A person here in my town asked me the other day what my beliefs are regarding climate change. Note that phrasing. It was a political and ideological question. Isn’t everything these days?
The question was asked sincerely and in good will, and I answered honestly. That means my thoughts won’t fit on a bumper sticker, and, to an activist, probably came across as equivocating, though they’re not. Here’s the deal: Of course I “believe” in climate change. The climate on Earth has changed, sometimes radically, over and over and over again.
Blame it on climate change. In the mid-19th century, the Little Ice Age receded, and the ecology of the Great Plains began to change. The rich, buffalo-supporting grasslands grew dry and the herds, already disrupted by the mass emigration of American wagon trains, migrated out of their usual haunts. The Lakota felt the change in their very bones, and they cast their eyes toward a well-watered, ecologically robust pocket of the high plains east of the Big Horn Mountains in what is now north-central Wyoming and southeastern Montana: the Powder River Country.
The actual question was, “Do you believe in massive state intervention to limit carbon emissions?”
My answer to that is no. Not because I don’t think carbon emissions have an impact — there’s evidence that they do. Anyway, you don’t need to look to your carbon footprint to notice massive, pernicious impact of humankind on the health of the planet — in the extinction of species due to habitat loss; a garbage dump the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean… Hell, I grew up in Los Angeles, which would not exist in its current form had not the old harlot sucked the life out of the Owens Valley like a vampire. And now, it seems, L.A. has caught up with me in Oregon.
We’re way beyond carrying capacity — at least for the kind of life the likes of me want to live. Like the cowboy singer said:
I loved my fellow man the best
When he was scattered some
My skepticism toward “climate action” is two-fold:
- I am quite certain the “cure” would be worse than the ill. “Climate Action” is mighty susceptible to becoming religious zealotry. After all, what crusade could be more righteous than saving the world? And, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
- While empowering moral busybodies, up to and including people who want to tell you what you can eat, such intervention simply won’t work. Massive “climate action” risks significant dislocations in the global economy. Even the rosiest prognostications about a “green economy” can’t escape the reality that its benefits will be unevenly distributed and risk impoverishment. Poverty is not the friend of environmentalism. And I never could figure out how telling the developing world that it can’t develop the same way we did jibes with diversity, equity and inclusion.
Look, I’m all for a better mousetrap. You build an electric vehicle that I can afford, I’ll drive it — and enjoy the stealth element. I don’t like plastic and I’m happy to maybe pay a bit more for locally-raised beef, which is better on every level anyway. But I won’t tolerate being harangued by proselytizing vegans or hectored by those who would pretend that alternative energy is a free ride to a green utopia. There are environmental and social costs to any form of energy. And there’s a whole lot of us humans putting demands on the infrastructure. Probably an unsustainable number of humans for whatever infrastructure we can craft.
It may well be that we have shit the bed and a species, and will simply have to pay the price for it. Like the founders of the Dark Mountain Project, I am skeptical on both philosophical and practical levels that further technological innovation can cure the ills that technological innovation has created. And, make no mistake, it was technical innovation that made possible the leviathan state that each day becomes more intrusive upon our lives.
So, what do we do about climate change? We should be thinking in terms of climate resiliency. On a national/international level, we’d best be planning for mass migration and conflict. The Lakota will be moving into the Powder River Country — that action replicated on a scale that the Plains Tribes of the 1850s could scarcely imagine. The things that government is properly tasked to do — protecting its citizens — must be ramped up to a high level of efficiency and effectiveness. Talking about emergency management here — storm, fire, disease.
On an individual, family and community level? Be prepared. Choose who you trust and build your relationships. And be grateful, as the Don Edwards song goes, that you weren’t born no later than you was.