What is the Theory of Change in Naomi Klein’s “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal”?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Naomi Klein has just launched On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal (Simon & Schuster (2019; search for independent bookstore near you). While I confess I have not yet purchased the book, On Fire has gotten a lot of play — some from Klein herself, touring — and the nature of that play is interesting in itself. So consider this a meta-review. First, I’ll look briefly at Klein as a figure, and review my own position on a Green New Deal (GND). Then, I’ll collect several “takes” on the book. Finally, I’ll ask if a clear “theory of change” can be reverse-engineered out of those takes; that is, assuming that the desired verdict is in favor of the Green New Deal, do the takes on the book provide (#1) a clear explanation of why there is not already a GND, and (#2) a strategy to get the GND. Spoiler alert: On the evidence of the takes, including those of Klein herself, the answer is… no (I’m aware of the dangers of kicking a puppy, but so be it.)

So, to Klein the figure. Readers will be familar with Klein’s Shock Doctrine, with its theory of “disaster capitalism.” Klein has a real track record as a writer who can powerfully communicate complex ideas, and has a real knack for skating to where the puck is going to be; Shock Doctrine was published in 2007, right before the Crash, for example. Klein has been working on climate change for awhile. From Elle, “Progressive Prophet Naomi Klein Sees The Future. Can It Be Changed?“:

Klein has never liked marching and has described herself as physically incapable of chanting, but she has become increasingly involved in climate activism. In 2011, she was arrested for the first time, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House. She was instrumental in developing the divestment movement, which has led to $8 trillion being disinvested from fossil fuels. She also helped organize The Leap Manifesto, a document written in 2015 by a coalition of indigenous leaders, environmental activists, and union heads based around what Klein later described as a key insight: that many progressive battles could be addressed through a so-called “Marshall Plan for the Earth.”

(2015’s “Marshall Plan for the Earth” turned into 2019’s GND.) Writing in Nature (“Radical reform and the Green New Deal“) Michael Mann of hockey stick fame has this to say:

Klein has been a leading voice at the intersection of social and environmental movements for two decades — ever since she inspired a generation to reflect on the blight of consumerism with No Logo (1999). And she does not disappoint here. She provides a lucid and compelling case for the Green New Deal (GND). This set of proposed federal policies, advocated by Democratic representative for New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [AOC], aims to mobilize massive societal resources to prevent a dangerous rise in Earth’s temperature of more than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Next, let me review my own position on AOC’s GND here, here, and here. From the last piece:

The Green New Deal is a DEAL. All agree that the entire society most be mobilized for the GND to succeed (and though few say it, the dreaded lifestyle and consumption changes will have to be part of that). The deal for the working class is if they participate in GND mobilization, they are restored to a life of dignity: Real work for real money, the chance to take care of their families (even for those whose family numbers one), medical care, the rentiers’ boot off their neck, and clean air and water. In other words, universal concrete material benefits. That is the deal. That is a new deal, a deal that hasn’t been offered for most of my lifetime, and never for young people. That is the green new deal. And it’s a GND for the 90%, not 60 [familiy blogging] siloed NGOs. And all deals have (at least) two sides: This one has the “climate” side, and it has the “justice” side. One for the other. That’s how and why the Green New Deal will work as a deal. You might even call it a covenant, if you’re religiously inclined.

(It’s no wonder Pelosi, being Pelosi, sidetracked the GND into a toothless committee with no subpoena power not heard from since.) To make my views clear, the GND is a deal between those who own our carbon-optimized means of production and distribution (“the billionaire class”), and the working class who make the wheels for all that turn generally. Such a deal is the only way mobilization can take place. And it’s win-win: The elites get to live on a planet that hasn’t been cooked, and they get to avoid the Mad Max-style dystopia that will surely engulf them (modulo an utterly dystopian future, where those elites who didn’t make it to Mars find out that betting on AI and robots was a really dumb idea, because all that tech works about as well as the Internet of Sh*t). And the working class gets to live on a planet that hasn’t been cooked with some measure of dignity. The legislation provides a platform to work the details out, as the first two pieces explain. That is my view. I can’t tell if my views overlap with Klein’s or not. Could be me!

And now, to the takes. I’ll do a review of the book first, and then Klein herself.

1) “Is the Green New Deal Realistic? Two Sympathetic Authors Weigh In” [Jeff Goodell, New York Times].

Implicit in the plan is a fundamental reimagining of the role of government, one that harks back to F.D.R.’s New Deal in the 1930s. It is also a rethinking of how to break the logjam on climate policy in Washington. Instead of fighting incremental battles on cap-and-trade and carbon tax, the Green New Deal seeks to ignite a popular movement that breaks through today’s toxic partisanship with sheer human will.

Thankfully, Klein is not interested in fleshing out policy details… She’s interested in making a moral argument for why it is necessary. To Klein, climate change isn’t simply another important issue; it’s “a message, one that is telling us that many of Western culture’s most cherished ideas are no longer viable.”

She views this crisis as one “born of the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless, that we will always be able to find more of what we need.” The days of these Enlightenment ideals are over, Klein says: Our current world is “built on false promises, discounted futures and sacrificial people; it was rigged to blow from the start.”

So for Goodell, Klein’s answer to (#1) (“why there is not already a GND”) is two-fold: “the logjam on climate policy in Washington,” and “cherished ideas”/”the central fiction,” and (#2) (“strategy to get the GND”) is “a popular movement that breaks through today’s toxic partisanship with sheer human will.” Let’s see if the other takes have the same takeaway message: Electoral politics and bad ideas are the problem; a popular movement is the solution.

2) “‘On Fire’: In New Book, Naomi Klein Makes the Case for a Green New Deal to Save the Planet” (interview) [Democracy Now]. This part two of a multipart series (one, three, four, and five)

[KLEIN:] But it isn’t a single carbon-based policy, like a tax, you know, or cap and trade. It’s really about transforming the economy and making it fairer. Right? So, it’s battling poverty, it’s battling racism, it’s battling all forms of inequality and exclusion, at the same time as we radically lower our emissions, because we do know that if we are going to lower our emissions in time, it is going to take transformations of how we live in cities, how we move ourselves around, how we grow our food, where we get our energy from. So, essentially what the Green new Deal is saying: If we’re going to do all that, why wouldn’t we tackle all of these systemic economic and social crises at the same time? Because we live in a time of multiple, overlapping crises.

As a sidebar: The obvious answer is that we shouldn’t tackle all that because we don’t have to. Michael Mann writes: “I share her concern over each of these societal afflictions, but I wonder at the assertion that it’s not possible to address climate change without solving all that plagues us.” I disagree with Mann, because as I said above, the Green New Deal is a Deal, and we can’t mobilize without it. More from Klein:

And one of the reasons is that this crisis landed on our laps as a species at the worst possible moment in human evolution that a collective crisis of this nature could have landed on their laps — in our laps, which is the late 1980s, the high point of the sort of free-market zealotry… right when Margaret Thatcher is saying there is no alternative, there is no such thing as society. This was a huge problem, because here we’re being told that, really, we can’t do anything collectively… we have to cut existing government programs, we have to privatize everything, when here we’re facing a crisis that requires unprecedented collective action, unprecedented collective investment, and yet we’re handing the tools over to private, for-profit companies…. And so, I think the important — what is important about reminding ourselves, OK, well, in the face of the Great Depression, in the face of the deepest economic crisis this country has ever faced, there was huge collective action, and — you know, whether it was the Civilian Conservation Corps planting 2.3 billion trees, setting up hundreds of camps across the country, tackling soil erosion, 800 new state parks, whether it’s hundreds of thousands of new works of art during the original New Deal, or, as you said, Juan, the Marshall Plan, which reminds us of another time of collective action. You know, as you said, it wasn’t just governments handing down these programs from on high out of the goodness of their hearts. It was the push and pull of social strife, strikes, militant action, rising socialism.

