Jean-Noel wrote:

"We have only two choices. The choice of a chosen, manageable and happy
degrowth if we make the associated paradigm shift, or the choice of a
suffered degrowth, in which we are almost engaged, but which will be
more and more chaotic and ultra-violent, and will spare neither the
working classes nor the middle classes."

While sharing many aspects of your reasoning, Jean-Noel - particularly
about "suffered degrowth" - I still see things differently. With all due
respect and without any desire to antagonize.

On the one hand, *we* have no choice: no individual, and no small,
theory-driven, left-wing constituency has any chance of making a "choice"
about the response to a growing climate emergency. Nor does there appear to
be a "happy" pathway, due to time constraints.

One the other hand, the industrialized world has various open pathways in
terms of response to the climate emergency. These need to be analyzed
pretty urgently, so that societies can make "lesser of two evils" type
calculations, and so that many inevitable evils can be faced with greater
dignity, solidarity, justice etc. Individuals and small, theory-driven
groups can contribute to improve the calculations, and even more
importantly, they can develop some of the ethical and spiritual postures
that will accompany and guide the subsequent actions.

The emergency now appears profound. In particular, as JNM points out,
drought looks as though it will rapidly cut into food production (this is
really worth a read: Fires, heatwaves,
floods and storms are rapidly threatening lives (cf Pakistan) and appear
likely to claim lives at the scale of major urban centers over the next
decade. The speed of further tipping points (methane bubbles, ice-melt,
rerouting of major ocean and atmospheric currents) is clearly NOT
predictable, this is a "no analogue" situation.

My sense is that despite the good idea of chosen degrowth, and despite the
rapidly emerging reality of suffered degrowth, these threats will become
overwhelming before any economic shrinkage takes measurable effect. CO2
levels are already so high (far higher than those of the End Permian
mass-extinction event, for example) that degrowth, while ultimately
necessary, can do nothing in the short run.

The urgent issue is therefore not degrowth but energy transition and
geoengineering. Despite that I would rather not live in an authoritarian
eco-state, I am convinced that both the forced transition away from coal
and petroleum, and the implementation of global-scale geoengineering, will
be tried within the next two decades.

The energy transition is underway and there is a big bet on nuclear energy
in addition to renewables.  Advanced Small Modular Reactors are likely to
be produced in large numbers. Hydrogen fuel cells too. It's nothing I want,
but I do spend time observing what is actually happening in the world.

Geoengineering is a comparable issue. I am convinced it will take the form
of sulfur particles dispersed into the stratosphere at global scale,
undoubtedly with unwanted differential side effects. Three factors have
convinced me about the inevitability of geoengineering:

-- First, the explosion of Mt Pinatubo in 1991 injected 15 million tons of
sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, resulting in an observed temperature
drop of 0.6 C over 15 months. This provided proof of concept (

-- Second, immense amounts of sulphur are readily available, due to the
refining of high-sulphur petroleum in many locations across the planet. The
technology for injecting it into the atmosphere is available, relatively
cheap and can be scaled (whether it's successful or not).

-- Third, industrial society is already performing geoengineering, although
unconsciously. Scientists know that the production of smog from thermal
power production and internal combustion engines has reflected sunlight
throughout the 20th century and up to today, mitigating C02-driven
temperature rise. Any significant change to particle emissions - such as
the suppression of coal-fired plants and the switch to electric vehicles
over the next ten years - will result in temperature rise. The "lesser of
two evils" calculation will be fairly straightforward (which does not mean
it will be right).

All the factors discussed above are about to become conscious and enter the
political and/or military debate. The point of the debate will be how to
proceed to immediate action.

I do not think there remains much time before a state of emergency begins -
because it already has begun, and it can only intensify. But a state of
emergency is not necessarily an apocalypse. It is likely that extreme
mitigation measures, including but not limited to sulphur particle
injection, will be pursued by large industrialized states and regional
blocs, and that they will have some degree of - albeit differential -
success. Differential means that some regions and some classes will be
affected differently than others. When I speak of "various open pathways"
in response to the climate emergency, the range of possibilities has mainly
to do with these kinds of questions: How will the global-scale mitigation
measures be managed, in view of what outcomes, for whom? Will there be
clear and shared awareness that climate inequalities can create social
turmoil and thereby curtail any positive effects of solar radiation
management, precipitation management, energy transition, etc? To what
degree will the attempts at management result only in war, authoritarianism
and a more rapid breakdown? I use the word "fascism" as shorthand to
indicate many serious political problems arising from "suffered degrowth."

At present, global populations appear to me to have their head in the sand.
We're going to have tremendous stress on our industrial societies and they
will respond with all readily available industrial means. I think everyone
should think about how they can influence these responses. This is not the
same as "choosing" some putative solution that one would simply prefer,
without any means of making it happen. Nor is it the same thing as saying
"we're all fucked," which just means, shirking all responsibility and
letting your local elites amd military do whatever they want.

The project which launched this thread - biocultural corridors - may appear
to be a simple conservationist program, totally inadequate to what's
coming. Well, that's largely true. However, I am approaching it as a chance
to analyze an extremely complex and threatening situation (that's the
critical part), while building a collective ethical and spiritual posture
toward that situation (that's the biocultural part). I expect that project,
and everything else I am involved in, to change rapidly over the course of
this decade. It's daunting.

"At night on the Parana, the stars still shine." But not for long. Very
soon we are all very likely to look up at the white sky of geoengineering.
How to maintain faith in humanity when you cannot even see what were ever
the signs of its destiny? This is what I mean by the spiritual question.

The period around 1940-1945 was an extremely challenging time. Everyone
involved went through dramatic changes. In my view we are rapidly moving
toward something on a larger scale of magnitude. I reckon we would all do
better to think about what that implies, get ready for it, and start
acting. Notice that the world did not end, neither as a result of WWII, nor
as a result of the atom bomb. Although a crisis is clearly approaching, I
think it is premature to think the world is going to end in the next
half-century. Rather, it will undergo currently unimaginable turmoil.
Individuals, and above all societies, will have to take currently
unimaginable actions. The point of any vanguard activity is to get ready.
We're going to make history, but not under the conditions of our choosing.
Save a wetland today - stave off a global civil war tomorrow.

None of this is a critique of Jean-Noel, because as I notice, he's one of
the few people who's even willing to talk about this kind of thing. I am
not dogmatic about the above conclusions either, they're just the most
realistic so far as I can tell today. If we are incredibly lucky and
environmental conditions don't change as fast as I think they will, maybe
chosen degrowth really can have an effect...

thoughtfully yours, Brian

On Tue, Aug 30, 2022 at 3:21 PM Jean-Noël Montagné <>

> Le 29/08/2022 à 03:11, Brian Holmes a écrit :
> > How to dissolve the deep orientation, or if you prefer, the cosmovision,
> > of capitalist empire? It becomes a realistic question when that
> > cosmovision starts threatening you, killing you.
> The cosmovision of the capitalist empire is growth, the ideology of
> growth, the religion of growth.
> We have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Meadows report,
> commissioned in 1970 at MIT by the Club of Rome, which predicted a
> collapse of resources by the year 2020. We are there.
> To dissolve the cosmovision of the empire, we must explain why infinite
> growth is impossible in a finite world.
> Here is what was written in the book "Limits to growth" in 1972:
> ----
> "An objective analysis of the facts shows us that, of the three
> possibilities offered - unlimited growth, voluntary limitation of growth
> and limitation imposed by the natural environment - only the last two
> are plausible.
> [...]
> Every day that exponential growth continues brings our global ecosystem
> closer to the ultimate limits of its growth. To decide to do nothing is
> to decide to increase the risk of collapse. We do not know with
> certainty how much longer humanity will be able to postpone a policy of
> growth control before it irretrievably loses the chance to exercise that
> control.
> [...]
> The choice is therefore clear: either to be concerned only with
> short-term interests, and then to continue the exponential expansion
> that is leading the global system to the limits of the earth and to
> final collapse; or to define the goal, commit to it, and begin,
> gradually, rigorously, the transition to a state of equilibrium."
> ( from the french edition of "Limits to growth")
> ----
> For the past two or three years, in Europe, the word degrowth has been
> coming up in the media, discreetly. It has come back even more since the
> invasion of Ukraine by Russia, because Europeans have realized how
> dependent they are on Russia, not only for carbon fuels, but also for
> nuclear fuels. But the words ungrowth/degrowth are still banned by right
> wing, and by some social democrats, they use "sobriety" :-)
> It is time to explain, by all means, to the population, that energy,
> mineral resources, agricultural resources, water, democracy, are in the
> process of regression, either for technical reasons (the end of certain
> resources), or for reasons linked to the climate, or for reasons linked
> to geopolitics, or linked to all.
> It's quite easy to show how fast ressources are disappearing, even in
> US, how fragile is the economy. In USA, I remember the child milk
> crisis, few month ago, it's one of the first signs of this fragility. I
> use also the example of water scarcity in Taiwan, which has halted or
> diminished the production of semiconductors, and the stop of many
> factories worldwide. California will be the next example of forced
> degrowth due to climate change.
> We have only two choices. The choice of a chosen, manageable and happy
> degrowth if we make the associated paradigm shift, or the choice of a
> suffered degrowth, in which we are almost engaged, but which will be
> more and more chaotic and ultra-violent, and will spare neither the
> working classes nor the middle classes.
> JN
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