As explained on Richard Widick’s mission & methods page, he begins with the physical science of global warming, then divides the social world of peoples’ activities into three basic, interrelated spheres of activity: the economic sphere, the public sphere, and the political sphere.
What follows on this page is a digital reading and view archive for anyone interested in speculative thought directed at the unfolding ecological tragedy of anthropogenic climate change.
Check back periodically, as we regularly add sources and commentary to this page.
The wider set of books and articles we cite throughout the website and our articles must be explored through the regular channel of reading through the references and footnotes of the published works.
ECONOMIC HISTORY & THEORY
The study of global warming and climate change must begin with the challenge of understanding economic history.
And history is, in every case, a history of the present moment–it is the story of past events from the perspective of the present, and so every time it carries the mark of present circumstances.
Today, all of economic history and theory needs to be rewritten from the new standpoint of the unfolding climate crisis.
The dominant tendency in economic development today is globalization, which itself is merely the current, technologically enabled expansion of the world economic (culture) system of private property rights-driven markets (which can only be adequately described as reciprocally determined by free speech rights-driven public spheres) and voting rights-driven political spheres).
Globalization, like other social processes, can be understood in terms of their effects.
And so… what are the effects of globalization that we can use to begin to understand it, to fathom what it means and what it has become?
Routinely faced with this question, my thoughts never fail to return to the “planet of slums.”
That is the title of Mike Davis’s book: Planet of Slums (Verso, 2006). See especially references to the Structural Adjustment Programs.
Under UN institutional management by the IMF and World Bank, loans were given to developing countries. When countries had trouble meeting their terms, they would be extended, but often under devastating new terms that today we call “austerity measures” (case of Greece under the European Troika, etc) — namely, cuts in investments in social welfare and safety nets, pensions, education, health care and other state infrastructure, in addition to the sale of state owned assets, with access granted to foreign and private entities.
The results of which were often shopping sprees by state-backed private corporations making land, factory, company, and market-grabs.
The excesses and failure of these programs to deliver economic justice along with the development they did manage to finance informed the critical mindsets of first world protestors and social movers, for example those driving the Seattle 1999 WTO protests, who made the injustice of the SAPs part of the global context of that historic protest.
Begin the Planet of Slums, but move quickly to Christian Parenti’s Tropic of Chaos” (Nation books, 2012).
James O’Connor and the 2nd Contradiction in Capitalism.
Begin with O’Connor’s path-breaking 1988 article “Capitalism – Nature – Socialism: A Theoretical Introduction.”
Follow O’Connor’s work in the pages of Capitalism – Nature – Socialism over the next decade.
John Bellamy Foster, the Monthly Review, and the The Ecological Rift.
Begin with Foster’s 2002 essay in The Monthly Review, “The Nature of the Contradiction.”
Additional O’Connor links:
On the first and second contradictions of the world economic (culture) system of capitalism, see Widick’s case study of the industrialization of California’s north coast redwood region over 150 years of Indian wars (colonization), labor wars (industrialization) and timber wars (deforestation) Trouble in the Forest: California’s Redwood Timber (Richard Widick, University of Minnesota Press, 2009), pps: 7, 9, 11-12, 38-41, 72, 169, 180-196, 203, 214-222, 230-248, 253, 282-284, 287-288, 290.
Early media theory presented the idea that capital, as a social relation, is mediated by images.
On this notoriously slippery conceptual ground, we find it deeply insightful to engage the profound and esoteric work of Situationist theory and especially books and the films of Guy Debord.
After decades of obscurity, Debord’s ideas are enjoying a kind of renaissance in the work of Adbusters magazine, the Occupy movement, Italian autonomist thought (especially the widely read Empire trilogy of Negri and Hardt, which you can download here), and the widely read works of Giorgio Agamben).
