Note — Apr 17, 2022

Climate Hauntologies

Hauntologies (“the agency of the virtual: that which acts without physically existing”) is one of those concepts you’ll see popping up regularly, while perhaps having only a passing understanding of it. Here Holly Jean not only provides a good overview of the concept, as per Mark Fisher’s writings, but also does a great job of proposing some angles to use that frame in considering carbon removal. Jean considers fossil realism, climate realism/climate doomerism, technoeconomic realism, then the “slow cancellation of the future” and shows that carbon removal is thoroughly haunted, by going over three hauntings.

One conclusion, which we’ve seen here in some form before, is that in completely accepting these ‘realisms,’ it then becomes that much harder to envision a replacement. “Capitalist realism is a pervasive atmosphere, and moral critique only reinforces it; gestures against it only reinforce it, writes Fisher. ‘So long as we believe capitalism is bad, we are free to continue’ on our way — so long as we perform that it is bad, we have liberty to go about our lives in it.” Jean doesn’t mention solarpunk, but it’s easy to attach it here, as a way to do just that, to make room for different futures to be imagined.

Thinking about climate seems to proceed along local lines; when the global enters, it’s in the context of solidarity, of echoing calls for climate justice and climate finance from developing nations. It’s like we expect the same strategies that failed in these other places in the 2010s to also deliver climate action. We need a new way of thinking about this. Otherwise, we’re left with fossil realism and climate realism. […]

[O]ver the long term, Sunrise’s existing model has clear limitations. It remains largely dis-embedded from American society, unable to form the mass organization and ideological assent required to structurally transform the economy within ten to fifteen years — which we absolutely need to do to realize a livable future. […]

[N]ew cultural ideas are not really being generated, and environmental imaginaries are just one more instance. Fisher attributes some of this in high-rent cities and more — “Neoliberal capitalism has gradually but systematically deprived artists of the resources necessary to produce the new-middle-class.” […]

[Will people in the future] be able to make sense of NIMBYism? Will they understand how a civilization which figured out how to CRISPR plants and go to the moon and build skyscrapers and subways and third wave coffee shops … just went on to decide that building these particular sets of machines and practices was a bridge too far?