Living like monks won't "save the planet"

One of the charms of the Internet reading of late last week was Harrison Stetler's article in Jacobin, titled "Changing Our Individual Behavior Isn’t Going to Save the Planet." Now, I do not keep track of French politics. But if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that if Macron is trying to bully the French, each individually, into reducing their "carbon footprtints" to "save the planet," it's going to be happening here soon. So also, for instance, you were able to read late last month of Pete Buttigieg's proposal for a "mileage tax" -- you know, so the further you live from the (affordable) grocery store, the less affordable your residence will be. (This last part will matter in a world where a lot of people can't afford to pay rent.)

The fact that the French proposals don't go very far is not necessarily a big problem for the elites at this moment. Success isn't their purpose. As Stetler points out:

The (proposed climate and resilience) law is remarkable for the breadth and range of its inadequacy. Thanks to the Yellow Vest revolt, it is now a commonplace that averting climate disaster requires a “revolution” in our way of life and that no sphere of human activity can go unchanged. With guidelines and incentives touching on everything from domestic air travel to building renovations and vegetarian meals, this law hints at the range of activities that need to be reorganized, all while seeking to avert and preempt any proactive mobilization of the state.

In other words, the proposed French law aims to cast the government in the role of the "good guys" in the social drama of continuing ineffective action on climate change, while letting said same government off the hook for failing to commit to any sort of revolution that would make a difference, and while letting the corporations off the hook for doing what comes naturally to their bourgeois leadership -- i.e. the pursuit of profits under capitalism. Stetler points out at the very beginning of the piece that the Yellow Vest movement compelled Macron to withdraw proposed increases in the French gas tax, and so the proposed "climate and resilience" law is apparently his response.

We can, moreover, generalize further, past the French example, to predict that what we shall see in the future will be attempts to cast the Almighty Individual Consumer as the savior of the climate and, conversely, as the culprit for why climate change mitigation "efforts" didn't work. Leading the charge will be the people who continually tell us: "we can't wait for a revolution to happen because there isn't much time, so for now we will have to pursue green capitalism, emissions reduction targets, the Paris Agreement, and so on." Revolutions, however, do not happen because people wait for them. Revolutions happen because, as a first and necessary step, people advocate them, and prepare them through what Antonio Gramsci called the "war of position."

One aspect of this "war of position," moreover, will have to be that we should unceasingly oppose class warfare disguised as environmental legislation. This opposition should include an opposition to campaigns designed to persuade Americans who are generally broke or indebted that they should live even more poorly than they currently do because climate change or something.

By the same token we should resist all efforts to persuade us to endorse measures that will 1) be ineffective in mitigating climate change and 2) position us on the wrong side of the class divide, "because climate change is URGENT." There is no problem too urgent for us to note that a wrong, counterproductive "solution" is in fact wrong and counterproductive.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

going to say ENOUGH!? Vaccine passports, individual carbon footprint reduction - it's all bullshit to control the pleebes! As others on this site have noted, I put myself on the outside of these things - NO VACCINE FOR ME - I'm reducing my carbon footprint by biking and walking more, but we need to do it as a COLLECTIVE.

I am saying ENOUGH. I hope many will join me. Pleasantry

13 users have voted.

"The “jumpers” reminded us that one day we will all face only one choice and that is how we will die, not how we will live." Chris Hedges on 9/11

Cassiodorus's picture

@Raggedy Ann that being vaccinated, the vaccine itself being free and not contingent upon subscription to any predatory corporation's "health plan," has anything to do with being on the wrong side of the class divide.

14 users have voted.

""I think it's important to pay attention to the fact that prices need to come down in a number of areas, but we have been lowering the cost of living for so many people." -- Kamala Harris

@Cassiodorus .
Cassiodorus makes an excellent point about the implications of taking the corporate "vaccine" being distinct from taking the wrong side of the class divide.

I don't believe that the abstraction of which side one occupies on the class divide is particularly relevant to the question of whether an individual decides to participate in The Experiment. I am opting out, but I respect anybody -- especially older persons -- who decides that reducing the chance of death or serious symptoms if you happen to catch the shit and takes the shots for that reason.

What I do not respect is the army of liars who are trying to bully everybody into participating in The Experiment. Just yesterday, I was on a Zoom call that included a group discussion of the upcoming Return To Work. A high ranking personage in the meeting answered this question: "If I get the vaccine, can I come to work without a mask?" with the following accurate response: "No. The science is not there, yet, to show that it keeps you from getting the virus or spreading it. But having the vaccine will help."