So here, Klein’s answer to (#1) (“why there is not already a GND”) is “free-market zealotry,” and (#2) (“strategy to get the GND”) is “collective action”, “the push and pull of social strife, strikes, militant action, rising socialism.” So Klein’s take is similar but not identical to Goodellls: Again, bad ideas are the problem; but collective action (very much not identical to “sheer human will,” if you know anything about the 1930s) is the solution.

3) “Naomi Klein: ‘We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism'” [Naomi Klein, Guardian].

I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we’re not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We’re talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we’re in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don’t we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism.

So here, Klein’s answer to (#1) (“why there is not already a GND”) is some version of thinking small (“we’re not talking about a little carbon tax”) and (#2) (“strategy to get the GND”) is “figure out how to change everything from bottom to top,” with social strife (“profound political destabilisation”) as a driver. Again, bad ideas are the problem; and some sort of collective action (“figure out”) is the answer.

4) “The Dawn of Climate Fascism” [Naomi Klein, The Intercept][1].

This is a crisis overwhelmingly created by the wealthiest strata of society: Almost 50 percent of global emissions are produced by the richest 10 percent of the world’s population; the wealthiest 20 percent are responsible for 70 percent….

The climate science will no longer be denied; what will be denied is the idea that the nations that are the largest historical emitters of carbon owe anything to the black and brown people impacted by that pollution. This will be denied based on the only rationale possible: that those non-white and non-Christian people are lesser than, are the other, are dangerous invaders.

… And unless there is a radical change not only in politics but in the underlying values that govern our politics, this is how the wealthy world is going to “adapt” to more climate disruption: by fully unleashing the toxic ideologies that rank the relative value of human lives in order to justify the monstrous discarding of huge swaths of humanity[2].

It’s going to take a lot more than a carbon tax or cap-and-trade. It’s going to take an all-out war on pollution and poverty and racism and colonialism and despair all at the same time.

So here, Klein’s answer to (#1) (“why there is not already a GND”) is “the wealthiest strata of society,” defined globally as as “the richest 10 percent of the world’s population, and (#2) (“strategy to get the GND”) is “a radical change in politics,” and “all out war.” Here, bad ideas are not the problem, but wealth (seen as income, apparently, or possessions, and not as a social relation) and the nature of the change mobilization (“all-out war”) is not specified.

6) “The Green New Deal: A Fight for Our Lives” [Naomi Klein, New York Review of Books]. (I think this is by far the best of by Klein, and it repays reading in full.)

My own view is that as flawed as each historical analogy necessarily is, each is still useful to study and invoke. Every one, in its own way, presents a sharp contrast to the tepid market-based approaches—whether carbon trading, offsetting, or taxing—that have characterized government responses to the climate crisis for decades. The New Deal, the World War II mobilizations, and the Marshall Plan all remind us that another approach to profound crisis was always possible and still is today. Faced with the collective emergencies that punctuated those decades, the response was to enlist entire societies, from individual consumers to workers to large manufacturers to every level of government, in deep transformations with clear common goals.

There are, moreover, all kinds of ways to raise financing, including means that attack untenable levels of wealth concentration and shift the burden to those most responsible for climate pollution. And it’s not hard to figure out who that is. We know, thanks to research from the Climate Accountability Institute, that a whopping 71 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 can be traced to just one hundred corporate and state fossil-fuel giants, dubbed the “Carbon Majors.” In light of this, there are a variety of ‘polluter pays’ measures that can be taken to ensure that those most responsible for this crisis do the most to underwrite the transition[3]—through legal damages, through higher royalties, and by having their subsidies slashed. Direct fossil-fuel subsidies are worth about $775 billion a year globally, and more than $20 billion in the United States alone.

The very first thing that should happen is for these subsidies to be shifted to investments in renewables and efficiency.

As a sidebar: “[T]here are a variety of ‘polluter pays’ measures that can be taken.” Really? Is private property that sacrosanct? Can’t we nationalize our fossil-fuel giants, as we could have done with the big banks in the Crash?

Finally, Klein’s answer to (#1) (“why there is not already a GND”) is “attack untenable levels of wealth concentration,” and “one hundred corporate and state fossil-fuel giants, and (#2) (“strategy to get the GND”) is “to enlist entire societies.” Again, fortunately, bad ideas are not the problem, but capital (if I may leap there from “wealth concentration”) and the nature of the change is mobilization.

7) Finally, of everything in her book, what does Klein think is most important? She tweets:

So apparently “the wealthiest strata of society” and “one hundred corporate and state fossil-fuel giants” are of secondary importance. So now I’m a little lost. I think this framing is particularly important, since it leads the innocent to make ridiculous statements. From Vic Barrett, a plaintiff in Juliana v. United States:

[2] Distressingly, Barrett also says:

And I think with the climate crisis, what’s particularly like damning about it all, is that people of color, black people, have always been stewards of the earth, they’ve always been stewards of nature and have always taken care of the earth and what we have around us. And so, the fact that these systems, these white supremacist systems, have turned the earth against us is really what motivates me to keep doing the work and keep tapping into my ancestry and keep thinking about who I am and why I’m doing this.

A moment’s thought will show that if China is part of the climate change problem, then white supremacy is not the controlling factor.

* * *

I don’t mean to imply that Klein is writing in bad faith, or that Klein lacks expertise, or that her writing and her activism are not important and useful. And her writing is so voluminous, it’s entirely possible that I’m just wrong, and I’ve missed the sort of rigor I’m looking for. However, I think it’s reasonable to ask her to provide (#1) a clear explanation of why there is not already a GND, and (#2) a strategy to get the GND. Based on the takes, and based on Klein’s own writing, I don’t think Klein does. The house afire metaphor is a good one:

These precedents remind us of something equally important: we don’t need to figure out every detail before we begin. Every one of these earlier mobilizations contained multiple false starts, improvisations, and course corrections. What matters is that we begin the process right away. As Greta Thunberg says, “We cannot solve an emergency without treating it like an emergency.” We have to “act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”

If you are a fireman fighting a fire, you need, as it were, a theory of the fire:

In some cases, the use of water is undesirable. This is because some chemical products react with water to produce poisonous gases, or they may even burn when they come into contact with water (e.g., sodium). Another problem is that some products float on water, such as hydrocarbons (gasoline, oil, and alcohol, etc.); a burning layer can then be spread by the fire. If a pressurized fuel tank is endangered by fire it is necessary to avoid heat shocks that may damage the tank if it is sprayed with cooling water; the resulting decompression might produce a BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion). Electrical fires cannot be extinguished with water since the water could act as a conductor.

It’s not enough to know that you have a house on fire, or even that you desperately wish to extinguish it. Is the cause of the fire electrical, or not? Should we use water, or not? For our home, the earth, is the fire caused by bad ideas? White supremacy? Income disparity? Capital? And if combined, how? Surely our answer as to why there is no GND, and what we should do to get one, will vary, according to our theory of the cause of the fire? Given a theory of the fire, what is to be done? “Furious activity is no substitute for understanding,” as programmer H.H. Williams once said.


[1] As readers know, I am a fan of Robert O. Paxton, who defines fascism as follows: “Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.” If you’re an idealist, you can map that right onto the Christ Church shooter. If you’re not, you have more difficulty: You look for the “a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants,” and look in vain. That said, fascism is mutable; perhaps lone wolves are enough (though they certainly were not in the Reconstruction South, fascism’s Patient Zero). It’s not enough just to sling the adjective around, as so often is done on the Twitter.

[2] The argument could be made that the fall in life expectancy in the United States that Case and Deaton identify as “deaths of despair” shows that this “monstrous discarding” is already underway; uncomfortably for Klein’s thesis, the impact is greatest among whites (and, even more uncomfortably, there is no impact among the professional classes or the wealthy).

[3] Naomi Klein needs to talk to Stephanie Kelton.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Tom Pfotzer

    I’m not seeing much that’s new, different, compelling, or terribly insightful in the excerpts above from Klein’s work.


    a. It doesn’t explain at all why we don’t have coherent, coordinated and effective action on climate change. Why are the “rich people” not acting as “elites” should, and why is everyone else standing around blaming others, expecting “somebody” to “do something”?

    b. It doesn’t even suggest how we’re going to redesign and rebuild our massive industrial and domestic life infrastructure in a short enough time as to make any difference

    This is more shrill-ing. I have had enough of the screaming and attention-seeking. I want to hear from inventors, builders, scientists, product developers, naturalists, agrarians, village planners and the like.

    What is the architecture of tomorrow’s village? What structures, systems, equipment, processes, skills are needed? Where do we start, and who does what.

    We’re out of time, and can no longer afford to run about waving our arms and:

    a. waiting for someone to authorize us to start work
    b. give us the resources to do the job

    Architecture, bill of materials, team of workers/contributors, organization and comm systems to support collaboration.

    Please write a book that has that stuff in it.

      1. Dan

        Nuclear war?Eliminate humanity?

        Because nuclear power creates more pollution than natural gas, when the mining cycle for uranium, the milling, refining, washing, proper treatment of waste, armed guard shipments, pouring concrete for power plants, guarding, storing waste and all future costs are taken into account. How much carbon has been expended cleaning up Fukushima?

        Pelham, why can’t nuclear power plants buy liability insurance without sucking at the taxpayers’ teat?

        1. Synoia

          I love nuclear. Especially when the best example of a reactor is 93 Million miles away, and I’d like to keep our reactors at that safe distance/

      2. Gerda

        Nuclear is a not just a part, it’s a mandatory part (no single energy source ever is the only source). However, the current nuclear energy which means nuclear fission has zero part in anything. It’s not just useless but one of the most harmful current ways to generate energy. Also probably the most expensive, more expensive than carbon based energy generation.

        Nuclear fusion however is needed for two things: baseload energy on earth and almost more important for space propulsion. This is needed to get to the ressources of the solar system.

        @Synoia: fusion reactors don’t have runaway explosions like fission ones, they don’t spew toxic waste that lasts thousands of years for thousands of miles either. So while they are not totally harmless, they don’t need to be 93 million miles away either. That fusion reactor you mentioned unfortunately has downsides for human usage: low energy density and intermittent outages. Doesn’t mean one shouldn’t use the heck out of it, but its downsides limits the potential usage.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think we are operating at two different levels of abtraction.

      (#1) a clear explanation of why there is not already a GND, and

      a. It doesn’t explain at all why we don’t have coherent, coordinated and effective action on climate change. Why are the “rich people” not acting as “elites” should, and why is everyone else standing around blaming others, expecting “somebody” to “do something”?

      (#2) a strategy to get the GND.

      b. It doesn’t even suggest how we’re going to redesign and rebuild our massive industrial and domestic life infrastructure in a short enough time as to make any difference

      For myself, I am a meliorist. I believe a “difference” can be made, and in any case it is our duty to try (“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Heb 12:1).

      1. Tom Pfotzer


        Of course and absolutely we must try our very best. It seems to me that a critical mass of we humans are no longer lacking motivation, we’re lacking means. Most of what I see in the public space amounts to efforts to get people to think the issue is relevant / important, on the presumption that once the powers think it’s important, they’ll do something effective about it.

        That is not a valid assumption. If our “elites” were going to do something “elite”, it would have happened by now. They fully understand. They don’t want to act.

        And if they did “act”, they’d compel us (the many) to do behavioral change. Rich people can’t fix this problem, folks. Every-people cause it, and every-people has to fix it.

        What we humans need are new ways of doing the business of living that actually fixes the planet, instead of degrading it at every turn of the figurative wheel.

        We need new products, like houses that don’t bleed energy. We need new jobs that don’t involve a commute. Freight distribution systems that don’t use much fuel. And so forth.

        I assert that most of the stuff we need to do … can be done right now, by individuals making clever decisions about how they run their lives. No top-down authorization, nor majority buy-in required. Don’t need no stinkin’ facebook likes to get busy.

        So that means we need an impact assessment at the household level. Which live-your-life functions are delivering the most negative impact?

        What alternatives are there for performing those most-negative household functions?

        No good alternatives for that hh function? OK, time to innovate, or ditch that function.

        This is not all that complex. Most business professionals do this sort of analysis and problem-solving every day. Why are we not using these skills on our own, biggest problem, e.g. preserving our own habitat?

        Hence my advice to the Naomi Kleins of the world: “Why run around publishing shriek-tomes when we could spend that time inventing, collaborating, and actually solving problems?”

        1. Gerda

          Hence my advice to the Naomi Kleins of the world: “Why run around publishing shriek-tomes when we could spend that time inventing, collaborating, and actually solving problems?”

          Cause the Naomi Kleins are not inventors. They aren’t even collaborators even if they would deny that. They are certainly not problem solvers. They are towncriers and therefore totally useless for problem solving, but since shrieking in public is how they make their money, shrieking is all they will do since it’s all they can.

          The only good they may do is inspire an inventor to invent or a collaborator to collaborate. I kinda doubt they reach many or any this way, but Naomi probably doesn’t care.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I assert that most of the stuff we need to do … can be done right now, by individuals making clever decisions about how they run their lives. No top-down authorization, nor majority buy-in required. Don’t need no stinkin’ facebook likes to get busy.

          I don’t agree. I don’t think that mobilization without mobilizing is possible. I could do everything right on my own little patch, and if there’s no potable water any more, to pick a really horrid example, there’s no way I can “preserve my own habitat.” Individuals making clever decisions” doesn’t scale. Also, business is a good model for doing business. It’s not a good model for doing anything else, especially not collective action.

          1. Pym of Nantucket

            Couldn’t agree more. Individuals fixing climate change themselves reminds me too much of Great Leap Forward backyard blast furnaces. Throw in a bit of virtue signalling and we see the individually focused approach is really about seeking personal absolution, since the top 10% world income bracket covers almost 95% of the population of G7 countries.

            For me to even come close to making a legitimate claim to not harming the environment, I would need to do a hell of a lot more than switching to paper straws and using organic hemp shopping bags. I would pretty much need to renounce my entire lifestyle. If you go somewhere like Cuba and see what living within our means feels like, you can see this revolution is going to hurt, and it won’t be fun. I still think it is needed though.

