We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“It was billed as the climate change election, and the climate lost.”

So says the first line of the Guardian‘s report on the unexpected victory of Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National Coalition party in the Australian federal election.

The election was framed as a great climate showdown. The Coalition has held power over a tumultuous six years, which has seen it topple two prime ministers and suffer from catastrophic infighting, largely over energy policy, as the party has been unable to agree on taking action on the climate crisis, or even agree as to its reality.

The Labor party, which proposed introducing a target of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030, said the difference between the parties’ policies on the climate crisis was “night and day, black and white”.

As I have said once or twice before, my level of belief in CAGW is two-and-a-half letters to the left of most people here. If you are curious, “CAGW” stands for Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, though as of yesterday the Guardian‘s style guide has changed “Global warming” to “Global heating”. Yes, a rebranding exercise. All that is needed now is a shiny new logo and twitter handle and success is assured. After all it worked for The Independent Group Change UK The Remain Alliance For Change UK.

What with this result in Australia and the French gilets jaunes movement born out of anger at a carbon tax on fuel, does anyone else get the impression that the latest burst of upping the political ante on climate change works splendidly right up to the moment when it meets the voters?

For those who do truly believe that the peril of global warm.. heating is imminent and severe, it is time to get real. It is time to face the fact that drastic changes in lifestyle are necessary; that sacrifices are going to have to be made.

Yes, it is time to drop your enjoyable revolutionary delusions and face the fact that if climate change mitigation is to happen at all it will be done within the capitalist system.

Samizdata quote of the day

At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

Referring to a new international treaty environmentalists hope will be adopted at the Paris climate change conference later this year, she added: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”

The only economic model in the last 150 years that has ever worked at all is capitalism.

quoting the remarks of Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, in 2015.

h/t David Bolton

The UK has declared a “climate emergency”, apparently

Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter:

Labour has just forced the UK Parliament to declare a #ClimateEmergency.

Real politics comes from the ground up, and that’s what today has shown.

An emergency does not have to be a catastrophe – we now need a Green Industrial Revolution that will reprogramme our economy.

All flights are grounded, today’s local elections have been indefinitely suspended, and jury trials will be replaced by military tribunals for the duration of the emergency. Citizens failing to report to their local branch of the Sustainable Farming Commission for voluntary labour service will be docked ten points of social credit.

Commenting on this post is forbidden. The internet will be closing shortly.

Samizdata quote of the day

They are listening to a 16 year old. This is like some kind of weird surreal art house movie in which a lunatic asylum’s inmates break out, sneak into Parliament, throw the MPs into the basement, take their place… and no one notices.

– Perry de Havilland

Environmentalism’s philosophical black hole

This below is from an essay that was produced in 1990 by US economist George Reisman. (I also have his immense tome, Capitalism, which is excellent.)

The idea of nature’s intrinsic value inexorably implies a desire to destroy man and his works because it implies a perception of man as the systematic destroyer of the good, and thus as the systematic doer of evil. Just as man perceives coyotes, wolves, and rattlesnakes as evil because they regularly destroy the cattle and sheep he values as sources of food and clothing, so on the premise of nature’s intrinsic value, the environmentalists view man as evil, because, in the pursuit of his well-being, man systematically destroys the wildlife, jungles, and rock formations that the environmentalists hold to be intrinsically valuable. Indeed, from the perspective of such alleged intrinsic values of nature, the degree of man’s alleged destructiveness and evil is directly in proportion to his loyalty to his essential nature. Man is the rational being. It is his application of his reason in the form of science, technology, and an industrial civilization that enables him to act on nature on the enormous scale on which he now does. Thus, it is his possession and use of reason — manifested in his technology and industry — for which he is hated.

The doctrine of intrinsic value is itself only a rationalization for a preexisting hatred of man. It is invoked not because one attaches any actual value to what is alleged to have intrinsic value, but simply to serve as a pretext for denying values to man. For example, caribou feed upon vegetation, wolves eat caribou, and microbes attack wolves. Each of these, the vegetation, the caribou, the wolves, and the microbes, is alleged by the environmentalists to possess intrinsic value. Yet absolutely no course of action is indicated for man. Should man act to protect the intrinsic value of the vegetation from destruction by the caribou? Should he act to protect the intrinsic value of the caribou from destruction by the wolves? Should he act to protect the intrinsic value of the wolves from destruction by the microbes? Even though each of these alleged intrinsic values is at stake, man is not called upon to do anything. When does the doctrine of intrinsic value serve as a guide to what man should do? Only when man comes to attach value to something. Then it is invoked to deny him the value he seeks. For example, the intrinsic value of the vegetation et al. is invoked as a guide to man’s action only when there is something man wants, such as oil, and then, as in the case of Northern Alaska, its invocation serves to stop him from having it. In other words, the doctrine of intrinsic value is nothing but a doctrine of the negation of human values. It is pure nihilism.

