Salon to Gore and Other Eco-Ghouls: Stop Your Sobbing

Salon excerpts Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, which attacks doomsayers of the Green persusasion in positively Ron Baileyean terms:

Environmentalist cautionary tales have had the opposite of their intended effect, provoking fatalism, conservatism, and survivalism among readers and the lay public, not the rational embrace of environmental policies. Constantly surprised and angered when people fail to behave as environmentalists would like them to, environment writers complain that the public is irrational, in denial, or just plain foolish. They presume that the failure of the public to heed their warnings says something meaningful about human nature itself, attributing humanity's disregard for Nature to desires like the lust for power and concluding that, in the end, we are all little more than reactive apes, insufficiently evolved to take the long view and understand the complexity and interconnectedness of the natural systems on which we depend....

Environmental tales of tragedy begin with Nature in harmony and almost always end in a quasi-authoritarian politics. Eco-tragic narratives diagnose human desire, aspiration, and striving to overcome the constraints of our world as illnesses to be cured or sins to be punished. They aim to short-circuit democratic values by establishing Nature as it is understood and interpreted by scientists as the ultimate authority that human societies must obey. And they insist that humanity's future is a zero-sum proposition -- that there is only so much prosperity, material comfort, and modernity to go around. The story told by these eco-tragedies is not that humankind cannot stand too much reality but rather that Nature cannot stand too much humanity.

Here's a great line that could have been ripped straight out of reason:

Not only have we survived, we've thrived. Today more and more of us are "free at last" -- free to say what we want to say, love whom we want to love, and live within a far larger universe of possibilities than any other generation of humans on earth.

Whole thing here.

I haven't read the whole book and am curious as to what sort of policy prescriptions the authors propose. But the attitude in this excerpt is a truly welcome relief from the human-hating animus behind much coming out of the Green community.

Hat Tip: Film critic extraordinaire Alan Vanneman.

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  • Juanita||

    There does'nt be any global warmings. All these imaginery problems what we got here just be a liberals plot to keep bush from fightin for our freedoms in Iraq.

  • ||

    They aim to short-circuit democratic values by establishing Nature as it is understood and interpreted by scientists as the ultimate authority that human societies must obey.

    A theocracy and technocracy differ only in the myths that prop them up. I'm glad reality is seeping back into environmental discussions.

  • ||

    I wonder how long til Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are denounced as deniers.

  • LarryA||

    Constantly surprised and angered when people fail to behave as environmentalists would like them to, environment writers complain that the public is irrational, in denial, or just plain foolish.

    Just like pretty much everyone else in nanny-state government.

  • ||

    Every time I hear Chicken Little "sky is falling" eco-doom stuff, I think of Parson Malthus.

    "Eco-ghouls"
    I like that.

  • Episiarch||

    Considering that environmentalism is religion, what do you expect? We have God (Gaia, mother earth), the Garden of Eden (pre-industrial society/hunter-gatherers), original sin (technology, greed), Armageddon (global warming), moral purity (I am greener than thou), heretics (global warming "deniers"), Satan (CO2, corporations spewing gases), and saints (Al Gore, etc.).

    Religion is irrational, not based on reason, and has a powerful attraction for many people. It amazes me as I watch people who spit on "mainstream" religions then turn around and act...exactly like them.

  • ||

    I'm glad reality is seeping back into environmental discussions.

    Me too. I've been a self labelled "rational environmentalist" for decades. It has gotten pretty lonely sometimes. Kudos to Libertarians who have the rare ability to discuss the real environmental problems and proposed solutions, instead of screeching about or denying the same.

  • ||

    This article was the most windbaggish piece of straw man crap I've read in a long time. Environmentalists of Al Gore's type today aren't tree hugging hippies who cherish nature over people. They're trying to save people--that is, humans everywhere--from catastrophe. It's not about saving the planet at our expense, it's about saving the planet so we don't all die.

