Friday, April 8, 2011

Earth hour: for Japan and progress keep your lights on

Article published in Hurriyet Daily News (TR) and Un Monde Libre (FR).

Japan’s struggle with the aftermath of a natural disaster has created an odious kind of green chain reaction. The priesthood of the cult of “Mother Earth” (Gaia) is back with a vengeance and scaremongering tactics. The “avatar-esque” personification of the planet in the article by Mr. Semih İdiz (March 14, 2011) is evidence of this phenomenon. Apparently, "Mother Earth demands respect.” This incantation is directed at us, the blighted human-consumers who buy cars, use electric coffee machines and want to keep warm in the freezing winters as we live out our global-warming doomsday scenario.

That a healthy debate should arise on the safety of nuclear power, disaster preparedness and alternative energy sources is right. But that the disaster afflicting Japan be used by some politicians and journalists to connect the embattled thesis of global warming reloaded as “climate change” with geological events and their nuclear aftermaths is disgraceful. To claim that humans are not heeding “warnings” and have therefore brought upon themselves the destructive powers of a “merciless mother nature” is grotesque.

Judging by the flurry of commentaries by the bien pensant intellectual and political class, James Lovelock's controversial “theory of Gaia” which posits that the Earth is a “single living organism” (and Man a "disease" killing the planet) is alive and well outside the “deep ecology” movement. Never mind that many scientists view it as little more than a neo-pagan new age religion, even the Brussels bureaucracy is seizing the moment to preach its simplistic “green truth” by making a spurious connection between climate change and the Japan earthquake. On March 11, the European Economic and Social Council published on its website an official statement that concluded, “Mother Nature has again given us a sign.”

The skeptical climate-change blogger Vincent Benard nails the argument in a damning post (Objectif Liberte, March 12, 2011): “How dare they [Ils ont ose] link the earthquake to climate change!” He asks inter alia the inconvenient question of why it has not even occurred to European Economic and Social Committee Staff that this disaster demonstrates a simple truth. Billions of public funds are being thrown in the pursuit of the anti-carbon chimera, in turn diverting limited financial resources from the search for solutions to the very real problems populations are confronted by.

“Surely coal thermal plants ought to no longer be seen as an unreasonable option notably in seismic areas even with their CO2 emissions?” Benard ponders. That would be rational, but sadly with global warming rationality and science have fallen prey to politicization and “cultishness.”

So how can the highly paid president of a consultative body – arguably one the most useless institutions of the ever-growing Euro-bureaucracy – cross the Rubicon to enter the realm of green cultishness? Well, to put it simply, it is all about “believing and belonging,” about being seen as a friend of the "good guys," the earthly “Navi” people of Planet Brussels, namely the tribe of green lobbyists.

Of course, the European Union is not quite like the utopian planet of Pandora. So aside from “communing with mother nature,” the neo-Navis are kept busy by green greed. The friends of Gaia have many friends in the Brussels bureaucracy. As the International Policy Network study “the Friends of the EU" (March 2010) revealed, green advocacy groups like Friends of the Earth, Birdlife or WWF (the so-called big 8 or 10) receive plenty of funds to lobby for more funds and provide environmental expertise to the commission. It is a self-serving circle. Nothing, not even the debt crisis, appears to be able to slow the EU green-spending spree. If anything the Japan crisis should trigger a new euro-funding wave.

Nuclear power is not risk free but the fact is also that political ecology is having a profound impact on global governance and policy-making in Europe in particular, whether we like it or not. As the above-mentioned report concludes, “sponsoring the narrow interests of such NGOs undermined the democratic process.” No matter, European politicians have embraced the green dogma with gusto. None more so than Nicolas Sarkozy. One should be grateful for the timely Arab uprising because France was prepared to help Gadhafi’s regime “go green" with "cleaner" energy (read: construction of a nuclear plant). It is also time for the French government to face some tough and necessary questions over its all-out nuclear policy at home (80 percent of electricity production).

A democratic debate is vital but it must be based on reason, not cultishness. In the meantime, implying that the victims of a natural disaster in one of the most technologically advanced countries are in some way “paying for their sins of progress and materialism” is pure nonsense. It is also unbecoming while shattered communities are battling to cope, displaced families trying to piece together their lives and grieving the death of their loved ones.

On March 26, the modern day followers of Gaia will also demand with renewed fervor that darkness be celebrated by having us switch off our lights to join in their absurd ritualistic global communion against progress: the Earth Hour. I will keep my lights on in memory of those who perished, out of respect for the extraordinary courage and dignity of the Japanese people in the face of a national disaster, for their contribution to human progress with cars, technology and a unique culture.

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