Republicanism For The Anthropocene

Where Are You, Cleisthenes?

Image by NASA.

You don’t have to read the almost 4,000 pages of the grim new IPCC Climate Report to know the gravity of Earth’s situation where humans are driving at least a million species, including their own, to extinction. We’ve had warnings for a long time, from Joseph Fourier (1824, greenhouse effect), Svante Arrhenius (1896, CO2 emissions), Guy Stewart Callendar (1938, global warming) and others through to the IPCC report of 2007 (90% sure that CO2 emissions were responsible for most observed climate warming). Scientists had done their thing but where were the political thinkers? The climate disaster is a political problem. You only have to look at who is most affected. It’s no news that low-income individuals and peoples are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, that developing countries suffer about 99% of the casualties caused by it, but the fifty poorest countries account for 1% of greenhouse gas emissions, while 92% are attributable to countries of the so-called Global North (as if this were merely a geographical category) with only 19% of the global population. It’s evident that the problem is neoliberal capitalism, which has been regulating markets in favor of the rich for the last fifty years.

Naturally, this system isn’t presenting solutions. When necessary, there’s a greenwashing tweak here or there. We’re told we’re all guilty and all doomed. Meanwhile big corporations will keep making a killing, billionaires will look for bolt holes in remote places, and governments will keep lying. Their tax systems tell us where their loyalties lie: they’re billionaire friendly. So, it’s après moi le déluge because, as we say here in Catalonia, they couldn’t give a rabbit’s fart.

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Daniel Raventós is a lecturer in Economics at the University of Barcelona and author inter alia of Basic Income: The Material Conditions of Freedom (Pluto Press, 2007). He is on the editorial board of the international political review Sin Permiso.   Julie Wark is an advisory board member of the international political review Sin Permiso. Her last book is The Human Rights Manifesto (Zero Books, 2013).

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