You can’t be both “progressive” and “green”

Updated 11/9/2021

Once upon a time, the term “progressive” was associated with the policies of former Vice President Henry Wallace and the 1948 Progressive Party of the United States. Those policies included a call to nationalize the energy industry, universal health care, desegregation, and an end to the Cold War. “Progressives” were committed to improving the lives of lower-income people.

However, with the advent of the “New Left” in the late 1960s, definitions began to change. The New Left began to deemphasize issues of economic justice in favor of “lifestyle issues,” such as drug legalization and the “sexual revolution.”

In 1970, a new item was added to the menu: environmentalism. That was the year of the first Earth Day, a national “teach-in” for which funding was organized by Robert O. Anderson.

Anderson was the head of the Atlantic Richfield oil company which later became ARCO. Anderson also provided $200,000 in seed money to help found Friends of the Earth, a leading environmentalist organization. The reader may already suspect that we intend to debunk the popular narrative of the valiant, rag-tag band of environmentalists challenging the corporate behemoths.

The “green” movement is without question the most successful con job that the oligarchy has ever run on the Left (edging out anarchism for that distinction.) Even the egregious spectacle of over 400 private jets flying to Glasgow, bearing oligarchs and their courtiers to attend the COP26 event, could not seem to shake the faith of the rank and file “green” activists that their movement somehow represented The People’s just struggle against the powers that be.

Environmentalism provides an ideal solution to the problem of lower-income people agitating for an improvement in their material conditions: it defines any such improvement as axiomatically immoral. Even the most basic kinds of consumption, whether it be food, healthcare, a home that is protected against extremes of heat and cold, are now deemed to be an affront to Mother Nature.

What about the environment?

There are many real problems with pollution and environmental degradation. Right now, the most effective work being done to actually solve those problems is being done in China. Rather than regressing to primitive, obsolescent technologies, China is putting emphasis on moving forward to more efficient, energy-dense technologies, particularly nuclear energy. They are also “greening” the Gobi Desert, bringing water to arid regions, and developing new technologies to spray a mixture of soil and seeds onto naked rock to create foilage:

Programs like these require lots of energy. By the same token, clean-up of polluted areas, water purification, and waste treatment also require lots of energy. Yet the “green” movement in Europe and North America makes one demand above all others: reduce energy production and consumption. This provides a major clue that its real agenda is something entirely different than protecting the environment.

Dollars are “green”

Having convinced much of the public that a global temperature rise of 1–2 degrees in the coming decades represents the end of the world as we know it, corporate and financial leaders are prepared to implement big structural changes in the world economy, what has become known as the “Great Reset.” From the standpoint of these leaders, a reset is needed, not to rescue the earth, but to rescue the financial system, which is careening toward collapse after 30 years of progressively larger and more volatile speculative bubbles. Had they cleaned up their mess in 1987 at the time of that crash, things could have been managed with relative ease, but each failing bubble has been leveraged into a larger one.

The “Great Reset” provides an opportunity for a new vortex of speculation around “carbon credits” combined with an investment bubble around the so-called “renewable” energy sources which will be mandated by governments and, more importantly, by central banks. In the forefront of this operation is the BlackRock investment firm, which during the past decade rose to prominence as the world’s largest asset manager. BlackRock is “green” in every sense of the word, and it exemplifies the financiers who are the real leaders and controllers of the “green” movement.

Another star of the brave new world of “green” finance is Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England and now the U.N. Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance. His job will be to persuade the resource-rich nations of Africa, Asia and South America that they ought to abandon any efforts to develop (efforts which could lead them to demand control over their own resources).

In return for this , these nations will receive some coffee-and-donut money in the form of “carbon offsets,” a sort of selling of indulgences which will enable the Northern economies to continue with business as usual without the stigma of being held responsible for that looming one or two degree rise in global temperatures. The Southern nations may be difficult to convince, in which case we may expect a few more “regime change” wars to be launched by NATO. The Royal Institute for International Affairs, the leading think-tank of the British Empire, has already announced their interest in the use of military force to impose these policies on the Global South.

What are “Natural Resources”?

There are two opposing philosophies with regard to the exploitation of “natural resources,” and no, they are not capitalism and communism. The first, which I might call the “renaissance” approach, sees “natural resources” as ephemeral, since they correspond to a given technological platform which will be superseded by a new and different one: as scientific inquiry generates new insights into nature, a progression of new technologies follows in turn, and these technologies define new resources. Thus, the burning of wood to generate energy, a very “dirty” approach which was the dominant one just a few hundred years ago, became largely obsolete (until climate change activists brought it back.) In the “renaissance” outlook, the source of all wealth is the creative power of the human mind.