This followed a blast email from one of the top officials that included this gem urging people to take advantage of the availability of the Experimental therapy: "The vaccine has been shown to be effective, particularly if you wear a mask and follow all the Social Distancing protocols.


What I am seeing wall to wall in our main stream culture is an attempt to blow past the fact that these "vaccines" are unapproved experiments. This does not mean that they will fuck you up. It just means without any doubt that nobody knows what if any side effects will come from this Experiment. So the smug attitude of Team Lockdown is now bumped up an order of magnitude. Instead of dealing with uncertainty in the manner of Team Lockdown, Team SpikeEmAll is trying to hide something that is in plain sight -- the FDA has NOT approved this shit.

The technique is simply the non-sequitur. The vaccine works great to get us back to normal provided we continue to stay locked down wearing our masks.

Gotta love Internet Experts on Medical Science.

12 users have voted.

I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.

Cassiodorus's picture

@fire with fire @fire with fire knowing people won't take it.

People can sit indoors in restaurants now in Oregon without wearing masks. Why? Capitalism y'know. So, given the increase in COVID-19 cases in Oregon, the libraries in Oregon are closed. Libraries, you see, aren't capitalism.

Conclusion: those who dare not speak of capitalism have nothing to say about COVID-19 containment.

13 users have voted.

""I think it's important to pay attention to the fact that prices need to come down in a number of areas, but we have been lowering the cost of living for so many people." -- Kamala Harris

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@fire with fire

Being a transplant patient, with a transplant team that recommended taking part in The Experiment, basically means you do what you're told. You kind of have to trust your transplant team.

Ordinarily, neither of us would be an early adopter, but being a transplant patient in the middle of an epidemic isn't ordinary.

I wish we could, not so much opt out, as *wait*.

2 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal @Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal @Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
What pushed me over the edge from a wait and see approach to Hell No was the transcript of the Barclay's Bank conference call featuring Pfizer top management. They were totally candid about their ambition to exploit this "opportunity" as the pandemic appeared to be turning into an endemic problem -- requiring more shots forever, and without any of that pesky governmental price control that limits their profit margin for the current Covid-19 campaign to be a mere 25%.

Their Big Kahunas were palpably apologetic to the Investing Community about the measly 3.5 billion dollar profit that they will realize from the first two doses around the world. The "market" principles will resume and they plan to use this as a beachhead in the Flu Shot market.

This is not a conspiracy. This is how you make a buck under neoliberalism -- you take advantage of every "opportunity."

Yes, the whole fucking world literally trusts these people with their lives on the theory that nobody would be such an asshole as to rip people off in a pandemic.

1 user has voted.

I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.

yes we do have to drive a lot less, but that means governments have to provide adequate bus and rail systems. Also, the biggest oil users are the military and the airlines, and they are capitalist 800lb gorillas.

23 users have voted.

On to Biden since 1973

defined as staying in his or her home, adequate meals and summer and winter clothing, and with essential utilities paid up, avoiding those nasty surcharges, is already "living like a monk". Which is to say, we have pretty much dropped out of consumer economy, except for the occasional foray for kitchen supplies and necessary tools. That does indeed have a certain effect on local business and employment, very much including immigrant business and employment. I guess someone should have thought of that while they were still assuming we were all a pack of ignorant walking ATM machines.

20 users have voted.

Mary Bennett

Cassiodorus's picture

@Nastarana "we're not a bunch of walking ignorant ATM machines."

7 users have voted.

""I think it's important to pay attention to the fact that prices need to come down in a number of areas, but we have been lowering the cost of living for so many people." -- Kamala Harris

Lookout's picture

we are past the tipping point in every way from my perspective. Even if we were to suddenly make a sincere effort, I'm afraid it is too late.

The oceans tell the's one version.
Paul Beckwith explains... (15 min)
Imminent Global Ocean Tipping Points: Ocean Warming, Acidification, and Deoxygenation
"I chat mostly about the key points in the new peer-reviewed scientific paper titled “The Quiet Crossing of Ocean Tipping Points”, namely that the most imminent problems are ocean warming, ocean acidification, and ocean deoxygenation. In many of my videos I talk about extreme weather events increasing greatly in frequency, severity, and duration and we are also seeing this in extreme ocean “weather” events, for example marine heat waves, coastal hypoxia, and ocean acidification events linked to strong upwelling episodes. The paper emphasizes that the ocean warming, acidification, and deoxygenation are all high-probability, high-impact ocean tipping points in the oceans physical, chemical, and biological systems. Although often fragmented both regionally and in time, the cumulative compounding effects really affect the entire ocean. The ocean tipping elements exhibit the characteristics of threshold, highly nonlinear behaviour, bifurcation, regime shifts, and system reorganization associated with math theory on tipping points."

