In theory, Environmentalism ought to be a conservative, or at least apolitical, philosophy: but, in its politicised Climatism mutation, it’s been captured and exploited by the Left and Centre-Left, as a means to pursue Leftist ends
Between small-“c” conservatism, especially in its classical Burkean tradition, and environmentalism in that word’s true, literal sense, there should, on the face of it, be a natural philosophical affinity.
Burkean conservative thought holds that society makes better progress, and simultaneously better preserves its legacy for future generations, not by the tearing-down of its structures and customs in orgies of radical, revolutionary fervour: but by preserving and perpetuating, though also adapting, established social, political and cultural institutions that have stood the test of time.
It contends that the environment in which we find ourselves, not only the social, economic and cultural but also the physical, is not ours exclusively to re-make afresh solely out of desire to indulge the narcissism of the immediate, or even just to satisfy present needs; that we are not its absolute, unfettered owners, but trustees, stewards and custodians: that the corollary of societal betterment is an obligation to safeguard for those who have gone before the inheritance which they bequeathed to us, and in turn to pass it on as our legacy to generations yet unborn.
On this argument, then, environmentalism – in that word’s true, literal, sense – should be primarily a concern of philosophical conservatives – even its “conservation” synonym suggests as much.
Yet, because of the well-documented hijacking of the environmental movement by the hard-Left following the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s now across that part of the ideological spectrum that spans from far/hard-Leftism to Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrism where the new politicised Environmentalism predominates.
A better name for it than “Environmentalism” is Climatism, after Steve Goreham’s excellent book of the same name, debunking its dubious scientific claims and political prescriptions. It bears little resemblance to Environmentalism in its original, true, conservation-oriented roots: Climatism is its mutation into the more familiar, stridently-collectivist, statist, anti-capitalist, intolerant-of-dissent, authoritarian secular Green Religion – eco-socialism, eco-fascism, eco-communism, or whatever specific eco-variety of Leftism one cares to assign it.
And so, unsurprisingly, it’s politicians ranging from Hard-Left to ‘Liberal’-Centre – perhaps we should just call them Climatists as convenient shorthand, to save time agonising over whether they’re eco-socialists, eco-fascists, eco-communists, or just eco-opportunists – who seem regularly to place the most reliance on it, to justify almost anything. As can be seen from merely a quick selection from the UK political scene in the last month or so.
First out of the traps, as you might expect, are those über-Climatists, the Green Party. In her keynote speech to its 2016 Spring Conference, leader Natalie Bennett employed well-worn Climatism-misanthropic memes to bemoan both the availability of relatively-inexpensive, reliable energy, and the greater mobility and travel opportunities which our 21st century prosperity has brought within the reach of vast numbers:
“The government is encouraging, subsidising, the frackers, the oil-drillers, the destructive open-cut coal miners. It’s promoting new roads and new airport runways”
Not content with that, Bennett went on to propose in effect State control, not merely of monetary policy, but money creation itself, and also its deployment into the economy:
“We must build a future with a new system of money creation that puts resources into the real economy rather than casino finance”
But here, for example, adducing Climatism to advocate Britain’s continued membership of the EU, is Labour’s Red (or rather, Green-Left) Ed Miliband – progenitor of arguably the most damaging piece of legislation ever passed by Parliament, and written at his invitation by Friends Of The Earth’s deep-Green ideologue Bryony Worthington, the 2008 Climate Change Act – in his recent pro-Remain speech:
“That’s why we need to be in the European Union. Take the most important threat of all: climate change. It just isn’t realistic to think one country can do this on its own. It’s only EU legislation that is forcing any action from this Government”
There are, incidentally, at least three blatant falsehoods contained in those short four sentences, but for the purposes of this argument, we’ll let that pass.
Here too, this time enlisting Climatism in the cause of State-directed investment, control of markets, and curbs on business freedom, is Labour’s Hard-Left leader Jeremy Corbyn:
“We need a state that invests. This means we can shape markets and shape the goods they produce. All of this must be driven by democracy in the production of energy.”
Now, also embracing Climatism to justify a vote to stay in the EU, comes Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, in his speech to the party’s Spring Conference:
“We face vast international challenges: climate change, the refugee crisis, a global economy. Do we best tackle these together or on our own? We are stronger together. We are Stronger In.”
