Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism

Picked up some interesting "light" reading for the weekend.. A major article in Environmental Politics

The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism
Environmental Politics: vol 17, No.3; June 2008, page 349 -385

Article abstract:

"Environmental scepticism denies the seriousness of environmental problems, and self-professed "sceptics" claim to be unbiased analysts combating "junk science" This study QUANTITATIVELY analyses 141 English-language environmentally sceptical BOOKS published between 1972 and 2005. We find that over 92 PERCENT of these books, most published in the US since 1992, are LINKED TO CONSERVATIVE THINK TANKS (CTTs). Further, we analyze CTTs involved with environmental issues and that 90 PER CENT of them ESPOUSE ENVIRONMENTAL SCEPTICISM. We conclude that SCEPTICISM IS A TACTIC OF AN ELITE-DRIVEN COUNTER-MOVEMENT DESIGNED TO COMBAT ENVIRONMENTALISM, and that the successful use of this tactic has contributed to the weakening of US commitment to environmental protection."

        The stats are revealing to say the least :-0

        92 percent (that's 12 out of 13!!) of  environmentally "sceptical" books are linked to conservative think tanks, reactionary propaganda machines.

        Flipping things over and considering CTTs actually INVOLVED IN ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: 90% - or 9 out of 10 - take the side of reactionary agitation-propaganda ("espouse environmental scepticism") Talk about loadin' the dice in one direction..
Here's the pdf file:

        It's not as long as it looks. At least half the pages are tabulations: Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs) with their noses into environmental issues, anti-environment publications and their affiliations with CTTs. For this type of publication - academic, in the social sciences - it's actually a fairly decent read (mercifully low on jargon..) 

                          large scale solar energy production: Spain

       What is aggravating to me is not so much the dissemination of lies per se but the fact that the that the CTT attack on environmentalism is a de facto attack on Green Energy and all that implies: 

       Green Energy has the potential to create a freer, more participatory, more just, more egalitarian society. For example, contrary to CTT lies, Green Energy actually tends to create more jobs per dollar invested than fossil energy or nukes (which are capital / infrastructure heavy and manpower light).

       Green Energy is well suited to decentralized, locally owned and controlled implementation which, in my mind, fosters more participatory, empowered communities. Fossil fuel and nuclear energy foster centralized power structures which suck life, cohesion, political clout and conviviality out of local communities.

       Green Energy is more environmentally friendly (in terms of climate, human and ecosystem health and also, often, in terms of aesthetic beauty).

       If you are still sitting on the fence regarding the reality of climate change you should read this paper and peruse the table of anti-environment publications and their links to CTTs, Table 1. Or Table 2, environmentally concerned CTTs and their position (negative, "sceptical") toward environmental issues: climate change, habitat protection, worker safety.. The CTT agenda is really quite clear: clear the decks for the uninhibited profit making of large multinationals. These companies, through their powerful lobbies, have their arms up the backsides of national politicians just about everywhere (maybe not so much North Korea, but that's an exception..)

        The Union of Concerned Scientists (USA) has this to say concerning the linkages between climate "scepticism" and fossil fuel controlled Right wing think tanks: 

Fascism: control or seizure of the State by the corporate elite.

        My favorite definition of fascism.. We're not where fascist Europe was in the 1930s yet, but we're headed there..

          In reality, the corporate agenda has been clearly stated by New Right on numerous occasions.. for those who have ears to hear. According to the authors, several factors converged to launch the concerted, corporate driven, anti-environment movement post-1990. The first was the sudden, unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union (and of what was left of communism globally). The resulting power vacuum deprived the Right of the Communist / Socialist /"godless atheist" bogeyman which had served so well to scare the "masses" into ideological compliance. The problem was solved by replacing the Red Scare of the now defunct Cold War era by the Green Scare of the dawning millennium. Such a reconfiguration of political theater was rendered plausible by the emergence of environmental concern as a geopolitical force after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. 

       Anyone who grew up in the emotionally charged Cold War era in the States, as I did, will recognize

- the fanatical hatred, 
- the brazen and cynical manipulation of populist sentiment (often under the guise of patriotism), 
- and the  craven sacrifice of objectivity to self-interested corporate business agendas. 

       During the Cold War era Right wing propaganda was directed against "leftists", "commies", "socialists", "liberals", feminists and civil rights activists - anyone, in short, who was not a craven supporter of the militaristic, protofascist American Right. Today the invective and lies are directed against those struggling for an ecologically viable planet to pass on to the next generation. The goals of the Red Scare and the Green Scare seem similar though, 

- the maximization of profits for multinational corporations and their shareholders, 
- the furtherance of social inequities, 
- the suppression of true democratic voices.. 

        Some people might find it curious that a goal might be the furtherance of social inequities, given the negative impacts these create: higher crime rates and infant mortality, with reduced national life expectancy, social cohesion and socio-economic mobility (the much-loved and emulated "American Dream"). In addition, psychologists have shown that social status is a very weak indicator of self-reported "happiness" (only 10% of the "variance" in happiness is due to social status while genetics and self-effort account, about equally, for the other 90%). Looked at from the perspective of the multinational, however, sharpening the sense of social status and linking status to "ostentatious rank-identifying consumption" is a sure-fired money maker for multinationals.

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