A reason why this essay is evergreen (geddit?) is because its philosophical assault on environmentalism is one that is all too rarely crafted. Most critiques are a mixture of making fun of protestors or contesting specific claims they make, not the wider set of assumptions on which environmentalism rests. Consider the antics of campaigners making a nuisance of themselves in central London in recent days. Most responses have been: The campaigners are smug, middle-class berks (while true, is not an argument); they are disrupting lives of ordinary people (true, but is not a refutation of their claims about the Earth); their conduct is not a good way to raise awareness about the plight of the Earth (that’s debatable) and that they are alienating people (true, but again, does not say their arguments are bunk per se).

Free marketeers can, by logic, be alarmed by Man-made global warming, or be more sanguine or neutral as Matt Ridley is and so on, so even those who generally go with the classical liberal flow can worry about such issues on the facts of the case. It is true that there is a lot of overlap between those who fear AGW and who want the State to control our lives more, whether via population control, banning products and energy use, etc, but that’s by no means a given. (There are, by the way, genuinely liberal ways of thinking about conservation, pollution, externalities of human behaviour, etc.)

I think the environmentalist movement has been allowed to claim the philosophical high ground by default because by and large, we bipeds with our out-sized brains and reversible thumbs have allowed it to happen. It is rare to read a Reisman-type attack on this mindset (sharp-eyed readers will note from his language that he is an Ayn Rand fan). Another example of a more comprehensive critique of such anti-humanism comes from Robert Zubrin in his book Merchants of Despair (see a Reason review of his ideas here).

The core of the problem, as Reisman frames it, is that environmentalists commit the sin of making a contradiction: They applaud being at one with nature, and therefore are fine with animals eating other animals and of their adapting to environments through the long march of evolution over masses of time, but they are not happy when Man lives according to his nature, by re-arranging the environment to suit his needs because of how Man, unlike animals that we know of, has a rational faculty able to grasp concepts and think ahead. The Greens say: everything apart from Man can live as it does, but Man is somehow different, a sort of unique creature. That seems, well, unnatural. We even get echoes of this mindset when you read of people saying why they want to help the Earth by not breeding. (Mind you, the sort of people who choose not to breed for such reasons are probably doing Mankind a favour by not spreading their DNA.) Any other creature does not think “I won’t have kids to save the Earth”.

The contradictory mess that is environmental ideology is all of a piece with it being, in many respects, a secular religion. The people blocking traffic in London may not think they are religious in the way that, say, the builders of Notre Dame did all those centuries ago, but they are in similar company. At least church architects had something tangible to show for their devotion. With today’s Greens, all we are likely to ever get is litter.

Meanwhile in other news…

The end of the world is imminent. The Guardian Observer reports,

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review

Obviously my first thought was “Okaaay, tev. I will believe you believe it if it still keeps Brexit off the front page for, say, the rest of this week.” But given the stakes one should keep an open mind. You guys think there’s anything to this?

Alex Epstein on the 97% lie

Alex Epstein gives a well-deserved kicking to that 97% claim:

What you’ll find is that people don’t want to define what 97% agree on – because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use.

It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from.

If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause – that is, that we are over 50% responsible. …

But do the “97%” even say that? And are the actual percentage that do say that right? My opinion has long been: No; and: No.

I scroll down, and am pleased to discover that Epstein agrees with me:

But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that. …

Marxists used to believe that Marxist tyranny was needed to rescue the world’s economy from capitalists. But that excuse collapsed long ago. The biggest economic rescue acts that are now needed are to rescue the bits of the world’s economy that Marxist tyrants have been busy ruining. So, should Marxists abandon these methods? Yes. Are they abandoning these methods? Many presumably have, and have gone silent. But others, the ones we still hear shouting their nonsense, just fabricated a different set of excuses for those same old tyrannical methods.

Nico Metten on the we-dont-want-short-and-shitty-lives lobby

I like this:

… A lot of people have this strange idea that the only thing preventing us from going off fossil fuels is the oil lobby. But it is not the oil lobby that is doing that. It is the we-dont-want-short-and-shitty-lives lobby that is behind it. In other words it is all of us. …

This is from a piece by Nico Metten for Libertarian Home, published in October of this year. That I only just gave it any serious attention is because I have been having a breather from libertarian polemics, either written by others, or doing them myself. I still haven’t properly read through this one, but already I recommend it.

It’s not that I have been entirely ignoring Nico. He is a friend of mine, and this is a photo I took of him and some of his mates in the Blackheath Halls Orchestra, at a concert of music by Debussy and Sibelius that I attended in November. The Sibelius (Symphony No. 7) was particularly good:

Nico is the guy at the back who played those big drums. Some instrumentalists can hide in an orchestra. By which I mean that they can still do some damage, but without you knowing that it’s them doing it. But the man on the big drums cannot hide. Nico was very good.

The Libertarian Home piece quoted above is also remarkable for the scathing way that Nico writes about Germany and its government. Pioneers in badness basically, once upon a time, and still. But being a German himself, Nico is allowed to say such things.

Discussion point: what to do about drones being used to disrupt air travel?

