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Friends Like These

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In the Sunday March 10 NY Times Thomas Freidman kinda-sorta supports Climate Activists.  He says go ahead and chain yourself to the White House fence but after Obama caves to the GOP oil lobby, "try to get something really big in return". Like a carbon tax.

Here is the thing about Freidman: He Is Always Wrong. It may actually be a requirement for being a NYT columnist (?) but this is classic Thom: "All of us who hoped that scientific research and new technology would find cheaper ways to provide carbon free energy...failed to anticipate fracking." He Believes in Capitalism but after all these years fails to understand it. "Cheaper"?  Competitive? These terms are meaningless in an energy market. Prices ignore the externalities. Freidman mentions the storms and rising sea levels, etc.. but you will notice he didn't put a price on human costs.

But Believe he must. So he offers more wonderful advice: "Environmentalists should use a 'price signal'" such as the "carbon tax"... "One prays this will become part of the budget debate." Yeah right. As long as he is on his knees, why not just pray for wise aliens to come down and give us a Free Energy Machine? This is what Gamble does in the movie Thrive, which is about as serious an analysis as this column.

Next Thom launches into a spiel about "natural infrastructure" which is some vague scheme for putting a price on Nature based on its exchange value, in other words, more capitalist happy talk encouraging "private investment" and divorcing human- being from our dependent place in a vastly complex system.  And, his argument goes,  since climate change is now a given, there must be profit in "making communities more reslient" and "building a bridge ( nuclear?) to a different energy future." 

With friends like this we sure don't need enemies. This brings up the same question I have been pursuing in other posts about forming alliances and the traps that await trying to engage these highly skilled co-opters. Flat Earth Thom is the epitome of the liberal narrative, all hugs and support while silently slipping the knife between your shoulder blades.

Discussion 3 Comments

  • 16th Mar 2013

    For a constructive analysis of James Hansen’s proposed carbon tax and dividend approach to curtail climate change, including its limitations in today’s regime of monopoly-finance capital, read John Bellamy Foster’s, “James Hansen and the Climate-Change Exit Strategy”, in the February issue of Monthly Review. Foster’s critique addresses the class nature of carbon footprints, something that would never come from the likes of a Thomas Freidman. Link below:


  • Dave Jones 16th Mar 2013

    Thanks John, Foster has actually gone a long ways in making me re-think my initial opposition to "tax and dividend". He makes the case that this is one of the few transitional strategies left and a place where anti-capitalists could push for their vision.

    It is also interesting that Hansen has joined James Lovelock in viewing nuclear as a necessary evil to transition away from fossil fuels. The point is, options for humanity are being foreclosed as valuable time is wasted on the parliamentary/ regulatory process Freidman has so much faith in. The court system is also designed to grind the energy of activists into dust. IMO.

    It's great that Foster is now the editor over there.

  • 16th Mar 2013

    I agree with Foster’s conclusion, which is consistent with the vision being fostered here at IOPS:

    “Hansen’s climate-change exit plan represents the crucial first step that must be taken if irreversible climate change is to be avoided. But it is not by any means the last step. A real solution demands a radical alteration in social priorities—the kind of revolutionary transformation that could occur at unimagined speed if the population were once to reach its own social-environmental tipping point.”

    My sense is that we haven’t reached that tipping point here in the US. Many more Americans need to come to the realization that, 1) climate change poses a deadly threat to future generations, and 2) they are not helpless to do something about it. Unfortunately, as Foster points out, those caught up in a system that services the rich “increasingly replicate within their own internal structure the forms of commodified consumption dictated by the latter” and thus many come to seek short-term gain and become understandably trapped in the endless cycle of a week’s salary followed by a weekend of relaxation, entertainment, and escape all to the detriment of the longer view and the actions necessary to ensure a positive future.

    But that’s changing, and “there is still time for corrective social action. But it must be clearly seen that we face a planetary crisis and emergency; no gradual exit is possible, time is too short.”

    I agree, Foster will make a good editor. I wouldn't waste too much time on Freidman; he's an obvious shill for globalized neoliberal corporatism that is at the root of the problem.