How climate activism failed

If you care about Africans, then you don’t visit them. If you want to virtue signal, you visit them.

Climate change is a real problem. You have to be pretty stupid, delusional or misinformed not to see this. It’s not a matter of “believing” in the scientific consensus. Science and belief tend to go poorly together. I see a bunch of people lately who profess to “believe in science”, but faith is best reserved for religion. The nice thing about science is that it’s objective, as long as you properly follow the scientific method. An angry white male “God country and family” MAGA conservative and a blue-haired they/them “body positive” plus-sized feminist should be able to perform measurements independently of each other and arrive at the same conclusion despite hating each other’s guts.

Unfortunately, the idea of “believing in science” is these days used for all sorts of value judgments that don’t derive from scientific observations. If you don’t want to wear a mask or don’t want the government to have the right to shut down your business, it must be because you “don’t believe in science”. But there’s the thing: Science can’t answer philosophical questions for us. Science can determine whether masks can stop the spread of a virus or not, but it can’t decide whether your toddler should be forced to wear a mask if the child doesn’t want to, because that’s a value judgement.

Similarly, although science can be used to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that our climate is changing because of the gasses we pour into the atmosphere, it can’t decide for us how we should respond to it. It could be that we say to ourselves: “Well so be it, I don’t want to make the kind of lifestyle changes necessary to keep this planet habitable so let’s go out in a blaze of glory.” It could also be the case that we say to ourselves: “Let’s release a bunch of biological weapons that reduce the population sufficiently to reforest large parts of the globe and allow us to transition to a renewable economy more rapidly, as we spray aerosols into the atmosphere to buy ourselves some more time.”

These are very politically incorrect ways of responding to the situation, but you can’t use “science” as an argument to declare that these responses are wrong. Science doesn’t allow us to issue value judgments in regards to how we should act, it just allows us to draw conclusions about how the world works from systematic observations. Similarly, the relatively politically correct response of “empowering women and eating less meat” is not in any way a natural conclusion to draw from the scientific evidence, this is a response to scientific evidence, filtered through a particular set of ethical and moral convictions.

Unfortunately, we’re currently stuck with a situation in which we have seen no meaningful action to address climate change, at least nothing resembling the scale of interventions necessary to keep our planet habitable. In large part, this is a product of the fact that a significant section of the population doesn’t want to address the problem. During the time we squandered, about a third of the population was not convinced that climate change is the kind of problem we should aim to address in the first place.

Instead of asking: “Why have we failed to reach these people?” Climate change activists tend to be focused on self-righteous moral indignation. Consider Greta, who was asked what she would say to Donald Trump: “Honestly I don’t think I would have said anything, because he’s obviously not listening to scientists and experts. Why would he listen to me?”

This is a terrible argument. If you follow this logic, she should have never started her activism in the first place, because this whole argument can also be applied to all the people who went to her protests. They could have simply listened to the scientists and experts and done what they did after listening to her, but without her. She has had the success of reaching people and so if she wants to be successful in getting something meaningful done, it would require a willingness to cease preaching to the choir and try preaching to the unconverted.

If we look back at everything Greta has done since she started her protest, we’ll notice that she has spent all of her time, preaching to people who already agreed with her. We haven’t seen her plead with people who think this is all a globalist hoax (I’m sorry, it’s real), we have seen her talk guilt into people who already recognize the seriousness of the problem. In practice, that gets us nowhere.

I don’t really waste time talking about climate change to people who already recognize the problem. Rather, I spend my time talking to people about the seriousness of the problem, who generally don’t recognize the seriousness of the problem. That is, working class conservative men. They’re not going to applaud you and say yes and amen, in contrast to people who agree with you. But they’re ultimately the only people where talking about this subject is going to have some sort of meaningful impact on how we move on as a society.

And perhaps equally important, I try to walk the walk. I’m vegetarian, don’t own a car and stopped flying five years ago. You can’t solve the world’s problems on your own, but you can recognize how seriously someone takes them by looking at the actions they take. The world’s elite travel the globe by private jet, so it’s pretty obvious how seriously they take it: They pay lip service to whatever it is they’re expected to pay lip service to.