The second philosophy is one I would call “neo-feudal.” It holds, like the 18th century Physiocrats, that the land is the source of all wealth, and the approach is simple: gain monopolistic or cartelized control of a natural resource, obstruct any efforts to replace it with the invention of new technology, and then “conserve” it — which is to say, sell it off slowly and allow Adam Smith’s bogus law of “supply and demand” to drive the price up as it becomes increasingly scarce (Adam Smith’s “law” only holds true under this sort of manipulated circumstance.) For this “neo-feudal” approach, conservation/environmentalism is just what the doctor ordered, since it regards new technologies with suspicion and demands a reduction in resource consumption.

Austerity is cool now

“Neoliberalism” is a term that confuses many people, but I would like to offer a simple definition: it is school of economic thought which gives primacy to financial speculation at the expense of physical production. Neoliberals are always demanding cuts in government spending on infrastructure, prefering that the money be used to bail out or subsidize Wall Street. As a result, budgets for building water management projects have been steadily shrinking for decades. There are inevitable consequences to this sort of thing, including flooding and droughts, and with droughts comes the heightened danger of wildfires. But nowadays, when such “natural disasters” occur, the neoliberals gleefully insist that this is all due to climate change, and that the answer is greater austerity.

There was a time when if someone demanded that lower-income people reduce their consumption, that person would be regarded as a right-wing brute. But things have changed now; consumption, and particularly consumption of energy, is supposed to be the root of all environmental evils, and we must compel the people to travel less, heat or cool their homes less, and even eat less. How will we persuade people to reduce their consumption? By making it more expensive, taxing it, or issuing fines for people that are seen to be overdoing it. Of course, the effect of all this on wealthy people is negligible. For poor people, it may put them on the street. But isn’t it worth it, if that’s what it takes to save the planet?

Can’t We Just Substitute Interruptible Energy Tech?

One of the great myths associated with the “Green New Deal” is that we won’t have to victimize poor people, because we can simply replace dirty fossil fuels with nice, clean wind turbines and solar panels. The fact of the matter is that— putting aside for the moment the question of weather-dependency and the inherent unreliability of solar and wind — the amount of land use required to do that is mind-boggling. To equal the output of a nuclear plant that takes up 1.3 square miles of land, you would need a wind farm covering 133 square miles, or solar panels covering 70 square miles. And this doesn’t count the amount of the earth which must be torn up to mine the minerals to build those thousands upon thousands of turbines and panels — or the land required to decommission them once their useful life has expired, which is about 15 years for a windmill and 25 years for a solar panel.

There is also the question of back-up generation, for when it may be dark and/or not windy. You can’t just allow the juice to stop flowing, because that can damage your grid, so the typical solution is to simply keep the bad old fossil fuel plants running as a back-up. Proponents of wind and solar insist that breakthroughs in the design of giant storage batteries are just around the corner, but that may not be true. There is also a very significant amount of energy required to fabricate the steel and other components for all those windmills and solar panels.

So, It Looks Like Austerity After All

The fact of the matter is, the megabankers and political demagogues who are promoting the Great Reset and the Green New Deal have no illusions about the amount of sacrifice they are demanding from lower income people. They don’t actually intend to carpet the entire continent with wind and solar farms (although they do plan to carpet much of it.) But the difference will be made up by demanding dramatic cutbacks in consumption, or by simply making the cost of energy prohibitively expensive (as they are doing in Germany and California.)

Some Green New Deal proponents are more honest than others. The U.S. Green Party candidly proclaimed the following in its 2020 campaign platform: The Green Party advocates a rapid reduction in energy consumption through energy efficiency and a decisive transition away from fossil and nuclear power toward cleaner, renewable, local energy sources (emphasis mine.) What this means is that if you are not wealthy, your access to heating or air conditioning is going to be questionable at best, and if you are elderly, this can kill you.

And if cold winters or hot summers don’t kill you, the lack of food and healthcare may do it. Modern agriculture and healthcare infrastructure are energy-intensive. A “rapid reduction in energy consumption” will cripple these necessary aspects of our society. Does that sound “progressive” to you?

Marisol is an arts aficionado and a social media habitué.