News & Media Opinion Pieces The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy

The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy

by David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith
Praeger, Westport, Connecticut. London

On its track record democracy is not going to act quickly enough and with sufficient intent to stem climate change . Whatever we do as individuals the big decisions have to be made by governments. The endless debate has to be translated into action. Our advocacy on climate change issues has to move forward to address methods of achieving change in goverance. These are the themes of this multidisciplinary text.
David Shearman

Publisher’s Description
Climate change threatens the future of civilization, but humanity is impotent in effecting solutions. Even in those nations with a commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions, they continue to rise. This failure mirrors those in many other spheres that deplete the fish of the sea, erode fertile land, destroy native forests, pollute rivers and streams, and utilize the world’s natural resources beyond their replacement rate. In this provocative new book, Shearman and Smith present evidence that the fundamental problem causing environmental destruction–and climate change in particular–is the operation of liberal democracy. Its flaws and contradictions bestow upon government–and its institutions, laws, and the markets and corporations that provide its sustenance–an inability to make decisions that could provide a sustainable society.

From the Foreword by P. H. Liotta, Executive Director, Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, Newport, Rhode Island
“Three decades ago, the environmentalist Norman Myers wrote that national security is about far more than fighting forces and weaponry. National security must also include issues of environment and environmental impact—from watersheds to climate impact—and these factors must figure in the minds of military exerts and political leaders. Myers’ words today remain as prophetic, and deadly accurate, as ever.

In this latest volume of the Politics and Environment series, professor emeritus of medicine David Shearman and philosopher and ecologist Joseph Wayne Smith show a complete willingness to challenge organizational identities. They forcefully argue that our system of overall political, economic, and social governance is an obstacle to confronting effectively the looming environmental crises that global climate change poses.

Shearman and Smith challenge us to reexamine how states, corporations, and consumers are driving us, literally, to the brink of disaster. In engaging considerations of the limits to growth, the separation of corporatism and governance, financial reform, legal reform, and the reclaiming of the “commons” for human society, they ask us to consider what is often considered unthinkable in our cosmopolitan, ideologically centered mindset. In short, Shearman and Smith argue that liberal democracy—considered sacrosanct in modern societies—is an impediment to finding ecologically sustainable solutions for the planet.

Many, of course, will find this argument untenable. But I would urge readers to listen closely to Shearman and Smith’s entertaining and always thoughtful arguments. In an era of ever widening, ever deepening globalization, liberal democracies have proven unable, or unwilling, to check the explosive growth of corporatism’s power, influence, and reach. In terms that mirror Marx’s thoughts on the aggregation of capital into the hands of the fewer and fewer, Shearman and Smith are nonetheless, not neo-Marxists in their argument. In some ways, their notions that liberal democracy must give way to “a form of authoritarian government by experts” reminds us as well of Plato’s Republic.

Environmentalists often predict an Apocalypse is coming: The earth will heat up like a greenhouse. We will run out of energy. Overpopulation will lead to starvation and war. Nuclear winter will devastate all organic life. We have, of course, grown desensitized to many such prophecies of doom. Although some may fi nd Shearman and Smith’s conclusions utopian, their warnings bear close attention. As they methodically and pragmatically remind us throughout this book, the time for strategic reconsideration of how we run our lives—and how our lives are being run—is more pressing than ever”

Endorsement From Bob Birrell, Director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University
For those wanting to think outside the square on climate change issues, this book is indispensable.

Endorsement From Dr. Katharine Betts, Associate Professor Sociology, Swinburne University of Technology
This is a provocative book. Many will disagree with its conclusions, but the dilemma it points to is real and cannot be ignored.

Endorsement From Gordon Graham, Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at Princeton Theological Seminar
Warnings of a pending environmental crisis are no longer the prerogative of solitary prophets. They now reflect the consensus of the scientific establishment. But how radical a change in established political thinking do they require of us? This volume makes a powerful case for the view that taking environmental crisis seriously implies a radical critique of democracy itself, and a willingness to accept government by qualified expertise rather than popular election. If political thinking at its best makes the pressing questions of the day an occasion to revisit cherished fundamentals, then this book qualifies.

Endorsement From Otis L. Graham, University of California, Santa Barbara (Emeritus)
Arriving at a time when governments, corporations and consumers are bragging about their voluntary emission reduction steps, this book judges current and pending efforts as failures, and moves the discussion to the next phase. For conversion to sustainable societies, liberal democracy must give way to “a form of authoritarian government by experts” which the authors sketch out at the end. This is an argument-moving book, a fresh and audacious contribution to the climate change debate.

Endorsement From Virginia Deane Abernethy, Emeritus Professor, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
The partnership of philosopher and ecologist Joseph Wayne Smith with emeritus professor of medicine David Shearman has produced an analysis that covers the gamut from governance in a liberal democracy to a treatise on banking institutions. The authors conclude that the environmental goods necessary to sustain civilization will collapse unless humanity’s “loving marriage to economic growth” can be sundered.