And in fact, that tends to be the pattern you see with a lot of people, who acknowledge that the problem is real. They acknowledge climate change is real, because that’s what you’re supposed to do to fit into your social context. Justin Trudeau would not have become prime minister if he ran on a progressive platform but ended his speeches with: “Oh by the way, climate change is a hoax, we’re about to enter another ice age according to some obscure Russian scientists so after this election I’m going to drill baby drill!” Rather, what people like Trudeau do is pay lip service to the woke agenda (some platitudes about gay marriage), while silently doing whatever works well for them in the short term (drill baby drill). There has been zero real effort by Trudeau to stop the exploitation of the tar sands.

That’s the other issue we face. Sure, about a third of the Western voting age population has generally been utterly unwilling to acknowledge that we have a problem. But look among your own progressive ranks and you’ll find that “the imminent destruction of our planetary support systems on which we depend for our survival” ranks up there in importance with issues like “gay marriage”, “racist halloween costumes” and other progressive pet peeves. The left hasn’t held its own leaders accountable.

If you think that keeping global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius is as important as making sure that nobody wears a racist Halloween costume, or that cannabis is legal, or children wear masks in school, then you don’t comprehend the seriousness of the issue we’re dealing with. And thus for all practical matter, there’s no meaningful difference between you and a “climate denier” on the right. The only difference is that you have the right fashionable and socially acceptable opinions.

A lot of the climate skepticism on the right, is merely a product of how seriously the left seems to take climate change. It seems a little too convenient to them that the solution to climate change is the sort of stuff leftists already like (“empowering women”, not eating meat, shutting down working class blue collar jobs that end up overseas in third world countries, etc), while most of the people who seem most concerned about climate change have the highest carbon budget.

Find me for example, a young progressive leftist, with all the right fashionable opinions about climate change, refugees and the LGBTQI+ community, who hasn’t traveled around the world. With every intercontinental flight you burn a small African village worth of carbon. And so, your “racist Republican Uncle Bob” who “denies climate change” looks at your photo’s in Machu Picchu on Facebook and find himself convinced that you don’t really take this problem seriously, you just pay lip service to it because that’s what you’re supposed to do in your own peer group to fit in.

You convince people by making sacrifices. But the only sacrifice that most young progressives seem willing to make is to forego having children, which very conveniently happens to fit in with their other desire, the desire to avoid taking on any sort of serious long-term responsibilities in life. In my experience, there’s one guy out there who has proved capable of making conservatives take ecological problems seriously: That guy is Ted Kaczynski.

The reason is pretty simple. He wasn’t just eloquent, idiosyncratic and intelligent. He walked the walk. He lived in a wooden shack in the forest, where he hunted rabbits to keep himself fed. He didn’t get involved in all sorts of irrelevant leftist pet peeves. He focused on the problems that genuinely matter: Artificial intelligence, genetic technology and carbon pollution are the sort of things that pose an existential crisis for humanity and life on Earth as a whole.

Unfortunately, climate change activists have succeeded in turning climate change into one of many progressive pet peeves of secondary importance. It’s seen as racist to discuss overpopulation in Africa (it will somehow solve itself when the women are educated), the world should have no borders (at least until COVID showed up), the police should be abolished (at least after we no longer need them to enforce social distancing guidelines) and travelling is very important to “broaden your horizons”. That leads to the kind of situation where we’re just not going to solve the problem.

Climate change activists don’t really make an attempt anymore to convince the people who are naturally skeptical of their intentions. Rather, those are just bad people to them. They prefer to focus on shaming the people who already agree with them. I remember attending an Extinction Rebellion protest, where the plan was made to storm into some electricity company’s headquarters. Everyone laid dead on the floor, before the director showed up and explained that they’re already doing everything they can and should have taken the basic effort to take a train to Rotterdam and protested in front of the coal plants there.

That tends to be the pattern we see. Climate change activists preach to the choir, pushing guilt on people who already feel guilty. The skeptics rightly ask Greta: “Why don’t you go to China?” That’s a sacrifice, something that takes guts, because you’re not going to face thunderous applause there. In fact, Greta never really seems to discuss China altogether. Like most activists, she prefers to push guilt on the sort of countries that are already susceptible to her message. Those countries might build a handful of extra solar panels and wind turbines, push up their electricity prices and thereby encourage their remaining manufacturing to shut down and be replaced by the Chinese.

