The Politics of the Green New Deal: Part 2 on Capital

Posts in this series
Part 1 on Labor

In Part 1 I discuss some of the ways the working class will be affected by disruptions brought on by climate change, and some of the ways the Green New Deal proposes to ease those burdens. Climate change will also hurt capital and capitalists. It’s not possible to outline all the potential damage and disruption so I’ll just lay out some of the obvious problems.

Real estate investments are in danger. Some of that impact will be borne by small landholders, owners of vacation homes on Galveston Bay or condos on the beach in Naples FL, for example. But much of it will be borne by larger holders, such as owners of apartment complexes near the coasts, marinas, and commercial property near the coast, and the owner of Mar-a-Lago. Rising sea levels will also affect the infrastructure of cities on the coast, such as Miami, which is already planning to spend $100M on flood protection.

The coasts aren’t the only areas facing weather problems. Wind storms are becoming more serious; recently extraordinary winds blew the roof off a warehouse near Dallas. Here’s a Wikipedia page documenting tornadoes in the US in 2019. It shows we have already had 3 intense tornadoes, including the two that struck Alabama recently. We can expect more.

Wildfires are a terrifying danger in drought-stricken areas. PG&E, the California utility giant, filed bankruptcy January 29, 2019 to deal with its liability for damage from wildfires it caused. The Los Angeles Times wrote:

PG&E said a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which allows the company to continue operating while it comes up with a plan to pay its debts, was the only way to deal with billions of dollars in potential liabilities from a series of deadly wildfires, many of which were sparked by the company’s power grid infrastructure.

Financial pressure has been mounting on PG&E since October 2017, when a series of wildfires ravaged Northern California, killing 44 people. State investigators determined that PG&E’s equipment sparked or contributed to more than a dozen of those fires, which killed 22 people. The company’s crisis only grew with the November 2018 Camp fire, which killed 86 people and destroyed most of the town of Paradise.

PG&E arranged a $5.5bn interim loan from a consortium of banks but creditors objected and then the Bankruptcy Judge stated serious concerns. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Judge noted that PG&E was under criminal probation after a criminal conviction on six counts arising from the deadly San Bruno fire. The federal District Court in that case imposed a public safety regime on PG&E, and the later fires might be deemed to be the result of violations of parole, in which case the supervising court could replace management. That would be a breach of the financing loan. The Bankruptcy Judge also noted the strong possibility of more wildfires in 2019, saying that more damages could tip PG&E into default. Either default would give the bank lenders control of the company in Chapter 11 and the creditors objected to that possibility. The costs of this bankruptcy are horrendous, and will be borne at least in part by people forced to be customers of PG&E because it’s a monopoly. Some shareholders have suffered losses in stock value, and more may be lost. The stock is down $50 since September 2017 to about $20. It’s an ugly story and it’s going to be repeated.

Climate change will also damage the oil and gas industry. A number of huge petrochemical plants and refineries are located in hurricane territory. Here’s a detailed map; see for yourself. Last year refineries on the gulf coast of Texas were hit by Hurricane Harvey. Harvey weakened to a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall, and the damage was mostly from flooding. The loss of capacity caused spikes in gasoline prices for consumers. Some of the losses to refineries will be covered by insurance. But insurance companies are just for spreading risk, not eating it, and that implies a rise in the cost of insurance. Here’s an excellent article by Bradley Hope and Nicole Friedman in the Wall Street Journal from October 2018, focused on the impact on reinsurance companies. Here’s a taste related to studies predicting increased likelihood of hurricanes in the Persian Gulf:

“Climate change makes the historical record of extreme weather an unreliable indicator of the current risk,” says Stephen Pacala, a board member at Hamilton Insurance Group Ltd. and a Princeton professor, who wasn’t involved in the study. “So, what’s the insurance industry to do? No hurricane has ever threatened the massive unarmored oil and gas infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.”

So what dose the Green New Deal offer to capital?

Section 2.1 (I think; whoever made up this numbering system is a traitor to clarity) calls for

… building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies …

The emphasis on community planning is notable. Section 2.2 calls for rebuilding infrastructure. Section 2.4 calls for upgrading the power grid. Section 2.5 calls for rebuilding existing buildings to improve durability among other things. Section 4.1 requires insuring sufficient capital for entities, including businesses, working on the goals of the Green New Deal. Section 4.4 calls for educating workers so they can handle the new work that will need to be done. Section 4.11 calls “… enacting and enforcing trade rules, procurement standards, and border adjustments with strong labor and environmental protections ….” Section 4.14 calls for strict enforcement of anti-trust and other laws to encourage competition and discourage monopoly.

I’d say that’s a fairly strong plan for decent businesses under the Green New Deal. True, it doesn’t give capital a free hand to make the overarching decisions, and it doesn’t give capital all the money, and it has other provisions that hem in capital, but it sure doesn’t sound like the socialist dystopia the Republicans are shrieking about.

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76 replies
  1. Badger Robert says:

    I have seen people mention the need for better energy sources in the tropics, to make forest belts more durable. And my idea is that better trip reduction in the developed world, towards a society with fewer cars, is part of the plan. But I’d like to know what people like Inslee and Bloomberg think.
    Just wanted to the comments started. Others will add more informative posts.

