Dangerous Climate Change: Eco-Fascism
By Bill Henderson
14 May, 2007
Eco-fascism - is it possible that soon a government will introduce Draconian regulations in an effort to avert dangerous (runaway or abrupt) climate change against the wishes of the majority of the population?
Concern about climate change and to a lessor extent about local pollution, ecosystem degradation and species extinction has raised a very strong environmental high tide, but in my neck of the woods, Canada, there is now a backlash from those who feel their lifestyles, identities or wealth threatened.
For example, Buzz Hargrove, head of the Canadian autoworkers union, has complained that we're suffering from 'green insanity'; that 'politicians are trying to "out-green" each other with insane environmental proposals and the result will be his members out on the street'.
Due to language in the 60's era auto pact and subsequent North America car making evolution, the members of his union specialize in building big trucks and cars and Buzz is very concerned that nine out of ten vehicles made in Canada will be prohibited dinos if California-style emission standards are enacted North America wide. (By the way Buzz considers himself to be a reasonable environmentalist.)
In my local CanWest newspaper this week there we're two more examples of this backlash. In a column entitled Environmentalism the new totalitarianism, George Jonas worries out loud that environmentalism and feminism might be the new 21st century tyrannies, comparing them to communism and fascism.
"Turning climate science into a religion and the burning of fossil fuels, to date a concomitant to modern prosperity, into the western world's "original sin" does nothing to produce an objective exploration and intelligent debate on an extraordinarily complex issue.
We are proposing to give our governments unlimited powers to interfere, tax and prohibit commercial activity in the name of something no one understands."
What a joke. God save us from the tyranny of the stupid, spoiled boomer-led consumers worried that somebody might question their right to consume in ways they've become accustomed to or that totalitarian governments might interfere with their right to fly to Cancun whenever or tax their second or third resort property or threaten their investments in fish farms, forestry or the oil sands.
But, of course, this is the backlash that we should expect. In an excellent WashPost review of Benjamin Barber's CONSUMED: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole and Eric Clark's THE REAL TOY STORY, Barry Schwartz describes how the present crop of consumption addicts, the present citizens of most of our democracies, was created, how they behave, and the escalating hedonism of future crops as they mature. Like tomatoes engineered to travel thousands of miles, these citizens shouldn't be expected to have any taste. They shouldn't be expected to care about anybody but themselves or even understand that their consumption is creating global-scale problems that threaten humanity as a species and nature as we know it on this small blue planet.
Furthermore, the serious dangers of climate change and the present sixth extinction event are most easily understood by those who share the scientific world view: man as a species nested within an evolving nature, nested within life's three billion year history on a four and a half billion year old Earth in a thirteen odd billion year universe. Most global citizens do not share this worldview; most religious worldviews do not have any room for human caused environmental catastrophe or even the capacity to consider possible accidental self-extinction.
And most people get their news (understanding of what is going on in this global village) not through reading where evaluating reality can be done in more or less a scientific way, but through hot media like television where fragments of what is happening bombard the citizen without context - polar bears and hurricanes, gas prices and terrorists; where quantification, scale, and ordered, nested understanding is difficult.
Most citizens have not read E.O. Wilson's 21st century defining Bottleneck metaphor or William Catton Jr.'s OVERSHOOT. They have a vague TV knowledge of something called climate change and maybe the IPCC, probably now mostly forgotten, another inconvenient truth pushed aside by today's news.
And, of course, knowledge of climate change and the spectrum of mitigating options has been and continues to be forceably contained by lobbying interests well positioned to spend a small percentage of increasing returns from fossil fuel business as usual in compliant media to seed denial and fear of possible 'economy threatening' governmental action. Green-lite campaigns by well meaning but co-opted ENGOs feed right into this growing misrepresention of climate change as just another minor peripheral problem requiring only recycling-style, green consumption solutions.
So for all of these reasons don't expect a knowledgeable public pushing government for change.
And don't expect Draconian regulation from our present governments.
Service sector economy governments have very constrained regulatory powers. They are constrained by what Thomas Friedman accurately describes as putting on the golden straightjacket and more insidiously by path dependence engendered by the wondrous degree of complexity of businesses and lifestyles totally dependent upon continuing economic stability. Can any such government introduce regulatory legislation that would negatively effect the whole economy by even minor percentage points? By even one percent of GDP? Too many people's livelyhoods, investments and passions would be endangered.
So as state of the art science overwhelming makes the case that our introduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from burning fossil fuels is raising temperatures to a degree where dangerous climate change (runaway temperature rise from latent positive feedbacks or abrupt climate discontinuity of a scale such as a rapid new ice age in Europe and the North Atlantic) becomes a demonstrable probability, governments we're always going to be between a rock and a hard place.
The majority of their citizens neither completely understand the danger nor will many be in any mood to give up their lifestyles, present niche in the economy, or even consider any (what they will regard as radical) reconfiguration of this present economy.
Awareness of the climate change danger has created a growing momentum for financial instruments such as carbon taxes and trading (within continuing business as usual, of course), but implementation globally is problematic, these instruments are easily subverted, and this attempt at acceptable regulation looks to be too little too late anyway.
We are close to the panic point now given decades of inaction, exponentially increasing global economic activity with ever increasing carbon emissions, full carbon sinks now beginning to contribute previously safely sequestered carbon, and, given time lags within the carbon cycle, we have to act immediately (actually decades ago) to keep GHGs under 450ppm.
So consider an informed government presented with undeniable evidence and a scientifically quantifiable risk assessment of the full spectrum of climate change threat. (Actually the combined threat from the Bottleneck global-scale problems: climate change, species extinction and severe resource depletion.)
There is a significant threat to our present prosperity. There is a rising probability of future catastrophic societal dislocation and loss of life; going over 450ppm risks potentially massive dieoff, or even human extinction within the extinction of almost every lifeform with which we share present creation.
The imperative - hit the brakes hard on carbon emissions NOW.
It must be the US government given America's overwhelmingly large footprint and Americas predominant leadership position. Now the US government will probably do nothing even if it means future extinction but wishing and hoping:
Do you think that Americans could be educated or otherwise persuaded given this evidence of danger to accept a rapid, radical reconfiguration of their socio-economy? Legislation constraining their lifestyles? Stiff carbon taxes or rationing?
Or do you think that Americans faced with this present serious danger would need government innovation like Lester Brown's Plan B, a present day equivalent of the wartime coalition government that defeated Hitler, so that socio-economic and lifestyle reconfiguration necessary to defeat the climate change enemy would be possible?
Or do you think that gun toting enviros are going to seize control in Washington and force through laws making it illegal to have fun? Illegal to drive cars and eat burgers?
Or, more realistically, couldn't the eco-fascists be even now planning the only real present solution to overshoot, the only solution to too many people armed with potent technologies making far too heavy demands upon a shredding biosphere on this small blue planet?