And that’s why climate change activists get nothing done. Climate change activism never manages to move beyond the archetypal image of the idealistic young girl who makes her wealthy father feel guilty. That might be a heart-warming image to some, but it’s not how you solve an existential threat.

At this point, in 2021 AD, I think we can reliably say that the threat won’t be solved. We’ll merely face more of them same: Teenage girls who rage at wealthy old men, as the world’s poorest die of hunger and privileged hip progressive Western youth compensate their carbon emissions as they fly to the other side of the globe, by donating to a charity that promises to hand some African woman dying of hunger in a drought a more efficient wood stove that requires less fuel.

There’s a special place in hell reserved for those responsible for this. It’s not the ones who denied the problem. It’s the ones who understood the problem is real, but who chose to act on it in a manner that made them popular in their own peer group while alienating the people whose support we needed the most.

11 Comments

  1. What do you think about the “luke-warm” argument (e.g. from Matt Ridley) that there is warming but it’s going to be more solvable and/or manageable if economies are let to grow?

    > overpopulation in Africa (it will somehow solve itself when the women are educated)

    Isn’t it pretty much consensus (e.g. see United Nations population project reports) that as economies become richer, people have fewer children? (Increased education is one hypothesis; others are access to contraception, female empowerment, etc.)

    • >What do you think about the “luke-warm” argument (e.g. from Matt Ridley) that there is warming but it’s going to be more solvable and/or manageable if economies are let to grow?

      It’s a poor argument, because the new sustainable infrastructure required can only be built with an industrial surplus. We’re currently squandering that industrial surplus. If people twenty years from now are struggling to eat, heat their homes and survive disasters, how will they manage to construct the infrastructure that will be necessary?

      >Isn’t it pretty much consensus (e.g. see United Nations population project reports) that as economies become richer, people have fewer children? (Increased education is one hypothesis; others are access to contraception, female empowerment, etc.)

      Well yeah, but Africa is so far bucking that trend. Also, there’s evidence that cause and effect are backwards in the general model of the demographic transition: It’s the decline in fertility that triggers the growing economy, rather than the growing economy triggering the decline in fertility.

      There’s also the simple fact that the standard run demographic projection for Africa (which includes the expected fertility decline) by the UN ensures catastrophe before 2100. Nigeria will have 733 million people by 2100, Congo will see its population quadruple.

      I don’t know how people expect they’re going to make these numbers work, but I don’t see it happening. To me it effectively guarantees a catastrophic implosion somewhere before the end of this century.

    • >Isn’t it pretty much consensus (e.g. see United Nations population project reports) that as [Africa] become richer, people [will] have fewer children? (Increased education is one hypothesis; others are access to contraception, female empowerment, etc.)

      You know what happens when you inject Melanotan?

  2. Good stuff. It’s hard not to notice that so-called “climate activists” are overwhelmingly white, middle-class folks enjoying privileges most of the world can only dream of.

    And isn’t it funny that almost every climate protest photo ever published features a bevy of young white women, grinning ear to ear, obviously delighted at their opportunity to virtue-signal in front of the whole world, never mind their social-media “friends”.

    I’ve been enjoying the work of ecologist William Rees. He makes a pretty good case that humans are not rational. We form our perception of reality through a lens of cognitive biases and social conditioning, then we run around acting from that false construct as though it is reality.

    Which is why we, as in the human race, are utterly unable or unwilling to change our fate. People simply see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. Meanwhile the world goes to hell in a flaming handcart, despite decades of warnings, and no amount of televised horror from a dying planet is going to change that.

  3. I do not give a shit about climate change, and I think you ought to know why, because I suspect it’s a perspective you don’t hear much, and I think you ought to think about it if you haven’t before.

    To summarize, there is not a single solution to climate change that I am aware of, that does not involve massive social engineering. I do not like social engineering, or trust would-be social engineers.