  2. Badger Robert says:

    Since its the weekend and your post mentioned the politics, I’ll add the following:
    Sanders, and Biden if he joins, are in their last go around. O’Rourke and the South Bend person are going to be at this for awhile. O’Rourke is particularly interested in the information engineering part of politics.
    Even Senator Warren has this cycle as her last opportunity.
    Former VP Biden would be 82 years old before his term of office expired, if he were to get elected. He would be a lame duck as soon as he got elected, but rationally he will be a lame duck as soon as that reality becomes accepted in public.
    Have a great weekend. Be a good influence on others.

  3. P J Evans says:

    One thing I saw suggested, back in 2011, was breaking PG&E into an electric distribution company and a gas distribution company. I’m still surprised that wasn’t done, as gas and electricity really aren’t the same. I’m also still boggled by their poor record-keeping (part of the reason for San Bruno, and also a cause of a number of other gas explosions and fires in their recent history) and by their lack of safety training. (My reaction, fall before last, reading about their then-new safety-training center for new employees only: “How the F have they been training people for the last [mumble] decades?” Because even as a contract data-entry person at another gas-distribution company, we were taught that safety matters, and get it right the first time – and that kind of attitude went all the way up the company ladder. “Safety” was 20% of your annual review….)

    • Mainmata says:

      Actually, natural gas is widely used for electricity generation along with hydro, solar wind and, in ever decreasing percentages coal. Of course, natural gas is also used for heating and industrial, commercial and residential fuel.

      I’m not an expert on power utilities but, in many countries generation is a separate business from distribution but that doesn’t seem to be the case for many power utilities in the US. I think the larger issue is that, in CA, in particular, given the drought and the Santa Ana winds, power lines should either be buried or otherwise be protected from causing fires. This has long been known to be a problem.

      • P J Evans says:

        The problem is that in California, the long-distance lines run across mountains (and rivers!), where burying them is impossible. If you take I5 between L.A. and Bakersfield, you can see the difficulties – there are some major lines running across the mountains, within sight of the highway, and the towers are perched on ridgelines with limited access. (I’ll add that some of the major gas pipelines share parts of the power right-of-way, so digging gets even more difficult.)
        The problem that PG&E – and SDG&E – seem to have is doing the necessary tree-trimming and brush-clearing – it’s expensive, it’s difficult, and it’s absolutely necessary. (I saw one power pole last year, ordinary one, right next to CA-99, with vines growing up it to the top: that’s a fire waiting to happen.)

        • e.a.f. says:

          Come and have a look at British Columbia. The major electricity producing dams are in the north of the province, while the majority of customers are within 150 miles north of the 49th par. We do have forest fires, but not caused by B.C. Hydro, which is the electrical company which owns the dams, power lines, etc. What ever is happening with the California power company may have more to do with a lack of proper maintenance of the lines. Granted B.C. is not as warm or dry an area as California, but we do have the mountains, rivers, etc. and we have been fairly dry the last few years, hence the increase in forest fires. B.C. Hydro does keep its towers and the surrounding areas clear. To do this workers are simply helicoptered in.

          • ken melvin says:

            In the 1990s, an American energy, commodities and service company based in Texas ‘transitioned from a producer of energy to a company that acted more like an investment firm and sometimes a hedge fund making profits off the margins of the products it traded’. Consequent this trading of commodified energy, a Certain Large Utility in a Very Western State went bankrupt.

            Really big Investment Bank (RBIB) thinks the weakened Certain Large Utility should pay its shareholders a higher return, buys controlling interest, picks a new management team, … In order to pay the higher return, new management cuts back on maintenance and safety, and contracts out significant operations, … Over the next few years, the Certain Large Utility is found responsible for multiple accidents leading to injury and death along with great destruction of property; is now again facing bankruptcy.

            • e.a.f. says:

              Forgot B.C. Hydro is a “Crown Corporation”. Means the provincial government owns it. a real free enterpriser, the then Premier, W..A.C. Bennett, had the government expropriate it back in the 1950s. The Government of California could simply expropriate it. Its doesn’t look like its worth all that much as a private corporation.

    • ken melvin says:

      In a 3-year period, 2015-2017, Houston experienced (3) 500-year floods. Impossible! There no longer is such a thing as normal.

      • jonf says:

        And there’s the problem. Our regulations and planning for extreme environments has not caught up and California is in the teeth of the problem. Addressing climate change is expensive, very expensive, as we now know or can anticipate. It impacts the rules of business, the cost of infrastructure and protective services. This will surely inflate our economy with or without a GND, and we should keep that in mind. Ignore this and we should expect the cost will be worse and the impact on our lives even more extreme. I doubt the Orange Cheeto understands it at all.

      • sand says:

        I am a fan of the Green New Deal idea so far, and I like commenting on infrastructure topics, so here goes.

        First, a 500-year flood can happen in any year. 500 years is the average return period, which is the inverse of the probability of occurrence in any given year, based on extrapolation from the known data set. So, there is a 0.2% chance that a “500-year flood” will occur in any year.

        This is true even if 500-year floods occurred in the previous two years. However, multiple occurrences of events of that magnitude can change the data set enough so that the old 500-year event becomes the new 100-year event. The local news is not going to get into that math.

        For anyone interested in a common-sense call to action, I’d recommend “Flood Risk Management, Call for a National Strategy,” Ed. Robert Traver, PhD, P.E., American Society of Civil Engineers, 2014.

        For a broader view on U.S. infrastructure, ASCE last updated its Report Card on America’s Infrastructure in 2017. (https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org) Since then, we’ve published more detailed report cards on the same site for most of the individual states.

        Disclosure: I’m an ASCE member, and part of ASCE’s mission is promoting the engineering profession, which means pushing for infrastructure investment. Still, I think more public engagement is necessary to make the right choices. If the public better understood the risks, I think we’d spend more money reducing emissions. Either way, we’re going to need to build lots of levees and flood walls if we want to keep our heads above water for the next 100 years.

  4. jdmckay says:

    Hi Ed,

    Good post, enjoy this series. Wish you do more of them, even go into a bit more detail.

    Dems need to get on the offensive with this stuff, get people who know what they are talking about out on news shows, OpEds and everywhere else they can get an audience. Up until now, it is (predictably) right wing media utterly mocking this (and GW in general), mocking the GND and everything about it and OAC. Dems to make these idiots look the the fools they are.

    AFAIC, GW and our response to it is the per-eminent issue of our time: if we don’t get this done right, nothing else is going to matter in a few generations.

    On your topic, I remind of China’s plan to launch space based solar satellites beginning in 2022. This solves so many of the issues conservative naysayers “mock” about solar. Further, if Chinese pull this off it puts them in position to dominate energy distribution in coming decades.

    While conservatives mock all this while “talking” about per-emminent US “innovation”, while we sit on our hands the Chinese are doing it.

    Thanks again for the post.

    • JD12 says:

      As 2020 gets closer the GND and climate change in general will surely be a big part of the platform. With Trump in the White House nothing climate-related is going to pass so, so it might make sense to wait so that the GOP doesn’t know their strategy too soon. It seems like that’s what McConnell was trying to goad them into when he thought it’d be funny to take a vote.

      You’re right about China. While conservatives are blocking action and joking about cow farts, China is setting themselves up to dominate in clean energy.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2019/01/11/china-renewable-energy-superpower/#3e9ca76c745a

      • e.a.f. says:

        Clean air is a major concern for China. Xi is not interested in political unrest in China because of poor air quality and to reduce that, solar power is required. China has a growing population and no matter how many citizens move to Canada, Africa, or South America they will run out of clean or semi clean space to live if they don’t deal with their pollution.

        It is doubtful Xi is an environmentalist, but he knows the country needs to be cleaned up if they are to continue to move forward. As it is, Canada has Chinese tourists who come here to “enjoy the clean air”.

  5. Mainmata says:

    One of the issues for the near future, given the political failure to seriously arrest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, their build up in the atmosphere and subsequent increases in global temps past 2 degrees C is whether the world community should seriously address geoengineering. And, if so, what are the various kinds of risk involved. Seeding the oceans with iron to stimulate algae to consummate excess amounts of CO2 (the oceans have long been the biggest CO2 sinks). This might be fairly benign but not enough. The most controversial is spewing various CO2 (and methane)-eating sulfates into the upper atmosphere to imitate the cooling effects of huge volcanic eruptions (like Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines). But this could also have feedback effects that could make things even worse. We just don’t know and it would essentially be a planet-wide, highly risky experiment.

    Finally, and most important, it would seem to provide politicians with an excuse to avoid doing the really necessary job of radically reducing carbon emissions, renewables substitution and massive reforestation of tropical forests in particular. We have no choice. We maybe can do both but we can’t do just one or another.

    • JD12 says:

      We need irons in every fire.

      I heard Bill Gates talk about it recently. He’s a good reference since he’s obviously smart and has started working full-time on solving these problems. He says it will be a combination of renewables, new vehicle designs, and carbon management. But the big breakthrough might come from the area you least expect it, which for most people would be carbon management.

    • Ed Walker says:

      the movie Snowpiercer opens with a description of an effort at terraforming that went bad, a fascinating movie on many levels. For another take of this see Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital Trilogy.
      I’m dubious about our ability as a species to understand the risks of terraforming. But I agree that we need to start thinking about it.

    • Ken Muldrew says:

      The_Planet_Remade by Oliver Morton gives a good discussion of the issues surrounding geoengineering as a potential tool for dealing with climate change. The discussion is premised on the notion that getting off oil will be hard, especially for transportation (and given how every aspect of the world’s economy depends intimately on transportation, we have a long way to go to solve this problem). He gives examples of human activity altering global chemistry, e.g. the nitrogen cycle, without catastrophic results, and ends with a plea to at least investigate the idea of geoengineering (there is an argument among some environmental activists that any encouragement on these lines would allow the technology-will-cure-everything crowd to keep burning coal like there’s no tomorrow). Well worth reading if you want to learn a bit about the subject from an accessible and well written source.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, Ed, Mainmata and all commenters. Very fruitful discussion. Here is some hopeful info from Russ Baker’s site about water. Not sure if it qualifies as geoengineering, but it definitely is decentralized. And it also shows that American ingenuity is alive and well.

      https://whowhatwhy.org/2019/02/09/drinking-water-out-of-thin-air/

      “Drinking Water Out of Thin Air
      The need for clean drinking water is one of the most pressing concerns facing a large percentage of the world’s population. It’s not only developing countries in warmer areas of the planet that have problems; parts of the US already suffer from poor water quality…”

      • Savage Librarian says:

        And who knows, maybe somebody will take a retro leap and bring back the steam engine. Innovators might find a way to utilize steam more effectively for transportation…At least for folks with minimal transportation needs.

