Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia

You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.

In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:

Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.

The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.

If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.

Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.

Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.

As Politico noted at the time:

In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.

In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”

Right.

A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.

Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.

Of course.

After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.

As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.

“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”

“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”

Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.

Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.

Why the Fuss over the Coronavirus Is Familiar

If you think the apocalyptic concern over the coronavirus seems familiar, it is -- because you've been hearing Doom and Gloom and The End is Near hugger-mugger from the Left regarding that elusive monster, "climate change," for decades. We've all been pounded daily by the climate cult to believe that the world is burning up, that much of it is our fault (the Western democracies that is; the peace-loving, pre-industrial vegans of China and India are wholly innocent), and the only solution is an immediate lowering of Western standards of living and a huge cash transfusion to the Third World -- which, as usual, is hardest hit, along with women and other minorities.

In The Hill, Rupert Darwall makes the comparison:

Today's coronavirus pandemic puts into some perspective the climate emergency, which has been running for nigh on 32 years. The climate emergency was first announced in June 1988. “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war,” the Toronto climate conference declared that month.

One way of assessing the reliability of a body of science with major policy implications is whether the experts in the field are prone to over-predicting the severity of the problem. Take smoking: In 1953, Richard Doll, one of the pioneer epidemiologists in discovering the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer, predicted that, in 1973, the number of deaths from lung cancer in Britain would be as high as 25,000. The actual number was 26,000. Doll’s prediction passed a hard test.

By contrast, the Toronto climate conference predicted global temperatures would increase by between 1.5 and 4.5°C (2.7°F and 8.1°F) by the 2030s. Since 1988, average global temperature has risen at a rate of 0.177°C (0.32°F) per decade, less than one-half the 0.36°C (0.65°F) per decade implied by a 1.5°C rise by 2030 and only one-sixth of the rate of a 4.5°C rise. If there’s been a mainstream climate scientist who has under-predicted global warming, he or she must have taken the scientific equivalent of a Trappist vow of silence.

Not such a great track record, but never fear: they'll continue retailing the same nonsense for as long as the Western media lets them get away with it, which will be forever. But on the theory that a single event, anywhere in the world, proves the existence of  "global warming" or "climate change," the coronavirus has become part of the quasi-religious mania that has put the "mental" into the "environmentalist" Left. Just as Godzilla was a furious Nature's revenge on the world for atomic testing, so is the WuHan virus Mother Gaia's attempt to restore the natural balance, by showing us who the real virus is.

For proof, note this story in Britain's ultra-left-wing publication, The Guardian:

Government responses to climate breakdown and to the challenges of poverty and inequality must be changed permanently after the coronavirus has been dealt with, leading scientists have urged, as the actions taken to suppress the spread of the virus have revealed what measures are possible in an emergency.

The Covid-19 crisis has revealed what governments are capable of doing and shone a new light on the motivation for past policies and their outcomes, said Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London, and chair of the commission of the social determinants of health at the World Health Organisation.

“With Covid-19, everything [on austerity] went out of the window. It turns out austerity was a choice,” he said. “The government can spend anything [in the context of the coronavirus crisis], and they have socialised the economy.” The urgency with which the government had acted showed that the response to an emergency could be swift and decisive, he said. But the climate crisis has been viewed as a “slow-burn” issue and had not elicited such a response. “Coronavirus exposes that we can do things differently,” Marmot said. “We must not go back to the status quo ante.”

That's the new game plan: once the battle against the virus has been won, there's no need to remove the restrictions on personal freedom that have marked the political response to the coronavirus. Also, kiss your old lifestyle good-bye:

Some people have pointed out that the response to the current crisis has reduced emissions and air pollution in the short term. But Jason Hickel, lecturer in economic anthropology at Goldsmiths University, warned of taking too many lessons from that.

“When you scale down energy use and industrial production, it does have these ecological benefits but the crucial thing to observe is that this is happening in an unplanned, chaotic way which is hurting people’s lives,” he said. “We would never advocate such a thing. What we need is a planned approach to reducing unnecessary industrial activity that has no connection to human welfare and that disproportionately benefits already wealthy people as opposed to ordinary people. There are much more equitable, just and carefully planned ways to approach this kind of problem.”

Right... As Darwall, the author of Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex (2017) and The Age of Global Warming: A History (2013), observes:

The coronavirus pandemic shows what a genuine crisis looks like. No one has to catastrophize it; the facts speak for themselves. Inducing fear and panic is counter-productive.

One thing hasn’t changed and won’t change: Catastrophizing climate change for political ends. At one of the secretive meetings in 1987, limited to only 25 key participants that led to the formation of the IPCC, it was recognized that climate change had to be catastrophized to persuade politicians that they should embark on damaging emissions cuts. Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres complained about the attention being given to COVID-19: “Whilst the disease is expected to be temporary, climate change has been a phenomenon for many years, and will remain with us for decades and require constant action.”

