This is part 5 of an ongoing conversation between myself and Mark Green about Michael Moore’s latest documentary, “Planet of the Humans”. The conversation actually started on Facebook, but then moved to the blogosphere. I’m pretty sure only Mark and I are the only ones reading these posts at this point, but if you care to, you can catch up on the conversation here:
Ever since Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Planet of the Humans, came out, progressive environmentalists have been on a rampage. There have even been attempts to censor the film. (It seems that, for some progressives, liberal values like free speech are a matter of convenience.) The reason for the outrage is that the film attacks the biggest “sacred cow” of the mainstream environmental movement: renewable energy.
I wrote my own review, “Damn Dirty Humans!: ‘Planet of the Humans’ and Progressive Denial”, in which I defended the film’s underlying message: that renewables cannot “replace” fossil fuels. The reasons are twofold: (1) renewable energy sources are themselves dependent on fossil fuels, and (2) the energy-return-on-investment of renewables is very low compared to fossil fuels. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t transition to wind and solar (and that’s not the message I took away from Moore’s film). What it does mean is that wind and solar will not be able to sustain our industrial capitalist economy.
My defense of the movie brought out many progressive critics, and none of them was more vociferous than my friend and fellow naturalistic pagan Mark Green. Mark recently posted an essay entitled “Why the Doomsters are Completely Wrong”. Though the post takes issue with an earlier article I wrote a couple of years ago, the issues are the same.
I’ve been pretty hard on climate change deniers over the past several years, ever since I woke up to the real danger it poses to our way of life and maybe our very existence. Since then, I have come to believe that a collapse of industrial civilization–whether prolonged or sudden–is inevitable.
And yet, I have to admit that, just a few months ago, I was a denier. I didn’t deny the reality of climate change. I denied the reality of the Coronavirus.
Note: Since Michael Moore’s latest documentary premiered on Earth Day, quite a few reviews of have appeared–most of them scathing, but few of them addressing the underlying message of the movie: that a transition to renewable energy will be impossible without a corresponding reduction in our energy use, that is, a drastic reduction in our consumption. Heinberg (who appears in the film) has written his own review, and while not without criticism of the film, he addresses the underlying message head-on.
What follows are excerpts from two articles Heinberg published this month, the aforementioned review and another article entitled, “Nobody Takes the Renewable Energy Transition Seriously.” You can read both them in their entirety here.
Altogether, the only realistic way to make the transition [to renewables] in industrial countries like the US is to begin reducing overall energy usage substantially, eventually running the economy on a quarter, a fifth, or maybe even a tenth of current energy. …
Last month, an article entitled “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” went viral, receiving over 20 million views. The author, Julio Vincent Gambuto, wrote that powerful forces will soon be (are already) trying to convince us all to get back to business as usual:
“What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other …”
Gambuto called on his readers to resist this seduction:
“From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud.”
I couldn’t agree more. So I was excited to read Gambuto’s follow-up essay, “The Gaslighting of America Has Begun”, which came out this month. But I was surprised and disappointed by what I read, nothing short of a call to return to the old normal:
This is an excerpt of a recent essay by Roy Scranton entitled “Beginning with the End” which was published at Emergence magazine. Scranton is the author of We’re Doomed. Now What? and Learning to Die in the Anthropocene. His writing has been an important influence on me over the past two years. This latest essay is a slog though. It comes in at around 6,500 words and inexplicably intertwines the writing of British literary critic Frank Kermode. I believe there’s enough here to save though, so I have cut it down to what I think is its 1500-word essence.
This is an excerpt. To read the entire article, click here.
… “keep unemployment low”. The appeal is easy to see, but what’s really going on here?
Consider the great economist John Maynard Keynes’ prediction, in 1930, that by the year 2000 the onward march of technology would lead to an average 15 hour working week in countries like the U.S. and U.K. Naturally he saw this as progress–not a doom-laden prophecy of mass unemployment–and this fact begins to expose the inherent contradiction in the aim of maximising employment. What economists see as wastefully underutilised ‘spare labour’ is what most of us might call spare time–time enjoyed outside the formal economy–a welcome part of a life well lived rather than a ‘problem of unemployment.’
Of course, modern life is not noted for the utopian, leisurely daily routines enjoyed by the bulk of the population. So why was Keynes wrong? Certainly not because the rate of technological advance over the past century failed to live up to his expectations. No, rather because our economic paradigm literally makes widely-shared leisure time impossible. …
“Your rights end where another’s rights begin.” According to that logic, the more people there are, the less freedom.
But freedom is not a tiny bubble of personal rights. We cannot be distinguished from each other so easily. Yawning and laughter are contagious; so are enthusiasm and despair. I am composed of the clichés that roll off my tongue, the songs that catch in my head, the moods I contract from my companions. When I drive a car, it releases pollution into the atmosphere you breathe; when you use pharmaceuticals, they filter into the water everyone drinks. The system everyone else accepts is the one you have to live under—but when other people challenge it, you get a chance to renegotiate your reality as well. Your freedom begins where mine begins, and ends where mine ends.