Industrialism Contra Envirocracy

The Western Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century and the industrial societies that it solidified which spurned on ground-breaking technological innovation, unprecedented production, defense from the elements, improvement in overall health and quality of life has garnered a vociferous opponent in the form of what I term envirocracy. Envirocracy, broadly and briskly defined, are those sets of ideologies which place principal importance upon the specter of the earth, upon the vagaries of “the environment,” with its eternal and total protection from what they perceive as the insane ravages of Mankind-write large as the greatest of virtues. They are those who constantly agitate for human impact-reduction over human well-being, regardless of how beneficial those impacts may happen to be, or those who roll up human well-being with human impact-reduction as if they were always one and the same thing. Those who yammer on about “Sustainability.” Those who fawn over “indigenous” ways of life, those who are possessed of a burning hatred of industry, commerce, technology and human power more generally. Those who foster a cartoonish romanticization of subsistence farming, permaculture and neolithic hunter-gathering, ignoring Hobbes, wholesale, in the process. What they are not concerned with (often by their own words) is human beings, or rather, human-beings as they actually are. The New Envirocracy encompasses greens, radical environmentalists, deep ecologists, climate justice activists, neo-luddites and so on, yet regardless of the particular name or political party, the one, overriding similarity which ties all of them together into a distinctive movement (and hence the need for a over-arching descriptor) is their forthright (and often unacknowledged) anti-humanism and divinization of earth, the planet or, more broadly, nature. Many attentive Americans know the type, characterized by such groups as The Sierra Club, Earth First!, Climate Justice and The Global Alliance For The Rights of Nature (what next, rights for time-and-space?) and individuals such as David Graber, James Hansen, Noam Chomsky, Paul Ehrlich, his disciple John Paul Holdren (a Obama-era science adviser), Tom Steyer, Jerry Brown, Bill McKibben, James E. Lovelock, Derrick Jensen, Al Gore and Michael “hockey-stick” Mann. This list is far from exhaustive, as a thorough listing of all enviro-radical groups and individuals in the US alone would require many, many heavy tomes, however, given the tremendous impact such movements have had (and doubtless will continue to have well into the future), not just upon legislation, but upon popular and corporate culture (and thus, the culture industry), it is important to understand what makes them tick, given that, at best, they are damaging to improving and maintaining energy infrastructure and technological improvement and, at worst, violent, misanthropic anti-civilizational demagogues. With a light sword, one can’t pierce a suit of mail without first understanding the gaps between the plates, thus, let us turn our attention to a brisk sampling of contemporary envirocratic activities and their effects.

One prominent proponent of modern environmental earth-deification was NASA researcher, James Ephraim Lovelock who, in his Science and Christian Belief stated, “Gaia is Mother Earth. Gaia is immortal. She is the source of life. She is certainly the mother of us all, including Jesus.” So here one finds the pseudo-scientific reification of earth as a literal god(ess). Despite the outlandish character of Lovelock’s theory, he was considerably more sanguine about the human-environmental relationship than many of the considerably less mystical green activists which came after him and inspired a whole new generation of earth-activists.

1987 saw the publication of another touchstone in the evolution of contemporary environmental theology, a book entitled The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering The Religion Of The Earth, by Monic Sjoo and Barbara Mor, wherein they wrote, “Perhaps the greatest harm patriarchy has done to us is to stifle, coopt, and deform our powers of imagination. Moralism, dualistic dogmas, repressive prohibitions block our imagination. Patriarchal religions keep this fusion from happening, imagination dies, and is replaced by mechanical-linear thought patterns, i.e. indoctrination.” In another section of the text they wrote, “The world’s definition of God is the self-definition of humanity. The Gods who rule us “from above” are simply mirrors in the sky, faithfully reflecting our own faces. The Gods who rule us ‘from within’ might represent deep truths of the mind and heart, or they might reflect the profound self-distortions of four millennia of ontological misperception. We do not know if a ‘God’ is a true God or a false God until we see what kind of world is created in that God’s image. When we look around today at the world generated by the male Gods of patriarchal rule, we see warfare, degradation, suffering, and sadism on a scale such as earth has never seen, nor will ever see again—for of course if we don’t end it, it will surely end us.” Just like Lovelock Sjoo and Mor assign The Feminine to The Earth (ie. Gaia) but go further and ascribe The Masculine to The Machinic. This conceptual bracketing is crucial to a firm understanding of green theologies persistent partnership with queer theory, neo-Marxism and radical feminism.

