All of us have out own way of describing it predicated on our own experience with it.
My own memory is the taste of copper, like having a penny in your mouth. But that is more the species of fear that goes with the sudden awareness that one is no longer in control in a situation with a high likelihood of dying… pretty much right now.
For those situations where criminality is about to be exposed, the flavor of fear might be more metaphorical… and it is more protracted. At a loss for the moment, I invite other commentators to suggest their own analogs.
Whatever it is, I suspect there is a lot of it in Washington these days. They have shown the maturity of the average acid-popping, alienated, suburban adolescent over the last five years… no capacity to imagine the emergence of Dire Consequence when things seem hunky-dory for the moment.
But then our whole society is like that in many ways. A pampered adolescent society, still thinking the earth revolves around MeMeMe, still tuning out any mention of consequence, still fantasizing about futures that are not possible, still treating the earth like it is not finite, still homogenizing and objectifying everyone else on the planet as if they don’t matter… and will never get mad.
So the crash that will come in Washington if the 2008-motivated Democrats capture one of the Congressional redoubts — and with it, the weapon of the subpeona — is a foretaste, if you’ll forgive my sensory pun, of what we will all eventually experience when the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics shows up to arrrest us for our energy profligacy, and our vicious Energy Wars to delay the inevitable.
The fear of the Republicans right now, as their wanton criminality is subject to exposure (if the Dems have the sand in their craw… a real question), is not the last act, but the first. It is the Preface, and every act afterward will star that acquisitive Piper.
Now the news is full of Panglossian drivel about “carbon trading” as a way our of our energy impasse, as if financial derivatives — like the belief in a technological fix before it — can operate outside the boundaries of the physical universe. All these carbon trading scams will accomplish is to further immiserate and disempower the Global South to extend our party a few hours, and we’ll never see — until it is too late — the actualization of all that ocean of latent fury outside the ‘burbs.
Carbon trading is an attempt to finally commodify and privatize the very atmosphere, and it is proof, for anyone who wants to see, of the hellish decadence to which we have all become — like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot — accustomed.
The curtain will fall, in any case, decisively on Hydrocarbon Homo Sapien in my own lifetime, in all probability, and I’ll be 57 when Al Gore makes his next run at the White House.
Meanwhile, we’ll spend a third of our lives in our cars or working to pay for them, maintain them, and feed them gasoline, never understanding that these machines… this vast agglomeration of technomass in the overdeveloped West is the greatest parasitism in history.
Better, it seems, we taste that copper-tongued variety of fear in risking the end of this system, in the leap of faith required to relocalize, expropriate the rich, and begin the process very very soon of de-industrialization and banish the Almighty Market to museums alongside medieval war artifacts.
If the current regime loses this election, and I sincerely hope they do, it will not be time to rest on our laurels. When the Democrats crawl back into the light, it will not be time to throw them flowers. It will be time to build alternatives on the ground as the basis for divorcing them… unless we want to blithely accept, not for ourselves, but for our children, a future in which everything, including the air we breathe, is for sale… until the Second Law comes a’callin’.
In addition, I have permission from Jim Davis to link his superlative paper called “Speculative capital and the ecosystem of globalization”. This paper pulls together two important threads that I’ve been flogging from Hornborg and Gowan in the past (both linked on this blog), and Harvey’s theses on privatization of the commons (in this case, the atmosphere!!!). _SG
(excerpt from Speculative capital and the ecosystem of globalization)
Carbon financial instruments
Emissions markets are probably the best known experiments in environmental financial speculation. Emissions trading involves the creation of a fixed number of pollution credits or “rights”, typically by a governmental body, and the formation of a market to trade these rights. The government body sets a desired pollution target level for a particular pollutant (the “cap”), e.g., sulfur dioxide (SO2) or carbon dioxide (CO2), creates permits (or “allowances”) to generate the target pollutant, and allocates the allowances to polluters. In theory, an enterprise cannot emit the pollutant without a corresponding “permit” to do so, and faces fines (e.g., in Europe, currently 40 euros/metric ton for CO2) if emissions exceed permits. Enterprises that reduce emissions may sell their unused permits to an enterprise that would rather purchase permits than reduce emissions. The emissions trading markets enable pollution to acquire a price. Or looked at from a different point of view, the government body has created a title to the use of the air, thereby commodifying, and privatizing, the atmosphere.
Of the wide range of possible strategies for curbing GHGs, the Clinton administration pushed through emissions trading as the device of choice (Lohmann, 2005). From the point-of-view of speculative capital, this represents the perfect choice. It requires new trading markets to be established, and traders to facilitate the exchange of permits, and creates new opportunities for arbitrage, hedging and derivatives. Speculative capital is not just the capital sloshing around, but also the agents that promote and represent it, including trading firms, exchanges, accounting firms and consultants. These agents helped promote emissions trading as the climate change solution. E.g., Enron was an important corporate promoter of Kyoto, and while it stood to gain as a natural gas pipeline company (because natural gas releases fewer GHGs than coal), it also was transforming itself in the 1990s into a major trading firm in electricity and other commodities (Warner, 2002) that would benefit from the trading opportunities in GHGs. A small industry has developed to facilitate the trading of emissions, including the exchanges where the emissions are traded. With the beginning of implementation of Kyoto in 2005, a number of start-up exchanges competed in Europe, where emissions reductions are mandatory, to become the main site of emissions trading. Two main markets, the European Climate Exchange (ECX, owned by the Chicago Climate Exchange), and the French PowerNext have emerged as the main markets for “carbon financial instruments” or CFIs. The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) provides a trading system for U.S.-based carbon emissions.
Although the Bush administration subsequently refused to sign the agreement, the Kyoto Protocol provisions are moving forward in the 163 signatory countries. The Kyoto Protocol calls for industrialized countries to achieve an average 5.2% reduction from 1990 levels in six GHGs by 2012. Following Russia’s ratification in late 2004, the terms of the protocol went into effect for the treaty’s signers in early 2005. Countries are allocated a number of permits based on 1990 levels minus the agreed reduction. Countries then grant the permits to polluting industries, grandfathering existing pollution, so the biggest polluters get the most credits.
The Kyoto protocol adds a novel provision to emissions market in the form of “offsets”. By investing in pollution reduction efforts, a company can create offset credits that may be sold, or used to make up a permit shortfall. Under the “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM) provision of Kyoto, these reduction projects are undertaken in countries that have no reduction targets, mostly developing countries. For example, by investing in a tree plantation in Uganda or Brazil, a company can gain pollution credits that allow them to avoid reductions in pollution at home. Companies can also invest in alternative energy production, or improve existing facilities, and create credits for the pollution that would have been created in what Bachram… …