Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Eco-Fatalism: Towards Certain Doom.

When it comes to the environment no one really disputes that there is an on-going change taking place in the atmosphere. Even with the 15 year hiatus in rising temperatures, the only dispute is over the extent to which we might say that the change we're seeing is a natural occurrence or the consequence of human activity - whether or not it is anthropogenic to use the proper term. The debate is framed between the people who believe that we are responsible for the change, and that we should alter our behaviour in order to offset it or even prevent it; and the people who believe it is a natural occurrence which would be happening even if we hadn't developed an industrial civilisation. Yet there is an angle which is neglected, the scientific position that it may well be too late for human activity to turn back the tide and that the change is coming whether we like it or not. And there is substantial support for this view within the scientific community. But the media prefers the more simplistic version of the debate: deniers versus believers.

If you think about it this is not the dichotomy which we face whenever this issue is raised in discussion on the BBC or elsewhere. Why is this such a contentious issue for rightists? Really it's because this question leads in such a radical direction that the theory is subject to so much right-wing 'scepticism'. The Right has hooked onto the trajectory of environmental concerns, ultimately towards alternative forms of coordination in the economy and specifically some kind of rational planning apparatus. Any amount of evidence is not enough when it comes up against the need to safeguard the already existing system and account for its infinite-growth paradigm. A modest change in political economy is less easy to imagine than the end of the world, which is what the eliminate change 'sceptics' accept and embrace. Not only is the end of the world the only imaginable outcome, it is the preferred outcome to any attempts at ecological planning as that might mean the end of capitalism. And that remains the case even if the warming is a natural occurrence.

In short, this is not scepticism but fatalism. It would be better to accept certain doom than to go socialist. You might imagine a dreary fellow in a grey suit and a blue tie going "Why bother? It's over anyway" as the perfect surmise of the Delingpole school of environmental 'scepticism'. As the Iron Lady once said, there is no alternative - not even to the apocalypse! Though there is a flip-side to this coin, if we are doomed - which is more than plausible by this point - then why not go socialist? There isn't much to lose after all, there is the possibility that we can save ourselves and there is the possibility that we can't. Not much else. We won't know whether certain doom is inevitable if we don't take action.

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