Environmental debates go so very wrong today because we listen to “environmentalists” who think politically, not ecologically. But, of course, this has been the case for a very long time.
I’ve grown increasingly concerned this year as I’ve watched the evolution of the climate dialogue, though there’s little that could really be described as “dialogue.” In recent years, it has seemed to me that this eco scam is destined to play out, to become lost in a vast wasteland of public non-interest. As someone immersed in the workings of the wild, I can’t imagine how anyone could fear a changing climate or that if you can fear a changing climate, then you are simply destined to live in fear. Nothing is more constant on this planet than a changing climate.
I spend more time on this than most Americans do. The illogic of the whole thing has always intrigued me and I feel compelled to use my one small voice to present what should be overwhelmingly obvious facts about the environment to a citizenry hostage to media and politicians bent on milking irrational climate fear for all it’s worth. This troubles me a lot, both from the perspective of ecology and from the perspective of liberty. Why would we ever trust anything we hear about the environment if environmentalists are capable of deception on this scale? Do we even value liberty anymore when we’re ready to divest ourselves of it for protection from changing temperatures?
Recently, someone who I was chatting with online accused me of bringing politics into a debate about climate, oblivious to the fact that modern environmentalism (and particularly climate dogma) has always been about politics – it’s just that the left has taken ownership of the issue so that any deviation from their accepted line seems like bringing right-wing politics to bear. The idea of catastrophic global warming was born in political circles and was adopted and advanced quickly by a media establishment more than eager to help. It’s always seemed striking that the same political elements that have always worked to upend the American way of life were the early adopters and most vehement proponents of accepted climate wisdom. Suddenly, they were all environmentalists.
It’s a trend that predates climate alarmism, however. I think that from the birth of modern environmentalism in the late 1960’s (one could trace American environmentalism back to at least Thoreau but something distinctly modern emerged with Silent Spring.) political opportunists recognized that to control the environment was to control everything and, hence, for those who crave control, environmentalism is a vehicle for a far wider set of ideas predicated more on control than ecology. Think about all the politicians you’re currently aware of. What seems more likely, that they are motivated by altruism and ecology or that they are motivated by the need for control or by their own greed? Which rationale rings more true of politicians? And if we’re trying to stay within the realm of science, Occam’s Razor is perhaps the tool we should first reach for in dissecting this.
Why would we expect ecologically correct policy to flow from Washington?
It was toxic waste, then global cooling in the ’70’s. It was always about population (Yes, we know Mr. Ehrlich) and sometimes about peak oil (When does that happen, again?). The ozone layer and acid rain came and went along with just plain old smog. The notion of sustainability became prominent about the time global warming was invented. Countless more localized eco-hobgoblins were conjured.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken
There may have been some genuine earth-consciousness and even some positive action taken in the days of Leonard Nemoy and the hippies. Certainly Leonard was a great campaigner against global cooling but his efforts proved too effective as now it seems we’re fighting global warming. But the environmental mantle has long since passed to professional agitators, the media, and a devoutly socialistic academia who feel that any paradigm that can bring down capitalism can only be good. These paragons of the social sciences likely skirted history departments as they themselves ran the gauntlet of accreditation a generation earlier. Which is to say, we’ve been here before. Nothing is more normal, in the history of human kind, than a group of elites feeling entitled to control the lives of others (to save the Luddites and Proles from themselves!)
In The Dying Fish I posited that to stay close to nature is to stay close to reality. It has been noted by wise people across times and cultures that nature is nothing but change. Today’s climate change received wisdom is a paradigm that could only be accepted by peoples far removed from the workings of the natural world. We leave ourselves vulnerable to eco-centric political machinations when we divorce our lives from the wild.
What worries me is the disconnect between true earth knowledge and today’s environmentalism. Which is to say that I very much question the sincerity of today’s ostensible “environmentalists.” Too often, I see a need for the spotlight, for fame and, of course, as much public and corporate funding as they feel they deserve.
By way of example, these are the types of things that I think characterize people who are genuinely concerned with the environment rather than political power. 1) They are prone to put on their mud boots and make their way down to boggy places in the morning mist to see what’s on the move today.
- They may want to grow their own herb garden using natural fertilizers.
- They may wish to understand obscure bits of biota such as the fungi.
- They may wish to do their exercising outdoors, just to be outside.
- They may want to drive a little slower to avoid hitting animals.
- They read books about nature.
- They may set up an aquarium to get to know freshwater life-forms.
- They celebrate places where the water puddles regularly as wetlands.
- They hate perfect mowed lawns and instead invite “weeds” to encroach.
- They sometimes eschew official “nature preserves,” and see all around them as a nature preserve.
- They know the birds by name.
- They want to explore because they realize every place is special.
- They notice the shifts in species’ ranges over time.
- They don’t want to kill any more than they need to.
- They recognize the value of every uncultivated place.
- They value the non-photogenic rotifers, bivalves, and bullhead catfish.
- They spend as much of life as possible in wild places with wild things.
- They possess woodcraft skills and knowledge that can only be gained by practice
- They know how the different constituents of the biome change with the seasons.
- They value difficult -to-access places because ease of access would allow in a crowd.
- They don’t flee to dark, comfortable interiors for the winter months.
- They exude comfort and ease while in the wild.
- They have spent at least a week alone in the woods at some point.
- They recognize the value in things dying, rotting and re-cycling nutrients.
- They prefer the cold, wet, dark times to the sun-lit and warm.
- They talk more about what animals are doing than what people are saying.
- They find beauty in the unplanned, the serendipitous and organic.
- They celebrate the rain.
- They don’t see litanies of smallscale environmental disasters; they see cycles.
Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downwards through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvian which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom, and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d’ appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time.
– H.D. Thoreau – Walden
I need to write a second half. In part 2, I’m going to lay out some of the questions that first spring to my mind as I contemplate the global warming I’m meant to fear.