The Eco-Optimist Manifesto: A Revolutionary Program for the Anthropocene

Leftists everywhere have been alarmed at the rising tide of pessimistic discourse in our spaces. We are facing problems of unprecedented scale, and to have these gadflies preaching defeat before we even try is a demoralising thing that can no longer be abided. Having myself recently been converted away from a pessimistic position, I feel I’m in a great position to articulate a new vision of green socialist organising, and silence the pessimists once and for all.

First, let’s hear their flimsy “argument”. They claim that just because “the intervention time to prevent tipping could have already shrunk to zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best,” that just because we are hitting tipping points sooner than we can possibly change course, past at least one tipping point already, perhaps, with irreversible permafrost thaw driving higher temperatures even if we cut emissions to zero immediately, with the Amazon rapidly approaching a tipping point thanks to deforestation that will leave it unable to support a rain forest ecosystem, turning it into a savannah, with June 2020 marking the 15th consecutive month of increasing forest loss, just because the atmospheric CO2 growth rate continues to increase decade on decade, having hit 416.39 ppm at the time of writing, and just because mass coral bleaching started around 320ppm and coral reefs are now committed to irreversible decline, with up to 90% being lost under a 1.5C warming scenario, and consequently we have seen (amongst other things) the unprecedentedly severe and widespread 2014-17 global-scale coral bleaching event (GCBE) resulting in almost complete coral loss in some places, just because Arctic glaciers are melting at accelerated rates, permafrost is thawing and releasing large amounts of carbon, as well as methane, nitrous oxide and long-frozen pathogens, with record-breaking temperatures in the Arctic driven by the ice-albedo feedback mechanismtriggered by ice divergence in early melt season, groundwater depletion worsening droughts, decreasing streamflow and harming ecosystems, lowered water tables and land subsidence, north China, North America, and the Middle East amongst many other regions seeing significant depletion, presenting serious challenges to food security, with national cereal production reduced 9-10% during droughts and heatwaves, with heatwaves becoming more common in the US, the UK, Europe, China, India, etc., just because climate change is already having knock-on effects on human health in (for example) Africa, with freak weather setting loose trillions of locusts swarming through East Africa, putting 5 million people at risk of starvation, exacerbated by floods and border closures, millions left without power and hundreds of thousands displaced by floods, causing 350000 tonnes of cereal to be lost in Ethiopia in 3 months, locusts swarming India, too, which the government is attempting to manage with aerial spray of pesticides which are poisonous to human beings and animals, cancer-causing, neurotoxic, etc., just because of the inevitable impact extreme weather has on crop yields, just because rice, relied upon as a food stable by 3.5 billion people, due for a decline in nutritiousness as CO2 levels rise, is a major source of GHG emissions, implicated in both methane and nitrous oxide emissions, with methane from global rice cultivation accounting for one half of all crop-related GHG emissions, wheat and maize (together with rice more than 42% of all calories consumed by the entire human population) also a problem, just because highly pathogenic viruses are emerging thanks to intensive poultry farming practices (intensified by our vaccinations efforts), with even the way we dispose of and transport waste acting as a significant contamination risk, not only this, but the entire system of industrial livestock production acting as a breeding ground for infectious diseases and pandemics, just because climate change is worsening conflict due to food insecurity, migration, poverty, etc., all this representing just a portion of the challenges that we are facing more and more as a result of climate change and the industrial system driving it—all this and more in the middle of a brutal global economic recession, before we even reach the 1.5C warming limit the IPCC has advised which will be impossible to hit without large-scale carbon sequestration, which, to work, will either require “reliable institutions that incentivise good governance and practice across the globe” but which need to be deployed “in regions with weak institutions”, and/or technologies that are in “an earlier stage of the innovation process” and show “substantially higher costs”, and, honestly, the discussion around negative emissions is hubristic, given that the technologies involved are unproven at large scales, and with existing pledges nowhere close to zero emissions in time, with carbon emissions growing, even, and countries such as the USA, China, Brazil and Australia doubling down on environmentally unfriendly practices, methane emissions, too, it’s reasonable to assume we’ll overshoot without even trying, and just because we’re seeing that we routinely underestimate the societal risks of climate change, just because “extreme” weather events are happening sooner than expected, our system of production is vulnerable to near-term climate shocks, not to mention climate change induced socio-economic tipping points, just because we’re in the middle of a populist backlash and there are no indications we are changing course or addressing what we may euphemistically refer to as our predicament, rather, in fact, “governments are planning the cheapest and quickest return to consumption. Riding on the wave of cheap oil and fossil-fuel bailouts is incompatible with keeping the average global temperature rise below 2C, let alone 1.5C…“, and any action would be subject to cancellation on a whim, delay, failure, disruption while our fragile system of production remains vulnerable to sudden shocks, and just because there’s fundamentally no reason, no reason at all, not even the slightest bit of evidence, to suppose that things are heading in the right direction or are going to head in the right direction any time soon, that we ought to start thinking of ways to abandon hope without becoming disillusioned, that is, find ways to remain leftists in a meaningful sense without betting on a revolution that will either never come, or come far too late.

