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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/21/10

Manufacturing Discontent - On Action and Enaction

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This piece continues the series being presented by Cory Morningstar and Gregory Vickrey and is part of their anticipated and controversial book and multimedia project due out in 2011.

It is safe to assume that in modern political arenas, an approach to the climate change emergency through conventional directives will not work. Indeed, across every movement, from single-payer health care to American wars and occupations abroad, the conventional has failed. And while we are very skilled at making excuses and providing analysis for some aspects of that failure, we are not very good at determining other, alternative mechanisms for change. The climate change movement is no exception to this reality.

Ineffective and otherwise corrupted major political parties in the United States and elsewhere reflect the failure of the masses to control our own political will, expand the solution sets we may desire, and reconstruct the fabric of society at its foundation. Corporate control of those parties, and more directly, elections and political offices, limits our collective effectiveness on the policy-making playgrounds of Washington DC and other capitals. And again, recent history on the global and national stages shows the climate movement no less co-opted by the rapacious institute of corporate control.

Capitalism is a sacrosanct concept for most, even though the modern system of capitalism isn't pure by any means -- in both positive and negative ways. Yet observing the modern capitalistic approach to the global economy through the climate lens demands we become critical of the very system that, to one degree or another, has provided for our lives of comfort in the first world. For instance, any analysis of a modern company like Nike demonstrates that both LeBron James and you and I can wear the hottest kicks as basketball season arrives, but those kicks are manufactured through the modern capitalistic directive of cheap labor -- by the exploited hands of men, women, and children in southeast Asia in sweatshops and hell holes -- and shipped worldwide via inefficient container ships and trucks wholly dependent upon fossil fuels.

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Our shoes and sense of fashion, like nearly everything else in life, are intimately connected to the carbon economy.

Given that those in the climate change movement stand to piss off multi-national corporate conglomerates, the politicians they control, and LeBron James with any sort of meaningful approach, most have gone the way of standardized emails, sanitized campaigns, and symbolic actions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was a lead author of the worthless bills peddled in the US Congress in 2010 that would have continued to subsidize fossil fuels and nuclear power, enriched the corporations behind their largest funders, and sacrificed future generations.

- Advertisement - wasted time, money, and activists organizing symbolic parties around the globe in the hopes that some leader somewhere would do something sometime, while selling a bunch of t-shirts (guess where most are made) and propelling big oil (350 funders are dripping in it) back to the top of the greenwashing list.

The Nature Conservancy continues its close "win-win" partnership with BP.

All three, and plenty more, would like to keep us convinced that if only we green our consumptive way of life, we can keep it, with little or no sacrifice.

They are wrong.

And that means we are wrong.

Realistically, we know at best we have until 2020 to fully enact the changes necessary to overcome the fossil fuel economy and all of its derivatives. There is nothing comfortable about that reality, but it is the only opportunity we have to stem the tide of the global climate emergency. No part of the current economic and political systems has the flexibility to bring appropriate leadership, action plans, and strength of will to the fore. To quote your favorite American Democrat, Barack Obama: "It took a hundred years for health care (d)reform."

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The psychology of entrenchment alone prevents significant movement from happening within 10 years; further, the fossil fuel aspect of the economy is the engine that drives the thing, controlling or having a powerful hand in nearly every facet of life, as well as policy. Knowing that, what makes anyone one of us believe the powers-that-be will wake up early enough in the 10-year period to acknowledge the need for removal of the carbon economy and the corporations that drive it, implement that removal, and maintain civil society as it currently is all at the same time? For argument's sake, if a person is put in power to dismantle it against the will of the fossil fuel stasi, what sort of civil unrest will the fossil fuel economy create in order to stall the mechanics of change and sustain themselves?

Critical reflection should quickly allow us to answer these questions.

We no longer can afford to be afraid to read the truth. We no longer can afford to be afraid to reflect on our failure. We no longer can afford to avoid answering. We no longer can afford to avoid challenging the system for what it is.

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Gregory Vickrey is a consultant in the nonprofit and political arenas.
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