Rebels for Death: Advice on effective climate activism

The impact of climate change is primarily going to affect people who now live near the equator and depend on self-sustaining agriculture for their income. In contrast, those of us in Canada, the United States and Europe will tend to experience a relatively minor impact in the years ahead, though it remains to be seen how we will be affected in the long term. However, the problem itself has been caused almost entirely by the exploitation of fossil fuels by Western nations.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor klimaatracisme sylvana

Dutch politician Sylvana Simons refers to this phenomenon as “climate racism”. Of course she was rapidly ridiculed by most of the Dutch media, which is composed primarily of middle-aged right wing men who base their self-worth on the kind of car they drive, but we should look at this phenomenon based on the simple facts. The facts as they stand are that Western nations are primarily responsible for climate change, benefit most from the exploitation of fossil fuels and pass on most of the consequences to developing nations. Who can properly dispute her characterization of the problem, when we consider that most of the deaths are going to occur in African nations and other developing nations that did not cause this problem?

In a similar manner, the global refugee crisis needs to be understood within the context of the fact that millions of these people are fleeing the consequences of catastrophic changes of the climate. Juan de Leon Gutierrez was a sixteen year old boy, who moved to the United States from Guatemala, to earn a living and take care of his mother when the farm he grew up in fell victim to a severe drought. This is an angle to the global crisis that tends to be brushed over: Many of the refugees that enter Western nations are fleeing the consequences of the climatic changes that Western natons caused.

None of this takes away the fact that Western nations are struggling to cope with the refugee streams, that continual absorption of climate refugees will become an unsustainable solution, or that such mass migrations may lead to conflicts within Western nations. However, it casts a different light on our moral responsibility in this matter. It’s my opinion that we should start devoting far more resources to providing these people with a future worth living in their countries of origin. In addition, we need to be realistic when it comes to considering who can integrate in our societies. If we limit immigration of refugees to those who can deliver a positive contribution to our societies, then we will find ourselves able to help out more people.

In a broader sense, as we enter the era of an escalating global ecological crisis, I think the only solution that may minimize the misery that lies ahead of us is if we work towards overcoming differences between people and assisting each other where possible. If we choose nationalism, revanchism, tribalism, chauvinism and fundamentalism, we end up with a world that will look like Syria does today. Globalism can mean different things. Today it means that the world is ruled by a cosmopolitan plutocracy that does not respect any limits to its greed. However, Western nations can assist developing nations in protecting endangered species, delivering contraception to women who have no access and building a renewable energy infrastructure.

Unfortunately however, the trend is against us. You might notice children in the media, protesting in demand of a future worth inheriting. However, the political trend suggests that most people have no desire to address climate change. Consider the facts as they currently stand. In the Netherlands, the percentage of people who don’t believe that humans cause climate change increased from 23% to 31% in a year. In addition, we’ve seen that candidates who run on a platform of disputing climate change end up elected around the world. Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement, Bolsonaro in Brazil insists Brazil owes the world nothing in regards to the environment, in the Netherlands the climate-change denying FvD became the largest political party in a recent election, in Finland, the climate-change denying party became the second largest party. In Australia, where three prime ministers have had to resign after trying to address climate change, the conservatives had a miraculous victory a few days ago.

Equally worrisome is the rise of the yellow vests in France, who rallied around a rejection of an increase in fuel taxes that was meant to reduce France’s carbon emissions. In contrast to climate activists, the yellow vest movement is willing to take off the velvet gloves. People have died, buildings and cars have been torched, because the yellow vests want to voice their dissatisfaction. And surprise surprise, in contrast to the peaceful protests we’ve seen throughout history, the yellow vest movement witnesses politicians submit to their demands, the fuel tax they revolted against has been rescinded.

To bring climate change to an actual halt, we should be in the middle of a herculean effort right now. Instead, governments are making some half-assed effort at addressing the problem, while the people respond by punishing their government during the elections. Of course there are optimists, who insist the yellow vests were not against tackling climate change, they just oppose the impact it has on France’s rural poor. But what can France do about climate change? Its main source of emissions is from transportation. We can imagine that the government should avoid leaving poor people to pay the bill for climate change, but if we compensate them for higher fuel prices, what would happen? They would have sufficient money for transportation, thus negating the effect of the measures intended to reduce emissions.

