Climate activism without the state

Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy
Forfatter: Jem Bendell
Forlag: University of Cumbria (Storbritannien)
RADICAL CRITICISM? / Is the climate crisis legitimizing a new authoritarian state mode of government?


American literary historian Fredric Jameson wrote at one time that it was easier to imagine the downfall of the world than an alternative to capitalism. He originally formulated it as part of a radical criticism of ruling Euro-modernist capitalism, but today the statement has been repeated so many times by journalists, experts, politicians and activists that it has ended up pointing to our inability to to imagine something else. In other words, it has ended up to passivate and not activate us.

We have a hard time imagining a life beyond industrial capitalism and its individual commodity-based promises of happiness. The climate crisis is changing this, but mobilization may take an authoritarian form.

We are confronted daily with images of melting icebergs, burning forests, graphs showing elevated water levels, and photos of extinct species. The problem is no longer a lack of knowledge, and neither are climate skeptics – although of course it is a huge problem when Trump and Bolsonaro have power in the US and Brazil, respectively, and do everything to intensify oil extraction and forest burning. No, the problem is that the climate crisis is becoming a legitimation for a new authoritarian mode of government. Ecological awareness is becoming a requirement for political crisis management, a desire for a strong state to solve the biospheric meltdown.

Deep adaptation

Let me briefly summarize the challenges facing the climate crisis. In his influential text Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy writes Jem Bendell that it is too late to prevent climate change. He is a professor of Sustainability Leadership and one of the leading forces in the Extinction Rebellion. The process is already underway, and it is moving faster than scientists have predicted: Hundreds of species are dying every day, and humans are already suffering in many places in the world as a result of climate change.

There will be drastic changes, «hunger, destruction, migration, disease and
war »- also in the UK and countries like Denmark.

Bendell writes that scientists have been under intense pressure to tone down the consequences of climate change to avoid panic. But all research shows the same, and Bendell concludes that "it is too late to avoid a global environmental disaster." There will be major changes, he writes, that will result in "hunger, destruction, migration, disease and war". And he goes on to explain that it is well felt in the UK and countries like Denmark that hunger, war and disease will become a reality, and for a number of years to come.

He goes on to say, “When the power is gone, no water will come out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbor to get food or heat. You will be malnourished. You don't want to know whether to stay home or go. You'd be scared to get killed if you didn't starve to death. ”It's a dramatic picture Bendell draws, but by no means unrealistic. This is why people all over the world walk the streets and protest. Something must be done.

But what should be done? Bendell's suggestion is what he calls deep adaptation or deep adaptation, where you ask yourself what you really want to keep – but also consider what you do that makes the climate crisis worse and therefore needs to change in your life.

We are confronted daily with images of melting icebergs, burning forests, graphs
showing elevated water levels and photos of extinct species.

Bendell's analysis is important, but unfortunately it ends up backing the circulating idea of ​​the climate crisis, which we know so well from popular culture disaster scenarios, in which individuals or small groups roam the ruins and try to survive after the disaster. The problem with the dystopian tale of small gangs wandering around the ruins is that it completely forgets the state or worse still legitimizes the state as the last guarantor of social order.

ZAD in France

Speaking of capitalism criticism: Fortunately, we can see a perspective criticism of industrial capitalism in various places in climate activism – where climate change is the starting point for radical collective actions that point out capitalism. Take something like ZAD in France. For more than ten years, local residents and traveling activists not only tried to oppose the construction of a new airport outside Nantes. They also established an eco-anarchist municipality (as in the Paris municipality), a liberated area where the state and the economy did not decide. More than 100 self-managed buildings were established, which included a library, a bakery, a brewery, a radio station and various forms of agriculture. The ZAD can perhaps best be understood as an extension of the artistic art of the artistic avant-garde, where art and everyday life merge with the separate identities of capitalist modernity (such as artist, activist, politics, etc.) and without its companies, goods and value accumulation. It was an attempt to change himself and repair the world.

Authoritarian tendencies

All the comics, movies and books today show us disaster as everyone's war against everyone. It is a kind of pre-Hobbesian scenario where the state has magically disappeared and is missing. However, the state is not very likely to disappear, but more likely it will try to use the climate crisis as a credential for intensifying authoritarian tendencies. We have seen this in many countries, including Denmark, since 9/11 and the so-called war on terror. Rather than the collapse and small gangs wandering around on the go, we have to imagine an authoritarian state that entrenches itself behind closed borders and screws up racism and explains why it is necessary to close hungry climate migrants inside camps or shoot. them.

What I am trying to say is that the climate movement and all the many activists, the school-striking children, etc., have to pay close attention to what they want and need. For the most part, they are making a gesture toward a political sovereignty or state to deal with the climate crisis, manage the chaos that climate change will necessarily cause. If that happens, then we are in a situation where the radical criticism needed to emerge from capitalist industrialization not only disappears, but goes in and legitimizes more control, more borders and more exclusion. It is in the state of being that it is conservative and does everything possible to avoid radical transformations of any kind.

The Green Police State

We can already see the contours of the authoritarian ecological state. It can take the form of a green fascism, or it can stage itself as green welfare. Either way, it will be a political-economic system where the exclusions have been turned up and where there will be more camps. Militant French climate activists call it a "cashier ecology" in which the climate crisis strengthens the state and militarizes the individual in accordance with the new situation of sacrifice and submission for survival. The spread of catastrophic propaganda causes citizens to voluntarily submit to authoritarian control and to accept further surveillance and repression. The alternative is, after all, climate change – then it is better to support the state, which promises to save us.

None of the many well-meaning plans, strategies and Green New Deals, which has been proposed in recent years, is critical of capital and the state and avoids all breaking with capitalist modernity – which is otherwise responsible for the climate crisis. We are in the paradoxical situation that the daily bombardment of news of the ongoing biospheric meltdown addresses people in such a way that they naturally participate in the preservation of the society responsible for climate change. All the dramatic images and representations present us with a choice between saving industrial civilization or a collapse into barbaric climate chaos. Of course, it is not a choice, but in reality a situation of blind obedience, where we are forced to desire our own submission. Because we want to survive, we submit to the Green Police State. The dominant will be dominated to avoid the worst consequences of the climate disaster.

What created the misery

Instead of a green version of the same industrial capitalism responsible for the climate crisis, global acidification and mass death, we should expand ecological awareness to include a more radical critique of industrial capitalism and the notions of growth and profit. Or we remain trapped in the system that created the miser to begin with.

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