    There are also essentially no climate crisis averting behaviors that do not make my life personally worse, and none of them offer me appropriate compensation for my sacrifice.

    Let us consider a few scenarios from the position of the individual trying to optimize their own lives, vs those who would Solve Climate Change ™:
    -cars and gasoline
    -food
    -reproduction
    -capitalism

    ——

    Cars and gasoline:

    For the individual, we use cars and gasoline because… they work. We put gasoline in our cars, and our cars go where we need them to, quickly, and affordably. Now, keep in mind that we’re all very busy, extremely few people are just out joyriding to thumb their nose at climate activists. Gasoline does cost money, after all. Everybody already has a cost incentive to use as little of it as possible, including shipping infrastructure.

    We could in theory all take buses and public transit, but the problem with public transit is that it contains the public, in other words, dysfunctional abrasive idiots and feral violent minorities. Contrary to what the equality believers preach, it is actually not good to share indiscriminately, because… well, since equality is not actually true, most people are not good by default, but instead goodness is quite rare.

    For the climate motivated social engineer, none of this personal incentive matters. We should suck it up and endure fuel methods that are expensive and malfunctioning, or crowd in like sardines with a bunch of stinky POCs on some bus, so that they can feel morally righteous. Worst of all, they expect us all to greatly lengthen our own daily work commutes, eating into our own personal time and sanity, while others who decline to make such sacrifices endure a life of relative leisure and convenience.

    What exactly do I, personally, get out of that? How is my personal life better for choosing it?

    When the social engineers win, we lose.

    ——

    Food:

    We are told by social engineers that we must all be vegetarian/vegan for the environment, because animal based food costs more land to produce. Well, first of all, land is not free, and neither is meat as a result. A pound of rice costs approximately 10 cents where I live, whereas a pound of decent quality beef costs $10.00 or more depending on cut. The fact that different amounts of resources are required to produce different types of food, is already reflected in the prices of each sort of food.

    Now, as for the vegan diets that are espoused, let me say that I am generally of the perspective that something like a mediterranean/japanese diet is probably best for health; I am neither a vegan nor a paleo/keto cultist. I am not in either major camp. With that said, I have observed that veganism is outright untenable without extreme vitamin supplementation. Past an 80/20 sort of optimum, more extreme removal of animal food from the diet just seems to result in problems. The fact that carefully planned vitamin supplementation is required to survive a supposedly natural and earth friendly diet is humorous – such a diet cannot be natural or industrially produced supplementation would not be required, nor can it be terribly good for the earth because by necessity such supplements are produced via industry, then shipped across the world via modern infrastructure, both of which we are told are bad for the environment. This also applies to the rich variety of fresh plant food supposedly required for healthy vegan diets, which are not possible without modern shipping infrastructure because winter exists.

    Once again, I am not a keto cultist or anything, but veganism seems extremely dubious as a lifestyle choice both from the perspective of health and of environmental sustainability.

    So, I am essentially left with a choice as an individual – obey what appears best for my own wellbeing, or sacrifice myself on the altar of ideology, while my male competition in society easily outcompetes me in vitality and health.

    Am I to be a sickly incel choking on mountains of supplement pills, for the sake of the environment? What exactly compensates me for this sacrifice?

    That dovetails nicely into…

    ——

    Reproduction:

    I am told by social engineers that it is bad for the environment to have children, ESPECIALLY if you are white european. However, in order to continue the existence of my ethnoculture, I must produce a replacement rate of children. No, this is fallacy – I must reproduce EXPLOSIVELY, because my ethnoculture exists in competition with all of its neighors, therefore, whoever is most fecund, expansionist, and xenophobic will inevitably win. Peace is just war by other means, after all, and reproduction is one of those means.

    Any tribe that declines to reproduce, will be inevitably replaced by tribes that do. Since equality is not true, I do not buy the line that it doesn’t matter which human groups make it. I am firmly on the side of my own family and racial group, against all others if need be.

    Am I to suicide my own ethnoculture for the environment? What compensates me for this valiant decision, exactly? In the abstract, can anything really compensate me appropriately for the personal betrayal of my entire branch of humanity, for which I give thanks for my own personal existence, upbringing, and wellbeing?

