Nothing is over the top any more. Insanity or hyperbole? You decide.
Despite the obvious parallels with coronavirus shutdowns, states still show little determination to put in place the measures we’ll need to deal with the climate emergency. For Andreas Malm, we need to stop seeing climate change as a problem for the future — and use state power now to impose a drastic reordering of our economies.
A little assertion there, a little leap in logic there and without much in between, voila, pandemics are just like climate change.
From quite early on in the course of the pandemic, commentators began to draw comparisons between the COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis. However, I argue that such direct comparisons are flawed in the sense that the current pandemic constitutes a specific event, whereas global warming is a secular trend. Nevertheless, we miss the essence of the COVID-19 outbreak if we fail to recognize it for what it is, namely one extreme — but long expected — manifestation of another secular trend: the rise in the rate of infectious diseases jumping from wild animals to human populations. This is a trend that has increased over past decades and is projected to accelerate in the future.
The most important driving force behind the production of pandemics is clear in the scientific literature and it is deforestation — which is also the second biggest contributor to global climate change. The place in which you find the greatest biodiversity on Earth is in tropical forests, and this biodiversity includes pathogens. These pathogens, which circulate among nonhuman animals in wild habitats, do not generally pose a problem to humanity as long as humans stay away from them. However, the problem arises as the human economy makes deeper and deeper incursions into these habitats. The clearance of forests for logging, agriculture, mining, and the construction of roads creates new interfaces where humans come into contact with wildlife. Through these interfaces, animal pathogens are able to mutate and leap into human populations through a process called zoonotic spillover.
Global warming itself also accelerates this trend. As temperatures rise, certain animals are forced to migrate in search of climates that match those to which they are adapted. A generalized chaos ensues in which animal populations — including, significantly, bats — are increasingly brought into contact with human populations, thereby increasing the rate of transmission. While there are upward of 1,200 different species of bats, all share a common trait that makes them unique among mammals, namely their ability to engage in sustained flight. This shared characteristic not only makes them highly mobile and therefore susceptible to climate-change-induced migration, it also requires prodigious amounts of energy, driving metabolic rates to a point where bodily temperatures reach 40°C for many hours on end, a level that would be experienced as fever by most other mammals. This process has been postulated as the primary reason behind bats being the main carrier of pathogens such as coronaviruses. [emphasis mine]
Postulated, and in passive voice. Good enough for me. Gotta love sciency writing.
And of course, it’s always a problem of oppression and inequity.
There was a moment in March 2020 when many of us in the climate justice movement felt a degree of surprise to find that governments in Europe and elsewhere were prepared to basically shut down their entire economies in an effort to contain the pandemic. This is striking, given that the same states had never contemplated undertaking any kind of intervention in the economy for the sake of the climate crisis. The primary reason for this lies in the different timeline of victimhood manifested by these two crises.
Now, overall, the pandemic has played out similarly to that of global warming in the simple sense that those who have suffered most and those who are most likely to die are the working class — most particularly working-class people of color and those in various hotspots in the Global South. The rich, meanwhile, have been able to self-isolate with ease by escaping to additional homes in the countryside and have been able to access private health care.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
The current juncture therefore provides us with an opportunity to oppose the return to business as usual, to push for the transformation of the global economy and the launch of something like a Green New Deal.
Nevertheless, we have to be honest about the situation we find ourselves in. COVID-19 has brought about the sudden obliteration of the climate justice movement in terms of everything that had been built up by the end of 2019. Since early 2020, COVID-19 has completely paralyzed all the most promising developments in the environmental movement — Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, Ende Gelände, and so on — this is a situation of grave disaster. Prior to this, there had been a growing momentum toward aggressively disrupting business as usual, and while there have been attempts to temporarily move these actions online, there is simply no way to exert the same kind of pressure through digital means.
The article goes on to discuss ways of defeating Capitalism and saving the world through the joyous overturning of the oppressive planet-killing system.
The whole strategic direction of Lenin after 1914 was to turn World War I into a fatal blow against capitalism. This is precisely the same strategic orientation we must embrace today — and this is what I mean by ecological Leninism. We must find a way of turning the environmental crisis into a crisis for fossil capital itself.