What’s An Environmentalist To Do?

Concern for the environment has long been important around Casa de SJ. We’ve recycled from the beginning, cleaned litter from roadsides and do most of our driving in a Prius, as we have for most of the 21st Century. It’s not because it’s a good-looking pod car. We have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And while we’re not climate scientists, we are fully prepared to rely on and believe those who are that global warming is real and a critical danger to humanity.

So why, then, do climate activists make me want to do unspeakable things to their arms?

This has now happened numerous times with numerous masterpieces. Apparently, pathologically narcissistic children believe their wanton destruction will somehow achieve something beyond their momentary adoration among their handful of delusion comrades, like 15 seconds of infamy. What they are incapable of grasping is that no one wants to associate themselves with any “movement” including anyone as despicable and twisted as them.

But just because stupid children latch onto a quest doesn’t mean global warming isn’t happening or doesn’t matter, as easy as it may be to dismiss the cause by the company it keeps. Of course, those pushing the cause have done pretty much everything in their power to assure its abject failure. Remember AOC’s Green New Deal, which couldn’t figure out whether it was about global warming or racism, and so was about nothing and couldn’t arrive at a coherent and actionable plan, but offered absurdly painful burdens without any means of accomplishing anything useful?

We don’t have the technology.

We don’t have international cooperation and agreement.

We reject nuclear power.

We don’t have a plan that people can execute and live with.

As long as the nutjobs on the fringe are gluing their hands to paintings, or spewing childish nonsense in Congress, can we come up with a serious solution of a problem of this magnitude that might have any chance of happening? Maybe there is hope (if these stupid little shits don’t ruin it).

But small changes inevitably raise the question of whether personal choices can truly make a difference. Beyond the obvious — recycling, taking public transit, eating more plants, etc. — what can individuals possibly do to ameliorate a problem so immense and so overwhelming?

The solution is to offer a vision of a better future. People are willing to make all sorts of changes if they’re convinced it will make a difference. Democrats aren’t coming for your hamburgers, contrary to what Fox News might tell you, but eating one-fifth less beef can cut global deforestation, a leading driver of climate change, in half. With stakes so high and inconvenience so low, who wouldn’t happily cut beef consumption by 20 percent?

Is that it, cut out a couple burgers and problem solved? Well, not quite.

It’s true, of course, that individual actions alone cannot solve the problem of a burning world, but that doesn’t make individual action merely a symbolic drop in the bucket brigade. Dr. Hayhoe cites successful examples of sweeping historical transformation in pointing out the power of advocating for change, individual by individual.

Fine, so individuals as well as governments have a role to play. So?

“When you look at how women got the right to vote,” she said, “it wasn’t because the president woke up one morning and said, ‘Women should have the right to vote.’ It was because women used their voices consistently to advocate for that change.

Well, that’s a completely inapt analogy, as if we can pass a law that says “Global warming is illegal” and that means it’s over. Got anything that would get you better than a C- on a sophomore essay?

First, undercut the politics. Becoming a climate activist doesn’t require changing political parties or renouncing long-held values. “It’s really a matter of showing people that they are already the perfect person to care because of who they are, and that climate action would be an even more genuine expression of their identity,” said Dr. Hayhoe. “It’s about holding up a mirror and reminding people that they want to be a good steward, that they want a better future. That’s when we see change.”

I want to be a good steward. I want a better future. But no, that’s not when we see change. We see change when we have an actually doable action plan with highly specific and achievable goals that are accepted by all the parties required if they’re to be effective.

Spewing rosy platitudinous rhetoric may well move people to declare themselves to be concerned and ready to act. But without anything to act on, so what? And even if I were to garage the Prius next to the Healey and ride a bike while chewing celery from now on, it wouldn’t do a damn thing to end global warming.

I have no clue whether “extreme weather” is a product of global warming or just a weather anomaly, as we’ve had many time in history. I have no clue how high the oceans will rise and whether they would have risen with or without an industrial revolution. And yet I am still prepared to accept the advice of serious scientists that this is a real problem.

So why, then, are climate activists both within and without governments incapable of creating a serious, focused, doable fix, and instead doing everything in their power to cause any hope of solving global warming to be rejected, be ridiculed, and fail? Maybe the stupid children gluing themselves to paintings are no worse than the adults, who have nothing better to offer to fix this very critical problem.

31 thoughts on “What’s An Environmentalist To Do?

  1. Markhu

    I am conflicted, i very much want moderately conservative (in my eyes at least) blogs discussing climate change and demand real and workable solutions.

    I also really dont want to ruin a priceless piece of art to get there

    1. SHG Post author

      Do you think this post does anything useful to advance the cause, or is a condemnation of the idiocracy that’s condemning us to global warming with its unduly passionate intentions?

      It’s surprising that you find SJ only “moderately conservative,” not because it’s conservative at all but because you’re so far off the left fringe as to be incapable of recognizing how inane you are.

  2. Paleo

    I’m not going to turn this into a climate debate, which is pointless, but I’ll simply say that I have a STEM degree in an earth science and 35 years experience putting it into practice and it’s my studied opinion that climate change is more a concern/problem rather than an existential crisis.

