This is how the whole subject of climate change looks to someone new to the fight:
Every Discussion Ever about Climate Change
Most Scientists Everywhere: The planet is warming because we burn fossil fuels. It would be good to stop burning fossil fuels, like, really soon.
Activist: Climate change is caused by capitalism. Capitalism must die.
Scientist: *whispers* Well, it’s actually caused by burning fossil fuels.
Activist: *screams* DENIER!
Scientist: *scurries back to lab*
Republican: How much is this going to cost me?
Activist: It will cost you everything, Evil Capitalist Pig.
Republican: Eh, it’s snowing. Climate’s fine. I’m outta here.
Activist: *head spins in circles* DENIER!
New Activist: Nuclear energy is low carbon and…
Activist: *foams at mouth* CAPITALIST!
New Activist: *cries* But…I feel the Bern!
Activist: *thrashes wildly* DENIER!
Bad news for environmentalists. According to a newly released Gallup poll, the number of Americans “worried a great deal” about climate change has only ticked up 4 percentage points in the last 25 years from 33% to 37%, in spite of environmentalists promising us that the apocalypse is right around the corner. Not only are the majority of Americans not losing much sleep over humanity’s impending doom, most of them don’t even want to call themselves environmentalists anymore. That number is down from 78% to 42% since 1991 and no one will be shocked to learn that most Republicans don’t like to call themselves the “E” word these days. That number is down from 78% to a mere 27%.
What’s happening here? There are surely a million different reasons but one of them may be that you environmentalists are scary as hell. Seriously, you’re such dicks sometimes – to each other and to anyone, really, who doesn’t bow down to your dogma.
You love to wag your fingers and call people “deniers” when they don’t agree with the ordained economic system, agricultural method, and energy policy. God help anyone who makes the case that perhaps not all weather events are due to climate change because that person isn’t just a Denier, they are a denier and a Koch-Brothers Puppet. How’s that strategy working out for you? We keep burning fossil fuels, climate change marches on and no one wants to be in your club anymore.
I cringe at how naïve I was when I first got into this, all wide-eyed and excited to save the planet (I cringe at that phrase now too.) Then, I got called a climate change denier because I suggested nuclear power should be in the clean energy mix since it’s, you know, CLEAN ENERGY. I felt like a big dumbass, holding out my hand with all the nice little stats about nuclear safety and radiation and my hooray-for-baseload-power excitement. I thought, “Oh, if people weren’t so scared of nuclear power, then we could stop burning coal and everyone could have air-conditioning as good as mine and not die from spoiled food. This is awesome!” Not so fast. Not only was I a denier but I was a…right-winger?
So, I cried and cried and couldn’t figure it out. At first, I thought people assumed I was a shill for the big, powerful Nuclear Industry Lobby until I realized that the nuclear industry is a sad, fat dinosaur with one leg dragging behind it, crying for everyone to wait up. (I think their lobby is just a few old guys in golf sweaters, handing out pamphlets.) It started to make sense though when I saw an interview with an activist I really like and admire, Naomi Klein (she’s actually not a dick). When asked about nuclear power, she rejects it and says:
“I understand why people looking at the current power configurations as they are, believe that we need these centralized solutions that are less threatening to our elites.”
Klein goes on to say that nuclear power is keeping the status quo and is an extractive industry that is tied to an unequal economic system and that she’s throwing her lot in with a social movement. Huh? I guess she agrees that nuclear is low carbon but we can’t be equal until…nobody has refrigeration? (I was thinking it would be more egalitarian for us all to not die from food poisoning.) I see what she’s getting at but it sounds like her social movement is more important to her than not burning fossil fuels. That’s when a dim bulb went off over my head: Maybe the social movement is more important to a lot of these people than the HOT CLIMATE part. (Republicans: Duh.)
Not even a bona fide advocate of global socialism is safe from abuse if he deviates from the mandated Green script. Leigh Phillips, author of one of my favorite books last year, Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence of Growth, Progress, Industry and Stuff (as hilarious and thought-provoking as its title), received a death threat for arguing that the green left had abandoned its progressive, pro-human values in its rejection of modernity. Mean names are better than death at least.
“Oh gosh, what haven’t I been called? A shill for Monsanto, a shill for Silicon Valley, a ‘Jetsonian’, techno-utopian, a nuke-head (I don’t actually mind that too much)…” -Phillips
There is something wrong with a movement where someone can share so many of the same values and then get threatened with murder for proposing different solutions. Imagine what it’s like for those whose values don’t align very well.
Maybe if you weren’t such assholes, trying to shove a narrow ideology down everyone’s throats, more people would trust you and we’d be making more progress on climate change.
Environmentalists can keep blaming those old coots, the Koch Bros, or they can look at the Gallup poll numbers and ask what they could do differently to make people want to do more than worry a little about climate change on rare occasions. It’s time to accept that not everyone buys the same dogma or cares about the same social movements but everyone should want to call themselves an environmentalist.