60 minutes by proxy
The market is speaking loud and clear
Well I wondered how long it’d take before the Nine Network (AKA owners of Fairfax publishing and The Age newspaper) started inserting tabloid opinion pieces reminiscent of the worst 60 Minutes has to offer.
Take todays’s opinion piece from Nine’s Political Affairs correspondent Chris Uhlmann: PM right to see danger in extremist protesters but his response is wrong
Climate protesters = religious cults
Chris writes on the Shakers and Moonies (AKA Unification Church) who believed in the end of the world via the second coming of Jesus, and adds this point:
Wealthy, Anglo-Celtic inner-city Australia in the 21st century is largely post-Christian but there are eerie echoes of millennialist cults in the fringes of the environmental movement.
Environmental protesters also believe in the end of the world and since The Moonies and Shakers are cults, therefore Environmental protestors are cults. That’s a false equivalence argument, two things compared and assumed to be identical because they share one or more traits. I have skin. My cat has skin. Therefore I am a cat.
The Shakers and Moonies (AKA, Unification Church) were cults because they venerated and believed in a specific religious belief, in the Moonie’s case, espoused by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Their worldview was based on interpretations of the bible and other religious texts. And you don’t have to go far to find this information out.
- Britannical article on Shakers
- Britannica article on Unification Church
- Gospel Coalition article on Unification Church
On the other hand, environmental activists have the benefit of science behind them; science that’s been confirmed, peer reviewed and agreed upon by experts. These are not the opinions of pen scratching scholars labouring over a 2000 year old text. This is modern, clearly defined fact.
There is even a modern version of the Children’s Crusade, mirroring the 13th century march to the Holy Land… What happened then is shrouded by the myth but, by all accounts, things ended badly and a long way short of Jerusalem.
I’d call this an existential fallacy, suggesting that because a children’s march ended in disaster in the 13th century, an allegedly modern equivalent will do the same. I’d suggest it’s also cherry picked to reinforce Chris’ main point that these protestors are bad. I’d bring up the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963 as a counter-point. Their march contributed to a change in American Civil rights, thanks to the media who transmitted the abusive behaviour of Alabama police into American households.
Environmental extremists want pre-industrial eden
Not to be outdone, Chris goes into detail about how environmental activists are actually religious cults:
Environmental extremists have lifted the template of hard-core religious cults. They share the same belief that humanity is fundamentally evil, that its sin has destroyed Paradise and redemption can only come by renouncing the world and returning to a pre-industrial Eden.
The keyword here is “extremist”, and they exist in every culture, not just environmental. And the other point is that it’s another logical fallacy, proving nonexistence, which falls upon the reader and climate protesters to refute. Chris has alleged there are Environmental Extremists, but hasn’t named them, hasn’t specified which ones he’s talking about other than the inference they’re within the protestors who attempted a blockade of the IMARC mining conference in Melbourne last week.
In fact, the protest was nothing of the sort. From the Blockade IMARC webpage:
Blockade IMARC is an community alliance committed to putting a stop to the mass destruction caused by extractive industries across the globe…from protecting animals to defending Indigenous land the world over to fighting the exploitation of workers, there’s a reason to join our blockade.
In short, calling the IMARC protest a call to return to a “pre-industrial eden” is a complete misrepresentation.
They’re all hypocrites anyway
Chris goes on to make another logical fallacy, this time the appeal to hypocrisy:
The event activists tried to shut down in Melbourne last week was not a coal-mining conference; it was a general mining conference. So the protesters blithely ignored the truth that the homes they live in, the roads they walk on, the bikes, trams and buses they ride and the phones in their pockets all owe their existence to mining.
He’s saying the protesters are hypocrites because they benefit from the results of the mining industry.