  6. e.a.f. says:

    There are times when the U.S.A doesn’t seem like an area mother nature expected people to live year round given the hurricanes, floods, etc.

    if natural disasters become too expensive for insurance companies, they simply won’t cover homes/businesses in specific area. Loosing huge tracts of land to rising ocean levels or continued flooding, isn’t going to work for a decent economy. My expectations aren’t high for the U.S.A. when it comes to addressing climate change or pollution. Corporations simply don’t want to invest in change and politicians do what corporations want them to. If a Green President were to be elected they will only be able to do so much if they do not have a green Senate/House of Representatives. Then there is the no small matter of the states who may not be on side.

    Watching the “contest” for nominee, in the Democrat party, doesn’t make me feel any better. At the rate things are going and the egos of some of the players, Trump could be re elected. Saunders may talk a good game, but my impression is, its all about him, not the future of the country or what is best for the country. He is a divisive old man.

    Many of the cities still build close to water. Most of the City of Vancouver is flood plain, have they done anything about protecting the city in the long term. Not so much, and they a whole lot more progressive than most of the American cities. Money talks. Money thinks it can get away with their money and live some where else. China has learnt no matter how rich you are, it doesn’t matter if you can’t breath the air. Many in the world don’t care and won’t learn.

    A Green economy would be better for everyone, in the long run, but corporations are only interested in the next stock holders meeting.

    Although many talk about solar at one point the most polluted city in China was the one which produced the most solar panels. Some Indigenous communities have difficulty accessing electricity so they rely on generators. However, they are questioning if solar is the way to go, given panels don’t appear to be easily disposed of without interfering with the environment. We might want to look at doing less with even less.

  7. Eureka says:

    Thanks, Ed- including for the many points of humor. Sidenote: the closer re GOPers shrieking ‘socialist dystopia’ reminds me that I haven’t heard Greece used lately as a talking point.

    The post and comments to date remind me of yet more reasons to oppose the privatizing of the TVA. Lamar Alexander is retiring; I’m not sure who else will take up the cause (as effectively) in DC. And so I shall advocate with the words of Susan Crawford for Wired:

    https://www.wired.com/story/the-danger-of-invisible-government-deeds/

    Every few years, someone suggests privatizing the Tennessee Valley Authority. A crucial government corporation, the TVA, among its many other jobs, sells wholesale electricity to local power companies serving 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. President Obama floated this idea twice; President Trump proposed the same step in his Very Big Infrastructure Plan earlier this year.

    The thinking is that it’s a waste for the government to be in the business of selling wholesale power because private industry could be making more money instead. As long as US senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) draws breath, though, the TVA won’t be sold; he has said the idea is “looney” and has “zero chance of becoming law.”

    But Alexander won’t always be around, and few Americans outside TVA’s seven-state footprint likely know or care that it exists. Both the institution and the essential functions that it performs have become invisible. And so, someday, someone will succeed in selling off the TVA.

    Today, TVA makes enough from selling wholesale electricity that it needs no taxpayer funding. And Tennessee Valley residents pay electric rates that are below what more than two-thirds of the country pays. Almost 5 million people get their drinking water from the TVA.
    (internal links removed)

    • Eureka says:

      Quasi-privatizing with subcontractors has gone well /s :
      [https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/crime/2019/01/14/tva-coal-ash-spill-jacobs-lawsuit-mediation/2523080002/]

    • Democritus says:

      I wish the would stop looking at EVERY single problem as a way to make money/profit instead of fixing the problem and bettering everyone’s lives.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Like the rest of the New Deal, the corporate world always hated the TVA. It still does.

      Power companies disliked the competition. What they disliked more was that TVA’s work disclosed costs of production and how to calculate them (depending on fuel source), which laid bare the exorbitant pricing schemes and profit-taking of some power companies.

      Business leaders also abhorred the example created by a successful, working and popular public company, which provided an essential service. It might create cultural and, therefore, political and economic space for many more. Decades ago, power generation was more local and often municipally owned, which was a real threat. It should be again.

      A related social and cultural development brought about by the TVA was bringing modernity to relatively undeveloped parts of the state and country. Often a benefit, it also threatened to derail longstanding allocations of political and economic power. That was also one of the major threats posed by the civil and voting rights movements. (Then, too, the TVA’s power generation helped greatly in the development of the atomic bomb.)

      A contemporary analogue is municipal cable systems, which can provide faster, cheaper and more reliable Internet connections and basic television services. Telecoms companies spend millions lobbying to make them illegal and to otherwise shut them down. The revival of such locally owned and operated services would seem to be an essential part of both going green and paying for it.

      • BobCon says:

        The efficiencies of the TVA and its hatred by shareholder owned companies reflects a broader problem that is at the heart of the Green New Deal.

        The cost per mile of high speed rail projects in the US tend to be much higher than elsewhere, even Europe. Likewise for other infrastructure projects. And a huge reason is that the public side has been bled dry of engineering expertise, which in effect has been handed over to contractors.

        And when contractors effectively own the requirements, design and oversight processes, they are going to pad their margins like crazy.

        Mergers and buyouts that consolidate contractor power only make the situation worse. It’s a nasty side effect of the decades-long war on government by conservatives, and it underscores that conservatives love government spending, they just want it going into their own wallets, which inevitably means with as little to show for it as possible.

