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20 Theses Against Green Capitalism

This came to me via a Midnight Notes friend, and given the frenzy and local enthusiasm for the “Green New Deal” I thought it timely to just put them right up for general viewing and discussion… curious to hear rebuttals if anyone wants to take that up…

“… A few critical theses against green capitalism. they were originally intended as an input for a meeting in Poznan discussing the mobilisation towards/against the 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen, but since the whole ‘green capitalism’/’green new deal’ discussion is by now sort of centre stage (carmakers in the US having to turn green, European carmakers managing to avert such an ‘imposition’), these ideas can maybe be useful in all sorts of discussions. if you like them, please spread far and wide, and of course, sorry for cross-posting.

solidarische gruesse, tadzio

20 Theses against green capitalism

No to false solutions! Climate Justice Now!

1. The current world economic crisis marks the end of the neoliberal phase of capitalism. “˜Business as usual’ (financialisation, deregulation, privatisation”¦) is thus no longer an option: new spaces of accumulation and types of political regulation will need to be found by governments and corporations to keep capitalism going

2. Alongside the economic and political as well as energy crises, there is another crisis rocking the world: the biocrisis, the result of a suicidal mismatch between the ecological life support system that guarantees our collective human survival and capital’s need for constant growth

3. This biocrisis is an immense danger to our collective survival, but like all crises it also presents us, social movements, with a historic opportunity: to really go for capitalism’s exposed jugular, its need for unceasing, destructive, insane growth

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The Tortoise vs. the Gangster

The other night I went to the SF Art Institute to speak to a class on “The Contested City.” The students had been given Nowtopia to read and a bunch of intelligent questions were prepared. The 3-hour class was given over to “grilling” me in a friendly but pointed way, which I really enjoyed. Analogously I was interviewed over Thanksgiving weekend by email for an intelligent literary website “Three Monkeys Online” which you can find here.

Curiously I found myself feeling a bit desolate after I got home that night and when I tried to figure out why I decided the inadequacy of my answers was at least part of it. During the class a number of questions had gone beyond the scope of the book to challenge me to propose a program for a broader agenda of social transformation, or at least to question my thoughts on how what I’ve written about might become a broader social movement. And to be frank, the honest answer beyond “I don’t know” is that the Nowtopian initiatives are NOT ready for prime-time! That is to say, the growing and dynamic efforts that I’ve labeled “Nowtopian,” like urban food gardening, free software development, DIY bicycling culture, etc. are important experiments in their own right, they are important loci of new social communities with political, technological and ecological practice and meanings, but clearly are far from being able to supplant life as we know it with a new logic.

That does not invalidate them, or make the analysis that argues this is the glimmer of working-class recomposition outside of wage labor, wrong. It does highlight the frustrating experience of gaining some perspective on a moment in history and wanting it to speed up, to be subject to our willpower or our foresight, and to move more quickly into its full potential, or to exceed its bounds maybe before it really can”¦

And that thought in turn leads me to the topic of today’s post, the Tortoise vs. the Gangster. While touring with Nowtopia this past year this moment came up many times, when an audience member wanted me to outline how this early, inchoate, multiplicity of daily life initiatives could become something more recognizable as a political and social movement, tackling the bigger questions of political and economic power. Of course I wish I knew, and I wish I could be certain that these Nowtopian efforts would someday arrive at that scale. Maybe they will. I think so. But we cannot know, and worse, we cannot make it happen by will power, or wishing, or even organizing per se. I think the self-organizing that these efforts embody is the key, and it means that one author, or a small group, or even a somewhat larger coalition of groups, cannot push the process any faster than it will go (even though we’re trying!). History is frustratingly out of anyone’s control, especially the self-designated vanguards that are always running around promoting one agenda or another.

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Gone to Sea!

Before I get to my post on whales and the Farallones Islands, I wanted to add a short note to my last entry, on the topic of contesting bad and sad history. I finally finished the 500-page “People’s History of the Civil War” by David Williams. Great book! Compelling stories unlike anything you’ve ever read if you’ve ever read much on the Civil War, which I did as a kid and teen. He has chapters on the role of women in resisting war north and south, the slave revolt and the North’s dependence on black troops to win the war, the Indian wars and genocide which was really amped up during the war by both sides, but especially federal troops. Turns out Lincoln was perfectly aware of the violence and theft being perpetrated against many tribes (reports from local Indian agents were sent to him) but he preferred to ignore it and even signed off on a mass execution in Minnesota against Indians who had acted in the face of starvation and blatant theft. It’s another heartbreaking set of stories, but fantastically told and documented by Williams. His accounts of life in the South (he has family from Early County, Georgia, and draws heavily on some local newspaper archives) show how widespread the class divisions were, and how the non-slaveholding, usually landless and poor whites were often the most pro-Union and least inclined to fight the “rich man’s war” on behalf of the southern slaveocracy. This book is a vital antidote to the clichéd ideas of south vs. north, red vs. blue, and sheds an important class light on the white supremacy which dominated the antebellum south and reasserted itself with the full support of northern politicians and industrialists in the post-Reconstruction, Jim Crow era.

On Sunday I joined an Oceanic Society tour with a bunch of friends, and we cruised all the way beyond the Farallones Islands, 20-some miles due west of the Golden Gate, which meant a bonafide ocean ride! I was pretty worried heading over in the morning that I’d be seasick for 8 hours and not be able to enjoy it. But I was spared that fate, and overall it was a spectacular day! Here’s a sequence of photos to show some of the highlights, which included the mysterious and alluring Farallones Islands themselves, a major breeding ground for pinnipeds and birds, then about 6-7 miles northwest of the Farallones we came upon a couple of blue whales first, then some humpback whales, maybe 4 or 5 different ones, which we happily chased back and forth across the sea.

We're more than halfway there but so far the Farallones still look a lot like they always do from SF on a clear day!

Approaching the Farallones from the east, they look larger, but much the same as they do from San Francisco on a clear day.

From the northeast the Farallones look mighty mysterious!

From the northeast the Farallones look mighty mysterious!

Winter sunshine silhouettes the Farallones, looking due south.

Winter sunshine silhouettes the Farallones, looking due south.

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Contesting Sad and Bad History

Last weekend I joined a bike tour of Treasure Island, meant to acquaint us with the possibilities of a bike-and-ped friendly redevelopment of the man-made island. Originally built to host the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exhibition.

Photo of photo in Treasure Island museum, original Bay Bridge under construction.

Photo of photo in Treasure Island museum, original Bay Bridge under construction.

It was thought that Treasure Island would be a suitable place for a new airport, and the Pan Am Clippers, which could land on water, did use the island for a brief time as their terminal. Some of the architecture at the southern edge of the island dates from that time, including the main building which has a control tower on its top, and two large hangars behind it.

Photo of photo in Treasure Island museum

Photo of photo in Treasure Island museum

Treasure Island was a navy base for decades, but these days is a bit desolate, with about 3000 people occupying the increasingly decrepit Navy housing, awaiting the approval of the big plans to remake the island into a new mini-city of 12,000, with 300 acres dedicated to open space and wetlands. A good deal of the island may go under water within the next few decades with rising oceans, so it’s a little hard to think about investing billions in redeveloping it. Still, that’s the plan. Here are some photos I took from Treasure Island, back at SF and the Bay Bridge, and a couple of the new dirigible that recently showed up and is giving rides for $500/hour… here it is over Alcatraz:

The Dirigible: Our Future, post-petroleum Air Travel System!

Dirigible over new and old Bay Bridge from Treasure Island

Dirigible over new and old Bay Bridge from Treasure Island

The views from Treasure Island are what make it such a cool spot. Here’s a couple looking at the city:

New eyesores at west end of Bay Bridge!

New eyesores at west end of Bay Bridge!

Your classic skyline view from Treasure Island.

Your classic skyline view from Treasure Island.

After we got back from the bike tour midday on Saturday (Nov. 15) on Market Street, a breakaway march from a Civic Center demonstration pro-gay marriage came down the street. I always enjoy San Francisco demonstrations, and as much as I am antipathetic to marriage (straight or gay), this march brought out some great creativity too… here is a small gallery of home-made expression, one of San Francisco’s better qualities, and best uses of its public space:

Nov. 15, Market Street, San Francisco

Nov. 15, Market Street, San Francisco

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Dawn of Deflation

Global deflation is underway. I’ve linked to some sites in recent posts that I spend all too much time reading, especially The Automatic Earth and The Daily Reckoning, two of the more insightful pessimistic financial writers. Today Russia is reeling from massive capital flight, threatening to set off new panics and bank runs, similar to what they went through in the late 1990s. The blatant theft of public wealth going down in the U.S. is really breathtaking, what with AIG, and the newly minted banks like American Express, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley all queueing up to drink deeply at the public trough. This whole bailout scenario is so cynical–basically it’s a bunch of millionaires rushing to fill their pockets at the U.S. Treasury before the rules change or anyone demands any real accountability, getting ready for the global Depression that is unfolding slowly but surely every day. Huge debt rollovers scheduled for December 1 and dates in the year to come ensure that many more bankruptcies will be announced soon.

Notably the big three carmakers are going down. I say, good! But of course the people who will be hit hardest are the autoworkers and especially their pensioners, and all the folks who depend on autoworkers-as-shoppers, all of whom will be left high and dry, while the big rollers who ran these companies into the ground will surely waltz off with millions in golden parachutes. It’s astonishing how myopic the United Autoworkers has been all these years, and I have to credit Mark Brenner of Labor Notes who was very good on Democracy Now! this morning, calling out the union for its lack of independence vis-a-vis the industry, marching in lockstop behind the ecocidal agenda of SUVs and minivans. Brenner called for government subsidies to be withheld from the car companies unless it was sure to be used to move the transportation system away from private gas-powered vehicles. Fat chance! Obama and his advisors, along with the Democratic congress, are painfully conservative and unimaginative about how big the problems are, and how dramatically the priorities have to shift immediately.

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