Climate justice activist, Jill McIntyre, in a 2018 Ted Talk declared, “This is the most extraordinary time to be alive. We are writing the history books about humanity’s survival. Children 100 years from now will be reading about those of us who stood up to the powers-that-be, who turned over the pages of the Industrial Revolution and moved us to a clean energy, shared economy. Overturning systems of patriarchy, capitalism and racism (again the rad-fem, queer-theory lines). Yes, these systems stall our progress and frankly, large-scale change is what is needed, and the call for Climate Justice Now requires much bolder and swifter action.” One observes similar through-lines with movements like Inter-sectional Veganism (no, I’m not making that up), and anarcho-environmentalists, all of which feed into a broader, revolutionary gender-war narrative.

It is pertinent to note that Ms. McIntyre was motivated, in part, to become a “climate justice” activist by the film An Inconvenient Truth, a largely fraudulent and excessively speculative piece of fear-mongering from former US vice president, Al Gore. The film was highly influential and makes two different, yet interrelated arguments, firstly, that all fossil fuels should be done away with as swiftly as possible and replaced with cheap, “renewable” solar and wind energy sources (such as wind turbines and solar panels). The second argument was that if mankind failed in this collective transitory venture and continued to utilize fossil fuels, environmental and ecological catastrophe would swiftly descend upon the whole of the earth, seas-levels would rise dramatically, the land would dry up and so on and so forth. However, literally all of Gore’s central claims are false. For instance, whilst solar and wind are nice ancillary sources of power, they are insufficient (at least presently) to serve as primary power source. The reason for this is simple; we cannot control either the sun or the winds and thus, despite being “renewable” they are intrinsically unreliable whereas nuclear, hydro and natural gas have no human-independent variables and thus are reliable. It also bears mentioning that wind and solar are not really so infinitely renewable as they have been made out to be, given that they require a considerable amount of industrial infrastructure and resources to create (such as tellurium, which is rarer than gold).

Gore is far from alone in the outlandish prognostication department, for instance, NASA climate leader James Hanson predicted climate temperatures would rise by 2-4 degrees between 2000 and 2010. Instead, they rose only marginally or not at all (depending on which data sets you consult). Over thirty years ago John Holdren predicted that by 2016 the world would approach around a billion CO2 related deaths from famine; again, this turned out to be false as precisely the opposite occurred, with deaths from famine plummeting world-wide. Or you could consider prominent anti-fossil fuel activist, Bill McKibben, who, in 1986 said, “The choice of doing nothing—of continuing to burn ever more oil and coal—is not a choice, in other words. It will lead us, if not straight to hell, then straight to a place with a similar temperature.” Again, the prediction turned out to be false. Then there was the global cooling scare of the 70s which prompted numerous top-scientists to predict that the world was fast approaching another ice age and that the continents were going to freeze-over, and so on and so on.

What is fascinating about US envirocratic movements is that, though they are almost invariably radically “left-wing” their stated philosophy runs into marked agreement with various different traditionalist thinkers such as the Christian-Anarchist Jacques Ellul, who considered mechanical “technique” to have separated itself off from machines and man and taken up root in the brain as some kind of mental parasite, or the religious writer Rene Guenon who declared on page 87 of his melodramatically titled text, The Crisis of The Modern World, “What the modern world has striven after with all its strength is really nothing more than the development of industry and machinery; and in thus seeking to dominate matter and bend it to their service, men have only succeeded […] in becoming its slaves.” Both Ellul and Guenon posit the same general idea – an idea which is constantly echoed by climate catastrophists to this day – that man’s technology has somehow enslaved its creators, which is clearly misbegotten anthropomorphism, not merely as a matter of fickle opinion, but as a matter of fact. Machines (and machinic techniques) are possessed of no agency of their own and thus, as a objective matter, they cannot enslave anything. They are tools and nothing more. Yet here you see the crossover between the left and right envirocracy; this vague belief in the placement of wilderness undisturbed by man over man himself, and yet they never raise a chorus over the meddling of, for example, a creature like the Mountain Pine Beetle which is responsible for the destruction of millions upon millions of hectares of forests in British Canada! Again and again they dichotomize every vector of being between the immanence of man or the transcendence of earth, as if every move to better one’s lot can be not but destructive, that man is nothing more than a hideous blight who has now gained too much power, too many ways to exploit and control; never mind that even something as simple as a bonfire is a form of “exploitation.”

