Category Archives: Michael Hoexter

The Climate (and Climate Justice!) Movement Cannot Remain a Genteel Environmentalist Movement

By Michael Hoexter, Ph.D.

In my last piece, I noted how little the climate movement and its leadership generally understood about the demand for energy and fossil fuels, or at least strategically continue to gloss over their importance.  I may have been too dramatic in calling this lack “fatal” but it is “fateful” and a critical blockage to the growth it needs to experience rapidly.

But there is I believe a political-strategic “reflex” within the current climate movement that is as or more damaging to the growth of the movement and a laser-like focus on stabilizing the climate system and creating the basis of human civilization in the post-carbon era. There is in my observation a naïve belief that by adding up all of the LOCAL environmental damages caused by fossil fuel extraction that one necessarily arrives at a GLOBAL, holistic understanding and movement to fundamentally alter humanity’s energy and transportation systems.  Philosophers might call this a “fallacy of composition”: the erroneous belief that the parts, if listed serially or together, will represent the whole. Climate movement activists think to themselves perhaps that these local damages are an “added perk” in their war against fossil fuels but I believe, unfortunately, that the movement has had over the last several years a tendency to devolve into the “same-old, same-old” environmentalism that has always been the concern of a fairly small minority of the world’s population.

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Bill McKibben’s and the Climate Movement’s Fatal Misunderstanding of the Role of Demand (for Energy/Fossil Fuels)

By Michael Hoexter, Ph.D.

Last week, Bill McKibben penned an op-ed in the New York Times with the title “Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial” in response to the Administration’s decision to allow Shell Oil to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Here finally, after years of gentle chiding, I thought, one of the leaders of the US (and worldwide) climate movement would compare the Obama Administration’s rhetoric to the stark reality of the Administration’s negligent policy with regard to energy and climate action.  Obama (whom I campaigned for in 2008) has been treated gently by most progressives in ways that have compromised the content of contemporary progressive politics as well as action on climate change. Of course, the Obama Administration’s actions, such as his EPA regulations on coal-fired power plants are preferable to what is likely the Republicans would have done in office. This McKibben also acknowledges.

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Naomi Klein’s “Hard-Money” Ideas Undermine Her Laudable Climate Action Goals

By Michael Hoexter

Book Review:
Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

This is the first of at least two book reviews that I am planning to write about Naomi Klein’s important and occasionally frustrating, quite-large book (466 page) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (which I will abbreviate as TCE). The reasons for more than one book review are several. TCE contains a number of important ideas and insights that are not tightly tied together in one argument. Naomi Klein happens to be one of the more politically-savvy and widely-read public intellectuals currently writing about social, political, and economic issues and TCE dives into a central complex of issues surrounding the gravest and most massive challenge we face as a species, the fight against human-caused climate change. Her previous work in Shock Doctrine and related articles, is “must-read” if you want to understand the predatory nature of neoliberal elites, a feature of our current age which she at least popularized, if not discovered. Naomi Klein is also a leading activist on this and other issues, including her work with 350.org and help in co-planning the People’s Climate March in September of this year. The book is varied in content and focus, therefore the plan to write more than one review of the book, rather than write one very long one.

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What are the Motive Forces for Effective Climate Action?

By Michael Hoexter

If you might want or need something to happen very badly or urgently that was debatably in your power to influence or effect, the chief rational approach you might choose would be to attempt to understand what are the causal forces or conditions that lead that thing to happen.  The alternatives are forms of magical thinking or prayer to assumed-to-be more powerful, perhaps supernatural, beings.   As the domain of effective and timely action on climate is largely within the domain of human beings’ ability to choose and influence others’ choices and such action is considered by increasing numbers of people to be highly desirable, one would think that substantial groups of social scientists would be making their best efforts to figure out how to “make climate action happen”.   Even if you were not an intense partisan of a particular outcome, as the scenario above suggests, if you were just a scientist or seeker of knowledge of some type, you would also want to understand motive forces, so as to predict future outcomes and make your scientific knowledge of some use to human beings.  This is the study of dynamics, how things change over time.

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Effective Climate Action is a Building Project

By Michael Hoexter

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To address the dependence of our societies on fossil fuels will be an enormous undertaking, despite the recent re-appearance of often well-meaning analyses and reports emphasizing how comparatively easy and inexpensive it will be.  The physical dimensions of this still mostly-future undertaking are often downplayed or misunderstood.  Taken together, effective climate action will be made up of a series of interacting, at points interwoven, simultaneous, sometimes very large, building projects to achieve the outcomes we desire and require.  As the outcome, the stabilization of the global climate, is a unitary outcome, these building projects can also be understood for some purposes as a single immense building project. As in all building or manufacturing projects, many costs will be incurred upfront for some immediate benefits in terms of employment and the sales of materials but many more of the benefits will be enjoyed years and decades down the road.  Furthermore. those additional benefits associated with climate change will be very great and enjoyed still further down the road with an indeterminate but large monetary valuation.

