instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads



As a teenager I considered myself a communist, but rarely described myself that way to others because it could be dangerous. As an adult I’ve become ambivalent about such designations. That’s because when people hear words like “‘socialist” “feminist” “liberal” “conservative” or “fascist,” to name a few, they make inaccurate assumptions about what the terms mean. Without further explanation, labels are as likely to obscure as to clarify.

I was proud of composing the four guiding principles of the Rosenberg Fund for Children: All people have worth; people are more important than profits; society must function within ecologically sustainable limits; and world peace is a necessity; because they were written in plain language without “ists” or “isms.” They reflected my loss of ideology as I aged. When asked to describe my core politics, I wouldn’t answer with an “ist,” but rather, by quoting Tom Paine: “I am a citizen of the world. My religion is to do good.” That baker’s dozen of words is clear, and if you think about it, says a lot.

Recently I’ve started to apply a new “ist” label to myself despite these misgivings. I’m convinced that “radical environmentalist” is a succinct and effective way to describe my politics.

Environmentalist: I see the impact on the environment of global warming induced climate change as an overarching issue. It trumps all others because if we continue on our current course, even with the recent, dramatic expansion of photovoltaic and wind power, we will cross climatic tipping points and deplete resources so thoroughly that mass starvation will cause civilization to collapse, or worse.

Growing up in the Jewish community, I knew people who asked “is it good for the Jews?” I ask instead “is it good for the environment?” That’s how I assess everything from personal choices to jobs programs and Presidential candidates. Everyone deserves a decent job, but if those new jobs result in significantly more consumption, they facilitate climate change disasters. So I question any jobs program that does not include plans to reduce consumption. It also means that I will not vote for any presidential candidate who does not pass environmental muster, even if other candidates are worse.

Radical: This means we can’t solve this challenge within the capitalist framework. The combination of capitalism’s profit motive and its grow-or-die imperative foster compulsive consumption and worldwide military domination. These are incompatible with stabilizing our planet’s climate. We can’t attack this problem as long as countries and individuals compete to secure the most resources and accumulate as much wealth as possible. The psychological pillars of capitalism – individualism and getting ahead – also work against us. Solving the global crisis requires collective action, and egalitarian leveling. This is why green capitalist solutions may temporarily slow down, but will not prevent, our plunge into the abyss.

I’m still wary of labels. But I hope that adopting this one and explaining what it means will frame the discussion in terms that enable me to be more persuasive.  Read More 
Post a comment