If you can't talk about climate change...

I know! Write a negative review of "Don't Look Up." Here's the most recent extension of the general gab-fest that has surrounded this movie since it came out, from Breaking Points:

Now, if you followed Krystal Ball carefully, one of the images she posted was of an article in The Intelligencer, specifically a piece by Eric Levitz, titled "Don't Look Up doesn't Get the Climate Crisis." Upon reading this critique, however, I concluded that Eric Levitz doesn't get the climate crisis, and that therefore David Sirota's most admirable contribution to the debate about climate change was to have co-created a movie that exposed those who didn't know what they were talking about. For that I salute him.

But let's examine Levitz's assertions, so that we can say that we know what we're talking about.

Nevertheless, Don’t Look Up badly misconstrues the crisis it’s meant to illuminate. Climate change isn’t much like a planet-killing comet. And the pathologies of for-profit media and campaign finance aren’t the primary obstacles to rapid decarbonization.

Really? They aren't? The global elites have gotten together for thirty years, now, since the Rio Summit of 1992, with COP meetings since 1995, to try to create an effective plan of action to deal with climate change. The net result? Zero, zip, zilch, nada.

If you want to know how this could be so, go to the Energy Information Administration's webpage and find the statistics on global oil production. They go up every year, with the possible exception of the first year of the pandemic when they went down a little bit.

Could this be, you suppose, because the most important parties participating at these meetings have been bought off by the oil companies (e.g. "campaign finance")? Or because the mass media didn't make anything of an issue of climate change?

And here's another big reveal:

In the film’s populist, polemical account of the ecological crisis, there is no genuine technical or logistical obstacle to neutralizing the threat, no need for Americans to tolerate significant disruptions to their existing way of life, no vexing question of global redistribution, no compelling benefits from ongoing carbon-intensive growth, and thus no rational or uncorrupted opponent of timely climate action.

But there really isn't any "genuine technical or logistical obstacle" to dealing with climate change. We have all the science we need to make climate change mitigation possible. The main obstacle to developing that science as concrete chunks of technology, hand in hand with a cold-turkey approach to fossil fuels, is in effectively imagining a world in which "value," defined as that which money can buy, does not rule people, does not decide their lives for them. As it stands we are living on a planet which is being sacrificed for the sake of the principle of "he who dies with the most toys, wins" (while most of us are busy making a living). The predictable outcome is that the current owners of the world's fossil fuel reserves are going to demand massive financial compensation for not "developing" those reserves.

The "significant disruptions to their existing way of life" thing is also a red herring. If only the American middle class would live like monks, everything would be peachy-keen -- or maybe not. As for disruption, most of America experiences disruption to its way of life often -- only the cause of this disruption is usually either "the market" or "management." Granting America the RIGHT to a sustainable way of life would be a big step forward.

"Vexing questions or global distribution" are only vexing to those most distinctly standing in the way -- rich special interests and their bought-off politicians. If the reports about "Don't Look Up" are true, the movie does indeed address those groups of people.

"Compelling benefits from ongoing carbon-intensive growth" appear compelling to most of America only insofar as most of America has access to agencies of class struggle -- unions, strikes, wage increases, Great Resignations, and so on. If the car companies are producing more cars this year, it's only good for me insofar as I can afford one. Now, I have no idea if "Don't Look Up" addresses the class struggle. If it doesn't, maybe Sirota can address it in the next movie.

Okay now let's address Levitz's bullet points.

1. Climate change provides no do-or-die deadline.

This will become increasingly untrue to millions, then billions, of people as the situation worsens. We will have to do now, or they will die later.

2. The technology necessary for eliminating climate change — at no cost to human flourishing — isn’t fully developed.

Apparently Levitz's definition of "human flourishing" is "duplicating the existing system." Now there's something to not believe in. And even if the necessary technology for doing that didn't exist, which I don't really believe, the science for developing the technology does exist. What definitely doesn't exist is the social agency for making it happen.

3. Rapid decarbonization will require Americans to tolerate real changes to their ways of life. And some have good reason to resist those changes.

Here I am reminded of a classic phrase in Foster, Clark, and York's book "The Ecological Rift": “While the environmental problem arises primarily from production, in the transformation of nature by human labor, it is increasingly attributed entirely to consumption" (384). When you go to the store to buy an appliance, you are not the producer of the global networks of production and distribution that put that appliance on the shelf for you, and allowed you access to the surplus value that made the appliance cheap. None of that was your choice (as a consumer). Productive consumption vastly outstrips consumer consumption, so if you want to "decarbonize" without asking permission from the consumers, guess where you start?

4. Vapid news anchors and billionaire political donors are not the primary obstacles to climate action.

Now even if this were the case, if they ARE obstacles to climate action, Sirota would still be quite justified in making a movie to call our attention to them.

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Cassiodorus's picture

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

Lookout's picture

is Fossil Fuel/Wall Street profits and the media they control. I think even if we were willing to promote world wide action...it is too late. As usual our species is a dollar short and a day late. The ocean holds the excess heat and chaotic weather is inescapable, as is the climatic system when current systems in both the ocean and air stall and collapse. Not to be debbie downer or bummer bill, but just my understanding as an Earth scientist.

So I'm suggesting the comet is on its way. Treasure your days. Spend your time in a meaningful way. Not to say we shouldn't try to minimize our footprint, just that it is probably futile.

Did you ever get to see the film? If not, I bet you have a buddy with Netflix that could accommodate you. Not that it is the greatest film I've seen...but thought provoking with good acting.

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

@Lookout without it ocurring to me that the comet was a stand-in for the climate catastrophe.

Imagination failure of mine? probably.

The movie made sense to me because it highlighted how distracted and gaslighted the American public has become and how vulnerable we are to devoting our attention to nonsense while ignoring actual peril.

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NYCVG

Lookout's picture

@NYCVG
pandemic allegory. Art is in the eye of the beholder.

I heard an interview with Sirota before I saw the film so I understood the target symbolism.

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10 users have voted.

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

Cassiodorus's picture

@Lookout hasn't really been the film. As I said in the earlier diary, I get pretty impatient with films, suspecting that mostly they're a reflection of the director's or producer's viewpoint and just wanting to read the screenplay to save time.

My main interest in all this is "hey now people are really talking about climate change." I recommend to all to start with this piece, published late in 2016. The password to open the PDF is: AddletonAP2009 . The main point is that all of these people want to "solve the problem" by protecting capitalism against climate change, whereas a better approach would involve imagining a society which could survive climate change.

And it all starts in the head with the utopian dream, the dream of how things could be, the intersection of desire and world-picture.

So that's where I stand. I do, by the way, subscribe to David Sirota's news service. I'm willing to put money into things I think are good. Netflix? I don't know.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

Pluto's Republic's picture

@Cassiodorus

And it all starts in the head with the utopian dream, the dream of how things could be,

It might be the only cognitive exercise that really matters.

Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that there must be an authentic VISION and a keeper of that VISION for humanity to evolve and survive. I think all the moments of progress and beauty we have seen over the past 100,000 years has occurred because there were VISIONS that humanity could naturally share. And because the simple fact is, we must imagine a future first, it in order to manifest it. I can pinpoint all the visions and symbols and myths down through the ages. But I don't think there's been a VISION that humanity has shared during my lifetime. It's a dreadful thing.

Maybe we lost the ability or the drive to do that, because humanity is not moving into the future.

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____________________
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
— Voltaire

Cassiodorus's picture

@Pluto's Republic This insight was interesting to read:

I think all the moments of progress and beauty we have seen over the past 100,000 years has occurred because there were VISIONS that humanity could naturally share.

I was thinking more along the lines of "well, for the past two and a half centuries we lived in an Age of Utopian Dreaming. Then for the past forty years we've given up on all of that and concluded, as Jonathon Porritt did in his book Capitalism As If The World Matters, that capitalism is the only game in town -- and we've stuck with that idea despite all of its bad consequences. Since we were already on the utopian track, it wasn't such a good idea to give up on utopian dreaming and declare the matter settled, was it?"

