'Saving' the Planet? Surely You Jest

The nationalist economist Michael Lind has written an excellent essay at The Tablet entitled "Why I Am Against Saving the Planet," in which he explains his objections to the Green movement. Two of these are particularly worth highlighting. First, after discussing the quite recent provenance of much of the now-ubiquitous environmentalist vocabulary, Lind pokes a hole in the Greens' self-proclaimed devotion to The Science. In fact, environmentalism is a direct descendant of Luddite, anti-scientific movements of the Romantic era:

The term “ecology” was invented in 1873 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel, and his work owed much to his own environment of 19th-century Romanticism, typified by a bias against society and civilization and a pantheistic awe before an idealized Nature. German romantic culture is the native soil from which our own modern environmentalism has grown, and many pseudoscientific elements of popular environmentalism that are unthinkingly assumed to be rational and progressive are in fact legacies of a passionately reactionary 19th-century Romantic tradition.

One is the dubious idea of the web of life—no species of plant or animal can become extinct without harming all the rest. This is nonsense, because species have come and gone for billions of years, without necessarily causing the extinction of great numbers of other species. In some cases the disappearance of some kinds of plant and animal life has opened up opportunities for others, in the way that the extinction of the dinosaurs allowed mammals to expand into new niches.

Now, the German Romantic movement of Goethe, Schiller, and Wagner contained multitudes, much of it good, true, and beautiful. Even so, it had at its heart an anti-civilizational— think of their passion for ruins— and even anti-human sentiment, which has been magnified and distorted by their less artful descendants. And on that score, Lind also has a lot to say on the "unscientific nonsense" that's constantly peddled by the green lobby which asserts the existence of "a self-regulating ecosystem disturbed by human activity that would automatically restore itself to a “natural” condition if not for human interference."

This narrative is rife with contradictions, and Lind makes it a point to lay into them:

It might seem that the term “planet,” as it’s used by the greens, has no fixed meaning whatsoever. But that would be a mistake. “The planet,” in the lexicon of environmentalism, is defined in contrast with what it is not: the “Not-Planet.” The Not-Planet includes all human beings. In environmentalist ideology, we humans are not part of “nature” or “the environment” or “the planet.” We are something outside of nature: an alien, destructive force, modifying “the planet” from without. By this standard, all buildings and cities and other human settlements that billions of people depend on for their survival are rendered alien excrescences harming “the planet.” The sand on a beach is “the planet” but the moment you build a sand castle, the sand in the castle becomes Not-Planet. You have taken sand which might have been used by a beach crab for its burrow. How dare you!

Not all plants and animals are included in “the planet,” either. For environmentalists who are romantically nostalgic for the lifestyles of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, agriculture itself is an abomination, replacing “natural” ecosystems with farms and ranches populated by human-modified strains of grains and vegetables and fruit and livestock. A wild buffalo is part of “the planet” but a free-range cow on a ranch or a cow in a feedlot is not. The coyote that dwells in a suburb and kills and eats a pet poodle is “the planet,” but the poor pet poodle, like its grieving owner, is an interloper on “the planet.”

In sum, it's simply good old-fashioned German tree worship, a primitive "religion" gussied up and given a new "scientific" skin to wear. James George Frazer, call your agent.

The False Promise of Energiewende

Here is Michael Schellenberger writing about Germany's "ambitious" (as it is always called) green energy transition known as die Energiewende (energy transition, or turning point) For some background, Energiewende is a series of policies first passed in 2010 with the object of completely transitioning the country away from conventional, carbon emitting energy sources including coal, oil, and natural gas, and towards ones classified as low-to-zero carbon like nuclear, solar, wind, and biomass.

After the Fukushima disaster in 2011, it was decided that Germany would move away from nuclear energy as well, with the aspiration of having the country run exclusively on so-called renewable energy by 2022.

As Schellenberger notes, since its passage Energiewende has been a constant source of hope for leftists the world over, because it gives them something to aim for. Their contention is that it will show the world that cheap green energy is possible, and that it can easily be reproduced anywhere in the world.

Of course their panegyrics have been light on specifics. In fact, the actual results of Energiewende have been mixed so far:

[L]ast year, Germany was forced to acknowledge that it had to delay its phase-out of coal, and would not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction commitments. It announced plans to bulldoze an ancient church and forest in order to get at the coal underneath it.

That's right -- as the fracking revolution has contributed to America's leading the world in carbon emissions decline, green Germany is bulldozing forests for the purposes of mining coal.

The problem is twofold. First, green energy sources produce much less energy than traditional ones. This was once treated as a feature, not a bug, by environmentalists, who believe that modern society requires too much energy, and the best way to fix that is, to borrow a phrase, "starving the beast."

But as this Luddite attitude is a hard sell to most people, modern environmentalists have adjusted by promising exciting new technologies which are always just over the horizon.. "Governments and private investors poured $2 trillion into solar and wind and related infrastructure" since 2000, according to Schellenberger, though with not a great deal of substantive advancement to show for it.

This touches on the second problem -- the expense. Schellenberger points out that average Germans are increasingly frustrated with the cost (€32 billion annually) of the project, an amount which is only projected to increase -- "Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2025, to increase solar and wind three to five-fold by 2050." Public opposition will put heat on the move to renew the twenty year wind and solar energy subsidies which expire this year, the loss of which would be devastating.

What's more, the obsession with "net-zero" has led to the type of environmental despoliation which oil and gas companies are often accused of -- "Solar farms take 450 times more land than nuclear plants, and wind farms take 700 times more land than natural gas wells, to produce the same amount of energy." As bad as bulldozing churches and forests is for coal sounds in modern Germany, it will apparently be much worse if they ever do go completely renewable.