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"The recognition of fatigue is crucial in addressing climate change," states the author, describing it as a "fairly extreme" concept.
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“The recognition of fatigue is crucial in addressing climate change,” states the author, describing it as a “fairly extreme” concept.


“Are you feeling tired today?” asked political theorist Ajay Singh Chaudhary during a video call on a dreary Friday afternoon. This is not only a question directed towards me, but to everyone – and Chaudhary is well aware of the answer. The evidence shows that most of us would agree that we are indeed exhausted. However, Chaudhary argues that this is not solely an issue for individuals: “Our environment is draining, our societal and financial dynamics are draining, and even our personal lives are draining.”

The main idea presented in his debut work, The Exhausted of the Earth, is the connection between personal well-being and the condition of the world. He also contends that this relationship is not inevitable. Instead, he maintains that “Your exhaustion is not some random byproduct” and can be attributed to a specific group of individuals, rather than just Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. Capitalism promotes a sense of individualism rather than a collective effort.

Chaudhary, the head of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, wrote a book that delves into the relationship between climate and politics. As someone raised by natural scientists, he felt a personal connection to the topic and saw it as a chance to bring attention to the lack of political action in addressing the climate crisis.

The issue of climate change involves politics, but not the idea of everyone agreeing, as stated in the short introduction of the book. It is also not about relying on technology to solve the problem. It is not the end of the world, but rather a contest between real people facing real crises and having actual differences, interests, and potential outcomes. Ultimately, climate change is a matter of power.

Politicians from the developed regions often do not discuss this topic in the same manner. They view climate change as a simple “on/off switch”. Parodying them, Chaudhary explains, “‘We’re doing something about climate'” would be their comment, “‘Would you rather we do nothing?'” However, Chaudhary explores two main areas of “taking action” towards climate change.

The initial concept is referred to as “right-wing climate realism” by the author. This ranges from individuals who support a slower approach to addressing climate change, to those who prioritize protecting and increasing existing political and economic power. This is why Chaudhary emphasizes the importance of considering plans for borders and policing when discussing climate policies.

According to Chaudhary, Joe Biden falls under the category of a climate realist on the right side of the political spectrum. He believes that one of the most crucial climate policies of the US president is not just the Inflation Reduction Act, but also the US National Security Strategy. Chaudhary expresses that the language of the strategy is overly patriotic and aims to surpass China in various aspects. He believes that this approach is problematic because cooperation between the US and China is essential in addressing climate change. Ultimately, climate realists on the right are aware of the potential for instability and are actively preparing for it. Chaudhary is confident that they will succeed, as it is both reasonable and likely.

The second course of action, involving the general population, holds great significance for “making a difference”. Chaudhary promotes the idea of “leftwing climate realism”, which acknowledges the scientific evidence not because it is immune to criticism, but because it is evident that there are limitations to the Earth’s resources. He argues for a slower lifestyle and a circular economy, where businesses vie for a finite profit and the government takes control of certain industries. This would benefit both the planet and its inhabitants, creating a world free from social, economic, and environmental distress and depletion.

How do we achieve a slower pace in our lives? This question serves as one of the main focuses in Exhausted of the Earth. The author draws upon a form of realism influenced by scholars like Franzt Fanon (the title is a reference to Fanon’s renowned book, The Wretched of the Earth, which discusses the impacts of colonization), Audre Lorde, and philosopher Raymond Geuss. Their analyses delve into strategies for gaining power and determining effective methods of communication.

According to Chaudhary, relying solely on typical methods such as elections and protests is insufficient. He doubts that Keir Starmer’s potential victory in the next UK general election will bring about significant progress in addressing climate concerns. Instead, those who prioritize climate action should explore alternative approaches, including reaching out to a wider range of individuals and organizations outside of established political structures.

According to the speaker, emotions play a crucial role in how we connect with the world. However, many discussions about climate change only focus on specific emotions such as ecoanxiety and solastalgia. This neglects the more general feeling of fatigue that is also influenced by environmental changes in our own communities.

Chaudhary states that individuals in my societal status often experience burnout, a prevalent issue in the United States. However, others may interpret it as physical fatigue or a lack of opportunity for self-expression among their community. According to Chaudhary, recognizing these perspectives can bring people together.

