What Does Climate Change?
80 Years of Environmental Politics - Left and Right
Cora Bergantiños PhD., Socialist Alternative NYC, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University
Joel Kovel, founder of Ecosocialist Horizons, Author of The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?
Andrew Needham, History NYU, Author of Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest
Christian Parenti, Liberal Studies NYU, Author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence
The awareness of a growing planetary climate crisis in the 1990s appeared to coincide with a change: the final collapse of the traditional forces of the Old Left (communism and social democracy) and the consolidation of what many characterize as neoliberalism. For many green thinkers and activists, the political strength of the Right in the 1990s stymied any meaningful attempt to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But the global reach of climate change also generated sustained international resistance, which appears unified in its opposition to fossil fuel extraction. For Klein and climate justice activists, the combined weight of this resistance could “change everything” when coupled with the “erosion” of neoliberalism’s credibility, particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the assessment that climate change is inextricably bound up with capitalism (i.e., that climate change cannot be regulated or solved using “greener” forms of capitalism, but would require a “system change”).
Yet amidst the proliferation of activity--from blocking pipelines, to campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns, to blockades to stop hydraulic fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining projects and protests at international climate talks--it remains unclear how climate activism might lead to something different. U.S. Democrats, for example, appear poised to benefit from discontents around inaction on climate change regulation (in spite of advancing neoliberal reforms in the 1990s under Bill Clinton). In the E.U., climate activism has taken a back seat to anti-austerity, as governments responsible for the strictest austerity are largely credited with leadership in decarbonizing their economies. In fact, while an agreement overhauling the Kyoto Protocol seems increasingly likely at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP 21), the same cannot be said about theprospects for “system change.”
The focus of this panel is to consider what remains unchanged by the climate crisis. For there seems to be a continued problem of how discontents under capitalism become readily integrated into new forms of capitalism; a process whereby we unwittingly contribute to the perpetuation of capitalism without intending to. We ask panelists to consider how we might arrive at a post-carbon future from the Left. What would a Left response to climate change look like? How does this differ from the Right?
On February 23th, 2010, Platypus hosted an event entitled Which Way Forward for Palestinian Liberation? in which Joel Kovel, author of Overcoming Zionism and frequent commentator on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Hussein Ibish, political analyst and senior fellow at The American Task Force on Palestine, answered questions posed by Richard Rubin of Platypus.
Hussein Ibish is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and is the executive director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab- American Leadership. From 1998-2004, he was Communications Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab-American membership organization in the United States, with which he authored, along with Ali Abunimah, the issue-paper The Palestinian Right of Return. Ibish will discuss his recent book, What’s Wrong with the One State Agenda? Why Ending the Occupation and Peace with Israel is Still the Palestinian National Goal.
Joel Kovel is professor emeritus of social studies at Bard College, editor in chief of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism and the author of several books, including White Racism: A Psychohistory, A Complete Guide to Therapy, The Age of Desire: Case Histories of a Radical Psychoanalyst, The Radical Spirit, and The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or The End of the World. In 1998, he was the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senator from New York. He will be discussing his most recent book, Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.