The Continuing Colonialism of Climate Change Solutions

Radical Slogans, Militant Actions, but Their Solution is the Market


Fifth Estate # 404, Summer, 2019

Climate change, global warming, the undeniable and irreversible global-scale reconfiguration of global chemistry, from the land, to the water, to the sky, we are awash in a multitude of changes. Each one compounds and codevelops with the other crises of civilization. Loss of ecosystems, extinction of species, obliteration of the land that runs in tandem with production weaves with the consequences of hydrocarbon use.

But have no fear; there’s a cornucopia of solutionists, from the Green New Deal to Extinction Rebellion to billionaire Tom Steyer, armed with alarm bells and twisted logic, looking to bring the 4th Industrial Revolution to a neighborhood near you.

These responses have been ramping up, hitting some crescendo that flies across the social media platforms, promising that the new generation, the new movement, is fully aware, eyes wide, looking straight into the abyss. With promises of massive capital investment in the trillions of dollars, and equipped with futuristic fully illustrated fairytales, these groups begin their epic battle to save the planet. But what is this response? For sure, if we hear about any response via mass media, there is a story to its placement there. The newsworthiness of any organization is often directly linked to its marketing and PR arms. While there’s little doubt that most participants, and the public at large, are genuinely and rightly fearful of the unfolding consequences of climate change, these mass movements inevitably become co-opted by the market and their campaigns become yet another tool to expand the logic of civilization.

We can say with relative certainty that the sudden cascade of mentions across left-wing media is not mere coincidence. With almost unshakable consistency, we were introduced to Swedish teenager climate campaigner, Greta Thunberg and the sudden appearance of Extinction Rebellion carrying out disruptive direct action. This, along with a slew of new books featuring titles like The Uninhabitable Earth and Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

All of this pushes towards a Green New Deal, the liberal reform program to address climate change and economic inequality, or some other massive investment package or citizen assemblies—actions that will not stop climate change.

However, it will certainly make it worse given the fact that civilization is a thermodynamic engagement. Any attempt to continue growth while attempting to eliminate carbon emissions is doomed to failure.

The veneer of unflinching reality-dealing that’s playing out in the names of these groups is startling. Why are so many deciding to take this apocalyptic approach, and why is the parallel narrative joined to this new movement a fantastical futurism? Interesting questions, but like all mass movements, movements that aim to tune-up civilization for its continuance, this one is more about marketing than change.

To gain the proper perspective, we should consider the newest Hail Mary, the desperation echoing from the ballasts of our crumbling death ship, the Green New Deal. Part corporate funded trillion-dollar wealth redistribution program, part aggressive climate policy, the Green New Deal manages to sound both like junior fascism and vomit-inducing liberalism. Never mind that the New Deal for which it is modeled after was an ecological disaster and direct colonial tool.

Current liberal darling, U.S. Congressional Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has partnered with The Intercept news site, and writers Naomi Klein and Molly Crabapple to create a visualization of the new frontier promised by the Green New Deal—and, it is a frontier. In this futuristic tale, we see a portrait of an earth in transition from one method of production to another. No longer will the dirty fuels leave their hex on our houses; we will be free once and for all from this tormentor called hydrocarbon.

In this sci-fi tale, we can replace the entire civilized petro-infrastructure with something new and, by way of miracle, use less. The logic is so self-evidently stupid that it seems like a waste of time to even refute it. But because we are all dependent, and so many born entitled to every convenience and luxury, this is the obvious choice, never mind it makes no sense. We will grow, but use less.

As the gathering reality moves faster upon us, we certainly seem to be taking seriously ideas that anarchists pioneered many years ago, ones that were either laughed at as a pipedream or dismissed as more of the same by non-production-oriented anarchists. As is so often the case, anarchists play their role in civilization by pioneering the social frontier, carefully incubating ideas that the dominant culture appropriates when needed.

The Green New Deal, while obviously being a tool to maintain the techno-structure, is also a colonization tool. It seeks to carve out new segments, new economies. Now, we must serve new masters that rule the new scarcity. This is about maintaining the colony.

The reality of colonization is that of continuation and maintenance. In other words, in order to reject colonialism, we need to understand that the colony must be constantly maintained and, as such, colonialism is not a historical past or a historical period, it is a contemporaneous consistency. The land is constantly being recolonized, whether through continued dispossession of its inhabitants or the devastation and manipulation of the land for the purposes of serving civilized infrastructure.

There is no Green New Deal, no list of demands that can be acquiesced to that digs at the roots of colonialism or climate change (to the extent we can separate them). Only in the linear mind, where colonialism is an artifact of the past and we need merely deal with the consequences of that event, can we attempt such a project of lunacy.

First, ignore and redefine. Second, present a solution. Third, find your political allies. Again, this is about marketing.

In such a formula, we see that the hollow words and grandiose book titles by the supposed leading thinkers are but ploys. In their attempt to peddle reality they have become propagandists for the new era of civilization. A new era that will leave desolate now-ignored areas where wealth can be found, mined and extracted, brought back to us. New chemistry will be pioneered. New technology will be unveiled. Behind the massive and tired trickery of the magic red curtain we will find our salvation.

As our memories grow shorter, less attuned to even remember our plans for the week, why wouldn’t we fall for the oldest and cheapest sales pitch of all time. After all, it’s much easier than tearing down this infrastructure, realizing the end of growth. It’s much easier to write science fiction, call it a political act, and hope no one notices the apocalypse has already begun.

Eventually the flames reflecting off our cellphone screens will be too much to ignore.

Former Co-Editor of Black and Green Review, Steve Kirk is an Anarcho-Primitivist writer, musician, and father living in so-called West Virginia.