According to the BBC, ‘persons of interest’ have been identified as responsible for flying the drone or drones that shut down Gatwick airport. As it gradually became clear that this was going on too long to be the work of careless hobbyists or malicious pranksters, the profile of the crime (it disrupted air travel but did not kill anyone) made me think that “climate justice” activists might be responsible. The BBC article says that is indeed one of the lines of enquiry being pursued. Still, let us be no more hasty to jump to conclusions or to blame every environmentalist in existence for the possible crimes of one of their number than we would like them to be next time someone loosely describable as “on our side” commits a crime.

The more urgent problem is that now whoever it was has demonstrated the method, anyone can copy it.

Technically and legally what can be done to stop a repetition? What should be done? What should not be? If you are one of those who have enjoyed flying drones in a responsible manner, or who is developing ways to use drones for emergency or commercial use, start work on your arguments now, because, trust me, the calls to BAN ALL DRONES NOW are going to be loud.

Hunting lions can help the species: a vegetarian conservationist speaks

I was impressed to see CNN publish something as unpalatable to their core audience as this:

Ending trophy hunting could actually be worse for endangered species

Amy Dickman is the founder and director of Tanzania’s Ruaha Carnivore Project, part of Oxford University’s WildCRU. She has worked in African conservation for over 20 years. All views expressed belong to the author.

I am a lifelong animal lover and vegetarian for whom the idea of killing animals for fun is repellent, and have committed my career to African wildlife conservation.

You might, therefore, expect that I would have been thrilled with Donald Trump’s suggestion — influenced apparently by media and animal rights pressures — that he could decide against the US importation of trophy-hunted elephants (and possibly other species such as lions).

However, I am fearful that impulsive and emotional responses to trophy hunting — no matter how well-meaning — could in fact intensify the decline of species such as lions.

[…]

People may find it very strange that there can be any positive aspect to hunting threatened species — surely any additional mortality heaped on a declining species must unquestionably be a bad thing?

The reality is more complicated. Of course, if trophy hunting is the main reason for the decline in an area’s lion population, then stopping it is entirely justified and desirable.

However, in most places, this is not the case. And if trophy hunting diminishes those other threats — by protecting habitat, preventing poaching or acting as a buffer between parks and human populations — then overall the threatened species could be better off.

The unsung genius of the yellow vest

Whatever one thinks about the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests/riots in France – and I happen to know that they are the result of a deal made between a French green activist wishing to see more protests about what the government was doing to combat climate change and a particularly literal minded demon – the choice of the yellow Hi-Vis waistcoat or vest as a symbol of the protests was inspired. As every schoolboy knows, St David told the Britons to wear leeks in their caps to distinguish friend from foe in their battles with the Saxons. In many struggles since then some item snatched up in haste from whatever was lying around in order to improvise a uniform has duly become an icon of that cause. Here are some reasons why the gilet jaune is destined to join that illustrious list:

One: Protesters want to be seen. Hi-vis vests make people highly visible. This is one of those linkages that manages to be both obvious and surprising at the same time. Why did no one think of this before?

Two, anyone driving a car in France has got one in the boot anyway because a 2008 law says they must. Might as well put the thing to use.

Three, and this is the one I love, it turns a symbol of compliance into a symbol of defiance. Cop pulls you over. Cop saunters up to the car. “Is monsieur carrying a gilet de haute visibilité as required by law?” “Why of course, officer. I always carry my yellow vest. One never knows when one might need it.”

One day the Times headline writers might figure out what actually helps save rhinos

The paper edition of the Times that hit my doormat this morning had an interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit keeps rhinos safe from poachers”.

The online version has an even more interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit and ex-spies keeps South Africa’s rhinos safe from poachers”.

Neither headline is untrue, both the hi-tech gadgetry and the spies are helping preserve the rhinos, but both are missing something. My use of the “Deleted by the PC Media” tag is a little inaccurate, as is my use of the “Hippos” tag, but we seem to lack a tag for “Rhinos” or for “Never even entered the PC Media’s pretty little heads despite the facts staring them in the face from their own reporting”. See if you can guess what the missing factor is from this excerpt:

South Africa, home to 80 per cent of the world’s 29,000 rhinos, loses about three a day to poachers, the vast majority in state parks. Private reserves have become essential to preventing the animals from extinction, as long as the owners can afford to protect them.

Turning the 150,000-acre reserve into a 21st-century fortress in the African bush costs £1 million a year but the investment has paid off. The park has not lost a rhino in the past two years. It is hardly surprising. At each of the park’s four gates, guests visiting its five-star lodges, as well as staff, only enter after systems have checked numberplates and fingerprints against a national criminal database and are tracked and monitored until they leave.

Kruger National Park is far less secure and the rate of survival among its 9,000-strong rhino population is poor. Sixty per cent of all poaching incidents in South Africa occur there. Too often its rangers, police and officials are in the pay of poachers. Rhino horns can fetch up to £70,000 per kilogram in Asia, where they are imagined to cure a range of ills from hangovers to cancer.