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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Environmentalism As Culture War Rather Than Climate Policy

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot

Definitely a terrible thing happened when very real sustainability issues were displaced from the space of contention over disputable facts (eg, what is happening? what are the impacts of what is happening on whom? what policies best address what is happening? what are the impacts of these policies on whom?) into the non-adjudicable Cuture War space through which people engage in subcultural signaling to one another about who they are and who they are not (where facts of selfhood get performatively substantiated).

Of course, corporate stakeholders profiting from polluting and fancying themselves insulated by privilege from the effects of climate change long indulged in an opportunistic denialism that distorted the field of deliberation and legislation, but that is different from the present displacement of policy making by culture war, which is much more fundamental and dangerously intractable.

This displacement seems to me to have happened roughly when -- which is not to say because of -- Al Gore released "An Inconvenient Truth" and the ever-present precious bodily fluids Bircher embryo of the American right became in the demographic-structural distress in the aftermath of the eclipse of the Southern Strategy the much more prominent Tea Party caucus. The politics of climate change are no longer about the adjudication of facts about shared problems, but about the demands of (often) paranoid-aggressive bearings of threatened selfhood -- again, understand: selfhood is itself an urgent fact, but of a different kind, yielding different politics -- in a diversifying, secularizing, planetizing America.

It is a profound error to think there is a way of reaching policy compromises with interlocutors who are engaged in subcultural signaling rather than fact-adjudication or problem-solving. Needless to say, the facts of catastrophic climate change are still there, being all catastrophic and stuff, even if the sites for their deliberative and legislative address/redress no longer connect in any meaningful way to these facts. There can be no question of having people at the table who mistake the table for a stage on which egos plant their flags. It is foolish to appeal to or argue with Movement Republicans at a time like this -- they must be marginalized instead into comparative harmlessness, and until we manage this, they must be circumvented by the implementation of sustainable policies any time the slightest and most momentary occasion arises for this. The good new is that the left has mostly won and is winning the Culture Wars, the bad news is that when it comes to catastrophic climate change we are out of time.

1 comment:

Black guy from the future past said...

Yep. I think it's pretty clear right about now that there is nothing scientific about politics at all. These politicians actually do not value science (unless they are making rousing speeches about the need to be competitive with other nations, which smacks of violence to me, science should be used in peace and the spirit of cooperation not competition). It's all psychological bullshit.