As I often say, treasure every day!

15 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cassiodorus's picture

@Lookout Problems which require revolutions usually do suck a lot, because if they didn't suck so much they wouldn't require revolutions.

4 users have voted.

""I think it's important to pay attention to the fact that prices need to come down in a number of areas, but we have been lowering the cost of living for so many people." -- Kamala Harris

Namely Sustainable Building Science Technology. I'm just trying to acquire a BA degree in a field that will get me family wage level and above work (fuck that "living", i.e. starving/ surviving in constant fear wage crap)....

The curriculum is mostly about improving efficiencies in (office) buildings. And there are a lot of efficiencies to be found, to be sure. However, the 4 main instructors, and guest speakers, and most of my cohort, all have the same idealized fantasy that we are going to be able to continue on the way we have been, just more efficiently.

I wish that was still a possibility, but I don't think we'll be able to electric car-ify our way out of this predicament.

I am also resentful of the green-washing of responsibility on the individual (like recycling that doesn't happen, so plastic manufacturers get off the hook), so that the military and container ships (iirc, 4 container ships crossing the Pacific Ocean create the equivalent pollution/CO2 as all the cars on the road in the U.S.)

I think the the cheap fuel/ modern economy/ western civilization is going to be ending soon one way or another. I am just glad I am middle aged now, and I don't have any children. I think it's past time to pull our finger from the dike, because the waves are crashing over the walls,run for the hills, and prepare to defend them.

15 users have voted.

It’s the way TPTB deal with any other issue created by rampant capitalism and the oligarchy we live under. Put the blame on the powerless individuals and make it all about their personal choices and deflect any attention from the system that is actually responsible for all but a small part of the problem, if even that*. You see it with Republicans who want to talk about welfare cheats without mentioning the corporations who don’t pay any taxes (or even get money back!) And you see it with the Democrats who want us all to have “White Fragility” inspired HR training while ignoring the big picture structural racism baked into government, business and the economy.

Like those instances, and all the others in between, they’re not going to make the necessary changes at that level until they can profit in the manner which they are accustomed. So, it all falls to us at the bottom to jump through pointless hoops and adjust our behavior for ultimately little, if any, results. It’s like this charade where everyone pretends these things mean something and we all agree the emperor’s new clothes look great! Meanwhile, the ultra rich are laying it all out in the open, taking about colonizing Mars, because they know we are fucked.

* I think with almost no exception, you can tie those individual choices back to the system the people have to live in anyway. The little people are just playing the hands they are dealt.

21 users have voted.

Idolizing a politician is like believing the stripper really likes you.

dystopian's picture

Hi Cassiod,

I can't find it but saw a recent graphic... probably at the reddit sub LateStage Capitalism, that showed how BP put up a 'carbon footprint calculator' web page. So you can see it is your fault. Not theirs that dumped how many tens of millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and lied about it. And spent how much lobbying against the people knowing the truth about oil, carbon, plastics, etc.? It is us little people's fault. We need to do something, not BP.

Did find this one though. All the little people's carbon don't add up to few rich.

12 users have voted.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

If the worlds population was 7 Billion people, the top 10% would be 700 Million people.
I read an interesting comparative statistic (on the internet, so it must be true s/) the other day, saying if you live in the USA and make over 35K annually, you are in the top 10% income bracket (of the world). 700 Million people, I'm guessing is @ the population of Europe and the USA...

It's just another way that statistics by themselves can be misleading without context.

5 users have voted.

6 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

Dawn's Meta's picture

In fact based on reading this from the Jocobin, he doubles down. So much to comment on here.

First, France's enviable low emissions are largely the offsets provided by electricity generated by nuclear power. They are aging, and there seems nary a peep about having to do something about them.

It's news that the privatisation of the transport systems such as airports and TGV are driven by the EU. France has fought the chemicals used in pesticides and herbicides in some cases successfully only to have the EU push Monsanto/Bayer down everyone's throat. It's complicated: traditional farmers are convinced that they need Glyphosate and GMO to survive, while others are pushing for sustainable agriculture. One of the big drivers of the Gillets Jaunes movement.

