Full piece here. (hat tip to David Thompson)
Worstall on Monbiot’s piece:
‘Which brings us to the much more important basic point. The 20th century rather tells us that what people think about things, their guilt at the state of the world, is less important than their actions. Many communists and socialists really did believe that communism and socialism would be better for human beings than the terrors of capitalism and free markets. But their motives pale beside their actual works, slaughtering a hundred million and more in assuaging their guilt.
Actions George, not motives.’
In many instances, the loyalty that many people had for communist and socialist ideals has been transferred over to green causes. Many moral commitments that came with these ideologies, frustrated by the horrendous consequences and totalitarian regimes that resulted (Stalinist North Korea and Communist Cuba still sputter onwards), have been re-directed or can even appear re-branded within environmental movements.
YOU should feel guilty about the poor, the downtrodden, and the global victims of industrial activity. WE should ‘re-wild’ nature and bring it to a state it achieved before man came and despoiled it. Humans have the power to shape their world, but only if they follow the right ideals and the right knowledge, as well as perhaps feeling the guilt and commitment and passion that come with those ideals. WE should aim for a simpler, collective life, and feel ’empathy’ with everyone (oft times the noble savage) around the globe.
To be fair, we don’t often see genuine socialists out in public in the United States pushing green causes, but there’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism can make its way into laws, and forms a major plank in the Democratic party platform nationally.
Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.
Rarely though, is there much discussion of the costs environmental laws can impose on private landowners and consumers (not just big real-estate developers and industrial interests) through compliance with the laws and higher prices. Supporters of environmental causes don’t often connect the dots between their interests and the potential for bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, nor the downright twisted incentives that can result for citizens, lawmakers and even budding scientists looking for grant money.
As we see in California, I think once you get enough public sentiment believing in the basic tenets of green thinking, then climate science, whatever its merits, often becomes a sideshow, while politics and money can become the main event.
***I think Monbiot was on much more stable ground when he appealed to J.S. Mill’s harm principle regarding people harmed by industrial activity. Sometimes people in industries just don’t care about some of the consequences of their actions, and legal recourse can be hard to come by for those without money or connections. There have been beneficial consequences to individuals’ health and to those parts of nature sought to be conserved…but again…at what cost?
It seems worth continually discussing.
This isn’t just about science.
Related On This Site: A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance
A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’…From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’…
Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’…Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’…Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability
Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?: Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?: From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit…
Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes…