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The impact is extinction—focus on production and technology in the neoliberal frame generates crises and precludes other orientations

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The impact is extinction—focus on production and technology in the neoliberal frame generates crises and precludes other orientations

Holleman 2012 – assistant professor of sociology at Amherst, PhD in sociology from the University of Oregon (June, Hannah, sociology dissertation, University of Oregon, “Energy justice and foundations for a sustainable sociology of energy”, https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/12419/Holleman_oregon_0171A_10410.pdf?sequence=1, WEA)
As Marilyn Waring noted twenty years ago, under this system, when there is anenvironmental catastrophe, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, or the current BP oilspill in the Gulf, companies make an enormous profit cleaning up, or at least professingto do so. GDP goes up. If someone is sick, if they die a long, drawn-out death from ¶ cancer, there is profit to be made. There is no money to be made in human and ecological ¶ health and well-being. If communities grow their own food, the global food market ¶ significantly decreases; if people walk rather than drive, the oil and car companies don’t ¶ make money. If education is free, who benefits? Maybe most people, and the society at ¶ large, maybe even the environment, but not necessarily the shareholders. Therefore, it is ¶ much more economically efficient to let the market shape education. Today students take ¶ out larger and larger loans to buy more expensive books, to get less education engendered ¶ by fewer teachers. This is capitalist efficiency. The surplus is efficiently transferred fromone segment of the population to another, those at the top. The same goes for letting the ¶ market shape energy policy. Those arguing today for market intervention in the climate ¶ crisis often fail to mention that it is absolutely already the market shaping energy policy. ¶ This is precisely the problem. It is very efficient for the market to extract oil at bargain ¶ prices from countries without militaries to stop them. It is very efficient, in terms of profit, to have the most vulnerable in society pay the costs of energy production, and to ¶ keep polluting, all the while terrifying people that new energy developments might be ¶ their only chance of economic survival. Nevermind where the real money goes and what ¶ happens with the boom goes bust.

The current version of capitalist ideology, which absorbs energy scholars (and ¶ even environmental socialists) often unwittingly, was consciously shaped to co-opt thelanguage of social movements seeking freedom from the yolk of capitalism and ¶ imperialism. It is no surprise that the market would co-opt green rhetoric today. ¶ Economists having the greatest ideological influence on political debates and social ¶ science today, the architects of neoliberal ideology, have sought to re-write the history of ¶ capitalist development as “the constitution of liberty,” and the basis of free society ¶ (Hayek 1960; Friedman 1962; Van Horn, Mirowski, and Stapleford, eds. 2011). There ¶ can be no acknowledgement of slavery, racism, sexism, or ecological destruction among ¶ other issues, because all of these undermine the basic thesis neoliberal writers actively ¶ promote as political ideology. To make their argument, these writers must present ¶ capitalism as raising all boats, color-blind, gender-neutral, and free of class coercion, the ¶ globalization of which results in a “flat,” happy world, even if it is hot (Friedman 2005, ¶ 2008). Unfortunately, these ideas dominate the political sphere, and contemporary ¶ notions of organizational, community, and national development. In academia, many ¶ “theorists celebrate the alleged leveling of social differences owing to globalization”¶ (Pellow 2007, 41). The blinders imposed by this view continue to infect energy studies¶ despite the work of critical energy scholars.

Spreading capitalism thus becomes the solution for poverty associated with ¶ inequalities caused by oppression based on race, class, gender, and position in the world ¶ system, as well as the solution to environmental and energy crises. This is the basic ¶ modernization thesis. The Ecological Modernization Reader (Mol, Sonnenfeld, and ¶ Spaargaren 2009) presents these systematized views regarding the environmental crisis, ¶ which are increasingly influential in environmental sociology. York and Rosa (2003) and ¶ Foster (2012) have pointed out the empirical, theoretical, and philosophical roots of, and ¶ problems associated with this perspective as a basis for understanding ecological and ¶ social crises and solutions. But, we can expect this view to persist as long as social ¶ relations remain intact because the logic of modernization is seductive precisely because ¶ it is the logic of capitalism (Foster 1999b, 2002, 2009, 2012). The processes of ¶ capitalism, including its ideological developments, are the “background conditions” in ¶ which those integrated into the market economy live, as fish swim in water, they are the ¶ “social gravity” we might naturally feel is right, but don’t necessarily see, as much a part ¶ of our lives as the air we breathe (York and Clark 2006).

