Climate: A Punch & Judy Show for Today
So there was that awful NY Mag piece everyone was sharing earlier this week— the one where we’re all about to die right now from climate change, and the solution is, uh, to I dunno.
Steve Sailer is really fond of the anecdote about how the Sierra Club chased out its old anti-immigration wing years back, but that’s only a single anecdote about a far more fascinating story. Environmental activism in the US—especially in the West—had complex political origins, and included a broad swathe of people. Every once in a while, someone notices that it’s kind of weird (by our standards) that Frank Herbert’s Dune novels go from novels about the ecological mindset and the danger/necessity of messianism to withering critiques of democracy and egalitarianism, but in the West Coast environment Herbert came out of, that wasn’t so weird. (He and his wife Beverly were also early advocates for the right to homeschool, a movement which continues to be more bipartisan in the West than in the East and South.)
The big environmental acts of the 70s weren’t just the product of a Republican White House, either— they were also very popular in the Republican senate. One of the first major attempts to hamstring the Endangered Species Act was from Democratic Congressmen looking to protect the by-then-worthless TVA construction gravy train— and the votes ended up with Newt Gingrich on the side of the fish, and Al Gore on the side of the dams.
For a lot of reasons (just kidding, mostly money), the “Big Green” environmental policy and litigation groups became more-and-more general Democratic advocacy groups. Go to their websites now and you’re likely to see stuff about the importance of Black Lives Matter and tranny bathrooms and DEFEATING TRUMP given near-equal importance to environmental issues.
This whole shift has amounted to a giant self-own by the environmental movement. The 70s conservation statutes are still wildly popular, even in hardcore Republican states. The attempts by Western mining/ranching interests allied with the Paul Ryan wing of the GOP to undermine them could be easily defeated with activists who could stop screaming about TRUMP RUSSIA THIS PENIS IS A WOMAN’S PENIS PLEASE USE “LATINX” long enough to look at flyover rubes like human beings who might like a good sandwich even if they can’t pronounce the names of a dozen types of cured pork.
Instead, the major issues of environmental groups have been focused on rent-seeking. Either by green energy companies (more on this in a bit), or—even worse—by the finance sector, which sees a carbon market as another great casino they can use to get rich off of all the excess, imaginary capital in our clown world.
Anthropogenic climate change has risen to the issue of the environmental movement because it’s so damn exploitable for the elites who run these things— and it doesn’t even have to be conscious. (It isn’t, either.) There are real, serious environmental questions in the world today, but the biggest one is impolite to talk about, while the other one has been caked in a whole layer of worthless doomsaying.
That’s fossil fuel dependence.
It’s Not Easy Being Black
Coal sucks. It sucks to mine, it sucks to burn, it sucks in what it does to the environment— even years after the mining has stopped. Much of the Appalachians have been deeply scarred by coal extraction, and we’d probably realize the same about the West as well if it wasn’t so sparsely populated. Oil sucks, but for different reasons, but both have two very important properties:
- They pollute air & water.
- They’re finite.
Of course no one knows when we’re going to run out of fossil fuels, but at some point extraction costs will end up piling up, and we might all wish we had spent less of our low-quality crude on making xenoestrogen-laden plastic crap. The world we have today is massively dependent on fossil fuels. Our distribution networks rely on them, not to mention our power grids. Green energy is no replacement, especially when no one has figured out how to run the modern food system without fleets of trucks, diesel trains, and ships— without which starvation would soon be a reality in much of the developed world.
No one is serious about the real problems with fossil fuels, which don’t come down to a speculative link between our uses of them and rising greenhouse gases, but because of the real and immediate impacts they have on our environment and the terrible consequences of over-reliance.
(American car culture has been a profound left-wing boost, allowing us to escape bad liberal urban and racial policy while also atomizing us into a house-to-store-to-work system. #traintwitter is not only the only real environmental movement, it’s also the only practical rightist one.)
An America run for Americans rather than multinational corps would see our oil reserves as strategic— fossil fuels that we can exploit after they’ve run low in all the nations which are reliant on energy exports. Some extraction should continue in the US to keep up knowledge, but exploiting massive new fields is a waste.
We should also be seriously considering how to build a post-fossil fuel logistics network. No one is doing this. WIRED magazine had a fetish for blimps in the early aughts, but that’s gone nowhere, and no one is mentioning that we might need to think about how to create a nationalized merchant fleet which runs on nuclear reactors. Hell, you can hardly get people talking about how to future proof our power grid with modern nuclear technology.
Everything in civilization has downsides. The environmental movement has created a world where there is the all-upside world (clean renewables and happy animals and cap & trade) and the all-downside world where we explode the climate and bake to death except for those of us lucky enough to join the underground Mad Max gangs.
The green movement we have now is fundamentally unserious because it doesn’t want to talk about these big problems, it just wants to emote because it feels good doing so. It’s OK to ignore them, but as a species, we still need to learn to think ecologically.