            So yeah, I use the paper straws, recycle, vote for change, get involved in fairly radical politics for change but in my heart, but I think it is going to require a big disruption for people to renounce our addictive consumption culture and start living sustainably. The only people I know personally who are doing this are friends I have living in off grid cabins, and organic farming without running water.

            The reason there has been no Green New Deal is because it will require painful sacrifice. We’re still in the mode where we think everyone driving a Prius is all this takes.

            1. Tom Pfotzer


              Bingo. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’re afraid of that work because it’s big, probably costly, and definitely strange/different. It’s yet another “monster in the closet”.

              How do little kids vanquish the monster in the closet? The screw up their nerve, turn on the flashlight, and go open the door and shine in the light.

              This isn’t nearly as complicated as we’re making it out to be. I say that respectfully, gently. It definitely hasn’t been a picnic for my family.

              But, as Lambert pointed out, it’s gotta be done.

        3. xkeyscored

          “I assert that most of the stuff we need to do … can be done right now, by individuals making clever decisions about how they run their lives.”
          The best thing Indonesian coal miners, for example, can do to fight global warming is cease doing their jobs, which would leave them in even direr poverty, if not dead before long. What other clever decisions could they, or millions in a similar position, make?
          We need something like a GND (I’m not sure to what extent Klein’s version of a GND is international) to make it possible for them to stop producing and using fossil fuels. Otherwise, they may not see the ‘best’ decision (for the environment) as a clever one for themselves. I wouldn’t.

      2. Chris Hargens

        The people responsible have too much invested in just doing what they’ve been doing and making only cosmetic changes. More important, they have their hands on the levers of power. In my view (and perhaps it will be too late by then) a radical implementation of something like a GND will only occur when mega-catastrophes rain down on us and millions of people start marching in the streets, and, of course, with the violence and tumult that will accompany that.

    2. Gordon

      @Tom Pfotzer:

      “It doesn’t explain at all why we don’t have coherent, coordinated and effective action on climate change. Why are the “rich people” not acting as “elites” should…?”

      Because costs. It really is that simple.

      Neoliberal capitalism is astonishingly good at seeking out profit (which when there is an existing market translates directly to low cost) but recognises no limits – environmental, cultural etc – so is often immensely destructive.

      But even hydrocarbon obsessed Texas is building wind and solar power generation in preference to gas simply because they are now cheaper.

      The problem is that low carbon technologies don’t always exist in a mature enough form to compete although many are getting there. For cars the tipping point looks to be perhaps five years away.

      So, ways to incentivise relevant R&D would help. As would a better form of capitalism!

      1. Tom Pfotzer


        Very well-said. I agree that it costs, and I agree that the limitation to doing what is financially profitable in the short term (0-10 yrs) limits the range of problems capitalism can address.

        And this is where character, wisdom, etc. all come into play.

        My operational definition of an “elite” would be someone emotionally and technically capable of bridging that gap between “profitable now” and “profitable in the future” or even “necessary now, even if it’s never profitable for me”.

        Some things are worth extreme sacrifice, and an elite would be able to pick that out.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      A lot of the ideas and even specific actionable information you seek already exists in hundreds or maybe thousands of obscure out-of-the-way corners of the internet and in little-known and little-regarded books, papers, pamphlets, action-groups, hobby-groups etc.

      The problem is to gather all of this already-existing information from its places of lonely obscurity and bring copies of it and names of it and links to it to some more-central well-lit information nodes and dumpsites.

      I will express a wish and hope it does not sound like issuing an assignment . . . I wish for Naked Capitalism to eventually offer a periodic feature with its very own title devoted strictly to the collection and dissemination of detailed actionable-applyable global-dewarming information and information sources and action-taking groups and etc. Maybe it could be called The Weekly Global DeWarming Information Corner.

      In the meantime, I would note that Ian Welsh now runs a predictably weekly feature of reprinting Tony Wikrent’s weekly economic news roundup. People could go over there and if they decide the “Wikrent Report” is worth their time and attention, they could find a way to leave Actionable Global DeWarming Information in the comment threads to Wikrent’s posts over there on Ian Welsh. They wouldn’t be “organized”, but they would be findable in one named place.

  2. Pelham

    Somehow Klein’s harping on white supremacy and the hoary laundry list of supposed patriarchal, imperial deficiencies with an accusative finger jabbing furiously in my direction doesn’t resonate with me. Somehow.

    Personally, I think we need a strongman to just take charge, shut down all auto production (as in WWII) and put those factories to work churning out small modular nuclear reactors that can be plugged into existing energy grids anywhere in the world. At this nearly too late stage, we just have to go with what we know will work, and nuclear is the only non-carbon power source that has unequivocally proved itself.

    Yes, I know, Fukushima, Chernobyl, etc. And I do wish we could keep futzing around with wind, but look at the gigantic mess Germany is creating for itself trying to shut down its reactors and go with renewables. They, and we, don’t have time now to figure this out. Too late. Time’s up. Game over. And No. 1 on the list of those we should stop listening to now are the advocates of wind and solar alone.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > we need a strongman

      We have never had such a political figure in the United States before. Is that the direction in which you wish to innovate? The New Deal and World War II, not to mention smaller efforts like Apollo, prove the possibility of collective action.

      1. barrisj

        Actually, given the seemingly out-of-control rate of climate change, where events projected to occur in the 2040-50 decades are happening now (Greenland thawing, Arctic ice melting, arboreal forests combusting, etc.), it is increasingly apparent to me that ONLY an autocratic government, vested in plenipotentiary powers, and headed by – yes, a “strongman”, will be able to move a country – this country – quickly to a command economy, discarding “free-market” principles, and directing – ordering! – massive transfers of resources (and even private wealth) into a rapidly-evolving zero-fossil fuel based “ new order”, whilst organizing enormous population shifts from severe climatically-impacted areas into more benign regions. Frankly, it’s sheer folly to presume that a political economy such as exists in the here-and-now is even remotely capable of embracing the acute changes needed in response to the exigencies of global warming, and that some sort of “democratic” collective will can in and of itself be adequate to the challenges coming headlong toward us.
        We have never had such a political figure in the United States before.
        No, and this country has never faced an all-embracing existential crisis in the modern era as potentially destructive to life as runaway global warming, and where the appearance of an American Mao or Stalin would be a “logical” turn of events. I mean, look how Trump has ridden over constitutional and legal norms in the less-than three years in office in his pursuit of his “immigration” goals, deregulation, scrapping of reams of environmental protection decrees, etc., etc. He is acting as a dictator for the benefit of a small, wealthy, but powerful group of capitalists; so, why not another dictator appearing who will act for the preservation of an orderly society in the time of massive and wrenching climatic change, at whatever costs to entrenched capitalism, I ask you?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Strongmen” are typically not re-elected. And it’s really unclear to me where on a possible spectrum of strongmen the comment thinks the particular “Dear Leader” should fall.

          Lincoln? FDR? Huey Long? Modi? Hitler? Stalin? Genghis Khan?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Maybe we should all start reading about the kind of nuclear power which James Hansen wrote so favorably about in his book Storms Of My Grandchildren.

        Maybe we should study up on the little submarine-sized nuclear mini-plants designed for nuclear submarines while Rickover was Secretary of the Navy. I read somewhere that not one of the little Rickover reactors ever had an accident. Is that so?

        If that is so, maybe we should be thinking about little Rickover reactors strategically placed here and there to take over supplying power when windmills and solar farms were not supplying it.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I have begun reading this Archdruid article you reference. I note with interest that the Archdruid talks about the very same Chakrabarty incident which Colonel Lang wrote about a while ago on Sic Semper Tyrannis, for which I was warned that Col. Lang’s article was “dangerously distorting” the reality-or not- of the article about Chakrabarty.

        But can two different unrelated observers who probably don’t read eachothers’ work distort the same thing in the same way at two different times? I will copy-paste what Mr. Greer had to say about the Chakrabarty incident . . .

        . . . “Saikat Chakrabarti, the former chief of staff for freshperson Congresscritter Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, made waves in certain parts of the media a little while back by admitting in public what everyone else had already noticed in private: the fact that Ocasio-Cortez’s much-ballyhooed “Green New Deal” wasn’t actually about the environment at all. He was quite correct, of course, just as the second Washington carbon tax initiative wasn’t about climate change. Both used the rhetoric of environmentalism in an attempt to force a transfer of wealth and power—and despite big sloppy scoops of the usual rhetoric, the transfer was never intended to go from the rich to the poor. (We’ll talk in a future post where it was meant to go and what it was meant to do there.)”

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I agree with this distaste for Naomi Klein’s unfortunate detour into the quicksand tarpits of Evil White Man, White Supremacy, Patriarchy, and other such entertaining diversions of the COW ( Culture Of Wokeness) Left.

      Unless of course, Klein’s COW Leftism remains her primary concern now as always, and she just thinks a Green New Deal is a handy leverage crowbar to address her real concern, which remains SJW COWism.

      Telling surviving family members of the Dead of Despair poor and ex-working-class White people how very Race-Guilty they are for White Supremacy and how Global Warming is all their White racial fault . . . will turn them into deeply embittered and ferociously fanatical opponents of any SJW-based “green new deal” which may get mobilized-for among overprivileged campus youth, including overprivileged campus youth of color.

      A narrower and more problem-targeted basis will have to be found for selling the concept of survival through global de-warming, and global de-warming through re-balancing the carbon cycle.

      1. Dan

        COWs? The Spawn cycle I’ve observed in and out of academia:

        SJW FISH, “Feminists In Search of Hatred”

        Ten years later; “Feminists In Search of Husbands”

        Ten years later; “Feminists In Search of Houses”

        Ten more years: “Feminists In Search of Hovels”

        Ten years later; “Feminists in search of free Hospitals”

        Meanwhile, some of their soirs, smart enough to have jumped out of that intellectual cesspool early on, are having grandchildren and have reached the zenith of happiness.

        1. drumllin woodchuckles

          To me, COW stands for Coalition Of Wokeness or maybe Culture Of Wokeness. COW was the most eye-grabbing and insulting acronym-of-abuse I could come up with. It doesn’t mean specifically female to me, and those who hang around long enough to read to that point may well see that. The racial guiltmail hustlers of “Whiteness Privilege” are among the COW left, for example.

          I posited COW left as against PE left . . . PE standing for Political Economy.

  3. Summer

    “and they get to avoid the Mad Max-style dystopia that will surely engulf them (modulo an utterly dystopian future, where those elites who didn’t make it to Mars find out that betting on AI and robots was a really dumb idea, because all that tech works about as well as the Internet of Sh–.”

    But the elite and their minions haven’t stopped betting on AI /Robots.
    I’d venture they not only have a lot of money riding on the hype, it’s all they’ve got as far as a vision of a future of total control ovee people. I’d also suspect that they believe in the hype so much, that it is all right around the corner, dampens the urgency of the “worker’s justice” because they will NEVER be able to imagine workers with good pay and dignity. But they can imagine rights for robots. What isn’t automated they will import workers for dirt cheap.
    These are not good faith partners.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It turns out that what we thought were robot cars are really golf carts running slowly along fixed routes in retirement communities (I exaggerate, but not by much). I think that bubble is going to pop pretty soon.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The elites imagine a dystopian future for us but not for themselves. They imagine surviving a global warming burnoff of all the rest of us while hiding in air conditioned comfort in their bunkers and Galt’s Gulches in New Zealand, Paraguay, etc. That is why they consider global warming as a very useful tool in the toolkit of applied Jackpot Design Engineering. That is why they will work to undermine and sabotage and mis-direct any green new deal which might even get started.

      A probable pre-condition for succeeding with a green new deal would be the political or physical extermination of the Overclass and the Merchants of Fossil.

  4. Ashburn

    I’m sorry, but I don’t get the point of this piece at all. Is it to criticize Klein and her view on climate change, or the fact that she simply doesn’t present a clear plan for “what is to be done.”

    I find great value in Klein pointing out that the climate crisis came to be recognized at such a dangerous time when free market zealotry was ascendant and collective action was disparaged by the likes of Reagan and Thatcher. Perhaps her point is that we must undo those neoliberal nostrums and all the negative social consequences they have helped deliver (and yes, including the rise of white nationalism) if we hope to move forward with meaningful collective action.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      What is unclear about:

      However, I think it’s reasonable to ask her to provide (#1) a clear explanation of why there is not already a GND, and (#2) a strategy to get the GND. Based on the takes, and based on Klein’s own writing, I don’t think Klein does.

      1. dla

        Except for the answer to those questions in the first review, I don’t see any conflict between the different aspects of answers Klein gives in each of the excerpts below that (including the one on white supremacy), and indeed plenty of coherence. So why can’t her answer be “all of the above”? It seems a bit silly to demand a bite-sized, single factor answer to the questions you pose — and if that’s not what you’re demanding, it’s not clear anymore what your charge against Klein is.

        If you are, however, interested in how Klein thinks the different aspects of answers to #1 relate, I can recommend her first book on climate change, This Changes Everything.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > demand a bite-sized, single factor answer

          If you think analyzing causality is a matter of checking off incommensurate boxes on an “all of the above” list, I don’t think there’s much I can do to help you.

  5. Spacious

    I’m all for nuclear when it scales down to the size of an energy appliance. Climate change demands scale-able energy appliances that don’t rely on massive infrastructure and military intervention simply to function. When we are delighted to hand “Mr. Fission” and “Mr. Fusion” appliances over to Iran and North Korea, that will be the very moment I will jump on board and join in the chorus for more nuclear energy. I await that day hopefully, because it’s one of the better choices we have.

    1. Dan

      Really Spacious? Here’s some economics and physics of the impossibility of “carbon free nuclear”…


      “Half of the most rigorous published analyses have a carbon footprint for nuclear power above the limit recommended by the UK government’s official climate change advisor, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). According to the CCC, if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, by 2030 all electricity should be generated with less than 50 grams of carbon dioxide emitted for each kilowatt-hour (50 gCO2/kWh).

      In a recent paper in Energy Policy, Daniel Nugent and Benjamin Sovacool critically reviewed the published LCAs of renewable electricity generators. All the renewable technologies came in below the 50 gCO2/kWh limit.

      Another concern with the Sovacool and Warner-Heath reviews is that among their selected LCAs there are, in both reviews, some analyses that do not include all the five stages in the nuclear lifecycle. Greenhouse gases are emitted in all stages of the lifecycle of a nuclear reactor: construction, operation, fuel production, dismantling and waste disposal. Leaving out any of these five stages will bias estimates towards lower values.