Here we arrive at the notion of The Anthropocene, as first popularized by Paul J. Crutzen in the early 2000s, which, broadly defined, is the first epoch wherein humanity becomes itself a geological force. Given that man-as-geological force means the diminution of some portion of nature – namely, those portions which have negative impacts upon Man, such as floods, hurricanes, disease, etc – envirocracy recoils. A specific example of such recoiling at the prospect of a “anthropocene” can be found in 1989 book review of Bill McKibben’s Mother Nature As A Hothouse Flower, by David Graber, a research scientist for the National Parks Service. In his review, Graber wrote, “I, for one, cannot wish upon either my children or the rest of Earth’s biota a tame planet, a human-managed planet, be it monstrous or–however unlikely–benign. McKibben is a biocentrist, and so am I. We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value–to me–than another human body, or a billion of them.” Well, there you have it, McKibben (who is still very much respected) and Graber have no interest in you, or any human for that matter as a “particular species.” To Graber – by his own admission – a “free-flowing river” is worth more than a billion human souls.

These disparate strands of thought may seem a bit academic, isolated, ridiculous or simply irrelevant and, independently, they often are, but the culmination of decades of blending and reification betwixt the various different aforementioned philosophies have fostered a new metapolitical “green” movement, a global envirocracy and it is that metapolitical superstructure which must be contended with as it has, is now having and will continue to have real and sizable effects. Take for instance the fury raised about the Keystone XL pipeline which would greatly reduce US reliance on foreign oil, or the attack on fracking which sent the natural gas industry booming or the shutdown of US nuclear infrastructure in favor of wind and solar, the banning of plastics and the push for social shaming and stigmatization of anyone deemed to be a “climate denier.” However, the most dangerous effect of the meta-green movement is that, because it is international, and because it aims to shut down or at least badly hamper industrialism across the globe, it must, by necessity of its own internal logic, push for the termination of national sovereignty as climate is too big for any one nation to handle. This can be seen through the Paris Climate Accord protests as well as in various different pushes for legislature in America, such as the congressional bill, H.R. 6155, which, had it passed, would mandate the expansion of designated wilderness areas across one of the single most heavily and illegally trafficked areas across the US-Mexican border, effectively creating a gaping hole in the border-security apparatus; whether this is the intended effect or not is largely irrelevant as the outcome would still be deplorable. Whole star systems could be filled up with scribblings concerning the foul workings of the envirocrats – and that, mind you, is just the (generally) non-violent ones; given the magnitude of the stakes and the overwhelming amount of contradictions within the envirocratic framework, it is clear that, for those who care about not just maintaining a civilization but potentially laying the groundwork for new civilizations in the future a different vector of socio-political action is required.

In his splendid manifesto, Electric War, F.T. Marinetti declared, “The earth is at last giving up its entire yield. Squeezed by the vast electrical hand of man, it dispenses the full substance of its riches, that fine orange tree promised for so long, to slake our thirst, conquered at last!” In contradistinction to the envirocrats dour whinging, it is this celebration of Man’s intensification of his powers, this joyful affirmation of our prowess and upward ascent that should guide us into the next era of civilization because given the expiration date of our sun, there will come a time when it will be necessary to leave our planet behind and at that crucial terminus, the fate of all life on earth will hinge upon what Guenon so spinelessly railed against, our mastery over matter. The envirocrats decry this as a supreme perversion (in the logical conclusions to their philosophy, if not in outright declaration) – this, the very continuation of life itself – and as a consequence should themselves be decried as the anti-human, unsurvivalists that they are.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Spooky N says:

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