“Welcome to the 21st Century”

A couple of our recent posts have looked unfavourably at the BBC’s coverage of the climate debate, in particular the three part series, Earth: the Climate Wars. But it’s not all bad at the Beeb, and it’s not fair to characterise their output as entirely biased in favour of environmental alarmists.

That’s the kind of thing George Monbiot does. A year ago, we wrote about his groundless complaints that BBC’s flagship program, Top Gear – just an hour of broadcasting a week – was somehow influencing the public’s understanding of climate change. It is ‘irresponsible’, Monbiot whinges, to allow programming that features people enjoying cars. Top Gear remains one of the most popular programmes produced by the BBC precisely because it resists the boring nonsense issued from the self-appointed environmental censors.

Top Gear presenter, James May has a new series running at the moment, James May’s Big Ideas, which is a positive look at the technologies which will shape the future. So far, flying machines, robots, and energy have been explored.

The series is not a look at the climate debate. In fact, apart from a few sharp quips, it entirely ignores the prevailing misanthropic, miserable and pessimistic view of the future. So why are we talking about it here, on the Climate Resistance blog?

Because May’s positive presentation is most likely the best way to challenge environmentalism’s negativity. In the latest episode, he introduces the film with the words, ‘Welcome to the twenty-first Century…’. Welcome! The twenty-first century is, according to many eco-prophets, a dark, nasty place, where your children’s children, and your children’s children’s children will suffer plague, pestilence, famine, flood, fire, and war because of your profligate use of fossil fuels. But May offers us a different 21st century; one in which we are welcome. May continues…

… where we have more of everything we need to make our lives longer, brighter and bolder than ever before. And this will only get better. But not without the most vital and civilising commodity on earth: energy.

May reveals a sophisticated understanding of humanity that the environmental movement simply just doesn’t have. Our use of energy is fundamental to all forms of development, not just our material wealth, but also political and social progress. Of course, cynics might (rightly) argue that at a time when we are using more energy than ever before, many aspects of consumer culture also happen to be particularly shallow. And it’s not as if all parts of the world enjoy both liberty and the excesses available to us in the West. The point is that abundant energy is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for progress. Without it – whether you’re a follower of anyone between or since Karl Marx and Adam Smith – you’re stuffed. And stuffed is exactly where environmentalists want you to be. Unable to move, locked into a ‘self-sufficient’, ‘low-impact’, ‘localised system of production’. In such a world, there is no need for political oppressors, because there is nothing with which to power a revolt – you’ll be too busy knitting your own lentils to organise against the ecocracy.

Some people say our insatiable appetite for energy will destroy the world. Rubbish. We’re never gonna give it up, and we can’t get enough of the stuff. In fact, we need more. Much more.

So here’s the big idea. I want enough energy to satisfy the world’s appetite. Not just for the next fifty, one hundred, or even two hundred years. I want it never to run out.

Not easy. But fortunately, there are people all over the planet with ideas that might just make it happen.

May goes off to explore just a few of the many energy technologies which are being developed, and that will, we hope, be allowed to create the abundance that May wishes for.

In contrast to his Top Gear co-host, Jeremy Clarkson, May’s confidence about the future is quiet and unconfrontational. The problems we face have solutions in his view: us. People. The very same things that the environmental movement tell you are the problem. We are creative, and we live in a universe of almost limitless energy. The only thing that’s standing in the way of us getting it are the likes of the erstwhile UK chief scientific advisor miserablist, Sir David King, who, as we reported recently, believes that cash spent on scientific progress in the form of the LHC would be better spent on ‘tackling climate change’.

Us environmental sceptics, deniers, realists – call us what you like – should regroup. May’s optimism is a better antidote to the environmentalist’s doomsaying than mere scepticism. Instead of challenging environmentalism on its own terms by saying that the future is not going to be a tragedy, we should start building more positive versions of the future, to make convincing arguments about what it could be like.

Environmentalism has thrived in an era where such visions are absent. As we have said before, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy; it would deny us the means to solve the problems we face, leaving us unable to cope with the climate. Similarly, it is only positive conceptions of the future that can drive progress.

To face retrogressive and mean-spirited environmentalism, there needs to be more than scepticism, and questions about the scientific integrity of the IPCC, the Hockey Stick, and computer models. Exposing the self-interest and corruption of greenwashed politicians also isn’t a sufficiently complete challenge to the circumstances that have given rise to environmental orthodoxy. May makes a good start. We should follow.

Welcome to the twenty-first century…

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… Bring it on.