I Don't Even Need a Scarf to Type This Out
A Personal Review of Pages 240-241 in Christian Parenti's Tropic of Chaos on February 1st, 2012, high of 62 degrees, Philadelphia, PA.
Going to the Rocky Mountains as a teenager was a really big deal for me. As someone who'd only been to midwestern suburbs and cities, along with a smattering of abandoned farm towns, the majestic mountains and the Milky Way were simply jaw-dropping. It was one of the experiences that helped crystallize my political conscious: if an economic system would destroy these mountains for profit, I thought, "Well, it's a bad system, because no one in their right mind would destroy the Rocky Mountains."
Since then I've migrated to a polluted post-industrial city on the East Coast and environmentalism doesn't concern me all that much. My mantra is that the system that destroys the environment is above all *social*, contra dominant liberal environmentalism that is seeking a *technical* fix to the problem (electric cars, mass transit, carbon fixing). I also perceive mainstream environmentalism to be closely tied to consumer politics, which I find even worse: going vegetarian to save the planet, buying local, driving a Prius to prove you've "gone green" (to take the case of my mother, whom I'll love forever).
While there's a strand of radical environmentalism, once again the focus on the 'megamachine' or 'civilization' seems too meta-level to address the social ways in which people, *because* they are exploited by this social system, wind up exploiting the environment. Moreover, I can't help but associate radical environmentalism with a place I don't know all that well, the West Coast, which for all practical purposes is another country from the U.S. Eastern and Central time zones I know. Having seen the redwoods a couple times, I get it. You think: "FUCK anything and everything that would kill this tree." You look at that tree, and that's all you can think. You wanna live with the tree. But sooner or later, you're back home, and reality sets in. In my case, reality goes like this: I live in a big-ass city, there aren't any trees like that, an oil refinery takes up the good portion of the southern side of the city, and everybody here needs either 1) a job or 2) for their job not to suck and pay shit or 3) to go fuck themselves for being a rich prick.
So, I'm left with not being all that concerned with "environmentalism" as is commonly understood in "liberal" and "radical" terms. In fact, I love throwing out recycling almost as much as I love telling people I'm not interested in gardening because I saw countless family farms gobble up Midwestern suburban sprawl.
Which brings me to the final pages of Christian Parenti's absolutely dank Tropic of Chaos:
There is one last imperative question: Several strands of green thinking maintain that capitalism is incapable of arriving at a sustainable relationship with nature because, as an economic system, capitalism must grow exponentially, while the earth is finite.
This was me at age 16.
It may be true: capitalism may be, ultimately, incapable of accommodating itself to the litmus of the natural world.
Boom! We all know he only puts the "may" in that sentence so he can get published in The Nation. This moment is me somewhere in my struggles through Capital Vol. 1
However, this is not the same question as whether capitalism can solve the climate crisis. Because of it's magnitude, the climate crisis can appear as if the combination of all environmental crises--overexploitation of the seas, deforestation, overexploitation of freshwater, soil erosion, species and habitat lost, chemical contamination, and genetic contamination due to transgenetic bioengineering. But halting greenhouse gas emissions is a much more specific problem; it is only one piece of the apocalyptic panorama. Though all these problems are connected, the most urgent and encompassing of them is anthropogenic climate change.
The fact of that matter is time has run out on the climate issue. Either, capitalism solves the crisis, or it destroys civilization. Capitalism begins to deal with the crisis now, or we face civilizational collapse beginning this century. We cannot wait for a socialist, or communist, or anarchist, or deep-ecology, neoprimitive revolution; nor for a nostalgia-based localista conversation back to the mythical small-town economy of preindustrial American as some advocate.
And here I am today. Damn! What the fuck is to be done? Al Gore certainly isn't my revolution, and as far as I can tell New England college-town LETS systems don't usually get as much traction as a generalized expression of "Fuck the police" and "Fuck rich people." BUT it's 62 degrees out, and despite a year of revolution upsurge unprecedented social movement activity here in the good ol' USA, capitalism is alive and, um, not really "well," but certainly alive.
So, what do you think?