In contrast to the modernization thesis, environmental justice scholars, among ¶ other critical theorists and activists have sought to expose the mythological basis of neoliberalism and transcend the system. The work of environmental justice scholars, ¶ feminist ecologists, and ecological rift theorists, marshaling the empirical evidence, ¶ represent powerful critiques of the modernization thesis. Taken together with the insights ¶ in existing critical work on energy, they provide an alternative approach to energy thatbelies the notion that “there is no alternative.” They share a common commitment, as ¶ social scientists and activists, to reality. Part of this reality is that “actual class and racial ¶ inequalities around the global and between North and South have only worsened in the ¶ past half-century—the same period during which the late modern state of capitalism took ¶ hold” (Pellow 2007, 41). Despite views that we live in a post-racial society, (or one ¶ where “men are finished and women are taking over” [Sohn 2011]), in fact economic ¶ globalization has “seriously undermined the gains of the civil rights and labor movement ¶ and the general antiracist struggle in the United States and undercut the global benefits of ¶ the anticolonial struggles occurring throughout the global South” (Pellow 2007, 43). ¶ Moreover, economic globalization and the intensified spread of ecological destruction ¶ “are intimately linked because the TNCs [transnational corporations] themselves were¶ the ones creating and pushing both globalization and toxins on the world markets, ¶ facilitating greater control over nations, communities, human bodies, and the natural ¶ world itself”(43).

Today, neoliberal mythology has severely hindered the development of a wider ¶ environmental justice consciousness in the broader public, and amongst activists andacademics. In energy studies this view is especially pronounced in the focus ontechnology, carbon markets, voluntary certification schemes, and alternative energies that ¶ basically allow business to continue as usual (Foster 2002, 9-25; Rogers 2010; Holleman ¶ 2012). The critical literature emerging from what I call an energy justice perspective in ¶ ecological rift theory, systems ecology, feminist and critical human ecology, and ¶ environmental justice scholarship has drawn out the social and ecological crises of the ¶ current energy regime. This is in contrast to too many well-intentioned scholars and ¶ activists who buy into the main tenets of the modernization thesis, and thus are reluctant ¶ to break with capitalism as a system, or worse, they promote it, ignoring or ignorant of ¶ the enormous costs. This has led to the view that our task as environmentalists is gettingeconomics to “internalize the externalities,” to bring under the pricing system the work of ¶ natural systems and human services (labor). For energy this means carbon markets and ¶ trade in other forms of pollution and raising energy prices. While it is clear that as long as ¶ we have this system, goals should include wealth redistribution and businesses ¶ shouldering the costs of their polluting practices, long-term, internalizing more of the ¶ world in the market system is a total death strategy. The logic of the market is clear. An ¶ energy justice movement, with the intention of healing the ecological rift and ¶ transcending social injustice, on the other hand has as its base the goal of “externalizingthe internalities.” This is an ecological and social imperative.

Understanding the nature of the current system, Daniel Yergin’s worse-than-nothing approach to energy is the logical response of capital. Carbon markets and the ¶ new biotech boom also make sense. If the point is accumulation, sources of profit must be found at every turn and crises represent especially ripe opportunities (Klein 2007). The ¶ problem today is not capitalism’s lack of response to the climate crisis, capital was never ¶ developed as a system geared toward ecological reproduction or meeting human needs. It ¶ is a system geared toward profit at all cost and can have no rational response. The ¶ problem is that capitalism organizes so many of our productive activities in the first ¶ place. The sooner this is recognized, the sooner we can start thinking of real alternatives, ¶ and understand ourselves as subjects, not merely objects of the system, as protagonists of ¶ our own future. We can move beyond playing the passive consumers of the next product¶ capitalism has on offer, green or otherwise, packaged as a solution to energy crises. ¶ Examples like the carbon market schemes, or Daniel Yergin’s view of what constitutes ¶ energy revolution, make clear “that there’s no way we can just subcontract ourenvironmental conscience to the new breed of green marketers” (McKibben 2010).

Energy and social inequality, the challenges of our generation

The social and ecological costs of our energy regime today are clear, though the ¶ ways these are both the result of and exacerbate social inequality and oppression are often ¶ misunderstood or ignored. While the future is unwritten, projections, if businesscontinues as usual, indicate environmental and social catastrophe with much of thedamage irreversible. Without significant social change, we should prepare for, among ¶ other depredations, increased warfare to secure energy resources to meet increased ¶ demand. The most recent British Ministry of Defence Strategic Trends report suggests ¶ that nations will increasingly use energy security “to challenge conventional ¶ interpretations on the legality of the use of force” (108). Environmentally and socially ¶ destructive energy sectors are projected to grow the next thirty years, such as nuclear ¶ energy and biofuel, while expected fossil fuel demand also goes only one way, up: ¶ Global Energy use has approximately doubled over the last ¶ 30 years and, by 2040, demand is likely to grow by more ¶ than half again. Despite concerns over climate change, ¶ demand is likely to remain positively correlated to ¶ economic growth with fossil fuels, meeting more than 80% ¶ of this increase. Urban areas will be responsible for over ¶ 75% of total demand. (Strategic Trends, 106) ¶ Even a U.S. government official has recognized publicly that “our patterns of energy usecreate geopolitical instability. The ways we use energy are disrupting the climate systemand threaten terrifying disruptions in decades to come” (Sandalow 2009).

These realities only partially illustrate energy’s extensive contribution to what K. ¶ William Kapp (1950) referred to as capitalism’s systemic “unpaid costs.” As Anderson ¶ (1976) put it: “the growth society operates as if it had tunnel vision and nearsightedness; ¶ the accumulation of capital is pursued without regard for the side-effects or for longrange consequences, leaving to nature and the larger community these uncalculated ¶ costs” (140). Prefiguring contemporary discussions and movement framing, Andersonreferred to these accumulated unpaid costs, or externalities as “the ecological debt,” the ¶ result of the exploitation of both nature and humans for the sake of economic growth at ¶ all costs (142-43), undermining the natural and social conditions of production.

As indicated previously, with energy demand expected only to increase as the ¶ economy expands, the “unpaid costs” associated with its extraction and use will continue ¶ to accumulate, but on a scale heretofore unseen. The science is clear that if we do not ¶ severely curtail energy use, we will cross critical thresholds in the biosphere’s ability to ¶ recycle waste and regulate the earth’s temperature. The consequences of crossing such ¶ planetary boundaries will be irreversible (Hansen 2009; Solomon, et al. 2009; Cullen ¶ 2010; Foster 2011).

This is a new juncture in humanity’s relation to the rest of nature. However, thecosts of climate change, among other environmental crises generated by energy ¶ production and use, which is driven largely by economic growth, already are visited upon ¶ communities and other social groups in a dramatically unequal way––this we may ¶ understand as a defining feature of energy injustice. This social inequality, indeed, is a ¶ necessary feature of capitalism, making human exploitation and the assault on the ¶ environment possible, and energy injustice inevitable in the current system:

“Environmental deterioration will continue so long as there is a class system, since the ¶ profits of environmental neglect accrue primarily to one class whereas the costs are borne ¶ primarily by another” (Anderson 1976, 139). Scholars studying the ecological and social ¶ rift of capitalism, including those working on environmental racism and feminist ecology, ¶ have expanded the understanding of how these processes are gendered and racialized. ¶ Work on unequal ecological exchange amply has demonstrated that inequality between ¶ nations and regions also increases the burdens of environmental injustice. Studies from ¶ all of these perspectives have drawn out inequalities embedded in our current patterns of ¶ energy decision-making, extraction, use, and waste disposal, documenting energy ¶ injustice through various theoretical lenses.

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