The New Abolitionists

Global warming is the great moral crisis of our time

You may have already read Wen Stephenson’s The New Abolitionists. It was published in the Boston Phoenix some time ago, and it’s bounced around. But just in case you missed it, stop and take a look.  Now, if necessary.

I don’t mean to say that this essay is above criticism.  It contains nothing on the global side of the crisis, for example, and this even though the climate crisis is quintessentially global.  And the discussion of worst-cases (the Tim DeChristopher meets Terry Root passage) is more than a bit thin.

Which is where this bit comes in:

“Once I realized that there was no hope in any sort of normal future,” DeChristopher tells Tempest Williams, “I realized that I have absolutely nothing to lose by fighting back.”

Actually, DeChristopher does allow some hope. “If you look at the worst-case consequences of climate change, those pretty much mean the collapse of our industrial civilization,” he tells Williams. “But that doesn’t mean the end of everything. It means we’re going to be living through the most rapid and intense period of change that humanity has ever faced. And that’s certainly not hopeless. It means we’re going to have to build another world in the ashes of this one. And it could very easily be a better world.”

This, I have to say, just doesn’t work for me.

Another weakness.  There’s next  to nothing here on how the rich / poor divide makes it next to impossible for us to succeed, not as long as we remain a “climate movement” per se.   Even a “climate justice” movement, as DeChristopher and Stephenson mean the phrase, doesn’t put justice front and center.  

Still, this piece is a keeper.  It’s not just good, it’s damn good.  Kudos to Stephenson.