Next up, citing Climatism as justification for greater wealth redistribution and overseas aid, administered and dispensed at one remove from full democratic accountability and control, is the SNP’s Scottish Government “Climate-Change” Minister, (suitably-attired in Green, naturally) Aileen McLeod:
“We have doubled the innovative Climate Justice Fund, a global first that is supporting some of the world’s poorest communities to deal with the impact of climate change”
Finally, impeccably metropolitan-Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrist Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, blatantly and desperately recruiting Climatism as a helper to try and win over the self-appointed trendy and the youth vote in the Government’s increasingly flailing and fear-mongering campaign to keep Britain in the EU, in her pro-Remain speech of 29 March:
“Whether it’s tackling poverty or protecting the environment and tackling climate change, young people know that our voice and impact are magnified by playing a leading role through the EU”
It’s nigh-on impossible not to be struck by the remarkable, and consistent, similarity between many of the prescriptions advanced by Climatism and the Climatists, and policies that are recognisable Hard-Left, Centre-Left and even ‘Liberal’-Centrist shibboleths, but for which they struggle to gain popular consent if advanced openly via the normal democratic process. To document the main ones:
Unlike UKIP and the Conservative Right, all the parties referenced explicitly favour removing swathes of public-policy decision-making away from domestic dependency on voter consent to mainly unelected, unaccountable, anti-democratic supranational bureaucracies.
The SNP knows its peculiar variety of nationalist state-socialism, while presently-dominant in Scotland, has minimal, if any, political traction south of the border. The LibDems and the Greens are psephologically near-irrelevant. Labour, in its post-Blairite iteration and despite its lip-service platitudes, has never really trusted democracy to back its policies since its three successive shattering defeats of the 1980s. The currently-reigning social-democratic, paternalist, ‘liberal’-Cameroon wing of the Conservatives openly disdains the Party’s robust classical-liberal pluralists.
To all of these, the attraction of ensuring the implementation of electorally-unobtainable policy, by re-locating its origination and direction well away from vulnerability to democratic rejection, is irresistible. And what better ostensible justification for it could there be than the supranational regionalist or even globalist eco-stewardship they assert is inseparable from Climatism?
Thus, their near-unanimous support for, in particular, Britain’s continued EU membership, with its incipient pan-EU supranational energy-union and emissions-trading scheme which Green campaign groups still insist is not climate-policy at all, but a neo-industrial policy.
Greater State control of monetary policy, economy and markets.
Hard-Left Labour and the Greens are at least quite open about it. Between them, they overtly intend, in the name of Climatism, a much more economically-interventionist and controlling State: one that not only usurps control of monetary policy from an independent central bank, but also inclines towards almost directing producers what to produce and even consumers what to buy. As near to Soviet-style central planning, in fact, as the West has seen since that model’s deserved ignominious collapse in failure in the 1980s.
But they’re by no means alone. All the featured parties favour more State involvement in the economy to some degree or other, and in some way or other. Think of the LibDems’ Green Investment Bank: the Cameroons’ risibly ill-designed and ill-fated Green Deal: and the eco-benefits claimed by Osborne to justify his ludicrously-expensive and crony-corporatist deal with EFD and China over the Hinkley Point nuclear power facility.
Climatism offers ample opportunities with which to justify the increase in the State’s overall tax take, and therefore its share of national GDP, that so beguiles the hard-Left, the Fabian “Progressives”, and the paternalist ‘Liberal’-Centrists alike. Beguiles them, because common to them all are the Left-ish –
- assumption of the State as indispensable and irreplaceable enabler:
- conviction that the State really does know better than the citizen how his money should be spent: and
- innate distrust of leaving wealth, as Gladstone put it, to “fructify in the pockets of the people”.
Higher eco-taxes on petrol and diesel, in addition to excise duty and VAT, which mean that tax of one kind or another accounts for up to 70% of the pump price. Green levies and taxes aimed at “carbon” reduction, to be recouped from domestic consumers, and which load their energy bills by up to 15%. Environmental obligations imposed on businesses, but which inevitably have to be passed on to the purchasers or consumers of their products in higher prices. Air Passenger Duty, supposedly a targeted incentive for reduced “carbon” emissions, but in reality an indiscriminate, scatter-gun, catch-all tax on overseas holidays and business.
These aren’t direct taxes, in the sense that they’re visible deductions from monthly or weekly pay-slips: they’re more insidious, in that they’re indirect, or hidden, secondary-effect, stealth taxes. But here’s the sting – they still come out of the poor taxpayer’s same wallet or bank account, and they still wind up in the same Treasury till for disposing by the State that, remember, knows best. Leftists of all persuasions love that.
Forced Income and Wealth Redistribution.
Climatism’s high apostles make no secret of the redistributive aims of the secular Green Religion. Here, for example, are Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, and former Canadian Environment Minister, Christine Stewart: they make no attempt to conceal the true, socialist-redistributive objectives of globally-directed, nation-state democracy-immune Climatism.
