Fair-weather enemies

At this point, there is little hope that we reform our economy to stave off catastrophic effects of climate change. But we could still reform our global governance to respond to those effects in a fair, humane way — for example, welcoming climate refugees, rebuilding communities after disasters, or relieving food producers and consumers amid shortages caused by droughts and floods. Better yet, we need governments actively building systems to avoid or mitigate such problems by helping people transition from precarious areas, methods, and jobs, for example, by investing in energy-efficient homes so people can stay cool without going broke or browning out electricity grids and by expanding the residential and transportation capacity of cities to accept people fleeing areas that are no longer viable.

This list could go on in great breadth. But I will save my breath and focus on a more fundamental problem than these technical ones: we are divesting from public services. We are moving toward further privatization. We are closing borders. We sing the praises of deregulated capitalism and technological fixes — as the wealthy prepare bunkers on higher ground and the rest of us try to ignore the water lapping at the edge of the levee. Today we denounce the pretensions of government to solve problems. Tomorrow we will beg them to do so. But the longer we keep moving in the wrong direction, the more we starve our public institutions, the less capable of helping will they be.


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