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The big ideological defeat hidden by environmentalism

I like this, from a blogger I have only recently discovered, Will Wilkinson:

Climate eschatology really is the ultimate in big lie crisis politics. The far-left has failed so comprehensively to make the case for its vision of society and economy that the only thing left to do is to brazenly and repeatedly assert that the world will literally collapse unless we implement this otherwise indefensible vision.

Well said. The rest of Wilkinson’s blog, which goes by the name of The Fly Bottle is well worth a regular look also, in the event that you need telling.

One of the things that irritates me about propagandists on my side is that they are often reluctant to spot a great victory, even when they have just won one. Wilkinson’s point is not just that climate chaos-ism is nonsense, a claim that I increasingly find myself agreeing with completely, not least because the now undependable notion of “global warming” has been replaced by the idiotic phrase “climate chaos”, or, even more idiotically, “climate change”. When was there ever a time when the climate did not change? What Wilkinson is also noting is that the hysteria whipped up around the changeability of the climate was whipped up because these lunatics came to realise that they had no other arguments against a more-or-less capitalist, more-or-less-free-market world economy. They have now conceded – not in so many words, rather by changing the subject – that capitalism works, and the only nasty thing they have left to say about it is that it works so well that it ruins the planet.

I do not want to suggest that this is a dazzlingly original observation. I merely thank Wilkinson for clarifying something that most of the regular writers of and readers of this blog all know, in the sense of agreeing when they are told it, but which they might not have said to themselves with absolutely clarity before. One of the reasons I noticed this posting of Wilkinson’s was that I had made precisely the same point in something else I was recently writing, about how well I think capitalism has been doing lately, both in practice and in the ideological enthusiasm sense.

Wilkinson continues:

I think the point is that the clock really is ticking. If we don’t “do something” soon, we’ll probably see that we don’t really need to do anything really dramatic, and then the window for radical social change will be closed. So I expect the volume to get much louder.

Exactly. As and when it comes to be agreed that capitalism is not now ruining the planet, that will be another huge victory for the forces of sanity. Two-nil to us, that will make it. What idiocy will the lunatic tendency think of next, I wonder (comments welcome), to take everyone’s minds off that huge defeat?

I know I know. The incorrigibly pessimistic part of our commentariat will now want to say that the damage has been done, etc. Maybe so. But although ideological shifts do not necessarily have immediate consequences, they do have consequences, and these shifts will have good consequences. They already are, I would say.

However, I do agree with the point that Johnathan Pearce makes from time to time that it would be good for us to ponder what would be the least-worst arrangements for if and when capitalism ever does start ruining the planet for real. I favour technical fixes rather than global regulations, but then I would, wouldn’t I?

26 comments to The big ideological defeat hidden by environmentalism

  • buwaya

    Not a new observation. I remember an Ayn Rand essay from the 1960’s that made the same point – that the left had failed to deliver on improvements in human welfare after demanding huge sacrifices, so they were switching to making claims that the “environment” required similar sacrifices. The new strategy had the advantage of being more untestable.

  • I am delighted you have discovered the marvel that is The Fly Bottle but Will is an Old Guard Blogger from the early days, Brian, and we have quoted him on Samizdata on many occasions in times of yore, starting in December 2001. We have even crossed philosophical swords on occasion.

  • CaptDMO

    What idiocy will the lunatic tendency think of next, to take everyone’s minds off that huge defeat?

    I suspect the traditional.
    “We have irrefutable evidence from anonymous sources,
    anyone who disagrees is a public menace worthy of imprisonment, and will be silenced. Show me the money.”

  • Johnahan Pearce

    Brian, Will W. has been around for donkey’s years!

  • Simon Jester

    Wilkinson’s point is not just that climate chaos-ism is nonsense, a claim that I increasingly find myself agreeing with completely, not least because the now undependable notion of “global warming” has been replaced by the idiotic phrase “climate chaos”, or, even more idiotically, “climate change”. When was there ever a time when the climate did not change?

    I have long thought that this makes the phrase “Climate Change” an excellent club to bludgeon the Golbal Warming Hysterics with. Most of them deny (or are unaware of) the existence of the medieval warm period or the little ice age, periods of climatic variation far greater than the putative 0.7K increase over the past century. This allows the Climate Change Denier accusation to be levelled in their direction.

  • According to Professor Ruddiman in Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum, we began influencing the climate 8000 years ago with the invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals – and a good thing, too, or we would be in a fuller Ice Age now.

    Food for thought.

  • There is another reason the Left has assumed the role of Protector of Animals/Ecosystems. The traditional agglomeration of tribes has to deal with women, blacks, Jews, gays, etc. who publicly oppose the Party Line on how best to defend them. The most scathing attacks are reserved for these “traitors”, but there are still a few who recognize that their politics are not necessarily defined by their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

    The really handy thing about “animal rights” and “environmentalism” is that there can’t be anything like “Uncle Tom” caribou testifying before Congress that they get along fine with the existing Alaska pipeline (and drilling in ANWR won’t hurt them a bit), or “self-loathing” fish pointing out how natural micro-organisms eat oil spills, providing food for them to eat.

    By claiming to defend those who cannot speak for themselves, or better yet the nebulous clientele “the environment”, they don’t need to worry about being contradicted by their constituency.

  • Whitehall

    Some capitalists that have rushed to embrace “global climate change”, once they’ve figured out how THEY will make a lot of money off it.

    That just goes to support Lenin’s observation that should he decide to hang capitalists, he would have no problem finding capitalists to sell him rope.

  • tim maguire

    Assistant, that was the article that made me cancel my subscription to Scientific American since they showed themselves to be mindless cheerleaders for all things global warming. As with An Inconveneient Truth, their own charts and graphs didn’t support their argument, but nevertheless, denying AGW is like believing in the Easter Bunny accoridng to them.

    I don’t think we’ve quite won the important battle because even as the evidence for AGW falls apart and the public is moving on to things that actually matter, politicians are falling under greater sway (at least in the US). One of George Bush’s greatest acheivements, in my opinion, is that he kept the forces of AGW at bay for 8 years. No matter who replaces him, I have less faith that they will do the right thing. Us Americans have about 6 more months to drive a stake in the heart of this monster.

  • maxx

    Sung to the tune of Peter, Paul and Mary’s ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’:

    Where have all the Marxists gone?
    Gone to environmentalism every one
    When will they ever learn?
    No no they’ll never learn.

  • kcom

    “Climate eschatology”

    When I first glanced at the post, my brain read that phrase as “climate Scientology“. Perhaps there’s a grain of truth there, too.

  • One thing that I’ve noticed is that lefties often don’t perceive the failed past leftist strategies as part of the continuity of their own ideology. The Great Society’s failings, for example, don’t dent the enthusiasm of current-day lefties. Adding to the problem is the curriculum of public schools, which ignores economics and turns American History into a grievance parade.

  • RRS

    There was a recent reference (a citation of de Tocqueville) on this site to Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty.

    To gain better comprehension of concept of environmentalism as part of the expansion of the Administrative State which (as part of the Welfare State) has supplanted Socialism as the force for collectivism, a re-read of pages 256 et seq of that work may be useful time spent.

  • Bob Hawkins

    60 years ago, socialism was a moral imperative because it was the best way to create smoke-spewing factories and produce consumer goods for the masses. 30 years ago, socialism was a moral imperative because it was the best way to prevent smoke-spewing factories yet produce consumer goods for the masses. Today, socialism is a moral imperative because it’s the best way to prevent smoke-spewing factories and the production of consumer goods for the masses.

    Once the masses have no consumer goods, cycle back to 60 years ago.

  • The least worst arrangement if global warming starts to be a real problem is to increase use of nuclear energy and reserve oil for the purpose of having anti-nuclear activists tarred and feathered.

    BTW, that’s what really annoys me about this round of environmentalist hysteria: The same people have opposed the best solution to the problem.

  • Robert Speirs

    Anyone remember the “ozone hole” hysteria? I think that was a “beta” for social control stratagems for the enviroloonies. It turned out not to be the best idea for their nefarious purposes, either because it wasn’t really a problem or it was fixable too easily. Now I don’t know if the ozone hole “healed itself” because we can’t use Freon any more or if there never was any harm to be expected from it. It doesn’t matter. The topic has been dropped, quite completely, like “acid rain”, because it didn’t give enough power to the mini-Lenins to order people about. AGW is much more useful because it has no obvious end point and there is no clear way to disprove it. And its perils can be exaggerated until they’re as big as Gore’s houseboat so it can give those on the inside maximum power.

  • PMain

    The sad truth is that those pushing this & similar agendas don’t really change their message too much – whether due to hubris or lack of grey matter, I’m not sure.

