Philosophy Weekend: The Biggest Climate March In History

Nothing I can write today will be as relevant as an event that took place in New York City and various other places around the world today: the biggest climate march in history, attended by over 300,000 people. The Huffington Post has the scoop.

The specific policy mission of this march is to deliver a message of solidarity before the beginning of the United Nations Climate Summit. This large group of concerned human beings seems to be doing a great job of making its voice heard.

We haven’t written much about ecology here on Philosophy Weekend, a strange omission considering the writers and philosophers we like best here on Litkicks: Henry David Thoreau, William James, Yoko Ono, Gary Snyder.

As a political writer, I tend to focus on pacifism, but in fact pacifism and environmentalism are sibling philosophies. Both spring from a consciousness of the natural world, and from an appreciation for the gifts of human existence. It’s hard to imagine how somebody could be a pacifist and not an environmentalist.

However, I’ve recently become aware that USA presidential candidate Rand Paul, the only conservative candidate brave enough to support a pacifist philosophy, has taken stands against sane environmental regulations. I’d love to hear from any Litkicks reader who understands Rand Paul’s politics how it is that the only candidate who can clearly see the folly of our military policies can fail to see the folly of our lack of environmental regulation. One would think that the same awareness of common sense concerns (nature, and our freedom to enjoy it) would make any libertarian a natural environmentalist. What am I missing here?

Are there interesting literary or philosophical angles of environmentalism that we can explore here on Literary Kicks? Of course there are, and since I feel bad that I didn’t make it up to New York City for today’s big march, I am going to pledge to try to make this happen. I hope we can explore the meaning of ecology both from spiritual and political angles. If somebody can post a comment answering my question above about the Rand Paul position on ecology, which really ought to be smarter than it is, that might get things off to a good start …

10 Responses

  1. With 60 BILLION food animals
    With 60 BILLION food animals on the planet, this should be our first step in the Climate March!

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    There is one single industry destroying the planet more than any other. But no one wants to talk about it…

    Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet

  2. Very good links, JC — thanks
    Very good links, JC — thanks.

    Much to discuss here … and on the Litkicks Facebook page, one person did take me up on my challenge to try to explain the (to me, disappointing) Rand Paul/libertarian position on climate change. Here’s the link if anyone’s interested. I’d really like to discuss these topics more on this site.

  3. The issue of pollution is a
    The issue of pollution is a classical example of “problem of commons”; on this topic, I found really interesting the book of Elinor Olstrom, “governing the commons”. Those problems do have a peculiar tract: at a quick glance, it looks like the interest of the single is opposing the one of the collectivity.

    Speaking about pollution: if I as individual buy a big, gasoline thirsty, inefficient truck, I will not suffer the effects of the little increase of local pollution (my truck will not change the rain amount over my town), and I will enjoy my big truck. So the individual, following this simple idea, has no incentive to buy a slow, boring hybrid car (sadly quick amusing hybrid cars are still too costly and rare).

    Are ecology and libertarianism mutually exclusive? Let’s go back to the roots. What is the basis of libertarianism? Private property, and the principle that you can do anything you want with your business until you do not harm anyone else, or his interests. The system does not work immediately with the problem of commons, by definition, as the common is something not divisible by private propriety, as the environmental pollution. But me increasing pollution harms the interests of anyone else. With a realistic eye, making no pollution at all is impossible, or we will fall back to stone age; so there is the need of a control system for pollution. As it is possible to estimate the social costs of pollution (damages due to rise of ocean, increase of sea level, losses to agricultural sector, increase of medical expenses), the ones that produces pollution should be required to pay a sum of money to the ones that suffer for their actions. Libertarians, even miniarchists, accept the role of the state to guarantee contracts and private propriety, and avoid violences; a tax over pollution fall on the same principle, as it is a refund for the damages caused to the common good, and it is aligned with the principles of free market.

