Imagined Communities and Omitting Carbon Emissions: Shifting the Discussion On Climate Change

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

I think we need to omit talking about carbon emissions when discussing climate change. This is what I see the mainstream media limit the discussion to. It’s why the Democratic Green New Deal is all the rage these days.

This new deal focuses on two items: carbon emissions and jobs which is what mainstream climate change discussions have always been about. It’s the implicit understanding in mainstream liberal circles about hammering on carbon emissions while keeping up global production. The ultimate oxymoron that no matter what the temperature of the earth is this model will continue to devour all life on the planet.

When a species food source is taken away they starve to death hence why 41% of global insect populations have declined over the past decade. That’s what happens when you devour a living planet for profit all while spraying it with chemicals regardless of how many parts per million of carbon are in the atmosphere.

I understand the Green New Deal would change “American society” but herein lies the problem. Our addiction to Nationalism. Our addiction to the mass capitalist electronic screen press that lets us imagine and feel like we are part of this big kumbaya American community.

This “imagined community” as Benedict Anderson has called it lets the top 1% of income earners in America garner in 22% of all national income. We must not be identifying and imagining ourselves as Americans especially since this imagined community has no problem expelling millions of its members that we don’t personally know and will never meet which is why the community of America is something we imagine or envision in our minds.

Expulsions from the community are by deportation, mass incarceration, and privatization. The words “private” and “community” are not synonymous with one another. “Private” excludes, exploits, expels, and impoverishes.

Yet this indoctrinated American Nationalism vis-à-vis the American educational system, military, and the mainstream electronic press has made American Nationalism the most dangerous kind of Nationalism in the world.

It’s a Nationalism associated with wealthy patriarchal whiteness, hate, and fear of nonwhites. This is why Trump wants a border wall, more deportations, and more bombing in the Middle East. This is the Nationalism the imagined community called America has been fed for centuries.

There’s a segment of American Nationalists that feel their patriarchal whiteness is under threat by the means of “cultural Marxism”, “multiculturalism”, and “political correctness”. “Cultural Marxism”, “multiculturalism”, and “political correctness” are phrases of infiltration in the mindset of the White Nationalist strain of American Nationalism. They are phrases that bring out the hatred towards leftists and nonwhites. It’s not a coincidence that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) counted a record number 1,020 hate groups in the United States in 2018.

The reason for this rise of hate? The SPLC points to Far Right ideas permeating in Republican politicians and conservative media. American Nationalism and White Nationalism are courting each other out in the open.

Many segments of society see the deterioration of the western industrial model. Some want answers and some want to hang on to this model for as long as possible. Outcries for answers have been through elections of authoritarian nationalists like Donald Trump, Rodrigo Duterte, Jair Bolsonaro, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Vladimir Putin.

We see the Yellow Vest movement in France as struggle of how to grapple with neoliberalism austerity measures for climate change action. Some in the movement are anarchists and some are far-right nationalists struggling against one another while fighting against a deteriorating planet and living standard.

Why are these things happening? One overlooked reason is that the imagined communities we have been living in are far too large and have gotten far too out of hand and the outcome has been Global Nationalism. The ideal community is a community of 50 to 500 people not tens to hundreds of millions of people because per the 2018 article titled Optimising Human Community Sizes by Robin Dunbar and Richard Sosis:

“when community size exceeds ~500, the rising intensity of social and other stresses threaten community coherence and stability, and cohesion can only be maintained if some mechanism is available to suppress or mitigate these disruptive forces.”

Deviations away from these values (50 to 500 people) resulted in reduced functionality and increased risk of fission which is why a “top-down authoritarian organizational structure” is the historical and present mechanism implemented in the community in an attempt to preserve it.

50 to 500 people preserves longevity and nothing is imagined. These communities are real, people can literally see the entire community before their eyes. It’s not imagined, it’s not authoritative.

Some will say the Green New Deal is a good thing, and at least it gets us popularizing everyday discussions on climate change. I agree with the statement that it gets us talking about climate change but let’s make this talk a good thing and challenge ourselves not to limit the conversation to carbon emissions. As Patrick Farnsworth says, climate change is not just about carbon emissions. Our culture gets in the way of us having the deeper level discussions about how we built a destructive society. It’s an internal reflection we must face.

Next time discussions are had about climate change we must challenge ourselves to omit talk about carbon emissions that will limit the talk to societal preservation and jobs. Let’s permit the deep level climate change conversations about imagined communities, nationalism, production, and profit.

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