The state will not save us from climate catastrophe

CW: Bad vibes about the future in here. Go ahead and skip this one if you’re looking for hopefulness.

I don’t understand why smart people keep fooling themselves about what the state is, and what it’s capable of.

The state is a tool for imposing minority rule on a majority. Full stop. Well-meaning people have been deluding themselves about using the state to achieve benevolent ends since the 18th century. It will never happen. It can never happen. That’s just not what states are for.

I get it — at first blush it looks like a terrific shortcut. The state appears to have immense power, if we (the good folks who want to save humanity) wrest control of it from the ruling class, well golly, we could do anything! But the state doesn’t grant power, it merely organizes the power that already exists; that power doesn’t give a fuck about our lives, or ensuring that our planet is habitable for more than the richest people and their servants. The response of the world’s governments to Covid and their continued inaction in the face of climate change makes that pretty clear, right? They don’t care if we burn, drown, suffocate, or starve.

“Revolutions have seized control of states before! What if we do it again, this time to save the climate?” When revolutionary leaders replaced the existing state leaders with themselves, the essential functions of the state remained intact. They are still tools for imposing minority rule, they still made war and demanded constant production and growth. It’s easy (all too easy) to assume that this was due to the personal failings of Lenin, Mao, and their imitators, but that’s unfair. States just do state things, and destroying ecosystems is one of them.

By the time we change course, we’re probably doomed to 4 degrees of warming or more. At that point, the era of nation-states is probably over anyway. I can only hope that whatever replaces it isn’t worse, and use the infinitesimal amount of power I have over my surroundings to help prefigure something better.