The Wizard Behind the Curtain Subverting Efforts to Address Climate Change and Economic Injustice

Reports on a number of Roundhouse events with Sen. Wirth and Speaker Egolf and a discussion of the need for a new economic system with links to 3 old Retake posts that are entirely germane and an abstract from a Utah prof who describes succinctly why we can’t address climate change within capitalism. Well worth your time.

Odds and Ends

Update on Future Direction of Retake:  Sometimes life events cause you to rethink things. And last weekend’s medical scare was certainly one of them. Among other things, it led me to realize that if Retake is to be an enduring organization, it just can’t be the Roxanne and Paul show, with us making most decisions. We have had teams in the past and have teams now that inform our thinking, but we have not done a good job of distributing leadership and responsibilities and creating some kind of what they call in the corporate world, succession planning.

To develop that kind of leadership group requires time, lots of one-one meetings, and many, many discussions. That will be hard to achieve while we are making plans for the legislative session and then advocate throughout that session. But the critical importance of building a solid leadership infrastructure was clearly evident from my hospital bed. One thing that I can do now to free up more time for this leadership development work is to devote less time to the blog. I am not exactly sure how that will work and will likely try any number of other approaches that allow me to limit the 4-6 hours it can take to develop a single post.

I’ll do my best to balance things, but the primary objective needs to be to ensure that his organization continues indefinitely. What we are building in the Rapid Response Network that will launch this legislative session, will have the structure and communication capacity to manage a very large statewide network quite efficiently. It will not be a single issue framework, so it will do what most progressive advocacy groups do not do: connect the dots across issue siloes. That has to be something that endures and ensuring that it does has to be a higher priority than developing yet another semi-polished (albeit too often with typos) post on one topic or another. Suggestions always appreciated.  And thanks to the many, many, many notes wishing me a speedy recovery. Onward.

Roundhouse Training On Saturday, December 8th, state Senator Sander Rue (R. Bernalillo) and our own Senator Peter Wirth are part of the New Mexico League of Women Voter’s Effective Citizen Advocacy Workshop. They  will share tips on how to effectively advocate for issues at the Roundhouse.  It’s from 10:00 am to noon in Room 322 at the State Capitol. I’ve attended this three or four times and it is a very useful introduction to how things work. Retake our Democracy’s Roundhouse Advocacy Team has been hard at work planning for the next legislative session and is developing a series of video, written guidelines and summaries about how bills are developed, introduced and move through committees. We are also holding meetings on Thursdays from 6-8pm at 1420 Cerrillos, The Center for Progress and Justice and had one scheduled for this week, the 6th, Look for an announcement about that meeting tomorrow. It may be postponed to the 13th in large part due to my recent medical emergency, but also just to allow those developing tools and plans to have another week to prepare. But I’ll let you know tomorrow.


Journey Santa Fe: Another Roundhouse Focused Event with Senator Wirth and Speaker Egolf, Sunday, December 9th, 11am at Collected Works Bookstore on 202 Galisteo Street.They will provide their annual overview of the upcoming legislative session at Journey Santa Fe. This will be jammed so I’d suggest arriving early, buying a book, getting a coffee and a seat.

National Popular Vote planning meeting. Saturday, December 15, 2:00 – 4:00 pm. La Farge Public Library, Community Room. 1730 Llano Street (off St. Michael’s Drive), Santa Fe. Earlier this year the Democratic Party of Santa Fe County officially adopted a party platform consisting of 23 separate planks, the responsibility for which is divided among six subcommittees that currently are in the process of forming.The Campaign Finance Reform, Elections, and Ethics Subcommittee is one of the party’s six new organizational structures and includes explicit support for New Mexico’s National Popular Vote bill, which will guarantee the U.S. presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Can a Capitalist System Address Climate Change?

I have long contended that the capitalist system is focused upon generating the greatest possible financial return for shareholders, damn the impact upon on the planet and worker justice doesn’t enter this equation. If shareholders were a broad cross section of our community, that might work, especially if a social purpose were woven into the corporate charter. But then we would no longer be talking about capitalism as we know it, but a more cooperative structure, that either borrows from models the world has seen in Scandinavia and elsewhere or one that we need to imagine. But as the abstract below describes, the very nature of capitalism is incompatible with what is required to effectively address climate change.

