In his latest book, The God Species, Mark Lynas argues that the green movement has been its own worst enemy in demanding perfection in climate policy when it is unachievable and results in forgoing “good enough” or “better than nothing.”
Is this the case? Are green activists responsible for the failure of the political efforts to address global warming because they sacrificed the good for the perfect?
Indeed, the environmental movement, the green activists, seem to be Lynas’s target of opportunity. He suggests that instead of accepting “the good” — policies to address black carbon and non-CO2 greenhouse gasses, or that promote policies like cap and trade — the environmental movement / green activists got nothing. Not only did they get nothing, they actually caused harm by not even getting “good enough”.
I agree that some in the environmental movement are puritanical on a number of issues.They can be anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, anti-industrial, anti-technological. Even, as Lynas argues, anti-science when it suits them.
I am very critical of what I think is excessive corporate power, but I also tend to be a moderate who thinks better regulation / enforcement is the way forward in dealing with corporate power and its ills, rather than something more radical. I don’t want to go back to the farm or to some collective nor do I want those currently living in destitution to remain that way and so I tend to support technological solutions to the problems we face. In other words, I want everyone to live as well as we do in the West, but there is no reason that fossil fuels have to be the way to achieve that. I don’t see the current climate crisis as the result of bad morals, but instead, bad economics and politics. There’s where the solutions lie.
However, I am loathe to go all out and attack the green / environmental movements as if they are the “enemy” of the good and responsible for the lack of progress on climate change. I think the real enemy of the good is the bad politics and economic that have held sway.
Nor do I support this desire on the part of some former environmentalists / green activists to purge themselves of their former zeal, confess to sins, and condemn their former fellow zealots in some attempt at redemption. They remind me of neo-cons who switch one radical agenda for another. I’m not saying that Revkin and Lynas are equivalent to climate / environmental neo-cons at this point but there is a slippery slope here that I don’t want to step on.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that some of what I’ve read lately from Lynas and Revkin is like an own goal. It’s a gift to denialists. These folks are doing the denialists’ job for them and the denialists are laughing up their sleeves, rubbing their hands together with delight. Just look at the reception Lynas and Revkin get when they attack climate science and the environmental movement like Greenpeace. They become tools used by denialists to further their own agenda.
In fact, the sad thing is that in their attempts to distance themselves from the green movement / environmentalism, some writers like Lynas and Revkin seem to be doing exactly what they are charging the greens / environmentalists with. Sacrificing the good for the perfect. The greens / environmentalists may not be perfect. How could they be? They may go off the rails at times, they may be everything that Lynas and Revkin say they are at times. However, I do not think they are to blame for the place we are today in terms of lack of climate policy addressing CO2. In fact, if it wasn’t for the tireless activism of these groups, we’d likely be a lot worse off.
People can always misconstrue your words, taking them and twisting them around to serve their own agendas. It’s quite another thing to make your enemy’s argument for them, and that is what I think folks like Lynas and Revkin have done in their newly-found critique of the greens/environmental movement and laying the blame at their feet for the failure of climate policy.
So what do you think? Am I completely off-base?