    A real world application of this idea has been realized (in the opposite form, as green incentive rather than as pollution tax) in the italian free market of energy, where everyone producing energy from renewable sources gets “green certificates” that allows for a reduction of taxes.

  4. What about the idea that the
    What about the idea that the growing of “Palm oil” trees is causing deforestation in some developing areas? Hugh swaths of native trees are being cut down to grow certain palm trees for this particular product.

    Human beings are natural omnivores. I think the “ovo-lacto” diet makes more vegetarian sense. Vegans have to intake vitamin B-12, which is only found in animal protein. The only way out is to grow vitamin B-12 in yeast. Yeast, as we know, has properties of both plants & animals. Vegan diets, unless done with vitamin B-12, is like an invitation for anorexia…

    Eating one less chicken meal a day is like using coiled mercury florescent light bulbs instead of incandescents. There is adjunct pollution involved with that too.

    Just saying… It would be best if we’d just limit our portions of both plant & animal protein. The western world needs to pull away from the table so that the rest of the world may eat.

  5. Paul is not any kind of a
    Paul is not any kind of a pacifist — don’t kid yourself or get confused. He’s just the kind of person who would never shovel a neighbor’s driveway. “Problems somewhere else in the world? Who cares? It’s not my problem.” THAT’s his philosophy. Nothing to do with pacifism and everything to do with Me.

    And so it’s the same thing with environmental regulations — if it costs his employers (corporate energy lobbyists) one penny less in profits, he’s against it. There’s no contradiction here. He doesn’t think about the planet or humanity at all. He just thinks about Rand Paul.

    Naomi Klein’s latest book’s blurb: Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better. 

In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.
    Another Canadian, Margaret Atwood describes a world where a post-environmental collapse became the norm in her book Oryx and Crake that is absolutely eerie.
    Humanity survives but in that world the lucky are the dead

  7. Thanks for responses, folks.
    Thanks for responses, folks. A couple of responses back:

    Subject Sigma, I like the way you frame this very much. The concept of a commons is useful here. One exception I have to state, though. You say the basis of libertarianism is private property. I hope that is not true! I consider myself to be some sort of libertarian — certainly not a Rand Paul or Tea Party libertarian, more of a Rousseau/Thoreau libertarian. But I would say the basis of libertarianism is freedom, not private property.

    Steve, thank you and I agree. Wjwippa, same! Naomi Klein is awesome and I guess I’d better read this book. May be a real bombshell.

    Brian Hassett, I’ve thought a lot about the paradox of Rand Paul’s pacifism. Like you, I don’t approve of many of his positions. And I know that he does not even call himself a pacifist, though he does stand up against militarists in the Republican (and Democratic) party and in my opinion has really helped the pacifist cause by using his position of power to say things about our militarist problems that nobody else in the US Senate has the courage to say.

    I guess the fact is this: pacifists are so rare and so voiceless these days that I don’t think it’s smart to dismiss Rand Paul’s influence. I think his influence on foreign policy debates in the USA is very good, even though his political positions overall have got lots of problems. I think we desperately need brave politicians who will speak the truth about the damages caused by militarism. If Rand Paul is the loudest voice speaking about this, I will not shut my ears to that voice.

  8. Levi, I think I was unclear
    Levi, I think I was unclear in my use of “libertarianism”; as you know, the same word has a somewhat different meaning in Europe and in America. I was referring to what I think is called “economic liberalism”. For this same miniarchic current, militarism is evil because waging a war allows a state to “get bigger”, increasing taxes and his participations in economy.

  9. How can you say it is
    How can you say it is “capitalism” when China is contributing massively to the carbon issues problem by burning coal like crazy? Do they get a free pass and we don’t?

  10. Well, Gary, even though China
    Well, Gary, even though China maintains an internal economy on communist principles, on the global scale they engage in capital markets — that is, they are capitalists. The opposite of capitalism is not always communism. Sometimes the opposite of capitalism (on a practical level) is ecology.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!