      The last two contributions, dismantling and waste disposal are particularly difficult to estimate. Not many commercial reactors have been fully decommissioned. Also there is still no scientific or political consensus on the approach to be used for the long-term storage of waste..

      The fuel preparation contribution is also problematic. Considerable amounts of carbon are released in the mining, milling and separation of the uranium from the ore. Also the carbon emitted is very dependent on the concentration of uranium in the ore.”

      But, but, Thorium foil hats to the rescue!

  6. Watt4Bob

    1. Why there is not already a GND?

    There is not a GND because every effort in that direction is opposed by those who benefit from the status quo.

    It is understandable that the Koch network opposes us, but we must also understand that Barack Obama, HRC, and Nancy Pelosi et al also oppose us. This is the lesson we are painfully, slowly learning, that the whole of our political class is owned by the very rich, and they stand in solidarity with those very rich in opposition to any effort towards the fundamental change a GND would require.

    2. What is the strategy to get a GND?

    Rising socialism is the most effective force that might compel a more realistic response from our otherwise unresponsive elected representatives.

    It’s a sad reality that when the very rich, feel threatened by a rise in socialist awareness on the part of the masses, their reflexive instinct is to actively encourage ultra-right wing violence which is why we are seeing an increase in white-supremacist activity, this should be understood for what it is, the deliberate creation of a right-wing paramilitary whose purpose is to oppose/repress the threat socialism represents to the status quo.

    The strategy necessary to achieve a GND must be a ground-swell organization towards socialist solidarity that makes manifest the fact that the people have had enough of the carbon barons rule, it is over.

    So here is the painful reality, the carbon barons are way ahead of us, they have never forgotten what they obviously consider the lesson of the original New Deal. They believe that not enough was done to put down what they consider was a socialist uprising in the 1930s, and it is with that in mind that they take every opportunity to portray themselves as the friends of ‘liberty’, which includes white supremacists and of course self-styled right-wing militia enthusiasts.

    Our strategy then, must take into account that the right-wing, unlike the 1930s, has already put in place an immense armed counterforce just waiting for any excuse to kick some commie ass.

    So as you contemplate the necessity of organizing a socialist ground swell, think of this, what will happen if Trump calls on ‘his‘ people to stand up and defend America against the socialist menace?

    Does our commitment have the stuff necessary to maintain solidarity in the face of twenty-first century brown-shirts?

    And how much effort are we making to help our misguided brothers understand that they have been misled, that we are not the enemy.

    We have to start explaining what we have to offer, clean air and water, healthy food and affordable housing, a healthcare system that covers everyone.

    And we have to act as if it is not too late.

    BTW, in all of this, I believe Bernie, and AOC are setting an example.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Well said, W4Bob.

      It seems to me that your comment should lead to some new clarity about just who should be defending 2nd amendment rights…and exercising them.

      The right-wing brownshirts you wonder about have already exercised their rights and are armed to the teeth..

    2. Darthbobber

      I’ve seen no sign at all that “Trump’s people”, or even any of the explicitly fascist poseurs have the stuff to be 21st century brownshirts. More like that boastful drunk in a bar.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Hell, I’m more worried about the neoliberals. Between their embrace of SillyCon Valley surveillance, their disdain for anyone who demands dignity or any one who disagrees with them, and their love of corporate money…if it ever hits the fan, I have no doubt that section of the top 10% will be the first to demand “allegiance”.

        1. Watt4Bob

          I have to be clear, the militia movement, (defined in the broadest terms) considers itself to be a legitimate force for defense of the nation, and as such, many, probably most think that the president is their commander.

          Of course it depends on who is president, you and I think that’s ridiculous, they absolutely do not.

          If Trump requested they show up, many would consider it an order.

  7. juliania

    We could be doing what China has done for quite some time now. That is, first triage all the problems in order of importance. Next treat each as test cases sequentially with alternative solutions in limited areas. Countries that have ‘three year plan’ or ‘five year plan’ do this. Otherwise you have A.A.Milne’s shipwrecked sailor lying on the beach thinking of all the things he should do and finally giving up and waiting to be rescued.

    Of course, the 1% have the added problem of figuring out how it will profit them.

    We don’t have to listen to the 1%.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      @Watt4Bob and Juliana:

      Yes and yes. I don’t care if we use socialism or Martian-ism. I care about results, and that means not dithering, start with you and yours, and solve that. Then worry about the rest of society.

      It’s worth remembering that no rich person’s factory can long produce stuff nobody buys. Don’t like bankers and greedy rich people, et. al? Don’t buy their #%^#$. Nothing pisses them off more than that.

      I’ve decided to structure my home, my job, my activities such that I fix the planet while running my life. I’m partly successful.

      And I’m actually somewhat optimistic that I can figure the rest of it out. It’s sorta fun, and my wife hasn’t run me out of the house yet.

      1. bob

        “Don’t like bankers and greedy rich people, et. al? Don’t buy their #%^#$. ”

        The individual consumer model of politics. Doomed to fail. Try not supporting the oil companies or using a bank. You’ll find yourself alone and being called a hypocrite because it is impossible.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          One could reduce one’s support of oil companies and banks. And one could use a credit union instead of a bank if there were one in your area. One person doing this would make little difference. One hundred million Team Blue people doing this would make an additive difference at some level. It might also put one hundred million Team Blue people into a deeply ramified enough level of organization with eachother that they could then become a political conquest force. That’s my TOC ( Theory Of Change) story, and I’m sticking to it.

          But there is plenty of room for other TOCs and other stories.

          And those who cut their support of oil companies and banks will still be called hypocritical by evil enemy brain-warriors for the Petro-Upper Class. There has to be a meme-able reply to those people which can jam their brains. I think the following image can offer suggestions on how to answer the “callers-out of hypocrisy”.

  8. drumlin woodchuckles

    The only reason we ever got the New Deal to begin with is that the reality of the Great Depression was so real and so painful and so immediately brute-survival-threatening to such an overwhelming supermajority of US citizens in every part of the country that an overwhelming constituency had been created for a New Deal by the overwhelming ubiquity of unbearable conditions for an overwhelming majority of people.

    There weren’t any Great Depression Deniers during the Great Depression. That is because the existence of a Great Depression was too obvious to deny.

    We are not there yet with Climate Change. We won’t get a Green New Deal until we already HAVE a Great Climate Depression. And what would a Great Climate Depression require to convince an overwhelming majority of Americans that we are in a Great Climate Depression? It would require several million people dead within a couple of years time due to Category 6, 7, and 8 hurricanes killing several million people at a time in several major cities. Also, it would require another million or so people killed by F7, F8 and F9 tornados in a number of inland cities close enough in time to eachother that the next city was wiped out before the city before was forgotten or rationalized away. Also, it would require a hundred thousand or so people dying within a week from heat stroke during a zero-air-conditioning blackout when daytime temperatures were 110 to 120 by day and 95 to 105 by night.

    If we had all that, PLUS a hundred million fellow-American internal climate refugees, then the non-refugee survivors would agree with the internal climate refugees that . . . yes, we really are in a Great Climate Depression.

    Just as it took several years of Great Depression to get us to the point of getting a New Deal, it will take several years of Great Climate Depression . . . of the sort I describe . . . to get us to the point of getting a Green New Deal.

    No Great Climate Depression? No Green New Deal. Sorry about that.

    1. jeremyharrison

      True. Right now, many people subscribe to Yogi Berra-ism – “It’s really hard to make predictions – especially about the future.”

    2. Prudent Lemming

      Brilliant synopsis. Yes, in these analyses we’re always looking for the mighty force that will cripple the Business As Usual that is so far hale and hearty. That force does exist, it’s Physics Ex Machina. If science is at least half right, the mighty disasters will come, and they will change hearts and minds. The only question is whether it will happen in time to save anything.

      If things go completely Mad Max, our carbon emissions will actually increase (albeit briefly) as we do anything and everything to steal other people’s oil and slaughter climate migrants at the border. What we need is for people to change their minds before that, while notions such as R & D still have meaning.

      If Hurricane Dorian had taken out Miami instead of Grand Bahama, many influential minds would have changed on the spot.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well . . . it might have . . . if there had been a million dead. Otherwise, not.

        Mere property damage would have merely been a profitable opportunity to rebuild.

    3. pretzelattack

      great article! we need to concentrate our minds wonderfully, since we’re way too close to being hanged.

    4. PhillyPhilly

      This mirrors my thoughts exactly. Roosevelt only enacted the New Deal because he had a knife to his throat, and any GND will follow for similar reasons. The New Deal is the only time I could find in American history where the capital class allowed their taxes to increase. They did this to ‘save capitalism’. They had no other choice.

    5. pretzelattack

      i’m very much afraid that you are right, and it may be too late to avoid a catastrophe if you are. we can still mitigate the catastrophe, one hopes.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        What we need are some F9 and F10 tornadoes with millions of beachball-sized hailstones in them to raze some major Oklahoma cities to the ground with zero survivors . . . convincingly enough that Senator Inhofe goes on Fox and Friends to look into the cameras and say before a hot live microphone . . . . ” I was wrong and I see the error of my ways. Man made global heating is real and it is manmade. It is time to abolish the fossil fuel industries and try to reverse the skycarbon buildup.”

        The Inhofe-base needs to hear it from Inhofe before they will accept it. And only some serious Book Of Revelation-level destruction will move Inhofe to say what his base needs to hear.

  9. Craig Dempsey

    Klein is a prophet warning us of doom. It would be nice if she had a detailed, reliable plan for resolving anthropogenic global warming. She does not. No one does. In a prior book, “This Changes Everything,” she laid out powerfully the need to combat global warming. I gather she has again. She is like a doctor telling a patient “diet and exercise.” The alternative to diet and exercise is death.

    The alternative to something along the lines of the Green New Deal is what David Wallace-Wells writes about in his new book “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.” I am part way through reading it, and he is explaining in graphic detail how system after system we depend on will fail if we do not act. Rising sea levels is the least of our problems. His second section, “Elements of Chaos,” includes chapters titled “Heat Death,” “Hunger,” “Drowning,” “Wildfire,” “Disasters No Longer Natural,” “Freshwater Drain,” “Dying Oceans,” “Unbreathable Air,” “Plagues of Warming,” “Economic Collapse,” “Climate Conflict,” and “‘Systems.'”

    So writers like Naomi Klein and David Wallace-Wells are digging deep into our philosophical assumptions about the world, and showing the bankruptcy of many of them. Neo-liberalism is bankrupt in a finite world that cannot sustain infinite growth. The Catholic Church (and many others) are bankrupt when they think birth control, comprehensive sex education, and voluntary abortion are not needed in a dangerously overpopulated world. Again, another way a finite world cannot sustain infinite growth. We need to set aside our inherited dogmas (even Capitalism is a religion), and learn to do critical thinking about everything from politics to global warming. The whole world needs good therapists to clear us of dangerous delusions. Religion has its place in life, but it is not in second-guessing science at what science does best. I just hope the prophets are not too late.

    1. Carey

      “..The whole world needs good therapists to clear us of dangerous delusions..”

      Not sure what is meant here. “Therapists” as a class are, IME, no less deluded than
      the rest of us.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Klein is a prophet warning us of doom. It would be nice if she had a detailed, reliable plan for resolving anthropogenic global warming. She does not.

      I don’t think prophet is the correct metaphor. The Old Testament prophets didn’t address prayers to Yahweh, Baal, and the Roman Pantheon. That’s equivalent to Klein looking to bad ideas, wealth, and white supremacy as causes.

      1. markwash

        I think you may be conflating “intersecting with white supremacy” as in the tweet above, with “caused by white supremacy”. I suspect other folks are as well, but in a way they consider favorably. I get that you’re fighting the good fight (a la Dr. Reed) against full race-reductionism in service of class power. However, I don’t think that conflation is part of Klein’s framing. And the way that she touches on these intersections seems to me like an acceptable way to get and keep the attention of leftish folks who show up first for identity politics concerns.

        1. Yves Smith

          Ahem, she herself called that out as the most important idea! So she is saying if that wasn’t obvious to a reader, it was her bad!

          And I don’t buy the “intersecting with” fudge. If you are fighting a war for survival, you can’t be fussy about secondary issues. The notion that white supremacists are actually a major factor in political life (the pearl clutching to the contrary) AND are on top of that any kind of muscle in keeping the status quo intact (as opposed to inertia, suburban sprawl, big oil, the auto industry, airlines…) is embarrassingly stupid.

          1. Watt4Bob

            Informal right-wing sympathizers have often been used as enforcers.

            The Hard Hat Riot;

            Shortly after the Kent State shootings, anti-war protesters announced that they would hold a rally near city hall to commemorate the four dead students. Brennan decided to organize a counter-rally of construction workers to show support for the Nixon administration.

            At 11:45 am, about 200 construction workers converged on the student rally at Federal Hall from four directions. Nearly all the construction workers carried U.S. flags and signs that read “All the way, USA” and “America, love it or leave it”. Their numbers may have been doubled by others who had joined them as they marched toward Federal Hall. A thin and inadequate line of police, who were largely sympathetic to the workers’ position, formed to separate the construction workers from the anti-war protesters. At first, the construction workers only pushed but did not break through the police line. After two minutes, however, they broke through the police line and began chasing students through the streets. The workers chose those with the longest hair and beat them with their hard hats and other weapons, including clubs and steel-toe boots. Onlookers reported that the police stood by and did nothing.

            Rioting construction workers also attacked buildings near city hall; most were of Irish Catholic extraction and some ripped the Red Cross and Episcopal Church flags down from a flagpole at nearby Trinity Church. One group invaded two nearby Pace University buildings, smashing lobby windows with clubs and crowbars and beating up students. More than 70 people were injured, including four policemen. Most of the injured required hospital treatment. Six people were arrested


            On May 26, Brennan led a delegation of 22 union leaders to meet with President Nixon at the White House and presented him with a hard hat. Nixon general counsel Charles Colson, in charge of developing a strategy to win union support for Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, identified Brennan as a friendly labor leader due to his role in organizing the counter-protests of May 8, 16, and 20. Brennan later met privately with Nixon on Labor Day.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              I suspect it was that sort of union-member aggression against student protesters, as well as major union support for Nixon against McGovern . . . which filled a young Bill Clinton’s heart with implacable rage, hate and bitterness against unionized workers.

              I theorize that Clinton swore vengeance “someday” and nurtured that hate until he became President. And that part ( a major part) of his support for Free Trade was due to his desire to get revenge on the Union Rioters and Nixon Backers of ’72 by exterminating the unionized industries of the 1990s . . . in order to exterminate the American Industrial Unions by exterminating the American Unionized Industries.

