At the heart of climate change is politics.
This maxim guides the mission of The Trouble. We do not see the crisis as a human error, a result of human irrationality or some other psychological defect. Rather, we contend that climate change is a fundamentally political phenomenon; that is, it is the result of power relations between people with opposing material and ideological interests.
Humans experience climate change in radically different ways. These varying experiences are not randomly determined—they are the direct result of our political realities. Those who have fought to retrench the present carbonized economy—corporations, states, and many ordinary people—do so because they are enriched and empowered by fossil energy, and bear few of its costs. Conversely, poor people, people of color, and subjects of gender oppression are most vulnerable to climate disaster precisely because they lack the capital and political sway to insulate themselves from peril.
In other words, climate change is not a bump in the road of history, a mere market failure or a policy problem for which a common solution is readily available. Rather, it is an expression of political and class struggles that span centuries. Though human-caused climate change is a modern phenomenon, disagreements over its origins and resolutions follow from questions as old as civilization itself: what social arrangements are just, what risks society should incur for the sake of certain benefits, who should bear these risks, and so on. We recognize that these disagreements are, to some extent, irreconcilable. Climate justice involves more than deliberation and policy implementation; it requires popular mobilization and democratic triumph over those who remain hellbent against rapid and just decarbonization. Just as political theory and political praxis are indivisible, so too our theorizing and debate are in service of political organizing and program.
Our aim, therefore, is two-fold: to spark conversation about the political underpinnings of climate change, and to catalyze meaningful leftist climate action.
What this action should look like remains an open question. As political scientists and theorists, we believe in the importance of governments as tools for social and ecological change. We contend that in order to govern well amid ecological crisis, the left needs to invest in a strategy that deals with the details. We believe, in other words, that policy wonkery is not something best left to the neoliberal technocrats. Rather, policymaking and analysis find their best form when integrated meaningfully into movement-building and grassroots organizing. We therefore aim to develop a rich political imagination, informed by policy debate, cultural criticism, and social theorizing.
While we aim for The Trouble to be broad and inclusive, it is equally important to define its limits. The Trouble is not a magazine for those who wish to learn more about the physical process of climate change, nor about proposed technological solutions without consideration of their social and political consequences. Rather, it is for those who are deeply disturbed by climate change and its correlative injustices, committed to collective action, and interested in strategizing with others about how this can happen. It is in this spirit that The Trouble is launched, and in how we move forward.
Editorial Board, The Trouble