In self-destruct mode?
out a shift in consciousness and stiffening of political will, even if we haven’t seen it yet. I think it’s wildly irresponsible to just throw up your hands in despair.
And I think that Kingsnorth’s sweeping critique of today’s environmentalism is inaccurate. There are strong currents in the movement that pose “no-growth” strategies, which do not buy into the “green growth” scenarios that business as usual is possible by simply switching to carbon-neutral energy sources. It’s more than a little cynical to say that the green parties amount to nothing more than “a radical challenge to the human machine – transformed into yet another opportunity for shopping.”
Moreover, Kingsnorth’s contention that renewable energy itself is partly to blame because its hardware mars bucolic landscapes, redirects natural waterways and endangers bird populations is ridiculous. Some trade-offs have to be made as clean energy sources take over from fossil fuels, but these are worth the price if the alternative is really a “sixth extinction”, as Elizabeth Kolbert dubbed global warming’s worst-case scenario. Wind turbines are certainly the lesser of evils here, and much softer on nature than coal-fired plants and nuclear reactors.
And there are very recent examples that show that human beings can limit and even reverse environmental degradation, as the response to acid rain and the ozone’s holes illustrates. The former was countered by laws requiring factory smoke stacks to wear filters, while the banning of fluorocarbons stopped the thinning of the ozone – and now it is regenerating itself. Humans created and then solved the problem.
When scientists recognised that climate change was threatening the planet, a broad community of environmentalists, with their university chairs, scientific institutes, lobby groups, political parties and civil-society organisations managed to come up with a game plan to fight it and they’ve boxed through laws. The pinnacle of this was the conclusion of the Paris Agreement last year, which had 144 countries pledge to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Though I, too, don’t see how this ambitious goal can really be met, perhaps we can keep the rise below 2.5 °C.
Kingsnorth offers no possible solution at the hands of man. “I don’t have any answers,” he writes, “if by answers we mean political systems, better machines, means of engineering some grand shift in consciousness … I withdraw from the campaigning and the marching, I withdraw from the arguing … I am leaving, I am going for a walk.”
Kingsnorth can walk all he wants to his bucolic hideaway in Ireland. But there are already victims of climate change today who don’t have the option, to say nothing of future generations.
Paul Hockenos is the author of Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall and the Birth of the New Berlin.
Paul Kingsnorth contends that the apparatus of renewable energy harm the environment, such as windmills that endanger the bird population.