The reality is that most people are not willing to make the sacrifices that are going to be necessary. In the United States, just 28% of people are willing to pay 10 dollar per month on policies that would address climate change. Essentially, the problem we face is that most people don’t take the crisis seriously. The kind of broad agreement that’s necessary to genuinely tackle this crisis does not seem to exist. For this reason, my suggestion is that climate activists need to focus on different activities: Direct action.

One reason we should not expect to solve the climate crisis in a democratic manner, is because the victims have no say in our democracy. The main victims are future generations and today’s children. Today’s children do not have the right to vote and thus have very little influence. In addition, rich people are capable of subverting what meager democracy we have left, but rich people tend to be old and unaffected by climate change. Furthermore, the countries that are causing climate change, do not allow the victims of climate change to vote on what should happen.

The Netherlands causes climate change, but do we allow Kenyans whose harvest fails during droughts to vote on how much carbon we can emit? When it comes to non-humans, they have close to zero say in our democratic system. The Netherlands has one party that attempts to defend the rights of non-human animals. Many species will go extinct due to climate change, but these organisms have no say in their own future. Disregarding the non-sentient organisms for a moment, who pays any attention to what elephants, gorilla’s or orangutans think about droughts, forest fires and deforestation? Democratic nations do not respect their rights.

For this reason, it is my opinion that we should look for methods to address the climate crisis beyond merely attempting to change people’s minds through peaceful protests and civil disobedience. Instead, we must look for more effective solutions. You should ask yourself the simple question: What is the most effective thing I can do to address climate change? Taking shorter showers is nice, but if you could shut down a Bitcoin mining farm by frying all mining devices with a power surge, your shorter showers would pale in comparison.

If you work at a travel agency, the most effective thing you might do is recommending people a journey by train, rather than by airplane. If you work in Shell’s financial administration, the most effective thing you might do is accidentally sending all money to a Nigerian prince. If you work at a pizzeria, the most effective thing you might do is send a pizza covered with Psilocybe mushrooms when an oil executive orders a pizza ai funghi. The man with the lowest carbon footprint in the UK took a hundred mushrooms back in 1984 and experienced ego death.

What if you work at a cryptocurrency company? Well, besides the obvious: Reminding everyone that cryptocurrency is a mistake, your best option is to figure out ways to stop the ongoing ecological disaster that is proof of work. If I quit my job, I would probably be a lot happier (despite bleeding net worth), but someone else would replace my position and encourage people to invest their money in worthless tulip bulbs. Instead I use my skills to destroy cryptocurrency.

Greta watching a group of libertarian Bitcoin maximalists at a conference torn to pieces by a pride of lions that escaped from the local zoo

I call this campaign #doublespendingforgreta. I encourage everyone who comprehends how cryptocurrencies work to help us bring an end to their existence, before they bring an end to ours. I’m convinced that if Greta Thunberg was aware of the cryptocurrency energy problem (hopefully she doesn’t waste her scarce time on this good planet thinking about the phenomenon), she would wholeheartedly endorse my campaign to double spend the phenomenon out of existence.

Double spending cryptocurrencies is a victimless crime, because the main victims are the exchanges that offer this negative-sum game junk. If those exchanges pass on the costs, the victims become twenty-something year old emotionally and aesthetically stunted libertarian guys with STEM degrees and a passion for get-rich quick schemes. Insofar as those people qualify as human beings, they are an ugly wart on the face of this planet. The more money these energy-wasting endless pump and dump schemes end up costing them, the faster they’ll start looking for something else to do with their lives. Of course this is silly, but besides being silly, it’s also ridiculously effective. Every time you double-spend a cryptocurrency, you earn money while damaging people’s faith in a climate-change causing technology.

Here’s a funfact: I can say a lot about climate change activism, but one thing I can’t say is that it has been effective. Climate change activism isn’t alone in having been ineffective. Do you know when the largest protests in human history took place? On 15 februari 2003, people around the world took to the streets, to protest against the prospect of war with Iraq. What happened afterwards? The United States invaded Iraq, never found evidence of the weapons of mass destruction that led them to invade, a bloody civil war unfolded, the United States spent hundreds of billions of dollars occupying the nation, then left under President Obama only for the nation to collapse into chaos after the US troop withdrawal. In other words, the worst fears of the protestors came true, they were on the right side of history and their protests were still in vain.

