In discussing last week's An Ecomodernist Manifesto, Ben Heard, a de-carbonization advocate in South Australia, has the kind of insight that would make him unwelcome in American environmentalism, of both the academic and the corporate kind. The manifesto authors are a Who's Who of environmentally-conscious advocates and researchers who nonetheless are not using the tactics of typical environmentalists: People like Roger Pielke, Jr., Mark Lynas, and Robert Stone.
Heard contrasts the new manifesto to the environmental status quo:
What if instead of the arrogance of presuming to halt progress or send it on a sharp detour, we had the wisdom to realise we could redirect it a very long way over time, a little at a time?and
This can be done, but it needs a new breed of sustainability professional for a new paradigm. We need sustainability as a developmental “theory of everything”.
Sustainability practitioners need to love humanity again, and I use the word “love” advisedly. Lots of environmentalists/sustainability professionals fall out of love with humanity.I have made this commentary often, as have many others. Western environmentalists seem to really dislike people, especially the poor, and they want to return them to backwardness and poverty and starvation. In some environmentalists it is easy to see why they are clueless about the benefits of energy and science - they don't know any poor people, they exist in a world of urban elitism, where the results of their actions will have no meaningful personal consequences because they will always have Whole Foods. It's just a job with an Identity Politics halo.
If environmentalists ever loved people, it was back in the early Norm Borlaug / Patrick Moore days of the movement. I worked in environmentalism's second generation and that generation didn't fall out of love with humanity, they were never in it. They're no better now. Only an environmentalist would trump up hysteria about a telescope 13,000 feet in the air and insist that the poorest city in Hawaii should stay that way so as not to have one more observatory next to the 13 already there. Only an environmentalist would say California people should suffer during yet another drought because building reservoirs are bad for the ecology and fresh water needs to be dumped into the Pacific ocean during a drought no matter what.
Heard doesn't stop at one Big White Elephant in the progressive room, that environmentalists dislike people, he goes after the intellectual darling of the faux scientific climate left, Dr. Joe Romm:
Beyond this, I find the critique by Romm vacuous in the extreme. I still love the book Cool Companies, and I wish Romm had stuck with what he is good at.This is downright shocking to anyone in American media. While Joe Romm is vacuous, he is basically untouchable no matter how wacky he has become. To criticize him (or Think Progress) is on a par with criticizing Democratic statistician-in-chief Nate Silver - don't do it, you are helping Republicans - and therefore American science media avoids it.
He hits on the ideas of realistic reform versus idealistic transformation - basically, the idea that a lot of environmental handouts read like a TED talk rather than something meaningful - but for a science audience it makes more sense to discuss linear and non-linear behavior.
Environmentalists want behavior to be non-linear: Ban this, endorse that, overturn the entrenched paradigm and spend a trillion dollars on solar and it will all work out, regardless of the magical black box of untestable sustainability in the middle of the system. The linear approach is more real realistic: basic research to develop solar we know will eventually work, use wind where it is viable, just like geothermal, then legacy products will gradually fall by the wayside without telling the developing world they can't have air conditioners because rich countries got them first.
Coal use in America has plummeted, CO2 emissions from it are back at early 1980s levels, and that is thanks to natural gas, not environmentalists. That shows we can do better with a linear approach. Environmentalists are against nuclear science at all costs and their non-linear approach has not worked: They got President Clinton and Senator John Kerry to kill it over 20 years ago after a long-running campaign against it and we got higher CO2 emissions thanks to that. In 1979, it took a gigantic, expensive computer just to make a simple meatloaf recipe digital, yet today computers are tiny, cheaper and better. If we had spent the last few decades optimizing nuclear power the way we have done with computers, global warming would not exist. Instead of embracing a linear approach, environmentalists continue to protest Three Mile Island.
Even Dr. James Hansen, the foremost authority on global warming in the world, says nuclear power is the solution. What are environmentalists going to do, say Hansen doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to climate science?