By Graham Dockery*
The earth’s being ravaged by a devastating disease, yet climate activist Greta Thunberg still wants you to feel ashamed for what little of your normal lifestyle remains intact. But now more than ever, we need new role models.
Did you remember that today is Earth Day? You’d be forgiven for forgetting. After all, the coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 2.5 million people worldwide and killed nearly 180,000. It’s made nearly 200 million people unemployed. The news media talks of little else.
But fear not, Greta’s here. Again. Ms Thunberg has emerged from her hiatus to remind the (Western) world that, in addition to worrying about our health, our newfound unemployment, and the steady erosion of our freedoms, we should still feel bad about our contribution to climate change. In a new video to mark Earth Day, her Fridays for Future organization warns us that “our house is on fire.”
Those responsible for this conflagration are explicitly fingered: a white, middle-class family sending their children to school while ignoring the flames billowing around them.
Never mind that the wave of pandemic-triggered unemployment has devastated the white middle-class as much as any other demographic group, and the fact that parents under lockdown can no longer send their children to school, Greta wants her audience of guilt-ridden greens to remember it’s families like theirs who are killing the world.
But that audience doesn’t exist any more. Guilty white liberals hung on Greta’s every word when times were good, but despite the best efforts of the establishment media to associate the coronavirus pandemic with our encroachment on nature, nobody is listening. Middle-class liberals could afford to take time off work to glue themselves to trains in London last year, but now they’re not only shut inside their homes, but also out of work and focused on the more immediate problem of near-term survival.
World leaders now talk of bailing out their battered economies, not meeting carbon emissions targets. With carbon-emitting industries shuttered around the world, they’d be thrilled to hear jet engines restarting and furnaces roaring. No matter how profound the drop in pollution has been since the outbreak of the pandemic, no politician with a functioning brain is going to stand up and declare recent events as some kind of victory. They’d be hanged, drawn and quartered by their jobless, impoverished constituents.
But that hasn’t stopped politicians without functioning brains from trying. As US oil prices plunged into negative territory this week, progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – hailed last year as the future of the Democratic Party – fired off a celebratory tweet.
“You absolutely love to see it,” she wrote on Monday, hailing the collapse of the American economy as a harbinger of a new, green future: “This, along with record low interest rates, means it’s the right time for a worker-led mass investment of green infrastructure to save our planet.”
While Ocasio-Cortez once drummed up support for her ‘Green New Deal’ with statements such as these, her tweet was met with a wave of public anger and quickly deleted. As it turns out, the demise of America’s fossil fuel industry is likely to leave nearly 10 million people unemployed – a prospect not even AOC’s fanbase could get behind.
Before the great plague, Greta and AOC peddled ideas that were light entertainment for the bourgeoisie. A cause to discuss at dinner parties. Something to prattle about at the wine bar.
And when times were good, the public was willing to overlook the inconsistencies in their messaging. Thunberg offered no actual ideas to deliver her end goal of net-zero carbon, and sailed around the world on a multimillion-dollar racing yacht while she lectured the plebs on the evils of air travel. Fans of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal ignored the fact that it would have bankrupted America and granted the state near-tyrannical powers over its citizens.
But perhaps there is also an esoteric explanation for why these ideas struck such a chord in the West. In ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra,’ German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that decadent societies look up to weak idols, and allow those idols to preach “castratism” to them. In other words, a comfortable society, facing few real challenges, will reject the idea of its own greatness or mission, with the masses instead cheering on figures such as Thunbeg who berate and criticize them.
Before the coronavirus, we begged them to belittle us. We were proud of our “flight shame” and lined up to confess our “climate sins.”
But watch what happens when the eco-activists try to sell those ideas amid an actual, once-in-a-lifetime crisis. People don’t listen – they lash out. The very proponents of these ideas retract them in shame, as Ocasio-Cortez did when she deleted her tweet on Tuesday. They don’t even have the guts to stand behind the gospel they preached only months ago.
Support for green parties has slumped across Europe. And recent polls in Britain show falling concern about climate change, and a majority in favor of the government taking steps to help the economy recover, even if that’s at the potential expense of the environment.
Hard times create strong men, who, in turn, create good times, wrote novelist G Michael Hopf. With the pandemic ongoing and the International Monetary Fund’s economists predicting a depression on par with that of the 1930s, or worse, we are indeed living through hard times. Hard men, or women, will undoubtedly emerge to offer a compelling vision of the future.
Greta Thunberg and her wine-bar environmentalists, however, are not those people.
*Graham Dockery is an Irish journalist, commentator, and writer at RT. Previously based in Amsterdam, he wrote for DutchNews and a scatter of local and national newspapers.