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To Freeze the Thames: Geo-Science, Social Risk and Climate Struggles
January 9 / 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm EST
Is advanced-industrial capitalism capable of finding solutions for the environmental devastation it causes? Or are the logics of capitalism and environmental sustainability at odds?
This session of The Capitalism Workshop explores the economics and politics surrounding natural geo-engineering—re-wilding agricultural land, freed up by compulsory veganism—to replicate the hemispheric cooling of the Little Ice Age, and features Troy Vettese, whose article “To Freeze the Thames” was recently published in New Left Review (Debating Green Strategy).
Discussants: Umair Muhammad and Gordon Laxer
The Little Ice Age provides insight into the global ecological repercussions of colonialism, and it also hints at the possible democratisation of natural geo-engineering (NGE). NGE involves accelerating carbon sequestration through natural processes as a means of safely ameliorating climate change. A rival approach, artificial geo-engineering (AGE), would put iron filings or limestone into the oceans and aerosols into the skies to reflect sunlight into space. Given the complexity of the global climate system, its tinkering is terribly risky even if increasingly likely. In a future closer than one expects, entrepreneurial scientists and their private corporations will fire aerosols into the atmosphere by artillery, high-flying airplanes, or balloons. In contrast, giving up territory to nature through democratic choice is a safe way to counteract carbon pollution with only beneficial environmental multiplier effects. NGE requires, however, a lot of land. The mere thought of re-creating a bloodless second Little Ice Age to avert a capitalist climatic Armageddon restores the central role of land-scarcity to economics after an absence of two centuries. In addition to NGE, two other goals of the environmental movement—preserving bio-diversity and switching to a zero-carbon energy system—also require expanses continental in scope.
Troy Vettese is an environmental historian at New York University, whose dissertation is on the relationship between the tar sands industry and market-based environmental regulation.
Umair Muhammad is a PhD student at York University, where his research focuses on the political economy of the environment. He is the author of Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism, and he has been a community organizer for nine years.
Gordon Laxer is the founding Director and former head of Parkland Institute (1996-2011) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, a Political Economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. He is author of After the Sands: Energy & Ecological Security for Canadians and several recent reports including “Act or Be Acted Upon: The Case for Phasing out Alberta’s Sands.” Gordon was the first chair of the Council’s Edmonton chapter of the Council of Canadians, and was the first chair of the Toronto chapter of the Waffle movement for an independent socialist Canada in 1969.
Organized by The Capitalism Workshop, the Centre for Social Justice, and The Socialist Project