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

Pluto's Republic's picture

@Cassiodorus

I was pretty inspired by the thought because I don't see very much that is true — that really makes a difference anymore.

I spent several hours examining this idea and came up with an outline for a kind of Turing test for the many stages of Sentience, from pre-sentience to sentience-engineering. Bottom line, I do think that biologically networked self-awareness and enlightenment is a natural milestone in evolution — after which technology can safely emerge. But on this planet, technology emerged, catastrophically early in the un-evolved minds of Homo sapiens, long before they realized what they are, and what they can do, together.

In the distant future, after the planet heals, there may be a less disruptive species that will make the successful leap to a sentient life, bringing a deep understanding of the natural order of things.

Homo sapiens just couldn't fulfill the promise.

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____________________
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
— Voltaire

Shahryar's picture

@NYCVG

There are always issues of importance and the powers that be are not capable and not interested in dealing with them.

In 2022 it might be climate change. In 1968 it might have been Vietnam. In 1930 it might have been Hoovervilles. Ok, in 2022 we can call them Bidenvilles, since we have that problem, too.

The point is the ruling class is looking for profit rather than a better society. Any criticism of the film because it doesn't match one to one with climate change is completely missing the message.

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wendy davis's picture

@Lookout

one member who lives a couple counties to the north of u told me that no one here want to hear this news, and as far as i can tell he's never here any longer. i sort of stpped keeping up with robert hunziker's reports at counterpunch, but just a scan of his recent columns is quite edifying and sobering.

i'd covered the Peoples Summits during the 2012 earth sustainability summit in rio. it was likely that had we listened to the indigenous then...it may have been too late. two titles kicked up when i'd bingled:

https://shadowproof.com/2012/06/21/this-is-what-indigenous-activism-for-...

https://shadowproof.com/2012/06/14/green-capitalism-and-the-%E2%80%98peo...

Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.

It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings. We propose to the peoples of the world the recovery, revalorization, and strengthening of the knowledge, wisdom, and ancestral practices of Indigenous Peoples, which are affirmed in the thought and practices of “Living Well,” recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship.

* harmony and balance among all and with all things;

* complementarity, solidarity, and equality;
* collective well-being and the satisfaction of the basic necessities of all;
* people in harmony with nature;
* recognition of human beings for what they are, not what they own;
* elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism;
* peace among the peoples and with Mother Earth.

both are longish, but back in the day i was actually able to write, not just copy/paste.
; )

but not one Green New Deal has ever uttered a word about the US war machine having the largest carbon footprint on the plnet. meh.

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If India and China do not mitigate, the complete decarbonization of the USA will accomplish nothing but a slight delay in the climate disaster.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

Lookout's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

The US blows them out of the water by far as illustrated below
https://www.worldometers.info/co2-emissions/co2-emissions-per-capita/
china india and us.png

The primary polluters in order...
biggest polluters.png

Just to put thing in perspective. Additionally China is proceeding with the worlds largest roll out of clean energy production.

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

@Lookout
Especially coal burning

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

Lookout's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

per person is a better metric IMO. Puts us all on equal footing. Plus much of China's carbon emissions are for exports that go to other countries.

But it really is a moot point given the inevitable climate collapse, sooner or later?...that is the question.

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5 users have voted.

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

@Lookout
Per person is a better metric if your purpose is to point fingers.
TOTAL pollution is what affects the climate. India and China have 3 to 6 times the population of the USA (too lazy to check China's current population). The total emissions is what counts physically, if not politically.

I'm not interested in pointing fingers. I'm interested in survival.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

But beyond that, I really love how it is hitting all time highs in viewership and discussions despite the panning critics.

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"Without the right to offend, freedom of speech does not exist." Taslima Nasrin

Shahryar's picture

these are the same people who would say "this is inaccurate because a hare would not fall asleep during a race. In fact, a hare would never be in 'a race' against a tortoise in the first place."

If one lacks the intelligence and imagination to understand a story then they surely aren't going to be able to handle the real problem.

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