  8. fpo says:

    This administration’s continued attempts – via rhetoric, personnel appointments, budget cuts, regulations, and more – to systematically undo decades of progress toward responsible environmental stewardship will ultimately fail. Early proof of this can be seen in various states’ swift reaction to the US decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement. 17 states announced that they will continue efforts to reduce carbon impact and pursue development of a clean energy economy. While this doesn’t undo the damage that’s already been done, it’s an indication that some pols recognize their responsibilities to their constituents. If you don’t see your state here, let your rep(s) and governor know what you think about that.

    https://www.georgetownclimate.org/articles/states-react-to-trump-s-decision-to-abandon-paris-climate-agreement.html

    As chump implodes – and he surely will – so too will his (vote seeking) attempts to undermine common sense on the issues of climate science and economic impacts. The GOP would do well to forget the ‘space force’ and spend a few minutes with NASA’s excellent online resource:

    https://climate.nasa.gov/

    Critical series – thank you for putting this issue front and center. Hate to see it ultimately get buried in the archives, tho. Sidebar “sticky” maybe?

    “It’s the Planet, stupid.”

  9. Eslinger says:

    To prevent a climate change related catastrophe will require unprecedented global action and the full commitment and support of humanity.
    It ain’t gonna happen, not just because moneyed parties will drag their feet and a segment of the population rejects the idea of climate change (because they’re angry at intellectuals and/or embracing science may weaken the foundation of their religion and/or they don’t want to give up anything and/or they refuse to acknowledge that their behavior must change, …), but because even well meaning people aren’t grasping what’s required.

    Hey folks, putting stuff into your recycling bin, placing a brick in the toilet tank, engaging in “ecotourism,” and putting a pithy sticker on your car, won’t be enough. And now in the media we see a “let’s find a middle ground” message being repeated, which is like proposing to treat necrotizing fasciitis with a dab of Neosporin.

    This xkcd webcomic of “Timeline of Earth’s Average Temperature” is powerful: https://xkcd.com/1732/

  10. Hop says:

    If anyone needs an example of how climate change will cost, look at the record flooding in Nebraska, including dams taken out.

  11. L howsden says:

    In the “End of Ice” it is pointed out that in spite of the denial of rising sea levels, in some communities around Miami if you are building or buying a house you can’t get a 30 year mortgage!!

  12. Campion says:

    Thank you for the fine effort of shedding light on the question of how the Green New Deal seeks to produce policy and practice for a planet in peril. To this effort I contribute a little.

    Consider.
    The much larger but integral question of how humans and human culture are going to live with the rest of the biotic and non-biotic fields of forces will require a complete shift of mind and spirit, not just an acquisition of knowledge and a proper deployment of responses. We are going to have to change what we imagine the self to be; we are going to have to change our human place in a co-extensive world of nested sets, whose agencies, such as they are, we’ll call for now inter-sovereignities. The very definitions of things are going to have to change–for we do not even know how to think properly about the questions yet–we still think of them with 19th century language tools, and lo and behold, too often come up with 19th century (whatever) descriptions, and of course, solutions. In short, these tools (of language) helped create the mental underpinnings that helped justify and construct the capitalist dystopia that envelopes us; so it is likely that these same implements will reproduce and not repair.

    On the path certainly.
    We must give up the no longer romantic notion (not even existentially) of being the privileged character “ON the Earth”. We must be WITH it; LikeWISE–must quit thinking of the planet as our private warehouse full of boundless supplies where we smart shoppers and effective managers get the best deal in town and keep a firm handle on the vital areas of inventory and control. But how should we presume and how should we begin? And from WHOM do we learn?

    Quit digging:
    While some religious people have begun to address this the most complex and critical moment in human history–as a whole, they are too compromised (aren’t we all?) and have too much at stake to undermine their own operation. Scientists and engineers–committed to their modus operandi–still provide technological solutions if only to staunch the bleeding here and yon, but they also offer crucial information about the Earth processes around us. Seems that we will be stuck with the imperfect for awhile, since without this we can not move on with the bigger project of reinventing homo–for the sake of Earth.

    But some people can somehow see outside of the panopticon they have helped create to keep an eye on themselves–we must discover and bring what they know to the fore, contribute to it, and share this widely.

    Consider.
    Aside from the entertainers among them–who provide prophylactics for the fall from the garden, the philosopher poets have been largely expunged from economic and cultural life (this alone may suggest their true worth). Let us unearth the ones who have something to say, learn how to read anew, and begin the work, internally and externally, across the co-extensive plateaus (your friends, colleagues, the wind, the weather, etc), to grieve and reshape “our” selves for the sake of the world. The way we look is the way we look at it.
    This could be something worth the passing on.

    • e.a.f. says:

      The second para, regarding humans thinking of the earth as their personal warehouse, …..great line and very true.

      Religions must play a part in all of this. When some in Canada were upset with the former P.M. harper and his attitude towards climate change, one blogger did a little digging. He found: the then P.M. Harper was a member of a protestant religion which believed the “bible was inerrant and the end of days was imminent”. Answered all my question. Next P.M., Trudeau has a much more open mind and is concerned about climate change, just not enough yet.

      There is corporate greed at play. Then there are the bible pounders who believe some person named god is going to take care of everything. Our Mother used to say, god helps those who help themselves. We need to start helping ourselves, this earth and everything on it, to survive and not destroy what we do not like or understand.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Thank you for this clarity, which is all too rare. Such grounded reality refreshes my hope against hope. Even the most intelligent, well-informed, and well-meaning among us are unable to discuss our situation with much clarity. Even this comment, which is about is clear and to-the-point as I have seen, necessarily focuses much of its energy on correcting where we are wrong rather than moving forward with the kind of whole-hearted, brain-storming vigor which comes from singular focus on solutions.

