Robinson: Throwing dust into the atmosphere would, in my opinion, be a temporary emergency gesture that mimics a volcanic eruption and hopes 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 chooses to go that route, no other nation will have any legal or moral reason to oppose it. It’s also not clear that it would be bad for civilization or the biosphere. Arguments about moral hazard become irrelevant in such an emergency, and concerns about secondary effects are speculative and not supported by what actually happened after real volcanic explosions.
Small: Rhiana, geoengineering has traditionally not been part of the Green New Deal. Should it be?
Gunn-Wright: Not in my opinion. And I am saying this based on the opinions of frontline activists. I don’t live near places where geoengineering would take place. But people who do that are very afraid of the ecological consequences. Given our general focus on wanting a panacea that doesn’t require major changes in the distribution of power, I fear a lot of money is going there and not 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 that was not asked. I think people all over the world are seeing very clearly that we are not equally responsible for emissions. The word “Anthropocene” imagines that there is a single Anthropos and that the age of mankind is measured by his collective actions. And I think that the lived experience of people is not a single human race, but a very complex and unequal one. So will people mobilize enough to make the difficult decisions? For some people, it’s not a difficult choice. You are already living on the subsistence level. So what are you going to tell them?
In a way, these geoengineering ideas are the satiated mind’s solutions. After conceptualizing the planet as a unit, conceptualizing humanity as a unified anthropos, and conceptualizing climate change as a global phenomenon, all she can think of now is a global technological solution.
Small: But for many people it is a difficult decision, even for people who were looking forward to decisions that they may not have now. Let me close with this question: does the future really have to be one of the few? Or can climate change be solved in the context of abundance?
Griffith: I am optimistic that all of our lives can materially improve. It doesn’t mean that we have more things in our life. We’ll have more things that last longer and far fewer single-use items. But that doesn’t mean you have an empty house and a boring life. It probably means that you have beautiful objects that you have a much better relationship with. We have concepts like Polynesian mana, where the object’s value stems from its age and history, not its luster and novelty. I am optimistic that we can get billions of people up the quality of life ladder, but we are not getting there with our existing ideas of property, property, debt and land use.
Gunn-Wright: I have never found a way, especially as a Black woman, to tell people who have been oppressed and who have seen various things, considered luxuries or standards that will come to them at some point, that this is not the version of life that you should or can look for. That they endured all kinds of evils in order not to get what they thought might be their reward. I think it’s incredibly difficult. And I don’t know how to get that message across, or even receive it as a person.