[Marxism] Beyond Denial and Abstinence: How Climate Change Can Bring Us A Better World - COSMONAUT

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 20 08:41:44 MST 2020

To answer this question, we need to understand more precisely what is 
meant above by a “sinful desire.” We can give it a name: “economic 
growth.” The problem of climate change has generally been framed as a 
problem about the relationship between, on the one hand, the total 
carbon budget of the planet, and, on the other, the rate of growth of 
the economy. What capitalism desires is economic growth, and this desire 
is sinful: it is sinful because it seems to produce structural 
immiseration of some portion of its population alongside structural 
affluence of some others (the more traditional “paradox of poverty” in 
political economy), and it is also sinful because it burns carbon and 
thus threatens the continued availability of ecosystem services on which 
our lives depend. Debate about climate change, therefore, is generally 
structured by the question of the relation between the sinful desire, 
economic growth, and the consequences of that sin: climate change. This 
debate can, therefore, be understood in theological terms. 
Conservatives, for example, have tended to deny the existence of sin in 
the first place: economic growth is desire, sure, but there’s nothing 
sinful about it, because the poor deserve what they get and climate 
change isn’t real. They further argue that any attempt to fight climate 
change must necessarily harm economic growth, and that we therefore 
shouldn’t do it.


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