We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bounding the Planetary Future: Why We Need a Great Transition

Click here to access article by Johan Rockström from Great Transition Initiative. 

After reading and some scanning of this article by a professor at a Swedish university, I think that the professor tries hard to avoid saying anything that will threaten capitalist ruling classes while, at other times, tries to reassure them during his effort to form a rational argument for what is needed to save humanity from its present trajectory of threatening planetary boundaries. He does this, like many academics, by resorting to high levels of abstraction to avoid attacking real actors, capitalist ruling classes, who are intent upon transgressing these boundaries for their own interests of wealth and power. For example, he writes:
The urgency of the challenges ahead demands a two-prong strategy: acting within our current obsolete development framework to bend environmental and social justice curves as much as possible, while simultaneously fostering the longer-term shift in consciousness to values and institutions that equitably integrate people and planet.
What he really means here is that we must both work within the existing capitalist system but also work for more fundamental changes that he vaguely references as "values and institutions that equitably integrate people and planet".

To avoid antagonizing ruling classes, Rockström occasionally makes very naive, vague statements like this:
Navigating to a safe and thriving future will require stronger global governance. Increasing the powers of global governance does not, however, inherently weaken local, national, or regional governance. To the contrary, democratic global governance for meeting PB requirements can stimulate innovation, adaptation, and market-based solutions at the local, national, and regional scales. In such a scenario, global governance, local action, and adjustments in the business sector go hand-in-hand; indeed, the interplay of governance levels becomes a necessity in the Anthropocene.
 And by reassuring them that the "Great Transition" is really not all that tranformative:
...decarbonizing the world by the second half of this century is not only possible (through a wide strategy of energy efficiencies and applying multiple wedges of renewable energy options), but also compatible with economic development. Renewable sources like solar and wind are already competitive (without subsidies) in many economies, and they can and will generate new markets, innovations, and jobs.
And here where he seems to want capitalists to eat his cake and have it too.
Our species must thus give up the illusion that a heavy reliance on market-based policy measures—which can, at best, deliver relative, not absolute, improvements—can deliver a flourishing civilization in this century. In place of illusion, we can pursue creativity, combining strategies to nurture the innovation and efficiency of the market with hard regulatory policy measures to set the boundaries of the space in which the market operates.

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