THE SINS OF AFFLUENCE….Hoo boy. James Galbraith has jumped headfirst into the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill (™Brad DeLong). Here he is in the current issue of the Monthly reviewing Bill McKibben’s new book, Deep Economy. The subject is global warming and its effect on the world:
The climate collapse — which may bring the flooding of New York, Boston, London, Calcutta, and Shanghai — will be a calamity next to which the end of the Soviet Union will seem very small. Long industrial chains, for jet aircraft, automobiles, telecommunications, electricity, and much else, will crumble, as they did in the USSR and Yugoslavia, particularly if new interior boundaries form and countries break up. And interior boundaries will form, as those on the high ground seek to defend it. The demographic effects will be similarly dire: Older, urban males (like me) with no survival skills will die. Rural New England will turn into a deforested exurban slum.
….This is bleak news not only in the present climate of thought, but also given the decay of the public sphere since at least 1981. Whatever government might have been (or seemed) capable of in the 1940s or the 1960s, it plainly is not capable of today. A government that cannot establish a functioning Homeland Security Department in half a decade, a government that is capable of creating the Coalition Provisional Authority or Bush’s FEMA, is no one’s idea of an effective instrument for climate planning. Plainly the destruction of government — the turning over of regulation to predators, military functions to mercenaries, the Justice Department to a vote-suppression racket, and the Supreme Court to fanatics — has been the price of tolerating the Bush coup of November 2000. Soon we will face the aftermath of all this, with the fate of the earth in the balance.
In other words, Galbraith thinks McKibben is a bit of an optimist, certainly not something that would have crossed my mind after reading “Reversal of Fortune,” a piece in Mother Jones a few months ago that was based on his book. But I guess optimism in the eye of the beholder. Read both pieces and make up your own mind.