Climate change in a fix: The Greta crisis

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Climatic movement in the clamp

How is it possible to generate so much attention and approval – and yet nothing changes? An appeal to endure contradictions.

Greta Thunberg and colleagues in front of the UN headquarters in August 2019 Photo: Jeenah Moon / reuters

Greta Thunberg is a smart young woman. Not just in relation to their critics, whose stupidity is not only booming from street law and FDP speakers, but also in the form of, well, “cabaret” is also broadcast on public television – about as funny as a barbecue at the chairman of the AfD von infamy Lingen. You can expect a lot from clever people, taz readers will know; boundless and naive optimism is not necessarily part of it.

Therefore, Greta Thunberg’s double statement regarding “climate change” – we have achieved a lot! And: we have (almost) achieved nothing! – A very precise description of the current status: publicity has been established, awareness has been raised, discourses have started. In practice, however, hardly anything has been received.

People who are not interested in the climate, the environment and nature are also in ecologically decisive positions of power. As long as the nations compete with one another and wage economic wars against one another or economic alliances against people and landscapes, all attempts to tackle the problems in a broader context have been wasted. In terms of ecology, a new pair of scissors has opened up: that of public talk and real action. Not new that.

But what may it be that mediates between speaking and acting, sometimes in terms of implementation, sometimes in terms of prevention? There is a dirty word for it: politics. And what is happening with the climate movement, between the artificial excitement of a “grandma” song and a legal campaign against forms of organization in democratic civil society, is, among other things, an expression of a crisis that is inevitable for every social movement. At the latest when the point at which reason and morality touch the interests of power and capital is reached.

The question arises: How is it possible to generate so much attention, even so much approval – and yet nothing changes? Who or what does something like that? Nobody can avoid the loss of political innocence. Neither a person nor a movement.

The two statements “We have achieved a lot” and “We have achieved nothing” should therefore not be seen as an admission of failure, but as a turning point. If it is to go on, the protagonists and sympathizers of the climate movement must recognize that the time of “pre-political”, moral, scientific and appealing activity is over. What could be achieved in the attention economy and in the symbolic language of personalization has been achieved. Now the empire strikes back and the rebels are at risk of exhaustion or hysteria.

Powerful enemies, lazy compromises

But the end of a “wave” of resistance could well be preparation for a second wave. A link to this may be Antonio Gramsci’s call to unite a pessimism of the mind and an optimism of action. And that’s not the only contradiction you have to learn to endure.

Nobody can avoid the loss of political innocence. Neither a person nor a movement

Because it is not only the overpowering enemy and the “lazy compromise” (“green capitalism” as a meeting place for start-up hype and Fridays for Future), it is also an inner contradiction that must be recognized. Climate and nature protection, ecological reason and social responsibility, for example, one has to deal with the accusation of celebrating a classic iniquity of the petty bourgeoisie, namely the staging of one’s own moral superiority in a new guise. And the second stupidest thing is to interpret the whole thing as a generation conflict (the first stupid thing is of course left-right blindness, the third stupidest thing is to let corporations and the media hug you to death).

While the climate and environmental movement threatens to split in its unstoppable politicization, on the other hand the left, the party as well as the movement, threatens to split in ecology. Here and there are people who excel through special stupidity, dogmatism and hysteria. There are people who cultivate climate protection as a substitute for religion and whose zealous know-it-all know how to get the most insightful to flee. On the other hand, there are people who firmly believe that not only traditional ideas of work, but also things like “the car” must be preserved as relics of industrial society.

One thing is certain, we are at risk of both an ecological and a social catastrophe (so much for the pessimism of the mind) and neither can be thought without the other, nor can one be prevented at the expense of the other. The answer to this dialectic can only be given by an ecological left or a left ecology, as the basis for an optimism of action.

The planet doesn’t care whether its human parasites want to save it or not. The nature on it does what it always does, it tries to adapt, which one part will do brilliantly and another part will not succeed at all. The people who caused this are grief, shame and anger. Even the great rescue operation of the world from humans will not overcome the strangeness between the two, any more than the alienation between humans themselves. And yet both have the chance for a new awareness. Which brings me to the strange thought that after the turning point these days, not only a political but also a philosophical new beginning is needed for the relationship between the left and ecology. If there is a difference.

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