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Jun 1, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

The question of why and how the right in the U.S. became so polarised against environmentalism, particularly action on climate change, is documented in great detail in Naomi Oreskes book Merchants of Doubt. She would be a great guest to have on the show by the way.

On running a campaign, I think that a large reason for XR’s early successful mobilisation, was the hundreds of “Heading for Extinction” talks they ran up and down the country, some of which can be found on YouTube. Claire Farrell’s version was particularly effective. I even ran one myself once (could do better!). This reinforces Alistair Campbell’s advice to keep repeating the facts..even after you’ve heard them a thousand times yourself. For many people it’s the first time and it can be devastating to hear.

I think Alistair is being very self aware when he says that many people will be sceptical of his involvement as they won’t have forgotten the lies and aftermath of Iraq in which he was deeply entwined. Sorry, but there it is.

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Thank you for your comment, Tim. I've just been introduced to Naomi and hope to have her on soon!

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yeah Campbell’s cynicism and “machine mode” playing the game under Tony Blair is part of why the left is virtually dead in the UK and why neoliberalism has no political opposition in parliament.

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check out their latest book, “The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market”

Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (2023).

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/03/excerpt-from-naomi-oreskes-the-big-myth/

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I’m reading it at the moment..very interesting book. Lot’s of background on the birth of neoliberalism, Hayek etc

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some good interviews around with Naomi about their book.

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The most exasperating opponent for the environmental movement is the “voice of reason” from INSIDE the institutions that hold power.

These institutionalised personalities parrot your positions and they empathise with your aims and they appear to share your values and beliefs. And truthfully, often they believe they are on your side.

But their message is always the same. They tell you that your making progress, look at the progress we’ve already made, they’ll say. Then they’ll tell you that you need to accept that change is slow and difficult and you should keep on trying, keep on campaigning, keep up the good fight and eventually more progress will be made. Then they’ll tell you that the values and processes of our current institutions is the ONLY reasonable and sensible way to facilitate change. And it all sounds so plausible.

They’ll focus in on the process and the history and the practicalities because they can’t offer a truly innovative vision for a society without the institutional power structures they are immersed in. They see a future that looks like today but “better”. A kind of “electric car” future that imagines a cleaned up environment that magically functions differently but is based on the same values that created the multi-crises.

It’s a desperately impoverished vision and a dangerous partnership.

I’ve interviewed many youth climate and health activists and I’ve watched them slowly become engulfed in an institutional mindset that replicates the above time and time again. This institutionalisation is a major hurdle to real change.

They guest you had on this show is a perfect example.

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Jun 1, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

Yeah, I tend to agree with this and would add that the bureaucracy of politics is actually antithetical to democratic outcomes in practice. Of course, things change incrementally--how else could it happen? But, better questions are around different forms of resistance that operate outside the halls of institutional change (I'm happy for those privileged few who have sway in those halls though).

Perhaps we should be thinking about creative 'liminal' behaviors that increase neighborhood sovereignty, but could scale up quite easily and intuitively. I'm thinking about backyard gardening, local co-ops, etc. where people can start today generating independence from large bureaucracies. I believe there's a reason why governments only count 'non-farm' jobs in the national metrics. It's because concentrated power does not like people exercising community-based sovereignty and food production. I agree with Alastair that body politic only 'reflects' real grassroots politics after the progressive dead horse has been beaten to a pulp (and power has had time to adapt). Is this an acceptable process? Perhaps this is why communities should develop local land-based knowledge and network fractally at scale?

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I always think that the most dangerous assumption people make is that the world we have today has naturally or organically evolved and is somehow inevitable. It's tied up with the terrible myth of progress.

Anyway, huge swaths of out economy are, for example, based on consumption. This took an enormous amount of work to establish. You need to have hierarchical class structures, particular members of which need spare time and disposable incomes, they need to imagine they can create their identities through amassing goods and they need to be recognised for this (so there needs to be whole swaths of constructed values around displaying wealth and admiring these displays of wealth and wanting to engage in displaying wealth etc. etc.) and they need to believe they "deserve" to be treated better than other members of society (who do the service work). You need to create levels of abstraction from the production process to the point of purchase (including food production) so the truth of social exploitation and environmental destruction is hidden. You need supply chains and debt services and legal frameworks around ownership. The list goes on and on.

So, the point is that eventually this carefully designed society begins to replicate itself through social reproduction and we end up with deep values and behaviours that reflect and reproduce a consumption based ethos. SO.... (sorry this is so long-winded) although I LOVE your suggestions about increasing neighbourhood sovereignty and encouraging mutual dependencies and co-ops etc, we'd need to also tackle the social reproduction systems that are reproducing and reinforcing the consumption model en masse.

And that's the problem with power and institutional thinking, because they are not only aligned with keeping a consumption-based economy (this is just one example of one of their "policing" roles of course) they are also aligned with the consumption-based values underlying the economy. They are in fact specially designed to manage and protect all of the above. So, what ends up happening is that only fringe groups do the things your suggesting whilst the majority are protected from change by the very organisations an institutions pretending to manage change.

That guest (campbell) assumes that grass root movements will be able to create change and youth movements and the "next generation" will assert themselves and force change. But how? What levers are there for them to take hold of? Where are the rudders they will grab to change societies course? Those levers and rudders (lets call them power) are firmly in the hands of the institutions and the only route for change is to jon those institutions and thus undergo institutionalisation. campbell knows this and he cynically suggests that the current smoking ban in workplaces is somehow equivalent to making a massive value-based redesign of the fundamental structures and forces that drive and reproduce society.

I think you're right that we need develop local land-based knowledge and network fractally at scale. I love that idea. In fact we've been doing it for thousands of years in indigenous societies. There are answers and there are paths. But they wont come from inside the institutions we currently have and certainly not from characters like campbell.

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Jun 1, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

Very insightful, many thanks. I just listened to a relevant interview with Joslin Faith Kehdy and Nate Hagens (https://natehagens.substack.com/p/lebanon-beyond-resilience) on what happens after major institutions collapse (in Lebanon). Upon listening, it seems people cling to stability in crisis (even if that stability is corrupt). It's a bit terrifying. Joslin said the same thing that you said about consumerism and people's continued psychological reliance on consumer goods. She laments the loss of local knowledge systems.

I agree there's so much to learn from indigenous knowledge systems, but most of these systems have been lost or disrupted. Perhaps us critics simply need to create communities and help each other? I always thought this was the lazy way out (too insular), but I see now how radical it is to simply look outside of industrialized practices and create community aligned with natural cycles. I suppose we are in the minority now, but we'll be in a position to help those when crises get worse.

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Thanks so much for the link. I'll defo check that out. And thanks so much for your ideas. I so agree with you that true radical behaviour these days is to "simply look outside of industrialized practices and create community aligned with natural cycles".

I think the most radical act is to try and be a human being embedded in our internal and external rhythms without breaking them. I remember someone (cant remember who) talking about fields of influence and fields of concern. We may worry about our fields of concern but if we act within our fields of influence we are being truly radical. Ideas and actions like your suggesting about community and empathy and re-learning non-industrialised behaviours are powerful and beautiful and can be acted upon within our fields of influence, so thanks Jason.

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Thank you so much both of you for such a considered and interesting dialogue. I agree with much of what was said, and will tease out why I chose to approach Campbell in Monday's newsletter.

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agree with your comments about cultivation of naturalism whereby a mythological narrative (starting with barter leading to money perhaps) of neoclassical economics and its partner in crime neoliberalism are constantly presenting their engineered society as natural and Thatchers TINA, there is no alternative. is deeply corrosive to practices of learning, knowledge and wisdom.

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What's totally exasperating but SHOP (standard human operating procedure) is the hubris that we humans exhibit when we actually think that we can at some point in time "fix" Overshoot problems with the same level of mentality that got us into this mess in the first place (to paraphrase Einstein). Part of the hubris is the fact that humans won't admit that for the most part they are just animals at a certain evolutionary level that happen to have evolved into self-awareness and self-consciousness, and because of that thinks it knows best, can't see beyond that awareness/consciousness (although we intuitively know that there is something else beyond - so to speak - that we have historically and continue to strive towards), and with that "supreme" knowledge has the final word on every subject. We simply act as if we are God (sorry, God, didn't mean to insult you that way). Working together at our current level of mentality will not solve problems - techno-optimism, AI, et al aside. Humanity must evolve to a higher plane of knowledge before we can understand the totality of what we have done, how we did it, and how not to do it again. Humans are not inherently bad (i.e., as a result of a "fall" from grace, etc.) as many people, societies, and religions think: they just exist on a plane that only supports the ignorance of egoism, and until that is transcended, all bets are off. The transcendence is possible: that glass ceiling has been broken many times throughout history, we just have to learn how to do it more collectively, and then hold on to that without sliding backwards - again.

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Nov 28, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

thanks for having this conversation, Rachel. if i agree with Campbell views or not is not relevant, having the conversation is worthwhile, especially if we better understand the kinds of bureaucratic, political and media/PR institutions that we are fighting to get even a hint of climate emergency response from the mainstream of society.

when you said “the people who understand this problem the most ...[are glueing themselves to bridges etc]” i would question that kind of assessment.

if we can take IPCC climate scientists as being somewhat representative of climate scientists that you say understanding the problem most, we see there’s ample evidence of a fairly profound failure to research, understand document and communicate that risk and risk mitigation challenges associated with what climate science has been telling us for the last 40 years. i would suggest you have a better understanding than half the science community. ou might not be able to pass a physics or chemistry undergraduate exam, but that’s maybe your strength, you have more angles of perception outside of the scientific literacy aspects.

im not referring here to then telling us what may transpire with climate on a timeline, though IPCC have been notably inaccurate about the speed/acceleration rate of warming and according to Hansen have been underestimating climate sensitivity and the masking effect of cooling aerosols significantly. [Climate Code Red, David Spratt & Philip Sutton (2010), including a forward by James Hansen] [Breakthrough centre for Climate Restoration, Australia have a bunch of more recent reports of covering this space, analysis and summary of science, national security and economic risk evaluation].

i’m talking about risk analysis and restoration planning strategy. risk analysis is how you value various climate systems in a stable state, how you value ecosystems, how you value the interdependency of these various systems. it’s about how your value the impact of disruptions to these systems in terms of their impacts on human infrastructure, lives, cultures, sense of security, finical interests.

Scientists have specialised for ten to twenty years before being the lead author of a paper often enough. they aren’t across the risk aspects. they get it often, especially younger ones more recently, but they aren’t great at doing this kind of analysis, it’s the domain of social science and ecological economics. i would argue that IPCC Working Group 3 (if not ôtera) was captured politically by all the neoclassical economists who lead the work.

if you want know how direly insane that work has been then invite australian maveric economist Prof Steve Keen onto the podcast to talk about his paper documenting the depth of scientific, risk and economic illiteracy Nobel (fake) Award winning Nordhaus et al put in their celebrated papers that WG3 used to minimise the threats of climate change.

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Jun 6, 2023Liked by Rachel Donald

Good conversation, thanks to both of you. I talk to everybody and surest aspect I find of doing that is uncovering fear couched in cognitive bias. People almost always relieved to talk sometimes briefly.

Drop by Twitter Space audio Saturdays #ClimateCrisisClub listen & chat 11AM ESTime, so 4pm UK should you and Alastair wish. Yours Oliver

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Now that I have listened to this podcast there are some very interesting points. Incidentally, I don't think you were 'soft' on him - I think your question about why he wasn't more vocal about his climate stance brought a rare peek behind the 'statesman' front (which is his skill base and safe place) and ultimately led to his offer to do more. He has a point an about the messaging and audience and the need to appeal to those not yet on board. Battering politicians until you become sick of your own voice is probably quite a good tactic, too, although it's probably Labour politicians who need to be battered rather than the Tories who are bereft of ideas, vision and time. There is a fine line, though, between targeted messaging and spin for which he was so notorious. You want to be relevant to your chosen audience but not 'economical with the truth'. There is so much negative messaging around that chimes with people's fears - ULEZ, for example. A vision of fairness, that measures to address climate change and the environment mean those with wealth will need to use less so that those with little have more, that where you live doesn't have to mean you are likely to die sooner, that living in the North could give you as much access to decent jobs as living in the South is something that many people would jump at - once you have pierced their justified cynicism. I do take issue with a couple of Alistair's approaches to messaging: he sees complacency and prescribes a shot of fear. Maybe, in his circles, but while ignoring an impending catastrophe can look like complacency it is much more likely to be a defence against the overwhelming fear of the enormity of the issue - perhaps this is true of the wealthy too. By the same token, facts are only useful to the extent the listener is able or willing to assimilate them. Hope may not be a useful headline message but it is a powerful emotion that stories and visions can convey and, boy, do we need hope right now.

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