In this episode of our podcast, Conversations on Anarres, we sat down with dancer and filmmaker Shane Scopatz to talk about his new work “Steps and Strikes”. Shane is a recent graduate of the Master’s Program in Environmental Humanities at Oregon State University. His film hopes to address the provocative question: Why did the environmental movement fail to protect us from ecological crisis?
We sat down with Shane to discuss his answer to this question We talk about the way in which global capitalism has dispossessed billions of people and created the conditions for climate catastrophe. But we also talk about the ways in which people resist–using the labor movement to build organized people power against corporate control of the environment. The big issue today is: How do we bridge the labor movement and the environmental movement?
An answer to this involves the way Shane has chosen to resist: that involves dance. Invoking the legacy of a radical dance movement from the 1930s, the Worker’s Dance League, Shane has decided to explore how dance can be a way to expand the radical imagination and get us to think about the ways to build connection between social movements. Art in general, but dance in particular can help to develop emotions like joy and ecstasy and sustain a guiding vision toward a more collective, just, ecologically attuned future.
Extinction Rebellion is a necessary and vital response to the climate crisis. They are forcing the issue and helping us focus on what’s important. But they are mistaken in targeting people caught up in a larger system by blocking traffic and disrupting everyday life, rather than aiming for instance at the 100 corporations and governments changing the climate: it’s the system, not the people caught up in it.
Through this disruption they seem to hope to pressure governments to act to stop climate change, but this assumes that the very system responsible for changing the climate can somehow stop it.
In this sense they are militant reformists who hopefully will take the next step and locate the climate crisis specifically in the drive to accumulate wealth by a minority of the population, and all its manifestations in racial and gender domination, colonialism, and class society.
To solve the climate crisis we need a new society, one that doesn’t by its very nature change the climate and destroy the natural world. The sooner we set that as our aim the better.
I’ve always wondered how speeches become iconic and why some speeches are remembered. Would I recognize a famous speech when I first heard it? Did those people who first heard “ask not what your country can do for you” or “I have dream” understand the historic import?
I remember “Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall”. It felt like empty political posturing.
George HW Bush’s “read my lips” speech is remembered ironically.
I don’t remember anything from Clinton or Bush Jr.
I’m also surprised that I can’t remember any of Obama’s speeches. Perhaps that is because Obama’s rhetorical skills were undermined by his staunch defense of untenable status quos.
I think Ms. Thunberg’s speech is going to make history not just because she had a great platform with this event, but because she eloquently and passionately said what so many of us were thinking. It’s a pure message, unencumbered by real politik or compromises. She truly spoke truth to power (it’s regrettable how much that phrase has been over used) and I think we should echo her words far and wide.
It’s really interesting how this Franzen essay has either been affirmed as a kind of honest reckoning, or vilified as a kind of a privileged defeatism, by so many people I know and respect politically.
I don’t love the piece, but I think Franzen is getting at something productively uncomfortable by arguing that the belief that we can avoid an unutterably brutal future is an anxious wish, one that might prevent us from really acknowledging what is before us.
Against some of the eco-modernist insistence that we can preserve our current way of life, he asks, essentially: what tools do we need – culturally, ethically, politically – to live in an inescapably altered future?
But his answers are entirely inadequate to the radical questions he raises. A more civil society? Better law enforcement? Defense of “democracy?”
Here he betrays his own anxious wish for a lost world of bourgeois liberalism, as if the system he wants to defend bears no responsibility to ecological collapse we will face, and that so many are already facing. He knows that we cannot go back, but he stops short of helping us imagine how to go forward, beyond a kind of micro-politics of community self-care.
It seems increasingly clear that – while doing all we can now to stay the worst outcomes of climate catastrophe – we will be eventually be forced to choose between authoritarian and violent forms of resource-hoarding and rule; or new (or perhaps very old) forms of mutual aid, care, and collective self-organization.
Franzen is right to ask us to move past our frozen state of melancholia, to be alive to the horror of collapse as a way to make living meaningful. But perhaps ironically for a novelist, his imagination fails us.
The Trump administration went from denying climate change to predicting a 7 degree fahrenheit increase over the next century. People have pointed this out as a contradiction, but there is good reason for them to now endorse this second position. It makes much more sense for the proto-fascism of this regime.
Accepting eco-catastrophe as a fait accompli allows them to ratchet up their cherished extraction industries and roll back environmental regulations in the short run, and prepare for the brutalities of authoritarian rule in the long run.
Imagine the kinds of violence, repression and control that can be justified by increased food and water scarcity, the abandonment of coastal and desert cities, mass cross-border migrations, growing internal refugee populations, and a collapsing economy.
I think the thing that drives me the most crazy–after the sheer helplessness of having to live through these times, that’s definitely the MOST crazy making–is listening to well off white people say “we’ll get there eventually. We have to,” and other platitudes about climate change.
It’s not that I don’t believe them–although I do not–it’s the fact that they use this to try to comfort or reassure me and others: “we’ll get there eventually.” “Eventually the US government will act in its own self interest (assumed to be that of the people of this country) and invest in whatever solar wind power, they have to.”
I mean our current administration is acting in ITS own self interest and hardcore committing to making everything worse so that’s a very optimistic assessment already. But also: people are already dying of climate change. And the assumption that we don’t need to worry because eventually the rich white people behind climate change will change their ways is just ignoring the hundreds of thousands-millions of people who will die before then because they live on islands or they live in Karachi or they live in the desert, whatever, those people have already begun losing their lives to climate change related heat waves, floods, storms…
At best, the platitudes are just trying to get me to be less wound up about something I can’t control and I get that, but the blithe dismissal of the hundreds of thousands of people who are going to die over the next few years even, and then who are going to be trying to get to safety as we make their homes unlivable, and accept that as a fair cost for not changing our ways… It’s not going to be okay. We should be grieving and we should be… doing anything but trusting that the government will change course in time to mitigate the worst of it.
I just don’t get all the jockeying and positioning of some leftists around Trump and Russia. Now that it’s been proven that the Trump Campaign actively embraced Russian espionage, there are fewer people giddy over denying the whole thing (and comparing good journalists to conspiracy theorists in the process). However, it’s now fashionable to simply dismiss everything as unimportant or, better yet, a distraction from other things like climate change.
Trump, it appears, is in power today, at least in part, because of an extensive smear campaign that activated deep networks of oligarchs and media figures, most likely for the sake of releasing sanctions that crippled the Russian economy and furthering the interests of collaborative energy relations.
Trump’s climate policy and the placement of ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State have everything to do with this arrangement. Tillerson’s long history arm-in-arm with Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft, is crucial to understanding how, as the Arctic fades, the US and Russia hope to partner up and exploit all the oil they can find.
This marks a 180 against any sensible climate policy. It is directly linked to the Russia affair. How can the point be made seriously that it’s a 100% distraction? Like, we are the 99% and we all hate the oligarchy, but let’s not allow that to blind us to the political operations at play in international relations.
Economic growth has turned into the sole goal to guarantee social stability and quality of life in our societies. While ongoing economic growth increases the pressure on the environment and is the main driver of anthropogenic climate change, climate change has turned into a limitation to further growth.
Are we faced with new limits to growth 40 years after the famous report to the Club of Rome? The age of easy growth is over – holding onto it at any costs exacerbates global environmental conflicts and shifts the burdens on marginalized social groups and the Global South.
This is not the whole story: worldwide social movements are experimenting alternative paths for a social ecological transformation beyond economic growth and within the planetary boundaries. Environmental Philosopher Prof. Barbara Muraca introduces the us to the growing worldwide degrowth movement.
The Radical Visions for Another Politics Lecture Series is co-sponsored by:
the Anarres Project for Alternative Future
Allied Students for Another Politics (ASAP!)
& the School of History, Philosophy, & Religion at Oregon State. http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/shpr