Know your enemy : the climate activist.
In the context of this series of articles about getting to know the opposition, I think it’s important at an early stage to get a realistic view of what we’re actually dealing with when it comes down to this particular category, because so many of the people who fall into the other categories I’ll be covering are actually motivated more by their activist politics than anything else.
Instead of just diving straight into the profile, let’s take a different approach and simply pose some questions to a pure free range specimen of a climate activist, the answers to which should guide us towards a more realistic appraisal of what we’re actually dealing with. When I say pure, I’m talking about the ones who won’t dissemble and are too arrogant to tone down their true opinions. Even though they represent an extreme, we can still nethertheless learn something about the more moderate ones by studying them. There are all just different shades of the same drivers, from the centre out to the melting pole.
Having interacted with them not only at a distance as a public opponent, but up close and personal as a supposed fellow traveller, I know only to well what their answers will be. If you’ve ever tried to have a reasoned discussion with them in the blogosphere, you will too. Think of it as a rhetorical variation of the Socratic method.
Given that the wind doesn’t blow all the time nor the sun shine every day, we obviously need some sort of backup generation capacity. Would building coal-fired plants fitted with carbon capture technology be acceptable to you? The answer to that is no, because it wouldn’t stop the death trains rolling. Okay, how about nuclear? Oh my God, definitely not, thousands died of radiation at Fukushima. How about using an inherently safer technology like Thorium reactors? No, still no, no nuclear under any circumstances.
How about using shale gas, isn’t it much cleaner than coal? No way, because of the earthquake risk. But if we don’t use shale gas, won’t all of our heavy manufacturing just relocate to countries like America, where they’re exploiting shale gas and energy prices have now dropped to one-third of ours? No rational answer because they don’t do basic economics, never mind business.
But what will we do for power when you’ve closed down all the coal and nuclear plants? No problem, by then we’ll already have switched over to renewables.
But renewables don’t seem to be working. After a decade of subsidies, most governments seem to be giving up and cutting back on supporting them. Aren’t they just too expensive? Only at the moment but as the efficiencies of volume production kick in, they’ll become much cheaper than conventional power sources. But after a decade of subsidising them, shouldn’t they be cheaper already? No, such a fundamental infrastructure change takes time.
Okay, but even if renewables do get cheaper, won’t doing things like growing biofuel crops instead of staple crops inevitably push up the price of basic foods for the poor? No answer.
But surely forcing the poor, vulnerable and elderly into fuel poverty will cause real hardship, never mind some of them needlessly freezing to death over winter? That can’t be bringing about a brave new world, can it? Yes it will. I’m afraid they’re just hardships we have to be hard-hearted enough to take, in order to bring about a greater good. We’re saving the Earth here, and making it fit for billions yet to be born into a better and more equal world. It’s merely the logical consequence of the Precautionary Principle.
How can it be right to deny poor farmers in the developing world access to GM crops that are disease and drought resistant? Surely more of them would survive such natural disasters? Again, they’re just part of the price we must pay not to interfere with nature. But we’ve always selected the best seeds to gradually improve crops, how’s GM any different? It’s biotechnology, therefore it’s evil. But wouldn’t using disease resistant GM crops cut down on having to use insecticides? No.
Okay, how about at least letting them have unhindered access to DDT, to eliminate Malaria like we did in the developed world half a century ago? Wouldn’t that save millions of lives? No, there’s other things we can do that don’t damage the environment. What things? Mosquito nets. But even if they could afford nets, how are they supposed to go about their lives inside a net? No answer. But we eliminated Malaria in the developed world using DDT, and as far as I can see, we’ve actually got a better environment that the developing world. How did that harm our environment? We saved various birds like eagles going extinct. Is that the same eagles that the windmills are chopping up? No answer.
Let’s knock it on the head there, but if that were a conversation with them in the real world or on the internet, it would never have got as far as it did. I didn’t even get around to the even scarier subjects of their views on things like population control amongst other things. For posing such simple but awkward questions, I’d have been shouted down as a denier and would be fending off a blizzard of the usual ad hominem attacks.
Incidentally, if you want to take a walk on the wild side of the internet by spending some time on alarmist blogs or in chat rooms, never ever correct them on statements like thousands dying of radiation at Fukushima – you’ll only get spotted, chucked out and that’d be then end of some pretty great but eye-opening entertainment. The other things you’ll have to successfully pull off in your new guise as a cuckoo in their nest, is feigning an IQ drop of 20 points, raising your gullibility quotient by 50 and faking a humour bypass operation. It’s great fun, especially when you join in, but resist the temptation to see just how far you can go over the top. It’s a lot further than you might think …
Anyway, what have we found out about them by asking simple but awkward questions and letting them steamroller us with their replies?
Looking at the segment covering energy generation, by shutting down conventional plants and mandating a switch over to wholly inadequate alternatives, the inescapable conclusion is that they’re against industrialisation and not only want to roll it back in the developed world, but stifle it at birth in the developing world. How realistic an objective that is, is shown by the US Congress refusing to ratify what came back from Kyoto by a vote of ninety-four to zero and the developing world telling them at Copenhagen precisely where they could stick any bribe intended to stop them industrialising.
They like to portray themselves, and are commonly perceived, as well left of centre but that sort of anti-industrialisation sentiment would have been total anathema to your classic Marxist-Leninist, or even slightly left of centre socialist. For them, it was always five-year plans building massive factories to churn out more and more tractors, to catch up with the despised capitalists. Catch up or die was their battle cry and rapid industrialisation was their prime method to reach that objective. China, busily building two coal-fired generation plants a week, is still on that path, hence their willingness to represent the developing world and squash Copenhagen and every climate conference since.
If you judge them by their policies rather than their words, these people are simply not classic leftists.
The inescapable bottom line is that they are anti-industrial and that quite naturally extends out to being anti-technological, but it goes out even further than that. The last century was the giant leap forward of physics and this century is going to belong to biology, and most especially bio-engineering, which will also bring with it its own fair share of heavy ethical problems. That genie is already out of the bottle, and any country that thinks it can opt out of that revolution will soon get left behind.
They actually don’t like science and in point of fact, they despise it and its practitioners as useful but nerdy tools to be used. The bits of science that advance the cause are okay, but everything else is deeply distrusted. That’s why they’ve no problem distorting it any way which suits their aims.
They talk about helping out the poor and the needy, but are quite simply indifferent to the very real suffering their policies visit upon those people. The big dirty central lie at the heart of their politics is that they really care about the poor, whether in the developed or developing world. No matter what they say, their policies rather than their words condemn them as power-hungry, callous elitists, quite happy to sacrifice the poor on the bloody altar of Gaia.
Their strength is that they’re good organisers, from knowing how to manipulate the levers in the higher circles of political power, right down to organising the unthinking foot soldiers on the street. They’re deft at shaping and getting their message out to the propaganda machine, otherwise known as the mainstream media, but their fanaticism occasionally blinds them to how unacceptable their message is to the ordinary person. Blowing children into bloody lumps of meat in the hastily withdrawn 10:10 video was a spectacular case in point.
They’re great talkers but poor listeners and that’s compounded by them only ever taking counsel from their own kind. If they got out of their own ideological bunker a bit more, their propaganda might be more effective.
Their strength and their weakness, is the inflexibility of every fanatic. They never give up, don’t do compromise or half measures. The question they never ask themselves is not am I going too far, but rather am I pushing hard enough?
Their prime driver is their politics and while the particular political creed they subscribe to varies as much as schisms in any fundamentalist church, it’s essentially the same church and it’s a variation of that tired old Marxist-Leninist idea of reshaping the world by reshaping people. All else is subordinate to that grand dream. Wealth will be redistributed as they see fit, all men and women will be made equal and the green regulatory state will control everyone and everything to make sure it all happens, and God help anyone who stands in its way.
In terms of finding an appropriate category to place their politics in, you’re driven to the inescapable conclusion that it’s some sort of weird new-age feudalism, with them seeing themselves as the benevolent lords of the manor who know what’s best for everyone else and are carefully looking after a forcefully created agrarianised peasantry, who’ll just love them to bits for it. The last people to try that were the Khmer Rouge, who managed to kill two million of their own people.
There were so many inherent contradictions in their ragbag political philosophy, that it was simply doomed to fall apart when they tried to implement it for real. I fully expect its demise will be marked with some extraordinarily vicious infighting over largely irrelevant doctrinal points, which will make things like the suppression of the POUM look like a family squabble over Sunday lunch.
I find them the most difficult to discern any saving graces in. Yes, I know they’re not all so extreme but even the relatively moderate ones unquestionably support the policies being pushed by the extremists. At this late stage, ignorance of the real world consequences of their actions is no excuse. I’ve got well inside the heads of the more hard-core ones and must confess I really don’t like what I’ve found in there.
Even after backing my feelings off to an objective distance, and contrary to my best efforts, I find I quite simply despise them. There’s nothing wrong with that strong emotion as long as you don’t let it blind your judgement. I don’t feel guilty at admitting that simple fact to myself and anyway, I find it motivates me.
There’s a line of dialogue in the original Terminator movie, where Kyle Reese is trying to get Sarah Connor to get her head right about what she’s up against. It’s very appropriate when dealing with a dedicated climate activist. “Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”
That’s all you need to know about them, and after that, the only thing remaining is to figure out is how to beat them.
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