      My recently adopted view is that a starting point for stepping out of the helplessness and despair into a state of agency is to accept as ultimate the fact that national politics is not going to help. The corruption is currently too deep and quite probably such corruption is a necessary feature of problem-solving on such a large scale.

      Consider (as you say): Many of my friends are retired. Many of them accept, insofar as they can tolerate the mental anguish, the seriousness of what humanity faces. They try to educate themselves, they vote responsibly. They are focused on politics and especially on ways in which political decisions do and do not work to address climate change. Almost all of them think nothing of getting on an airplane to fly to New Zealand. Almost all of them think nothing of taking unnecessary drives, long and short, in their Priuses. Few of us, myself included, can even discern the difference between important use of energy vs. indulgent use of energy. A lot of us have a theoretical awareness that eating meat adds to the problem. We are not above discussing this issue over a steak dinner.

      My point is that the time is now to understand the incredible extent of our own agency, to understand the incalculable degree to which personal changes on OUR OWN behavior can work to address climate change, both directly in decreasing use of energy and indirectly in ways that take political and economic power away from entities whose survival depends on not addressing climate change to the extent necessary. Complaining about what other individuals and economic/political entities are not doing saps vital energy from the Herculean effort me must begin to apply to changing, as you say, who we are in the world.

      Thank you.

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        To be precise, stating correctly that we must grieve and change who we think we are in the world is a glimmer of a starting point. Were we to engage this idea seriously, an empowered discussion would look like an engaged, urgent exchange of ideas and reporting of things we are doing, free of defensiveness or complaint. “I’ve found that xyz is an effective way to tend my grounds without lawn mowing.” “Here is how I managed to live without an automobile.” Yes, there are many such ideas floating around, but they remain theoretical and somewhat half-hearted to the extent that we tend to quite naturally feel that what everybody is talking about is where the action is.

        In short, turn off the television. As discussed by EoH above, decentralization is a sine qua non of viable solutions.

  13. gmoke says:

    One of the biggest problems for capital will be the collapse of the carbon bubble, the deflation of known oil, gas, coal resources already found down to zero or close to. This is one of the reasons why the Russias and the Saudis are so interested in Trmp and the destruction of popular democracy around the world. When the bubble pops, it will be an historical loss equal to or greater than the historic debacles of the Tulip or South Seas Bubbles.

    The fossil fools will try to stick the general populace with their “stranded costs” which will be another possible blow to investment in renewables and any kind of livable, survivable future.

    When thinking about capital in the Green New Deal, these certainties should be taken into account.

    • tinao says:

      You know what i want to know since the other half retired, well that would be where to park some in a forward thinking green energy fund. Went to a face to face with some repubile investment folks, and well i found them to less than worthy. I want clean smart and worthy. They did not make the cut and me and the old man are still researching.

      • gmoke says:

        The Domini Fund is one of the longest running “sustainable investing” groups out there.
        Progressive Assets Management has been doing the same for a couple of decades.
        New Alternative Fund also has a long record.

        Search on “sustainable investment” and you’ll come up with a lot of alternatives, some of which may even make you money (?)!

  14. Tom says:

    It would be good if we Earthlings could recapture the sense of the beauty, fragility, and isolation of our planet that were conveyed to us by the crew of Apollo 8 in lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968 when they took those famous photos of the Earth rising over the moon.

  15. errant aesthete says:

    This comes pretty close.

    “On the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect.

    The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.”

  16. Terrence says:

    I don’t hear much talk about disease vectors moving North, but they will. What happens when there’s wide spread hookworm infection in Pennsylvania or or malaria in Ohio? Those may be far fetched, but climate change will have adverse health affects.

    • Tom says:

      According to federal and provincial government website information, the ticks causing Lyme Disease are spreading north into Canada at the rate of about 46 kms a year due to global warming. Avril Lavigne became a victim a few years ago while visiting her hometown of Napanee, Ontario. The same government websites report that the mosquito borne West Nile virus is also “here to stay” across Canada due to global warming. Milder winters have also resulted in other invasive species such as the Emerald Ash Borer surviving the colder months in Canada and causing billions of dollars worth of damage to our ash trees.

      • e.a.f. says:

        Ticks which cause Lyme’s disease have been in Canada for at least 40 years if not longer, at least in lovely downtown B.C., well more like Hope, B.C. Various levels of government denied it and it would be diagnosed as Epstein bar, chronic fatigue, whatever you wanted to call it. However, there was a Doctor, in Hope, B.C. approx. 150 miles east of Vancouver, who not only realized it was in B.C. he diagnosed people with it and became quite well known amongst people suffering from the disease. People who lived in the Interior of B.C., Okanagan Valley have also had Lyme’s disease, as long as 30 years ago. The ticks are on Vancouver Island, one had me two summers ago. Wouldn’t be surprised if ticks had made it to Prince George, 9 hours north of Vancouver by now. Its cold up there, but ticks can survive, there, if they can survive Hope, B.C.

        When I was a child, you didn’t really see whole forests killed off by Pine beetles. Then came the 1980s and for as far as you could see, there would be dead forests compliments of warm winters and the Pine beetle. Some of have known about climate change for along time.

  17. tinao says:

    We need a national effort worthy of the Kennedy’s. Happy St. Patty’s! Disobey your habitual self. :-)

  18. Ramona says:

    Gaia has called time up on all these human and capitalist shenanigans. We really have no time to mess around with debates over solutions that exclude a full court press on anything and everything we can do to halt climate change. I do not have children and am now a senior. I won’t be around to see the worst, but I am convinced that I will see a great deal of tragedy before I die.