What does that tell us? It demonstrates to us that when you peacefully and non-violently stand up against the dominant power structure and tell it that what it’s doing is evil and pointlessly destructive, it’s going to peacefully say “thanks for your thoughts” and proceeds to non-violently ignore you. Now you’re going to read this and tell me “but what about Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela!?!?!?”, so I’m going to remind you that Martin Luther King had a legion of angry black people like Malcolm X behind him ready to riot, the United States faced a domestic insurrection of the Black Panthers, all while the United States was already balls deep in a devastating war with Vietnam. The last thing the United States needed back then was a domestic liberation revolt by movements like the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Black Panthers that were inspired by Marxist Leninism.

When it comes to Gandhi, the man’s struggle for independence came about during the aftermath of world war two, when the United States had made decolonization a top priority. Similarly, the South African end of apartheid happened after a civil insurrection that led to thousands of deaths, as the government was faced with catastrophic economic boycotts from nations around the world. In most cases where people blame political changes on non-violent resistance, the main factor that led to political changes were broader cultural changes that were already taking place, or the threat of escalating violent insurrection.

What makes climate change activism different is that there’s no underlying public support from people who are willing to turn words into action if the words themselves prove insufficient. Climate change activism is a hobby of well-educated left-leaning people, who have far too much to lose to resort to violent insurrection. And equally important, there’s no us versus them aspect underlying the movement. There are no climate-change activists whose alternative to lower CO2 emissions is to live as second class citizens. That’s what black Americans faced under segregation, so some black people were willing to resort to violent insurrection if Martin Luther King’s peaceful resistance had no effect.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have any sympathy for the climate change activists and their growing movement. However, if you see someone trying to accomplish a goal and doing so in an ineffective manner, you’re going to want to point out to them that they’re better off spending their energy in a different manner, if they genuinely wish to accomplish their goal. The thing to understand however, is that most climate activists don’t practice activism to achieve their goals. At least, genuinely achieving the goals they claim to have is not the primary goal of their activism.

Let’s consider the Extinction Rebellion, a movement that has grown rapidly in recent months. Besides the fact that there are no realistic methods to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2025, humans won’t go extinct from climate change. We’re a versatile and widespread animal, capable of adapting to a variety of circumstances. There are bushmen in the Kalahari desert who practice persistence hunting, refugees in Syria who taught themselves to grow oyster mushrooms on straw, Japanese people who live off fermented soybeans, Dutch scientists who grow vegetables in greenhouses and vegans who eat mycoprotein grown on sugary syrup. The animals that die out are specialists, that have adapted to a particular minor niche that disappears as the climate changes. But what if the world gets really warm and billions of people start dying? Well, that’s when we become unable to keep emitting huge amounts of CO2 and so the problem we’re causing starts to slow down.

The die in is not a form of political activism. It’s an expression of grief.

The extinction rebels already know this. There are no serious scientists who suggest climate change will cause human extinction. The IPCC reports say a lot of things, but they don’t speak of human extinction. If you want to deal with reality, you can prepare yourself for the prospect of billions of deaths, a declining world population and three or four degrees of global warming by 2100. So why then do the rebels rally around a threat that has no scientific backing? Because extinction is the purest expression of an emotion that this movement seeks to express, which is grief. There is nothing wrong with expressing grief, it’s a normal ritual part of the human condition, but we’re mistaken if we think we’re looking at a movement that wants to solve problems, when we’re really looking at a movement that unifies people who wish to express a sense of mourning.

What I want to point out here is that if you’re looking for actual solutions, you need to look elsewhere. If you want politicians to solve the problem for you, you need to make politicians afraid of what happens when they don’t solve the problem. Because the extinction rebels are nice people who recycle their plastic and share cute animal photos on Facebook, the politicians don’t have to be afraid of them and so the politicians ignore them. In addition, the extinction rebels are not rich, so they have nothing to offer to the politicians that makes politicians eager to help them out. The extinction rebels have no upper management function in a fortune 500 company to offer and no penthouse near the beach to give away.

