Tasered by Trump, plus some vague thoughts on melting ideologies

Maybe Donald is exactly what the Earth's biosphere needs. As Robert Orr put it, regarding his pointless Paris tantrum (the agreement's entirely voluntary Donald - exactly what costs were being imposed?):

The electric jolt of the last 48 hours is accelerating this process that was already underway. It's not just the volume of actors that is increasing, it's that they are starting to coordinate in a much more integral way.

People who might previously have been thinking, 'aah, the government's probably got this covered' are realising - not so much. They've been tasered by Trump. And that integral coordination he mentions - that's a marvelous, essential thing. If Elinor Ostrom was right, it's also the only thing that will work. (Oh look, an entire paper of hers on cilmate polycentrism.)

It'll be intriguing to watch what happens in the US as that coordination ramps up and builds links with the rest of the planet: a different model of the voluntarism already built into the agreement might form something a lot more Ostromy. I feel a lot more hopeful about that than anything involving global agreements that include techno-pixies like BECCS. (If a polycentric world actually demonstrates something that works, that's another matter, but let's not rely on non-existent things, huh?)

Which is not to say that large-scale, often government-supported, things aren't necessary - we're not going to be short of those though. But anything that's an electric jolt out of someone-else's-problem-itis has to be a good thing. (A little thing got done here, even, that I managed to find a way to contribute to, after the actual US-election jolt. More on that some other time.)

One of the main things I'm mulling at the moment goes back to all that political compass stuff. No, it's more than that - it's about how we break out of assumptions that keep us cemented to the spot, when we need to be learning to move. Hmm - not explaining this well.

David Mitchell's take on climate change is actually a pretty good way into talking about this. He does it in a slightly more sarcastic way than is perhaps ideal, but still... And take this first sentence with a pinch of hey-its-comedy-so-its-OK:

It seems such a pity that the clear fact of climate change is seldom expressed by people who don't seem just a little bit pleased by it. Similarly, sorting it out is always presented as an opportunity or a pleasure or as something we ought to have been doing for years anyway. In fact, it's just a thing - a really depressing thing that's happening, but the people who tell us so always seem to be radiating one or both of those old parental stand-bys: I warned you this would happen - or, hey! Clearing up can be fun!

There are also often slight undertones of disparagement about industrial pioneers and the human urge to innovate in general. As if poor old George Stephenson should have known perfectly well that when he got that kettle to travel along rails it would lead inexorably to planetary jeapardy. Well, take that to its logical conclusion and you're labelling the first caveman who ever fashioned an axe as a cross between Dr. Oppenheimer and BP.

There's a whole load of other quotable stuff in there (the point about Clarkson driving to the North Pole in a 4x4 drinking G&T being obviously more fun than sorting out the climate, for example...)

I can only just start writing about this now, but let me just note for myself what I want to come back to. If climate change straightforwardly slots into your existing political worldview, you're not questioning that worldview enough and you're probably alienating a bunch of people in the process. The Age of Stupid do that here, for example. Naomi Klein's obviously done it: oh look, climate change proves I was right all along about the need to overthrow capitalism.

I'm, not quite, saying this is all wrong. That's not my point. I think I probably want to have a go at any ism at all, any totalising way of thinking. Which may be a problematic argument given that we seem to run on stories as a species, and stories generally need some coherence to them for us to not slip into a ditch of horrific depression.

Let me just put this here as a working hypothesis - something I want to think about and may well end up completely reversing my position on: I suspect there are very, very few political worldviews that couldn't survive in a climate-constrained world in some form not too distant from its ancestors. (Most ideologies are flexible enough to survive new circumstances.) Which means, logically, it's also possible to have the same arguments we've always had about those. To the extent that climate change becomes umbilically linked to the victory of one particular worldview, that stuffs any real chance of genuine dialogue to solve it.

At the same time, that doesn't minimise the profundity of the situation we're in. I'm some way through Clive Hamilton's Defiant Earth - as well as being one of those rare writers with the ability to be crystal clear, it's also a fantastic deep dig into the anthropocene with subtle, mercurial thinking. We need more of that and less 'climate change confirms that my existing worldview must conquer all or we fry.'

I think, maybe. Err. More mulling needed. Lack of conclusion or perfection no reason not to post on blog!