    That said, if we’re going to change things in the recognition that none of us knows anything certain about the future, we really need to do something that will work. You list the problems with the Green New Deal (and the Biden admin plan) very accurately. Germany did it almost a decade ago and now they are begging Putin for natural gas and bringing their coal plants back on line to survive the winter, with much much higher power prices embedded in their system.

    I mainly second your main point about this which I think is that we need to be thoughtful and balanced and intelligent and use all of the low/no carbon resources at our disposal. Unfortunately the politicians run this and they tend toward pandering to emotion and less toward thoughtful planning. I worry that we are doomed, but not for the reason that the childish masterpiece destroyers think.

    1. SHG Post author

      I believe (I can’t say I “think” because I lack the competence to hold a meaningful opinion) that technology can do much to address our errors, but the driver should be technology and fact rather than ideology and emotion. No matter how strongly we feel about something, it’s not going to change the laws of physics and allow us to ride unicorns on rainbows to our carbon neutral future.

      1. Drew Conlin

        I believe as you do that technology and what I would call human ability and ingenuity can and should go a long way in addressing the issue. My puzzlement is why climate zealots don’t trust the ability of humans to solve as best we are capable the issue.
        For my money solving or addressing doesn’t include human suffering; that solves nothing

        1. SHG Post author

          It may be that few activists have sufficient understanding of hard science to distinguish between wishes and reality. It’s not that I trust humans to solve problems (which may not necessarily require great human suffering, but is often at odds with profits) without proper incentives, but that problems won’t be solved by singing kumbaya. There will be adjustments to our self-indulgent lives needed, in all likelihood, but they will be dictated by what tech can, pushed to address these issues, accomplish, not by AOC’s proclamations of racial justice.

  3. Kirk A Taylor

    The family size SUV with the Climate Action Now bumper sticker idling in the child drop off line at school for 45 mibutes tells you everything you need to know about activists who want Congress to fix the law by making everybody else take action.

  4. orthodoc

    One of Christopher Hitchens’ more mild complaints about Mother Teresa applies here: that she, like a lot of the Green New Dealers, was a friend not of the poor but of poverty itself. The Green New Dealers won’t say it explicitly–neither did Mother Teresa–but they certainly act that way.
    The most reliable means to prevent pollution-creation, and especially to mitigate the pollution already created, is to make the world richer. (Cleaning litter from roadsides is, believe it or not, a leisure activity; a Prius is, believe it or not, a luxury car; and recycling, believe it or not, does not do diddly.)
    The Green New Dealers won’t agree to that scheme, for wealth creation takes capitalism (See Andy Kessler’s essay in today’s WSJ).
    Seen as an act to reduce the inevitable cognitive dissonance caused by simultaneously hating pollution but hating its remedy as well, hand gluing starts to make a lot more sense.

    1. norahc

      Especially when you realize that some of these activists take the NIMBY approach to any possible solution.

      New lithium mine to make the batteries needed for green power storage? Nope, the mine sits under an area with a rare desert wild flower.

      New geothermal power site? Nope, a rare desert toad lives there.

      California wants to mandate all vehicles sold in the state be carbon free within a couple of decades, but they cant even meet their own power generation needs right now. I saw one report that said California would have to produce 6-7 times more power than it currently does to charge the 30 million vehicles in the state if they were all electric. Setting aside the fact nobody wants nuclear power anywhere near them, what’s it going to do to the environment to mine all that copper and other metals needed to upgrade the power grid?

      1. SHG Post author

        One of my personal favorite conundrums is where the people who enthusiastically believe that EVs will save humanity think the electricity comes from that powers the EVs.

      2. Kirk A Taylor

        Driving the roads in Vermont and summering in Vermont I have watched them protest (mostly sucsesfully) pipelines, nuclear, wind turbines, hydroelectric and solar farms. Vermonters want magic fairy power.

  5. L. Phillips

    I like the Green New Deal activist type of narcissistic moron. My grandkids are competing against them for scholarships and/or jobs and winning hands down.

    (Yes, this morning I feel like being that guy.)

  6. Quinn Martindale

    Passing and enforcing a law and does work – the Clean Water Act really has resulted in much cleaner lakes and river, and the primary complaint is that it protects too much. The Montreal Protocol successfully moved countries away from the use of CFCs to protect the ozone layer. And cap and trade rules on sulfur dioxide greatly reduced acid rain. We’re doing it with C02 as well, with emissions declining annually in the US since 2005, as a result of economic incentives shifting energy production towards renewables. There’s good evidence that people’s individual choices are also making an impact (although this is certainly for a mix of reasons) – beef consumption is down and carpooling is up. There’s every reason to believe that a carbon tax would be effective in further reducing emissions, at the cost of making everything more expensive. Unfortunately, the COVID shutdowns showed the reduction in economic activity it would take to reach Paris Agreement’s 1.5c goal, and I don’t think people are willing to pay that price based on models.

    1. Paleo

      The biggest driver of our drop in carbon emissions over the time frame you mention was not the shift to renewables. It was natural gas displacing coal. Plentiful, cheap natural gas provided by (gasp!) the process commonly but incorrectly known as fracking.

      So while practical people were applying new technology to help moderate the problem the masterpiece gluers were fighting against it tooth and nail. Rational application of science will improve things, emotional extremism will hurt things.

  7. B. McLeod

    I know, right? The pitch is that we need to take all these drastic actions to save young people from having to struggle is some blazing, arid, windswept Hell. But when they behave like this, I just want to get out my gasoline mower and mow, very slowly, in the late afternoon.

  8. st

    “We don’t have the technology.
    We don’t have international cooperation and agreement.
    We reject nuclear power.
    We don’t have a plan that people can execute and live with.”

    We do have the technology, but it is rejected out of hand.

    Nuclear power is here now, at scale. It produces zero carbon while operating. It is already the subject of international cooperation and agreement on a scale that dwarfs other energy technologies.

    We have the resources and manufacturing capacity to build enough reactors quickly enough to make huge reductions in carbon emissions. The number of plants required is large, but their physical size and environment footprint is far smaller than any competing technology.

    It is by any objective measure the cleanest, safest power source available.

    For those who want to talk about waste or the environmental impact of mining, sit down. I have something to tell you and it is going to make you sad. Renewable advocates don’t want to talk about their score on those merits, for good reasons.

    This solution doesn’t solve everything, nothing does, but it has enormous potential benefits. It has risks and costs like any action, that can and should be challenged and debated. This is a potential doable action plan with highly specific and achievable goals that could be accepted by all the parties. But not if they won’t talk about it.

    When a demonstrated potential solution to the problem can’t even be discussed, one has to consider whether there are agendas that go beyond good stewardship and a better future.

      1. Guitardave

        Yeah.
        I wonder if these nuke promoters would feel like they do if they saw the faces of the adults, and experienced the palpable fear that day in 1978 when I got sent home from school because Three Mile Island was going critical. (34 miles from my home)
        In the following three years I also got to see about three of my young friends get lymphoma..( all of them were pot smokers who grew their own outdoors..)..which we all knew had absolutely NOTHING to do with the huge cloud of radioactive steam that was released. Right.
        Two of the three died after varying length illnesses.
        Move along. Nothing to see here.

  9. Martha D Durham

    Nuclear is the only current technology that can power this country and near their net zero goal. Nuclear is not on their platform Perhaps net zero is not their only goal.

    1. norahc

      “Perhaps net zero is not their only goal.”

      Or they saw the society of San Angeles in “Demolition Man” and decided they had to get some of that.

  10. Brian Gillen

    There’s a certain line of thinking among some people in the environmental movement that the only way to get the message out is through high profile stunts. You won’t make the news making some kind of factual argument, but gluing yourself to a painting, or blocking traffic on a busy highway, will at least grab you a few headlines. If you believe that all publicity is good publicity, then it makes sense.

    I don’t agree all publicity is good publicity. PETA is probably exhibit #1here. Catching people’s attention long enough for those people to think you’re an asshole does no justice to your cause.

  11. Anthony P Kehoe

    We have a nuclear station just outside Phoenix. It generates 4 gigawatt-hours of energy in a space of 4000 acres. There is a wind farm north of Flagstaff that generates 0.09 gigawatt-hours of energy in a space of 20000 acres. In order to have a wind farm equivalent to the nuclear plant, you would need 888,889 acres of space. For reference, the city of Phoenix is 330,800 acres. The song “Big Yellow Taxi” comes to mind; we could pave most of the planet with wind farms or put up some nuclear stations. If this is really serious, nuclear is the current solution.

    The nuclear station in Phoenix has been operating for around 35 years, the average wind farm turbine is rated for 25. Most of the concerns around nuclear have come from older plants with outdated technology. From an engineering perspective, it makes zero sense that we are not building nuclear plants all day long.

    Ultimately, our lives are energy transfer markets. We trade labour energy for money that we use to buy other peoples’ labour energy. Anything that can make energy cheaper or more plentiful is going to improve lives. That’s the whole premise of Star Trek; energy is so plentiful people only have to toil at what interests them. If we ever want to get there, we need to be making energy production essentially free, not rationing it.

  12. Brady Curry

    In my lifetime of working in the coal industry I like to think that I am personally responsible for a 0.1 degree Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures.

    I know I’ll probably go to hell for it but it was/is one of the few ways to survive around these parts. My only defense is that if you use more electricity than me, and trust me I don’t use much, you can’t place all the blame on me.

    I’ll be dead before long. I just hope the youth of this world find a meaningful way to save this planet that people can get behind. Not some attention grabbing bullshit.

  13. Bryan Burroughs

    The fact that every single “solution” proposed by gov’t so far would give enormous power to the gov’t over expansive swaths of our lives tells me more or less how important this “problem” is and how much they really believe in it. Surely there are solutions which don’t involve making gov’t bigger, but damned if that ain’t the only way to fix it. This just appears to be another money and power grab, where politicians get to pick winners and losers, and to hell if it actually solves anything in the process.

    Maybe there’s something going on here, but nobody wants to fix it unless they can grab power out of the deal.

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