    I find much more religious fervor in the anti-global warming crowd. A belief that it will turn out all right in the end, if we just ignore reality long enough.

  • Guy Montag||

    Hey, they got me to switch to metric organic hydrocarbons. What else do they want? I guess I have to let the solar electric cow-dung cars beat my 318 in a bracket race or something.

  • Guy Montag||

    And stephendedalus proves me to be psychic.

  • Dot||

    There is an article about these guys in this month's Wired. They have a refreshing attitude, but their policy prescriptions are far from libertarian. Their solution is massive government investment in research of new technologies. Despite that, i think they are definitely on the right track that the way out of global warming and other environmental problems is through innovation not through standing athwart history yelling stop.

  • ||

    They're trying to save people...


    Most tyrants in history had the same motivation. Al Gore may want to save us all from ourselves, but he would do so by ruling over us.

  • ||

    Al Gore's "carbon footprint" is HUGE! Just sayin'.

  • VM||

    J Sub D:

    nah - that's just his ass and sausage thighs in his tight short shorts

  • ||

    They're trying to save people...

    Yet, oddly, their policies would doom millions (if not billions) to poverty and misery.

  • Mike Laursen||

    To be honest, some of us libertarians have also been known to stray into religious thinking and complaining that people don't behave the way we want them to. Which just means that libertarians are human, too.

  • ||

    Global warming is real but we are not the primary cause, the earth has cooled and warmed throughout its existence. The nanny staters need to wake up the answer is definitely not governmental intervention.

  • ||

  • ||

    I don't know what happened to my little comment there...

  • ||

    This article was the most windbaggish piece of straw man crap I've read in a long time. Environmentalists of Al Gore's type today aren't tree hugging hippies who cherish nature over people. They're trying to save people--that is, humans everywhere--from catastrophe. It's not about saving the planet at our expense, it's about saving the planet so we don't all die.

    In other words, they're the same egotistical assholes they always were, but now they're better dressed and groomed, and more capable of using all kinds of big words to describe their religious fervor.

    "Save the planet." What tripe. The planet will be around billions of years after our species is extinct or evolved into something unrecognizable. In the end, the human ape is a small thing, and we will suffer the same type of population crash and rebirth that deer do when they out-populate their habitat.

  • Mike Laursen||

    This article was the most windbaggish piece of straw man crap I've read in a long time. Environmentalists of Al Gore's type today aren't tree hugging hippies who cherish nature over people.

    The charges leveled in the above windbaggery really do have basis in reality. For example, watch this trailer for "An Inconvenient Truth":

    http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount_classics/aninconvenienttruth/trailer/

    The line that got me was: "DID THE PLANET BETRAY US... OR DID WE BETRAY THE PLANET?" Ah, for chrissakes... All the human apes I know, even the conservative ones, are rather fond of this planet. We may have damaged the climate, but it should be attributed to bumbling more than malice.

    (To be fair, Al Gore's presentation in the movie is much more level headed than the trailer. For all we know the trailer was thrown together by some hack writer who doesn't personally give two compostible human waste eliminations about the environment, with absolutely no input from Gore.)

  • ||

    ""Save the planet." What tripe. The planet will be around billions of years after our species is extinct or evolved into something unrecognizable. In the end, the human ape is a small thing, and we will suffer the same type of population crash and rebirth that deer do when they out-populate their habitat."

    Again... maybe I should speak more slowly this time. It's not about saving the planet. It's about saving human beings. Duh the planet will be around long after we're gone. The point is not to accelerate our gone-ness.

    Let's do a thought experiment. Let's just say for the sake of argument that the earth is warming and that all the planet-wide catastrophes that scientists predict will actually happen. In such an event, do you anarchist zealots still think we should sit back and do nothing and let... I dunno... the magical market fix everything? But you seem to be going one level stronger, a sort of scary nihilism that says most people will die... so what... that's nature for ya!

    The Panglossian nihilism of libertarians scares me almost as much as the apocalyptic bloodlust of conservative Christians, except they have more power.

  • Guy Montag||

    stephendedalus,

    Upper atmospheric ozone did not exist before the industrial revolution. Try to find any scientific refrence for it before 1945, I dare you.

    Now, if you stop the industrial revolution the UV radiation will fry us.

    That theory has as much "proof" as your worls ending theory. So why should anybody believe you (or me for that matter)?

  • ||

    First, the global warming hysteria is very obviously an attempt to co-opt a radical social movement. There are many more important things to be worried about, like martial law or SWAT teams invading your home.

    That being said...

    we are all little more than reactive apes, insufficiently evolved to take the long view and understand the complexity and interconnectedness of the natural systems on which we depend

    How can you deny that this country is filled with apes who would rather eat, drink, and breathe cancer than let gay people get married? Have you noticed how global warming takes the focus off of specific, very real and verifiable instances of pollution that continue unchecked?

  • ||

    Gah! [read Article] Talk about a Gang of Straw Man. My speech and debate teachers woudl chew me out for writing like that.

  • ||

    Again... maybe I should speak more slowly this time. It's not about saving the planet. It's about saving human beings. Duh the planet will be around long after we're gone. The point is not to accelerate our gone-ness.

    Humans have existed in a wide variety of climatological epochs over time. While I personally am skeptical about the anthropogenic warming theory, there is no doubt that humans will have to live in a substantially warmer climate sooner or later, simply based on the fact that we have been living through a bit of a cold spell in recent centuries.

    As such, your apocalyptic rhetoric is just a tad overheated.

    Let's do a thought experiment. Let's just say for the sake of argument that the earth is warming and that all the planet-wide catastrophes that scientists predict will actually happen. In such an event, do you anarchist zealots still think we should sit back and do nothing and let... I dunno... the magical market fix everything? But you seem to be going one level stronger, a sort of scary nihilism that says most people will die... so what... that's nature for ya!

    I've alway found the tendency of environmentalists to intellectually separate humans from their environment to be rather...religious. I wish only warm, fuzzy happiness on everyone.

    But anyone who has even remotely studied animal behavior understands animals (including humans) to be rather "locust-like" in their tendency to strip the resources of their environment and then die off in large numbers.

    Are we capable of different, what with our big brains and all? Our technology has enabled us to support a huge population, but it probably only takes a small event to take down a huge percentage of that, given crowded conditions. I'm guessing that a drug-resistant microbe or two does that long before global warming could ever become a big problem.

    In any event, if one wishes to pursue a given goal requiring widespread participation, then market forces work far better than coercion over time. You make human drives work for you rather than fight them.

    The Panglossian nihilism of libertarians scares me almost as much as the apocalyptic bloodlust of conservative Christians, except they have more power.

    I doubt I represent the 'mainstream libertarian.' I also don't really think of myself as a nihilist, but I'll defer to your impressive vocabulary.

  • Mike Laursen||

    In any event, if one wishes to pursue a given goal requiring widespread participation, then market forces work far better than coercion over time.

    Any effective effort to reduce greenhouse gases significantly will require voluntary cooperation, anyway. Perhaps not at the individual level, but among nations.

  • ||

    Environmentalists have been talking about a positive, optimistic vision that incorporates human and economic development as fundamental values which must be promoted for a decade and a half.

    It's called Sustainable Development.

    And given the state of science and the mountains of evidence about global warming, it's pretty clear which side of the debate has fallen into irrational, religious thinking.

  • ||

    OMG.

    Upper atmospheric ozone did not exist before the industrial revolution. Try to find any scientific refrence for it before 1945, I dare you.

    Similarly, subatomic particles did not exist before the 1930s. I double dog dare you to find any scientific refernces to them before that!

  • Powdered Toast Man||

    joe, I have a whole box of good alkaline batteries -- that I just tested -- to power your sarcasm detector. Dig in, pal.

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