Climate Change: Epic State Fail

Of all the complex wicked problems facing the biosphere today perhaps the most contentious, and ultimately the most important, is climate change. A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters  from lead author Eric Rignot at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory adds to the already substantial body of evidence that climate change poses an immediate threat to human civilization. The study notes that due to rising ocean temperatures some glaciers in west Antarctica, in just a matter of decades, will slide into the ocean where they will melt and raise global sea levels by an estimated 1.2 meters.

This study calls for pause and careful reflection. Rising sea level is a particularly dangerous aspect of global change which may eventually produce millions of climate refugees. Eustatic change could displace entire island nations, swallow coastal cities, increase flood damage and reduce the availability of important ecosystem services offered to our societies from coastal wetlands. Following such reflection, the natural question to ask is what exactly is human civilization to do about climate change?

Most discourse over climate change from the body politic simply asks after the role of the nation, or state, in addressing the problem.  There are many problems with this type of debate, not least of which is that actually existing capitalism is incredibly reluctant to change its ideology and abandon practices which perpetuate environmental degradation and social injustice. Take for instance the Obama administration’s National Climate Assessment, which warns that the effects of climate change are “immediate and widespread.” Obama himself touts the new assessment (in a solar paneled Wal-Mart surrounded by socks, gaudy flip-flops and other items produced for mass consumption) by announcing a series of corporate pledges to increase renewable energy use and boost solar generation. In his speech Obama declares: “Together, the commitments we are announcing today prove that there are cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and create jobs at the same time.”

There you have it: “Growth at any cost” economics and the corporate state championed as an answer to the anthropogenic influence on climate change. Obama’s speech was nothing but an endorsement of the status quo. Of course the administration also advocates cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and other regulations to slow anthropogenic change, but this rhetoric serves the sole purpose of green-washing the inherit reluctance of the current political economy to embrace real change.

As seas change there is an emerging necessity for a corresponding sea change in politics — enter the market left.

The market, or libertarian, left, largely endorses the idea that human-kind strives for the free, unhindered unfolding of the individual and social forces of life (to borrow from Rudolf Rocker) — and institutions that contain such development are illegitimate unless democratically (small d) justified. If any authority is illegitimate, which is usually the case, it is to be dismantled and only reestablished, if need be, from the grassroots. Under such a socio-economic order society would be freed from political guardianship, liberating individual labor from concentrated private capital.

The market left simply seeks the true market form — an alliance of liberated individuals based on co-operative, inclined labor and community interests. Such an order can only exist in a massively decentralized society. The market left envisions a society where political boundaries are dissolved thus leaving only natural boundaries — watersheds, landscapes and ecosystems. Here, the individuals relationship to community and the environment will be much more understood. Only in liberty will the body politic be empowered enough to manage a changing global climate.

The answer to the aforementioned climate question is the stateless society.

Citations to this article:

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist