OK, we take it back. We said something nice about Greta Thunberg and she made us regret it pronto. Especially now that she’s turned into Karl Marx in pigtails and wokeface with her The Climate Book about how the climate breakdown thingy “has its roots in racist, oppressive extractivism that is exploiting both people and the planet to maximise short-term profits for a few”. Her deep thoughts now include “We need to change everything because right now our current system is on a collision course with the future of humanity and the future of our civilization”. Right. We’ll just change everything, shall we? Including the laws of physics and economics, the principles of logic and embarrassment at purple prose? Plus the lessons of history. The main one being that fanatical revolutions tend to change the world into something incomparably worse than what it was before. Still, there is value in her having gone full watermelon on us. And it’s not that it reveals that for Greta and her crowd climate change was just an excuse for promoting tyrannical Marxism. Quite the reverse.
One meme about people whose complaints about global heating always seem to veer off into screeds about capitalism and patriarchy is “It’s not really about climate, is it?” But it is, because people like Thunberg possess a special kind of cosmic awareness in which everything good is connected to everything else good and everything bad is connected with everything else bad.
Just not very clearly. Thus we sympathize with Michael Shellenberger’s irritated response pointing out how much capitalism has done to relieve suffering and want. And while we won’t lecture Thunberg about Marx’s relentless insistence on the “organic composition of capital” being fatally flawed by his labour theory of value because she is not the sort of person who reads books before writing them, we will lecture everyone else that to blame capitalism for environmental degradation with the record of the communist Soviet Union in recent history and communist China now shows that you are committing a ghastly and inexcusable error.
Now to the non-plot. When it comes to public affairs, we have repeatedly mentioned, some people think in terms of trade-offs and cost-benefit analysis and others do not. And those who do not, those who disagree with you about the structure of reality at this deep level, have a natural tendency to believe that all good things come bundled together and so do all bad things. They think all the pluses are there to be grabbed together without any of the minuses. They think fighting against climate change is fighting for justice, and vice versa. They think fighting against war is fighting for the environment, and vice versa. They really do believe you can “maximize all utilities simultaneously”, to put it in cold and forbidding language.
They are forever intoning pseudo-wisdom like “Increasingly, national climate change plans are recognizing that carbon emissions are likely to grow without significant changes to existing patterns of production and consumption” as though such things could be arranged in an afternoon leaving everyone better off. And a few weeks back Climate Home news cheerily noted that “As the UK’s Cop26 president Alok Sharma put it on Friday ‘The world is recognising that we cannot tackle the defining challenge of this century, with institutions defined by the last.’” And while it’s tempting to brush it aside as soporific bloviating, we should take note that the guy who ran the last COP blithely brushed aside all the institutions by which we run our affairs, from governments to corporations to the UN (there at least we agree) and possibly the family, and the sort of people he hangs out with nodded and went yup, better obliterate civilization and start over at ground zero with Net Zero, sounds like a plan. The plan, in fact. The usual one.
For that reason one cannot dismiss Thunberg as just some bratty Swedish death goblin with good PR. There’s a reason her new book has attracted contributions from “responsible” adults like Canadian social justice warrior/author Naomi Klein, COVID lockdown enthusiast Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (head of the World Health Organization) and trendy economist Thomas Piketty. It’s that they think in this manner. A recent book review “The Great Reset Exposed” quotes the editor of Against the Great Reset asking “Why is the Swiss-based World Economic Forum (WEF) advocating a complete ‘re-imagining of the Western world’s social, economic and moral structures?’ And why now?”
Well, because these people always think in such a way. It’s not enough to remake an economy. Or even a society. We must remake morality itself. And not because, or only because, they are so arrogant they think remaking an economy is easy. Because they think you either get everything right, or you get everything wrong. And they’re not shy about it. The book review in question asked “If the ‘so-called’ Great Reset is a conspiracy theory infecting fevered minds on the far right, why did the founder of the World Economic Forum write a book of that title?” But it’s equally important to realize that if the Great Reset were a conspiracy, they wouldn’t publish a book explaining the plan. (Ditto Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism, and Hitler’s Mein Kampf.)
In some sense this cosmic point of view may be called both stupid and childish. But not in the sense that only people with low IQs, low chronological ages or both can believe them. On the contrary, as Orwell said, it often takes an intellectual to believe this sort of thing. And it takes someone very hard indeed, an adult in the worst sense, to push it through to its conclusion. When such people gain power, the results vary from the tragicomic in democracies where lives are ruined but they get voted out quickly, to the genocidal in tyrannies as people like Lenin pursue the utopia they are sure exists with inexorable fanaticism, thinking not that they must sacrifice some good things like free speech to get other better ones like free food but that real “free” speech is the right to say only the right things and that in the workers’ paradise everything will be perfect.
So yes, it is about climate. And Greta Thunberg just laid bare exactly how it is. Do not say you were not warned.