A few weeks ago, my father, ecologist Richard Levins, celebrated his 85th birthday with a symposium at the Harvard School of Public Health, called "The Truth is the Whole" at which dozens of scientists in a variety of fields spoke about their work, in many cases inspired, informed and shaped by his. There were many brilliant moments, many joyous reunions, a lot of shared memories and appreciations, and the highlights will soon be available online.
But what I want to write about is a less than brilliant moment, after a long afternoon of men calling on each other, and ignoring the increasingly pissed off women in the room. It was one of those arguments that is low on content and high on posturing, about the best way to "resolve" climate change, and all the suggestions on the table were tiny, ineffective adjustments of one kind or another, because for those who are unable or unwilling to grasp the whole truth of climate change, that's all that's available.
Weary from a day of overt sexism, I didn't jump in, but my brother Ricardo did, and spoke what I was thinking. Climate change is the inevitable outcome of capitalism. No amount of patching it up will make it sustainable. That doesn't mean we shouldn't encourage and applaud partial measures. But we shouldn't mistake them for solutions.
The real reason climate deniers are so adamant in their refusal to accept the evidence before us all, is that the realities of our unraveling ecosystem crack open the central myth of capitalism, that somehow it's possible to commit endless small and large acts of greed without any consequences; that through the mysterious power of "the market" all will be made well. Climate change is in-your-face proof that greed adds up to disaster, and to admit this would mean admitting that capitalism is a dangerous failure.
For those whose universe revolves around the pursuit of profit, such an admission seems like the ultimate disaster, to be prevented at all cost, quite literally.
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