September 2016 demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Sandusky, IA. via Flickr.
Donald Trump is a fitting emblem of the Capitalocene, the age when capitalism’s relentless drive to expand has generated massive carbon emissions, pushing planetary ecosystems into states of unpredictable turbulence, precipitating a mass extinction crisis of unprecedented ferocity.
A man with an apparently boundless appetite for self-aggrandizement, Trump has promised to pursue policies of such environmental destructiveness that their impacts are likely to be measured in the geologic record, in degrees of temperature increase and feet of sea level rise around the world. Of course carbon emissions are collective and historical, so it would be wrong to suggest that Trump is solely responsible for planetary ecocide, but his election comes at a critical time for the struggle to avert cataclysmic anthropogenic climate change. In pledging to unleash unfettered fossil capitalism, Trump epitomizes and promises to grievously aggravate the catastrophic contradictions of the Capitolocene. In the wake of Trump’s election, some mainstream environmentalists may take solace in the idea of an unstoppable market-led transition to clean energy and green growth. These hopes are not simply misplaced but dangerously demobilizing. Trump is a devourer of worlds. He and the rampant fossil capitalism he embodies can only be stopped through clear-eyed, concerted, and radical political action.
This article is excerpted from Rosa Remix, a collection of essays on the work of Rosa Luxemburg and its relevance to contemporary political debates, forthcoming from the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. RLS is hosting a New York launch event for the book on September 8.
The world in which Rosa Luxemburg lived, worked, and wrote a century ago was quite literally a different one — though even then the concentration of carbon molecules in the atmosphere and global average temperatures were on the rise. For socialists at the start of the 21st century, prospects for the next hundred years can appear bleak. Climate change threatens to drown coastal cities, propagate great droughts and terrible storms, drive millions from their homes, and vanish countless species from the planet altogether. Barbarism, that is to say, is not hard to imagine.
As part of our series looking critically at climate change and the ongoing COP21 talks in Paris we have an exclusive extract from Andreas Malm's Fossil Capital. In it, Malm outlines his distinctive approach to the contemporary fossil economy by looking back to its contingent origins during the Industrial Revolution. It is only through this, Malm argues, that we can truly understand the crisis we are in today.
In this article (originally published in Issue 1 of Salvage Quarterly - available here), Daniel Hartley argues that the concept of the Anthropocene, which has become so common in contemporary discussions of climate change, elides the fissures within society. It is not human (Anthropos) but Capital which is at the root of our current crisis.