Global warming denial on the left

Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch has gone into loonie-land with his global warming denials, making bizarre statements like saying support for the Kyoto Accord means genocide for the Third World, as he pals up with the extreme right on this issue and trumpets junk science to back his tirades.

Cockburn and others on the left seem compelled to bash Al Gore for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize because he’s imperialist and has done noxious things in the past. Which is certainly true, but how is that relevant? Gore has played a huge role in getting global warming into mass public consciousness, maybe more than any other individual person, so why mock and denigrate that on sectarian grounds? At the risk of sounding hippyish, we just live on one planet, and global warming needs to be solved by everyone – capitalist, socialist, everyone.

When sf author Bruce Sterling started the Viridian Design movement in 1998 as a way of sounding the alarm on global warming, we (I was an early member) were a tiny avant art movement, ignored when not ridiculed. That all changed of course, and now it’s gone mainstream.

In Viridian Note #487 titled “We are winning“, Sterling sums it up.

This means that it is becoming necessary for us to vanish. Not because we are losing. If we were losing – like the Arts and Crafts movement lost, like Modernism lost – then we could complain for the next dozen decades. Viridian is winning. We threw a match or two, and less than a decade later the planet is consumed in prairie fires. The smart thing to do is to stop.

Then what happens? There are two choices. You can attempt to seize control, or you can get out of the way. Oh wait, there’s a third choice: getting cold feet and apologizing for having won. I didn’t mention that option because that one didn’t occur to me.

(That third option is currently bring implemented by Congressional Democrats on any number of issues. Whoops, sorry, I chastise myself for being off topic.)

Seizing control might be nice but ain’t gonna happen. Even if it did, the counter-attacks by those driven out of power would take years to resolve and we don’t have the luxury of time here. Plus, and here’s that darned hippie stuff again, we all need to be rowing in the same direction to overcome global warming.

We are winning because we were ahead of the curve: we Viridians were an avant-garde who understood, almost ten years ago, that something like this was bound to happen. That does not make us the proper people to actually carry it out. First, we don’t have the scale, the resources, or the ability. Second, and let me be very clear to you here: the primrose path to sustainability, even it is construed as sexy, trendy and stylish, will be dark and thorny. Behind Corporate Green is its darker, bloodstained cousin, Khaki Green, and we’ll be seeing a lot of that. Sustainability will be a comprehensive revolution in the tenor of daily life. There will be blood on the hands of the people who bring it about. Not because they are bloodthirsty. But because there is so much blood.

Khaki Green is his term for the coming militarization of the response to global warming as countries deal with refugees on their borders, resource wars, and view the results of climate as a security threat.

His key point for me is that a bunch of left greenies don’t have the resources to do what needs to be done. It will have to be done by governments and huge corporations because only they have the technical chops and money to do it. This means a huge shift in tactics and strategy for the Left should it want to remain relevant and a player in the process. Hopefully we can shape and mold the process, but to do so we will need to be participants not adversaries.

It is time to declare victory. Further rhetorical effort on this line is not required, and the cleverest activist tactic when you get what you want is to take it and vanish into the woodwork. A strutting triumphalism will only annoy people who are doomed to end up thinking like us anyhow. So, the sooner we can vanish and let them get on with the hard, sweaty labor of jumping from a boiling pot, the better off the world will be.


  1. “Ice caps recede… it’s a cycle.” So are hard times for species, widespread destruction of habitats, and significant population reductions. The only difference now is, it’s not the dinosaurs on the receiving end. It’s humans. Those who speak of natural cycles often do so without acknowledging that WE are subject to them. Whether at the hands of humans or nature, the receding ice caps WILL affect us. (And they already have.)

    So far, those of us here in prosperous America have been relatively unaffected. It’s poor people in India, Bangladesh, and the Pacific islands whose homes are now underwater, and Africa where multi-year droughts have caused widespread famine. That won’t last. Our climate is already changing.

    To be sure, there’s an environmental element to global warming that’s beyond our control. Keith seems to take that as an excuse to do nothing. But scientists all over the globe confirm that human activity is hastening the natural process.

    If you’re OK with drought, famine, and disease coming to your own household, probably in our lifetime, keep driving that Hummer. Maybe it won’t make a difference– maybe our future looks like Mad Max 2 or Soylent Green no matter what we do.

    I’ll sleep better at night knowing my own activities contributed as little as possible to the widespread changes that await us. And with many scientists are suggesting that if we change our ways, the crisis can be avoided, reducing CO2 emissions seems like a no brainer– it’s a no-lose bet.

  2. Actually Keith, whose comment I deleted, used it as an opportunity to rant about Islamofascists and how Al Gore said in the 70’s that an ice age was coming. Which of course he didn’t.

    Troll comments get deleted instantly here.

    It’s only the flat earth society folks who pretend global warming isn’t happening. Hey, even Bush has finally and grudgingly admitted global warming is a reality.

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