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Beyond Kyoto

by Michael Jager Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 at 5:51 PM

The predicted consequences of global warming are manifest.. In 2050 England will be half under water.. Production shifts to low-wage countries. Instead of preventing this shift, politics still urges all people to adjust to the little group of egoists.


Ecological Prospects: Only a Radical Movement Can Help

By Michael Jager

[This article originally published in: Freitag 52, 12/17/2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

The course of ecological things raises the question about the political form in which the ecology problem was discussed in the past. This form is obviously inappropriate. The reasons for the inappropriateness must be analyzed. Seniors still remember the invocation of the ecological catastrophe in the seventies and eighties. Many warned: We have ten, 20 or 30 years for counter-measures. The time has now expired unused. The catastrophe is at our door.

The predicted consequences of global warming are manifest. Claudia Kernfert, environmental economist from the German Institute for Economic Research, calculates: Holland is now at sea level. In 2050 England will be half under water. The island Sylt will sink. Worldwide economic damage will amount to two trillion dollars. The first tornados will come upon Germany in the next decades, perhaps next summer. The 2004 German forest report states that 78 percent of all trees are damaged.

Another UN Climate summit will end this week in Buenos Aires. These conferences are often not in session. Ecological things are repressed without conferences. Environmental diplomats do their job but nearly everyone else tries not to listen. The Kyoto protocol was passed in 1997 and will finally take effect on February 16, 2005. However the US will not join. The US is responsible for a quarter of all pollutants. Even if the US joined the protocol, that would be only a symbolic step since the agreement only prescribes that the most important industrial states reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases five percent by 2012 compared to 1990. According to the data of science, a 50 percent reduction by 2050 is necessary. An 80 percent reduction would be necessary if the right of third world societies to catch up in industrialization were considered.

Another date should be recalled. The European emission trade begins on January 1, 2005. Will it encourage industrial countries to more ambitious reduction goals after Kyoto? On the contrary, most participating states misuse trade by allowing their businesses more pollutants than in the past. Europeans still consider themselves ecological pioneers.

The ecology problem cannot be separated from the economy problem. Pollutants arise in agricultural and industrial production and through their products. Why hasn’t politics successfully limited production to ecologically tolerable limits? Ecology is confronted with the main characteristic of our social condition, the “freedom of enterprise”. Capital cannot be forced and believes itself free from all responsibility. This diagnosis is also true for the problems of the labor market. Production shifts into low-wage countries. Instead of preventing this shift, politics still urges all people to adjust to the little group of egoists. Many still believe that unemployment is more distressing than climate change. However these are two sides of the same coin. People face their own economy as a foreign power.

The only solution consists in re-appropriating what is estranged. Past ecological bearers of hope failed in this. The environmental diplomats deserve the least criticism. They are authorized representatives who can only implement, not initiate. An ecological awakening from the middle of society is crucial. Something like this happened in Germany. However the Green impulse totally failed. Ecological conditions were not advanced when minister Tritten in Buenos Aires said Germany would have a greater pollution reduction if the other EU states did the same. The German chancellor rejoices that German corporations are developing China into an auto-society. How can the Greens contradict themselves in this way?

The Greens wanted to change the consumer mentality of the masses. They discussed the questions about living- and working conditions less dependent on cars and whether less meat consumption leading to less methane output with less livestock breeding wouldn’t be welcome on account of the better health of consumers. All this seems forgotten. The coalition with the SPD (Social democratic party of Germany) was more important. They were not frightened before Gerhard Schroeder’s chancellorship. Today they refuse to admit that a few ecological initiatives cannot compensate for the harm day after day from the government harmony of ecologists and anti-ecologists. What are Trittin’s windmills against the experience that traveling by railroad is more expensive since the red-green came into power, car driving has become more unavoidable and the scheduled plane to Florenz is cheaper than the rail card?

Ecological conditions need a new and very radical movement. Ecologists have to deal with hardened opponents. In relating to them, they must learn again that the language of good persuasion is useless. The conditions in the coming decades will ensure for a radical movement. There is no time to lose today. While society may congeal in repression, individuals can alight. Even now radical models of a new society are worked out and discussed – a society without an estranged economy. This is necessary and is known as the logic of history. In times when people want to forget and consider the matter closed, the success of these models depends on creating an attractive, supportive and sustainable orientation.

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