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make its peace with that principle or be eliminated altogether. In the
United States, at least, human beings must abide by the rules of the mar-
ket, not vice versa. Here, we all live within the free-market bubble; noth-
ing makes it inside that doesn't submit to the logic of the market.
The consequences of living in this bubble are stark. Quickly now,
answer this. What's harder for you to imagine: the end of free-market
capitalism, or the end of nature? By now, imagining a devastated bio-
sphere comes fairly easily to us all. Imagining life after the end of the mar-
ket? That's almost impossible. For all of us in this society, the market is
more real than nature . 89
But is this the core problem? After all, the greenhouse untax trans-
lates a shared priority into monetary terms, working with the rules of the
market to achieve a common purpose. It respects the rule that no public
good in this nation can be accepted until it speaks in the language of cost
incentives. But evidently, this gesture is not enough. The untax relies on
the principle that the market must serve something outside itself , must ulti-
mately not endanger the biosphere and thus our future. In doing so, it says
that nature is more real than the market . It declares its loyalty to the Earth,
not to economic growth. In atempting to dislodge our dependence on
cheap energy, it tries to bring about systemic, radical change to our entire
frame of mind. In doing so, it violates a basic taboo; it bursts the bubble.
In practical terms, the greenhouse untax (or its alternative versions)
is a fairly innocuous proposal. It would raise the cost of energy, leading
to a host of further changes, but it otherwise respects our traditions and
habits in every way. Nevertheless, it represents an immense symbolic shift.
If the “Reagan revolution” sought to limit the government's right to inter-
vene into the market, this shift constitutes an ecological revolution , one
that limits the market's right to intervene into nature. Addressing climate
change, it seems, requires nothing less than a radical transformation—
one akin to the industrial revolution, the sexual revolution, the Reagan
revolution, or all three, for it calls for a transformation in specific aspects
of our understanding of government, our physical infrastructure, and our
daily life all at once. Its effects are so widespread, in fact, that it may be
the most consequential revolution of them all.
Why does such a simple measure have such big consequences? In
the past, American movements for social change have taken two paths:
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