October 1, 2009
Global warming…has become the most powerful myth in human history, sending much of the world into a downward helix of economic decline. It is a tenuous hypothesis supported by ill-founded computer models and data from botched measurement, dubiously processed.
John Brignell, March of the Zealots
Global warmists, environmentalists and ecological redeemers are a mixed bunch and come in every shape, size and color. There are those, of course, who adopt a sane and responsible attitude toward preserving our natural heritage. One notable instance involves a new class of wealthy philanthropists, called eco-barons, such as the Chilean Sebastian Pinera, the American Douglas Thomas, and the Swiss Ernst Beyeler and Hansjörg Wyss, who have purchased, preserved and reconstructed millions of hectares in Chile, Argentina, the United States and South Africa. They are to be commended, not only because they are materially contributing to the planet’s well-being rather than whipping up public hysteria, but because they are not in the business of profiting from the latest environmental scare.
But the majority of our ostensible benefactors, it seems to me, harbor a different set of motives. Some are clearly in it for the big bucks, others are displaced religious zealots who have embarked on a messianic quest to purge the planet of the devil’s corrupting influence — aka, us — and still others are utopian primitivists who believe in restoring mankind to a presumably harmonious “state of nature.” All do inestimable harm.
For example, the cap-and-trade system proposed by the current American administration has already proved a dismal failure in Europe. According to Christopher Horner, author of Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed, cap-and-trade, which assigns quotas to individual companies that are otherwise compelled to buy hot air credits, has increased not only “energy costs and economic uncertainty” but has sent manufacturing jobs to other countries — all in the name of “a problem that evidence suggests does not exist.” Horner expresses the hope that the American government “will recognize that this once plausible theory, grounded solely in computer models, has suffered badly under the past decade of observations.” Climate modelling is notoriously capricious, which may explain why many of its forecasts are conveniently projected a century or more into the future when they cannot be refuted by opponents of the theory.
Benny Peiser, editor of CCNet science network, speaking at the Heartland Institute’s 2009 climate conference in New York, sounded the death knell of the green movement in Europe owing to enormous costs and minimal results (Climate Realists, March 11, 2009). Environmentalist Lawrence Solomon quotes Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada whose studies show that “every green job created ploughs under 2.2 jobs elsewhere in the economy” and that green jobs are proving to be unsustainable since the creation of even one such job costs $1 million in government subsidies (National Post, March 31, 2009). These are costs that may be suffered in other ways as well. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its 2008 Annual Report, published in 2009, jubilates over the replacement of motorized vehicles by “bicycle rickshaws” — which, it must be admitted, will certainly help to decongest Los Angeles traffic. That it would reduce America and the West to Third World Status does not trouble UNEP overmuch. Perhaps that is the plan.
Then we have the much-ballyhooed T. Boone Pickens strategy of introducing large-scale windmill technology, which is now proving to be a thoroughly quixotic project, unsightly, land-consuming, expensive and totally inadequate to its declared purpose of meeting even a fraction of our electricity needs. (Pickens has interesting cinematic company: the limp and effeminate Eloi in the film version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine are also keen on windmills.) Alex Alexiev of the Hudson Institute has laid the cards on the table for all to read: green electricity bills are rising exponentially. Europe is gradually abandoning its green energy programs and reverting to nuclear power, as are India, China and Japan. And, as of the end of 2008, American solar and wind-power stocks had lost 80% of their value (FrontPageMagazine, March 31, 2009). New Zealand has repealed its carbon tax scheme and Australia is poised to follow suit. The U.S. Congressional Budgetary Office gauges that green legislation, such as the Waxman-Markey bill, will cost the average American household $1,600 per annum, which, given the guesstimation record of government bureaus, is obviously a lowball figure (U.S. News, June 25, 2009).
This bill has been championed by scientists domiciled at the Woods Hole Reseach Center who in an open letter of June 19, 2009 to the members of the U.S. Congress proclaimed that “The Waxman-Markey bill now being considered by the Congress offers a powerful advance and must be enacted this year. But at its best it will be only a first step in the direction that scientists now recognize as necessary to protect local and regional climates.” The denizens of Woods Hole might be better advised to read geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer’s analysis in GlobalResearch.ca for August 17, 2009. Pfeiffer calculates that the U.S. would require 59% of the planet’s entire land surface to generate sufficient solar energy “to replace its current daily oil consumption.” Biofuels, “which are dirty and environmentally destructive,” are equally unproductive. Perhaps Woods Hole should be renamed Wookey Hole, famous for its caves where cackling witches cast spells to entertain tourists.
And yet the ignorance and preposterousness of such people is by no means the whole of it. There is another group of crusading zealots who would go even further. David Graber, a National Park Service biologist, reviewing Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature for The Los Angeles Times (October 29, 1989), writes: “Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet…Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.” David Foreman, leader of Earth First!, is chillingly explicit: “It may well take our extinction to set things straight” (cited in The Freeman, Volume 40, Issue 11, 1990). Then there is Paul Watson, Greenpeace co-founder and head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who famously described human beings as the “AIDS of the Earth.”