Two lessons can be drawn. The first is the importance of governments and responsible international bodies focusing on genuine threats that can rapidly overwhelm our capacity to handle them. Something has gone very wrong when the World Health Organization, the lead institution coordinating the response to global pandemics, climbed on the climate bandwagon and called the Paris Agreement “potentially the strongest health agreement of this century” and listed climate change as the No. 1 threat to global health.

The second is resilience. Richer societies are better able to handle a pandemic than poorer ones. Since 1992, South Korea’s carbon dioxide emissions have more than doubled and it is planning to grow them under the Paris Agreement. Unlike House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her colleagues, South Korea has no intention of sacrificing its economy on the altar of climate change. Nor should America.

In other words, when reality hits the fan, the morbid preoccupation with imaginary problems is the first thing out the window. All of the social-justice causes of the past decade -- the fixation on "gender," the sighting of "racism" everywhere, and "climate change" -- suddenly seem if not totally irrelevant then very small beer indeed. They were luxuries we could afford, because deep down we all knew -- even the Left, which wields these monomanias like clubs against civilization -- that they didn't really matter. That, at the end of the day, we could turn the lights out and go to sleep, secure in the knowledge that there were no monsters in the closet or under the bed.

The climate isn't changing, but the times certainly are.

I Got Those Intersectional Reds, Whites, and Blues

In the hierarchy of victimhood/hurt feelings/ general wokeness, does "racism" outrank the crusade to save Mother Gaia? This is the terrible dilemma Karin Louise Hermes faced when trying to balance her identity as a half-Filipina, half-German with her desire to fight for "climate justice" as an activist. When a typhoon hit the Philippines seven years ago (not an unheard-of event in that part of the world), it took three days before Ms. Hermes got the happy news that an aunt, uncle and cousin had survived. But still she became aggrieved -- not about the wind and the rain, but the racism of other climate activists. (Emphasis in bold is mine.)

As a climate activist in Berlin, I felt required to tell my Filipino family’s experience during speeches and rallies because this form of “storytelling” was the only thing that would move a mostly white European audience to an emotional response of climate urgency—even though it was exhausting telling the story, especially since any mention of hurricanes in the news gives me anxiety.

I would hear “great speech,” “so emotional when your voice cracked.” But after a while I realized I would only be called upon when climate organizations needed an inspiring story or a “diverse” voice, contacts for a campaign, or to participate in a workshop for “fun” when everyone else on the (all-white) project was getting paid.

Here an uncharitable soul might point that that her relatives all lived and so, despite the loss of property, the story had a happy ending. One might also inquire what "climate change" has to do with a typhoon hitting the Philippines, which gets an average of five destructive typhoons a year, and is known as the most exposed country in the world to tropical storms. As Wikipedia notes: "The frequency of typhoons in the Philippines have made the typhoons a significant part of everyday ancient and modern Filipino culture." Which is to say, for hundres and perhaps thousands of years.  So, plus ça change, hein? 

Mox nix, as we say in Bavarian. Forget the typhoons: what really didn't sit well with Ms. Hermes was the reaction of her audiences, and that fact that she wasn't getting paid for her activism in front of "white" audiences:

Whenever I would question the whiteness of these spaces and how strategies didn’t take race into account, I would be met with uncomfortable silences. The last time, at a nationwide movement-building workshop last April, I was asked, “Well then, why are you even here?”

[Click on the link above to learn more about the pressing need for more "diversity" among environmental groups.]

So I decided not to be there anymore. After four years of helping organize direct actions, speeches, workshops, and countless video calls, I started hiding and declining requests. I was burned out.

And so, like a spent typhoon, our heroine has had enough. "I stopped talking to people who didn’t relate, including friends who were telling me to come join them now that the marches were becoming more popular. I was also in bed sick a lot. I stayed at home from climate marches telling people my knee was injured and kept to myself, needing to regain all the energy I had put into organizing."

Because, you see, it's all just too, too much:

Climate activism in Germany is mainstream thanks to the longevity and popularity of the German Green Party, which was formed in 1980. But generally the German climate movement is a white space, where there is little awareness of global inequality in the climate crisis. Sometimes it’s the seemingly little things, like climate action meaning “die-ins,” lynching reenactments, or dancing in the street to disrupt public transport. Sometimes it’s being asked time and again what whiteness, capitalism, and inequality have to do with climate change.

Other times it’s more major, like how activists here promote veganism as the single biggest way to reduce their carbon footprint, but ignore how people have been killed after protesting against the sourcing of plant-based foods like palm oil on Indigenous lands. The movement’s failure to address these inequalities is ultimately why I found myself needing to walk away. Anti-racism and anti-capitalism need to be made part of organizing. If “Green” policies fail to consider anti-racism and migrant rights, how is any person of colour supposed to feel voting for them or organizing in the same spaces?

'Tis a puzzlement. In the meantime, typhoons will continue to batter the Philippines and other island nations in east Asia, whether activists get paid or not.