On Green-Bashing

Ed. note. To honor Earth Day, we are highlighting some of our more poingnent climate change posts over the past year.  Here’s UN Dispatch publisher Peter Daou exploring the morally bankrupt worldview of climate-deniers 

Of all the wrongheaded ideas proudly trumpeted by America’s right, anti-environmentalism occupies a unique position: it is at once the most devoid of a rational or moral foundation and the most dangerous. Let’s not mince words: it is selfish, crass, illogical, willfully blind, a denial of the undeniable reality that humans are pillaging irreplaceable natural resources and spewing filth into the air and water and soil at unsustainable rates.

Green-bashers stubbornly negate what is directly before them. In the face of irrefutable evidence that environmental degradation is a mortal threat, they put their hands over their ears, shut their eyes and scream, “Not true!” This isn’t about good faith questioning of science, much as these naysayers pretend it is. It isn’t about genuine skepticism, much as they want to believe it is. There is no moral imperative underlying their belief (or lack thereof). It’s about unbridled hostility at the suggestion that we must all make shared sacrifices. It’s about refusing to acknowledge that the environmental movement has been right to sound the alarm. It’s about laziness. And greed. And irresponsibility. And colossal shortsightedness. Forget about the tragedy of the commons, this is the abject and gleeful refutation of common sense. Green-bashing exposes the rot at the core of modern conservatism.

Nothing illustrates it better than the impossibly inane assertion, touted far and wide on the right, that this winter’s heavy northeast snowstorms somehow disprove global warming. A five-year-old can understand the difference between climate and weather, but apparently it is beyond the ken of grown-up conservatives. What’s even more absurd about this mother of all absurd claims is that even if you play their silly game and focus on a single year’s data and extrapolate, the conservative argument falls apart. Paul Krugman explains:

If you think conservatives are freaking out over the growing prospects that health care reform will, in fact, happen, wait until you see the freakout over climate change. You see, a snowy winter in the northeast United States was supposed to have proved the climate skeptics right, after all. But a funny thing happened while they were celebrating: globally, this is shaping up as the warmest winter on record.

Green-bashers have had a banner year — they found a couple of openings, some hacked emails, a few scientists being flawed humans rather than data-processing automatons, and they went ballistic. With funding from big oil, they’ve engaged in an all-out assault on science and reason, and this assault has been tepidly rebutted, if at all. The rightwing message machine has been in high gear, blasting out misinformation and pseudo-science, cynically sowing doubt. Climate change denialism is just one aspect of anti-environmentalism. Flush from the success of eviscerating meaningful health care reform, conservatives will settle for nothing less than the destruction of the entire environmental movement.

We can go on forever patiently explaining the facts. How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic is a good start. Or Al Gore’s latest. But this is clearly more than a debate over facts and figures. This is all-out war. Just ponder how conservatives have turned Gore’s name into a rallying cry against environmentalism, against progressivism. It’s a testament to the power of framing and messaging — and the hollowness of today’s conservative thinking. To the conservative mind, President Obama can be successfully attacked for wanting to provide health care while George Bush was cheered for treating the Constitution like toilet paper and making war under false pretenses. Similarly, Al Gore can be maligned and despised for trying to protect future generations. You’d think he was trying to kill babies. Think I’m exaggerating? That’s exactly what a popular rightwing blogger just accused him of doing.

Another conservative writer goes on about “unsettled science,” as though we were engaging in a hypothetical legal exercise about the merits of reasonable doubt. In fact, this is our only planet. It’s the only place we can survive. We can’t afford to take chances. We can’t afford to do anything less than everything in our power to rectify the problem. We have no choice but to be alarmists — there’s no second chance. We get it wrong and we’ve doomed our children and their children. For what? Because we don’t want to recycle? Because we don’t want to stop polluting? Because we don’t want to bother making sacrifices? Because we don’t want some eager young kid who cares about the earth to dictate to us? Because we don’t like Al Gore? How profoundly selfish can someone be, to deny what they see with their own eyes: car fumes, bus fumes, truck fumes, factory fumes, chemical waste, human waste, toxins coursing through our waterways, in our food, filth we create in immense quantities turning our planet into a garbage dump. If anything, we should be outdoing one another trying to address the issue, not smugly questioning the need for action under the guise that the science is imperfect. Reversing the damage we’re doing to the earth should be a priority for every citizen. Instead, environmentalism is treated like an annoyance that the media will occasionally poll about and that we bring to the fore once every April.

Am I being hyperbolic? It depends on how big you think the stakes are. For me, it’s about my daughter’s future. The air she breathes. The food she eats. The atmosphere that sustains her. Frankly, I hope global warming science is faulty. I hope the Republicans who are “co-sponsoring a resolution stating that climate change is a “conspiracy” and urging the EPA to “immediately halt” all efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions” are right. But even if it’s a 50-50 chance that they’re not, how on earth can I dismiss the threat? How can I be so glib, so righteous? How can I live on this precious planet, floating in the middle of nowhere, knowing there’s nowhere else for my fellow living beings to go, and risk ruining it? What does it cost me to be vigilant, to care for my home, to be as clean and responsible as I can possibly be, to heed warnings, to live with respect and within sustainable means?

Watch this video from the Heritage Foundation — if you can stomach it. Note the disdain once the speaker starts discussing the green agenda…

It reminds me of an article making the online rounds and giving people a good laugh. Published in Newsweek back in 1995, it’s titled The Internet? Bah! An excerpt:

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney.

We can smile because our life doesn’t hinge on it. But our life does hinge on getting the environment right.

If John Stossel, Fox News, rightwing blogs, Republican legislators, conservative talking heads, rightwing radio hosts, assorted climate naysayers and their ilk want to go around denying the obvious, that’s their prerogative, but we should treat them like pariahs for endangering the planet we share. We should shun them for their philosophy of me (first and only). We should be twice as emphatic and vehement as they are, since we are in motion and they are static, we are trying to make the planet healthier and they are sitting on their rear ends wagging their collective fingers at us, pretending to be objective but in fact just being cowards, afraid to do what it takes to undo the damage we’ve done to the planet God gave us (however you conceive of God). And of course, we should be pressuring our elected officials to take concrete action.

To punctuate my point, watch this:

Cross-posted here