The Path to (Climate) Victory

I already recommended Michael Mann’s excellent new book on climate politics and climate action; what follows is the text of an email I sent to some friends with respect to the opportunity/challenge of the new administration and the decade(s) to come that expands on my previous post (and re-recommends his book!). Regular readers will know that I was neither enthusiastic about Joe Biden, nor am I strong booster for the corporatist Democratic Party, but as a matter of pragmatic politics, I believe we now have an opportunity, unparalleled in my lifetime, to redirect the course of the country, and I hope we seize it:

“I’m confident we all breathed a big sigh of relief last week, and I’m feeling more optimistic about the political direction of our country than I ever have. Certainly, there is an element of melancholia in Bernie Sanders trending (and I know I’m to the left of most if not all of you), but I think there’s also a profound level at which the bundled-up-Bernie memes capture subliminally the extent to which, in losing the political battle, Sanders won the cultural war over the future of the Democratic Party, and hopefully the United States.

Ironically, then, given his record, Joe Biden takes office with the most progressive agenda of any US president in the last half century, and I believe our task today is to ensure that Biden, Harris, and the Democrats deliver on big, ambitious, popular reforms/programs/promises that will be wildly, widely popular and can solidify Democratic dominance of US politics for a generation to come, while, more importantly, helping to meet the needs of the vast majority of people in this country who have suffered under neoliberal austerity, etc. for the past ~50 years.

The Republican Party is, increasingly, (to borrow from Noam Chomsky) a “death cult,” and there is a future in which the events of January 6th at the Capitol mark the death spasm of an unhinged and omnicidal movement; there is also a potential future in which that movement roars back under the leadership of figures just as sinister, but more capable and less buffoonish and lazy than the now twice-impeached ex-president.

Our work is to secure the former and avoid the latter, in the process delivering a future for ourselves, our country, and generations to come that will be better than the world we were born into. Neoliberalism now threatens to give way to neofascism globally, and it’s up to us to forge a new consensus. I see this as a worthy task – a kind of calling for our generation – and, as you know, it’s my belief that climate crisis and our response to it will most centrally define whether we succeed or fail. 

To that end, I have a personal request to make of you: Please read Mike Mann’s new book, The New Climate War (ideally by borrowing it from your local public library, or otherwise not buying it on Amazon). I’m not in the habit of making such requests, but I believe his book – a kind of manifesto for the transformative decade we need, the transformative decade which is now fully within our collective ability to make manifest – is the right text, at the right time, from the right person.

To those of you more familiar with climate issues and politics, much of what Mann writes will be review, but the nuanced insights he offers in his analysis of what constitutes true progress – and what tactics of denial, but also delay, distraction, and deflection stand in the way to it – point the way forward more clearly than anything I’ve read recently; additionally, his book has the advantage of being accessible to a popular audience, briskly written, and, at times, funny. I don’t agree with him about everything, but I think he’s put his finger on the core of the pragmatic politics that will let us remake the country and avert catastrophic climate change over the course of the next decade and beyond, and I hope you’ll read it sooner rather than later […] and if you buy a copy, and see fit, pass it along to someone you think needs to read it when you’re done.”

Here’s to a transformative decade ahead.

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