Macron has not met a corporate driven initiative he doesn't like. Hence this Orwellian set of bills in the National Assembly. The next election will be a rightward swing or someone progressive or a buffoon.

We just got two checks to cash if we make changes to gas or electric in our house from the Ministry Of Environmental Transition. Oh the irony.

There is nothing seen so far on smart grid, solar or wind for individuals which would be highly doable in France. Ditto on support for individual small farms going regenerative/sustainable, which some are doing on their own.

But 5G and fiber communications at the village level is full steam ahead.

Mayors of many towns and villages are raising huge objections to loss of small rail routes which connect to larger hubs. If we are to get our individual footprints down, we need access to common transport. France has had this until very recently.

What Macron is doing is supporting the US corporate plan, we are just a few decades behind in transferring power and ownership away from the public. He also has France largely involved in any military endeavour the US is involved in. With 66 million we have no business (well nobody does) being in regime change or putting the corporate favorite in as head of some country we choose. But heck let's deploy military with hardware anyplace the US needs a coalition of the willing.

France is full of rivers and streams. It's ideal for fresh water. But the landscape is changing fast as trees are cut, especially the Oaks and streamside shade reduced. A few initiatives to restore some of the Loire and its feeder streams and rivers are underway. Much more needs to be done. Nestle is huge here: it's hard not to buy Nestle in some segments of the food provisioning.

COVID response given the potential of a national system of health has been marginal. We can get tested the same day we have a concern and get results in 24 hours at no cost to us. But prevention and other possible treatments especially in light of the slow roll out of vaccines (the grand experiment) have been again the US model. Many doctors have had the creativity to speak about alternatives to vaccines especially to prevent or reduce impact of the infections. They have been actively suppressed.

We are not seeing the returns of our beloved Hirondelles (Swallows) or bats the last couple of years. We have winter warming when everything starts to bloom, the insects arrive all very early, then a prolonged very cool and wet Spring into Summer. Arrival of birds (Egrets are here in great numbers) are no longer matched to the arrival of insects. We hear our Huppe, but which year will be the last? The Nightengale just started singing in the night under the moon and the Cuckoo has been sounding off. We hold our breath on a late cold spell returning to quell the insect meals these brooding birds are dependent on for their nests.

We did lose our Chablis crop two weeks ago. Deep frost too much for the vines. Our Chablis is one of my favorite wines. It's not the cheap stuff but a truly marvelous wine from a very small area in a deeply cut set of hillsides.

The signs are all around us and Macron fiddles in the Elysée.

9 users have voted.

A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Allegedly Greek, but more possibly fairly modern quote.

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We need zero carbon energy sources and we need to capture and sequester more than 1000 gigatons of CO2 from the air. This can only be accomplished by government and industry, I have no idea how changing your lifestyle will do this. We know people who think that recycling trash is moving towards solving the climate crisis. I'm afraid that the solution for this crisis is devolving into Liberal lifestyle bullshit. Don't eat meat? Well the planet is designed for a massive amount of animal biomass and can clear the CO2 and CH4 if it's back in balance with plant biomass. The problem is burning fossil fuels. We never had any business doing this in large scale. That represents long term sequestered carbon, completely critical for planet homeostasis in the epochs when current species evolved. We will not get there unless it is funded by governments as life critical projects, which it is. Instead, we fund death (the war department). If every country meets their Paris commitment we get 3.5 degree C rise by the end of the century, against a world population of 11 billion and a massive civilization ending dieback. Every single auto manufacturer needs to stop building I.C.E. fossil fuel burning cars as of tomorrow. All new fossil fuel power plants in construction need to be canceled as of tomorrow. There's more, but the hardest realization is that our government as constructed cannot solve this problem, nor can our economic system nor our legal system. Anyone with money can hire a lawyer and stop an offshore wind project, thank you Ted Kennedy. Look at our dismal performance in response to the Covid pandemic. We have the worst total numbers in the world, although I think that India will surpass us (hmmm another offshoot of the British Empire, why is that?).

As I said in the title, once we crash out there will be small isolated pockets of civilization living a crude life, hunting and gathering like monks. Hopefully they can maintain the neoliberal, woke, politically correct bullshit that has become our entire political system! It would be a shame to see all that progress die. (snark, obviously)

8 users have voted.

Capitalism has always been the rule of the people by the oligarchs. You only have two choices, eliminate them or restrict their power.