Posted on “Post Sandy – Too Late?” James E. Hansen at Critical Theory and the Arts
Not long ago, social critics on the left were easily able to drive a critical wedge into capitalism’s dynamic of transmuting every surplus into scarcity by insisting on the utter, even ineluctable abundance of capitalist manufacture. A title from 1970, such as Murray Bookchin’s “Post-Scarcity Anarchism”, characterized this critical approach–capitalism’s own success was fated to making capitalism itself obsolete.
But this vision of an inexhaustible human productivity relied on the ancient image and reality of an inexhaustible nature: nature as the horn of plenty, an infinite cornucopia that manufacture needed merely to learn to tap to bring to all an abundance beyond what anyone might ever use.
This cornucopia, the vision of it, is now gone and with it the entire utopian tradition of thought. No doubt, there is less imagination today because there is less to imagine. Humanity will never again, in the entire rest of its history, exist in a stable climate. The most urgent questions have become—not how we might somehow dispose of our overwhelming productivity—but the ways in which we might limit the effects of the global catastrophes that we are already well in the midst of.
Critical Theory and the Arts has invited DR JAMES HANSEN to help us understand these contemporary realities. How much has the climate warmed and how much warmer can we expect it to get? What are our prospects?
DR JAMES HANSEN heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He has held this position since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.
Professor Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology, his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change. In recent years, Hansen has become an activist for action to mitigate the effects of climate change, which on a few occasions has led to his arrest. In 2009 his first book, Storms of My Grandchildren, was published.