    ——

    Capitalism and profit:

    Often blamed as a destroyer of the environment, is the motive for profit: capitalism. However, people against capitalism do not understand that self interest and ROI are woven into the laws of nature.

    Consider a dung beetle. The dung beetle expends calories to perform all work of being a dung beetle, such as fighting to defend its dung heap (its private property), and harvesting dung balls. In order to survive and thrive, the dung beetle must decide, at least via instinct, which shit loaf to roll into its stockpile and munch later, such that it will end up with MORE calories than it initially invested. This is the only way the dung beetle can grow, and have the resources to reproduce, which is the only way it can insure that it is not replaced by other creatures that did not fail to reproduce.

    Consider a potato. A potato sends roots out, so that it can harvest resources from below. It sends shoots out, so that it can harvest sunlight from above. Will it send roots into barren soil, or will it selectively propagate itself into fertile soil? Will it grow its leaves and vines equally in the productive sunny areas as the shade, or will it discriminate and even bend its vines to favor the sunny productive areas? Anyone who has ever grown potatoes or really any other plant can easily tell you – the potato will make some decision as to which soil and leaf space will give it the best ROI.

    People against the practice of seeking return on investment, are anti nature and anti life. They are literally stupider than dung beetles and potatoes. I am dead serious.

    Ignoring that more philosophical angle on the immutable eternal necessity of capitalism and profit, there is a practical necessity: life in society is an eternal contest for resources, and if you are not as aggressive as possible in your growth, you will be outcompeted by others, and end up POOR.

    So, environmentally motivated social engineers who decry profit motive as environmentally harmful are essentially telling me that I should voluntarily be poor, while other people my own same age are buying houses, having sex, having families, etcetera… and in exchange for what, exactly?

    ——

    I could go on and on and on, but the summary in every single case is the same: I am to sacrifice for The Cause, uncompensated, so that various forms of social engineer can feel righteous.

    No.

    In every such case where “The problem will be solved so long as Everyone On Earth ™ does X,” I can guarantee you the problem will never be solved, because it has near infinite points of failure. We saw that with covid and the vaccinations.

    If the case is, “The world will undergo apocalyptic cataclysm unless Everyone ™ does X,” then I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but apocalyptic cataclysm is inevitable. The wisest course of action under such scenarios is not to try in vain to avert cataclysm, but to do as the billionaires do and milk the markets hard so you can outfit your survival bunker as thoroughly and thoughtfully as possible.

    I am pro apocalypse. There is no exiting this ride until it’s finished.

      • This is why I like your blog, you are mentally flexible without being a conformist. You are one of few people left with your own mind, and I appreciate that, even if you end up ultimately rejecting my POV it means a lot to me that you actually heard it out.

        • >There are also essentially no climate crisis averting behaviors that do not make my life personally worse, and none of them offer me appropriate compensation for my sacrifice.

          This is the core of the issue and you’re probably right in what you’re saying.

          The problem is that I fundamentally just don’t care that much whether something makes my life worse or better. I just really can’t get myself to care. I made a lot of money a while ago with a friend. He told me I should buy a mechanical watch, I told him I would. But then I just ran into a stumbling block: I just couldn’t do it.

          The difference between you and me is that I have had a shitload of psychedelics. The effect it seems to have had is that to some degree I’m always standing with one foot in the afterlife.

          Instead of asking myself: “How can I be happy in this life?” I tend to ask myself “What am I supposed to do in this life?” If you tell me “it would be easier for you to build muscle mass if you ate a bit of meat and women would find you more sexually attractive as a consequence” then I don’t disagree with the argument. Rather, I just fundamentally can’t get myself to care much.

          When I go out into the forest high as a kite on psychedelics, the forest becomes alive. It’s an intense experience for me, filled with intense sensual pleasure and extreme fear. The forest feels like it has a mind of its own and the only thing I desire in that moment is to earn its love and respect.

          When I then return to the human world, I’m still consciously aware of the fact that human beings would respect me more and find me more sexually desirable if I bought new clothing, an expensive car and started eating meat. But I can’t get myself to act on any of those realizations. It just means very little to me.

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