It doesn’t require a great leap of the imagination to discern the same sentiments in Bennett’s “putting resources into the real economy”, or the SNP’s “Climate Justice” Fund: as Friedman, especially, shows us, any movement with “Justice” as its suffix is almost unfailingly in reality a campaign for wealth/income abstraction and redistribution via State-coercion. And the universal support among our chosen Party luminaries for Britain’s continuing EU membership is a pointer, too: the EU seeks ever-more control over member-states’ economic and fiscal policies, with greater distribution explicitly included in its aims.
Curtailment of Personal Freedom.
The broad church that constitutes the Left in its widest sense distrusts individual liberty: philosophically, it remains in thrall to the Rousseauian concept of the human born pure but corrupted by his surroundings: to the inherent perfectibility of human society, given only sufficient power residing in the hands of the State. Climatism furnishes myriad openings to justify the extension of restrictions on personal freedom – and in how noble and incontrovertible a cause! – nothing less than the salvation of the planet itself.
Thus the increasing exhortations against flying (remember the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, equating flying to Spain on holiday with murder by stabbing?), and the public implicit shaming of those whom the self-appointed arbiters of eco-propriety deem to have exceeded their allocated entitlement: the vocal disapproval of food choices on the laughably-flawed “logic” of grazing-space or food-miles: the drive to install smart-meters or third-party control systems into private homes to monitor, and even remotely-curb, energy consumption.
Intolerance and Suppression of Dissent.
Few political movements have exhibited the vicious intolerance of dissent from the Green orthodoxy for which Climatism is, rightly, reviled – with the possible exception, that is, of those found in totalitarian states.
Dispute the received wisdom, that the mere 3% of atmospheric CO2 that results from human activity is catastrophically dangerous while the residual 97% that results entirely from natural climatological phenomena somehow isn’t, and you will be met, not with an attempted explanation (because there isn’t one, apart from the basic premise being wrong), but ad-hominem abuse, usually including an adverse judgment or three disparaging your moral worth as well as your motives.
Challenge why global average temperatures have been flat for 19 years despite continued rising atmospheric CO2, and you will be called, not an adherent to Popper’s Scientific Method, but the catch-all insult of “denier” – which is quite rich, considering that Climatists, to cling to the Green Orthodoxy, are themselves forced to deny 4½ billion years of more or less constant climate change, ever since the Earth’s formation, and often far more dramatic than any over which Climatism professes to agonise.
Confront the quaint notion that increased floods from (entirely natural) climate change are better prevented, not by improving flood defences but subsidising inefficient, expensive renewables off the backs of the poor’s energy bills, and you will be treated, not with discussion but with ferocious scorn and derision (but little else).
This is pure Leftist technique, the late 20th/early 21st century manifestation of what’s in Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals (from which Obama, incidentally, draws so much of his inspiration). “Your views are so self-evidently morally-repugnant (alternative: “driven solely by greed“)”, goes the Leftist narrative, “that they absolve me from any obligation even to debate the issue with you at all, especially as my aims are noble and altruistic, so that their ends in any case justify whatever means are required to realise them“. It’s called Shutting Down The Argument. Leftists (and Climatists) deploy it routinely.
None of this multi-faceted consistency of aims and policies between Leftism and Climatism should surprise, given the historical circumstances in which they came together. The 1989 collapse of Soviet-style communism and the end of the Cold War deprived the Left almost overnight of the models – economic, cultural, societal and geo-political – which for 70 years it had revered as inspiration for and validation of its state-authoritarian, collectivist, anti-capitalist, anti-Western philosophy.
The nascent environmental movement was the ideal candidate to replace it. It offered, not just an alternative justification for totalitarian-inclined, anti-capitalist, anti-Western, anti-freedom disaffection, but one with an even wider potential: this time, the oppressed victims, deemed to be in need of salvation from exploitation and subjugation by liberty, capitalism and free-markets, were not merely the downtrodden working-class masses: they were humanity in its entirety, and even the Earth itself.
As described and referenced above, the takeover of the environmental movement by the hard-Left proceeded over the next 10 years or so, and it continues to this day, to the extent that Green and Socialist policies and outlooks are now virtually indistinguishable from each other on the Left of the politico-ideological spectrum.
It’s why the prescriptions advanced by and in the name of the secular Green Religion of Climatism bear such an uncanny, but strictly non-accidental resemblance to what Leftist political-economy has long advocated. Green really is the New Red. The red lights of politics, from the palest tinge of pink to the deepest shade of crimson, are all showing Green.
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