Finally, common sense on how we can retake the environmental movement from the climate changeologist Henny Pennies and focus on what we really need: clean air, water–our commons–and food.
Enough with the “Better Living Through Chemistry” meme. Enough with the bought science. Enough with the dire predictions of disaster. Enoough with new technologies for which humans are to serve as the guinea pigs. And enough with the marriage of government and industry that has allowed the continuing pollution and privatization of our commons.
Below is from today’s Defender.
In a deeply divided country, there are yet signs that a new Left-Right coalition can come together to take on the big global corporations that have captured government at the expense of ordinary people’s freedoms and the health of the planet.
Polls consistently show that the American people, and people around the world, are deeply divided on the biggest issues of the day: COVID-19, climate change and more.
Backlash against the COVID-19 fiasco of the last three years is building among a public that is slowly waking up to the unprecedented power grab and wealth transfer that took place under cover of a pandemic.
The environmental left is deeply worried about climate change, but the backlash against climate policy also is building.
People across the political spectrum are concerned about a top-down, authoritarian response to climate change using the COVID-19 response as the blueprint.
But there’s also a palpable longing for healthier, more sustainable ways of living.
These divisions and recriminations are taking place against the backdrop of declining indicators of human health and well-being: inflation, looming recession, declining life expectancy and widespread chronic health conditions among adults and children, as toxic chemicals build up in the air, water, soil, food and industrial products people are exposed to every day.
Globally, the most well-known indicator of the overall well-being of populations, the Human Development Index, has been going down since 2019. And new research shows that the quality of life in the U.S. and most other countries peaked several years before that and has been on a steady decline since.
The big political question is this: Can a coalition be built in a divided and suffering population to combat the political and economic nexus — namely the corrupt merger of state and corporate power — that is ruining the health of the people and the planet, and trampling our rights and freedoms in the process?
In fact, there are reasons to hope that the widespread discontent growing among disparate groups on the Left and Right, who may even think of each other as sworn enemies, can be forged into an effective movement.
Calling the environmental Left back to the ideal of freedom
Rumblings of discontent with the corporate-dominated climate movement can now be heard on the environmental Left in the U.S. and around the world. A new political coalition may be able to appeal to these disaffected environmentalists.
U.S. environmental organizations cheered President Biden’s signature climate change law, the Inflation Reduction Act. But many environmentalists now realize the law included corporate giveaways worth hundreds of billions of dollars that are not translating into meaningful gains for the planet.
It is also plain to see that corporate elites like Bill Gates are using the climate issue to their advantage. Gates is pushing top-down climate strategies and dubious technologies in which he’s heavily invested — carbon capture, geoengineering and “climate-smart” agriculture — which are either unproven or potentially harmful to the environment and human health.
Worse, COVID-19 revealed the rot in a climate movement that stayed silent as big corporations profiteered and governments engineered an unprecedented rollback of civil liberties. Some elements of the climate movement even approved of lockdowns and draconian restrictions on personal behavior as policies to emulate in the future, seeing the “covid emergency” as a potential model for a “climate emergency.”
A new book, “Breaking Together: A freedom-loving response to collapse,” by Jem Bendell, Ph.D., professor of sustainability at the U.K.’s University of Cumbria, highlights many of the failures and missteps of the current environmental movement.
The author is a visible presence in the U.K. environmental movement who helped inspire the growth of Extinction Rebellion, a left-wing climate group generally considered to be radical.
In his book, Bendell makes the case that the movement must pull away from big corporations and global elites, and reorient itself around the ideal of freedom.
In the past, Bendell worked with elite institutions, attending meetings at organizations like the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland — he was even named a WEF “Young Global Leader” some years ago.
But in “Breaking Together,” Bendell repudiates these kinds of elite institutions and their top-down approach to climate change. He writes that “climate concern is being highjacked by a mix of corporate profiteers and authoritarians, so that ineffective and counterproductive policies are being implemented and thereby generating a backlash against any kind of concerted action.”
“As a Davos-dropout,” Bendell writes, “I know how their belief in the myth that their power and wealth are an invitation to shape the world makes them susceptible to overlooking the basic rights of ordinary people like us.”
Bendell was one of the few environmentalists to vigorously criticize authoritarian COVID-19 policies over the last several years, enduring abuse from his fellow greens who were fully invested in official narratives about the pandemic.
Bendell sees climate policy going down a similar path:
“The ideas and policies emerging at Davos primarily focus on accessing more public money for private ventures with dubious ecological credentials and creating digital infrastructures for the control of ordinary people.”
To Bendell, these are not reasons to abandon environmentalism or treat climate concerns as a scam, as many who oppose globalist plans for climate change are eager to do.
“Now that I am a Davos dropout,” he writes, “I worry about the absence of a globally vocal and organized environmental alternative to their corporate agenda.”
His proposed solution is to reboot environmentalism into an “eco-libertarian” movement that seeks to protect both our freedoms and the environment from big corporations, corrupt governments and Davos elites.
Without a “freedom-loving environmental movement,” he says, environmentalists will continue to serve as little more than the “anxious idiots of authoritarian power,” while big corporate interests continue to degrade the planet, and our quality of life continues to become “more rubbish, in more ways.”
Bendell and his team compiled exhaustive economic and sociological research in “Breaking Together” showing that the quality of life in most countries peaked around 2016.
Global quality of life has been steadily declining since then, he contends, due to the breakdown of economic and social-support systems and the deterioration of environmental conditions — a long-term process that he calls a kind of slow-moving systemic “collapse.”
He believes only a popular movement that focuses on freeing us from the global corporate elites’ failing institutions, policies and ideologies, while also trying to heal the damage that they have caused to the planet, can provide any kind of answer.
