Henri Kõiv: On a crisis overshadowed by crises
I'm sure more than a few people have felt a certain tightness in the chest scrolling through news feeds in recent weeks. Whether because of news heralding broad-based price advance, looming war in Ukraine, statements predicting yet another collapse of the Ratas administration or countless tales of astronomical power bills, Henri Kõiv writes in a comment originally published in Müürileht.
Yes, we have spent around two years living with a completely new virus and in extraordinary circumstances, while recent news make even the past coronavirus year seem like business as usual. We have finally learned to live with the virus. Next, we need to learn to cope with a world where electricity has become something of a luxury. The green turn would simply come too late and take too long without pressure on prices.
Perhaps the reader noticed that the prime minister warned the Riigikogu of three simultaneous crises. Kaja Kallas said that Estonia is facing the three-headed hydra of healthcare, energy and security crises. Not a word on the climate or biodiversity crises. The latter are not deserving of a political statement by the prime minister.
They do not threaten the middle class that some politicians have suggested faces extinction because of the energy price shock. Instead, we see willingness to add fuel to the climate crisis fire to ensure the middle class' survival.
It is understandable. It is the middle class that turns up to vote, not trees or insects. The latter do not get a say. There is no need to make political statement aimed at them to demonstrate one's virility. The first victims of the climate crisis simply have no political agency. However, that might soon change.
I heartily recommend reading French philosopher Bruno Latour's book "Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime," that describes how the left-right conflict that has characterized politics for over a century is being replaced, in the conditions of climate change, by a new conflict between those who deny the existence of the climate problem and those trying to land somewhere despite it all.
Latour admits that while the devastation of the natural environment has been talked about for decades, old conflicts still spark more affect in the world. The destruction of the middle class immediately unleashes a moral panic, while species going extinct rarely merits more than a shrug.
The author describes ways of thinking about nature as a social class that has agency and which the Kaja Kallases and Jüri Ratases of the world will eventually have to consider: "They act and react – primarily chemically, biologically, geologically – and it would be naive to believe they will remain inert irrespective of the pressure put on them." And such forces will most definitely not care about soaring power bills.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski