Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Authoritarian Politics

I never cease to be amazed at how un-democratic environmental zealots can be. Their cause is so just that any means are justified in ramming it through the policy agenda, down people's throats and into public life. For people espousing such a nominally liberal concept as environmentalism, environmental advocates are often the most closed minded and authoritarian in their approach.

It doesn't matter if the action they are promoting doesn't actually do anything -- it raises awareness! -- so it must be good. Everything is justified on the basis on the founding ideology which is premised on a set of constructs that are both faulty and morally derived:
  • that consuming resources is wrong
  • that consumption is bad
  • that over-consumption of resources is the cause of environmental decline
  • that the environment is in decline
  • that world is over-populated
  • that a world without people would be pristine and harmonious
So Earth Hour, although it didn't actually affect climate, is good because it realizes awareness; Inconvenient Truth is good, despite its factual errors, because it raises awareness; hybrid cars are good, even if they are more expensive and less fuel efficient than diesel, because they raise awareness; carbon taxes are good, even though they will be ineffectual, because they raise awareness.

Hang on, what's that bit about carbon taxes? Ah, and now we come to the rest of the story.

What happens when this assertive orthodoxy of dogma is refuted? What happens when evidence and logic are used to challenge the prevailing environmental morality? Well environmentalism reveals how undemocratic a movement it is: freedom of speech and freedom of though only as long as you come up with the right answers, the moral choices asserted by environmentalism -- otherwise its a witch hunt!

Some examples. Two posts from Climate Resistance, here and here, on attempts to use authority to sanction education and political discussion.

And while some are seeking to suppress education, others are vilifying studies that challenge the dominant paradigm: see this post on the reaction to a published article in Nature on the need for adaptation to climate change, not its regulation, and this one in the UK press on the same topic.

Notice, the article in question doesn't say climate change is not a problem, only that the command and control, authoritarian reaction being pushed is both flawed and incapable of resolving the issue. If we really want to make a difference and not just raise awareness, a different approach is required. A good starting point for discussion you would think. But not to environmental zealots who have derided the article and ex-communicated its authors, who are now cast as "deniers" along with all the other heathens questioning the high church of environmental conformity.

A great danger is only to read what you agree with, what resonates because it is familiar and comforting, and only to read commentary that is sweeping, simplistic and derisive in its dismissal of other perspectives.

Often people are well-intentioned -- mostly they are. But there is a big difference for me between the lay citizen with an opinion, and professional educators, lobbyists, agency officials and activists for whom ideas, science, public policy and politics are their business.

When the former are exclusionary it is by accident and ignorance. When the latter group are exclusionary and dogmatic, it is both by design and targeted at those who would break with the magisterium. No matter that it is also the prevailing ethos, it is no less reprehensible and obnoxious.