Bendell’s book is an indication that there may be more disaffected left-wing environmentalists out there waiting to be called back to a “freedom-loving environmentalism”: a version of environmentalism that is not under the thumb of corporate interests, and that recognizes political freedom as a universal ideal.
If parts of the environmental left can be called back to the cause of freedom, what about the other side of the equation? Can the anti-globalism, anti-lockdown and pro-medical freedom movements — which draw largely from the political Right — come to appreciate the importance of a positive new environmental agenda?
In these circles, there is deep skepticism about climate change. But there is also a burgeoning awareness that the same Big Food, Big Pharma and Big Chemical corporations that have been unleashing their poorly tested industrial products on us are also poisoning our air and water — see the recent train derailment and toxic spill in Ohio — and our food.
There is broad recognition that Big Food corporations and corporate elites like Gates are exploiting the climate change issue to push a range of high-tech industrial “solutions” like fake meat, insect protein, ultra-processed factory foods and genetic engineering, which only make the food system unhealthier and more ecologically damaging.
Sustainable farming advocates like Joel Salatin, who lucidly explain the unhealthy and anti-ecological practices of the industrial food system, are being taken seriously by people in these movements who prior to COVID-19 might have dismissed such ecological arguments as far-out nonsense.
Before he died, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association wrote about the “emerging political alliance of left and right populists” and the potential for both sides to come together in the wake of COVID-19 to oppose unhealthy and unsustainable industrial food systems and support local, agroecological, regenerative food production.
Such an alliance, Cummins said, is “setting the stage for a new grassroots populist majority that transcends the old boundaries of left, right, and green, liberal and conservative, rural and urban.”
Since the lockdowns of 2020, many in these movements have come to recognize the dangers of corporate “regulatory capture” of government agencies: the “censorship-industrial complex” between Big Tech and government security agencies, and Big Pharma’s takeover of public health agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Free-market advocates who may not have worried too much about corporate regulatory capture in years past — of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for example — suddenly learned in 2020 that captive government agencies can quickly turn into enemies of freedom and democratic government.
People across the political spectrum now recognize the dangerous level of power that corporations wield over government bureaucracies.
Jeffrey Tucker of the Brownstone Institute, a free-market economist and leading opponent of COVID-19 lockdowns, has said this about the shifts in perspective that lockdowns prompted in many people:
“Hardly anyone I know holds exactly the same political and ideological outlook today compared with five years ago. The reality of lockdowns and the tremendous social and cultural meltdown that has followed has shifted many perspectives.
“I could write an entire article on my own shifts. I had no idea, for example, of the raw political power of Big Tech and Big Pharma and what a massive threat it represents to rights, liberties, and constitutional government.”
In the overlap between the Left and Right versions of the popular revolt against the corrupt merger of state and corporate power, laid bare by the glaring abuses of the COVID-19 era, there may be room for unexpected political bedfellows to build a broad-based movement that appeals to significant segments of the electorate.
Principles of a freedom-loving environmental agenda for the people, not the elites
Although both sides surely cannot agree on everything, an effective Left-Right coalition determined to pursue a freedom-oriented environmental agenda might be able to reach a workable agreement on several key points, including:
1. Regulatory capture. Corporate regulatory capture of government agencies, from the EPA to the FDA, is at the root of our problems.
2. Rejection of the COVID-19 model. The techno-authoritarian governance model established during the pandemic cannot be the blueprint for climate change. Our environmental problems cannot be solved with draconian restrictions on personal behavior, censorship, surveillance, corporate profiteering and high-tech boondoggles pushed by the likes of Gates and the WEF.
3. Focus on healthy food and regenerative farming. There is an urgent need recognized across the political spectrum to replace unhealthy, ecologically destructive industrial food systems. Instead of genetically engineered, “climate-smart” crops, factory foods, insect protein and fake meat, we need a massive investment in regenerative, agroecological methods, including local food production and family-owned farms.
4. A unifying environmental message. In addition to regenerative agriculture, a Left-Right coalition can hopefully agree on the need to reduce chemical and plastic pollution, promote clean air and water, preserve the commons (rivers, oceans, forests, wildlife), conserve natural resources and strive for healthier and more sustainable ways of living.
A unifying and authentic environmental message could break the logjam of the pro/anti-climate change debate that divides the public and plays into the hands of corporate elites and technocrats who reduce all environmental issues to a single metric — “net” carbon emissions — that they manipulate to their advantage.
5. Prioritize human health and well-being over corporate profits. On paper, corporate profits and the U.S. and global economies are growing but in reality, overall human well-being both here and abroad has been going down for the last seven or eight years, particularly since COVID-19.
Billionaires and big corporations made trillions of dollars during lockdowns, even as they destroyed the foundations of prosperity across society.
A Left-Right coalition should be able to agree that genuine well-being includes healthy food, clean air and water, a thriving environment, strong social bonds and institutions, and respect for human rights and freedoms — things that cannot easily be measured in monetary terms.
In a famous speech given in 1968, Robert Kennedy elucidated the difference between true prosperity and “Gross National Product” calculations that count “air pollution” and “the destruction of the redwoods” as adding to our national wealth, but do not count “the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.” That narrow kind of economic calculation, he said, “measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worth living.”
6. Ironclad protection of human rights and civil liberties. A Left-Right coalition can hopefully agree on the crucial importance of individual rights and freedoms, such as the First Amendment right to free speech, as an indispensable bulwark against the authoritarian overreach of governments that too often answer to moneyed interests rather than the people.
A population stripped of civil liberties in the name of an “emergency,” whether a pandemic or climate change, is a sitting duck for abuse by the powerful.
It is the giant multinational corporations, their captured government agencies and their crony politicians who must have their freedom to impose their will on the population taken away, not the other way around.