I am not sure I understand

I am not sure I understand

I am not sure I understand.

Once in class we criticized Trump’s plan to bring back jobs by keep holding on the fuel industry, pointing out that the renewable energy industry can offer blue-collar jobs too. In this case, the political system  provides a battle ground of discourse to distort truth to earn support and profit. Trump’s plan is hailed at by many people, a fact showing that many people still either lack in access to reliable information or, more likely, are credulous crowd who do not bother to think critically.

However, all conservative opinions are not based on false information. I do not have a handy example, but I suppose there are conflicts of interests in many progressive efforts, at least within a period of time. It can be argued that increase in clean energy industry can make up the loss of employment in fuel industry. But is it certain that people of all classes and status benefit from such changes in the impending future? I don’t think so.

Solnit thinks of such uncertainty as the place for hope. She thinks that there will not be hope without uncertainty. Certainty of future raises optimists and pessimists who would not act. If the fate is certain, where is the room for agents to act?

Despite this important insight, I am still worried, because hope requires uncertainty, but uncertainty does not necessitates hope. Uncertainty is the space where a variety of forces with hopes of different orientation, complexity and magnitude fight together. Most importantly, although we  usually have our convictions in the spaces of uncertainty, it is not easy, in fact, not always possible, to justify one force over other forces. All justifications are subjective to some extent, while there is no ecological “we”.

A friend of mine once made this distinction between the idealists and the realists. She writes that “if the idealists uphold ideal and the realists uphold reality, then the idealists should pin down their ideal and approach the ideal in the real world, while the realists should take the reality, interpreting and explaining it with theories.” (translated)

She studies history and regards herself as a realist. She reads the history and tries to understand it with complex theoretical constructions to narrates the reality as accurate as possible, abiding with the complexity and normality of the real world.

But she also admires the idealists, that is, the hopers, who “take on the complexity by the horns and grapple with it. The idealists are the the ones who make real changes.”

I have always been the observer of history, the theorist of reality, a realist for all my life, but I have come to know that the idealists are not simplistic about reality. Sometimes they appear to lose sights of an issue, because changes after all are not neutral. This class aspires to hope, and this time  I should try to be an idealist.



In response to the prompt of “where is hope”, I would like to talk more about the nonexistent ecological “we”, a collective action problem. Politics, with all its distortions, is the necessary venue if we going to make any change in a community. Democracy is invented for this end. However, instead of more theoretical discussion, I actually want to draw some light of hope in a different political system, the one we have in China.

Although China has a rather capitalistic economic system, it is still a country with an authoritarian communist central government. I heard that non-governmental organizations are generally circumscribed in size and membership, and under more strict regulation of governments than organizations in the U.S. Therefore, the opinions of the central government plays a huge role in China’s environmental enterprise.

During the time of the last president Hu, the main principle related to the environmental protection is called “principle of scientific development,” which includes the phrase “sustainable development.” During those years, however, environmental problems were rising quickly, as this concept of sustainable development, related to environmental protection, was often interpreted with an emphasize on development, and sustainability concerns more about the economic modes of development.

This year, before the 19th conference of the Chinese Communist Party, President Xi has been talking frequently in his speech about environmental protection. There is a wording that he uses so many times that I have memorized: ”绿水青山能带来金山银山,绿水青山就是金山银山,宁舍金山银山,也要绿水青山。“(Green waters(beautiful natural waters) and greenish mountains not only bring mountains of gold and silver. Green waters and greenish mountains are themselves mountains of gold and silver. (official translation: Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.) Rather to give up mountains of gold and silver to keep green waters and greenish mountains.) Along with the official propaganda on every levels of government and every social classes from students to white-collars, the central government has recently incorporated environmental index to assess performance of local governments.

From my personal point of view, Chinese government has also good record in participating in and negotiating the several climate and environmental accord. No matter what people think of the Chinese communist government, in the environmental enterprise, it sends positive and hopeful messages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *