Category Archives: Michael Hoexter

Climate Defeatism is as Much a Threat to Human Survival as Climate Denial – Part 3

By Michael Hoexter

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Local Left-wing Climate Denial and Climate Defeatism

I live in the Bay Area and am active in some local groups nominally committed to fighting climate change.  California’s state government has stated its commitment to climate action and has recently passed a raft of measures that certainly express good intentions with regard to reducing emissions, though lack specific and binding mechanisms to achieve those goals.  Local activists seem to want to maintain a certain level of ignorance about state policy and politics, though some of them, I have heard, slip away to lobby state government.  There is no direct “street” pressure on state government to do more on climate other than a general “anti-fossil fuel” message, which in Sacramento politics is at least the stated intention of many Democratic lawmakers.   As I noted a recent piece of mine critical of the climate movement’s genteel approach to climate action, climate action is defined as saying “NO” to various fossil fuel industry practices (fracking, oil trains, and now coal trains) but leaving out mention of the fundamental switch, from fossil to non-fossil energy sources and government’s role therein.  How to stop in the most realistic and shortest time-frame California’s fossil fuel addictions in the areas of transport, heating and electricity generation are left mostly on a different “track” than the anti-fossil fuel industry message and the local dangers of oil or coal trains that captivate local activists.   There is no public dialogue about further-going policies between Sacramento and the climate movement that involve HOW to transition to a non-fossil fuel dependent society; this is seemingly left to insiders or self-selected or hired policy wonks with the time and means to lobby government.

Continue reading

Climate Defeatism is as Much a Threat to Human Survival as Climate Denial – Part 2

By Michael Hoexter

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Defeatism, Climate Denial, and Climate Insouciance

The sources of climate defeatist attitudes are and will be diverse though one vast supply of defeatist sentiment will originate from those in the climate denial camp who must now concede that the climate has been changed, probably for the worse, by human activity.   For instance, Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO has attempted to spread an attitude of climate defeatism in some of his public utterances, when he is not acting as if climate change doesn’t exist in his role as Exxon CEO.  It is perhaps not completely accurate to apply the “defeatist” label to those who have always worked for the defeat of climate action for a variety of personal, economic, and political reasons.   “Defeatism” suggests that the person has in some way struggled on the side of the good and righteous and then decided to give up; those in the climate denial camp have always been against climate action.  Still there are many in this camp and they can insert themselves into the broader discussion as “honest brokers” who pedal a message of defeat that reinforces their pre-existing worldview.

Continue reading

Climate Defeatism is as Much a Threat to Human Survival as Climate Denial – Part 1

By Michael Hoexter

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

In the next few years, human beings will have the choice whether, on the one hand, to preserve the better shreds of current civilizations or hold onto the possibility to found entirely new, hopefully better civilizations, or, on the other hand, to destroy the possibility for human civilization to continue and head towards human self-extinction.  We possess then an awful and, for many, unwanted power at this time. We will be facing opportunities for growth and advancement while at the same time facing compromises that will leave a good number of people dissatisfied and unhappy, as happiness is now conceived.  To opt for the first choice, humanity will need to set itself within a very few years upon a new evolutionary course that some may resist and that others may embrace.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Effective Climate Action is a Building Project

By Michael Hoexter

hoexter1

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.

Continue reading

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”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading