But with accelerating sea ice melting trends and the release of plumes of methane in the Arctic, it is becoming increasingly clear that humans are already on the path to a potential Permian-like extinction level event. This leads many to conclude that attempts at mitigation have failed and geo-engineering is the only way to save humanity. This conclusion, in its narrow approach to the admittedly dire problems we are facing, fails to provide a meaningful context or a real solution. Yet in the midst of a rapid decline in both environmental and social stability, absent a profound grass roots mobilization transforming our fundamental relationship with each other and the earth, we will likely witness the radical implementation of geo-engineering techniques with superficial, if any, regard to the notion of prior informed consent. At the university discussion, Professor Kyle Powys Whyte raised the point that this presents not only an ethical problem, but a legal one in relation to sovereign indigenous tribes who have been traditional guardians and stewards of the land, and who are largely being ignored in this conversation around geo-engineering.
Setting aside the unknown potential harms of releasing massive quantities of geo-engineering substances into the environment, presentations on the practice, such as the one that occurred at the University of Montana, represent a fragment of the overall failed dialogue about climate change and technological interventionism. The so-called failure of attempts at mitigation in reality reflects a failure at the hands of political expediency, corporate greed and dishonesty, media bias, conditioned popular disinterest, and aloofness in much of the academic community. In short, it is core behavioral patterns within society, and not an earnest attempt at mitigation (which never occurred), which has plunged us into this unworkable situation.
While climate scientists like James Hansen regularly make the news, the headline that most of the public remembers in regards to climate change is that of the so called Climate Gate. What this indicates is not a failure of mitigation, but a failure in public discourse, and a proper discourse is the very essence of what is needed to obtain prior informed consent in the case of geo-engineering . The failure of the scientific community to engage in a more urgent, activist role outside of the corporate imperialism colored context of congressional hearings and climate negotiations, meant that less qualified individuals and organizations have to serve as the marginalized mouthpiece for what should have been a transformative, scientifically engaged social movement.
While hard at work compiling needed data, those who were best informed about the problems at hand none the less did not invest adequate resources, time, energy, creativity, risk, and social networking leverage, to create a ubiquitous and readily understandable public face to establish an ongoing discourse, (relying instead on a politically polarizing individual like Al Gore, and climate pundits who can't hold their own on the national television arena). Today the few who are paying attention perceive the continuation of what appears to be, rightly or wrongly, the same shadowy approach to climate science, embodied now in the below the radar discussions around geo-engineering “solutions.” The point in all of this is that building any sense of trust, solidarity, or informed consent has been relegated to barely noticed online chat groups, small university gatherings, or has been abandoned altogether by societies that have not even engaged in sustained dialogue around climate change to begin with. Fault can be found at all levels of society, and such a dysfunctional society largely will not know what geo-engineering is until it is on the verge of its implementation. Indeed, while it seems feasible that a significant segment of climate denialists alongside the general population will demand such a technological approach in an attempt to avert or reverse total crop failure and social breakdown, the choice will be a hollow one given the gun-pointing-at-our-head way in which it is being allowed to manifest. Such was the elite modus operandi at the outset of the 2008 the financial collapse, in which known problems were left to fester until a crisis was reached. The "solution" was brokered by the centers of power who had benefited both before and after the crisis they had created, leaving much of the rest of the world out to dry.
The push for geo-engineering, therefore, is not a break from business as usual. Rather, it is an intensification of the same paradigm that has created climate change, along with other global crises, in the first place. At the root of climate catastrophe is a society, completely disconnected from the natural world, that is unwilling to properly educate its youth or engage in sustained and urgent public conversation about the severity of the problem, thus rendering nearly impossible the potential for a decentralized, broad based shift in social consciousness, empowerment, and activity. Instead, the closed door climate negotiations and institutionally elite geo-engineering discussions mimic the very top down structure which seeks to protect an entrenched, ultra-competitive, crisis producing, and technologically driven worldview that has brought us to this point. If we are to recognize the link between materialism, hyper competition, military interventionism, predatory commercial media propaganda, and climate change, then we would understand that geo-engineering, in reality, is merely treating a symptom of a deeper cultural malaise, and like a strong dose of chemotherapy used on an industrial chemically induced cancer, the treatment may very well kill the patient.
The United States is seen as a place of technological innovation and marketplace dominance. It is also one of the leading contributors to climate change. Further, it is engaged in full spectrum dominance military expansionism and continued human rights abuses of an often covert nature, which, like climate change, remains outside of the general public discourse. The United States has also been a stalwart climate obstructionist in international talks. We are witnessing, therefore, not a failure of climate mitigation, but the inevitable crisis point of Western Imperialism, globalization, and American exceptionalism, all of which will likely be unable to muster environmental solutions that will benefit more than a select few. Meanwhile, the US populace is distracted by affordable consumer goods produced in sweatshops in places like China, who increasingly are burning coal to fuel energy demand. Divorced from the landscape, the lives of Westerners have literally come to depend on a system that is destroying life and enslaving our fellow man. Under such conditions, geo-engineering becomes the logical, plug-and-play convenient gateway into proposed climate solutions in what in reality represents a larger paradigm that imperils the entire living system.
If we look into the lack of informed consent surrounding issues like the implementation of NAFTA, the ongoing negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the sale of unlabeled genetically modified foods, the widespread use of warrantless wiretapping, the unprecedented incarceration of whistleblowers under Obama, the implementation of wildly unpopular banker bailouts and lack of prosecutions or meaningful reform, the undeclared and unpopular wars abroad, and the roll out of drone surveillance at home, we see clearly a pattern of elite interests working feverishly to obfuscate the reality that they are exploiting the living system in order to consolidate wealth and power above the interests of humanity and the wider ecosystem.
Lack of prior informed consent is the norm in this pathological culture, which in spite of shifting technological remedies, will continue to manifest a wholly corrupt, unstable, and destructive way of being. In 2009, UN drug tzar Antonio Costa stated that laundered drug money was the only liquid capital available to prop up faltering banks. Former inspector general of TARP, Neil Barovsky, among others, has discussed that the financial system is poised for another collapse in the face of anemic regulations and wild, unethical speculation. In 2012, one of the world's largest banks, HSBC, admitted it was responsible for laundering drug and terrorism funds, yet rather than individuals having to face criminal prosecution, the bank was merely required to pay relatively small fines compared to their monthly profits. As the climate deteriorates, resource wars heat up, a push for violent conflict with Iran continues to simmer, and oil companies jockey for fossil fuels now accessible in the warming Arctic. With a fitting twist of late Empire pathology, liberals are touting the emergence of a new Green Military, as if war could be anything but the most wasteful and destructive use of resources known to man. Ecosystems across the globe are in decline, yet unlimited economic growth under a criminally engendered system is still the dominant working model. The social and institutional system we find ourselves operating in is behaving in a fundamentally diseased manner. It is only by recognizing this, not just abstractly but through our daily engagements and responses, that we can collectively move toward creating a world in which a decent future for a wide swathe of living beings, rather than a privileged few, might be possible.
The Department of Homeland Security funded, militarized police state which is emerging represents the sort of violence which has secured land, resources, and intellectual space to develop the very destabilizing technologies which create and necessitate the further implementation of such violence, both through direct and proxy forces, and both abroad and in the streets of the United States. In other words, we are only afforded the relative and fundamentally unstable peace we currently enjoy to discuss the problems we create because the land and resources we have stolen have been used to establish a walled physical and intellectual reality guarded by the most powerful security apparatus in the world. But because this systemic injustice has never been adequately addressed, the violence we have ignored and enabled will undoubtedly arc back upon Western civilization, amplified by a destabilizing ecology and a frantic call for technological solutions. In the absence of a deep critique of society that galvanizes a civil rights era level of resistance and reform, the security apparatus is being prepared to handle an unleashed humanity under a financial and ecological breakdown within a geo-engineered future. As some climate policy makers begin to claim geo-engineering is the only viable solution while remaining largely absent from the realm of climate activism, and activists are labeled domestic terrorists by a State which depends on death and dirty power, the Obama administration is fast-tracking the use of hydraulic fracking, deceitfully billed as part of the solution to the climate crisis, a notion completely discredited by a recent study on low greenhouse gas energies. This is the context from which geo-engineering arises. In the midst of unchallenged, ongoing, cultural devolution and insane contests between corrupt, economically unstable, nuclear armed nation states that openly deceive their societies and pursue drone warfare over porous borders, geo-engineering is at best a weak and temporary substitute for real, informed transformation whose absence will result in global die off in another form. At worst, geo-engineering is a hastening along this unbroken path of system wide pathology and self destruction we embarked upon since the very real genocide and enslavement of indigenous people centuries ago, and which has continued up through the exploitation of people and natural resources today, fueling the current spin on an ongoing imperialistic nightmare.