This year is on track to become the hottest ever recorded, and a growing number of environmentalists are using a particular type of language in response. Some are calling for a huge “mobilization” to “combat” climate change. In an article in the New Republic in August, Bill McKibben, the unofficial spokesperson of the climate movement in the United States, insisted in very literal terms that, we are at war with climate change.In the United States, we are familiar with war metaphors; and they are often politically useful. We have been through wars on poverty, drugs, cancer and even Christmas. In these cases, metaphors are understood as metaphors, but when McKibben points to territory ceded, space invaded, cultural loss and human suffering, he intends to be taken at face value: “It’s not that global warming is like a world war,” he writes. “It is a world war.”War rhetoric serves a valuable function. It stresses the seriousness of the harm, its structural nature and the need to struggle against it. Wars require people to sacrifice and to share responsibility for a joint effort larger than individual preferences and comforts. They can also motivate solidarity: The goal of defeating the enemy orients all activity, and whatever may divide or distract us from achieving that goal must be put aside. In the rhetoric-bag of political discourse, “war” is a forceful weapon.McKibben is one of the most visible and motivating climate activists in North America. He has written an astounding number of influential articles and books, co-founded an organization leading an international fossil fuel divestment campaign, spoken across the country to full auditoriums and participated in high-profile protests, some leading to his arrest. Most recently, he called on all of us to unite with the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access pipeline. Our goal here is not to attack McKibben so much as the rhetorical strategy that he, along with others, have made increasingly popular.
And Revolution isn’t a loaded word, with its own enemies.
Here is a comment:
McKibben’s article outlining a war on climate change is clearly intended to use an analogy that the public can easily grasp. It doesn’t deserve this sort of treatment. There is not time to wait for the academics to work their word magic. The goal is clear. The discussion needs to move to a project management level, which is what his article does. It demonstrates that the problem can be solved by conventional project delivery systems that are utilized in construction and industry. Now, political will is needed to implement the project which requires the public to have a clear “story” of how it can be accomplished so they can push the politicians. The American public, and more importantly the American industrial community, will respond to the war mobilization analogy faster than pleas for revolution because the story of American industry supporting military success is a well known and popular story.