              He was in it for more than just the grifting opportunity money after leaving office. He was in it for revenge.

  10. Tom Pfotzer

    Quoting Craig’s post:

    “We need to set aside our inherited dogmas (even Capitalism is a religion), and learn to do critical thinking about everything from politics to global warming. The whole world needs good therapists to clear us of dangerous delusions.”

    Yes. The ability to think critically, and survive outside the comfortable lap of conformity and social approbation is a key emotional development milestone.


    After we finally mature ourselves emotionally….We still need to act, and almost all of the required acting is at the individual level. I hope N. Klein uses her Prophet-wand on that one. No more blame-shifting. It’s on us to do what us’ns control.

    1. pretzelattack

      disagree about all the required action being at the individual level. we need to work together in politics, and that is collective, and if politics doesn’t work we need to consider our options very carefully. we need both collective and individual action on a massive scale.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Individuals and groups-of-individuals doing individual and group-of-individuals stuff in eachothers’ view and presence may well start evolving into a coherent and organizable Culture of stuff-doing. A culture is the first step to supporting a Movement which can support political action over time.

        So maybe many thousands or millions of individual stuff-doing by individual stuff-doers can pre-conditionize the society for the emergence of cultures and movements of de-fossilization. First black persons became a Black People which evolved a Black Church which could support a Black Movement which could press at the opportune time for equal-rights political action.

        In an analogous process, perhaps conservation persons will become a Conservation People which can support a Conservation Movement which can press for de-fossilization through all the battlefields of political combat.

  11. Foppe

    Naomi Klein’s hallmark works are all deliberately liberalized versions of anticapitalist critiques, which she can’t provide because then she’d lose her access. I.e., she’s an opportunist, who chooses to fill the niche of controlled oppo writing. E.g., wrt Shock Doctrine, she deliberately chose to start her story with Allende’s Chile, when the pattern she describes is just a new variation on a much older one, which is described much better by Michael Parenti and Noam Chomsky.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > controlled oppo

      I don’t like that term because it falsely implies a central locus of control as opposed to class consciousness by not-necessarily-connected individuals. It’s a Bond villain model, as opposed to a “hive mind” model.

      1. Watt4Bob

        I’d say there are multiple hive minds, and that some of them were/are conceived, guided and controlled by villains who fit the Bond model.

        I’d agree with your perspective if we were only threatened by the type of hive mind represented by the democrats or the credentialed class, however you define them, but there is another hive mind that we have been ignoring to our detriment.

        We’ve seemingly just discovered the first, and we’ve been ignoring the existence of the latter.

        I think that a closer examination will prove the notion of a ‘more effective evil‘ to be an important misunderstanding.

  12. laodan

    1. “why there is not already a GND”

    1.1. The societal context
    Modernity has spread to the 4 corners of the world. It grew as a derivation from an axiom: “the submission to the reason that is at work within capital procures richness and power”. The submission to this axiom proved to be immensely successful for Europe and its geographic extensions and, wanting to taste the sweetness of consumerism, the whole world finally submitted to this golden calf.

    1.2. the convergence of Modernity’s multiple side-effects
    A few decades ago we discovered that our submission to this golden calf has multiple side-effects. Climate change is but one of these side-effects. In Late-Modernity (today) all these side-effects are converging and interacting (societal atomization, disappearing societal cohesion, poisoning of air land and oceans, loss of bio-diversity, climate change, 6th mass-extinction, and so on … )

    1.3. capital holders versus their servants
    Capital holders submit to the reason that is at work within capital and are thus successful in this materialist and individualist Modernity. The behavior of their servants (all of us) is shaped by following the diktats of the winning capital holders. In other words our minds are not glued by an axiom or a worldview of our own that could bring us to create an alternative way of life and so we are observers of our own servitude …

    2. “strategy to get the GND”

    2.1. Is a GND the right strategy ?
    What is a GND all about and who decides ?

    2.2. Humanity’s predicament:
    • a finite earth,
    • a population overshoot,
    • humanity’s footprint is already some 1.6 times the carrying capacity of the earth.
    Our predicament is thus that our species faces a great reset.

    2.3. Real change comes after the reset
    • if our species does not go extinct the survivors of this great reset will be preoccupied solely by matters relating to their reproduction and all our present bla bla will be for ever forgotten
    • a new cycle of societal evolution will eventually follow

    2.4. Living in the present
    Make the best we can of our limited time on earth, enjoy the beauty of life, live sustainably by growing our knowledge about the principle of life.

  13. CoryP

    I just wanted to again gush my appreciation at the high level of discourse on this site. And how disagreements over things like nuclear power or Greta Thunberg rarely get shrill.

  14. neighbor7

    “Why is there not already a GND?” strikes me as a misleading and fruitless question, like “Why is there not already something we have only just collectively formulated as a pressing need?”

    Whatever an answer to this question would entail should be folded into the second question of strategy. To expect a neat strategic outline from Klein or anyone at this stage is naive. As seems obvious from discussions on this site, the strategies plural will involve everything and every level we can conceive of going forward, and their interactions.

    Many of these things will be formulated, elaborated, and argued over here. Klein is doing her part, which for one thing pushes NC discussion.

    I agree with CoryP above about this site!

    (Lambert, FWIW maybe you should also read the book as well as the reviews?)

    1. xkeyscored

      And Lambert should write a book replying to Klein with a detailed exposition of his own GND, and get it immediately implemented internationally despite all the obstacles identified above, instead of hanging out in bars reading and posting comments.
      Come on, a website and comments section like Naked Capitalism’s doesn’t just happen! Someone takes the time to write, source, curate and moderate it and so on.

  15. JEHR

    There was a time on earth when people depended mostly on their own initiatives to survive, that is, for example, the homesteader who built his own house, dug his own well, planted his own garden and wove his own wool to make clothes. That is the kind of living we would have to do in order not to exacerbate climate change.

    However, there is not enough land for every homesteader; there is not enough clean water for millions of homesteaders, a lot of the soil is depleted or polluted and making one’s own clothes is time consuming. If people collectively divided the chores then the plan would work, but who among us would choose to live such a life?

    So, we all wait hoping that at least our life will not come to that until we are dead and gone. The transitiveness of life plays a big part in our desires not to change what we have become used to: Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe I will be dead. Maybe someone will come along and lead us forward. Maybe it’s too late. These may be the reasons why there is no adequate explanation for no GND and for not having a strategy for creating a GND.

  16. Winston Smith

    World government…Isaac Asimov
    Will never comes to pass and is one of the reasons why we are headed for an armed lifeboat scenario

  17. Spacious

    Read between the lines, Dan, and you’ll see that what I am saying is that relying on nuclear power to solve climate change is a pipe dream. There were two or three posts before mine that earnestly hoped that the hippies would pipe down about all of that radioactivity and accept our nuclear future. Everyone knows that nuclear is dangerous, creates a serious waste problem, and uses a non-renewable fuel that must be mined.

    What they don’t seem to think about: Nuclear doesn’t scale. We won’t allow it. There are a series of insurmountable political problems that come along with clean, safe nuclear no-you-can’t-have-that-but-we-can power. What kind of solution to climate change involves non-scaleable you can’t have it power?

    I support nuclear energy in the same way that I support nuclear space travel: It’s a great energy resource for a spaceship unless it blows up on the launch pad — a thing that every spaceship does eventually.

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