“Individuals”, Climate and Political Change

Individuals are the problem. Individuals are easy to compartmentalize and disenfranchise, to the point where eating organic food looks like a radical political choice. Action on climate change needs to be radical, collective, and inclusive. Unfortunately at present, all organized resistance groups I’ve encountered value what is immediately experienceable over the highly abstract – i.e. poverty, victims of war, marginalized groups. Since the mainstream individual is neither empowered nor oppressed in contemporary society, there is little room for a mainstream opposition to climate change – it always degrades to arguing about statistics and numbers.

But, the statistics and numbers refer to something real, something far more frightening and dangerous than any of the political violence the left focuses on. Zizek captures this paradox when he claims that the green movement’s focus on our experience of nature, the lived-world, is precisely the problem – and that rather we need a new scientific, mathematical concept of nature which doesn’t resort to easy simplifications like nature/culture or natural/human, but rather grasps the totality in terms of math and probabilities and thinks within formuli as to how to best secure a future for the human race.

What the left have right, however, is that the current political system does not allow for the kind of input which could be taken seriously by power elites. On the other hand, simple populism is no answer because if you poll citizens on climate change issues perhaps the majority of them get as much or more of their information from the corrupt (this is explicit – it’s called advertising) mainstream media as through reputable scientific journals. Blogs like burycoal and youtube channels like “Climate change crock of the week” do some good to counteract this mainstream disinformation, but not enough to force real climate action to the centre of public-relations based party platforms.

So, we really do need political change – how radical, we don’t get to know in advance. Climate change will change the world – either it will become a much more violent and more fascist place where the existing false front of democracy is eroded away through an enabling act (i.e. “suspension”), or, real democratic struggles will succeed in producing a real citizenry which is not continually co-opted by power forces. We have a choice about which one happens – not as individuals, but as potential members of a citizenry which could become adequate to the multi-faceted challenges that face the human race today.

One thought on ““Individuals”, Climate and Political Change

  1. ” The difficult ethical task is thus to ‘un-learn’ the most basic coordinates of our immersion into our life-world: what usually served as the recourse to Wisdom (the basic trust in the background-coordinates of our world) is now the source of danger. We should really ‘grow up’ and learn to cut this ultimate umbilical cord to our life Sphere. The problem with the science-and-technology attitude is not its detachment from our life-world, but the abstract character of this detachment, which compels the science-and-technology attitude to combine itself with the worst of our life-world immersion. Scientists perceive themselves as rational, able to appraise objectively potential risks; for them, the only unpredictable-irrational elements are the panic reactions of the uneducated crowd: with ordinary people, a small and controllable risk can spread all around and trigger global panic, since they project into the situation their disavowed fears and fantasies. What scientists are unable to perceive is the “irrational”, inadequate, nature of their own cold, distanced appraisal.”

    Zizek, from “UNBEHAGEN IN DER NATUR (Ecology Against Nature)”


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