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We Require Less a “Climate Freeze” More a Great “Climate Activation”

By Michael Hoexter

The psychiatrist and social commentator, Robert Jay Lifton had a far reaching and oddly hopeful op-ed in the New York Times, in which he comments upon a “climate swerve” in public opinion. While the United States still leads the world in climate denial and Republicans are seemingly still united around denying the human contribution to climate destabilization, Lifton points out that recent polls have shown that:

“Americans’ certainty that the earth is warming has increased over the past three years”

And

“those who think global warming is not happening have become substantially less sure of their position”

Lifton outlines the social psychology of the moment:

“Falsification and denial, while still all too extensive, have come to require more defensive psychic energy and political chicanery”

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A New Demand for the US Climate Movement: One Million (Frequent) Electric Buses with Wifi plus Protected Bikeways, “Everywhere”

By Michael Hoexter

The US climate movement, in which I am active, has not to date been effective enough in getting serious climate action on the agenda of government leaders, especially on the federal level. This weakness is in part shared with the international climate movement more generally, though the level of climate denial both among political elites and among the general population in the US is unmatched in the world. With that denial comes resistance to climate action, though for a variety of reasons, no actions commensurate to the climate challenge have really been attempted by governments in the world, whatever the local level of resistance offered.

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Democratizing Government Spending in an Era of Climate Change: Decision Criteria and Spending Priority Lists – Pt. 2

By Michael Hoexter

General Goals and Decision Criteria for Government Fiscal Policy

In the era of climate change, a worldwide social and economic disaster, the valuation of real resources, especially atmospheric resources and energy resources must change in order for human civilization to survive.  Government fiscal policy is a critical element of that change in valuation, both on the spending and the taxation side.  In addition, in a planning role, government becoming the architect or co-architect of new energy, transportation and land use realities.  As I have written before, making atmospheric resources or the permission to use them, a tradable commodity does not adequately and properly engage our most powerful instrument in addressing climate change and adaptation to climate change, the institutions and fiscal policy of government itself.  However, government leaders are human beings with interests and varying ethical commitments to the common good of their people and humanity in general.  In order to hold them accountable in their spending and taxation decisions it will help to make a part of public political discourse those criteria by which they make spending and taxation decisions.  These public criteria can in turn be modified by political discussion as well as scientific measurement of the results of those policies, which then can either be refined or discarded depending on their outcomes.

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Democratizing Government Spending in an Era of Climate Change: Decision Criteria and Spending Priority Lists – Pt 1

By Michael Hoexter

The surprise Republican primary victory of libertarian economic fantasist and teacher of economics Prof. David Brat in Virginia’s conservative 7th District has highlighted a point of agreement between the progressive left and far right/libertarians like Brat: both say they are against “crony capitalism”.  While Brat came across to voters and most of the press as a “true believer” in a religiously-tinged libertarian-style economics that decries subsidies and state involvement in industry, the actual sordid history of libertarianism is that it has functioned as an effective cover for corporate lobbying and government’s regulatory and economic support of the interests of the wealthy and large corporations, i.e. crony capitalism. “Libertarianism,” largely a politicized strain of the social philosophy called Austrian economics, was invented after WWII as a lobbying instrument for the interests of corporations like General Motors, at the time amply boosted by federal government spending during the war yet apparently wanting to, in the public eye, disassociate itself from that help after the war.

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Required: A Complete Pivot on Climate and Energy

By Michael Hoexter

With the release of Obama’s much heralded EPA regulations on coal fired power plants we are encountering once again the ongoing tragedy of low expectations with regard to climate action.  While compared to other Presidents, and there have been only three in the era of pressure for climate action, Obama’s proposal that coal-fired power plants reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 is the most ambitious climate rule to be implemented, even the relative journalistic “friend” of the Obama Administration, Ezra Klein pointed out, this is a less ambitious path to cut carbon than that proposed by the Republican McCain/Palin candidacy in 2008.   Of course, there is a difference between campaign proposals and a President setting into motion energy and climate regulations but the degree to which expectations have been lowered even in the course of 6 years (despite the appearance of obvious changes in the climate itself) is frightening.  In the best case scenario, the ruling establishes a precedent that may be reinforced in the future.

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