the members of the club make a mockery of all attempts to stop climate change getting out of hand.
Climate scientist can demonstrate by a simple calculation that we need to stop burning fossil fuel willy nilly if we want to have a chance to keep global warming to the universally agreed level of two degrees Celsius. That in fact we must keep most of the known reserves already on the balance sheets of the fossil fuel companies in the ground.
While the Keep-it-in-the-Ground movement led by the UK Guardian and inspired by Naomi Klein is gaining momentum
these governments are putting their foots on the accelerator as if there is no tomorrow. One even could count the hot air created by their comforting words prior to this December’s Climate summit in Paris as one of the most renewable energy sources. Their deeds tell the opposite story.
One other characteristic the neoliberal country club has in common are mainstream media dominated by Rupert Murdoch (UK,US and Australia) and Murdoch like corporations.
They are brainwashing the general public into thinking that climate change i.e. global warming is either not really happening or it is at least not man made or in any case can easily be fixed by some science fiction movie technology a la the shield in Highlander II.
All this has a devastating rational logic to it not only for the green house gas emitting sunset industries but to the neoliberal capitalistic system itself.
This system is based on the idea that individual enrichment at the cost of everyone and everything else including the climate is ok and will ultimately via the invisible hand of the market lead to benefit all. This ideological myth of the ever correcting beneficial effects of the “market” without any state intervention or regulation was of course thoroughly debunked by the global financial crisis of 2008 onwards. Even then Federal Reserve Bank chairman and Ayn Rand disciple and lover Alan Greenspan had to admit that he was wrong : Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity – myself especially – are in a state of shocked disbelief.
However the neoliberal juggernaut is moving along regardless as our system is rewarding short term personal gains over long term collective sustainability. And the neoliberal climate change deniers
are right to be afraid of the environmental movement being like a watermelon green on the outside and red on the inside. They at least have understood that to deal appropriately with the ever more looming large climate crisis it will take everything they despise : Collective not individual effort and action, governmental and intergovernmental response, strengthening society’s conscience and collaboration against individual lack of conscience. Remember Margret Thatcher one of the patron saints of neoliberalism declaring that there is no such thing as society !
Ultimately the climate crisis will require the top 1% or rather .01% to relinquish power over the rest of us as they will not be able – like in the science fiction movies – to totally shield themselves from the effects of global warming. If nothing else will force a total change of our economic and political system the Climate will.
Naomi Klein in her must read book
manages to find something positive in the otherwise gloomy picture :
I began to see all kinds of ways that climate change could become the catalyzing force for positive change – how it could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new free trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open our borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights – all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them.
From this list we can imagine how our business and political rulers will fight tooth and nail against the notion that there is a climate crisis and business as usual is not an option anymore.
Klein with 15 years of research leading to her previous book The Shock Doctrine is only to aware what is likely to happen as the crisis will inevitably deepen into a shock for the people :
Over the past four decades corporate interests have systematically exploited these various forms of crisis to ram through policies that enrich a small elite – by lifting regulations, cutting social spending and forcing large scale privatization of the public sphere. They have also been the excuse for extreme crackdowns on civil liberties and chilling human rights violations.
And there are plenty of signs that climate change will be no exception- that rather than sparking solutions that have a real chance of preventing catastrophic warming and protecting us from inevitable disaster, the crisis will once again be seized upon to hand over yet more resources to the 1 percent.
One of the warning signs for instance in the US besides the now almost total surveillance of it’s citizenry is the fact that the army is handing over billions of dollars worth of military hardware like tanks and helicopters to the police forces. Who do you think these weapons will be aimed at ? To give you a clue: not at terrorists.
In other words it looks like it will have to get much worse with the climate and our political and economic system before the 99 % will wake up and turn things around.
Climate change of course does not wait for us. Time is of the essence. In the next 5 years we might reach the tipping point – if we not already have – beyond which a turn around will be almost impossible.
So lets get on with it and get it over with. The political horror scenario above will only accelerate the crisis and bring it to the inevitable solution earlier.
Lets have more severe draughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes together with sea level rise for all to see the sooner the better.
Therefore the UK election win by the Tories can only be a good thing. Sorry for the road kill along the way.