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Against climate change disaster porn


#1

In Jacobin magazine, Daniel Aldana Cohen offers a strident critique of a widely read piece on climate change recently published in NY Magazine: “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells. Subtitled “What climate change could wreak—sooner than you think,” the NY Magazine article explores how dramatic changes to climate patterns, and the corresponding impacts on human life, are not far-off possibilities but rather right around the corner. Cohen doesn’t dispute the scientific reality of this. Instead, he argues that sensationalist portrayals of climate disaster divert attention away from the more mundane social inequalities that climate changes exposes and exacerbates. We cannot understand the coming impacts of climate change, suggests Cohen, without talking about race, class, gender, and capitalism. Here’s a snippet from his piece:

The word capitalism appears four times in this many-thousand-word piece. Ostensibly a discussion of what humans are doing to themselves, it instead fetishizes a convenient slice of the natural science, combined with a digest of the thinner and less critical strand of climate social science.

Is it true that virtually everyone grossly understates the dangers posed by climate change? Yes. But is the gravest threat pure runaway climate change? No: it’s too little, too late, plus race and class war, plus experiments with the planet. It’s the danger, essentially, of a vicious right-wing minority imposing the privilege of the affluent few over everyone else. That’s the real and scary (and political) story.

When climate politics meets the aspirations of the global majority through “democratic ecologies,” we can fight off eco-apartheid and decarbonize prosperity.

And it follows from that that the solution isn’t a better grasp of the science. It’s political campaigns that foreground equality and prosperity and hope.

Image via NY Magazine.