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our nations hostage, thereby defying the complacent assumptions of
modern democracies, so be it: only through this or any similarly force-
ful gesture will we at last place the biosphere above our belief in familiar
political traditions. Even if we fail miserably, even if the conventions of
public debate are too rigid to accept our intervention, we should not hold
back. We will never again face a crisis in which more is at stake; we have
no excuse but to salvage at least the possibility of future action. We have
no choice but to redefine what is politically feasible— even if it is too late . 94
For us, only the impossible is worthwhile .
85. Mike Hulme, Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding
Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Cambridge, England: Cambridge
University Press, 2009), especially 173-176. Hulme's argument runs aground
on another key fact: social change never takes place through reconciliation,
only through the gradual adoption of a new concept of justice that eventually
wins out in the face of persistent opposition. The overall acceptance of that
change comes about only a generation or two after the change itself has taken
place. It follows that disagreement over climate change is inevitable over the
period when actions mater most.
86. See Steven Stot, Carbonomics: How to Fix the Climate and Charge It to OPEC
Nantucket, Massachusets: Diamond Press, 2008). Stot focuses on an
untax on the supply of fossil fuels; I've added the suggestion that there be a
similar untax on the greenhouse-gas producing management of farmland and
forest, and thus have substituted my own term, “greenhouse untax,” for his,
“ca rbon u nta x .”
8 7. See John M. Broder, “W hite House Energy Session Changes No Minds,”
New York Times , June 29, 2010, htp://
science/earth/30energy.html; Peter Baker and David M. Herszenhorn,
“Senate Democrats to Pursue a Smaller Energy Bill,” New York Times , July
15, 2010, htp://;
and Carl Hulse and Herszenhorn, “Democrats Call Off Climate Bill Effort,”
New York Times , July 22, 2010, ht p://w w w.ny
88. Despite the claims of free-market fundamentalists, Adam Smith was by no
means an advocate for an unfetered market, as many scholars have long since
argued. For representative statements in this regard, see Salim Rashid, he
Myth of Adam Smith (Northampton, Massachusets: Edward Elgar, 1998);
Athol Fitzgibbons, Adam Smith's System of Liberty, Wealth and Virtue: The Moral
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