This is quite logical. However, halfway through reading “Exhausted of the Earth”, I can’t help but wonder if it could also be discouraging. If we’re coming together because of our exhaustion, could we potentially reach a point where we feel too tired to take any action?

According to Chaudhary, exhaustion is simply a starting point for taking action. We must then work together and expand upon this common feeling. In the more developed regions of the world, the conservative viewpoint grasps this concept much more effectively than the liberal viewpoint, as they gather in religious institutions or extremist networks that are heavily influenced by emotions. However, the left can gain insight into alternative methods of organizing by observing other parts of the world for inspiration.

Chaudhary gives instances such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who, according to him, establish support and connection through constructing clinics, repairing people’s phones, or aiding those who are struggling with rent payments. He also mentions the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia, which is not a conventional political party but rather a collection of social movements that can be sometimes strongly or loosely united. This group involves socialists, indigenous communities, and intellectuals, and they have significantly transformed their society, including facilitating the creation of the Cochabamba Agreement, which Chaudhary describes as possibly the most radical official document on transnational climate politics to date.

Frequently in countries like the UK and US, those who identify with left-leaning politics hold on to a romanticized view of a factory worker who will lead to significant reforms and a favorable perspective of reverting back to the post-war welfare state model. Chaudhary references the writings of eco-modernists Leigh Phillips and Matt Huber, whom he criticizes for their focus on the year 2024 as if it were still 1924. However, with production now being spread globally and the impact of climate change extending beyond borders, he suggests that international thinking and organization is necessary.

Having been born in the Bronx and currently residing in Queens, which is known as New York’s most diverse borough, and coming from a mixed Jewish and Indian heritage, he identifies himself as a “red diaper grandchild” and recognizes the importance of and the positive impact of international solidarity.

This scenario calls for a different type of practicality, which involves considering what would be attractive to a broad range of people worldwide, from impoverished individuals in developing countries to agriculturalists in developed countries. The speaker suggests that the likelihood of achieving communism or socialism in the next decade is low, as an Iowa small-scale farmer would not want to eliminate the concept of private ownership. However, by shifting away from the commodification of essential aspects of society and finding innovative solutions within environmental limitations, it is possible to achieve substantial progress, even while still utilizing basic market mechanisms for certain things.

He argues that his ideas do not resemble triangulation. Instead, he suggests a combination of current and past approaches – such as those of formal state, civil, and guerrilla strategies – which can appeal to a larger audience. This goes beyond diluting one’s approach. Realism shifts politics from a moral standpoint to one of effectiveness, not just finding a way to operate within the existing system, but also identifying the source of power in order to implement necessary changes. We should consider what strategic measures are needed to bring about a new world.

According to Chaudhary, it is important not to avoid violence, whether it be in personal interactions or the destruction of property. He believes that our current capitalist society is inherently violent, with communities suffering from climate change and individuals constantly struggling to survive. Chaudhary argues that it is naive to think that powerful “fossil capital” will simply surrender, and they will likely use both state and private violence to protect their interests.

Chaudhary, who is well-versed in critical theory, is cautious when it comes to instrumentalism. However, due to the urgency of the climate crisis, he has come to the realization that there are no other viable options left. He is now compelled to resort to measures of self-defense, even if it means taking actions such as “sabotage”, “blockades”, and possibly even “direct violence”. He draws inspiration from historical examples such as the suffragettes in the UK, Martin Luther King’s movement in the US, and Gandhi in India, all of whom employed both planned and spontaneous acts of violence in their respective movements.

However, he is not advocating for violence to be the primary method of fighting. Instead, he believes that in order for left-wing climate realism to be effective, it must operate in a variety of areas such as sports clubs, art movements, and government.

The speaker acknowledges that some of his ideas may be considered extreme, but he believes they should not be completely forbidden. He argues that while the climate crisis is a serious issue, it does not mean the end of the world. He refutes the idea that there will be a specific moment when it becomes apparent that the climate has shifted, as it is already occurring. The course of action to address this problem is still uncertain.

  • The book “The Exhausted of Earth” by Ajay Singh Chaudhary (published by Repeater Books for £14.99) is available for purchase at guardianbookshop.com to show support for the Guardian and Observer. Additional delivery fees may apply.

Source: theguardian.com