  19. tinao says:

    Yikes, something doesn’t seem right. Where’s Stoney River? I mean please listen to Laura Nero, but the whole collection came up when i clicked on it to check. Just asking, cause when shit goes sideways on the net you can’t be to careful.

    • e.a.f. says:

      The song is Stoney End. Stoney River is in Ontario, Canada.

      Laura Nyro does have the same Carol King vibe, but better, clearer voice. Hadn’t heard of her before this, so thank you. like the music, so thank you Tinao! She’s right there on the list now with George Strait.

      • tinao says:

        e.a.f. you are welcome. She was on when i was a youngun. I’m kindda what’s considered old now. But hell, I’m young enough to help.

  20. tinao says:

    Ya know i just saw Grahm Nash a couple of daz ago in the burgh, and it really felt complete. Holy crap what a show!!! Everyone’s singin was BEAUTIFUL! Way way. Can’t wait to see Crosby. Life is a treat good and bad.

  21. tinao says:

    Now David, seriously can’t wait. Your my favorite Pirate, from the lands of Pirates…soon as we get out from under a wv goon.

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Something to watch for: a documentary about the great Molly Ivins (1944-2007). [https://mollyivinsfilm.com/]

    A Smith and Columbia School of Journalism graduate, she covered Texas and the national scene for three decades with incisiveness and startlingly funny political humor. She it was who first described a Pat Buchanan speech in 1992 – and by extension, those of the neoliberal political class generally – as having “probably sounded better in the original German.” [https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/mar/18/molly-ivins-raise-hell-documentary]

    She worked for the Minneapolis Tribune, the Texas Observer, the New York Times, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The NYT, which likes to arrange its “talent” like stock in a grocery store – corner shelving for access journalists and Nobel-winning commentators, the middle aisle for beat reporting, the freezer section for left-of-center opinion writers – never found a proper niche for Molly’s work, despite her being nominated over the years for two Pulitzers.

    Molly described herself as a populist and left-liberal. Even George W. Bush, whom she often skewered as president and Texas governor, noted her passing with respect (and perhaps appreciation that she would now finally stop). Asked once why she stayed in rightwing, male-dominated Texas, she said, in effect, that it was home, and that it would be boring as hell being a liberal living among liberals in coastal California or New York.

    Her work remains timely, funny, and marvelously well-informed. She is a model for contemporary journalists seeking to work and survive in the Age of Trump.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Now that the green beer has passed away, I should have mentioned the title of the documentary: Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins. (See Molly’s website for details.) Per the Guardian:

      The film describes a remarkable life: born into Houston oil money, educated at Smith in Massachusetts, a hard-charging reporter **too hard-charging for the New York Times**, a champion of the people in Texas, a guardian of human rights with the American Civil Liberties Union, a syndicated columnist and bestselling author, a troubled soul, a brilliant wit who coined a withering nickname for President George W Bush: Shrub.

      (Emphasis added, links omitted. One leads to her NYT obituary [https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/washington/01ivins.html] “A troubled soul,” refers to Molly’s alcoholism (and whatever lay beneath it), which she described as a professional hazard among journalists. She died of breast cancer at 62.)

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This is the sort of authenticity and scientific accuracy we face in the world of Trump. [https://twitter.com/ZonePhysics]

    See how long it takes to spot the error. Hint: Capricorn One.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The entry I intended to show does not have a specific url. Scroll down to March 17th, a photo of an astronaut with flag on the moon, captioned, “Took me ten minutes to found [sic] what’s wrong with this picture.”

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I was a great fan of Molly Ivins, so forgive the multiple posts. Her humor made the great and bad vulnerable. It brought them down to size, and made them easier to understand and to oppose.

    Those are important attributes in American society, because a signature tactic of the great and the bad has been to claim exclusive ownership of, well, everything, but especially of the cultural standing to determine what fits through the Overton Window. It’s what a century or more of scares and purges, illegal surveillance, security clearances and propaganda wars have been about.

    Examples abound. It’s one reason tenure at the Ivies is virtually off limits to contemporary analogs of C. Wright Mills and William Sloane Coffin. It’s why the NYT gives us Maggie Haberman and David Brooks, and Douthat, Friedman and Stephens, but not a single Molly Ivins. We have only the gentler, stone-washed versions of late night comedy.

    Molly’s prickly relations with her NYT editor and publisher are evident in their paper’s obituary. The ultimate insider’s newspaper could not a find pigeon hole for her outsider’s perspective (“a Clydesdale among thoroughbreds”). She was never comfortable until she could use her Louis Black-like wit to discombobulate the pampered and officious.

    The Times held onto its discomfort through her passing. In its obit, for example, it criticized how effortlessly Molly could slide from a barefoot twang into third-generation Smith College English (and elite Sciences Po French). But it failed to note how readily Dubya did the same, dropping his garbled Texican for the Yankee vowel sounds of Kennebunkport, Andover and Yale.

    The Times noted, too, with mildly concealed snark, that her “breakneck pace” and “work overload” might have contributed to Molly sometimes getting her facts wrong and the plagiarism charge against her in 1995. Two days after it published her obituary, but with less fanfare and without mentioning Jayson Blair or Judith Miller, the Times corrected the factual errors in that obituary.

    With less concealed snark, the Times concluded that, “rarely has a reporter so embodied the ethos of her [muckraking] publication.” That refers to the progressive Texas Observer [www.texasobserver.org], which for many years Molly called home. After a few beers, she might have compared her editor and publisher with the Texas legislature: when it was called into session, it left “many a village without its idiot.”