We seem to be involved in a strange conflict between the otherwordly and the primordial. On the one hand we appear to be striving for transmundane existence, an angelism of the mind and heart. On the other, we seem to be willing a kind of phylogenetic regression to the level of the early primates, as if we were eager for the day when we might find ourselves once again swinging from the trees and munching greenery.
I have little doubt that Jim Jones and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon would today be staunch environmentalists. In fact, Jones’ “apostolic socialism” movement was called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, which culmimated, as we recall, in “revolutionary suicide.” And one of the central concepts in the Reverend Moon’s Divine Principle is the responsible stewardship of the earth and a caring attitude for the entirety of nature, although this did not prevent him from incarcerating and brainwashing the members of his Unification Church, operating a car manufacturing plant in North Korea, dealing in munitions and maintaining mansions, castles and large properties around the world. For some of the shadier characters in the salvation business, solicitude for nature can become a most profitable proposition.
More to the point, predictive failure does not deter an ideological extremist, who feels sure that a disaster must arrive some day to confirm his predictions and justify his program for salvation. It matters little if his timetable is off by 10, 20 or 1000 years since, under the aspect of eternity, a cataclysm is bound to happen in seculae seculorum, proving him right. And even it it doesn’t, the mathematics can always be redone in the light of a grisly but accommodating future to which only he has privileged access. It is he who stands before the burning bush of the world and hears the voice of the Lord. For this pixilated mentality, being wrong over and over is a sure sign that he will be right once, the psychology of the end-of-the-world fanatic who merely keeps revising his calculations, relying on “new” information to perfect his reckoning and reinforce his delusion. But what he has really accomplished is to turn science into divination.
Abetting this strategy of endlessly renewable computation is the complementary trick of selective disinformation. A good example of this technique is provided by the recent controversy over the discovery of a “mutant” fish near Lake Athabasca in northern Canada, which was immediately blazoned in the media and among environmental groups as indisputable evidence of oil sands pollution. Unfortunately for the proponents of this canard, the “mutation” was nothing of the sort but a natural development that follows on decomposition. Only one scientific journal, Fort McMurray Today, reported on the reassessment of the find. Like enthusiastic anglers, environmentalists reel in any fishy story they can find and immediately amplify its size to impress their audience. And the media follow suit.
Once minds are set, it is very hard to change them, which would be like transmuting National Geographic into Playboy, as much as that result is to be desired. Playboy, at least, doesn’t disguise much, but in a damning spread on the Alberta oil sands, National Geographic suppressed every bit of positive copy: that reclamation efforts are extensive and ongoing, and that virtually 80% of the oil product derives from deep-extraction processes. But the enviro-activist frenzy continues unabated. Even Reuters wire service has joined the chorus, sponsoring a Facebook page and an environmental blog advocating the anti-carbon cause while filtering out all counter-evidence.
But the most damaging aspect of the movement for ecological purity is political in intent. Glen Beck in his just published Common Sense warns us about “what is really going on: leaders who want more government control over our businesses, economy and personal lives…need a vehicle to take them there…climate change is that vehicle.” Similarly, in his new book, Left in Dark Times, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy speaks of “the former Reds who have now turned Green and the friends-of-nature type of Greens who have now become greens of the revolutionary jihad variety.” President Obama’s (now former) Green Jobs “czar” Van Jones was very explicit about this blueprint, or greenprint, for the acquisition of centralized social and political power. “So the green economy,” he informs us, “will start off as a small subset and we are going to push it and push it and push it until it becomes the engine for transforming the whole society” (Uprising Radio, April 2008). From small beginnings.
Frank Tipler, professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University, writing in Pajamas Media for August 9, 2009, has diagnosed the problem clearly. “How did we ever come to this?” he asks, and answers: “Government financing of scientific research caused it.” The political establishment, in its quest to gain ever-increasing control of public and economic life, has seen to it that AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) scientists are “the only ones with federal grants, and, moreover, these malleable scientists “are much more likely to get university jobs, since universities are now almost wholly dependent on federal money…Soon there are none but true believers in the field: a consensus has been reached!” Many of the major scientific journals have also been adulterated. Their editors “are no longer outstanding scientists—as was the case before federal funding—but people who took the job after they failed to get tenure at any research university.” In the absence of “independent checking by skeptics,” these frauds and true-believer scientists have proliferated.
And this is the real dilemma we are facing. Liberal environmentalism is the cutting edge of the movement for bureaucratized state control of both private life and free market economics, conscripting not only the media, the NGOs, government departments and the intellectual classes to advance its agenda but shrewdly operating through the very corporations it seeks to regulate by offering tax and other incentives to ensure compliance. And it seems to be working.
To take a recent illustration. The UK utility Npower has initiated a new promotional campaign inviting children to apply for a “free climate cops challenge diary” with a view to informing on their parents who might be committing “climate crimes.” Children are prompted to build up a “climate crime case file” not only on their parents but on “uncles, aunts or friends from school” (London Sunday Times, July 27, 2008). Shades of the communist and fascist dictatorships, and more recently of Taliban Afghanistan where, as Khaled Hossein writes in The Kite Runner, “the rafiqs…taught children to spy on their parents, what to listen for, whom to tell.”
An exaggeration? But, as in the Lenny Bruce joke about a Catholic murderer who confesses that his pathological career “started with bingo in the Catholic church,” we should never underestimate small beginnings.