Robinson: Throwing dust up into the atmosphere would be, I think, an emergency gesture on a temporary basis, in effect imitating a volcanic eruption and hoping that five years of slightly lower temperatures would save us from brutal heat waves. And if one nation suffers a catastrophic heat-death event and then decides to go this route, no other nation will have any legal or moral standing to object to it. Nor is it clear that it would be bad for civilization or the biosphere. Arguments about moral hazard become irrelevant in such an emergency, and worries about secondary effects are speculative and not supported by what has actually happened after real volcanic explosions.
Klein: Rhiana, geoengineering hasn’t traditionally been part of the Green New Deal. Should it be?
Gunn-Wright: Not in my opinion. And I say this based on the opinions of frontline activists. I don’t live near places where geoengineering would happen. But people who do are very afraid of the ecological consequences. Given our general orientation toward a desire for a silver bullet that doesn’t require much change in how power is distributed, I fear that a lot of money will go there and not toward other things that we know would help but are more difficult to do. So, no, I don’t think it’s right for the Green New Deal.
Jasanoff: I wanted to raise the question of responsibility, which hasn’t come up. I think people around the world see very clearly that we are not equally responsible for emissions. The word “Anthropocene” imagines that there’s a single anthropos and that the ages of humanity are measured according to its collective actions. And I think people’s lived experience is not of a singular humanity but of one that’s very much stratified and unequal. So, will people mobilize on a sufficient scale to make the hard choices? For some people, it’s not a hard choice. They’re already living at a subsistence level. So what are you going to tell them to do?
In a way, these geoengineering ideas are the solutions of the supersaturated mind. Having conceptualized the planet as one, having conceptualized humanity as a unitary anthropos, having conceptualized climate change as a global phenomenon, now all it can think of is a global technological solution.
Klein: But for a lot of people, it is a hard choice, including people who were looking forward to choices that they may now not have. And so let me end on this question: Does the future really have to be one of less? Or can climate change be solved within a context of abundance?
Griffith: I am optimistic that materially all of our lives can improve. It doesn’t mean we have a higher volume of things in our life. We will have more things that last longer and far, far fewer disposable things. But that doesn’t mean you have an empty house and a boring life. It probably means you have beautiful objects that you have a lot better relationship with. We have concepts like the Polynesian mana, in which the value of the object comes from its age and its history, not because of its shininess and newness. I am optimistic that we can bring billions of people up the quality-of-life ladder, but we don’t get there with our existing notions of property, ownership, debt and land use.
Gunn-Wright: I have never figured out a way, particularly as a Black woman, to tell people who have been oppressed and who have seen, you know, different things held up as luxuries or standards that will come to them eventually, that that is not the version of life that they should or can seek. That they have borne all sorts of ills to not get the thing that they thought might be their reward. I think that is incredibly difficult. And I don’t know how one delivers that message or even, as a person, takes that in.