    Molly’s rage, though, like her laughter, was about making a point: “I don’t care about who’s screwing whom, it’s about who’s getting screwed [the have nots] and who’s doing the screwing [the haves].” Her farewell column urged those who follow her: “Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.” Emptywheel goes a long way down that road. Thankfully for her readers, Marcy does it with style, hard facts, and a sense of humor, and occasionally a full likker cabinet (though perhaps not the week after St. Patty’s Day).

    • Ed Walker says:

      I was a big fan if Molly myself; I have at least one of her books if it survived several moves and kept it around to dip into; like most of my favorite books and movies it didn’t really matter where I started.

      I didn’t read the NYT obit, but fuck those guys. (As you may know, Marcy has gone legit and dropped the potty mouth at least on TV, so I feel duty bound to uphold the honor of the blog.) What the hell does Clydesdale among throroughbreds even mean? She liked Budweiser? And she could code-switch her pronunciation? Really? That’s just irritating.

      Also, ” gentler, stone-washed versions of late night comedy” is a nice turn of phrase.

      Also,

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        “Clydesdale among thoroughbreds,” was Molly’s own phrase, denoting that she felt she did not fit in most places she found herself. She was tall and large-boned, more Julia Child than Texas high school prom or homecoming queen. She had a famously bad relationship with her domineering, oil industry dad. That and her alcoholism suggests she had a few demons.

        Yes, fuck the New York bloody Times. With hindsight, its relationship with Molly seemed doomed from the start. It hired her in the immediate post-Watergate era as part of its expansion of national coverage and to spice up its staid writing – a rare example of self-knowledge. Her work was gaining a national reputation, and she had the usual NYT sort of stellar credentials: Smith, Sciences Po, Columbia Journalism School.

        The Times hadn’t reckon with her personality or idiosyncrasies, and had no tolerance for either. Nor could it have done an adequate self-examination of why its writing was so staid. That was always more likely to have been an artifact of a widespread, strongly enforced culture rather than too many buttoned-down decisions from a few editors. But they stayed together for six frustrating years.

        I thought the Times’s obituary’s list of her purported flaws to be piling on, sexist, and hypocritical. Her ability to switch from local dialect to Ivy League English or Parisian French made her a worldly figure of the kind the Times normally cherishes. Actors – Christian Bale, Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley – are frequently praised for it. The Times gave Dubya a free pass for using a similar ability as propaganda rather than as a means to better communicate.

    • Kick the darkness says:

      A smile and a tear for your shout out to Molly. Thanks. May have posted it before; don’t remember. But when I lived in Houston I listened to Ray Hill’s “Prison Show” on Saturday night I think it was, which was so utterly depressing beyond words. And then reading Molly’s editorials in the Chronicle on Sunday; maybe things would be OK. I came to think of the gulf between the two as the existential complexity of being Texan, a cauldron from which some original voices and personalities emerge. In the time I’ve tuned into this site, Marcy’s post outlining how she close reads documents written as a “helpful hint” to access journalists at the NYT is one of my favorites. To me it has a bit of a Molly thing going on. Like it could have ended with “that dog don’t hunt”.

  25. e.a.f. says:

    Canadian news was covering the flooding in Nebraska today. Perhaps it’s returning to what it once was, a great inland sea. This time however, the blame can be laid at the door of climate change. If the American government doesn’t want to deal with having to re locate over 10M people they might want to get a grip on this climate change thing.

    The news casts today, would lead one to conclude, this is going to be expensive, the flooding that is. Could be a dip in the productivity of the nation……..

  26. JamesJoyce says:

    Man’s existence is but a mere three minutes before midnight if Earth’s existence where compressed into a year.

    We are nothing more than a causal reality of chance.

    We don’t really matter.

    Increased global temperatures will result in increased intensity of weather phenomena which dissipates heat energy. Greater temperature differentials increase intensity of weather phenomenon.

    Being an amoeba society burning buried “shit” is understandable given human conditioning.

    Think pressure cooker.

    It is more important to maintain economic monopoly and control of thought than it is to advance. This is the primary issue facing the American people.

    Do we have a representative government responsive to the needs of the governed or a government controlled by monopoly of thought and economy protecting myopic self interest via imposed involuntary debtor servitude opposed to merging self interest for mutual benefit?

    Faceplants via plantation’s historical piles of cow’s dung like in Plantation Florida should be avoided.

    I’m sure that white van got a whopping 12 mpg city and maybe 18 mpg highway if lucky 🍀

    Florida big state with lots of sun 🌞. Orange trees been producing fruit via nature’s Green Plan for a while I guess?

    Deja Vu…

  27. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Worth restating, from a Thom Hartman article on what Americans mean by freedom and liberty: The Koch Bros. freedom from taxation and regulation, and the liberty to despoil the planet? Or the FDR version:

    [T]he right to a job, and the right to be paid enough to live comfortably; the right to “adequate food and clothing and recreation”; the right to start a business and run it without worrying about “unfair competition and domination by monopolies”; the right “of every family to a decent home”; the right to “adequate medical care… to achieve and enjoy good health”; the right to government-based “protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”; and the right“to a good education.”

    [Spacing corrected.] As FDR pointed out, “All of these rights spell security.”

    [https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/03/what-republicans-and-billionaires-really-mean-when-they-talk-about-freedom.html]

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