Our entire climate strategy is the idea that a watched pot doesn’t boil, that if we keep writing reports and ‘consuming consciously’ this will do something.But it won’t. Go watch a pot for a few minutes. It boils.
We have been watching the planet-pot simmer for decades. The IPCC has been writing reports for 32 years. The UN has been having climate conferences for 27. In all this well-watched time, emissions have only risen. Now little bubbles of disaster are reaching a rolling boil.
1° of warming has already happened. 1.5° is being baked in right now. We are going to exceed 1.5° with fossil fuel infrastructure as-is. None of this shit is hypothetical, it’s all baked in.
The eternal law is this: if you light shit on fire it gets hot.
The planetary pot is at 99°, we’re turning up the gas, and just pretending like boiling doesn’t happen. Cause we wrote some reports. Cause we made pledges. Cause we feel bad about it. Like physics gives a fuck about our feelings.
There’s this crazy idea that people need to feel hope about climate collapse, or they won’t feel motivated to do anything. But this isn’t hope, it’s hubris. It isn’t motivation, it’s procrastination. And it simply isn’t working. By insisting that people today shouldn’t feel uncomfortable, we are making the future for every coming generation unlivable.
The truth is that you shouldn’t feel hope right now. You should feel grief. You should feel anger. You should feel a hopeless, impotent rage. If you don’t want to feel those things, I understand, but that’s about you, not the situation.
The situation is that the climate has already collapsed and is only becoming more and more unstable. The truth is that our goose is already cooked and the best we can do is alter the method of preparation.
We’re constantly told that we need give people hope, but hope itself has been corrupted into a marketing slogan. Case in point, Barack Obama.
The ‘hope and change’ President increased oil production every year, and asked people to say ‘thank you’. Now he’s doing Netflix specials about national parks, while his successor Joe Biden opens up more drilling on public lands. Such is the corruption of hope and change.
As the dead genius Mark Fisher said, “Climate change and the threat of resource-depletion are not being repressed so much as incorporated into advertising and marketing.” Just turn on the TV and watch. You can wash away the guilt of climate collapse by consuming the right products. Even British Petroleum is now ‘Beyond Petroleum’.
Capitalist ideology in general overvalues good beliefs and absolves actual bad behavior. As long as you believe the right shit, you can keep doing wrong. As Fisher said (channeling Zizek):
As long as we believe in our hearts that climate collapse is bad, we are free to participate in the capitalist exchange causing it. Yes, causing it. It’s no coincidence that modern capitalism and emissions both arose from the 1850s. It’s cause and effect.
As Fisher said, “The relationship between capitalism and eco-disaster is neither coincidental nor accidental: capitalism’s ‘need of a constantly expanding market’, its ‘growth fetish’, mean that capitalism is by its very nature opposed to any notion of sustainability.”
Capitalism cannot resolve this fundamental contradiction, so it just changes the marketing. As Fisher said:
“environmental catastrophe features in late capitalist culture only as a kind of simulacra, its real implications for capitalism too traumatic to be assimilated into the system.”
So within this Capitalist simulation you can drive your two-tons of electrifiedresources and be simultaneously saving the world. Billionaires can hoard massive amounts of resources and simultaneously be climate heroes. Toothless pledges of future changes can become instantaneously good PR.
Even voluminous descriptions of how fucked we are like the IPCC report become rendered in the simulation as hopeful ‘windows’.
The latest IPCC report said: “any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all” and this is all that gets reported. Thus the Guardian preserves the simulation by publishing “The IPCC climate report is grim — but there is still room for hope.”
If you even skim through the report, however, the real point is the ‘brief and rapidly closing’ part, not the theoretical existence of a window. Even outside of the internal logic of the report, they have been releasing these reports since 1990. Go back and look at the chart of emissions since that time. Repeating the same warning over and over again and expecting different results is one definition of insanity.
This simulation window has been getting smaller and smaller every year, and each year news media publishes the now smaller window as cause for the same hope. This ain’t hope, it’s dope. This hope is opiating the masses, keeping us from avoiding the deep trauma of what’s actually going on.
Capitalism sells us the false belief that we can have our cake and frack it too. But we can’t have both. It’s physically impossible, and while the simulation is comforting for now, reality will inevitably intrude. This is the danger of Obamaesque ‘hope and change.’ It’s something we want to believe, but it’s just not true.
What we should be feeling (and what we will feel soon enough) is grief. 1 degree isn’t just a number, it’s the death of countless species. After the decimal point of 1.5° comes the decimation of our coastlines and relentless heat. Framing this as a hopeful moment is just ghoulish. What we are really dealing with is death, not degrees. The proper human reaction is grief.
I don’t know what you do with grief. I don’t know how it helps. I don’t know where it leads. But I do know that hopeful denial does not bring the dead back to life. Denial does not prevent more from dying. Pain is terrible and can be all-consuming, but pain is there for a reason.
Take 16-year-old Ashlyn Blocker from Georgia, who can’t feel a thing:
Pain is our most fundamental adaptation as a species. Pain keeps us alive. Pain doesn’t save you from broken bones, but it tells you when you’ve broken something, and that you can’t run on it anymore. By deadening the pain of an already broken environment, we’re not doing ourselves any favors. We’re just running headlong into total collapse.
The logic of climate hope is that otherwise people would lie flat and not do anything. But the fact is that by organizing around a false hope leads to false conclusions. People get the sense that we have time (we don’t) and that adapting will be cool and fun (it won’t). Take Alice Ball’s response to that report:
Not sure where to start? Do something that brings you joy. You’ll be at your most powerful and your most infectious. Climate change is grim, plain and simple. But taking action on it can be an absolute ball. You’ve got a range of options — you can work to help us quit fossil fuels, or shift what we eat and buy to get greenhouse gases down. We can call on governments to act faster to get us to net zero through moving to renewable energy and making our homes and transport more energy-efficient. We can plant trees and pursue other nature-based solutions.
To me, this is the equivalent of rich white people throwing themselves a decadent charity ball while never giving up any actual power. This ‘climate activism’ shit just reinforces their power, they keep having COP meetings in places we can’t even get visas.
This power is the problem. True equity and justice should feel absolutely grim to the rich. It should be so uncomfortable it actually feels like oppression to them. As long white people are ‘bringing themselves joy’, you can be sure the effort is masturbatory. If the 1% are ‘having a ball’ then the 99% are absolutely fucked.
As you can see, the rich, white people that started this looting with colonialism and accelerated it under capitalism have no real interest in giving up the source of their power. Even well-meaning rich people just want to swap the engine of Capitalism to electric, make a few phone calls, and fundamentally go about as usual. Nobody wants the actual revolution required because that would threaten their stuff. And so we die, monkeys with our fists stuck in a jar, for a few decades of self-indulgent decadence.
You can say this is all depressing, and it is. And it should be. We’re talking about the end of the world as we know it. Why should you feel fine? You can get that climate copium anywhere, but I’m trying to give you coffee and a slap. Nature gives a fuck about our feelings, and after 400 years of climate colonialism, nature is striking back.
I do not know what to do with this information, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If you sever your arm the pain doesn’t really tell you what to do, it just tells you what has already happened, and that’s all I am telling you here. Like Method Man, I came to bring the pain. The hard truth is that the climate has alreadycollapsed, and there’s no going back.