Good socialists that we are, we know that none of this inconsequential trivia does the slightest bit of damage to our enduring faith in the class struggle. We will restate our aims, and they are really quite simple—the sort of thing that could be easily pulled off in time to meet the allegedly “conservative” IPCC’s 1.5C warming limit.

  1. Smash the capitalist class and replace it with a proletarian dictatorship. It’s obvious that capitalism doesn’t have the answers. All we have to do is rise up and take control all over the world at once and immediately institute humane and intelligent governments. Don’t listen to the liberals who say there is no indication whatsoever that the best-armed, most polluting states today have strong worker’s movements capable of overthrowing their governments, not least in countries such as the US, China, Australia, Saudi Arabia, etc.—and that even if there were, there’s no reason to suppose they’d give economic control to an enlightened technocratic class who would ensure the creation of a green economy. Fuck these liberals! They simply don’t understand the dialectic!
  2. Ban meat consumption and institute mandatory plant-based (or insect-based) diets worldwide. Everybody knows one of the main drivers of climate change is meat consumption. The liberals will say that demand for meat is higher than ever as previously poor countries become wealthier, and that it’s naïve to expect these gains to be happily renounced. We will show those liberals what’s what by demanding billions of people give up meat and eat plants instead—or even insects, which will help us deal with those locust swarms that keep cropping up. This will not trigger any sort of widespread civil unrest at all, because taste preferences, culinary traditions and social norms can be decided by political fiat. The nihilists won’t believe their eyes!
  3. Slash emissions to zero immediately and begin massive carbon sequestration programs. Once we’ve smashed the capitalist state and instituted global proletarian dictatorship, it’ll be easy as pie to immediately move away from fossil fuels to fully renewable energy. Naysayers will say this sort of economic restructuring will take incredible effort and political will, especially in the aftermath of a likely bloody and protracted global-scale civil war. They’re more than welcome to watch as they’re proven wrong—from inside the gulag!
  4. Reduce consumption levels drastically in order to combat overproduction and pollution. Historically civilian populations have been completely fine with drastically reduced living standards imposed for the sake of abstract ideas that they don’t fully accept or understand, and this certainly isn’t the sort of thing that would breed another revolution, another change of government, and a return to business-as-usual. Remember, we only have to pull global revolution off once! After that, we only have to maintain the new government, solve the problem of succession, and ruthlessly root out counterrevolutionaries, which we don’t expect to be something we have to deal with too often.
  5. Clean up the environment, both land and sea. We’re living through a huge mass extinction event and it’s only getting worse. One of the contributing factors is our failure to get a grip on plastic disposal. We will commit millions of labourers working side by side with technology (yet to be invented, the pessimists say—so what?) to search the ocean for plastics and remove them, as well as developing new technology to recycle all of the waste we’ve been throwing away. Four billion nine hundred seventy-seven million tonnes of plastic litter? Bah! Nothing our revolutionary government can’t handle!
  6. Remove the decadent consumer class. Some people simply won’t want to adjust to the new regime, and are likely to make trouble for the rest of us. These people will be recycled into tasteful furniture. Just kidding. They will be housed in re-education camps until they’re better. How long will that take? Who cares? About as long as it takes for them to adjust to paper fans instead of air-conditioning and nothing but grasshoppers and peas for dinner!
  7. Remove the decadent consumer class. Again, it’s clear to all of us that overconsumption, not overpopulation, is the problem. The growing number of people who have come to expect increased material luxury and better living standards will understand when we instruct them to fuck off, and if they don’t—well, someone’s got to be put to work constructing the new green economy! They’ll have plenty of time to reflect as they construct our new carbon capture plants in the sweltering heat!
  8. Keep this new arrangement stable for several hundred years and ensure that none of these gains are ever reversed. States, famously, and especially radical states based on principles of justice, equality, and care for the environment, last a long time. This truth will be even more true for our global revolutionary government based on the prior principles.

And that’s it. It’s obvious that the case for pessimism is completely baseless and unreasonable, and that our manifesto represents a watershed moment where we finally say “No! Begone!” to the doomers. Now the hard work begins. Let the capitalists and fossil fuel companies tremble!


To the ecosocialist future!

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