The Relentless Morbidity of Environmentalism

It’s Caroline Lucas again.

Caroline Lucas MEP, who is expected to be elected as the Green Party’s first leader later this week, said: “People will be literally dying from cold this winter while companies like Shell and BP are making record profits – that outrages ordinary people and we need a party that is prepared to stand up about that … rather than having a Labour government that is cowering in a cave and scared of actually speaking out against people in the City.”

Nothing Caroline Lucas ever says is not about death.

Before we look at her morbidity, however, let’s get a couple of things out of the way… Hypothermia is a problem. So is expensive energy. But Lucas is not against expensive energy. Here she is, talking earlier in the year, on BBC Question Time, arguing for higher fuel prices.

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Curiously, she says we need higher fuel prices to modify our behaviour because ‘the end of cheap oil is over’. Could anything more stupid be said? Not only is the idea of taxing fuel redundant if it is becoming scarcer, the market gave Lucas the higher prices she was after, and now she calls it greedy! Whether it is green taxes, an inexplicable market phenomenon, or scarcity that pushes fuel prices up, it makes no difference. Higher prices mean we can do less, and poorer people bear the brunt. Higher fuel prices means more people dying. Fuel is really very useful stuff.

She is calling for energy companies to be forced to plough some of their profits back into “ensuring that some of the poorest people are able to keep warm”, and attacked Labour for presiding “over a period where we now have Victorian levels of social inequality”.

The Government has been resisting demands for a windfall tax to be levied against the energy companies, arguing that it would make Britain’s energy infrastructure unattractive to investors, just as it really needs upgrading. And who is standing in the way of that? That’s right… Caroline Lucas… who joined the Climate Campers this year, protesting at the proposed site of a new coal-fired power station, Kingsnorth.

Any government which commits to more coal fired power stations – and Kingsnorth is only the start – then claims to be aiming for a massive reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 is quite simply living in a fantasy land. … The Government should be showing real leadership in this debate, with measures to tackle rising energy costs and fuel poverty, as well as initiating major investment in energy efficiency, renewables and decentralised energy. According to its own figures, we could achieve a 30% reduction in energy use in the UK through existing efficiency measures alone.

Increasing efficiency and decentralising power generation is not going to make it more accessible to old people vulnerable to cold weather. Decentralising energy supply will make many people far more vulnerable to the climate. It will also make it vastly more expensive to produce, as the labour and maintenance costs increase. The idea that the market doesn’t exploit efficiency is just as absurd.

Let us put this bluntly, Lucas does not give a toss about old people. Unless, that is, they are dying. People who are dying, or are at risk of dying suddenly become political capital. This is the basis of Lucas’ morbidity. And it is the basis of environmental ethics. We compiled this video earlier in the year. Here is Lucas, in full doom mode, coming to a parliamentary constituency near you…

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Environmentalism exploits the vulnerable, because, even if we fail to connect with the idea of eco-apocalypse, we still might respond to the victims Greens claim to speak for. In the framework that the Greens have constructed, the environment is the mechanism through which moral acts are transmitted. The rise of fuel prices (which is a bad thing, unless they are demanding it), according to this thinking, reduces old people’s access to natural resources (partly by inflating the price, but also by standing in the way of renewable energy, which is imagined to be unfailingly equitable, just by itself), leaving them exposed to the cold climate, putting them at risk of hypothermia. Similarly, using fossil fuels is an act of violence against the poor further away, because they will bear the consequences of climate change. There is no room in this framework for a conception of ‘good’, which stands for the elevation of people in any way, such as reducing their vulnerability to climate by technological and economic development. A philosophy so fixated and premised on the idea of catastrophe can only think of things in terms of degrees of bad. Therefore environmentalism’s concern for the poor is predicated solely on their usefulness as victims. Everyone else is a culprit, the best they can achieve is neutrality.

The Green Party are the party of death. It’s all they can talk about, and it’s all they think about. Their unsophisticated reasoning reduces to a morbid fascination; an obsession with cancers, plagues, famines, epidemics, pandemics, chaos, destruction, doom. Political movements in the past have offered ways to overcome the challenges that society and individuals face from the natural world by way of ill-health, shortages, and the elements, but the Green Party represents something very different. Instead of challenging the inevitability of poverty’s consequences to generate support, environmentalism seeks to use the image of these consequences to discipline the public into accepting poverty as inevitable. The thinking is no deeper than “capitalism kills grannies”, “vote for me, or get cancer”, “car-drivers are baby killers” As George Monbiot once put it, “Global warming means that flying across the Atlantic is now as unacceptable as child abuse”. The objective of all this is a kind of ‘balance’ between poverty and somehow everything in the world being totally wonderful. Except that there is nothing positive about the environmentalist’s message. It has nothing to offer. And it is corrosive to any idea that life… and politics… can be about more than mere subsistence.