The abstract offers no suggestions as to what that next system might be, only suggesting that somehow it must be. It is incumbent upon us to first imagine this next system and then to advocate for it.  We need to begin imagining concrete proposals for more cooperative models that prioritize sustainability and justice over profit and that allows people to work well (and likely much less), perform well and innovate while having time for community service and dare I say it, rest, family, recreation. This is an enormous challenge and at the same time a world changing opportunity. In past posts I have offered up the thinking of others on this matter and rather than trying to write about it, here are some links from prior posts for you to explore.

  • No Is Not Enough: The Leap Manifesto from Naomi Klein.  This post from July of 2017 describes how in the context of climate change, we can’t simply accept piecemeal, moderate solutions. Klein offers a concrete set of bold policies that go well beyond anything that is seriously being considered even a year later. It is very worth your time. Click here. 
  • What If We Can’t Continue to Grow?  Oddly, this post was published the day after the one above. It provided a link to an excellent analysis that demonstrated that to address climate change, we have to stop thinking that growth is a positive economic outcome. It also posed some ideas about what a more egalitarian social framework could look like and how it could impact individuals and communities. In sum, it produces a vision of much more hospitable, caring social organization. And something achievable if we could just think outside the box and outside neoliberal constraints. Well worth the read and quite short. Click here.
  • A Bold Tax Proposal and the Miracles It Could Produce. The premise to this post is that we have been enslaved in a neo-liberal bubble in which tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are supposed to benefit the masses and that small government providing only the barest of services and infrastructure is also in our interests. It proposes a radical transformation of the tax system and then lays out what might be possible under those conditions. This post was informed by a lengthy conversation with SDS founders Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. I think I need another conversation with them as even in the darkest times, they are upbeat and forward thinking. Click here.

The abstract that follows is very clear. No inspiring promises are made, just very clear thinking that outlines very concisely why capitalism is incompatible with solving climate change. What I like about it, is that it acknowledges that as an economic system, it has produced great wealth and a wealth of products and services that we all enjoy. It is short on an economic justice perspective and glosses over too easily how this wealth has concentrated in the 1% and how over the past 50 years, capitalism’s merging with neoliberalism has created capitalism unchecked and government in tatters. But I know so many people whose eyes pop wide open in disbelief when you state that capitalism must go, a new system must be invented. It is easy to understand this reaction: even with the concentration of wealth at the 1%, a good many of us have benefited from this system and live reasonably comfortable lives, as a result. But the numbers who benefit are shrinking each year, as the Bold Tax Proposal post above describes. For the sake of economic and climate justice, a new system is required. The Abstract below describes why.

Abstract from Climate Change and Capitalism by Jonathon T. Park, University of Utah

“Capitalism was designed as a mechanism for efficiently allocating scarce resources, encouraging human ingenuity, and improving the quality of life for those willing and able to participate in the system. This economic model has been prodigiously effective at enabling people to convert natural resources into fungible commodities and monetary wealth. By transmuting vast amounts of natural resources into marketable products, capitalism has generated an unparalleled degree of wealth and prosperity. In theory, the production of wealth and the collective quality of life can be constantly enhanced under this economic model. Although wealth accumulation has hitherto entailed the unsustainable depletion of natural resources, capitalism maintains that when a commercially viable resource is exhausted, the market will produce an alternative. Thus, capitalism is supposedly an indefatigable method for perpetually generating more wealth and greater social prosperity.

While capitalism has produced a plethora of socioeconomic benefits over its relatively brief history, it has also instigated unforeseen and undesirable consequences. With every product having a byproduct, our ability to extract and consume an immense bounty of natural resources has generated a correspondingly monstrous amount of waste in the form of physical garbage, atmospheric pollution, and other forms of environmental degradation. Global climate change has been the most severe consequence of our society’s excessive atmospheric pollution.

We now know that our primary method of generating energy – burning fossil fuels – releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, heating up the planet and severely altering the climate system. Anthropogenic climate change poses an imminent threat to the planet’s life-sustaining ecological systems, and it represents one of humanity’s most difficult challenges to date. If humanity is to overcome this problem, we will need to place strict, explicit limitations on the amount of atmospheric pollution that can be emitted globally.

Since pollution is a direct consequence of consumption, we must also limit the amount of resources we use. Any viable solution to climate change will therefore require a global agreement to drastically inhibit the extraction, production, and consumption of natural resources. Yet, the capitalist system as it currently stands is neither designed for nor capable of consciously inhibiting its own propensity for unsustainable growth. The basic assumptions under which neoliberal capitalism operates renders it incapable of correcting climate change.”

Climate Change Is the Product of How Capitalism “Values” Nature



Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use and Wildlife, Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development, Uncategorized

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