Danny Postel advances the climate change discussion.

There are several things you can count on in life besides the proverbial death and taxes.

The first is that Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak will never be broken.

The second is that no one will ever match Ted Williams’ .406 average in 1941.

And the third is that Danny Postel has an email list for any topic imaginable.

Teaching. South Africa.  Obama.  Parenting.

These are four of the lists that my dear friend and uber-connector-cultural doyenne Lois Weisberg, the protagonist in one of the chapters in  Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, has nothing on Danny-has placed me on in the past decade.

Today I joined another one: the climate change.

In his typically generous fashion, Danny responded to learning about my upcoming trip to South African by sending me the link to a book review by Michael Lynn he edited for The Common Review, information about Christian Parenti’s new book on the intersection of climate change and neo-liberal economic policy and two links.

Here’s an excerpt from Danny’s email:

My friend Mike Lynn here in Chicago follows the issue about as closely as anyone I know. In the one print edition of The Common Review that came out under my editorship, he reviewed the book Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change by Clive Hamilton. You can find his review here:


If you haven’t already, you might want to get your hands on Christian Parenti’s new book Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. I’ll send you a recent interview with him on the subject. 

And here are some highlights from the two links he sent.

This first from Michelle Chen for ColorLines:

Over the next few decades, tens of millions of people will be driven from their homes. Braving violence and poverty, they’ll roam desperately across continents and borders in search of work and shelter. Unlike other refugees, though, their plight won’t be blamed simply on the familiar horrors of war or persecution; they’ll blame the weather.

If you haven’t heard about the rising tide of environmental migrants, that’s because throngs of displaced black and brown people don’t evoke the same public sympathy as photos of polar bear cubs. The governments of rich industrialized nations will scramble to shut the gates on the desperate hordes with the same self-serving efficiency with which they’ve long ignored the social, ecological and economic consequences of their prosperity. But both efforts at blissful ignorance will fail, because climate change is forcing society to confront the mounting natural and man-made disasters on the horizon.

And here’s a key question from interviewer Michael Busch and answer Parenti in interview Danny mentioned and sent:

Michael Busch: I wanted to begin by briefly touching on the book’s title and, more importantly, discussing the theoretical concept that largely gives shape to the book’s narrative arc: what you refer to as the “catastrophic convergence.”Can you give us a sense of what you mean by each and talk about how they informed your research and analysis? 

Christian Parenti: The “tropic of chaos” is less important than the “catastrophic convergence.” The tropic of chaos is more of a play on words that refers to the conditions in the Global South, which is that belt of post-colonial, underdeveloped, over-exploited states that mostly lie between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. So, it’s sort of a name for that region of the world.

The “catastrophic convergence” is the driving thesis of the book, the argument that climate change doesn’t just look like tornadoes, floods, and droughts. It also looks like religious violence, ethnic pogroms, civil war, state failure, mass migration, counterinsurgency and anti-immigrant border militarization. And so, climate change rarely works on its own. Usually, it arrives in the Global South on a stage preset for crisis. The forces that have preset that stage are militarism and radical free-market restructuring—neoliberalism. Cold War militarism, and now the War on Terror, have flooded the Global South with cheap weapons and men trained in the arts of assassination and interrogation, smuggling, small unit attacks, and terrorism.  Neoliberalism has created increased poverty, increased inequality, and a tattered and stressed social fabric. As a result, it leads to less social solidarity. It damages and degrades traditional economies. And it makes more populations more vulnerable to sudden weather shocks, extreme climatic events like drought and flooding, which are due to anthropogenic climate change kicking in hard. And it is combining with these two preexisting crises—militarism and inequality/poverty—and the three of them are meeting in this catastrophic convergence and articulating themselves as increased violence. That can be religious violence, ethnic violence, sometimes class-based violence. Sometimes this is expressed as chaos and relative or outright state failure. 

But in the Global North, the catastrophic convergence presents itself as a renewed emphasis on building-up the incipient police state that exists in many western European countries as well as the United States. So, we now have a reengagement with the discourse around border militarization, a reanimation of the xenophobic discourse that goes with those policies, which are increasingly articulated in environmental terms—there’s an environmental crisis; there’s not enough to go around; immigrants need to be rounded up; everybody needs to sacrifice some civil liberties; the border needs to be militarized. If climate change pushes chaos and state failure in the Global South, it creates authoritarian state hardening in the Global North, at least in its earliest stages.

Provocative stuff, and just the beginning of my deepening understanding of one of, if not the most, critical issues our planet faces.

I’ll share more of what I read and learn here.

Chances are high that Danny will have a part in both.


2 responses to “Danny Postel advances the climate change discussion.

  1. I’m so glad you are learning about the effects of manmade climate change on the level of civilization north and south on our globe. You have a voice that can reach many more ears than the ordinary among us. For years I’ve tried to tell the ‘scientists’ at our local university that global warming is affecting the sugar maple trees here in mid-Michigan because I am a syrup producer who watches the life-cycle of these magnificently generous plants. I am usually met with denial and recitations of statistics generated by self reporting sugar farmers who can’t admit to themselves or to the farm bureaus that there is a growing problem. And on top of the effect of a warming climate, the sugar tree saplings are all being eaten by an out-of-control deer population that has adapted to the fertile lawns of urban sprawl. Just as you’ve learned that climate can spur immigration of humans, learn too that poor land planning can spur immigration of other animal species. Deer don’t pay any attention to militaristic border policies either.

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, Lynn, for your kind and informative words. I appreciate your underscoring the importance of remembering the interconnectedness and consequences of planning decisions.


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