If you want politicians to solve your problem for you you’re already in murky water, as I struggle to think of a problem that was ever solved by politicians. Instead, politicians tend to respond to societal and technological changes. What sort of changes are those? Slavery came to an end primarily because it was an archaic cultural institute that depended on the existence of agricultural conditions where a lot of money could be made by forcing people to do simple labor. It’s not just enough that a crop is labor-intensive, the labor has to be stupid labor. Once technologies made the American institute of slavery economically obsolete, the abolition of slavery was a fait accompli.

For climate change this is going to be more difficult, because the technologies that we can imagine as alternatives to fossil fuels are of doubtful economic viability when applied on a broad enough scale. The utopia where self-driving Tesla’s are powered by sunlight stored in batteries seems nice, but we yet don’t know if that will ever extend beyond the lived experience of a small minority of wealthy technicians who wish to address their own guilt feelings and receive subsidies for doing so. There’s a strong case to be made that a society that does not rely on fossil carbon will have to adjust to far less energy consumption than we currently take for granted. Instead, the economic changes that will cause a shift away from fossil fuels will primarily be the kind of changes caused by the depletion of existing fossil fuel reserves. If it’s expensive to dig up oil out of the ground, people will be forced to look for alternatives to their energy-intensive lifestyles.

There are other options we have. Besides having the option to reduce emissions, we have the option to increase sequestration of carbon dioxide. There are various ways through which this can be achieved. Some forms of concrete sequester carbon dioxide, rather than emitting it. From what I’ve read, it seems that global use of carbon-negative concrete alone would be sufficient to reduce global CO2 emissions by 5 to 10%. Similarly, we have the option to stimulate photosynthesis in the ocean, through the use of iron dust. We also have the option to increase the mixing of different layers of the ocean, thereby sequestering carbon dioxide in the deep ocean, reducing global temperatures and creating upwellings of nutrients that thereby further reduces CO2. All of these technologies have down-sides, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that, but when you find that you’re unable under present conditions to address a problem by your preferred method, the normal response is to consider alternative methods. If you genuinely fear global human extinction, it’s very bizarre when you’re ideologically opposed to particular methods to address climate change.

We also have the option to adapt to climate change. Adaptation is a limited option and will not solve every problem, but it’s what nature is doing around the world. Animals and plants move to new locations and organisms are evolving to adapt to new conditions. I’ve seen scientists who are concerned by the fact that the plains cheetahs need to hunt animals are encroached upon by woody plants, thereby making it difficult for them to continue relying on their evolved hunting techniques. If that’s the problem you face, the obvious solution would be to look for other places where the cheetah’s preferred habitat is still around and relocate the animals. If that’s not an option either, the remaining solution would be to do what nature does continually, which is to hybridize an animal with a disappearing niche with another animal with a growing niche.

Unfortunately, the response I see to ecological problems tends to be one that insists that nature must be stagnant, even in the face of the reality that this century will inevitably face dramatic changes. Consider the recent mourning over a species of Australian rat on a small island that went extinct due to climate change. What’s the true agenda here? If the true agenda is to preserve biological diversity, the obvious response when an animal’s habitat disappears due to sea level rise is to relocate it to another island. On the other hand, if the true agenda is to be able to say “see I told you so but you didn’t listen”, then everything goes as planned.

In a similar manner, it should now be pretty obvious to most people that the world’s coral reefs can not survive in their present state. You can demand that the whole world should make an energy transition at a historically unprecedented pace, then when the politicians ignore you you can come up with even more impossible to achieve demands. Or, you can start growing coral in deeper waters that won’t be affected. We have even figured out that small electric sparks dramatically increase the pace at which coral grows. So, which of these options will save more biodiversity?

And finally, we have the option to change people’s minds. If we’re afraid that climate change is going to cause civil wars, then we have to ask ourselves if climate change is genuinely the sole factor that leads people to kill each other. The reality is that it is one of many. It leads people who are already aggressive to seek out fights with one another. The more cost-effective solution in those cases would be to change people’s minds. It might be true that radical islamists will kill each other in Mali when drought forces herdsmen to encroach on farmers. But there are cultural factors underlying those problems.