    Once the facts come out, I’d imagine they’ll proclaim that Global Warming has damaged the environment so much that we are now experiencing Global Cooling… ignoring the fact that this cycle has been shown to happen again & again throughout the ages & well before man walked the Earth; & that if that’s the case that maybe we should increase out carbon output to combat the cooling trend.

  • boqueronman

    A little off topic here, so please excuse. I used to visit the Wilkinson site fairly frequently. But it rapidly became clear that he was an unreconstructed, orthodox Libertarian on foreign policy, i.e. the best foreign policy is no foreign policy. He would too frequently drop in these two words together in a sentence involving an unrelated topic – quagmire and Iraq. You remember Iraq right? That description was debased in the 1970s and its relevance to Iraq was exactly nil from day 1. No attempt was ever made, that I could see, to explain what the reference actually meant or how he arrived at that conclusion. For some unknown reason he never mentioned the U.S. troops in Germany, Japan or Korea as “quagmires.” I got tired of it and took him off my list of blogs to visit. Although, I admist, he occasionally had some useful observations on other topics.

  • Chris

    Anyone can actaully download the data on global temperatures and carbon concentration and look for trends.

    Right now, we are no higher then we were in the 1600’s. We are at a periodic high point. If global temperatures go much higher then they are now, THAT would be unusual.

    However, at this point there is no strong evidence either do defend or refute uncharacteristic climate change. It all depends on what happens over the next 50 years.

  • tim maguire, I am not familiar with that SA article, but I heartily approve of you canceling your subscription. I think the Ruddiman hypothesis significantly undermines the current AGW panic. I think even the most extreme environmental anti-free market moonbats would have trouble accepting the idea that we should return to being hunter-gatherers.

    Remind them that we would have to do without wine, or even beer. They might say no blood for oil, but those supposed pacifists would (finally) fight for their chablis.

  • Mikey NTH

    There is another point to Lenin’s statement that the capitalists will sell him the rope.

    That point is “You can’t even make rope? What good is your system if you can’t even make rope? And where are you going to get the money to buy the rope?”

    Reminds me of an old joke: “When the Russian got home his wife asked “Are they out of meat again?”
    “Worse,” the man replied. “They’re out of bullets.”

  • Actually, I argue that “climate change” is not idiotic, precisely for the reasons stated in this post: the climate is always changing.

    Therefore, co-opt the language of the environmentalists, and use it against them. Agree that climate change occurs — because that is rather self evident from observing the Earth over thousands and millions of years.

    Once you agree, you force them to argue smaller, more detailed, technical points that less easily fit into a nice slogan.

  • Dawn

    What idiocy will the lunatic tendency think of next, I wonder (comments welcome), to take everyone’s minds off that huge defeat?

    I suspect a return to a modified form of virtue ethics, probably something close to former-Marxist Alasdair MacIntyre in Beyond Virtue. In may respects, I don’t think that this would be entirely bad thing if done as thoughtfully as MacIntyre. I assume, however, that it would be a cruder form that would allow for many of the same kinds of political ideas advocated by the modern Greens: collectivism, anti-Capitalism, primitivism.

    The downside for the modern Leftist would be, of course, that he would actually have to believe in things. The upside would be that MacIntyre has a more substantive critique of free-market economics than Environmentalism (or Marxism) can muster.

  • Dawn

    Sorry, I meant After Virtue.

  • This is an excellent analysis, but I think you’re declaring victory prematurely. Yes, on the technical side, we’re quickly coming to the conclusion that there exists no data supporting the global climate crisis, but the debate has never been technical, it’s been political.(Link) While we’re busily winning the science fight, the Left has been sewing up the political one — and today, they completely own the mind-space in our public schools, the news media, and the entertainment media, ensuring that the next generation will give them what they want even if ours does not. Further, they’re driving world policy, and if a certain candidate wins the Presidency in November, we’re certain to surrender our sovereignty to global Marxism at the UN. Even if he loses, the EPA has already proposed carbon emission controls that essentially turn the US economy into a fully-controlled, socialist economy,(Link) and there’s no guarantee the Republicans won’t go along.

    There’s no question that Marxism holds any intellectual force; it doesn’t, but it’s a mistake to conclude that it therefore holds no political force. That, it does.

  • Laird

    I think Plumb Bob has nailed it. The fight is lost; those of us who reject the idea of AGW are reduced to maintaining a rear-guard action to minimize the damage of the radical Greens.