And as I’ve quoted above, the protests weren’t Anti Mining. They were anti exploitation and destruction. Take for example the environmental devastation wrought by BHP’s Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea. They discharged millions of tons of contaiminated waste into the local rivers, killing trees, fish and the local industry. Take the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 11 million gallons of oil polluted 1300 miles (2092km) of Alaska’s coastline. And closer to home, the Adani coal mine covered up law-breaking pollution estimates. And on and on it goes.
Another inconvenient truth is the power which enabled the activists’ entire lives has come, and still largely comes, from burning coal. Without electricity and mining the protesters would be reduced to a natural state aptly described as nasty, brutish and short…
This is a strawman fallacy, where an opponent’s position is misrepresented in order to defeat their argument. Climate protests aren’t saying “no energy”, they’re arguing for “no fossil fuels that heat the planet and are already causing environmental effects we can’t recover from”, and ironically enough, Chris takes this very position soon afterwards.
Climate change is real except change is scary
Climate change is a real and present danger and society must change and adapt…Business as usual is not an option but no business at all isn’t any option.
This seems to be a zero-sum argument, where there is either a “winner” or a “loser”. His established position is that climate protesters want to return to pre-industry, which is patently false. They argue for an end to fossil fuel production and environmental and human devastation wrought by abusive practices within the industry. Chris is the only one talking about “no business” here, and there are industries (solar to name but one) ready and waiting to create the job opportunities and energy the country and indeed the world actually needs. Yes, the polluting businesses might come to an end, but they will be replaced with other businesses which do the same, just without the pollution.
But not to be outdone, Chris adds the slippery slope:
Scott Morrison recognises that the natural end of this angry march — on the streets, in the courts and through threats to business — is the de-industrialisation of Australia. Once coal mining is gone another ore will rise to take its place at the top of the list of evil minerals. Intensive agriculture must go, as must the consumption of meat.
A slippery slope is where one point is extrapolated into increasingly unrelated ones. I could stub my toe at home, which could result in some pain, but taken to an extreme, it could lead to gangrene, amputation and death. That’s the position Chris takes, and there’s ways to refute the argument:
First, the mining industry currently spends little time on environmental and human effects of their industry (see OK tedi, Exxon, et. al., above). Perhaps changing these abusive practices would see protests decrease?
Chris has already noted Climate Change is real. This means, unfortunately, fossil fuels need to be phased out ASAP. This does not mean the companies cannot diversify and move into renewables.
Intensive agriculture was not an argument brought by IMARC protesters. But fine, let’s discuss that briefly.
- Ruminant livestock (e.g., cows) are contributor of methane, as is natural gas, mined and produced by human industry.
- Methane is 30 times worse than CO2 for global warming.
- Making changes to intensive agriculture is not just a random argument, intended to destroy Australia’s farmers and economy, it’s backed by the United Nations and if changes are made, may actually improve economies and the environment.
But here’s the biggest problem with all these arguments: Economies and capitalism work allegedly because of market forces, the supply of goods and services and demand for them.
The market is the people who do the buying.
So if enough people reject fossil fuels, and actually WANT renewables, the market should, logically adjust and produce things the market actually wants.
All the protests are doing is informing the market what the fossil fuel and mining industries are actually doing to the planet. They’re protesting publicly, loudly and obviously.
And if Australia truly has a market driven economy, the government should and must respect the market, not double-down in protecting industries known to cause pollution and damage the environment.
Let’s be friends and do as I say
But Chris leaves the best for last with this corker of a statement:
What would be best would be conversation, moderation and compromise. That seems a vain hope, but history holds a simple message for all sides: burn heretics and you make martyrs.
It’s an example of how contradictory the article actually is. He’s spent the entire time misrepresenting climate protesters, and yet he’s saying that the best way out is to converse, moderate and compromise?
That’s what scientists and protesters have been trying for 40 years. And for what? Business as usual, fossil fuel industries using misrepresentations to sow doubt in climate science, and governments without the imagination to create new opportunities and the circumstances where new industries can thrive. We’re the sunburnt country and we’re not even close to other countries uptake of Solar power.
The time for this kind of misrepresentative debate is over.