Here’s a study you’ll find interesting: Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. In the United States, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of angry white males who are addicted to opioids due to a depression that cultural factors prohibit them from speaking out loud about. Those angry white males vote for a trashy narcissist who promises them a return to their imagined glory days, when they still coughed up blood from working in the coal mines. Here’s a suggestion: Perhaps those angry white males would be better off if someone gave them some mushrooms. Turns out, there’s another study that agrees with me: The tripping point: The potential role of psychedelic-assisted therapy in the response to the opioid crisis

So here’s another problem to consider. If you keep running into a wall with people and find that miserable angry opioid addicted middle-aged white males around the world are electing white trash leaders who promise them to send them back into the coal mines so that they can start coughing up blood again and dying of lunger cancer before their grandchildren are born, perhaps you have to consider if there are other ways to reach people. And hey, perhaps you have to consider that people who are injecting fentanyl comtaminated opioids, or have family members who are injecting opioids, are unwilling to take your warnings about existential threats seriously, because they face more acute problems right now. If your unemployed father has resorted to injecting opioids for his “back pain” and a white trash narcissist promises to send him back into the coal mines, while someone else with a college degree and a fancy desk job for a tech-startup insists to you that this will eventually cause global warming, who are you going to listen to?

Now, none of the things I say here are forms of deep occult knowledge that is unreachable for the climate activists. The reason nobody rallies around these alternative options, is because of another problem, namely, the fact that most of the climate activists are mentally stuck in a dark place. Climate activism is largely an excuse to find other people who feel the same way. Some of that grief is genuinely due to climate change, but people who already have a lot of grief to suffer from tend to find themselves attracted to the prospect of learning about a global problem that everyone insists will start to cause mass death and end the world as we know it. The reason the movement took off after Greta Thunberg showed up is largely because she made no secret of suffering from autism, depression and eating disorders. This is far more appealing to the kind of people who are willing to protest, than a wealthy well-fed rock star politician like Al Gore.

I want to note here that I’m not against the Extinction Rebellion, or any of the other climate activists. The normal human response when people experience grief is to feel sympathy. Grief has a proper place when we’re faced with a globally unfolding catastrophe. If you want to express your grief in a communal manner, then by all means, go for it. What I am against is the idea that this ritualized expression of grief is an effective manner for average normal people to bring climate change to an end. Besides the fact that we have to accept the ongoing catastrophic upheaval of our planet as a problem that is at least to some degree intrinsic to the human condition (hint: The Maximum Power Principle is a bitch), there are ways of responding to the crisis we face that will genuinely reduce human suffering and preserve biodiversity. The ongoing demands for governments to somehow carry out an overnight dramatic reordering of our industrial infrastructure tend to come at the cost of solutions that would genuinely help life on Earth.

 

2 Comments

  1. You conclude with a false dilemma, as if a climate change activist has to choose between reordering industrial infrastructures or support some of you suggested solutions. Why are these mutually exclusive?

    As for the yellow vests, the point is that it’s only the poor people that have to bear the decrease in material standards that comes with climate policy. It may have been a different story if efforts were made to not make the rural areas to neglected in France as they currently are.

    Lastly, I’m wondering whether you have actually studied the effectiveness of violent versus non-violent direct actions (as Extinction Rebellion is more than just die-ins). See this article which adresses a lot of your points:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/01/18/how-the-world-is-proving-mlk-right-about-nonviolence/

    There’s also the research of Erica Chenoweth: http://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820

  2. You conclude with a false dilemma, as if a climate change activist has to choose between reordering industrial infrastructures or support some of you suggested solutions. Why are these mutually exclusive?

    As for the yellow vests, the point is that it’s only the poor people that have to bear the decrease in material standards that comes with climate policy. It may have been a different story if efforts were made to not make the rural areas to neglected in France as they currently are.

    Lastly, I’m wondering whether you have actually studied the effectiveness of violent versus non-violent direct actions (as Extinction Rebellion is more than just die-ins). See this article which adresses a lot of your points:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/01/18/how-the-world-is-proving-mlk-right-about-nonviolence/

    There’s also the research of Erica Chenoweth: http://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820

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