Delight Springs

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fruits and roots

"Fruits, not roots" is our next chapter today from Naomi Klein, opening the "Magical Thinking" section of This Changes Everything. "When the Big Green groups refer to (carbon) offsets as the 'low-hanging fruit' of climate action," they're picking easy fruit rather than digging up the roots of our trouble.

It's also a strong pragmatic slogan favored by the likes of William James, emphasizing (with a twist of meaning) the greater value and impact of outcomes ("fruits") over origins ("roots"). It counters the "magical thinking" and false reassurance that we're going to be "saved at the last minute" by the market, by billionaires of conscience, by technology, or something. That sort of thinking is rooted in denial, denial in ideology, ideology in what James called "moral flabbiness" and our national disease.

The cure? Clear-eyed focus on the perilous probable outcomes of such wishful thinking, and a groundswell of popular sentiment demanding a switch to something else. How do you create a groundswell?

For starters, you don't go and join the other side, give aid and comfort to the enemy, or pretend that we're all fighting the same good fight. Fred Krupp is the villain primus inter pares in this regard. As leader of the Environmental Defense Fund, as Klein sees it, he flipped the wrong switch, from "sue the bastards" to "create markets for the bastards." He scolded aggressive greens for being too shrill and called for more humility and compromise. He gave up the fight, for the "low-hanging fruit" that doesn't fundamentally challenge the fossil fuel industry or the profligate consumption and pollution it sustains.

Some pragmatists would offer a different characterization of such a run to the middle, suggesting that confrontation only marginalizes, that cooperation wins in the end. Klein's point is that it's too late for that kind of thinking, which in the present context is really just another tepid variety of magic. There was a time when genuine bipartisanship coalesced around responsible centrism to save the habitable earth, a time that gave us the Clean Air Act, the Wilderness Act, the Water Quality Act... It was the time of environmental statesmen and advocates for the earth like Stewart Udall.  But that time has passed. We're now, very clearly, in a fight. Its fruits depend on our success in cultivating and spreading another kind of roots: grassroots. 

And that's today's good news: "a resurgent grassroots climate movement has now arrived, and it is winning a series of startling victories against the fossil fuel sector." The ground has just begun to swell, the movement to grow. Can we help?

5:30/6:30, 65/91, 6:56

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