When we were wondering why Environmentalism is often assumed to go hand in hand with the political Left, we suggested that Environmentalism and the War on Terror had similar roots in the politics of crisis and fear. A commenter named Harry made an interesting point that we missed at the time, but which certainly needs addressing:
The editors here say that they would define the Global War on Terror as one based solely on fear. If so, (and I certainly dont buy into that), it’s a fear based on actual evidence or occurrence of global terrorism.
Balance that against the current global warming evidence and tell me which one is more likely.
Well, that’s not quite what we said, but, hey. Harry is right that there is evidence for global terrorism – the World Trade Centre was attacked, and so on.
But there is evidence that the world has been warming up a bit recently; there is evidence that human activities have something do with some of that. The problem is with the political response to that evidence. The point is that to argue that ‘there is no such thing as global terrorism’, or that ‘there is no such thing as global warming’ is to fail to take issue with the idea that evidence of global terrorism or anthropogenic global warming is sufficient argument for the execution of the ‘War on Terror’, or for ‘drastic action’ to mitigate climate change.
We don’t buy into that.
Of course, there is a reasonable expectation that those responsible for terrorist attacks will be brought to justice, and similar attacks to be prevented. But what passes for justice and prevention often has the consequence of the precise opposite. The images of a world ravaged by terrorism and global warming are both used to reign in liberties, and to limit political imaginations. Proponents of these causes use the promise of a secure future to hide the fact that they lack any idea about how to deliver a better one.
We do not think that AGW is the result of a conspiracy of communists to raise taxes, or whatever. Likewise, we don’t think the Iraq war is “all about oil”. No UK party would have stopped us going to war in Iraq. And you’ve got to wonder where John “The climate debate is over” McCain fits into a Leftist conspiracy to tax people on the pretext of saving us from Gaia’s Revenge. Rather, the War on Terror and Environmentalism are two peculiar responses to a crisis of politics in which it fails to resonate with the public. This crisis is expressed variously as moral panics, urgency for ‘drastic action’, and the conviction that a failure to respond will undoubtedly spell the end of civilisation as we know it. In other words, where you see politicians responding to a ‘crisis’, it is invariably nothing more than their inability to make sense of the world. The irony is that the politics generated by fears about terrorism and eco-catastrophe is dictated by the readings of thermometers, or by the will of terrorists, rather than by the purposeful actions of world leaders.