GLOBAL WARMING? HEY, JUST CHILL – Anchorage Anarchy No. 8 (August 2006). Bad Press, PO Box 230332, Anchorage AK 99523-0332. $1.00.
This issue of anarcho-individualist Joe Peacott’s irregular zine is almost entirely devoted to “Plants, Animals, and Climate Change: Some Ruminations on the Environment.” Joe believes that global warming is no big deal, inasmuch as “neither a sudden ice age, genital herpes, acid rain, AIDS, SARS, nor any one of the other disasters we have been warned about in the last 20 years” (and let’s not forget Y2K),”has lived up to the hype.”
In Africa, AIDS (which Joe, who is openly gay, has previously belittled) has lived up to the hype; acid rain is a serious and increasing problem in the Northeast from which Joe has removed to industry-free Alaska; and the “sudden ice age” speculation never had anything like the scientific consensus behind global warming. It is sometimes premature to crow that a doomsday prophecy has proven false. In 1991, with the collapse of the European Communist states, and the end of the Cold War, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved back the hand on its doomsday clock because of the diminished danger of nuclear war. Actually, with India, Pakistan and North Korea brandishing nuclear weapons, a nuclear war is more likely than ever. (It is often forgotten that we already had one: World War II.) But the Atomic Scientists just moved the hand forward again for a different reason: global warming.
Joe starts off reasonably enough by remarking that the environment, usually described as “fragile,” is really resilient. Species come and go, so people should not assume that environmental change is always a bad thing. Joe’s concept of the ecosystem bears an uncanny resemblance to his concept of the market economy (in which he fervently believes). Let the forces play freely (they are actually in both cases the same forces: market forces) and everything will turn out all right in the long run. But in the long run, as Keynes observed, we will all be dead. Although, at first glance, Joe might seem to be politically at the furthest possible distance from Earth First! they both regard the human race as just another species, and they both regard its extinction with equanimity.
Joe advances the idea, which no anarchist doubts, that governments are not to be trusted. Nearly all the world’s governments, for example, have signed the Kyoto agreement under which the industrialized countries are to reduce modestly over the next few years the pollutants which cause global warming. For Joe, that is a reason to disbelieve in the global warming hypothesis. If some government somewhere supports something (never mind what) anarchists must oppose it. That is contrarian paranoia. The British government (for its own selfish, evil reasons) just possibly might not want its capital city London to be submerged as in J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World. The government of Bangladesh might not want most of the country to sink (as is predicted) under the waves: it would then have a lot less to rule. Etc.
The irony here is that Joe is actually lining up behind his own government, the U.S. Government. The government of this country, the country which is by far the single greatest contributor to global warming, agrees with Joe Peacott, and disagrees with everybody else, that global warming is just some unproven alarmist theory, and probably promoted for political, anti-capitalist, anti-American reasons.
Why is the U.S. government out of step with all the other governments? For two reasons probably. First, the United States is the most piggish, rapacious plunderer and ruiner of the natural world. Second, the United States is currently under a regime which is, as Gore Vidal puts it, the worst it has ever had: maximum malice and maximum incompetence. As I write, the CEOs of ten major corporations (including G.E., Alcoa and DuPont) have issued an appeal to President Bush to take action against global warming (by “market-driven” means, of course! another opportunity to make a buck) but the point is, even the ruling class is worried.
Every once in a while, what some governments say, and what the general public believes, just happens to be true. With respect to global warming, this is one of those moments. To make it out to be a self-serving government plot — but Joe has not explained how it serves the government — is like making the teaching of evolution in schools out to be a government plot. Or the heliocentric theory. NASA has a vested interest in that absurd theory I mean, anybody can go out and see the sun revolving around the earth.
Now as to what to do about global warming, what any government says about it one way or the other is irrelevant. Most anarchists understand that industrial capitalism with state support is the fundamental cause of global warming. Joe blames consumers, as if consumers created the economy in which they are compelled to consume and to work. But whatever the cause, and whatever the solution, it is crazy to deny the reality of global warming, or its eventually disastrous consequences. Joe is only doing that because he is trying to apply a more than usually discredited ideology.