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.
Ilija Trojanow, a vocal critic of domestic surveillance and the NSA, was at the centre of a cause célèbre in 2013 when the United States refused him entry for undisclosed reasons. His new book, The Lamentations of Zeno — translated from German by Philip Boehm — is a “topical polemic about global warming and climate change”, an extraordinary evocation of the fragile and majestic wonders to be found at a far corner of the globe. Poignant and playful, the novel recalls the experimentation of high-modernist fiction without compromising a limpid sense of place or the pace of its narrative. What follows is an extract from the first chapter of the book:
“The Lamentations of Zeno is half the length and twice as good [as Ian McEwan]. Trojanow has set out on a particular expedition: to unsettle. This wise, cunning book, which does indeed possess the complex depths of an iceberg, achieves exactly that.” — Irish Times
“The Lamentations of Zeno is a novel of existential dread... in contemplating the already accomplished destruction of habitats, the consumerism that marks nearly every human activity and the digital onslaught that has colonised our minds, the reader may discover that Zeno’s soul-sickness speaks to some disquiet in his or her own battered soul.” — Financial Times
"War, by creating a state of exception, has justified and encouraged a ‘brutalizing’ of relations between society and environment."
The excerpt below, from Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz's The Shock of the Anthropocene, looks at the environmental consequences of war.
Read our Welcome to the Anthropocene (climate change) reading list here.
In 1945, after visiting the ruins of Cologne, Solly Zuckerman, a zoologist and one of the founding fathers of British operational research, had the idea of writing an article on the environmental consequences of strategic bombing. In his memoirs, he explains that he abandoned this because the absolute desolation that he had witnessed ‘cried out for a more eloquent piece than I could ever have written’. Zuckerman had proposed to his publisher an intriguing title: The Natural History of Destruction.