In a NYT theatre review, Laura Collings-Huges quotes Checkov’s own words a century ago on how “the forests are disappearing one by one, the rivers are polluted, wildlife is becoming extinct, at the climate is changing for the worse, every day the planet gets poorer and uglier.”
The politics of climate change are tricky to navigate because they are based on scientific consensus. To say the “thinking is done” sounds a little like being anti-science, which is based on experimentation, questioning, and solid research fundamentals. And yet, the research is conclusive, according to a broad survey of the scientific community. Research reports continue to accumulate, as Eduardo Porter reports today in the NYT and others have noted previously (see Justin Gillis, “U.S. Climate Has Already Changed” as well as the Dot.Earth blog.)
As a result, multinational corporations, the U.S. military, and now faith groups (including prominent Mormon thinkers) are pushing the new “consensus” into policy. What we see this week at the UN is another manifestation–including the Copenhagen Climate Change treaty from last year.
No less than John Oliver has visualized (with a degree of ridicule) the nature of the “debate” (language warning if you seek out the video).
Conservative writer and foreign policy guru Walter Russell Meade isn’t easily swayed, and this week wasn’t impressed with climate marchers, referencing the NYT coverage–with his own take on the likely outcome and a WSJ contrarian view–one that is uniquely American and an outlier:
It was the usual post-communist leftie march. That is, it was a petit-bourgeois re-enactment of meaningless ritual that passes for serious politics among those too inexperienced, too emotionally excited or too poorly read and too unpracticed at self-reflection or political analysis to know or perhaps care how futile and tired the conventional march has become. Crazed grouplets of anti-capitalist movements trying to fan the embers of Marxism back to life, gender and transgender groups with their own spin on climate, earnest eco-warriors, publicity-seeking hucksters, adrenalin junkies, college kids wanting a taste of the venerable tradition of public protest, and, as always, a great many people who don’t think that burning marijuana adds to the world’s CO2 load, marched down Manhattan’s streets. The chants echoed through the skyscraper canyons, the drums rolled, participants were caught up in a sense of unity and togetherness that some of them had never known. It was almost like politics, almost like the epochal marches that have toppled governments and changed history ever since the Paris mob stormed the Bastille.
Almost. Except street marches today are to real politics what street mime is to Shakespeare. This was an ersatz event: no laws will change, no political balance will tip, no UN delegate will have a change of heart. The world will roll on as if this march had never happened. And the marchers would have emitted less carbon and done more good for the world if they had all stayed home and studied books on economics, politics, science, religion and law. Marches like this create an illusion of politics and an illusion of meaningful activity to fill the void of postmodern life; the tribal ritual matters more than the political result.
Even the New York Times ruefully concedes that this week’s climate summit is unlikely to create the kind of breakthrough climate framework agreement that the protesters in Manhattan were agitating for today. After all, Germany’s Angela Merkel has taken a pass on attending the meeting, as have China’s Xi Jinping and India’s Narendra Modi.