2007 - 2021

Paris Texas

As news dawns that President Trump is a stupid and as venal as we all thought he was, the responses to his latest bout of narcissism in withdrawing America from the Paris Agreement are revealing. Stephen Jardine on BBC Scotland leads a Brasseye-style radio discussion with one woman calling in to explain how she uses used milk cartons to scare away the birds from her strawberries, several callers engage in a bit if virtue-signalling about their recycling habits, someone chanters on about “the population problem” and the inevitable false-equivalence is indulged in with various people explaining how “climate change is a hoax” and not really happening at all.

So far so shudderingly moronic.

Other responses are more upbeat with some policy-makers offering soundbites suggesting that this action will spur us and the rest of the world on to even greater bolder actions. Others even suggested that this would give “denialists a bad name” and that this would somehow have a good outcome. It’s kind of wilfully naive and it’s own version of denialism.

Our own government (sic) has a different response, which is essentially collusion:

Another response would be to name it for what it really is. This is what Adam Ramsay does:

“It’s not really Trump who withdrew from the Paris climate conference. It’s Exxon. It’s Chevron. It’s the coal lobby and the fracking lobby. It’s Rex Tillerson, whose only qualification as Secretary of State is that he ran the biggest and dirtiest oil company in the world. It’s the corporate lobbyists who tried to destroy the Paris agreement in the first place, and just went back to the States to kill it off there. And this isn’t an ‘act of madness’, as some have said. It is a perfectly rational decision that, in order to stay rich, these people have to kill off whole countries, have to drive whole peoples into the sea. They aren’t stupid. They don’t misunderstand what they are doing. I spent the Paris climate conference following them around, talking to them, sitting in their events. Whatever they said in public about supporting it, they knew fine well that its success would spell the end of their industry. And ultimately, they chose their riches over the lives of millions of others. People have said that this is a stupid act, and a suicidal one. It is neither. It is a decision to kill millions in order to stay rich.”

The tragedy of this comes in two parts.

The first part is that we have allowed somehow the greed and stupidity of one man to have so much influence he can affect the sustainability of the whole world.

As the wonderfully eloquent writer Rebecca Solnit writes this week in The Loneliness of Donald Trump:

“Once upon a time, a child was born into wealth and wanted for nothing, but he was possessed by bottomless, endless, grating, grasping wanting, and wanted more, and got it, and more after that, and always more. He was a pair of ragged orange claws upon the ocean floor, forever scuttling, pinching, reaching for more, a carrion crab, a lobster and a boiling lobster pot in one, a termite, a tyrant over his own little empires. He got a boost at the beginning from the wealth handed him and then moved among grifters and mobsters who cut him slack as long as he was useful, or maybe there’s slack in arenas where people live by personal loyalty until they betray, and not by rules, and certainly not by the law or the book. So for seven decades, he fed his appetites and exercised his license to lie, cheat, steal, and stiff working people of their wages, made messes, left them behind, grabbed more baubles, and left them in ruin.”

The second part of the tragedy is that we are all Trump. We are all culpable, we are all complicit, we are all part of the madness. But we don’t have to be.

Just as the Conservatives have a long record of supporting and protecting brutal regimes (take Pinochet and Die Groot Krokodil for starters), we have a long tradition of boycott and resistance.

The only language that Trump understands is economic. Him and his supporters are not responsive to rational dialogue or science. So we must make the USA a Pariah State and create a global economic boycott that undermines the regime and focuses international condemnation.  The second thing we should do is to re-articulate that the only response to climate change is to transform the capitalist economy. You can’t green capitalism, just as you can’t solve the climate crisis by putting milk cartons on your strawberry patch.

If Trump’s actions do anything at all they reveal to the world that the capitalist economy is incompatible with human survival.

There’s a double dose of self-delusion going on as Trump asks, apparently seriously:

“At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?”

That happened a long time ago, but these aren’t tears of laughter.


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Comments (10)

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  1. Rachel Yorke says:

    Excellent article, James and Solnit are correct. Have you credited The New York
    Review of Books? Running Exxon stories a long time. A local science University of 3rd Age group I belonged to discussed climate change. Not one of these men were prepared to do anything in their lives to mitigate climate change, not even use low energy light bulbs, unless mandated by law. This is educated family wealthyish men in Scotland. They said their grandchildren could sort themselves out. I was disgusted.

  2. piecemaker says:

    Bang on Mike. Thanks for the response and the insightful analysis.

  3. John Bryden says:

    Consumers must fight back! Stop buying US goods with bad climate emission credentials.

  4. bringiton says:

    The problem this will give the USA is in international trade.
    Gaining an unfair advantage by producing goods using cheap dirty coal etc will not be acceptible to most trading blocs who will view American goods as being dumped on them.
    This is much more complicated than Trump thinks and will have long term consequences for the American economy.
    Fortunately,many of the more sensible states will continue with their policies of decarbonisation which although helpful environmentally will make little difference to foreign trade.
    I sense another U turn coming on at some point.
    Completely agree about the malign influence on Trump and friends by those involved in the fossil fuel industry.

  5. Alan says:

    Several points:

    “It’s not really Trump who withdrew from the Paris climate conference. It’s Exxon. It’s Chevron. It’s the coal lobby and the fracking lobby. It’s Rex Tillerson…”

    I’m not sure who is being quoted but this is at best simplistic and in many cases just not true. Many traditional energy producers have seen the future and opposed withdrawal. That doesn’t mean they are saints but the it does no one any good to misrepresent them on this given that many are potential allies against Trump and co.

    Also Trump hasn’t actually withdrawn the US from the Paris Accord as there’s a waiting and notification period under international law. The US won’t withdraw until after the next presidential election which may mean this is not a done deal and may in fact have the opposite effect of the one supposedly desired by the Trump administration.

    The main damage here seems to be self-inflicted damage to America’s standing as a global leader.

  6. Alan says:

    we must make the USA a Pariah State and create a global economic boycott that undermines the regime and focuses international condemnation.

    That’s a bit over the topic given that many US states, cities, and large corporations oppose Trump on this. Better to work with all those in the US working rewards a renewable energy future who are going to ignore Trump.

  7. Alan says:

    FYI: Texas is one of the leading US states for wind and solar energy and you can power your business and home with green energy in Paris, TX

  8. Mathew says:

    The Paris agreement was significant in that it was truly International and seemed to indicate that, at last, the vast majority of countries on earth were going to start pulling in the same direction. But its significance ends there – it doesn’t actually deliver anything like the measures needed to tackle climate change. It cannot possibly halt the temperature increase at 1.5 or 2 degrees above baseline. Instead the Paris agreement will lead to at least 4 degrees, maybe more. That means total chaos – sea level rise, superstorms, drought, flooding, mass migrations, crop failures, mass starvation.
    Monsieur Macron says that he wants to make Earth great again. Nice soundbite and a nice dig at Mr Trump – but in order to do that (as Mike Small acknowledges) he’s going to have to dismantle the Capitalist system. I doubt he’s any more likely to take that route than Trump.

  9. James Dow says:

    I for one do not think Trump is stupid or venal, anything but, as he will prove. The really stupid ones are those that underestimate his expansive intellect at their peril. On this topic Mike l think you are not only small off name, but also small minded.

  10. Grafter says:

    JD….”as he will prove”. Won’t hold the breath on that one. zzzz

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