In an otherwise confusing and contradictory op-ed in the New York Times, Roy Scranton, a professor of English at Notre Dame, makes a true statement:
“The problem of climate change is bigger than the New Deal. It’s bigger than the Great Depression. It’s bigger than war. The problem of climate change is the problem of how and whether human beings can live together sustainably on this planet.”
The rest of the piece reflects the academic and media bewilderment that prevails in the present narrative in America about climate change (irrespective of the Trumpian troglodyte narrative).
“Total mobilization may be our only hope,” Scranton intones. “Judging from what happened in World War II, it would mean social upheaval, violence, censorship, curtailed freedoms, dubious compromises and radical changes in American culture and politics.”
That highly questionable assumption is from a piece entitled, “Climate Change Is Not World War.” The irony is that “the problem of how and whether human beings can live together sustainably on his planet” cannot be divorced from the imperative of ending the dictatorship of division, fragmentation, militarization and violence.
Academics and ‘thought leaders’ such as Scranton can’t have it both ways. On one hand he says, “the mobilization during World War II was a national mobilization against foreign enemies, while what’s required today is a global mobilization against an international economic system: carbon-fueled capitalism. [Italics his.]
On the other hand, he criticizes environmentalists like Bill McKibbon for calling on people “to mobilize on the same scale as we did for the last world war.”
Scranton’s piece offers little insight, no vision, and no clear way ahead. “Total mobilization” is even more of a fantasy now than the call by environmentalists during the Obama years for a “wartime-like mobilization by the governments of the United States and China to cut carbon emissions.”
The main error with this piece on climate change, and the MSM narrative generally, is that it remains cast within national contexts and frameworks. Seeing the world in terms of ‘my country’ is not a given. But the media and virtually all politicians assume that Americans cannot think in any other way except through the emotional lens of hard or soft nationalism.
That’s why “the 1940s have begun to seem like a romantic story of collective heroism, when they were in fact a time of rage, fear, grief and social disorder.”
Nationalism, whether of the Trumpian Party or the Democratic Party, is glorified tribalism. The media and politicians have to quite putting lipstick on that old pig.
Scranton rightly points out the hatred, brutalization and dislocation, in the American much less European context, that World War II unleashed. It was followed by the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned of, and in the first two decades of the new millennium, by the permanent state of war George Junior initiated after the 9.11 terrorist attacks.
Leading scientists in a summary paper last year stated, “the changes needed to stabilize the earth’s climate require a fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions.” Scranton drives the point home by saying that “piecemeal, consensus-driven, incrementalist solutions are tantamount to global suicide.”
But after using the bulk of his NYT space to deconstruct the analogy between climate change and world war, he lapses back into the same tired trope in his conclusion.
A simple truth is forsworn: the inward determines the outward; the outward does not determine the inward. Therefore without radical change at the core psychological level, humans will neither live in basic harmony with the Earth, nor live in basic harmony with each other.
I say ‘humans’ because though there are billions of humans, there are few human beings at present. In order to make the turn toward sustainability and equitability, a conscious speciation from humans to human beings is required. That means ending tribalism/nationalism at the psychological and emotional level.
Pigmentation has nothing to do with speciation, since it applies equally to all ethnic groups.
Clearly inner transmutation and outer radical changes are urgently needed. And though there is little sign that such simultaneity of cognitive transmutation and economic/political restructuring are on the horizon, this is the first time in human history when both are truly possible and achievable.
That means that whenever humanity’s conscious, sympatric speciation occurs, we have to keep our inward and outward eyes on that horizon. Because that’s the only way the reversal of humankind’s ancient, accelerating trajectory of tragedy can occur.