FILM: Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle <the original film>
FILM: Guy Debord. Society of the Spectacle <the remake> Pt. 1
FILM: Guy Debord. Society of the Spectacle <the remake> Pt. 2
Debord’s work is notoriously obscure and difficult to grasp in its entirety, but thankfully enough good secondary treatments exist to assist the reader: see especially Guy Debord by Anselm Jappe (University of California Press, 1999) and Guy Debord: Revolutionary by Len Bracken (Feral House 1997).
A basic thesis of spectacle theory: the spectacle is capital(ism) … as it appears in our contemporary world, increasingly mediated by emergent global public flows of images, signs and symbols.
A crucial step in understanding the implications of this basic principal can be taken with books like Captains of Consciousness by Stuart Ewen (McGraw-Hill 1976) and Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness by Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen (University of Minnesota Press, 1992).
These books detail the history and painstakingly theorize how modernizing western industrial society produced such an incredible accumulation of commodities that an entirely new system had to be constructed in order to clear the markets and mitigate the increasingly devastating cyclical accumulation crisis (over production)—namely, the advertising system.
In order to successfully compete in the market of mass produced commodities, producers must now produce demand (desire) for their products—they must advertise, and production plans and budgets must now include marketing.
The products must not only be, they must appear—and do so in a way that they mobilize and attach peoples’ desires.
Simply put, in the advanced consumer society of globalization, production increasingly passes over into consumption; meaning that consumption is production—with one important end result being the progressive proposition that humans deserve a universal basic wage because their consumption, as labor, is a basic input into the production process.
Without consumers there can be no production.
Hence we arrive in the era in which the mass production of commodities requires the mass production of desire for commodities—every product needs to be brought to the attention of potential consumers, so money is spent and technology dedicated to addressing every person on planet earth as a consumer with ever newer and additional needs.
It is not without massive significance that the rise of the advertising industry, by which production passes over into consumption, occurred at the same time as the rise of dynamic psychology, and especially the unparalleled poplar cultural impact of the works of Sigmund Freud.
Without a doubt the single most convincing popular treatment of the psychoanalytic dimension of this historical transformation of industrial society into consumer society is the four part 2002 BBC documentary by Adam Curtis titled Century of the Self.
FILM: Adam Curtis and the BBC’s 2002 Documentary:
read about it on IMDb – Century of the Self.
This is the story of Edward Bernays, a nephew of Freud’s, and how he applied psychoanalytic ideas of the unconscious and launched the 2oth century field of corporate public relations and dramatically advanced the efficacy of the so-called advertising system.
He began the instruction of the big corporations in linking their mass produced good to the unconscious desires of potential consumers, so that “they could make people want things they didn’t need.”
One hundred years later, we live in a world of virtually enforced overconsumption, in which the first, internal, labor contradiction in the expanding world economic (culture) system increasingly passes over into that system’s second, external, environmental contradiction.
Overconsumption, as overproduction, now means the increasing carbon intensity of production.
At the end of this development process, fossil fuel-driven economic consumption (as production) emerges as the key cultural driver of global warming and climate change.
When we conclude that the corporations are, by degrees, increasingly successful in capturing power over the UN climate talks (institutionalizing their interests therein, for example in the substitution of for profit carbon trading markets for energy efficiency mandates and directed investments in renewables in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change), we are pointing at the power they have achieved in large part by dint of this advertising system.
Accumulated capital in the age of advertising—the society of the spectacle—deploys itself (accumulated capital) in the public sphere wherever necessary to secure public attitudes favorable to its interests.
This fact is readily apparent in the media spectacle of the UN climate talks in Paris, the public relations campaigns, the advertising — the images produced and circulated by all the involved corporations, groups, social movements, and national delegations: just as in the private sphere, immense energies and resources are required for each party to get their message out there in a way that it does not get lost in the din.
Thus, policy initiatives (the product of the talks) include this high budget messaging process.
UN climate policy, too, is a social relationship mediated by images.
And these images are not incidental or inconsequential–they are constitutive of those efforts.
What good is a sustainability campaign in a major city if the public does not know and is not on board–i.e., if the subjective, psychological ground of attitudes has not been prepared for its implementation?
Fossil fuel capital is discovered to be both openly and surreptitiously funding public relations campaigns promoting climate skepticism, at the same time as they lobby heavily inside the UNFCCC to promote market solutions to what is arguably the greatest market failure of all times (the destruction of the atmospheric commons by the private appropriation and use of fossil fuels without payment for the cost of carbon emissions.externalized costs of production/consumption).
Thus we arrive at the Spectacle of the UN climate talks — in which we discover the combined attention of the economic, public, and political spheres (all of their global constituencies) focused on and channeling their attentions and desires into the struggle recently set up and set in motion by the universal adoption of the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
On the Spectacle of the colonizing world economic (culture) system of capitalism, see Widick’s case study of the industrialization of California’s north coast redwood region over 150 years of Indian wars (colonization), labor wars (industrialization) and timber wars (deforestation) Trouble in the Forest: California’s Redwood Timber (Richard Widick, University of Minnesota Press, 2009), pps: 4, 9-10, 29, 32, 33, 89, 90, 177, 190, especially 214-22, 233-4, 248, 257, 286-88, 294-98.
Theory in the Era of Climate Change, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 for free download, eds. Tom Cohen and Henry Sussman respectively, Open Humanities Press, 2012. These volumes originate from the Institute for Critical Climate Change at State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany.
Slavoj Zizek. Living in the End Times, VERSO, 2010. Zizek discusses the book at the London School of Economics, July 2010, in the following video. At issue is how capitalism reacts to ecological catastrophes. Visit Zizek’s archive of video lectures on his faculty site at the European Graduate School.
Patrick Bond. “South Africa and the Politics of Climate Change.” 2010 TED Talk.
Anthony Giddens. The Politics of Climate Change, Polity Press, 2009. Giddens discusses the book in the following video.
John Bellamy Foster, “Capitalism and Climate Change,” 2009.
Mary Robinson, December 14, 2010 US EPA Lecture, “Reshaping the Debate on Climate Change.” Robinson’s remarks on climate justice are especially relevant for theoretical orientation (see especially 17:00 – 20:00 on the tape).
Robert Stavins. “Beyond Kyoto: An Economic Perspective on International Climate Negotiations. Stavins, professor of environmental economics at Harvard, discusses the structure and prospects of the UN climate talks on the eve of COP 17, in Durban.
GENDER & CLIMATE CHANGE
The Gender Dimensions of Food and Nutrition Security in the context of Climate Change – Mary Robinson Foundation
The following interviews were conducted at the international conference Gender and Climate Change: Women Research and Action, at the Monash Centre, Prato, Tuscany, Italy, September 15 – 16, 2011.
Ulamila Kurai Wragg
PSYCHOANALYSIS & CLIMATE CHANGE
The following video lectures address issues relating to climate change from a clinical psychoanalytic perspective. The speakers were filmed at the Engaging With Climate Change conference, convened on October 16 – 17, 2010 at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, London. Routledge will soon be releasing an edited volume drawn from the conference, Engaging with Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives , Sally Weintrobe, editor (Sept. 24, 2012, Routledge).
Session 1, Rosemary Randall, “Great Expectations: some psychic consequences of the discovery of personal ecological debt”:
Session 2, Renee Lertzman, “The Myth of Apathy”: The presenter describes her use of Duncan Cartwright’s method of “Psychoanalytic Research Interviews” (see especially minutes 15:00 – 20:00 on the tape, for description of the presenter’s interview methodology).
Session 3, Michael Rustin, “Different structures of feeling in relation to the natural world”:
Session 4, John Keene, “Unconscious obstacles to caring for the planet”:
Session 5, Sally Weintraube, “On the Love of Nature and on Human Nature”:
Session 6, Paul Hogget, “Climate change denial in a perverse culture”: