Left and Right
Hats off to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s answer to the miserablist’s ‘Earth Hour’.
Human Acheivement Hour is a celebration of our progress.
What’s curious about this is that the CEI are frequently criticised for their right-leaning economic perspective. Yet, arguably, in contrast to greens who would identify themselves as ‘progressive’, the CEI are much more interested in progress. Environmentalists instead call for more laws, and less freedoms. They will say that the progress depicted in the CEI’s video is false, and that those who fall for it are deluded.
This, we think, shows how environmentalism has transformed or corroded old concepts and categories. Who are the conservatives, and who are the progressives?
Those who still protest that it is the CEI’s capitalism which drives their vision (well, d’uh) ought to ask themselves why the same, positive images of human acheivement couldn’t be presented by a more Left perspective. Eco-centricism is anti-humanism. Keep the lights on!
Over at Gristmill, the angry David Roberts gets his knickers in a twist about an email list:
Barnes gets his information on climate change the same place everyone in the right-wing media world gets it: from Marc Morano, the in-house blogger/agitator for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Morano’s entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post.
How did we know about Roberts’s latest blog post? Well, we got an email from Marc Morano about it.
Roberts finishes his otherwise pointless post with the very revealing words,
The conservative movement gets its information about climate science from the office of James Inhofe.
What more really needs to be said?
Well, quite a bit more really needs to be said. Such as what is supposed to be wrong with that, even if it were true? Which it isn’t, as there are a number of email list servers of interest to sceptics. And it’s not as if there are no green newswires spewing less than perfect information. And it’s not as if that transparently false information never comes from Grist.
As we discovered a year ago, for example, when Professor Andrew Dessler wrote on Grist that the IPCC consisted of thousands of climate scientists, all uniquely qualified to look after the sick planet, and that we ought to ignore social scientists and computer programmers. Unfortunately for him, we pointed out that the IPCC in fact consisted of a great number of social scientists and computer programmers – we counted them. Dessler was hoisted by his own petard. But he continued his tired analogy, just as Roberts and his ilk trot out the same old lines about oil-industry-funded-corporate-shills, the scale and the substance of the ‘scientific consensus’, and of course, the equivalence of climate scepticism and conservatism, all of which, many times, have been shown to lack foundation. They are myths. This makes it all the more a surprise that Roberts once uttered these words:
Long-time greens are painfully aware that the arguments of global warming skeptics are like zombies in a ’70s B movie. They get shot, stabbed, and crushed, over and over again, but they just keep lurching to their feet and staggering forward. That’s because — news flash! — climate skepticism is an ideological, not a scientific, position, and as such it bears only a tenuous relationship to scientific rules of evidence and inference.
Roberts’ inability to self-reflect is painfully obvious to anybody who is not him. As we pointed out, scepticism cannot be in itself ideological. On the other hand, Environmentalism – which, after all, demands that we reorganise the global economy, monitor every productive endeavour, and regulate lifestyle – is an ideology. But it hides its politics behind science. ‘Science’ is environmentalism’s fig leaf. Behind the green veneer is its shame.
What a cautious lifting of the fig leaf reveals is that the object of Roberts’ anger is democracy itself. He doesn’t seem to like people having email lists with which to communicate ideas. Just as he doesn’t like people being able to travel, or to consume according to their own needs and desires.
Accordingly, Roberts needs to turn democratic expression into a subversive, nefarious activity. In this fantasy, what are in fact normal forms of communication appear as sinister conspiracies. Two people knowing each other is an element… a cell… of a dark network standing against science…. truth itself.
But the reality is that the recipients of Morano’s emails are people who can see for themselves what an email from a – shock horror – Conservative actually consists of. We’re not conservatives, and you don’t have to be a conservative, for example, to know that when James Hansen says that there are just four years left to save the planet, he’s talking unmitigated BS. And yet it was an email from Marc Morano which first drew our attention to the story. It’s just a way of distributing news. Everybody who comments on the news is connected to many similar services. We get daily digests on topics from the newspapers themselves, from Government departments, NGOs, Quangos, political parties, charities, and from Google news alerts. Some of these sources are neutral. Some have a clearer agenda.
Of course, Sen. Inhofe is a Conservative. But his take on the climate issue is a little deeper than Roberts gives him credit for.
It is becoming increasingly clear that man-made global warming is not a partisan left vs. right issue. It is a scientific question and the promoters of global warming fears now realize they have significantly overreached.
Roberts frames the debate as ‘Science versus Conservatives’. But it doesn’t stand. Roberts can’t tell left from right, forward from backward, progressive from retrogressive, sceptic from conservative, liberal from deeply illiberal. As we recently said of George Monbiot, he
… emerges dizzy from his own spinning and thinks it is the world that’s confused about what direction it is moving in. And this is his fundamental problem. Everything he writes is a projection of his own inability to understand a world that fails to conform to his expectations. The ideas he uses to orientate himself fail to give him purchase on his own existential crisis; they crumble underfoot.
Like Monbiot, Roberts see a challenge to his perspective as a catastrophe. He cannot countenance dissent. It would be the end of the world. Roberts’ can only explain his objection to conservatism in terms of environmental catastrophe, because he doesn’t possess a principled, coherent objection. Fantasy takes the place of insight and shrill posturing the place of careful argument.
George Monbiot is a very confused man. A few days ago, he announced his campaign against the Aga cooker (because it uses lots of energy). This, he said ‘is indeed a class war’ – the Aga is an expensive piece of kit, and therefore, you have to be rather wealthy to own one. We thought he wasn’t entirely serious about this campaign, it was just a rather childish attempt to prove to his detractors at Spiked-Online that the Green movement wasn’t dominated by the upper classes. He might just as well have shot himself in the foot to prove that he wasn’t lame.
I’ve lost count of the number of aspirational middle-class greens I know who own one of these monsters and believe that they are somehow compatible (perhaps because they look good in a country kitchen) with a green lifestyle. The campaign against Agas – which starts here – will divide rich greens down the middle.
George is trying to resist criticism that the environmental movement is dominated by the upper classes by committing himself to a campaign that will, according to him, divide them. In other words, it’s a nonsense that at best defeats itself. But this wasn’t a joke. Yesterday, George appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show [Listen again] to talk about why the Aga is a bad thing:
there are lots and lots of ways to spread love and happiness, but starving out the people of the Horn of Africa because of repeated droughts caused by our use of Agas is not one of them
George’s commitment to class war gets even more bizarre and questionable. Shortly afterwards, the Guardian published a comment piece, in which he announces that,
A Labour government approves the expansion of Heathrow – why, it’s almost enough to make you vote Tory
This isn’t a joke, either.
So my guilty, monstrous thought is this: why shouldn’t we vote Conservative if it’s the only remaining hope of preventing this crazy scheme from being built? What else is there left to lose? I won’t act on this impulse, but I know that plenty of others will. When these invertebrates are booted out of office, they will have no one to blame but themselves.
Monbiot began the week calling for class war. He ends it by canvassing for the Conservatives. Eco-socialism on Monday; eco-conservatism by Friday. This reveals something we’ve been long arguing here on Climate-Resistance: that environmentalism doesn’t fit neatly into the Left-Right spectrum. Without commenting on the merits or demerits of Left over Right or vice-versa, if environmentalism’s fiercest proponents can switch ends of the political spectrum, then their claims to have put humans at the centre of their politics is entirely bogus; the fundamental principals are environmental, not human. George is willing to sell out the latter for the sake of the former.
It gets weirder. George’s Aga ga-ga phoney class war, which followed criticism from Spiked, came in an article which attacked the Editor of Spiked, Brendan O’Neill. At the beginning of the article, Monbiot makes an issue of O’Neil’s Marxism, but by the end, he places O’Neill on the other side.
Yes, this is a class war; and Brendan O’Neill and his fellow travellers have sided with the toffs. These Marxist proletarian firebrands are defending the class they profess to hate.
(O’Neil – who doesn’t ‘profess to hate’ any class – answers Monbiot here).
So not only does George demonstrate that much of Spiked’s criticism is correct by his calling for a ‘class war’ against the Aga, he switches from eco-Socialism to eco-Conservatism over the course of a working week, and then accuses others of being Right, where they had, according to him, assumed to be Left!
George emerges dizzy from his own spinning and thinks it is the world that’s confused about what direction it is moving in. And this is his fundamental problem. Everything he writes is a projection of his own inability to understand a world that fails to conform to his expectations. The ideas he uses to orientate himself fail to give him purchase on his own existential crisis; they crumble underfoot. The result is his capricious, vacillating, and incoherent column in the Guardian, with its frequent attacks on Spiked. This disorientation demonstrates beautifully, albeit unintentionally, Spiked’s broader criticism that the Left-Right axis isn’t sufficient to explain the world. Monbiot is a painful symptom of this disorientation, not a bright and leading advocate of an urgent cause.
He is a walking contradiction – as you’d expect from a man who, as James Heartfield has pointed out, is the son of Tory politicians descended from French aristocrats, went from a famous public school, through Oxbridge, to the BBC, yet fancies himself as a critic of the establishment. The very same establishment has mirrored George’s disorientation by redefining itself according to the tenets of environmentalism. The Government has gone Green. The Labour Party is Green. The Tory Party is even Greener. The media is dominated by the environmental message. Huge Corporations rush to demonstrate their Green credentials. This makes it harder and harder for Monbiot to style himself as an anti-establishment radical – he fails to realise it, but they’ve bought the message, in spite of environmentalism’s failure to interest the wider public. Thus the few occasions where environmentalism is challenged or fails to assert itself become the battlegrounds for George’s war with the imaginary anti-environmental ‘establishment’. Hence, Spiked, one of the few critics of environmentalism become the object of his anger and frustration, and the go-ahead for the new Heathrow runway moves him to join the Conservatives, and further towards the real establishment.
You can’t blame George for this confusion, however. It is a complicated world, made more complex by the Heathrow affair.
A staggering argument emerged yesterday, for example. John McDonnell, MP for the area where the new runway will be built, was suspended from Parliament for staging a protest about the decision about the future of the runway not being the subject of a vote.
Later he told the BBC that he would not apologise for his actions because he was representing his constituents and their rights to have their voices heard.
By doing what he did, he said he was asserting the values of “democracy and the sovereignty of Parliament” stemming back “to the days of Cromwell”.
“This is about asserting the right of MPs to decide the policies of this country and not having them bulldozed through without a vote in the House of Commons.”
This is a bit rich. The concerns of residents likely to be displaced notwithstanding, environmental policies which will have adverse consequences for the entire UK population have, as we have long been arguing here, gone through the House of Commons almost entirely unopposed and without debate, yet environmental politics have never been tested by the UK democratic process. All of the parties have absorbed environmentalism, and made it the centre of their manifestos. Most recently, MPs voted for the Climate Change Bill, which became law, and allowed an unaccountable and unscrutinised Climate Change Committee to dictate what the UK’s climate targets ought to be.
In other words, the Greening of the UK establishment, has been entirely undemocratic.
Answering Monbiot’s war on the Aga today, William McGrath, chief executive of the Aga Rangemaster Group says,
Monbiot asks: “So where is the campaign against Agas? There isn’t one.” The reason for this is that there is nothing to attack.
There is nothing to attack, or rather, there is nothing that George can find to attack – so empty is his imagination – to sustain his image as a radical. In search of an enemy, he declares war on ovens, and gets burnt. He has only himself, and his infantile inability for self-reflection to blame.
Over at Comment is Free, George Monbiot attempts to rescue the eco-movement from the criticism that they’re a bunch of toffs by launching a campaign to ‘ban the aga’. “This is indeed a class war,” he says.
So where is the campaign against Agas? There isn’t one. I’ve lost count of the number of aspirational middle-class greens I know who own one of these monsters and believe that they are somehow compatible (perhaps because they look good in a country kitchen) with a green lifestyle. The campaign against Agas – which starts here – will divide rich greens down the middle.
(For those readers hailing from lands without them, an Aga is a very large, solid and heavy cooker, which is ‘always on’, and was a much-coveted lifestyle/status symbol in the eighties.)
George is keen to demonstrate his readiness to split the green movement following criticism from Spiked-Online that its membership is almost exclusively or disproportionately people with middle and upper class backgrounds.
Edited by Brendan O’Neill, it concentrates on denying the existence of social and environmental problems, and attacking protest movements with a hatred so intense and disproportionate that it must contain an element of self-disgust.
Yes, this is a class war; and Brendan O’Neill and his fellow travellers have sided with the toffs. These Marxist proletarian firebrands are defending the class they profess to hate. Bosses of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your planes.
Mark Lynas, author of Six-Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, tried to make a similar argument in reply to Spiked earlier in the year after a poll of voting behaviour, in his view, revealed a greater interest in environmental issues amongst working class people.
So perhaps anti-environmental class warriors like the editors of Spiked need to find a new cause to champion. The working-class people who they claim “can’t afford to be concerned about climate change” actually care more about the future of the planet than the rich – and are doing a lot less damage to boot. So next time you hear someone defending motorway expansion or cheap flights on behalf of the British poor, ask yourself the question: whose side are they really on?
But as we showed, Lynas’ treatment of the raw statistics was, erm, bad statistics. Furthermore, Lynas’ claim to be onside with the poor of the world is undermined by his comment to Red Pepper magazine in 2004,
The struggle for equity within the human species must take second place to the struggle for the survival of an intact and functioning biosphere.
…which is exactly the sort of thing which Spiked criticise him for. Similarly, Monbiot argued in August, that his eco-socialist and eco-anarchist comrades risked undermining his efforts to save the planet.
Stopping runaway climate change must take precedence over every other aim.
Which is curious, because just a few years ago, George himself was a staunch anti-capitalist, arguing in 2000 that
The struggle between people and corporations will be the defining battle of the twenty-first century. If the corporations win, liberal democracy will come to an end. The great social institutions which have defended the weak against the strong – equality before the law, representative government, democratic accountability and the sovereignty of parliament – will be toppled.
Monbiot accuses Spiked of ‘moving to the Right’. Yet Monbiot, 8 years after his attempt to mobilise the masses against global capitalism… gives up, and calls for people to abandon politics, or the world will end.
He and Lynas struggle hard to reply to the criticisms made by Spiked. And that is why they need to use words such as these…
[LM (prior to Spiked)] campaigned against bans on tobacco advertising, child pornography and the ownership of handguns. It denied that genocide had taken place in Rwanda, or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. It provided a platform for writers from the hard-right Institute for Economic Affairs and Centre for the Defence of Free Enterprise. Frank Furedi started writing for the Centre for Policy Studies, which was founded by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher. He and the LM writer Tony Gilland wrote to the supermarket chains, offering – for £7,500 – to educate “consumers about complex scientific issues”.
… in an effort to throw muck at their critics. It is only by turning Spiked into advocates for genocide, child pornography, laissez-faire capitalism, Smoking, murders and evil-supermarkets that Monbiot can elevate himself and his fragile argument.
But Monbiot’s is a shallow, weird, and infantile argument, for which he takes a drubbing in the comments. One of which, from James Heartfield, author of Green Capitalism: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance, was deleted by the moderators.
Is George Monbiot being a bit sensitive about being called a toff? But then his ancestors were French aristocrats, the Ducs de Coutard, his parents leading Tory Politicians who sent their little boy to Stowe Public school and Brasenose College, Oxford, before George got a job at the BBC, trolled around the anti-roads protests for a while, sponsored by career diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell, then landing his current job as Guardian columnist. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Monbiot)
George thinks air travel the equivalent of child abuse, except when he is doing it to ‘promote his book’. Climate changes gives George the intellectual justification for refusing to share his flights with the great unwashed.
Just over a year ago, we picked up on a post at the miserablist blog, Grist, by Professor Andrew Dessler, former scientific advisor to the Clinton administration. Dessler had compared the planet’s ‘suffering’ from climate change to a child with cancer. ‘Who are his parents going to take him to in order to determine the best course of treatment?’, Dessler asked. Not to the ‘quacks’ (the ‘sceptics’). Better take the child to the real doctors (the IPCC).
Expertise matters. Not everyone’s opinion is equally valid. The list of skeptics on the EPW blog contains few bona fide climate specialists. In fact, the only criteria to get on the list, as far as I can tell, is having a PhD and some credential that makes you an academic. So Freeman Dyson makes lists. While I’m certain he’s a smart guy, I would not take a sick child to him, and I won’t take a sick planet to him either. In both cases, he simply does not have the relevant specialist knowledge. That also applies the large number of social scientists, computer programmers, engineers, etc., without any specialist knowledge on this problem. The bottom line is that the opinions of most of the skeptics on the list are simply not credible.
As Dessler discovered – after we told him – the IPCC is substantially comprised, not of climate scientists (aka ‘doctors’) but exactly the ‘large number of social scientists, computer programmers, engineers, etc., without any specialist knowledge on this problem’ that he accused the membership of the ‘Inhofe 400′ list of being. We surveyed the IPCC authors from WGI, WGII and WGIII hailing from the UK and USA, and found that Dessler’s characterisation of the IPCC didn’t stand up to scrutiny. If Dessler’s claim had not been made by Dessler, but by some run-of-the-mill political hack, his mischaracterisation would be inconsequential. But Dessler cannot claim to have been unaware of what the IPCC is comprised: he’s a climate science professor, and was an advisor to the Clinton administration. If he is was ignorant, he’s employed well above his ablilty. If he wasn’t ignorant, then he’s a straightforward liar.
Word is that this was an editorial slip-up on HuffPo’s part; they don’t typically provide a place for this kind of agitprop. The essay is gone from the site’s portal pages and rumor has it The Huff herself may address the issue soon.
It is always interesting to discover ‘liberals’ acting illiberally. And it is when climate scepticism threatens environmentalism’s influence over the liberal camp that liberals who have bought the green cause get really illiberal. Consider, for example, Bjorn Lomborg, who has never ‘denied’ global warming, climate change, nor that they represent serious problems which ought to be addressed, probably by government intervention. In spite of his rather mild (in comparison to many sceptics’ claims) position, Lomborg was the subject of more vitriol from the alarmist propaganda machine than perhaps any other climate-sceptic/denier/realist figure. Why? Because he is – look at him – super liberal. As liberal qualifications go, you don’t get much more liberal than a gay vegetarian Danish academic. (Denmark – for those who don’t know, is perhaps the most liberal place on earth: it has a tax rate that would make many conservatives go into anaphylactic shock, it has a huge welfare state, and has the lowest income inequality in the world, not to mention one of the highest standards of living.) Whatever you want to call him, the word ‘conservative’ just doesn’t really sum him up. And that is why he terrified the environmental movement. It’s not because he challenged the science, it is because he threatened the political project. He offered a rational and pragmatic methodology to assess the world’s problems that was consistent with liberal values. And in reply, the environmental movement went ballistic.
So let’s get this straight, the substance of Harold Ambler’s unremarkable essay is of little significance. What’s got up Dessler’s nose is that it was published on the liberal/left Huffington Post. To allow liberals to fall out of line on the climate issue would be to reveal the nebulous character of mainstream liberal thought – without the spectre of immenent catastophe, there’s not much keeping it together. Hence, Dessler diminishes the essay as ‘agitprop’ and welcomes its removal from the ‘portal pages’. Dessler’s rhetoric does two things. First, it tells the reading liberal what to think and legitimises censoriousness. More importantly, second, it fires a shot across the bows of any liberal organ which dares to entertain a climate sceptic on its pages in much the same way as Martin Durkin’s Great Global Warming Swindle (just 90 minutes of TV in a shedule jam-packed with environmentalism) drew furious comments about Channel 4 from the Great and the Good. It threatens to withdraw the moral authority loaned to liberals by climate science.
If Mahatma Ghandi were still alive and dared to express scepticism about the climate issue, ‘liberals’ reading the ‘liberal media’ would struggle to identify the difference between his views, and those of Ann Coulter.
The British National Party (BNP) causes much anxiety to today’s mainstream politicians. Almost entirely unable to take the immigration debate head on, Britain’s parties have, for the last few years been wholly mealy-mouthed about their policies. The juggling act between not wanting to be seen to be ‘letting everybody in’ on the one hand, but on the other, not wanting to be seen as illiberal, means that life is made pretty nasty for many people hoping to make a better life here (for whatever reason), while the concerns which express themselves as support for the BNP have gone unaddressed in the hope that they will just wither away.
The BNP isn’t the kind of party we have an iota of sympathy with. But neither do we buy into the idea that its recent apparent increase in popularity is quite as meaningful as it has been portrayed. Its members have been banned from speaking on University campuses, and loud, pointless protests follow wherever they get the chance to speak. The ‘no platform for fascists’ policy of Student Unions and liberal left activists has the unfortunate consequence of closing down free speech and debate. Hmm. Rather like… erm… fascism in the 1930s? (Funny how today’s ‘liberal’ values… aren’t.)
Recently, the party’s membership list was leaked and published on the internet. This has caused problems for people on the list who work in the public sector, such as policemen, who are not allowed to be members of the BNP. More illiberal liberal ‘democratic’ values in operation.
As a Times article last week revealed, several prominent ex-members of the Green Party were on the list.
The party conceded this morning that Keith Bessant, a two-time parliamentary candidate, and Rev John Stanton, a former local party chairman, had defected to the far-right nationalist organisation.
This ought to be surprising, because the Greens have been positioning themselves as the super-liberal’s party of choice. Caroline Lucas, for example, wrote recently that, following the growing disinterest in the main parties,
… the Greens have continued to make progress, but so have the BNP. Our politics of hope are being pitted against their politics of hate and ignorance … the onus is on the Greens to grow faster and ensure positive politics and the opportunity for real change leaves the BNP where they should remain – out in the political cold. To do that, we will need to beat them in every region where they pose a threat, including London, where the BNP won an Assembly seat this year, and the North West region, where Nick Griffin has installed himself as the BNP’s lead candidate.
Greens are supposed to be some kind of opposition to the BNP. But as Rob Johnston at Bad Ecology points out, the distinction between the two parties isn’t as clear as it seems.
Greens agree with the BNP about migration and the green belt. They promise to: minimise the environmental degradation caused by migration; not allow increased net migration; and end the pressure on the Green Belt by reducing population and stopping growth-oriented development.  Reduction in non-white tourism and immigration would be an inevitable consequence of government restrictions on air travel. Few refugees from Iraq, Darfur, Zimbabwe manage to get all the way to Britain without a large carbon footprint, neither can tourists from beyond Europe.
We’ve noted before that Green is the colour assumed by parties of all colours that are unable to make a robust argument for their political ideas, Left or Right, Liberal, Conservative, Socialist, Anarchist, or Marxist. It is a curious thing that contemporary Nazis can be found making environmental arguments to support their case in the same way as mainstream politicians. For instance, if you were to type www[dot]nazi[dot]org into your browser, you would find yourself at the website of the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, whose swastika emblem appears in a white circle, on green, not, as was once the case, red. The website declares that
Green is a fraction of the National Socialist view on land. “Blood and Soil” is our doctrine of homeland, or origin to each person, and thus which ground is sacred to them and they upkeep for generations. Each ethnic group should have a homeland, because in a consensus group one can declare poisoning the earth to be a great offense.
The deep ecology movement restated what the NSDAP believed: that in order for humans to exist without destroying their environment, it had to be placed on equal footing with humans, recognizing in addition that its space requirements were greater as while humans are one species, nature is uncountable interlocked species, creating a codependent, eternal whole.
As the Times article continues,
Mr Bessant, who ran for MP as a Green Party candidate in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in 2001 and 2005, claims to have left the BNP soon after joining.
A spokesman for the Green Party claimed today that Mr Bessant was in the BNP not because he was a racist but because he felt they had better environmental policies. “He formed the opinion that the BNP climate change policy was more radical than ours,” he said.
The claim that Bessant “didn’t hold any racist or bigoted views” is interesting. If you hold that the BNP is wrong because it is racist, then to join it, in spite of its racism is at least as bad as joining it for its racist policies. He might not be a racist, but he nonetheless joined a party that the G-P spokesman believes to be racist, indicating that he didn’t see racism as a reason not to join. The point being that humans, in this view, take second place to the interests of ‘the environment’.
The party also confirmed that a church minister, the Rev John Stanton, from Rochford, Essex, whose name also appeared on the membership list, was once a local Green Party chairman.
Rev Stanton, 76, said he joined the BNP because of immigration concerns. “I am not a racist,” he said. “It’s Islam I don’t like, not Muslims. If a Muslim family moved next door, I would treat them like any other family.”
Mr Stanton, who heads the Rock Dene Christian Fellowship, a house church, at his home with a congregation of 22, also spent four years as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Rochford in the 1990s and five years as a Conservative in the 1970s.
The father-of-four also spent some time as a UKIP member before joining the BNP in 2007.
“I’m dismayed that the list got into the public domain, but these things happen when people get disgruntled,” he said.
The Reverend’s movement from the conservatives, to the Liberals, to the Greens, to the BNP indicates some reluctance to commit himself to a party.
Or is it more the case that green – being the colour of reinvention – is the colour chosen by parties who fail to make arguments for change without the drama provided to them by the idea of environmental catastrophe? The Reverend failed to find a home, perhaps, because the parties he experimented with failed to identify themselves politically. The Green Party, which began life as PEOPLE, formed by disgruntled conservatives in the 1970s, has attracted a rag-bag of misfits in search of a cause, many, if not most of them from the wreckage of the UK radical Left. Disoriented Reds and Blues alike have found refuge in the certainty offered by the prospect of the imminent collapse of the ecosphere.
The way to challenge environmentalism is not to trace its origins back to Nazi Germany (though it is interesting to do so in its own right and it’s also a fun way of annoying Greens). Neither is it productive to cast environmentalism as the re-emergence of the Left. Contemporary environmentalism exists on a new axis. The values they espouse belong neither to the Left, nor Right, but Down.
Now that we can locate Green politics as separate to the Left-Right axis, some self-reflection is called for. Why is it that the parties representing these positions have been unable to sustain their positions? Left or Right, environmental sceptics ought to start taking responsibility for the influence that environmentalism has achieved, and to create political ideas that place humans at the centre of political discussions. Perhaps this new direction should be called ‘Up’.
According to commentisfree, Ewa Jasiewicz is a writer, journalist, human rights activist and union organiser. In a recent post to the site, she identifies a split in the environmental movement between those who aim to stop climate change through ‘the system’, so to speak, i.e. through market solutions and state regulation, and those, such as her, who believe that nothing short of an anarchist revolution can solve the ‘climate crisis’.
How do we bring about a transformation which empowers us all? Grassroots organising in cooperative, low-impact, sustainable ways, glimpsed at the Climate Camp, and practised daily by millions, is one way towards this. Another is to live at the sharpest end of climate chaos today. … Changing our sources of energy without changing our sources of economic and political power will not make a difference. Neither coal nor nuclear are the “solution”, we need a revolution.
An interesting point to notice here is that anarchism, which, whether you had any sympathy with it or not, once had at its core some sophisticated ideas and principles, but is today framed in language relating to biospheres, ecosystems, and carbon budgets. It is by appealing to ‘science’ and anxieties about climate catastrophe — rather than our consciences — that today’s ‘revolutionary’ political arguments are made.
Jasiewicz was responding to comments made by George Monbiot at the climate camp, where he apparently ‘endorsed the use of the state as a partner in resolving the climate crisis’.
George is having something of an epiphany. Again. He recently conceded that atomic energy might be worth considering, a position he has rejected in the past. Jasiewicz claims that the climate camp represents the latest expression of a radical English tradition, which ‘stretches back to the Diggers, Levellers and the Luddites’ – movements which were once highly regarded by Monbiot, who helped to establish the Land is Ours, a group which also models itself on the Diggers. And as Jasiewicz points out, the camps’ members ‘honed their skills in the anti-roads movement of the mid-1990s’ – which Monbiot was also instrumental in establishing and publicising. But now he seems less certain of the radical positions he espoused less than a decade ago. In his introduction to his book Captive State: the Corporate Takeover of Britain, Monbiot said in 2000,
The struggle between people and corporations will be the defining battle of the twenty-first century.
Reading that passage from just 8 years ago, you would have thought that Monbiot might have more sympathy with Jasiewicz’s appeal for a revolution today. Now, however, in reply to Jasiewicz, he tells us on commentisfree that,
Stopping runaway climate change must take precedence over every other aim.
This is all the more surprising, given that, in 2000, following the passage above, Mobiot was sure that,
If the corporations win, liberal democracy will come to an end. The great social institutions which have defended the weak against the strong – equality before the law, representative government, democratic accountability and the sovereignty of parliament – will be toppled.
This conversion from radical politics, mirrors a sentiment expressed by climate change activist Mark Lynas in 2004, to Red Pepper,
I think inter-human squabbles about wealth distribution are now taking place within the context of a major destruction of the ecosystems which all of us depend on: rich, poor, black, white, homo sapiens or any other species. Therefore my argument is that the left-right political divide should no longer be the defining key priority. The struggle for equity within the human species must take second place to the struggle for the survival of an intact and functioning biosphere.
Equality is out, and the corporate takeover of the world is okay, just so long as it sorts out the climate. Lynas’ and Monbiot’s convergence on climate change as the ultimate issue in the future represents the final collapse of ideas that they have espoused in the past. It is intellectual exhaustion which takes them to where they stand. In spite of his epiphany, Monbiot has little light to shed on the world. Speaking about the young people on the Climate Camp, Monbiot continues his reply to Jasiewicz ( called ‘Identity Politics in Climate Change Hell’ on his website)
[Jasiewicz’s article] is a fine example of the identity politics that plagued direct action movements during the 1990s, and from which the new generation of activists has so far been mercifully free. … It would be a tragedy if, through the efforts of people like Ewa, they were to be diverted from this urgent task into the identity politics that have wrecked so many movements.
Yet Jasiewicz does not mention race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability. So it is curious that Monbiot – who claims to have held a professorship in politics at a UK university – should be so confused about what identity politics actually is. The subtitle of his article gives the game away:
In seeking to put politics ahead of action, Ewa Jasiewicz is engaging in magical thinking of the most desperate kind.
Monbiot confuses political identity with identity politics. In other words, what beset the movements he was involved with in the past were political ideas themselves. Jasiewicz, who embraces the ideas that made Monbiot the poster-boy of the disoriented Guardian-reading Liberal-Left of the 1990s for standing in the way of roads, housing developments, and corporate expansion, is now doing ‘magical thinking’. Where Monbiot once stood bravely in front of bulldozers (in front of the media) in order to resist ‘the corporate takeover of Britain’, he now thinks that such politics is ‘magical thinking’. That is indeed a change of heart. We have written before about Monbiot’s epiphanies. And last month, Spiked-Online editor, Brendan O’Neill reviewed his latest book, Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice.
Monbiot, who once harried tourists, workers and shoppers over their bad habits but who now writes endlessly of science and sums, personifies an important shift that has taken place under the tyranny of environmentalism: the scientisation of elite fear and prejudice. And what of the science of climate change itself? No doubt there is research that shows the planet has warmed, and that man may have played a role in its warming; yet this science, too, has conveniently metamorphosed into a political and moral campaign to lower people’s horizons and keep them in their place. Call me a cynic, a doubter, even a denier if you like, I don’t care; but when scientific research continually and conveniently, almost magically, ‘proves’ that people are disgusting and must rein in their desires and change their habits – just as the elite caste, from priests to politicians, have been arguing for decades! – then I get suspicious.
(As an interesting aside, given Monbiot’s and Lynas’ rejection of Left politics, it is funny that in their criticism, they have accused of Spiked, and O’Neill of being ‘far-right’ ‘reactionary’, and ‘pro-corporate’. )
O’Neill notes the ‘metamorphosis of Monbiot’ from fringe but media-friendly weirdo, to member of the establishment, legitimised by ‘science’. Mark Lynas, who, just a decade ago was pushing custard pies into the face of Bjorn Lomborg, has undergone a similar transformation. His work of fiction, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet recently won an accolade from the Royal Society – its award for ‘science’ writing, worth £10,000. We said at the time,
There is a peculiar symbiosis, in which, Lynas and his ilk give the scientific establishment authority by constructing nightmare visions of the future, which are given credibility by figures such as Sir Martin Rees and Lord May. The service that Lynas does for the Royal Society is to connect this institution to our everyday fears and anxieties, to give it relevance at a time when, as with politicians, it struggles to define its purpose.
What Jasiewicz, Monbiot, and Lynas have in common is that the philosophies they have attached themselves have grown increasingly feeble. In response, the urgency of climate change alarmism is used to prop up their ailing arguments – ‘if you don’t do as we say, the world will end’. As we say above, Jasiewic frames her anarchism principally in terms of anthropogenic climate change. Monbiot used to share similar radical views, but as knee-jerk anti-capitalist, anti-road and land-rights movements failed to get off the ground, he turned up the catastrophic rhetoric, swapping the banner under which he marched for an end-is-nigh sandwich board. As his misconception of identity politics shows, he always lacked a thorough grasp of politics anyway. So it is no surprise that he has failed to create a consistent, coherent and robust understanding of what’s going on in the world, and looks to the skies to arm him with ways to appear radical.
This collapse shows us that environmentalism has not emerged from climate science, but has resorted to it. It is all that is propping up hacks such as Monbiot and Lynas, and the ossified political movements they claim to represent. Similarly, their new friends in the establishment, such as the Royal Society, like the political parties they advise are crumbling, not, as Monbiot worried in 200, because of the influence of corporations, but because of their own internal weaknesses. The Labour Party, the Tories, and the Liberals, and even the BNP join the anarchists, the socialists, and, of course, the Greens, in claiming that theirs are the only party which can save the planet. And all use ‘science’ to make their point.
The crisis is in politics, not in the skies. Monbiot – who, for some reason is regarded as one of the intellectual lights of the environmental movement – misconceives any form of politics as ‘identity politics’ because he struggles to identify himself. Therefore he becomes terrified of any political ‘identity’ or idea which threatens to undermine or usurp his fragile grip, expressed as his fears that ideas themselves will lead to the inevitable destruction of the biosphere by distracting people from their religious commitment to carbon reduction. Similarly, as more mainstream members of the establishment loose confidence in themselves and their functions, their claims to be engaged in ‘saving the planet’ is straightforward self-aggrandizement in the face of nervousness. We can say then, that the wasteland that is the intellectual landscape of contemporary mainstream and radical politics represents its thinkers’ own identity crises. The result is crisis politics – politicians, journalists, and activists who sustain themselves by creating panic, fear, alarm, and tragically, public policy.
Asking Can This Planet Be Saved?, Paul Krugman in the NYT, contemplates the effect of oil exploration in the USA, and the ‘5%’ possibility of 10°C rise in global temperatures, and comes to the conclusions that the continued moralisation of such questions is the only answer.
The only way we’re going to get action, I’d suggest, is if those who stand in the way of action come to be perceived as not just wrong but immoral. Incidentally, that’s why I was disappointed with Barack Obama’s response to Mr. McCain’s energy posturing — that it was “the same old politics.” Mr. Obama was dismissive when he should have been outraged.
Our question would be ‘can the likes of Krugman really get any more shrill?’ He certainly seems to intend to.
Taking issue with Krugman, Roger Pielke Jr compares the language of the Left, to the Right’s treatment of the abortion issue. It is ‘abortion politics’, he argues:
Climate change is the new locus of the U.S. culture wars. Unlike the abortion issue which was turned into a referendum on morality by the political right, the climate issue is fast becoming a referendum on morality by the political left. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Pielke is right that the Left expresses itself in the same language as the Right. But he shouldn’t be surprised. ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in the culture wars are fairly meaningless assignments. Both sides fail to identify themselves in political terms, and struggle to put any real distance between themselves and the other. They turn instead to bogus moral territory that becomes further and further removed from their respective traditions or philosophies. The adoption of the climate issue by the ‘Left’ represents a total departure from politics, and a total disconnect with human values. It is not so much ‘abortion politics’, then, as much as simply, ‘politics aborted’. Its claim to the moral highground is equally tenuous.
It is in this atmosphere of political (and moral) exhaustion that environmentalism has thrived. Politicians struggle to connect with people, and so escalate the sense of crisis in order to elicit their participation, and legitimise their own positions. The real crisis is not in the atmosphere, it is in politics.
So, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr has congratulated Al Gore on his stance on global warming.
Former Vice President Al Gore and I have met privately to discuss the issue of global warming, and I was pleased and honored that he invited me to attend the “We” Campaign event. Global warming is a reality as most every organization that has studied the matter has concluded, whether conservative-leaning, liberal oriented or independent.
Sceptic email lists have been busy circulating messages to the effect that it’s a great shame and a great surprise that a high-profile Libertarian has jumped on the bandwagon. It’s certainly a shame. But a surprise?
As we keep saying, Environmentalism transcends the politics of Left and Right. We are certainly not the first to say that. Many have argued that modern political philosophies fit better along a libertarian-authoritarian axis than a left-right one.
Sure, there’s something very un-Libertarian about Green politics. But Environmentalism is equally incompatible with the old political Left. But that hasn’t stop Marxists or Socialist Workers taking up the cause.
And ex-Republican Barr pushes a rather Rightish sort of libertarianism – an authoritarian version of libertarianism, even. At the very least, he seems rather unsure of his Libertarian values. Barr voted for the Patriot’s Act, for example, although now claims to regret it. He was all for the invasion of Iraq, although now claims to want to withdraw the troops. He takes a very authoritarian line on drugs.
And like all good Environmentalists, he even seems to be under the impression that the appropriate political response follows somehow directly from the science:
Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, said it is time to recognize that global warming “is a very serious problem” and that it will get “dramatically worse” unless significant action is taken.
‘Significant action’? What action? Will it work? Will the cost to our civil liberties be justified? Does ‘action’ mean mitigation or adaptation? His answers to these more important questions are conspicuous by their absence.
The flip side is that there is nothing particularly Libertarian about rejecting the case for anthropogenic global warming. After all, it’s only science. It would be perfectly reasonable, theoretically, for a Libertarian to assess the evidence and come to the conclusion that global warming is happening and that human activities are to a degree behind it. Indeed, we wouldn’t have too much truck with that argument ourselves.
The issue is not whether or not global warming is happening, or is anthropogenic or ‘natural’ (although that is an issue); it’s how that evidence is handled politically. And this is where Barr starts sounding like all those other Green opportunists out there:
“There obviously is a role for government,” Barr said. “There’s a role for private industry. There’s a role for nonprofits and certainly a role for the American people, individually and collectively.”
Barr’s green epiphany, like John McCain’s before him, has less to do with a realisation that they can no longer ignore the weight of scientific evidence, and more to do with a need to be seen to stand for something – anything – at a time when they can’t remember what they stand for anymore.
The US is now in a situation where its top three presidential candidates have subscribed to Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. That is surely a ‘shame’. and yet the ‘surprise’ is that the few sceptics that remain in mainstream politics object to Environmentalism for negative rather than positive reasons. All they know is that they are not Environmentalists. Rather than mounting a political case against Environmentalism, they can resort only to dismissing the movement as a leftist conspiracy and/or to rejecting outright the science that Environmentalism hides behind. We suggest that that is because mainstream climate sceptics are as directionless politically as McCain, Obama and Barr. And it’s little different in the UK. But such negative politics bodes ill for the sceptic movement. Because people don’t vote for what you are not. At Climate Resistance we believe that Environmentalism needs opposing regardless of what the science says. So who do we vote for?
Poor old Gordon Brown:
More than 80 Labour MPs have signed an amendment to the Climate Change Bill, which would force ministers to promise greater cuts in carbon emissions.
The Climate Change Bill commits the government to make at least a 60% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050. The MPs want that figure to rise to 80%.
The rebels say the 60% goal will not do enough to control global warming.
This is the latest installment not only in Brown’s Prime Ministerial nightmare, but also in the razor wars that masquerade as environmental politics in the UK. Looking on the bright side, we’re right on course to collect on our prediction that somebody, sometime soon, is going to pledge that the country will be carbon negative by 2050.
Even more predictable is the excuse that the backbenchers offer for their rebellion:
[The rebels] also claim it is based on out-of-date science.
These figures aren’t based on science at all. They are plucked from the thin air of our ailing stratosphere and given authority merely by the use of the word ‘science’ in close proximity.
It all makes the negotiators at the G8 summit seem so last week:
World leaders say they will aim to set a global target of cutting carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050 in an effort to tackle global warming.
Only 50%! Ach, they’ll get the hang of it. Especially with the G5 developing nations snapping at their heels:
Mexico, Brazil, China, India and South Africa challenged the Group of Eight countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80% by 2050.
Not to mention that bastion of objective, detached scientific investigation, the IPCC’s chairman Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who complains that the developed countries should be showing leadership on such matters:
“They should get off the backs of India and China,” he told reporters in the Indian capital, Delhi.
“They should say: ‘We’ll assist you to move to a pattern of development which is sustainable, low in terms of emissions intensity. But we as the richest nations are willing to take the lead and we affirm our commitment to do so.'”
But the G8 statements on carbon emissions have been eclipsed by discussions of the global food crisis and biofuels, and the supposed causal connection between the two. The G8 pledge to ensure that biofuel policies are compatible with food security comes in the wake of the leaked World Bank report that the push for biofuels accounts for 75% of the food crisis by competing with food crops for agricultural land. Suddenly, it seems, all the world’s problems are less about oil than they are about ethanol.
But, in Food price rises: are biofuels to blame?, James Heartfield provides such anaemic thinking with a healthy dose of red-blooded realism:
For more than 20 years now, both the US and the European Union have pursued policies designed to reduce food output. They have introduced policies that reward farmers for retiring land from production (such as the EU’s set-aside and wilderness schemes). At the same time, the United Nations has used its aid programmes to penalise African farmers who try to increase yields with modern fertilisers or mechanisation […]
The programmes of land retirement and reservation have been so successful worldwide that between 1982 and 2003, national parks grew from nine million square kilometres to 19million, 12.5 per cent of the earth’s surface – or more than the combined land of China and South-East Asia. In the US more than one billion acres of agricultural land is lying fallow. So the idea that land has been lost from ordinary crops to biofuels is not really true; rather, it has been lost from agricultural production altogether.
For the environmentalist critics, blaming biofuels is a desperate act of scapegoating. For years now, they have been propagandising against mass food production, favouring a return to less efficient farming methods, and for the return of farmland to its natural state. It was environmentalists who lobbied for the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, that biased UN programmes against modern farming techniques in Africa (in favour of ‘appropriate’, which is to say poor ‘technologies’). Just when it suited large-scale agriculture to wind down output to protect prices, the environmentalists were on hand to support land retirement schemes. Farmers, according to Britain’s Countryside Agency, would no longer farm, but become stewards of the countryside.
It’s interesting, then, that the G8 summit has also committed to fulfil a pledge to raise annual foreign aid levels by $50bn by 2010, of which $25bn is intended for Africa. Not that that is a Bad Thing in and of itself, of course; it just depends how it is used. If it’s spent on more of the same, and if similar strings are attached, we can expect more land to be taken out of agricultural production in the name of the saving the planet, more food shortages, more scapegoating, and more tin-pot explanations for why the world is screwed and we’re all going to die. As we keep saying, Environmentalism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A major question remains regarding the green U-turn on biofuels. Why did Environmentalists ever push the bloody things in the first place? OK, so they are, theoretically, a carbon-neutral source of energy. So far, so green. But the fact remains that it was hardly rocket science to work out that they would necessarily jostle for space with agricultural land and wilderness areas.
So please indulge us while we speculate wildly, and quite possibly wrongly… Could it be that those who were pushing biofuels at the start of the century were figuring that, come 2008, primed by the Green Great-and-Good, the world would have moved on to debating how best to go about reducing the human population to more ‘sustainable’ levels? And let’s face it, if there’s one thing that Environmentalism doesn’t like it’s humans – especially lots of them. And you can bet that, while Environmentalism is not the conspiracy that many of its critics accuse it of being, its adherents do have some sort of long-term strategy. While Gordon Brown, his backbenchers, Tory leader David Cameron and pretty much everybody else in parliamentary politics grasp desperately and opportunistically at Green policies in the absence of any other, better ideas, we at least know where we stand with environmental idealogues such as Jonathon Porritt and Paul Ehrlich (who are both, as it happens, trustees of the Optimum Population Trust, a group for whom ‘optimum’ means – in case you hadn’t guessed – ‘much smaller’).
The trouble is that they underestimated the humanity of, well, humanity. The fact is that in 2008, and despite the efforts of Porritt, Ehrlich et al, the vast majority of us remain repulsed – and may we remain so for ever more – at the thought of population control, just as we remain repulsed by the notion a moral equivalence between nature and civilisation. The result is that they have had to think again.
That said, we are keen not to fall into the trap of painting a simplistic, one-dimensional picture of Environmentalism. There has always been a significant element of the movement that is against the dealings of big-business – especially big agri-business – as a matter of principle. But at the same time, other greens have appealed to market forces in the fight against ecological meltdown. (To repeat ourselves again, Environmentalism transcends traditional Left-Right distinctions.) In which case, the whole messy business might be the product of the push-and-pull between these various Green factions. A bit like the Labour Party, perhaps.